I plan to go to Africa this summer but I don't want to have any more inoculations than I have to. Can you suggest somewhere that I could get a more natural alternative, perhaps at a homeopathic clinic?
Dr Larry Goodyer replies: I am often asked this by people who are looking for a more "natural" way to prevent disease.
Vaccines work by injecting the organism causing the disease into the body. In some vaccines a live organism is injected in a harmless (attenuated) form, in others a dead cell - or in some modern vaccines a purified extract - is used. This allows the immune system to recognise and more effectively deal with the organism responsible for the disease if you catch it while away. I think this is as natural as you can get, simply stimulating the body's own defences.
The level of protection offered by travel vaccines has been well defined in clinical trials, something that cannot be said for homeopathic remedies. It is up to the individual whether or not to be vaccinated, unless it is an entry requirement. If you still want to avoid injections, you might try the Ainsworth Homeopathic Pharmacy (tel: 0171-935 5330).
Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 633414; calls cost 50p per minute).
Beware of the juggernauts on the River Seine
We've been on several excellent boating and cruising holidays on French rivers and canals, but we can't find anything on the biggest of all - the Seine. Are there such holidays, and if so, where ?
Jill Crawshaw writes: At first it may seem surprising that the Seine carries relatively little holiday traffic as it is one of the longest inland navigation routes in France. Rising in Burgundy, 480 miles from the sea, the Seine becomes navigable in Champagne and flows through the le de France and Normandy to the coast.
One of the reasons it is not popular for individual leisure boating is that the river carries so much heavy commercial traffic and has so many locks - 25 or so - where smaller boats are often kept waiting to allow the commercial barges through. Downstream of Paris, in particular, is not really suitable for novices.
Upstream from Paris I have found a British company that hires out penichettes, the typical, no-nonsense, chunky, continental barges which are suitable for holiday use. Before you are given the boat, the yards give you 90 minutes of instruction.
French Country Cruises, through Andrew Brock Travel (tel: 01572 821330), can organise le de France cruising from a base at Fontainebleau which offers access to both the Yonne and Upper Seine. A penichette sleeping two people costs pounds 617 to pounds 1,042 per boat per week, and includes the Channel crossing for a car and passengers. If you can persuade four others to join you, the costs are lower on a larger barge costing between pounds 792 and pounds 1,182.
There are many day-trips on the Seine, including "Impressionist" themed voyages. One is a trip from Roche Guyon, three miles from Giverny, to Vetheuil, which features in Monet's paintings. Other tours focus on Pissaro and Van Gogh. Call Tourisme Accueil Val d'Oise (tel: 0033 130 29 5100).
Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.
A trip around Brunel's kingdom of inventions
I have always been interested in British engineers, and am a particular enthusiast for Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Is it possible to join an organised group to visit his various achievements, such as his tunnel under the Thames, parts of the Great Western Railway, bridges and so on, in the company of an expert?
The Travel Editor writes: There are various industrial societies which sometimes organise historical or industrial field trips for their members. The Association of Industrial Archaeology (tel: 0116 2525337), and The Newcomer's Society (tel: 0171-371 4445) have, in the past, organised trips of this sort.
The Newcomer's Society is planning to arrange a field trip to visit some of the sites of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's structures, including the Great Western Railway. There are no firm plans as yet, but for forthcoming events and membership details for both societies you should contact Paul Saulter, 62 Marley Road, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7BD (tel: 01797 223865).
For information about the Brunel sites in Bristol, contact Andy King at the Bristol Industrial Museum (tel: 0117-925 1470). For Brunel sites in London, contact Sue Hayton at the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society (Glias), 31 High Street, Farnborough, Kent (tel: 01689 852186). During the summer months it organises free guided tours and lectures in and around London.
According to Glias, the old foot tunnel under the Thames became part of the Metropolitan tube line in 1862 (Whitechapel to New Cross), so there are no tours, but The Brunel Engine House at Rotherhithe is open to the public the first Sunday afternoon of every month.
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