FRANK'S FAVOURITES: Tuscany, Japanese Monkey Business, Bogong Markets
TUSCANY AND UMBRIA AT THEIR KALEIDOSCOPIC SPRINGTIME BEST
ITALY's Tuscany and Umbria when their gardens, forests, farms and small towns are at their spectacularly kaleidoscopic Springtime best, are the feature of a 3-week small-group tour with Carolinasusi Italia Tours starting at the end of April next year.
The fully-escorted tour will take guests into areas as diverse as olive groves, vineyards and fruit orchards, valley floors ablaze with poppies, tulips and irises, past farmhouses ringed by cypress trees, rainbow-hued fields of wild flowers and from mountain forests and national parks gleaming with new-growth elms, beeches and oaks, to local villages decked out in impressive displays of colour for their Spring Flower Festivals.
And in small towns mostly untouched by large-scale commercialism, the opportunity to wine and dine at pavement cafés and restaurants under window-boxes overflowing with Springtime blooms, visit ceramics and leather artisans, and try the products of wine, chocolate, cheese and olive oil makers.
Rather than moving from hotel to hotel every day there's a week at a time in Montecatini Terme, Montefalco and Pienza. There are daily excursions to such iconic cities as Florence, Siena and Assisi with some inside knowledge provided by local guides, with time to enjoy their museums, galleries and historic buildings. Time also for shopping and, to slow the pace, visits to less-frequented medieval towns and villages to enjoy Italian family traditions and cultures.
Price starts from $6975pp twin-share ($975 single supplement available,) including pick-up from Rome Airport, full-time Australian escorts and a local guide, coach, ferry, funicular and train travel, 21-nights twin-share, and all breakfasts and most dinners; air from Australia is additional.
Ecruising.travel that introduced Australians to the concept of simple online cruise bookings nine years ago, has now launched the newest, most comprehensive and user-friendly site ever for those seeking value cruise holidaying.
And whether you're a young whiz-kid on the computer or a Senior still learning their intricacies, easy one-click operations give access to everything from cruise choices in some forty destinations from Alaska or Asia, the Murray River, Mediterranean or New Mexico, or Vancouver or around-the-world.
The site offers a choice of nearly thirty cruise lines, and for those with their favourite cruise ships in mind, there's a listing of vessels whose names start with virtually any letter of the alphabet.
There are also direct one-step links to the latest in cruise holiday specials world-wise, details as to which lines offer discounts for seniors or other special offers… and again with one click, the possibility to simply find every cruise offer available by price, going from the cheapest to the most expensive.
There's even a set of "animated life-rings" on the home page that give instant access to heavily-discounted sailings available in either the next 7-, 14-, 30- or 60-days.
Auto rental and leasing company, Auto Europe is offering free vehicle upgrades or reduced rates for EarlyBird bookings for rental pick-ups between April 1 2010 and March 2011 – and despite its name, they're available not only in major European countries, but in the USA and Canada as well.
Simply book and pay by February 28 or March 31 2010 (dates vary depending on country of pick-up,) and enjoy exceptional savings on rentals in such popular destinations as the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, the USA and Canada.
For those looking for vehicles for longer-term use in Europe, Auto Europe has substantial savings and bonuses with Peugeot Leasing: book and pay by March 31 2010 and Auto Europe will give 7-additional days free use on basic lease packages, 50-per cent off European delivery and return fees, and an additional 3-days free use for those drivers who've previously leased a vehicle with Peugeot Leasing between 2006 and 2009.
These savings and bonuses with Peugeot Leasing are available with collections any time between January 1 and December 31 2010.
MONKEY BUSINESS – AND JAPAN'S WORLD'S LARGEST FISH MARKETS
TRAVEL Japan by H.I.S. is offering the opportunity to combine a visit to the world's largest fish markets with an opportunity to see the country's famous hot spring bathing monkeys with the release of a new program twinning Tokyo with Nagano in the Japanese Alps.
Priced from AUD1786* per person twin share the five-day privately guided program fuses Tokyo's ancient and modern worlds with two-days spent exploring the traditional districts of the Japanese capital, including the Tsukiji fish markets, with the city's futuristic elements.
The two-day Nagano visit includes a visit to Zenko-ji in the Nagano Alps, home to the oldest Buddha image in the country and the traditional home of Japan's famous Soba 'slurping' noodles.
Nagano is also one of the best places to see the famous red-faced monkeys which keep warm in the region's sometimes sub-zero temperatures by bathing in volcanic hot springs known locally as 'onsen'.
While the Tokyo-Nagano program operates on a year-round basis, Travel Japan by H.I.S. advises the best time to view the monkeys bathing is from November until March
*Conditions apply. Please note the price does not include international airfares.
For more information contact Travel Japan by H.I.S. Phone (02) 9267 3333 or toll free on 1800 802 552 or visit wwww.traveljapan.com.au
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE…
The annual display of wildflowers on the Bogong High Plains between December and March is about to take place.
Whilst some of the hardy regulars such as the stunning royal grevillea are in full bloom after recent warmer weather (followed by rain) an even greater array of flowering shrubs and plants are yet to reveal their true colours.
Walking and cycling along Watchbed Creek Track towards Johnston Hut and Heathy Spur, is rewarded with some magnificent floral displays. Interspersed amongst the Snow Gums (Australia's toughest tree) are Alpine Daisies, Alpine Mint Bush, Snow Daisies, Alpine Wattle, Billy Buttons and Round-Leaf Mint Bush, which gives a 'rocky mountain high' due to its heady mint aroma.
Bushwalkers, ambling along the extensive array of undulating tracks which begin in Falls Creek Alpine Village gain access to fingers of Alpine Heaths and Herbfields.
There's lots of daisies which flower from December and the long-stemmed trigger plant, which has a delicate pink flower, can be found pretty much everywhere around the alpine resort.
The Bogong Eyebright, is much more difficult to locate. However, the pink and white Bogong Daisy Bush, Straw Flowers, and a carpet of Snow Daisies are quite easy to find.