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The Independent Travel
Any information on garden and gardening breaks? Nothing too far.

G Gordon

Redditch

Jill Crawshaw replies: Yes, lots. Pride of Britain Hotels, a privately- owned consortium of small hotels, is operating three tours during the rest of this year, all accompanied by experts. From 26-28 June there is "Enchanting Gardens and Cathedrals" based at Esseborn Manor, near Andover, "Devonshire Delights" from 7-9 August is based at Lewtrenchard Manor near Oakhampton, and from 16-18 October "Autumn Colour" is based at the Lake Country House in Llangammarch, Wells. Prices from pounds 279. Phone 01305 266440 for further details.

Acorn Activities (01432 830083) has an interesting two-day "Organic Kitchen Gardening" break in July to help participants get the most of their gardens, however small -and learn the skills of composting, manures, and how to deal with pests and diseases. The course costs pounds 80, accommodation pounds 144.

The theme for the 1998 Jersey Floral Festival from 13-18 July is modern gardening, looking at the trends inspired by our hotter, drier summers, the use of Mediterranean plants and how to grow orchids at home. Contact the Jersey Tourist Office in London (0171 493 5278) or in Jersey on 01534 500700.

"Bed and Breakfast for Garden lovers" is a collection of 102 enthusiast members with interesting gardens of their own. B&B prices range from pounds 25- pounds 35 a night per person. Its leaflet is free (send self-addressed 22cm x 11cm envelope with four loose first-class stamps) to BBGL, Handywater Farm, Sibford Gower, Banbury, Oxon OX15 5AE.

Across the Channel, VFB (Vacances Franco Britannique, 01242 240338)includes some classic gardens on its one-week Ile de France and Normandy tour; in the Bois des Moutiers south of Dieppe, Gertrude Jekyll's creation planted with rhododendrons and azaleas is considered by the French to be the supreme English park. June and September tours costs from pounds 553-pounds 559.

Coach holiday operator Leger (01709 839839) is offering four-day "Monet's Gardens and the Chateaux of Paris" tours until 25 September, with prices from pounds 149-pounds 159. The price also includes three nights' B&B in hotels, as well as excursions to the Chateaux of Fontainbleau and de Vaux le Vicomte, the Gardens of Versailles and Monet's own garden at Giverny, the inspiration of about 50 of his famous water-lily paintings.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

What are the dangers of diving? I'm worried about the bends

I am thinking of going on a diving holiday but the whole problem of the "bends" and related breathing issues worries me quite a lot.

Ken Leaping

London

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: As you are presumably a beginner, the basic aqualung course that you receive should certainly cover decompression sickness (the bends) in some detail. Many dive schools overseas offer a basic Professional Association of Diving Instructors Course (PADI), which involves a fairly intensive four or five-day course to gain a certificate in "sport diving".

Under pressure more nitrogen tends to be dissolved in the body tissues; the amount will depend upon the depth of the dive and the time spent. If surfacing too quickly the dissolved nitrogen tends to come out of solution forming gas bubbles in the body tissues. The symptoms usually occur within three hours, but can sometimes take up to 24 hours to appear and may include joint pains, weakness, disturbed vision and loss of balance. Treatment consists of the use of a recompression chamber.

The problem can be avoided by a slow rate of ascent and the correct use of diving tables to calculate any stops that have to be taken. This should certainly be covered in your diving course.

It is worth remembering that you should not fly within 24 hours of your last dive, as the reduced pressure in the aircraft could bring on the bends.

Finally most dive centres will require a medical certificate of fitness before starting a course, so make sure that this is done before you leave.

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.

What to see in South America

My wife and I would like to visit South America, if possible with a company which makes all the arrangements. What should we see? We are active senior citizens and would be happy to be away for at least a month.

Keith Honess

Winchester

The travel editor replies: Even a month is not really long enough to do much justice to the whole continent of Latin America. I would have thought that you might do well to concentrate on one area - for example, the Andean countries of Colombia, Equador and Peru, or possibly southern Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

The best specialist operator is Journey Latin America (Tel: 0181 747 3108) which does a detailed tailor-made tour with all travel, accommodation and transfers prearranged, or, alternatively, take you on a conducted tour with a group. Another operator which runs tours round Latin America are Hayes and Jarvis (Tel: 0181 222 7844).

Accommodation in Bologna

My wife and I are planning to spend a few nights in Bologna in July. To judge by guide books, the choice is between expensive business hotels or cheap hostels. Is this typical of the place? How can I find something in between?

Nick Lawrence

Manchester

The travel editor replies: I think you should contact a very useful little operator called Accommodation Line, which specialises in making bookings for family-run, small hotels in Italian cities, all of which they have vetted for quality themselves.

These hotels are rather cheaper and far nicer than their large, chain counterparts. Accommodation Line also inform me that they can quite easily book you a double room for two people on a B&B basis for pounds 80. The number to call is 0171 409 1343.

GLOBAL MYTHS NO 18

Another story from the travellers' grapevine

A PAIR of London businessmen travelled up to Scotland for a week to do some deer hunting. They had no problem obtaining the necessary licences and so as soon as they had arrived and assembled their gear, they set off in their Range Rover to look for something to shoot.

As was required, before they started hunting on a piece of land, they asked permission from the farmer who owned it. On the morning of the last day they arrived at one of the best pieces of deer-hunting land in the country. The farmhouse was on the top of a hill with no road, and so one of the two walked up while his friend waited at the bottom with the car.

The hunter watched his friend plod up and knock on the door of the farmhouse. The farmer answered and he watched the two talk and gesticulate for several minutes.

The hunter eventually came back down and said: "Bad news. He says we can't shoot on his land. He doesn't like the look of us, apparently. He said we were both English tossers. I'm pretty angry. In fact, I'm so angry that I'm going to shoot that donkey over there." And with that he raised his rifle and killed an old donkey that was standing quietly in a neighbouring field with a single shot to the head.

"Yeah," said his friend, getting into the swing of it. "I'm really angry too. I'm going to shoot that bull over there." And he picked up his rifle and shot a bull which was standing minding its own business in another field.

"You stupid git," said the first hunter. "I was winding you up. What he actually said was that we could hunt on his land, and as a favour could we also shoot that sick old mule of his."

Maxton Walker

Send in the stories you've picked up on your journeys to `Global Myths' at the address above.

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