q. I keep hearing that Colombia is gorgeous and that the old city of Cartagena is stunning. But is the country safe?--M.S., Carlsbad, Calif.
a. You're right, Cartagena does have incredible 19th-century architecture, great restaurants, and a lively nightlife. And the countryside is one of the most untouched environments on the planet (Colombia's 33 national parks shelter more plant and animal species per square mile than anywhere else). It could be the next hot destination in Latin America -- if only it weren't so dangerous. "There is a greater risk of being kidnapped in Colombia than in any other country in the world," according to the U.S. State Department's Web site (travel.state.gov/colombia.html). Unlike Cuba, Colombia isn't officially off-limits to Americans, but the United States cannot guarantee the safety of citizens who decide to visit. (The Colombian government warns tourists about roads where guerrilla attacks have occurred.) Before planning a trip, check out the State Department's Consular Information Sheet at the above Web site, or contact the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C., for the latest travel advisory (202/387-8338; www.colombiaemb.org).
q. My husband is an insulin-dependent diabetic. Do you know of any travel agents that specialize in tour groups for diabetics?--R.J.L., Atlanta, Ga.
a. Thousands of diabetics travel safely each year, but they take special precautions before setting out. Consult the Accessible Travel section of Moss Rehab Resource Net at www.mossresourcenet.org for a list of agencies that specialize in trips for travelers with all types of medical conditions. The Diabetes Life Network (www.diabeteslife.net) is another great source when planning a getaway. It doesn't provide the names of agencies, but it does suggest tips for diabetic travelers, such as the following: If you'll be changing time zones, ask your doctor how to modify your medication times; wear a medical ID bracelet identifying you as a diabetic; and always pack twice as much insulin and blood-testing equipment as you think you'll need.
q. What's new on the San Francisco food scene?--T.G., New York, N.Y.
a. Sharon Wick, our San Francisco correspondent, reports that the city is now obsessed with France. New bistros are opening up almost weekly. Gary Danko's (800 North Point St.; 415/749-2060), in the former Chez Michel space, serves three- and six-course Gallic menus, from $48 to $75, with an American spin: Maine lobster is paired with chanterelles, glazed oysters are accompanied by leeks. The Palomar Hotel's recently opened Fifth Floor (12 Fourth St.; 415/348-1111; dinner for two $90) is focusing on modern French fare; chef George Morrone flouts tradition with tuna "foie gras" and his whimsical banana split -- a combination of traditional ice cream flavors and caramelized bananas, with raspberry purée, walnuts, and pistachios. Campton Place chef Laurent Manrique is serving up hearty specialties from his native region, Gascony, such as sea salt-cured foie gras and monkfish À la basquaise, with garlic and Serrano ham (340 Stockton St.; 415/955-5555; dinner for two $105).
q. How do I reserve tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show?--W.H., North Charleston, S.C.
a. Next year, England's largest garden exhibition takes place May 23 to 26 at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Purchase timed-admission tickets in advance by calling the show's booking service at 44-171/344-4343, open round the clock. A futuristic Garden of Peace will be the highlight, as part of England's yearlong String of Pearls Millennium Festival. Call 44-171/649-1885 for information on exhibitors, lectures, and events.
E-mail your questions to AskTL@travelandleisure.com, fax them to 800/926-1748, 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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