No excuse for skipping your piano practice


My husband, a serious amateur pianist, and I are planning a trip to Europe. Our itinerary will include London, Paris and Edinburgh. Is there anywhere in those cities he can practice while we are away?

There are a few places that should fit the bill.

In London, the Royal Academy of Music has its hands full with students in the daytime but says evenings and Sundays are available for practice. Two studios are available, one with a grand piano at $18.60 an hour and the other with an upright at $15.50 an hour, calculated at $1.55 to the pound. The academy is at 34 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5HT; telephone (44 171) 873 7373, fax (44 171) 873 7374. Nearest Underground station: Baker Street.

Wigmore Hall has two rehearsal rooms available Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at $12.40 an hour. The hall is at 36 Wigmore Street, London W1H 0BP; (44 171) 935 2141, fax (44 171) 224 3800. Nearest Underground: Bond Street.

Fazioli Studios has rooms available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday by appointment. Rates are $11.60 for a grand and $13.20 an hour for an upright. The studios are at 29 Marylebone Lane, London W1M 5FH; (44 171) 486 0025, fax (44 171) 935 8454. Nearest Underground: Bond Street.

In Edinburgh, Varsity Music has a practice room available Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $4.65 an hour. Alternatively, it will deliver a piano to your hotel room (with the hotel's permission) at a cost of $232.50 a week. The studio, which is a half mile from the main railway station on the A7 road opposite the Festival Theater, is at 8A-10A Nicolson St., Edinburgh EH8 9DH; phone and fax (44 131) 556 3273. Ask for Seph Turner.

In Paris, the Salle Pleyel has rooms available for $10.50 an hour after the daily students have finished their work. The hall is at 252 Rue du Faubourg St.-Honore, Paris 8; (33 1), fax (33 1) Nearest Metro: Ternes.

Pianos Hamlet is a short distance away at 264 Rue du Faubourg St.-Honore, Paris 8; (33 1), fax (33 1) A room with a Steinway is available for $19 an hour Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nearest Metro: Ternes.

Pianos Hamm has practice rooms available Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at $9 an hour for a grand and $7 for an upright.

Hamm is at 135 Rue de Rennes, Paris 6; (33 1), fax (33 1) Nearest Metro: St.-Placide.

Two years ago we went on a wonderful trip to South Africa and would like to return to the Llandudno-Cape Town area and rent a one-bedroom apartment during the Maine winter. Are there any agents there who could handle that?

You have picked a lovely spot to return to, but be aware that Lladudno is an upscale area, mostly on the beachfront, and that January to April is the peak period in South Africa. You should expect, therefore, to pay up to $100 or more a day.

Any of these can help:

* Accommodation Shop, Shop 10, Marine House, St. John's Road, Sea Point 8001, South Africa; (27 21) 434-2248, fax (27 21) 434-2238. Vacation and long-term rentals available throughout the Cape.

* A-Z Holiday Accommodation, P.O. Box 383, Milnerton 7435, South Africa; (27 21) 551-2785, fax (27 21) 551-1450. Short-term and long-term accommodation available in all areas, ranging from budget to luxury private homes and cottages.

* Accomplace, Suite 9, Primavera, Gilmourhill Road, Tamboerskloof 8001, South Africa; (27 21) 26-2245, fax (27 21) 124-1796. A range of private homes.

* Apartments and Homes, 154 Main Road, Sea Point 8001, South Africa; (27 21) 439-4126, fax (27 21) 439-9621. Apartment and hotel reservation service.

* Cape Holiday Homes, P.O. Office Box 2044, Cape Town 8000, && South Africa; (27 21) 419-0430, fax (27 21) 217-370. Houses and apartments throughout the Cape Peninsula.

* Execurent, H106 Dolphin Beach, Marine Drive, Table View 7441, South Africa; (27 21) 557-5450, fax (27 21) 557-4280. Luxury homes and apartments for daily, weekly and monthly rentals.

* Holiday Booking Service, P.O. Box 5514, Cape Town 8000, South Africa; (27 21) 24-3693, fax (27 21) 24-1907. Private homes, from economy to luxury.

* Private Places, P.O. Box 489, Milnerton 7435, South Africa; (27 21) 52-1200, fax (27 21) 551-1487. Vacation and business apartments.

We plan to visit Vietnam as independent travelers next February. When is Tet, the lunar new year, and is it a good time or a bad time to be there?

The Tet celebrations will be held Feb. 18-20, and if joyous but noisy celebrations, with lots of fireworks and milling crowds, are what you have in mind, then you are headed for the right place.

Many regular public activities will come to a halt as people take off from work to spend time with families and friends. Many others will be visiting Buddhist pagodas and churches and other public places.

New Year's Eve, Feb. 18, is the night for joining the crowds on the streets.

Be sure your airline reservations have been made. Because of the large number of visiting Vietnamese, getting in and getting out can be a problem at Tet time.

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