Maui in March...Getting around in Britain...North Carolina Resorts...West Africa Adventures
q. I'm visiting Maui in March. What's going on then that I shouldn't miss?--R.T., Macon, Ga.
a. You've chosen a great time to be there -- March is one of Maui's prime whale-watching months. Whalefest Week (808/667-9175) takes place March 8 through 14 in Lahaina and Kaanapali; the event celebrates the humpback whale with watch trips, crafts, and activities for children. If you want to get off the beaten path, the East-Maui Taro Festival (March 29-30; 808/248-8972) is a fun food fair devoted to that staple of the Hawaiian diet, the taro root. There's also live music and hula dancing. And speaking of beaten paths, the 29th annual Maui Marathon (808/871-6441) takes place on Sunday, March 21, kicking off at 5:30 a.m. from the Kaahumanu Center in Kahului. The finish line is at Whaler's Village, on the Kaanapali coast.
q. My brother and I would like to send our parents on vacation in England. We don't want them driving a rental car, nor do we want a package tour. Is there another easy way to get around?--W.O., Carmel, Calif.
a. One of the best options is to buy a BritRail pass or Flexipass from BritRail (800/677-8585) or an agent in the States before departure. These passes allow for unlimited train travel throughout Britain, ranging from four days ($235-$350 per person) to one month ($600-$900). Two easy trips from London are the 45-minute jaunt to Oxford and the two-hour journey north to York. Other options?Outside the London area, cabs are usually affordable. And don't rule out bus travel -- many coaches are very comfortable and provide refreshments on board. National Express (540/298-1395), England's largest bus company, has regularly scheduled departures from London to such nearby cities as Windsor and Brighton, and as far afield as Aberdeen. Travelers can purchase tickets in advance in the United States or pick them up at Heathrow or Gatwick.
q. Can you suggest some resorts in North Carolina?I'd like to spend a week driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. --I.F., New York, N.Y.
a. To explore the parkway, start at the Hound Ears Club (828/963-4321; doubles from $90), a 15-room inn in Blowing Rock near the 5,964-foot peak of Grandfather Mountain. This 700-acre property has tennis, swimming, and golf on-site; horseback riding and hiking trails are nearby. Heading south, you'll find a great resort in Asheville with top-notch views. Since 1913, the legendary Arts and Crafts-style Grove Park Inn (828/252-2711; doubles from $140) has welcomed the likes of Woodrow Wilson and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Near the Pisgah National Forest area, the Greystone Inn, south of the parkway on Lake Toxaway (828/966-4700; doubles from $275, all-inclusive), is a prime spot for fishing.
q. Are there any outfitters that lead trips to western Africa?I'm interested in visiting Dakar, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Timbuktu. --A.G., Cambridge, Mass.
a. Wilderness Travel (800/368-2794) offers a 17-day adventure -- the Mali-Dogon Expedition -- that includes a canoe trip down the Niger and three days of camping in Dogon country (from $3,095 per person, excluding airfare). The trip winds up with a visit to Timbuktu and a camel trek to a Tuareg settlement in the Sahara. Magical Holidays 2Afrika (800/223-7452) has several itineraries in western Africa. Its six-night Senegal package features a visit to Dakar and nearby Kayar, and a tour of the infamous former slave-trading post on Île de Gorée (departures March 15 through May 14 and September 15 through November 30; from $1,095 per person). If you really want to see these four places in one trip, Arizona-based Turtle Tours (888/299-1439) can design a custom itinerary. Or you could wait until next year, when Princess Cruises begins sailing the western coast on a 24-day African Explorer route -- making stops in Namibia, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Malta -- on the way from Cape Town to Athens. Rates begin at $8,480 per person, including airfare (800/774-6237).
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