I'm planning a birthday break in Paris

I hope to reach my 80th birthday this autumn and would like to take my wife and two friends to Paris for three days. We want to travel in style and, as well as touring the museums and galleries, would like to spend one night at the opera and one night at the Lido for a bit of fun.

Cecil Lush


The travel editor replies: It sounds like a lovely idea though it is going to be pretty expensive! By far the nicest way to travel is first class by rail on Eurostar. You can leave from Waterloo in the morning, lunching on the train, and return from the Gare du Nord on the evening of the third day, having dinner on board.

One company that can arrange your travel, and a night at the opera in Paris, is JMB Travel Consultants Ltd. Call them on 01905 425628 for details, but the basic package - including an excellent grade opera ticket, first class Eurostar travel and two nights B&B at the central, characterful Hotel Lotti - will be pounds 595 per person.

What this price does not include is private car transfers to and from Waterloo and Gare du Nord; but if there are four of you this should be a relatively inexpensive extra (and can also be booked through JMB travel). To hire a car and driver while in Paris, you should simply arrange this with your hotel on arrival. The other thing you want to do is spend a night at the Lido. In fact you can book this directly by dialling 00 331 40 76 56 10; there is an exotic recorded message in French, English and Spanish, telling you to press * then 2 for information in English. You'll get an English-speaking operator in the end. If you want to have dinner and watch the show (starting at 8pm) the three possible menus range from Ff795 (about pounds 80) per person to Ff995 (about pounds 100) per person; you get a half-bottle of champagne with your meal. Alternatively you can watch the show with the champagne only (no dinner) at 10pm or 12pm for Ff550FF (about pounds 60).

Some passing confusion about passports

I have just booked a holiday for October and the travel agent at Lunn Poly told me that I will need to get separate passports for my two children (aged 15 and 12). The children are currently added to my passport and I understood that this was still a valid arrangement. I have been to the UK Passport Agency website and I can't see anything there which says that they need separate passports to travel. Could you shed any light on the situation, please?

Henry Ford


The travel editor replies: I have checked with Lunn Poly and they assure me that, according to passport regulations, as both your children are still under 16 years of age, they won't need separate passports to travel with you. The only reason I can think of for your agent's advice is that your 15-year-old is going to turn 16 either before or during your holiday. If this is the case, you will need to obtain a separate passport. If you apply before he or she has their birthday, you will save pounds 6 on the application fee (an instant bargain!).

No reason to worry about a traveller surviving on a diet of rice, soya beans, and vegetables

My son is going to Asia for six months and I am worried about his diet. He tells me that he is going to eat rice and fruit. I am sure he will become run down.

Bethany Friel


Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Providing that your son is fit and well before leaving, even a relatively poor diet would do little harm if he is away for a few months. However, there is no reason why he should not be able to adopt a sensible and well balanced vegetarian diet in most parts of Asia.

In general a vegetarian should mix their sources of protein as much as possible. This is because unlike meat, a single plant source may be lacking in a few amino acids. Thus rice should not be relied upon as a single protein source, but balanced in the diet with other things such as bread, nuts or beans. Soya beans would be a particularly good source of protein.

If a practising vegetarian, your son should be aware of this and balance his diet accordingly. I can't see any particular problems in obtaining these sort of items in Asia, where the diet tends to be more vegetable- based than our own. It is true that in some parts of the world achieving a balanced diet could be a difficult due to shortages of certain foods.

Vitamin deficiencies can be avoided long term with a good intake of fruit and vegetables. However, a daily vitamin supplement may give some peace of mind and do no harm if on an unusual diet for a period of time. Your son should remember the usual advice about cooking vegetables and peeling fruit to avoid gut problems. Salads should be washed well in clean water before eating. Generally it would be best to avoid salads if you have not prepared them yourself.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8; Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.