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Ask T&L: Panama Canal, New Delhi Digs, Boston Eats

We're thinking of buying an around-the-world plane ticket. Are there travel agents who book this type of trip?-- T.S., Seattle, Wash.
Many agencies specialize in vacations that circumnavigate the globe. Around the World Travel (800/766-3601) designs custom trips, using several airlines to help make elaborate itineraries affordable. Though each trip is different, the average cost for a plane ticket is $2,400; the agents can also book hotels. For globe-trotting on a more lavish scale, Intrav (800/456-8100) offers a 24-day, eight-country tour via private jet for $37,800 per person. The rate covers deluxe hotels, gourmet meals, ground transportation, sightseeing, gratuities, and more. Avid golfers can pay $2,000 extra to tee off at the most exclusive golf courses on earth. Intrav also arranges seven-country world tours by Concorde, from $55,800 per person.

My fiancé and I are planning to visit Rajasthan on our honeymoon. We'd like to stay in a historic hotel in New Delhi for a few days. -- A.P., San Francisco, Calif.
While business hotels abound in New Delhi, charming ones are harder to track down. The 1933 Hotel Imperial (Janpath; 91-11/334-1234; doubles from $170) is where Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian Freedom Movement planned the final days of British rule. A short walk from fashionable Connaught Place, the hotel sits on eight acres with a palm-tree-encircled pool and a large garden. All 292 rooms have high ceilings and central air-conditioning. Another, more intimate hotel is the 53-room Oberoi Maidens (7 Sham Nath Marg; 91-11/252-5464, fax 91-11/398-0771; doubles from $120). Built in 1900, it is steeped in colonial history. Wide verandas, period furniture, and an eight-acre grove of neem, pipal, and banyan trees more than make up for its removed location, as do the pool and tennis court.

My husband and I will be in Boston on our anniversary. Where can we go for a memorable meal?-- D.H., Boulder, Colo.
Book a table at Frank McClelland's famous L'Espalier (30 Gloucester St.; 617/262-3023; dinner for two $130) in an elegant 1876 Back Bay town house. Three-course prix fixe dinners ($65 per person) are composed of such Adam-and-Eve fare as squab and fig salad, and grilled partridge. The formal but unstuffy Julien in Le Meridien Boston (250 Franklin St.; 617/451-1900; dinner for two $120) serves up a Gallic take on New England's best seafood -- the pumpkin soup with mussels is divine. If you're in the mood for something more low-key, head to Beacon Hill's popular Hungry I (711/2 Charles St.; 617/227-3524; dinner for two $80), a three-room bistro with great roast chicken. Try to get a seat by the fireplace. Or cross the river to Cambridge, but be sure to call ahead for a table at Rialto (1 Bennett St.; 617/661-5050; dinner for two $95), chef Jody Adams's hot spot in the Charles Hotel. Foodies rave about the beet risotto and the duck with foie gras.

Is the Canadian Pacific Railway still running to the west coast?How can I get information?-- C.G., Portsmouth, N.H.
The CPR shifted from passenger to freight service in the seventies, but you can still traverse Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer and VIA Rail. The Canadian Line is VIA Rail's luxe three-day trek from Toronto to Vancouver (800/835-3037; one way from $964, all meals included). View the Rockies and the occasional caribou from your stainless-steel, Art Deco-style car, and dine on arctic char and butternut squash tortellini. The private Rocky Mountaineer operates from May to October, traveling a short jaunt between Vancouver and Calgary (800/665-7245; one way from $785); GoldLeaf Service passengers can look out from special glass-domed cars. Riders spend the night in Kamloops, a former gold rush outpost.

What cultural events are taking place in Auckland, New Zealand, this fall?-- L.W., Tacoma, Wash.
The Aotea Centre's two modern theaters stage the city's large-scale productions; Opera New Zealand will present Verdi's Macbeth there from October 17 (64-9/379-4020). Vita and Virginia, Eileen Atkins's play based on the letters of Sackville-West and Woolf, opens at the Maidment Theatre on October 1 (Alfred St.; 64-9/308-2383). The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will perform with celebrated pianist Michael Houstoun at Auckland's Town Hall, starting September 23 (64-9/307-5139). Coming in December to the New Gallery, "Reckoning with the Past: Contemporary Chinese Painting" will showcase the work of 15 leading artists (Wellesley St.; 64-9/307-4540). For more event listings, visit the city council's Web site at www.akcity.govt.nz/whatson.

As a single traveler, I'd like to find some hotels and lodges that offer communal dining, such as Colorado's Home Ranch. -- M.V.G., Evanston, Ill.
Visitors at the Crescent H Guest Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (307/733-3674; from $300 per person, all-inclusive), stay in cabins and take their meals together in the main lodge. Proving that family-style food does not mean cafeteria fare, three chefs collaborate on such dishes as onion-and-Gorgonzola tart and swordfish with pineapple-ginger salsa. Wednesday night dinner is a buffet, so everyone can eat in time to enjoy the local rodeo. In Natchez, Mississippi, the antebellum Monmouth Plantation (601/442-5852; rooms from $125; dinner $37 per person) offers five-course dinners. Seated at an Empire table, 12 guests can feast on grilled Muscovy duck and blackberry and white-chocolate-mousse tarts.

My friend and I are interested in an art and architecture tour of Eastern Europe, with a focus on cities. -- M.T., Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Art Nouveau buildings of Budapest, Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral, and Alphonse Mucha's house in Prague can be explored in depth with Cultural Tours' "Europe & Beyond" (800/826-7995; from $3,778, all-inclusive). The next departure for its 14-day itinerary is in April 1999. Abercrombie & Kent (800/323-7308) offers several trips through October. The extraordinary 15-day "Tale of Five Cities" tour (from $7,795 per person, land only) takes in Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. The highlights: a private Bartók concert at the composer's house and a hydrofoil trip down the Neva to Peter the Great's Summer Palace. For those who want to go farther afield, Maupintour's 15-day countryside trip includes Prague, Budapest, Cracow, Slovakia's capital city of Bratislava, Esztergom, and points in between. It's not for the faint of heart -- day six features a rafting trip down the Dunajec River Gorge (800/255-4266; from $4,495 per person, all-inclusive).

I want to take a cruise through the Panama Canal that doesn't skimp on ports of call. -- A.G., Casper, Wyo.
On December 31, 1999, the United States will transfer to Panama authority over the Canal, so now is a historic moment to test these waters. Royal Olympic's "Cruise to the Future" (800/801-6086; from $1,490), a 12-day scientific exploration aboard the Stella Solaris, departs from Galveston, Texas. Guests and expert lecturers will visit Cozumel, Jamaica's Montego Bay, Panama's Cristóbal, and Port Limón in Costa Rica, as well as pass through the Canal twice. Smithsonian Study Tours' eight-day jaunt, "Panama: Reefs and Rain Forests, Cultures and Crossroads" (202/357-4700; from $3,795), leaves from Miami and makes snorkeling and barbecue stops all over Panama, including Portobelo, Isla Grande, the Pearl Islands, Darién National Park, and Panama City. Onboard naturalists will help you spot brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies.

send us your questions
Fax queries to 800/926-1748, E-mail them to AskTL@amexpub.com, or mail them to: Ask T&L, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th floor, New York, NY 10036. We regret that questions can be answered only in the column.

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