MY WIFE AND I ARE TRAVELLING TO SAN FRANCISCO FOR A WEDDING IN LATE FEBRUARY. WE HAVE FOUR TO FIVE DAYS UNPLANNED AND WERE THINKING OF EXPLORING THE NAPA VALLEY. ANY OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AREAS NORTH OF SAN FRANCISCO?
P. BOWER, NORTH BONDI
February is cold and you would not be seeing the Napa Valley at its finest. The vineyards will be long rows of bare sticks and there's not too much happening at this time of the year. One thing you could do is take a one or two-day guided tour to Yosemite. The mountains, forests and waterways of this national park are beautiful in winter and the crowds are far less. You could spend another day taking in Muir Woods, the forest of giant redwoods just north of the city. There are plenty of tours from San Francisco that combine Muir Woods with a visit to Sausalito, a funky, artsy waterfront town in Marin County, on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Silicon Valley is a fascinating part of the world just to the south side of San Francisco Bay in the Mountain View/Santa Clara area. Some of the places you can visit include the Intel Museum, the Computer History Museum, Stanford University, NASA's Ames Research Centre, Apple's Infinite Loop Campus Store and the Google campus, but only from the outside. Presidents Day falls on February 15 in 2016. It's a federal holiday and since it's a long weekend occurring close to Valentine's Day plenty of people will be travelling. If your visit coincides you need to book accommodation well in advance.
MY HUSBAND AND I HOPE TO TRAVEL TO ITALY IN APRIL AND WE'RE LOOKING AT FARES WITH AIR INDIA. WE ARE OVER FLYING STRAIGHT THROUGH AND WE'RE CONSIDERING A STOPOVER IN NEW DELHI BOTH WAYS, TWO-THREE DAYS. WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST WE DO? SHOULD WE STOP FOR LONGER ON ONE OF THE LEGS? IT WILL BE OUR FIRST TASTE OF INDIA.
E. BROWN, WOLLONGONG
A stopover in both directions is a great idea, and I'm assuming that's your first preference rather than a longer stop in one direction only. Australian passport holders can apply for visas on arrival at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi Airport and it's a smooth process. You could tackle the city on your own but I suggest you don't. The Indian capital is a full-frontal assault on the senses and first-time visitors are often shocked and intimidated, although personal safety is not an issue. A guide with a pick-up and transfer to your hotel from the airport and guided tours for your time in Delhi gives you a layer of insulation.
One tour operator I've used several times in Delhi is Banyan Tours banyantours.com. Their service is five star all the way and if you wanted you could leave all the arrangements to them, including hotel booking. Your city tour will most likely include Humayun's Tomb, the Red Fort, the Friday Mosque, the Parliament Buildings and a trishaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi, and ask to include the Sikh temple in Chandi Chowk, it's pretty special.
For your stopover on the return journey you might consider a tour of the "golden triangle", from Delhi to the pink city of Jaipur and the Taj Mahal, two absolute knockouts. You could fit this comfortably into a three-night stay. In Jaipur, book an evening with dinner out at the Dera Amer elephant camp, it's one of the best experiences you can have in India. On your return journey to the airport you might spend a night or two at Peepal Kothi. About an hour's drive from the airport, this is a small, atmospheric guesthouse set in a leafy private garden attached to a mini farm. There are five guest suites but the bungalows – Port House and Dak – are the pick. The owner is a locavore and member of the international slow food movement and much of the food comes from his garden. Staff speak limited English, but for anyone who appreciates authentic food, calm and country, it's a gem, a deep immersion in the real India. Banyan Tours can arrange all the above.
WE HOPE TO VISIT ICELAND NEXT YEAR. MY HUSBAND IS A PARAPLEGIC – ARE THERE ANY TOUR OPERATORS THAT COULD GET US TO THE FAMED LOCATIONS, AND ARE THESE WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE? IS CRUISING IN FIORDS POSSIBLE?
N. FINCH, ANGASTON
Iceland Unlimited icelandunlimited.is is a specialist tour operator based in Reykjavík that offers various tours for disabled travellers. They have several different tours of the island's main attractions with various options for travel and accommodation to suit various needs. Contact them and discuss what sort of tour you might like to organise. Reviews of Iceland Unlimited on Tripadvisor tripadvisor.com.au rate it as "Excellent" almost without exception. Iceland Unlimited could also provide you with information of what cruises might work best for you.
The Cruise Iceland website cruiseiceland.com is out of date but their Natural Cruise Destination Brochure is a PDF that you can download to help plan what cruise areas you might like to explore, and it's sure to whet your appetites.
CONVERSATION OVER TO YOU… The question was "Climate change will affect our view of the world. Where do you want to go before it's too late?"
"Heron Island is at the top of my wish list," according to M. Williamson. "I long to enjoy the sight of baby turtles scurrying down the beach, to see the vast, colourful world below the waves and to revel in awe-inspiring sunrise and sunset canvases created by nature."
From J. Bowman, "I want to go to Iceland while there is still more ice than land."
L. Simmons writes "The Barrier Reef. From all reports it's dying a slow death and it's just tragic that future generations of Australians might not get to see one of the wonders of the world."
"The Taj Mahal," according to K. Johnstone. "There are reports that the white marble is yellowing from the effects of atmospheric pollution and I'd love to see it in its pristine state."
From B. Pollard, "Polar bears in northern Canada. It's just devastating that these wonderful animals might starve and disappear if global warming deprives them of the ice they need for hunting."
D. Evanson writes, "The Maldives are said to be the world's lowest lying islands and I hate the thought that they might get swallowed up by rising seas. Especially since they're home to some gorgeous resorts."
From M. Bailey, "I'd like to see the Galapagos Islands. Apparently the incredible birds, reptiles and mammals found here are heavily dependent on the food that the Humboldt Current delivers to the islands and a warmer planet will divert the current and threaten the existence of unique species such as the marine iguana."
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