November 1998

I'd like to see Java by train. Are there any rail tours available?-- D.M., Pensacola, Fla.
Unfortunately, there aren't any real railway tour packages. One of Java's few luxury trains, the Bima Express, runs between Jakarta and Surabaya by way of the southern city of Jogjakarta. But because the 131/2-hour trip is made overnight, the Bima isn't the best way to see the countryside. It's better to take the Fajar (a day train) from Jakarta to Jogjakarta, spend some time exploring nearby Borobudur, and catch the Bima to Surabaya. Absolute Asia (800/736-8187) will design itineraries to include train travel, expert guides, luxury resort accommodations, and ferry connections to Bali or Sumatra. Rama Tours (800/851-6074), based in Bali, can set up similar train trips.

A group of 25 family members and friends would like to visit Lillehammer, Norway, this winter. Do you know of any companies that can help us with the details? -- C.H., St. Paul, Minn.
Try Union Tours (800/451-9511; ) -- it will arrange discount airfares and tailor activities to your interests, whether you're into sports or nature or architecture. Nelson's Scandinavia (800/542-1689 or 312/236-1462; ) might throw in cabin stays, downhill and cross-country skiing, and guided excursions to the Maihaugen Museum. Brekke Tours (800/437-5302 or 701/772-8999; ) specializes in heritage trips to Norway, matching up families with local cultural and emigration researchers. All three can also organize overnight trips to the fjords. Bundle up!

I want to head north this season to ice-skate. Are there any special winter deals to Montreal or Quebec City?-- A.W., Memphis, Tenn.
Winter is off-season in Canada, and good deals are everywhere. Air Canada's Pleasures of the Table Getaway -- who names these things?-- includes round-trip airfare to Montreal from selected U.S. cities, two nights at a hotel (extra nights available), a city sightseeing tour, and dinner at one of Montreal's best restaurants. Prices start at $269 per person ($474 from Nashville), based on double occupancy; call Air Canada (800/774-8993) for more information. While you're there you can go skating at Beaver Lake on Mount Royal (514/872-9800) -- it has forest views and a restaurant selling hot chocolate, and there's no entrance fee (skate rental will only set you back $3). The most famous hotel in Quebec City, the Château Frontenac (800/441-1414 or 418/692-3861), is posting several winter packages. Starting at just $163 for two people, its family package includes a double room, buffet breakfast, tickets for the Dufferin Terrace toboggan run or skate rental, and passes to the Musée de la Civilisation. Not wild enough for you?Other packages feature dogsledding, snowmobile rides, and skiing.

Where should I eat in Buenos Aires?-- K.B., Corpus Christi, Tex.
Patagonia (3118 Calle Salguero; 54-1/806-0608; dinner for two $120), owned by Argentina's star chef Francis Mallman and located near the Palermo parks and gardens, has really hit its stride since opening last March. Try his untraditional take on parillada (grilled meats), served with a spicy sauce. In the San Telmo quarter, you'll find Old Argentine cooking at Calle de Angeles (318 Calle Chile; 54-1/318-3633); dishes include pato a la naranja (duck with orange sauce), and, for dessert, prunes in rice pudding. Afterward, head to the trendy La Boca neighborhood for café con leche at Café Tortoni (829 Avda. de Mayo; 54-1/342-4328), which has played host to the city's art and literary scene since 1893. Pool tables are in the back, and there's jazz on weekend nights. Wherever you go, remember to go late. Argentines wouldn't dream of dining before 11 o'clock.

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