MY WIFE AND I ARE TRAVELLING TO PARIS AND THE SOUTH OF FRANCE IN OCTOBER 2016. FROM MONACO, IS THERE A TRAIN WE CAN TAKE TO ZURICH TO TAKE IN THE ALPINE SCENERY? IS ZURICH A CITY TO SPEND A FEW DAYS IN, WE HAVE HAD CONFLICTING REPORTS? WE FLY HOME FROM THERE.
J. MORRIS, HARTLEY
You can take a train from Monaco to Zurich but it's around 10 hours, with a minimum of two changes. Trains don't run to the north from that part of the Mediterranean coast, the first leg of your journey would involve either heading west to Avignon or east to Ventimiglia and Milan. This Italian route offers better scenery, but there are other Swiss train rides that leave it in the shadows. Swiss International Air Lines operates non-stop flights between Nice and Zurich and with a flight time of just 1 hour 15 minutes and most likely a view of the Alps, this would be my choice if Zurich is your destination.
Zurich is a mid-size city and the centre of the Swiss banking system. The city has a small but atmospheric old quarter and the setting, on a lake, surrounded by tall hills, is pretty enough, but unremarkable by Swiss standards. I've spent only a couple of days in Zurich on two visits and for that I am thankful. Switzerland has much more to offer.
What you could do is take a train from Monaco to Milan and north to Lugano, in the southern Ticino region of Switzerland. This would take a little over six hours. Spend a night or better still, two nights in Lugano, then take the William Tell Express to Lucerne. From Lucerne you're just a short train ride from Zurich, but it's well worth lingering for another day at least in lovely Lucerne.
Switzerland has some of the world's finest scenic train rides. If you want to pursue this theme, two others worth considering are the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express https://www.rhb.ch [rhb.ch].
WE ARE INTENDING TO SURPRISE OUR DAUGHTER AND WHISK HER OFF TO LONDON FOR HER 16TH BIRTHDAY IN SEPTEMBER. FOUR DAYS IN LONDON THEN THREE IN PARIS FOR HER BIRTHDAY. CAN YOU SUGGEST WHAT TO DO TO MAKE THIS CELEBRATION EXTRA SPECIAL?
R. RAMANATHAN, MAROUBRA
That's some surprise birthday. A West End theatre performance could well be on the agenda. You can't go too far wrong with a musical theme so either Let it Be, the ode to the Beatles, or Jersey Boys, steer clear of Thriller, the reviews are not good.
Shopping is most likely going to feature in this equation and among the hot contenders are Harrods but also the smart shops along Regent Street.
No doubt you'd all like to commit the occasion to imagery – not forgetting all her Facebook friends. What about a photo shoot in an iconic London location with a professional photographer? Susan Porter-Thomas http://www.sptphotography.com/ is just one possibility but Google and you'll find plenty more.
For sheer pomp and circumstance, afternoon tea in the Palm Court at The Ritz http://www.theritzlondon.com/ is hard to beat. Go with a big appetite, and dress up.
Spend some time sauntering around Covent Garden, it's a lively part of the city with plenty of street performers and lots of boutiques, a magnet for young hearts.
If a slap up dinner is called for you could go with a name-droppoer restaurant such as Restaurant Gordon Ramsay https://www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com/restaurant-gordon-ramsay/ in Chelsea but you can't go far wrong with cosy and simple and Jamie's Covent Garden www.jamieoliver.com might be the go.
Leave some room for her to create her own special day. No doubt she'll have some ideas, and Time Out magazine will give her plenty of material.
In Paris, the Batobus boat ride along the Seine takes care of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Ile de la Cite, the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay. Rue Mouffetard is a fabulous place for wandering as is the Marais district – don't miss the Picasso Museum - and Canal Saint-Martin is the epicentre of cool, especially if you happen to be there on a Sunday, when you might even hire bikes and pedal along the pedestrian-only canal-side streets. I'd highly recommend a walking tour to get a handle on the city and there is no better guide than Virginia Dae http://parisinsight.com [parisinsight.com], who will customise a tour to your requirements.
For the 16th birthday dinner you could go with a three Michelin star restaurant such as Alain Ducasse or l'Arpege but they're intimidating. I suggest you book a table now for Jules Verne http://www.lejulesverne-paris.com, the restaurant on top of the Eiffel Tower, which will give your 16-year-old birthday memories to last a lifetime.
MY MUM, SISTER AND I WISH TO VISIT THE GRAND CANYON IN JANUARY. SINCE NONE OF US DRIVE, ARE THERE ANY TOURS YOU RECOMMEND? WE PREFER TO LEAVE FROM PHOENIX RATHER THAN LAS VEGAS.
S. ROBINSON, ST PETERS
Detours Arizona http://www.detoursaz.com might be just what you're looking for. They operate small-group day tours from Phoenix that spend about three hours on the South Rim of the canyon, and the reviews on Tripadvisor are universally great. Winter is blisteringly cold at the South Rim. Average daytime maximum is just 5C, dropping to -8C at night and if the wind blows you'll feel it like a knife. Woolly hats, scarves and gloves required.
CONVERSATION OVER TO YOU…
The question was "Achieving comfort when you're flying economy is a tough ask. Any tips?"
From K. Haynes, "I fast for the duration of travel, drinking plenty of water only. This avoids disappointing unhealthy bloat inducing airport & airline food plus makes the trip more comfortable. I take an adhesive heat pack, available from pharmacies, for my back, keeping me warm and ache free, lasts about eight hours. I also take a large, thick scarf which can double as pillow or blanket and dress in loose layers, flights are too hot or cold. Finally, I think of the flight as time out and a complete break from normal duties."
R. Silber writes "Apart from the mandatory socks, earplugs, eye-mask, eye drops, lip balm, hand cream etc, I give up on sleep and immerse myself in endless episodes of Kardashians/ Curb Your Enthusiasm/music videos to make the time fly, and pardon the pun. We also take crisp white napkins to place on the tray table for meals so it looks like we're at least in premium economy."
P. Manning writes "Wear loose, comfortable clothes in layers so you can peel off if required, and soft-sole footwear. Ask for an exit row seat at the check-in desk, make friends with your neighbours, drink plenty of water, move around the cabin as often as possible and listen to soothing music."
Next question: Some European airlines allow small cats or dogs to be carried in the aircraft cabin in a pet travel bag on flights within Europe. Good idea? Got a four-legged friend you'd like to tote on your travels?
Send response to firstname.lastname@example.org. The best response will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.
SEND US YOUR TRAVEL QUESTIONS
Include your name and your suburb or town and send it to email@example.com All published questions will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.