QUESTION: Can you help a group of chocoholics plan a trip to Switzerland with the purpose of visiting chocolate manufacturing establishments?
ANSWER: How many chocolate factories you can tour will depend on the number of people in your group, as some Swiss chocolate factories arrange visits only for groups of a minimum size. Tours usually end with a free tasting of chocolates.One factory that welcomes individual visitors is Nestle, in Broc, a village in western Switzerland. The company offers hourlong tours, with the week's first at noon Monday and the last at 10 A.M. on Friday. There are no tours in July except July 30 and 31, and none from Aug. 1 to 4.
Appointments should be made at least two days ahead. Reservations: Nestle S.A., Service des Visites, 1636 Broc FR, Switzerland; 296 5151. Tour guides speak English.
In Ticino, Chocolate Alprose offers half-hour tours for individuals, available in English. Reserve a week ahead. Reservations: Chocolat Alprose, Via Rompada, 6987 Caselano, Switzerland; 71 6666. Ask for Mrs. Juliana.
Near Basel, Kuepfer Schokolade is a small, new factory that welcomes visitors, who should call a day ahead. However, tours are in German or French. Reservations: 11 Christoph Merian Ring, 4153 Reinach, Switzerland; 711 4070.
About 25 miles from Zurich, Chocolat Frey offers hourlong tours, available in English, for groups of at least 15. Reservations should be made at least a month ahead. The company says tours are already nearly fully booked for this summer. Reservations: Chocolate Frey, Brestenggstrasse, 5033 Buchs, Switzerland; 26 5526.
Near Bern, Chocolate Ammann offers hourlong tours only to groups of 30, for about $1.50 a person. Reservations: Chocolate Ammann, 23 Schulgaessli, 3627 Heimberg, Switzerland; 37 1761.
Halba, 1 Alte Winterthurerstrasse, 8304 Wallisellen, Switzerland; 30 1724, is undergoing renovations, and will resume tours in the fall. Also because of building renovations, Lindt, in Zurich, has suspended tours, which will resume in 1993.
Another option is to join a package tour that includes visits to Swiss chocolate factories. One such tour is offered by Swiss Plan, 104 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 802, Chicago, Ill 60603; (800) 777-9480.
The tour, Nov. 9 to 17, starts in Geneva, then goes on to Montreux, the village of Broc and the Nestl'e factory, Bern and Zurich with the Spruengli factory and various chocolate shops. In hotels where the group stays, chefs may offer pastry classes. The cost is $1,955 a person in double occupancy, including air fare from New York, Philadelphia or Boston ($1,985 from Chicago), hotels, bus, daily breakfast and dinner.
An information booklet on chocolate is available from the Organisme Choco-Suisse, 6 Munzgraben, 3000 Berne, Switzerland.
QUESTION: When is the best time to see the azaleas in bloom along the Blue Ridge Parkway?
ANSWER: The flame azaleas bloom orange and gold along the parkway in the last two weeks of May and first 10 days of June, according to Blue Ridge Parkway officials.
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles between Rockfish Gap, Va., 20 miles west of Charlottesville, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Here are the best viewing spots by mile marker, with milepost 0 at Rockfish Gap and milepost 496 in North Carolina: 138.6, 144 to 145, 149.5, 164 to 166, 217 to 221, 308 to 310, 368 to 380, and 412 to 423. Especially along the southern part of the road, the purple rhododendron can be seen in bloom at the same time. It is best viewed at miles 305.2, 342 to 343, 349 to 351 and 419 to 424. The parkway has one lane in each direction and the speed limit is 45 miles an hour.
For information about services along the parkway, including camping, hiking and picnicking, telephone the office of the parkway's chief ranger at (704) 259-0779 or write to the Superintendent, Blue Ridge Parkway, 200 B.B.&T Building, Asheville, N.C. 28801.
QUESTION: Where will the 1992 World Figure Skating Championships be held? How can I ge tickets?
ANSWER: The championships will take place at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, in Oakland, Calif.
Practice sessions will start March 20 and official competition runs from March 25 to 29. Only all-event tickets, which include practice sessions, are being sold. They cost $150, $200, $275 and $300. No single-session tickets will be sold until Feb. 1, 1992, if any seats remain. The all-event tickets are selling briskly, event organizers say.
The event will take place less than a month after the Winter Olympics in France, and Olympic champions traditionally try to follow up with medals at the world championships. The pairs finals will be on March 26; the men's, March 27; ice dancing, March 28, and women's finals and an exhibition by medalists, March 29.
Information: 1992 Worlds Office, 1300 Clay Street, Suite 600, Oakland, Calif. 94612; (415) 464-8037.