Q: My wife and I would like to combine a visit to Israel and Jordan, particularly Petra, in December or January. Is there any way to do so from New York?
A: You won't have difficulty making arrangements from New York, particularly at the time of year you are traveling. Almost immediately after Jordan and Israel made peace in 1994, several U.S. tour companies began devising itineraries that included stops in Israel and Jordan.
Petra, an ancient complex of temples, dwellings and tombs chiseled out of rose-colored rock, is often listed as a stop. The site was occupied by the Nabateans (an Arab tribe) beginning around 4 B.C., and was a thriving stop on the caravan trade route.
Travel With the Experts, P.O. Box 7966, Haledon, N.J. 07538, (800) 595-9778, along with the Biblical Archaeology and Travel -- Society, is offering a tour Jan. 5-17 that includes the Jordanian stops of Petra, Amman and Jerash.
In Israel, participants will go to Jericho, Jerusalem and other sites of antiquity including the Roman Cardo, Via Dolorosa and the Temple Mount. The trip will be accompanied by Harry Bixler, a professor of mathematics at Baruch College who lectures on Islamic art and geometry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other major museums, and by Eugenia Bragen, a member of the English department at Baruch College who lectures on Middle Eastern literature.
The cost is $2,499 a person, double occupancy, and includes accommodations and round-trip airfare from New York on Royal Jordanian Airlines.
Priority Travel and Tours, P.O. Box 2273, Dale City, Va. 22193, (703) 878-4237 or (800) 344-7206, is offering a 12-day tour beginning Jan. 8 called "The Land of the Bible," which starts in Amman and goes on to Petra, Jericho, Tiberias, Haifa, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Cairo and other sites. Highlights include a Sea of Galilee cruise and an extensive tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The tour, which departs from Charlotte, N.C., may be booked from New York, with a deduction of $180 from the $2,280 price. Meals, accommodations and international airfare on Royal Jordanian Airlines are included.
General Tours, 53 Summer St., Keene, N.H. 03431, (800) 221-2216, has a 14-day trip to Israel and Jordan that includes stops in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Jerash, Amman, Aqaba and Petra.
Highlights include a visit to the 12th-century crusaders' citadel in Kerak, Jordan, and a horseback ride in Petra. Departures are frequent (at least 10 through the end of this year).
The tour price ranges from $2,799 to $3,199, depending on the season, and includes round-trip airfare on El Al, accommodations and local transportation.
Q: I'm interested in renting a house in the Normandy region next spring or summer. Do you know of any agents in the United States or France who handle such rentals?
A: More than 50 agencies in France and the United States arrange house rentals in France. The French Government Tourist Office in New York, 444 Madison Ave., 16th floor, New York, N.Y. 10022, (900) 990-0040 (50 cents a minute), can provide the names of U.S. agencies; regional tourist offices in Normandy also publish lists of local rental agencies. The main regional tourist office for Normandy is in Evreux, 14 rue Charles Corbeau, 27000 Evreux, (33) 32 33 79 00.
The following prices are figured at a rate of 5 francs to the dollar.
* Interhome, 124 Little Falls Road, Fairfield, N.J. 07004, (201) 882-6864, rents out some 9,000 houses and apartments throughout France and has a hefty selection in Normandy.
A three-bedroom chalet in Cabourg, 1.3 miles from the sea, costs about $440 to $880 a week depending on the season (high season is July and August; middle season is the last two weeks June, the first two weeks in September, and Easter; low season is mid-September to the week before Easter and the week after Easter to mid-June). For $5, Interhome will provide a catalog of houses available in France.
* Viking Voyages, 33 Victor Hugo Ave., 14100 Lisieux, France; (33) 31 48 58 52; fax (33) 31 48 58 50, handles 275 houses in the region. Weekly prices range from $240 to $580 in the low season to $1,000 in the high season.
A three-bedroom restored farmhouse situated in the countryside near La-Haye-du-Puits, is 17 miles from Coutances and 7 miles from the ocean. It costs $420 to $520 a week, depending on the season.
Q: My son is a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, stationed in Yalta. I would like to visit him, and am interested in knowing about accommodations.
A: Yalta, on the Black Sea, was originally an ancient Greek colony called Yalita. A favorite spot of Czar Nicholas II, the city is remembered in more recent history as the namesake of the 1945 Yalta Conference, in which Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin fashioned the map of postwar Europe.
In Kiev, the Ukrainian travel agency Sputnik will book hotels and arrange horseback riding, yachting and hunting trips in Crimea and Ukraine for a 5- to 10-percent commission. They also arrange invitations, which are necessary to get a $50 Ukrainian tourist visa from the embassy in the United States. For an English-speaking manager, call (380-44) 263-7116, or fax your request to (380-44) 264-9534.
Yalta and its environs have many hotels and what are known in Russia as sanatoriums: full-service seaside resorts with
swimming pools, saunas and private beaches.
The 100-room Foros, in the village of Foros, (0654) 79-22-44, is a 15-minute drive from the center of Yalta. A double with all amenities including bathroom and television costs $150 a night. A restaurant serving standard Ukrainian fare -- shashlik (marinated meat kebab), macaroni, mushroom julienne -- offers breakfast and dinner.
Ayedanil, in the village of Gorfuz, (0654) 33-53-40 or (0654) 33-53-40, is also a 15-minute drive from Yalta. It has about 100 rooms; doubles cost from $100 to $120 with all the above amenities.
Among the hotels in the vicinity are the following.
Hotel Yalta, 50 Ulitsa Drazhinskogo, fax (0602) 35-30-93, a modern 2,500-room hotel in a park, is a 20-minute walk from the center of Yalta. A double with a bathroom costs $145. Rooms have balconies with views of the sea and mountains, and there is a lift down to the beach. Amenities include a pool, sauna, tennis court and library.
The 230-room Hotel Oreanda, 35 Naberezhnaya Lenina, (0602) 32-57-94, less than a half-mile from Yalta's center, was built in 1985. The hotel doesn't have a pool, but there is a beach across the promenade. A double with bathroom costs $125, a two-room suite $190.