Ask Joan: Your travel dilemmas solved

Cooking, horsemanship, relaxation and baby sitting too; Grand Central Terminal; the siege of Stalingrad

 

We are trying to plan a holiday and as my husband is a keen foodie he would like to have daily cooking lessons. I love horses and would rather take dressage classes or coaching in horsemanship . We would both hope for a bit of relaxation also, possibly by a pool . We have a 15-month-old who would need to be minded if our classes coincided and possibly during our evening meals. I realise that this is perhaps a tall order but we are open to any country and any month. AM, Laois


It did sound like a tall order until I recently met Portuguese man Riu Anastásio who told me about his hotel in the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros natural park an hour north of Lisbon. It is a modern boutique-style property with three pools and wellness therapies are available. It recently appeared on the Conde Nast Hot List.

The Alcaria horse-riding centre 2km away does courses in dressage and horsemanship. In the evening, guests who are interested in cooking can join the chef in making dinner. It is a child friendly hotel and there is babysitting available. Rates for family rooms are from €159 per night with discounts on longer stays. Cookery classes are €25. See more details on cookinghotel.com and chalcaria.com/en.


Travelling home from our holiday in Florida in April, we will have a 10-hour stopover at New York JFK airport (8am-6pm). My transport-mad nine-year-old would dearly love to visit Grand Central Station and I’m wondering if this is a doable option and if so, could we include any other sights in such a short amount of time in NYC? MB, Kerry


As your son is transport mad the best and most exciting way to travel into New York city is by Skytrain and subway. The Skytrain operates from JFK to Jamaica station and from there you can join the MTA subway. It will take an hour from the airport and on the return make sure to take the A train to Far Rockaway or Rockaway to change at Jamaica for the Skytrain return to the airport (tripplanner.mta.info).

Grand Central Terminal is magnificent. Your son will also be charmed by the whispering gallery below the main concourse (grandcentralterminal.com). Each day at 12.30pm there is a tour of the GCT and it costs $20 for adults and $15 for children.

As you have limited time, a visit to the Empire State Building (esbnyc.com) or the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center, (rockefellercenter.com) are a short taxi hop away.


I’m writing a radio documentary about the Stalingrad siege and want to visit present-day Volgograd. Can you suggest the most convenient air route from Dublin? Will I need a visa? What is the most clement time of the year to visit? JS, Dublin.

Getting to Volgograd is going to be a bit of a trip as it could take up to three flights to get there. A less obvious routing is via Dubai with Emirates and onwards with Flydubai. com which has a direct flight twice a week to Volgograd. The best time of the year to go IS from May to September.

You will need a visa from the Russian Embassy here and you can see the requirements on ireland.mid.ru/visa_en.html. Skytours, at 75 Talbot Street, Dublin 1, has a Russian staff member who can assist in making arrangements. Tatiana Soukhanova can be contacted on 01-8772519 and Tatiana@skytours.ie.

Send your questions to jscales@irishtimes.com

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