Winter in the US: can we see the redwoods?

IN JANUARY, MY HUSBAND, 20-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER AND I ARE TRAVELLING TO PORTLAND, OREGON, FOR A WEDDING. WE WILL STAY A FURTHER 2½ WEEKS AND WOULD LIKE SOME IDEAS ON WHAT TO DO. WE'D LIKE TO SEE THE REDWOODS AND WEST COAST BUT WHAT IS BEST IN THE WINTER?

L. MANZI, BLAXLAND

Seeing the redwoods in January is perfectly feasible. The Redwood National and State Parks are in northern California, about 480 kilometres south of Portland, and the region has a mild climate. January temperatures in Crescent City, the closest city, range between 6 and 12 degrees in January, and any snow that falls is likely to be light. At that time of the year, you're better off sticking to the coast, where temperatures are milder. From the redwood forests, you could continue south to San Francisco and absorb the atmosphere of this energetic and entertaining city. From there, you might take California Highway 1 south to Los Angeles, which would take three days at a leisurely pace. There is much to enjoy along the way, including the town of Carmel, the Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Hearst Castle.

MY WIFE AND I WANT TO SPEND ABOUT A WEEK ON LAKE COMO NEXT JUNE. WE WOULD LIKE TO EXPERIENCE VILLAGE LIFE - WALK TO FRESH FOOD MARKETS, RESTAURANTS AND INTERACT WITH THE LOCALS. WHAT TOWNS WOULD BE BEST AND WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO SOURCE TOP-QUALITY APARTMENTS ON THE WATER?

R. CORNWELL, GLEBE

My pick for the lakeside village is Mezzegra, on the western shore in a part of the lake known as the Tremezzina, where the three legs of the lake meet. Within walking distance you have the stunning gardens at Villa Carlotta and a five-minute ferry ride delivers you to the swanky and glorious lakeside village of Bellagio and the enchanting Villa del Balbianello on its promontory. Mezzegra is big enough to have a choice of dining. Risorgimento is known as one of the finest restaurants on the lake, while Pizzeria Balognett might be modest but the pizzas come straight from heaven. Jamie Oliver is said to be a fan of the local Lenno olive oil and Richard Branson has a villa further down the lake. A peculiar attraction is the room in Mezzegra's Villa Belmonte where Benito Mussolini was kept with his mistress, Claretta Petacci, before they were shot by local partisans in the closing stages of World War II. Apartments are available through Bella Como (bellacomo.com), a rental agency that does nothing but rent villas and apartments around Lake Como. Many of their apartments will sleep up to four and even for a couple, you would probably find the extra space desirable. The difference in price is usually small. All their apartments are let on a one-week basis.

MY HUSBAND AND I ARE CELEBRATING OUR 20TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY IN OCTOBER AND WOULD LIKE TO GO AWAY FOR ONE OR TWO NIGHTS. WE LIVE IN THE WESTERN SUBURBS OF SYDNEY AND GREAT FOOD IS A TOP PRIORITY. ANY TIPS?

Z. MAHER, PARRAMATTA

Given your priority, what about booking into a Sydney city hotel? If you're looking for a glamorous location with fantastic food that walks tall on the world stage, you really can't go past Sydney. Honestly, you're hard put to find food in New York, London or Paris that beats the range and creativity in Sydney. If you want to mix some Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese dining into your getaway, there's nowhere better. Play the tourist and stir in some local knowledge. Take a ride on the Manly ferry, watch the sunset from Opera Bar, take a stroll from Bondi Beach to Bronte and have brunch at one of the cafes overlooking the beach, and celebrate the special occasion with a meal at one of the city's great restaurants. October is Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month (sydney.goodfoodmonth.com), a celebration of gastronomic pleasures with food markets, the famous Night Noodle Market and special events in restaurants with chefs keen to showcase their talents. Pack your appetite and book for two nights.

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