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The Independent Travel
The ultimate world tour for opera lovers begins on 24 Feb. Travel for the Arts (0171-483 4466) has put together a trip taking in Hong Kong (Bartok and Schoenberg), Sydney (Beethoven's Fidelio at the Opera House), Wellington (Janacek's Katya Kabanova), Los Angeles (Peter Hall's production of Cosi Fan Tutte) and culminating with Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The 24-day tour costs pounds 3,620.

The Bristol-based adventure travel agency Trips Worldwide (0117-987 2626) sends lots of people to Belize, but is now launching an appeal to help that country's children see something of their own country. The company aims to send 30 city children to a rainforest research centre for a weekend. The cost for each child is pounds 30. If you want to visit the country from Britain, however, the inclusive price will be around pounds 1,500 for a fortnight.

Visitor's Book

Comments about Groot Constantia Wine Estate, Cape Town, South Africa

You pour it, we'll drink it - Ena and John Murphy, Lancashire

The water's warmer in Durban - B Engelbrecht, Durban

Feels so good to see and taste part of our heritage - Deon van Dyk, Vredehoek

Sorry, I'm driving - N R Pollitt, Essex

'Japan is an impossibly expensive destination for British visitors'

False. Just as prices acquire hitherto unknown heights when you arrive in Japan, so does the concept of generosity. Sunday evening, no currency, no way from the provincial airport into town. The distance of four miles was only just walkable, but direction signs were (quite understandably) soley in Japanese. So I asked in the one still-open car rental office.

Namizato, the manager, did not hesitate. He grabbed some keys and invited me to join him in a top-of-the-range Nissan for the ride into town. I know his name is Namizato because at the end of the ride he handed me his card with a smile. "Call me if you need any help."

You can easily spend pounds 500 a night for a hotel room in Japan, but ryokan or minshuki (modest B&Bs) cut this to around pounds 20. Bed is a futon, breakfast simply rice with raw egg.

For lunch, I spotted something that was definitely a restaurant, or at least a "greasy chop-stick" sort of cafe. Lots of locals were slurping at soup (considered polite) and attacking bowls over-full of food: one stab at the stir-fried noodles, then another at the rice. A bowl of each filled me for the day and most of the evening, and cost pounds 2.50.

Simon Calder

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