In mid-June I'll be in Paris for one day only (a Thursday). As I have seen the main tourist sites in Paris, I am looking for a guided day trip to the Somme battlefields. I know I could travel by train and meet up with a guided tour, but I am train-challenged in busy Metro stations. Any suggestions?
Heather

It would be much cheaper if you were to catch a train to northern France and take a bus tour departing from one of the region's towns. Paris's Gare du Nord is an overland station and not busy, crowded or even slightly confusing for the train-challenged like the Metro can be.

departs from Arras at 9am daily except Monday from Easter to late October. Half-day tours cost $79 and drop you back in Arras at 1pm. Arras is only 50 minutes by TGV from Paris's Gare du Nord (around $86, cheaper for slower trains) and there are seven to 13 services daily.

offers full-day tours departing from Albert at 10am daily from March to late November. To get to Albert you have to change at Amiens, which is 1 hours from Paris by train; it's then another 50 minutes on to Albert.

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Alternatively,

, which is actually based in Australia, offers day trips from Paris for $408 per person, less for groups of two or more.

Sightseeing on way to falls

I will be in Montreal for 10 days and would like to hire a car for a few days and drive down to see Niagara Falls. What other attractions are there between Montreal and Niagara Falls that I shouldn't miss?
Max Harwood

You should include Thousand Islands on your driving itinerary. This is a constellation of over 1800 rugged islands dotting the St Lawrence River from Brockville to Kingston. The lush archipelago offers loose tufts of fog, showers of trillium petals, quaking tide pools and opulent 19th-century mansions. The narrow Thousand Islands Parkway dips south of Hwy 401 between Elizabethtown and Gananoque and runs along the river for 35km before rejoining the highway. As you wind along the pastoral strip of shoreline, you'll have some picture-perfect vistas. Don't miss the Skydeck in Ivy Lea, a 125m observation tower. In Rockport you can take a cruise to the rambling Boldt Castle, an unfinished gothic palace of dark spires and stone facades. The castle is technically in the US, so you will need to have your passport and papers in order if you plan to visit. See

.

In Mallorytown the St Lawrence Islands National Park preserves over 20 islands and has a walking trail over lush terrain. The attractive town of Brockville is home to a cache of extravagant estates.

You can imagine the clip-clop of carriage horses that once ran through the streets here as you pass the rows of gothic spires. The eccentric colonial town of Kingston is also worth a stop. Before reaching Niagara you will pass through Toronto; stop here for great food, museums and a multicultural vibe.

The Israel situation

I am going to Israel for three months and then plan to travel on to other parts of the Middle East. I know that having an Israeli stamp in your passport can cause problems, but for exactly which countries in the Middle East is it likely to be a problem?
Rachael David

With the political situation in the Middle East, evidence of a visit to Israel in your passport will bar you from entering a number of countries in the region. These are the bordering countries of Syria and Lebanon, as well as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen. It's not a problem if you're travelling from Israel to Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey or Jordan. It once was a problem for the Gulf States of Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, but this has changed over the years. You still can't enter Kuwait, though.

To avoid problems you can ask Israeli immigration not to stamp your passport. They will oblige by stamping a separate piece of paper. Travelling overland, however, makes this more difficult as you will receive exit stamps at land borders. Flying into and out of Ben Gurion airport is the safest bet as there won't be any evidence left over in your passport.

Istanbul on foot

I'm travelling solo to Istanbul in late September. I'd like to know if Istanbul is an easily walkable city, as it's my favourite way to get around. Also, can you recommend a nice boutique hotel in a good location, as I'd like to splash out a little.
Felix Strong

You've chosen well - Istanbul is a terrific city to discover on foot, particularly outside the summer period. The two sides of the city are split by the waters of the Golden Horn, but they're linked by an jaunt across the spectacular Galata Bridge. The European side of the city is home to the Grand and Egyptian bazaars, Topkapi Palace, the Aya Sofya and Blue mosques and the Byzantine city walls. Over on the Asian side, there's the landmark Galata Tower and the elegant strolling hub of Istiklal Caddesi.

Istanbul's overabundance of important historic buildings and exciting new art galleries and museums will have you power walking from A to B, but it's at night that the city swings into high-velocity, mega-stylish action. Lonely Planet's Istanbul city guide has a number of themed, detailed walks that will take you to some of Istanbul's hidden corners, and around the major highlights.

A rich crop of lovely boutique hotels has sprouted since Istanbul's recent revival. The aptly named Lush Hotel (

; junior room from $200) has 35 attractive rooms of varying sizes, all of which are individually decorated and presented with nice touches such as L'Occitane toiletries and CD players. It's well located near Taksim Square, but the environs can be noisy.

Hotel Uyan (

; rooms from $240) is a great midrange choice in the atmospheric old city, Sultanahmet. The rooms are comfortable and attractive, with a good range of amenities and a high level of service. Before travelling, check MFAT's travel advisory for Turkey at

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