I'm travelling with my husband to Japan mid-April for 10 days, arriving in Tokyo. The only plan we have at the moment is to purchase a seven-day JR pass. What is the best way to utilise and get value for money with this pass? Is it best to take lots of day trips from Tokyo? Kyoto has been suggested as a trip to take but an overnight stay is also recommended. Do you have a suggested itinerary?
- S. Baker, East Ballina.
The Japan Rail Pass is a great deal and if you take lots of day trips from Tokyo you will get your money's worth. While the Japanese rail network is the world's finest and an attraction in its own right, I'm not sure that spending a lot of time on trains is the best recipe for a fulfilling holiday.
Kyoto deserves a couple of days at the very least and I would strongly recommend a minimum one-night stay. En route, you might also want to include Hakone, gateway to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which has a number of short touring options with Mount Fuji as a backdrop. You might also consider a short trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima.
A guidebook will help you sort out the attractions you really want to see, and either the Lonely Planet or Frommer's Guide to Japan would be a good choice, available from local bookshops. Both have suggested itineraries to help with your planning.
Walking the walks
My husband and I will be visiting Britain in May 2013 and we've decided to do two one-week walks. We'll be using a tour company to organise accommodation, luggage transfers and day-to-day itinerary, but the walks will be self-directed. After word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and some internet research, we've chosen the Dales Way in Yorkshire. However, we've decided that a second week-long walk should take in a completely different landscape. The walk can be moderately challenging, although not too rugged, and we'd prefer to walk through interesting villages rather than large urban centres. Do you have any suggestions please?
- H. Princehorn, Adamstown Heights.
Two good possibilities come to mind. The first is the Cotswold Way (nationaltrail.co.uk/Cotswold), which follows the eastern escarpment of the Severn River Valley winding through beech woods and open pastures, between yew hedges, past Roman ruins and Iron-Age forts in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It's postcard Britain at its sugar-coated best. Expect gurgling brooks, mediaeval churches, thatched cottages and villages of honey-coloured limestone where the names - Wotton-under-Edge, Chipping Sodbury - come straight from The Wind in the Willows.
This is a popular summer walk but May is perfect. Total length is 160 kilometres, so you might need to cut it short.
Another option is the Cornish Coastal Walk, between St Ives and Falmouth, the mid-section of the South West Coast Path (southwestcoastpath.com). It's a sea-hugging jaunt past smugglers' coves, over gorse-swathed cliffs and through villages populated by locals who talk like pirates. It rides high over chiselled headlands and dives into whitewashed villages cradled in sea-lathered coves.
Getting the most from Gustavus
Following a June cruise we have a few days in Juneau, Alaska. We would like to spend this time visiting Glacier Bay National Park using local transport. Could you suggest somewhere to stay that is conveniently located, advise what transport options are available and whether there are any local small-boat operators that run one-or two-day excursions to explore Glacier Bay?
- J. Partridge, Wollongong.
The main base for trips into Glacier Bay National Park is the town of Gustavus, which sits at the southern end of the park and about 80 kilometres west of Juneau.
Basing yourself here is probably going to be a far happier option than staying in Juneau. You can get to Gustavus by plane from Juneau with Alaska Airlines (alaskaair.com); via a private air charter; or by the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System, although this is not a daily service.
In Gustavus there are several lodges, inns and B&Bs and plenty of tour operators with various options for exploring this majestic national park, including kayaking, whale-watching cruises, scenic flights and hiking trips.
TAZ Whale Watching Tours is one operator that offers daily cruises out of Gustavus. For more information and contacts for transport, lodging and tours, see the Gustavus website (gustavus.com).
Tuscan villa for two a tough ask
My husband and I are finally going to live the dream of hiring a villa in Tuscany but we do not want to be joining six other couples in a villa/apartment or agriturismo, just a simple villa to ourselves sharing a home with the owner. After hours on the internet only to find that what they advertise in a rental home is in fact an apartment or condo sharing outdoor facilities such as pool etc, is there a site where we can contact the agents giving our specifications and they do the hard yards?
- M. Maclellan, Mona Vale.
Finding a villa to hire in rural Tuscany should be no problem but a villa to share with the owner is a tough call. Almost without exception, a villa you can hire for your exclusive use is a substantial property. Such villas are usually let as an independent, self-catering proposition, with multiple bedrooms suitable for a family or a large group. If you hire a villa for just the two of you, you'll be paying for empty bedrooms. While many Tuscan villas have been divided into apartments to cater to couples and they do share outdoor facilities including pool and terrace, you can still enjoy a high degree of privacy.
Do a search on flipkey.com and you might well find a property that will suit you. On this site you can access reviews from past guests.
Take a look at Casa Serena, a two-bedroom villa with its own pool just south of Arezzo. If you want to go through an agent, contact Mary Rossi Travel on 9957 4511.
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