Side trip

Briefs and news of note for the traveler.

By Times wires
Published March 4, 2007

Faster rail travel

Thanks to a series of new international fast rail projects, taking a train from Edinburgh to, say, Moscow may no longer be unthinkable.

The TGV Est, set to begin service in June, will not only cut the travel time from Paris to Strasbourg nearly in half (to two hours and 20 minutes), but will also open up fast routes between Paris and cities in eastern France and Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland.

In November, Eurostar plans to open St. Pancras International station in central London. Britain's first high-speed rail line will cut the London-Paris journey to two hours and 15 minutes and will make travel from northern England and Scotland to the Continent faster.


Special-interest guide

Fly Solo: The 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone (Perigee, $15.95).

Author Teresa Rodriguez Williamson based her choice on factors that included safety, good public transportation, the variety of things to do and see, friendliness and cost. The description of each destination is filled with advice and suggestions - where to eat and meet; what to wear ("leave those Jimmy Choos at home"); and a list of top extraordinary things to do.


Best times for safari

Thinking of going wild in Africa? The dry winter months from June to September are optimal for safaris in South Africa.

May to August (or even as late as October) are best for east Africa. The wildebeest migration between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara is best viewed from June to August.

Companies such as Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com) and Mountain Travel Sobek (www.mtsobek.com) offer safaris, from a four-day trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa starting at $2,390 a person to a 15-day safari in east Africa that includes Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park and the Masai Mara Game Reserve, for $15,000.


Ahhhhh, spas

The top spa destinations in the United States and Mexico, from Allure magazine:

- The Ashram, Calabasas, Calif.

- Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, Vista, Calif.

- Canyon Ranch, Tucson, Ariz.

- Golden Door, Escondido, Calif.

- The Greenhouse Spa, Arlington, Texas

- Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas

- Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington, Conn.

- Miraval Spa & Resort, Tucson, Ariz.

- Rancho La Puerta, Tecatem, Baja California, Mexico

- The Red Mountain Spa, St. George, Utah


Fave celebrity spots

Sightseeing suggestions from Jennifer Lopez, Jackie Chan and others are the highlight of Celebrated Weekends: The Stars' Guide to the Most Exciting Destinations in the World, by Mark Seal (Rutledge Hill Press, $24.99).

Lopez confesses a fondness for the New York City subway, which she used to ride from the Bronx, where she grew up, into Manhattan for dance lessons. She likes the Cuban food at Victor's Cafe 52, watching the ice skaters at Wollman Rink in Central Park, and shopping in Soho and Tribeca at stores like Jeffrey New York. Her favorite club, she said, is Lotus.

When in Hong Kong, try karaoke at the Green Box, Chan says. For breakfast, the comedic stunt star likes the small shops in the city's Whampoa area. For sightseeing, Chan recommends taking a tram or bus up to Victoria Peak.

Compiled from the New York Times, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, and San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News.