STROLL IN OLD JAPAN
We will be in Tokyo next year and want to travel to Osaka by train. Can you recommend any stops along the way?
Start by making your way, via Nagoya, to the village of Takayama, and spend a couple of nights there. The journey will take around five hours and cost about $150. For accommodation with an authentic edge, try the Minshuku Kuwataniya hotel (kuwataniya.com).
There are traditional rooms with futons, tatami mat floors and shared facilities for about $50, or western fashioned with private facilities for about $75 a person.
The hotel has two hot spring baths and free rental bikes. Grab the bikes and head out to the Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village, a collection of old farmhouses that were destined to be submerged after the construction of dams. They were moved and preserved as living museums.
At least 30 buildings sit on a hillside around a small pond and handicraft techniques such as lacquer ware, carving and dyeing are demonstrated.
Also include the morning markets along the eastern bank of the Miyagawa River plus the Yatai Kaikan. This modern hall displays floats used in the Takayama Festival, considered one of Japan’s most spectacular.
The three main streets, KamiIchinomachi-dori, Kami-Ninomachidori and Kami-Sannomachi-dori, preserve the atmosphere of the Edo era.
You’ll find many interesting shops and the Takayama Jinja Palace dating back to 1692, a good example of an official building. A must see is the Kokubunji Temple (the original burnt down in 746). Built in 1615, it features a huge ginkgo tree which is 1200 years old and now a national monument.
At your next stop, Kanazawa, the Hotel Nikko (okura-nikko.com) or the Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel (kanazawa.tokyuhotels.com) are well located. Here, visit the Kenrokuen Gardens (one of the most famous in Japan). Within the gardens is Seisonkaku, a stately home with a collection of antiques including Japanese dolls.
From here it’s a short stroll to the samurai houses. Stop in at one of the locally made pottery shops along the street. The area of Nagamachi was home to high-ranking Samurai during the Edo era and, here, several Samurai houses and tile-roofed mud walls along the narrow street have been preserved. You can see inside one, the Nomura House. There’s also Kanazawa’s Kitchen, 200 small shops in tiny alley ways selling food and other items.
Take a day trip by bus from here to the world heritage region of Shirakawa-go and the village of Ogimachi. You may like to stay a night in this picturesque farming village in one of the farmhouses or wander the streets, temples and museums before making your way to Osaka. TRAVEL AGENT TIPS My partner and I want to travel to South America to do all the touristy things such as an Amazon cruise and Machu Picchu.
Can you help with a reputable and reliable travel agent who can look after us oldies?
Simply head down to your local shopping centre, where you are bound to find a travel agency.
By sitting and chatting with a consultant, they will gain an understanding of your wish list, enabling them to plan the perfect holiday to suit your individual requirements.
An agent should be a member of ATAS, the Travel Accreditation Scheme administered by AFTA (Australian Federation of Travel Agents).
This will ensure they are endorsed, have met strict financial and customer service criteria, are reliable, well trained and professional businesses. BEST OF BOSTON We will be in Boston for two days before our bus tour to the east coast of the United States and Canada. What do you suggest we see? I like history, art and museums.
The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum is a good place to start; you can still see one of the actual tea chests.
Then head to Boston’s oldest building, Paul Revere House.
Make your way along the Freedom Trail covering more than 16 historical sites relevant to the Revolutionary War. You can take a guided tour or download the map and follow your own itinerary.
A red brick or painted line serves as a guide and it can take anywhere between three hours to a full day to do.
Other walks you might consider are the Boston Heritage Trail and the JFK Trail.
The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum provides a look into the former president’s life and if you’d like to see Harvard University, student-led tours leave from the Harvard Information Centre. EXPLORE NZ WINERIES We’re heading to a wedding on the north island of New Zealand near Napier and are keen to spend a couple of days exploring the wineries in the area. Any suggestions?
Lucky you, this region has more than 100 wineries and is also referred to as the Food Bowl of New Zealand.
Craggy Range in Havelock North has an award-winning restaurant specialising in local produce plus handy self-contained accommodation – in case of over-indulgence.
The Elephant Hill Winery has stunning coastal views and Ngatarawa Winery is one of New Zealand’s oldest. Set in old stables, it’s perfect for a chardonnay overlooking the pond.
Moana Park and Mission Estate are also lovely. To download a map with a listing of all wineries, head to winehawkesbay.co.nz.
While you’re there, pop into the Hawkes Bay Farmers’ market in Hastings or the Hastings City Night Market for local produce and entertainment.
Also take a photo at Taumatawhaka-tangihanga-koauau-oTamatea-turi-pukaka-pikimaungahoronuku-pokai-whenua-kitanatahu. It’s the longest place name in the world, near Porangahau. CHRISTMAS CRUISE Our family (two early teens) would like a holiday over the Christmas/New Year period. Do you have any suggestions for an easy, relaxing break?
A cruise could be perfect for you. Carnival Cruise Lines (carnival.com.au) has a number of departures over this period to the Pacific Islands.
A 10-night trip on the Carnival Legend or Carnival Spirit visiting Vila, the Isle of Pines and Noumea would be a great break for your family.
The Spirit features an amazing water park, and the shore excursions will give the kids an insight into the Pacific culture.
Japanese geisha in the Nagamachi Street, Kanazawa, where high-ranking samurai lived during the Edo era. And (below, left to right) Paul Revere statue in Boston and Carnival Legend visits the Pacific Islands.