My wife and I are going on a driving holiday to southwest England for three weeks, concentrating mostly on Devon and Cornwall. To help us plan our itinerary, could you tell us the must-sees of the region?
From London you should try to plan your route so that you pass through the New Forest Heritage Area of Hampshire. Out side the Scottish highlands, this is the largest area of relatively natural vegetation in Britain, and it has been that way since 1079 when William the Conqueror founded the area as a royal hunting ground.
As you make your way down the Dorset coast, make time for the romantic
Corfe Castle. Crumbly ruins don't come more compelling than this. Stay at one of the nearby 16th-century hotels and enjoy the luxury. You should also visit the picturesque fishing village of Beer in Devon. Strangely enough, the real attraction here is not the pints but the crabs pulled in fresh from the sea.
Next stop is the resort town of Torquay. You'll think of Basil Fawlty as you pass the Victorian villas and chintzy hotels that are stacked up on the town's steep slopes. There are some great attractions here: 20-odd beaches, the 1920s funicular railway, boat trips to Brixham or to Agatha Christie's garden, the caves at Kent's Cavern, the touristy but pretty Cockington Country park and the seabirds at the Living Coasts enclosure.
No trip to England's rugged southwest is complete without a horse-ride across Dartmoor. It's the best way to explore the dramatic landscape. Try Skaigh Stables.
Down in Cornwall you should visit the giant biomes of the Eden Project, Cornwall's best-known and best-loved landmark. The three giant greenhouses here - the largest on earth - recreate natural habitats from across the world, whether it's the rainforests of South America, the deserts of Mexico or the savannahs of South Africa.
Cornwall's wildest corner is the Lizard Peninsula, where you can explore the flower-covered headlands and jet-black bluffs that sit above the churning seas.
Stay at nearby Helston or Porthleven.
Down at Land's End you'll find West Penwith, which is astonishingly rich in prehistoric monuments. The area's granite hilltops are littered with quoits, tombs and ancient settlements left behind by Cornwall's earliest settlers, many predating Stonehenge.
On your way back to the capital, pass through Somerset to visit the beautiful city of Bath, with its porticoed mansions, elegant crescents and Palladian terraces.
Apart from being home to one of the best- preserved ancient Roman baths in the world, it is one of the most lively and cosmopolitan cities in England.
Canada and all that jazz
I would like to go to the Montreal Jazz Festival this July. Could you please give me any information on accommodation at that time, ie how early should I book, are there any places that you recommend and are
there any booking agencies that I should go through? I'm on a sort of mid-range budget.
The first Montreal International Jazz Festival drew 12,000 visitors. Now it attracts around two million people each year and is said by many jazz fans and musicians to be the best jazz festival on the planet. It's the biggest tourist event in Quebec, and this year there will be 650 concerts over 13 days, many of which are free. Over the years the festival has seen the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Al Jarreau, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and John Scofield.
This year you can expect to see such disparate performers as Norah Jones, Ray Charles, Prince and Jeff Beck. There are also a number of concerts leading up to the festival itself, including Leonard Cohen, Diana Krall and Chick Corea.
Go to montrealjazzfest.com to check out the line-up and purchase tickets to some events. This year is the festival's 30th anniversary and tickets are bound to sell quickly. Most tickets do not go on sale until May, but you should book your accommodation as soon as possible as rooms will go quickly. If you do miss out on tickets or you change your mind about going, you face losing a hotel deposit. We suggest you check up on your hotel's cancellation policy.
Don't discount hostels; with most accommodation places raising their prices by 30 per cent or more during the festival, they might be the only affordable option.
Try Alternative Backpackers, UQAM Residences, Auberge de Jeunesse-Centre Option Plein Air (tel 872-0199), HI Auberge De Montreal, McGill University Residence Halls, Y Des Femmes (accepts both sexes; and Le Gite du Parc Lafontaine.