Land of the cherry blossom in springtime Japan: Gardens, temples and many other sights abound in May tour.

Travel Q&A


I am looking for a trip to Japan in April or May that would focus on temples and gardens. Do you have any suggestions?

The Japan National Tourist Office suggests a 13-day tour offered by Esprit Travel, a California company.

The tour begins in Kyoto, the 1,200-year-old city that is considered the cultural heart of Japan, where you will visit, among other sites, Tofukuji, one of the city's principal Zen temples; Sambo-in, a temple with a 16th-century garden that's particularly beautiful in cherry-blossom season; and Ginkakuji Temple, a medieval villa and garden.

The tour also stops in Kurashiki, a town famous for its galleries and museums of folk art and Western art as well as its warehouses from the 17th century; Takayama, a traditional mountain town in pristine condition; and Kamakura, with its 745-year-old, 37-foot-high bronze Buddha, 65 temples and 19 shrines. You'll also see the contemporary side of Japan, with rides on Shinkansen, the high-speed bullet trains, and a visit to a futuristic bayfront development in Tokyo.

The tour guide will be Michael Kuranoff, who has explored the country on foot, by train, bicycle and car, according to Esprit, while working in the computer industry there.

The Esprit package includes airfare from Los Angeles, hotels, most meals, ground transportation and all sightseeing and admission fees. The tour will be offered from May 5 to 17 and May 18 to 30. If you wish to wait until the fall, it will be offered again Oct. 5 to 17.

The price is $3,100 a person, double occupancy. Contact Esprit Travel Corp., 2101 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 101, Santa Monica, Calif. 90403; 800-377-7481, fax 310- 828-3564.

Mediterranean cruise

A friend of mine had a very pleasant Mediterranean cruise on a ship called Le Ponant. I believe it is owned by a French line. Can you tell me more about it and where I can obtain a brochure?

Le Ponant is a 289-foot powered yacht built in 1991. It can carry 60 passengers and has a crew of 30, primarily French. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style on a canopied deck; dinners include a choice of three entrees. There's after-dinner piano music, and a full-service bar. The vessel is air-conditioned, but has no elevator to link its four passenger decks.

It is, indeed, French-owned, belonging to Compagnie des Iles du Ponant, 60 Boulevard du Marechal Juin, 44100 Nantes, France; telephone (33-2), fax (33-2) The company books some of its cruises directly, including a sailing from Guadeloupe to Martinique, Dec. 5 to 12, for $2,281 (based on 5.72 francs to $1), with port taxes, and a Grenadine and Venezuelan island cruise Dec. 12 to 19 for the same rate, starting in Martinique and ending in Caracas. From April 1 to 8 (Caracas to Guadeloupe) and April 8 to 15 (the Grenadines, beginning and ending in Guadeloupe), it's $2,509.

Most of the time, however, Le Ponant's cruises are part of land-sea tours sold by Tauck Tours of Westport, Conn. There are 14 departures from Dec. 22 to March 7; they include a six-day cruise on Le Ponant as part of 10-day tours of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. Stops will include the San Blas Islands, where you can snorkel and meet Kuna Indians, a Panama Canal transit, the Pacheca Island Bird Refuge off Panama's Pacific coast, Coiba Island National Park for more swimming, snorkeling and bird-watching, and the Marenco Biological Reserve in Costa Rica.

The price, $3,990 a person in double occupancy, includes shore excursions, hotels, port taxes, tips, wine with dinner on board and most meals. Airfare is extra.

From May 21 to Oct. 4, Tauck offers 21 departures on 13-day trips between Marseilles and Malta that include a seven-day cruise on Le Ponant. The cruise departs from Nice and ends in Valletta, Malta, or the reverse, depending on departure dates. Ports of call include the cliffside Corsican town of Bonifacio, the dramatic active volcano on the island of Stromboli off Sicily and the Greek ruins in the Sicilian town of Agrigento. Rates are $4,975 a person, double occupancy.

Tauck Tours, 203-226-6911, fax 203-221-6828.

World's Fair news

My wife and I enjoy going to world's fairs and other large international expositions. We used to subscribe to a magazine that had the latest information on world's fairs, but we cannot find it anymore. Can you suggest any source of advance information on these events?

Although World's Fair magazine has ceased publication, Fair News, published six times a year, has information on coming fairs, as well as articles on past fairs and fair collectibles. It's $17 a year. Contact Fair News, P.O. Box 20806, Sarasota, Fla. 34276, 941-923-2590.

If you have access to the Internet, you can call up Web sites with the latest information on the next two world's fairs (including exactly how many days remain until their respective openings).

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