Q: We wanted to hike Blue Mountain and heard about some trails there. Do you know what routes people usually take and if there are maps?
-- S. Blechman, Mississauga
A: Blue Mountain is part of the Bruce Trail system, which has nine sections. Visit Brucetrail.org for information on free interactive maps and maps that can be purchased. To explore Blue Mountain, click on the interactive map link, which provides an overview, distances between Tobermory and Niagara, suggested hikes and photos to give you a sense of the area. For instance, the 4.8-km North Rim of the Pretty River Valley Trail is a loop trail. At its highest point, it ascends 540 metres above sea level and is the highest peak on the Bruce Trail. Those interested in geology might like to check out one of the Geology Hikes scheduled Oct. 6-27. Bruce Trail Clubs organize over 1,500 hikes annually. For membership details, contact them at brucetrail.org/store/membership or e-mail email@example.com.
Q: We snagged some cheap flights to Switzerland on a last-minute seat sale. Now I'm looking for budget-friendly ideas for a fall trip there?
-- A. MacDonald, Toronto
A: Many Swiss destinations and attractions have developed money-saving deals for tourists. These include:
-- One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Alps and the country's bustling cities is via the 26,000-km Swiss public transit system, which extends into every corner of the country. You can travel across Switzerland by train, bus and boat using an all-in-one-pass issued by the Swiss Travel System. Currently the transit network has a "Twice as Nice" two-for-one deal for the four-day Swiss Saver or Swiss Saver Flexi Passes. Pay for one person and the second travels free. The two-for-one Swiss Saver Pass starts at $252 and is valid for travel until Nov. 30. Tickets can be purchased from a Raileurope-associated travel agent or online at myswitzerland.com/rail or raileurope.ca. You can also buy the pass at most train stations across Switzerland.
-- The sweet alpine town of Villars, in the southwest near the French border, has a Free Access Card for guests staying in the resorts of Villars, Gryon or Les Diablerets. Valid until Oct. 28, the card provides unlimited free access to most mountain transit and attractions.
-- The Swiss National Tourism Office maintains a Top 50 Offers list at myswitzerland.com/.
-- For city sightseeing, Lucerne has ample ways to save starting with a 45-minute city train tour roundtrip from the historic Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern. Tickets are about $12.50 and include audio commentary. See citytrain.ch.
-- Echo Trails operates five guided half-day tours in English, including one that takes in the villas of Lake Lucerne and another with a fascinating castle walk. See echo-trails.com for excursion details and schedules.
-- Many Swiss cities offer free downloadable apps and city discount cards. The LucerneCard can be purchased at the tourist information office (Luzern.com) in the railway station. A 24-hour card is about $20 and provides unlimited travel on city transit and discounts on museums, restaurants and more. Cards for 48 and 72 hours are also available.
-- Lucerne has high-calibre galleries and museums. One must-see is the magnificent Rosengart Museum based on the private collection of art dealer and collector Angela Rosengart. Housed in a renovated bank building, it includes 125 works by Paul Klee plus 32 of Picasso's later works and a display of candid photographs of the controversial artist by his friend David Douglas Duncan.
"I don't think there is any other private collection which is publicly accessible with as many works by Paul Klee and Picasso. And there is no other anywhere in the world with such a good selection of late Picassos," museum board-member Martin Kunz said when the gallery opened.
-- For additional discounts, inquire at local visitor information centres (often found inside or near train stations). Hotel concierges are also a great resource.
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