My daughter, who is nearly seven, has never seen snow and is desperate to try skiing. I am single, so the thought of driving a long distance puts me off. Can you recommend a resort (and accommodation) that is easy to get to (maybe fly in?) and has easy facilities for children, such as private lessons and other snow-based kids' activities? I am more interested in convenience and making it really work for my daughter than cost.
- L. Trueman, Manly.
Queenstown, New Zealand, could be a perfect fit. It's a gorgeous town with personality, plus a choice of three major ski fields and heaps of non-ski activities, and you can fly direct from Sydney with Qantas, Air New Zealand or Virgin. The closest ski area is Coronet Peak, which has mixed terrain suitable for all levels and is a family favourite.
A more scenic alternative, a one-hour drive away, is The Remarkables, consisting of a number of bowls framed by sharper chutes but also some decent beginner-intermediate terrain. Cardrona is a big hit with intermediate-level skiers in particular and since it's relatively high, it shines in marginal conditions. All three have kids' programs that will make the learning experience more fun.
Small, cosy and luxurious, The Dairy is a 13-room boutique hotel with bright rooms and fireside nooks made for curling up in.
Hotel St Moritz is a luscious property with swanky rooms in chocolate-and-vanilla and a big suite of add-ons.
Don't miss Fergburger, the ultimate carb top-up after a day on the slopes, renowned for its prime beef, chicken and fish burgers, with piquant sauces and golden, crusty wedges.
Good food and sights, but take care in Jo'burg
We're planning to spend a couple of days in Johannesburg to get over jet lag before we start a safari tour in the game parks of Botswana. We want to stay somewhere reasonably central but not in a big international-style hotel, and take in some of the sights. Any recommendations in both departments? Also, we're concerned about security. How safe is it?
- T. Byrne, O'Connor, ACT.
Clico Boutique Hotel is a small, friendly and modestly luxurious property in upper-crust Rosebank, and it comes at a very reasonable price. The food here is a standout. Chef Andrew Green has worked with Gordon Ramsay, among other notable names.
Johannesburg's must-see is the Apartheid Museum. A warty chronicle of apartheid history, it is an emotionally unsettling experience that poses disturbing questions.
Many visitors take a tour of Soweto, one of the racially segregated townships created during the apartheid regime. This is not really my thing - Soweto is a living community and not a human zoo - but many find their visit rewarding.
Security is certainly an issue, and judging by the high walls and razor wire that surround many houses, and the number of security guards, there are good reasons to be alert. You should be fine walking around in most areas of the city during daylight but don't look rich, lost or confused. It is not uncommon to be approached by people offering to help and they should be dismissed politely but firmly.
You will need a transfer between the airport and hotel, and I recommend Uhambo Transfers.
Europe a cinch for novices
My daughter and a friend, both 22, will be celebrating the end of their university degrees with a six-week trip from mid-November to Britain, France, Spain and Switzerland. The girls do not drink and are not interested in the party scene but they are interested in castles and antiquities. They have thought of doing part of their trip with an under-35s tour but are worried they will be totally out of place. Would a better option be to do some short tours from the major cities and travel independently the remainder of the time? Also, would Spain be a bit out of the way on a six-week trip?
- J. Reid, Beecroft.
An organised tour would give them a head start and help get them on their feet before setting off on their own.
However, if they were to start their travels in Britain, they would be on familiar territory anyway, and this could serve as their launch pad before they head off to continental Europe.
Finding your way around western Europe, getting a bed and a meal, and exploring the sights is easy even for novice travellers, and doing it on your own is empowering and satisfying. The websites of Time Out, Nomadic Matt and Lonely Planet are just some of the valuable resources tailor-made for this age group.
Tourist offices in cities along the way can suggest local tours and even help them find accommodation and buy train tickets in many cases. Including Spain in their itinerary is a great idea. They could happily spend two to three weeks there because it is relatively warm at this time of the year, is less expensive than France and Britain and offers endless fascination for passionate historians.
Sights and scents of Provence
We are planning to visit Provence next year and wondered when was the best time to see the lavender in bloom? Would mid-August be too late? Any suggestions as to the best area to base ourselves would be appreciated, too.
- L. Hutton, Castle Hill.
Lavender blooms in Provence from late June to September and is harvested from mid-July to late August, depending on the location and the weather. In a typical year, mid-August is a little past prime time, but you should still find lavender fields in flower during your visit.
The lavender sweet spot is the Luberon, a luscious subsection of the Vaucluse region of Provence, which lies to the east of Avignon and north of the river Durance. One of the most photogenic of all the lavender fields surrounds Senanque Abbey, a 12th-century Cistercian abbey just outside the village of Gordes.
Where to base yourselves depends on whether you are prepared to hire a car. If you are, and a wandering tour of the region demands it, there are many self-catering options as well as hotels. I'd go for somewhere in the western half of the Luberon region. If you choose not to drive, you would need to base yourselves in a larger town and two that I like a lot are L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Saint Remy-de-Provence. St Remy has a fine choice of cafes and restaurants.
Want to travel in the cool zone? Fabsearch casts its urbane eye over the current crop of hipster fashion and designer magazines, sifts out snappy reviews of hotels and restaurants and repackages them on its website. It's TripAdvisor for the Louis Vuitton brigade (and Eurocentric) but as useful as a friend with a savvy take on the local scene.
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