Q: My family are big fans of the "Harry Potter" books, which are set largely in a fictional British boarding school called Hogwarts. Is it possible to visit a real British boarding school, such as Eton or Harrow?
A: When I toured Windsor Castle several years ago, I couldn't help but notice the Eton school boys dressed in their distinctive uniforms as they walked along Eton High Street near the River Thames. Viewing this life of privilege steeped in history is an interesting way to spend a few hours.
Eton, a one-hour train journey from London, is open to the public, with restrictions. The school can be visited from late March through early October. When classes are in session, Eton is open from 2 to 4:30 p.m. During school holidays (Easter and summer), the school is open from 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Hour-long guided tours ($6) are offered at 2:15 and 3:15. The tour visits the College Chapel, School Yard, Lower School, the Brewhouse Gallery and the Museum of Eton Life. Information: 011-44-1753-67-1177, www.etoncollege.com.
Other public boys' schools allowing visitors:
* Harrow School (011-44-181-422-2303, www .harrowschool.org.uk), 10 miles outside London, offers morning and afternoon tours, but they must be booked. Cost for a two-hour tour is about $8.15.
* Rugby School (011-178-855-6109, www.rugby-school.co.uk), which also has a museum, offers tours at 2:30 p.m.
* Winchester College (011-44-1962-62-1209, www.wincoll.ac.uk) offers guided tours Monday-Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 and 3:15 p.m., and on Sunday at 2 and 3:15 p.m. from April through September. Cost is about $4.
Q: Is it possible to buy business-class seats from consolidators?
A: A few consolidators (air fare discounters) sell business- and first-class seats, usually for international flights. Even with the discounts, the price is still high.
I asked several travel agencies that offer discount business- and first-class seats to quote a price three weeks in advance on an October round-trip between Washington and London, preferably nonstop. I compared those prices (likely no longer valid, but here for comparison purposes) to fares for similar seats directly through the airlines. The results:
* Booking through British Airways, United or Virgin Atlantic, the round-trip flight in business class would cost $6,372; United's was $6,382. An Air Canada flight was priced at $3,731, but you have to connect in Toronto, and the Washington-Toronto leg is economy only.
* Check Air Fare (1-800-359-4846, www.checkairfare.com), a New York consolidator, quoted $4,522 on British Airways.
* The Corporate Flyer (1-800-883-5937, www .flyfirstclass.com), a Seattle firm, quoted a $2,700 round-trip fare "on any major airline based on availability."
* 1st Air Net (1-800-664-5254, www.1st-air.net), a New York company, quoted a $3,495 round-trip fare on United or Virgin Atlantic.
Remember: Always pay by credit card to give yourself an avenue of redress if disputes arise.
Q: I've been warned about women traveling alone in Morocco. Suggestions?
A: Morocco is a male-dominated, Muslim society. According to the State Department, "Unescorted women in any area of Morocco may experience verbal abuse." Expect remarks, whistles, tongue-clicking and other unwanted attention, especially if you stand out as a tourist. But violent incidents or attacks are rare.
Writing for Rough Guides' "Women Travel," Pat Chell, who taught at a Morocco university for two years, said this about traveling as a woman in Morocco: "I don't think as a tourist you can ever avoid sexual harassment completely, but there are certain compromises that reduce its extent. You can dress 'appropriately,' in skirts, rather than trousers, and in sleeved, loose-fitting tops. You should avoid making eye contact too, and not start up a casual conversation with a man--there is no such thing in Morocco. Above all, be as polite and even-tempered as possible. Moroccans have a highly ritualized, elaborate etiquette, which you will not be able to learn in a short time, but they do respect politeness. Loss of temper equals loss of face, no matter what the provocation."
I'd also advise that you consider wearing a head scarf, especially if you're traveling outside large cities. And learn a few words of Arabic. Info: Moroccan Tourist Office, 212-557-2520.
Post reporter D'Vera Cohn has another reasonably priced New Jersey hotel within easy commuting distance of Manhattan (Travel Q&A, Aug. 29): "There's a Hilton right across the street from the Newark Amtrak/Path station. They sometimes have really cheap weekend rates. So you can take the train from D.C. Friday night, stay there, and head to New York the next day." Hilton Newark Gateway reservations: 973-622-5000, www.hilton.com.
Responding to our item about turbulence (Travel Q&A, Aug. 29), David A. Sankey of the Federal Aviation Administration wants readers to know the FAA sponsors research into the detection and forecasting of turbulence. "Our Turbulence Product Development Team presently has turbulence detection software flying on five commercial aircraft for calibration purposes, with some 200 commercial aircraft scheduled to eventually have this capability." The software sends real-time turbulence data to meteorologists at the National Weather Service, and to the airlines, flight dispatchers and other pilots.
On a lighter note, reader Zafar Ahmed of Oak Hill, Va., says he has discovered the real cause of turbulence. "After years of air travel, I have concluded that turbulence is caused by serving coffee on airplanes. Never fails."
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