I'm writing on behalf of my mother. She is a fit and healthy 80-year-old who would love to go to Europe next year on some sort of classical musical tour. She is a pianist and is particularly interested in Bach and everything about him. She speaks only English (i.e. no German). Unfortunately she doesn't have friends who are able to accompany her so is looking for a like-minded group that she could join up with. Do you have any suggestions?
How wonderful that your mother has an amazing Europe trip to look forward to at 80 years of age! I would recommend talking to your travel agent and looking into any special interest musical groups who may have a specific Johann Sebastian Bach-focused holiday.
There's at least one specialist tour out there. Augustus Tours have a five-day "In the footsteps of Johann Sebastian Bach" tour that looks like a great option and includes musical exchanges with local singers.
Tour companies tell me many holidays include an element of Bach and have English-speaking tour directors and local experts to bring the history to life. Trafalgar's Bohemian Highlights guided holiday and Insight Vacations' Treasures of Eastern Europe escorted journey both include a visit to Leipzig to see the Thomas Church, housing Bach's tomb.
If a river cruise is more to your mother's liking, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises offers its Monarch Collection of sailings on selected European Jewels and Enchanting Danube itineraries, which explore Europe's aristocratic heritage with a strong music flavour. Guests can delight in a classic concert celebrating the genius of Mozart and Strauss paired with Bel Canto arias and Viennese waltz at a world-heritage palais dating back to 1872.
My adult daughter is planning to travel alone to New Orleans. Can you please let me know your advice on whether New Orleans is a safe place for a single woman, and any hints and trips on travel to this area?
Travel Editor Winston Aldworth was in New Orleans just over a week ago and reports that the main areas tourists would be likely to visit seemed pretty safe.
"It's true that New Orleans has some of the highest crime statistics of any American city, but, as with anywhere in the world, there are simple steps you can take to be safe. Carry your cash discreetly and don't carry loads of it at once.
"If you're going out in the evening, take a taxi.
"During the day, local grifters and panhandlers will try to engage you -- often by saying they can tell you where you got your shoes or that they can guess the first letter of your surname. Ignore them and keep walking.
"In recent years, the crime rate has dropped dramatically. At the grisly end of the discussion, the murder rate has halved since its 2006 peak, when one year after Katrina, the city was at its lowest ebb.
"The home of jazz is a beautiful city - the live music scene is unique and exciting. Go there and have a great time."
How are the repairs to the runway at Vanuatu going? I know some airlines have resumed flights and I'd like to visit, but I'm still concerned about safety.
Our former Deputy Travel Editor Shandelle Battersby has just been in Vanuatu on the first stop in her around-the-world jaunt, so I've asked how it looked to her.
"The landing was really smooth, and it looks like there is new tarseal on the runway," she said. "Mind you, I've landed in paddocks before."
Though Virgin Australia resumed its flights from Brisbane last month, Air New Zealand has yet to follow suit. Last week the airline announced it was considering charter flights to Port Vila, but won't be resuming full scheduled services just yet.
The resumption of Air New Zealand's charter flights can be taken as a promising sign.
Other airlines continue to fly in. Air Vanuatu runs international and domestic services. Aircalin goes in from Noumea, Air Nuigini from Port Moresby and Fiji Airways goes in from Honiara, Suva and Nadi.