QUESTION: I will be traveling to London and would like to visit the House of Commons and watch the debates. Is this possible?
ANSWER: Visitors can attend sessions of at the House of Commons by taking seats in the Strangers' Gallery, which holds 156. The Commons usually sits Monday to Thursday from 2:30 to 8:20 p.m. or later. Friday sessions are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.The most difficult time to gain entry is Question Time, Tuesday to Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., when government officials take questions from members of Commons and often engage in highly spirited give and take, are the most popular times to attend, especially Tuesday and Thursday when the prime minister takes questions.
To attend Question Time, Americans should write to the U.S. Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE as far ahead as possible and request a card of introduction. Unless you specify Question Time, you may miss it and not be admitted until 3:30 p.m.
To attend at other times, simply line up at St. Stephen's entrance at Westminster Palace opposite the east End of Westminster Abbey. Spectators are admitted beginning 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday.
Lines begin forming about an hour or two ahead, according to the House of Commons information office; those who arrive at 6 p.m. or later do not usually have to wait, except when especially controversial debates are taking place. All day Friday is said to be especially easy to get a seat.
QUESTION: Can you give me the name of farms in the area of Lancaster, Pa., where guests can do daily chores?
ANSWER: White Rock Farm (154 White Rock Road, Kirkwood, Pa. 17536; 717-529-6744) is a 150-acre beef cattle farm 18 miles south of Lancaster. Guests get a tour of the farm and can help with many of its operations such as feeding the 200 steers making hay, picking corn or harvesting other feed crops, feeding chickens and rabbits or helping with the gardening.
The farm's owners do hauling for Amish farmers in the area, and guests can go along to learn about the Amish. There are three guest rooms in the 1859 farmhouse, two of which can sleep four and the others, two. The cost is $55 a night for a couple and $7.50 a child, including a large breakfast.
Pleasant Grove Farm (368 Pilottown Road, Peach Bottom, Pa. 17563; 717-548-3100) is a 160-acre dairy farm about 25 miles south of Lancaster.
Guests can help care for the livestock, pick the corn and bring in the hay used for feed, dig potatoes or mend fances. They stay in a 30-room stone house nearly 200 years old. The cost is $40 a night for a couple with full breakfast and $8 to $10 for a child.
Olde Fogie Farm (R.D. 1, Marietta, Pa. 17547; 717-426-3992), 12 miles west of Lancaster, is a 21-acre organic farm specializing in asparagus, strawberries and raspberries, which guests can help pick during the summer.
Chores that guests can help with include milking goats, bottle-feeding calves, gathering eggs and caring for horses. The house has two rooms for $40 a couple a night, and $5 a child; those guests share bath with the family who lives there. There are also two efficiency apartments on the grounds, $45 a night for two adults and $5 a child. Breakfast is $5 a family if requested.
QUESTION: My parents have been trying to find a tour of Normandy that would focus on the beaches and battlefields of World War II. Are you aware of any such tours?
ANSWER: Two organizations offer what you're looking for. Galaxy Tours has been operating a "G.I. Favorite" program for more than 10 years.
The 14-day tour, which starts in New York, visits sites in England and Paris and continues by bus to Normandy. Visits are made to Utah, Omaha and Gold Beaches, the Battle of Normandy Museum and the American D-Day Museum.
On Day 9 a memorial service is held at the Normandy American Military Cemetery.Prices and dates have not yet been determined for next year.
This year the tour cost $2,445, including air fare, accommodations for two people sharing a room and most meals.
Next year a six-night, "Modified G.I. Favorite" tour starting in Paris will be added to the itinerary. It will visit Normandy's military sites and will include a visit to Bayeux. It will end with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The tour is expected to cost about $1,700.
More information: Galaxy Tours, 997 Old Eagle School Road, Wayne, Pa. 19087; telephone 215-964-8010.
A one-day bus tour of Normandy is operated from Paris by Cityrama.
The tour, which runs from April through October, visits Caen, Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, the American Military Cemetery, Longues-sur-Mer, Arromanches and Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches.
The tour leaves Paris at 7 a.m. and returns at about 9:30 p.m. The cost this year was $151; next year's price has not yet been determined.
Cityrama also runs tours of two, three and four days from Paris that include visits to the Normandy sites. The two-day tour ($379 this year with accommodations) also visits St.-Michel and St.-Malo; the three-day tour ($528) visits St.-Michel, St.-Malo and includes a day in the chateau country; the four-day tour ($750) includes two days in the chateau country.
More information: Cityrama, 347 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016; 212-683-8120.
QUESTION: Eight of us want to play golf in Portugal in the spring of 1991. Could you recommend any courses and convenient places to stay?
ANSWER: Golf courses are to be found in many parts of Portugal but some of the finest are in the Algarve, the southernmost province. Details of four of these are contained in a useful guide, "Golf Resorts International," by Pamela Lanier (Ten-Speed Press; $19.95).
The Penina Golf and Resort Hotel (Post Office Box 146, Penina, Portimao, Algarve 8502) is described as the region's oldest. It is set on 360 acres and has 36 holes, including an 18-hole championship course. Also available are a driving range, practice holes and a putting green. Rates for next spring will range from $88 to $92 a person a night for two people sharing a room, with breakfast. Greens fees are included. Rates are guaranteed in escudos, the Portuguese currency, which is currently calculated at 135 to the dollar. If the value of the dollar drops by next spring the rates in dollars will increase. More information: 212-838-3110 or 800-355-5843.
The Dom Pedro Golf Hotel (8125 Vilamoura, Quarteira, Algarve; telephone 89-889650) is convenient to many courses in the area, particularly the three courses at the Vilamoura Golf Club, just over a mile away. A fourth course will be ready by next summer. Rates for next spring are not yet available; currently a room for two people is $93 a night with breakfast. Greens fees at the Vilamoura Club are $30 a person per round for hotel guests.
Quinta do Lago (8100 Loule, Almancil, Algarve) has access to the 36 holes at the nearby Quinta do Lago Golf Course. A free bus takes guests to the course. The hotel, which is 30 minutes from Faro airport, has 141 luxury rooms and nine suites. There is horseback riding, windsurfing and tennis courts. Rates for a room for two people from April 1 to June 30 next year will be $243 a night, with breakfast. Greens fees are $55 a person per round. More information: 212-839-0222.
Hotel Dona Filipa (Vale do Lobo, 8106 Loule, Almancil, Algarve) is close to three courses - the San Lorenzo, three miles away, is free to guests - and the 36 holes at the Penina are 30 miles away. A room for two people from next March 1 to July 14 will be $228 a night, with breakfast. More information: 800-225-5843.