The Tripologist: Boat hire in France

The Saone river in Lyon, Burgundy.
The Saone river in Lyon, Burgundy. 

WE SIX ADULTS ARE GOING TO FRANCE IN AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2015 AND ARE INTERESTED IN HIRING A BOAT FOR A 10 TO 14-DAY RIVER CRUISE, PERHAPS IN BURGUNDY. CAN YOU GIVE US ANY INFORMATION?

R. ASKEW, NEWPORT

Burgundy would be a happy choice. Great culinary traditions, fabulous wines, mediaeval villages, markets and more castles and dungeons than a Game of Thrones series make this one of the liveliest corners of France. Canal boats are usually hired by the week, so you probably need to look at a two-week trip. The Canal de Bourgogne would be the better choice of the two major canals in Burgundy, because, at 242 kilometres, it is much longer than the Canal du Nivernais. It also has 209 locks and, in two weeks, you probably would not make the entire length. A few tips: the towels provided on the boats are often thin, so bring your own. Bring sturdy gloves. The wet ropes will wreck your hands and the canal water is polluted, so wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. A rain poncho is invaluable, as are shoes that will stand constant moisture. Check Burgundy Canal (burgundy-canal.com) and France Afloat (franceafloat.com). Outdoor Travel (outdoortravel.com.au) is an Australia-based operator that can organise self-drive canal boats in Burgundy.

WE ARE A COUPLE IN OUR 60S WHO WOULD LIKE TO EXPERIENCE A WHITE CHRISTMAS IN CANADA OR EUROPE AND COMBINE THIS WITH VIEWING THE AURORA BOREALIS. EASY CONNECTIONS FROM AUSTRALIA WOULD BE HELPFUL.

L. GRAY, GREEN POINT

Europe has a rich Christmas culture that encompasses food, markets, church services with carols and picture-perfect villages. The aurora borealis can be seen with some certainty from Norway, Sweden and Finland. Melbourne-based Bentours (bentours.com.au) specialises in tours of the region. Coastal regions are more likely to be cloudy than inland areas, lessening the spectacle. According to records, in Tromso, on Norway's northern coast, the clearest day of the year is January 6. Canada does not have such rich Christmas traditions but it does have excellent opportunities for viewing the aurora borealis. The best spot is reputedly Yellowknife, in Canada's Yukon, under a ring known as the aurora oval. Yellowknife is surrounded by flat country, another advantage, and the winter skies are crystal. If you stay there for three days in winter, you have a 95 per cent chance of seeing the northern lights. The moon will be full on January 5, 2015, which will dull the view, so you should visit before Christmas. In terms of access from Australia, there is little difference between Canada and Europe.

I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE OUR FAMILY, WHICH INCLUDES MY HUSBAND AND OUR DAUGHTERS, AGED 11, 13 AND 15, ON A SHORT HOLIDAY TO UGANDA. WE WOULD LIKE TO DO A SAFARI, BUT ALL I CAN FIND IS GORILLA SAFARIS FOR ADULTS. ARE THERE ANY FAMILY-FRIENDLY SAFARIS IN UGANDA THAT WOULD ALLOW US TO SEE A VARIETY OF ANIMALS?

L. LESLIE, WATTLE GROVE

Only those aged over 15 are allowed on gorilla tracking safaris in Uganda. Gorillas are highly sensitive creatures and it is essential that those who enter the high and misty world that is the domain of the mountain gorillas remain calm and quiet - thus the age restriction. The other problem is that gorillas are the main game in Uganda. There are many other animals, especially primates, but going to Uganda and not seeing gorillas in the wild is like going to Venice and not taking a ride along the Grand Canal. If you want to take your family on an African wildlife safari, there are several alternatives that will provide a more satisfying experience, including South Africa, Tanzania and Botswana. Take a look at the websites for Bench International (benchinternational.com.au), Intrepid (intrepidtravel.com) and World Expeditions (worldexpeditions.com).

CONVERSATION OVER TO YOU . . .

The question was: What's the most amazing meal from your travels?

S. North writes, "In 1972 my Greek boyfriend and I travelled by donkey to an ancient ruin high up on a hill in Crete. It was a very hot day and our guide, an old Greek man, invited us to share his lunch. We sat under the only shady tree and shared his cold omelette, delicious tomatoes, crusty bread and drank fresh cool water from a nearby spring. I have never forgotten his generosity."

E. Hodge recalls, "Breakfast at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi! Waking up at 5.30 in the morning to a giraffe's head through my window then going down for breakfast with a giraffe eating off the plate next to you. Amazing."

From steadfast reader R. Silber, "Lunch at the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. The food, service, waiters, ambience, and sweeping vistas of the city were simply unforgettable."

P. Nankivell writes, "Sailing along the south coast of Turkey, at Kekova Island we moored our yachts to a couple of rocks protruding from the sunken city. Close to sunset, a launch took us to the mainland for dinner, where we found a long table, dressed with snow-white napery and silver cutlery beside a fiery brazier at the end on the otherwise deserted beach. A waiter filled our glasses and a beautiful meal appeared."

Next question: Dangerous bus rides or bungy madness, travel encourages us to throw caution to the wind. What's your riskiest experience?

Send response to tripologist@fairfaxmedia.com.au. The best response will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

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