TRAVEL Q&A

Swiss Highs and Lows

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 9, 2006

Q. I will be in Geneva in mid-October. What hiking is still good by then?

Dean Myerson, Washington

A. In Switzerland, hiking trails crisscross the country like emissions-free highways, stretching from the Alps to the valleys. Yet your choices may be limited by the weather. "October can get very chilly," says Travis Harris, president of Alpine Adventure Trails and Tours (888-478-4004, http://www.swisshiking.com/ ), a European hiking outfitter. "It can get very dangerous very quickly."

Swiss weather is temperamental, especially in October: A golden autumn day can turn cold and stormy in a snap, unleashing rain or snow. (Harris recommends wearing layers and water-repellent outerwear.) Additionally, in the fall, many mountain resort towns close their facilities for a couple of weeks before the onset of ski season, so lodging could be scarce.

To lessen the risks, pick hiking areas that offer trails with lower elevations and towns that are open year-round. For example, Sarah Balimann, an information officer at Switzerland Tourism (877-794-8037, http://www.myswitzerland.com/ ), recommends Jura, a low range of mountains about an hour by train from Geneva. The tourism office's Web site also cites myriad hikes accessible from the Geneva region, such as a three-hour trek that starts in Cologny, wends through vineyards and fields, and ends at the beach town of Hermance. Another option is Interlaken, a vibrant city three hours by train from Geneva. Depending on the conditions, you can ascend the towering Alpine peaks or tromp through valleys sheltering Smurf-cute villages.

If you want to relocate your base, the Engadin region, about 3 1/2 hours from Zurich, is in the heart of the Tyrolean Rhaetian Alps. "The Engadin has lower altitudes and more sun," says Chris Pranskatis, manager of Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures (888-586-8365, http://www.ryderwalker.com/ ). "There are high passes and peaks, and valleys you can hike if the weather is inclement." Another option is Neuchatel, about an hour and a half from Geneva, which is known for its cheeses, chocolate, lakes, wines, rolling valleys and sunshine.

Do our children need passports for Bermuda? Are there any must-sees for kids?

Elizabeth Difrancisco, Vienna, Va.

Americans can travel to Bermuda with a variety of documents, such as a birth certificate and an official photo ID for adults, and a birth certificate and an accompanying parent for minors. However, on Dec. 31, all that will change, when Americans of all ages will be required to carry a passport.

Once there, though, your kids will have a ball. "Bermuda is kid-friendly," says Joanne Raynor of the Bermuda Department of Tourism (800-BERMUDA, http://www.bermudatourism.com/ ), "and very safe."

Where to play? The Wyndham features Bermuda's only water park, and Tobacco Bay has calm waves and vendors renting snorkel gear and floater arm bands. For wildlife, the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo has a touch pool and a menagerie from as far away as Madagascar. (Consider buying the Heritage Passport, which allows unlimited admission to eight attractions.) Dolphin Quest has interactive activities with Flipper & Co., and on a glass-bottom-boat cruise, you can peer down at a coral reef and a shipwreck.

Besides shops and restaurants, the Royal Naval Dockyard also showcases art studios that let kids play Picasso; Bermuda Clayworks, for one, lets children paint and glaze their own pottery. For more distractions, Hamilton's Front Street transforms into a festival every Tuesday night, with face painters, street performers, musicians and kiddie rides. For chow time, Raynor says most restaurants cater to children but singles out the White Horse Tavern in St. George, which has an outdoor terrace where kids can toss their food to the fish.

My friend dislikes long road trips. Can we fly to the Outer Banks?

Karrye Braxton, Washington

The drive from Washington to the Outer Banks can take anywhere from five (to Duck) to seven hours (Hatteras). If traveling by air, Norfolk is the closest airport to OBX -- 82 miles to the Wright Memorial Bridge. Fares from Baltimore start at $137 round trip on Southwest, and $150 from National on US Airways. If you don't want to rent a car in Norfolk, you can take a shuttle for about $150 per person one way to Corolla (the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau has a list of firms; 877-629-4386, www.outerbanks.org ). The Corolla company Sea Air (252-453-3656, http://www.flyseaair.com/ ) also flies from Norfolk to Corolla for $175 per person one way. It offers regularly scheduled weekend service in season.

If you have a fat wallet, you can charter a plane from D.C. to Manteo's airport (close to the southern OBX towns) or to the Corolla airport, just north of Duck. Sea Air, for one, flies to Manteo for about $2,100 one way for up to nine passengers and to Corolla for $2,000.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@ washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Include your name and home town.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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