QUESTION: We are interested in taking a barge trip in France, perhaps on the Seine. The four of us would like to handle the barge ourselves.
ANSWER: Barges move at a relaxed pace through the rivers and canals of France, covering perhaps 3 to 20 miles a day, and operating one yourself is said to be easy.
In some cases a barge can be boarded at one spot and left at another, but often it must be returned to the same place it was picked up.
Here are some of the companies in the United States that represent self-skippered barges in France. These companies can also arrange for barges with crews.
Le Boat, Post Office Box E, Maywood, N.J. 07607; (800) 922-0291.
This company can arrange for self-skippered barges on 12 canal systems in France, as well as luxury barges. The canals are in Alsace, Nivernais, Burgundy, Champagne, Aquitaine and the Canal du Midi in southern France. For four people, a barge with two two-person cabins would cost $1,275 (all prices based on current exchange rates) in low season and $2,470 in summer.
Le Boat does work with one company that can arrange to have a small barge docked on the Seine in Paris. However, traveling by small barge in or near Paris on the Seine, with its heavy traffic, would not be as relaxing as in a more rural area.
Barges can be taken on the Seine to and from a place near Fontainebleau, about 35 miles southwest of Paris.
Self-piloted barges can also be rented in France through Jody Lexow Yacht Charters, Post Office Box 1207, Darien, Conn. 06820; (800) 662-2628 or (203) 655-8668. Areas include the Loire, Alsace, Burgundy, the Canal du Midi and the Dordogne. A two-cabin, two-bath barge would start at $1,000 a week off-season and $2,000 in the summer, the company says.
Another company is Eagle Yacht Charters, 150 Main Street, Port Washington, N.Y. 11050; (800) 766-6412 or (516) 944-6760. The company can arrange for self-piloted barges in Brittany, Aquitaine, the Canal du Midi, the Camargue, Burgundy, Vosges, Alsace and the Nivernais Canal. Two-cabin barges average $850 at low season and $1,500 in the summer, the company says.
QUESTION: What options do I have for getting from Benito Juarez Airport in Mexico to Cuernavaca by ground transportation?
ANSWER: The only direct ground transportation between the Mexico City airport and Cuernavaca is taxi, which takes perhaps 90 minutes and costs $50 to $75.
Another option is to take a taxi from the airport to the city's southern terminal, called Central de Autobuses del Sur, which is at 1320 Avenida Taxquena. The taxi trip - it is wise to take official airport taxis, marked Transportacion Terrestre - usually takes 20 to 30 minutes and costs about $15. From the bus terminal, an Ejecutivo Dorado bus leaves for Cuernavaca every half hour between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. The nonstop trip, about an hour and 15 minutes, costs $3.70 each way.
The buses are equipped with air-conditioning, television and bathrooms, and have only 24 seats. Reservations can be made at 549-3505 (a Mexico City number), but seats are generally available without reservations.
Also traveling to Cuernavaca from the terminal are less luxurious buses run by Pullman, which leave each 5 to 10 minutes, cost $1.80 and make several stops en route. There are trains from Mexico City, but service is much slower than buses and the station is at least an hour from the airport.
QUESITON: My wife and I are considering a vacation to the Solomon Islands. Can you provide information on the danger of malaria?
ANSWER: According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is a "high risk" of malarial infection in the Solomon Islands.
Malaria is spread by infected mosquitoes, which are active mainly in the evening, and then only until dusk. To prevent getting malaria, the recommendation of the centers is that travelers to the Solomons - or other areas where there is a risk - take 250 milligrams of mefloquine, marketed in the United States as Laram, once a week starting the week before going away, weekly while there and for four weeks after leaving.
Mefloquine should not be used by pregnant women, children under 30 pounds, those with epilepsy or psychiatric disorders or those using beta-blocker drugs for high blood pressure, the centers say.
Those who cannot take mefloquine should instead take 100 milligrams of doxycycline every day, according to the centers, starting the day before going, while there and for four weeks after leaving. Doxycycline should not be used by pregnant women or children younger than 8, according to the centers. For those who can take neither of the above medications, 500 milligrams of choloroquine, often marketed as Aralen, is suggested, taken once a week, starting the week before and continuing until four weeks after. With cholorquine, the centers suggest taking along a sulfa drug called Fansidar, three tablets of which should be taken at the first suspicion of a fever. Also, it is recommended that travelers avoid exposing their skin at night, and use mosquito netting and repellent. QUESTION: We will be in Portland, Ore., for a class reunion. We would like to visit Crater Lake and then the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore. Will they be open? ANSWER: There is always a vantage point along open along the 33-mile Rim Drive (barring a big snowstorm, unusual in June). The viewpoint can be reached from the park entrance from State Route 62. Unless there is more snow than expected, park officials expect a 10-mile segment on the west side of the drive, between the west and north entrance, to open in early June and the whole drive to open in late June. Park information: (503) 594-2211. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be going strong in mid-June: the two indoor theaters started their season in February, and the three outdoor theaters begin June 4. At the outdoor theaters "The Taming of the Shrew," "Julius Caesar" and "Henry VI" will be in repertory. At the indoor Angus Bowmer Theater, "The Merchant of Venice," Shaw's "Major Barbara," Wilder's "Our Town" and Jerry Sterner's "Other People's Money" will alternate. Tickets are $13 to $21, except at the indoor Black Swan Theater, where they are all $21, and "Some Americans Abroad, by Richard Nelson, and "Woman in Mind" by Alan Ayckbourn will alternate. Information: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Post Office Box 158, Ashland, Ore. 97520; (503) 482-4331.