TRAVEL Q&A

South Africa's Trunk Show

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By Elissa Leibowitz Poma
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 29, 2007

Q. Following an internship in Alice, in South Africa's Eastern Cape, I'd like to travel throughout the region. What should I see, and how do I get around on a budget?

Meghan Lyon, Poolesville

A. The Eastern Cape "has everything that South Africa is known for -- great wildlife, lovely beaches, spectacular scenery and fascinating history -- but receives relatively few visitors," Julian Asher, a travel specialist and managing partner of the agency Timeless Africa (402-304-7513, http://www.timelessafrica.com/), writes in an e-mail.

Nearly all visits will begin in the resort city of Port Elizabeth. It has wide beaches and is the Eastern Cape's transportation hub, linking major cities and towns including Grahamstown and Jeffrey's Bay.

An hour from the city is Addo Elephant National Park ( http://www.addoelephantpark.com/). For $11, you can see the world's largest concentration of elephants -- 450, according to the park's Web site, plus rhinos, lions, buffaloes and leopards. Tours are available, and on-site accommodations are ideal for both luxury travelers and budget-seekers; a basic tent, for instance, costs $40 a night.

In exploring the untouched Wild Coast, head to a spot called Hole in the Wall near Coffee Bay, where the sea has carved a hole in an offshore cliff. Asher also recommends the Valley of Desolation within the Karoo Nature Reserve, where erosion has produced sheer cliffs and stone columns.

Jeffrey's Bay is known for surfing, and the area near Saint Croix Island is best for diving, snorkeling and penguin-viewing. Or head to Tsitsikamma National Park, with one of the world's highest bungee jumps.

For important spots in South Africa's tumultuous apartheid history, visit the grave of activist Steve Biko in King William's Town and Qunu, where Nelson Mandela grew up.

Budget travelers get around on the hop-on/hop-off Baz Bus ( http://www.bazbus.com/), which is ideal for exploring the coast, says Eddie Monaghan, a destination specialist with TravelSpark.com (866-856-6161, http://www.travelspark.com/). The buses stop at nearly 200 hostels between Cape Town and Mozambique; prices start at about $137 for a seven-day pass.

You'd need a car to visit more-remote areas; just note that animals tend to wander across roads in rural areas at night, Asher cautions.

More information: 800-593-1318, http://www.southafrica.net/.

Is it easy to go from Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris to Normandy by train?

D.J. Biddle, Arlington

From the time you step out of the airport, you could be in Normandy in less than three hours.

From the airport, either take a $75 taxi ride to the Gare Saint-Lazare train station or hop on an RER Line B train and take the 30-minute ride to the Paris Nord station. At Paris Nord, switch to a Line E train for a five-minute ride to Gare Saint-Lazare. You'll then need to board one of the hourly regional trains to Caen/Bayeux. The ride is 1 hour 45 minutes, and the one-way fare for a second-class seat is $48.

If you're going round trip and planning other train travel in France, a France Railpass may be more economical. A three-day pass starts at about $227 (second class), with a discount if two or more people travel together. It would cover all the train connections you need to get to Normandy.

More information: RailEurope, 888-382-7245, http://www.raileurope.com/; Paris Transport, http://www.ratp.info/.

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


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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