I plan to be in Hong Kong on Christmas Day and the three days after it. All the guidebooks I have seen say Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Dec. 27 are "general holidays" there. Does that mean everything will be closed?
The contrary is true. Dec. 25-26 (Dec. 26 is called Boxing Day in this British crown colony) are public holidays, but this means that only offices and a few museums are closed.
All shops are open, and restaurants are at their busiest, many offering Christmas meals. Between Christmas Day and the Lunar New Year (Feb. 19 next year) many shops have sales, so it's also a good time for picking up bargains.
Buildings are adorned with Christmas lights, and shopping malls and other public centers present seasonal musical performances. For one of the best views of the lights go to either the Landmark shopping center in the Central district of Hong Kong Island or, in Kowloon, to Tsim Sha Tsui East, where you can walk along the waterfront promenade and see the decorations blinking across the harbor.
For musical performances try the Ocean Terminal, which is part of the huge Harbour City shopping complex in Kowloon. Last year many local and overseas entertainers appeared on its main concourse. Most Christmas events in the colony are expected to be repeated this year.
On Hong Kong Island, the Garden Court of the Mall at Pacific Place had a 40-foot Christmas tree and presented carol singing by local churches and international schools. For children there was an enchanted garden that led to Santa's Fantasy Forest, where they could have their pictures taken with Santa.
Many hotels will have their own seasonal programs, and public groups like the Urban Council and the Hong Kong Cultural Center will present musical, dramatic and carnival events.
About the only thing that won't remind you of home is the weather. Expect a maximum high of 68 degrees and a low of 59. Precipitation will be at its lowest of the year, and relative humidity, at around 60 to 77 percent, is also on the low end of the Hong Kong scale.
This year's schedule of events is expected to be known later this month or early in November. For details contact the Hong Kong Tourist Association, 590 Fifth Ave., Fifth Floor, New York, N.Y. 10036; (212) 869-5008, fax (212) 730-2605.
Do you have any advice for a woman traveling alone in London? Can you, for instance, suggest some restaurants that accommodate people dining alone?
Most restaurants in London are generally glad to accommodate lone diners. In their wide acceptance lies the rub: The choices are enormous. The choices can, however, be narrowed down; here are a few suggestions.
Some London department stores have excellent restaurants where women are often found taking a break from shopping.
The Knightsbridge district has a good choice: Emporio Armani, (0171) 823 8818, at 187 to 191 Brompton Road, serves Italian-style snacks and lunches. Pastas, salads and seafood dishes range from $8.25 to $17, calculated at $1.65 to the pound.
Harrods, (0171) 730 1234, has 16 restaurants and cafes open during store business hours, serving everything from traditional English food in the Georgian Restaurant ($24 minimum) to sushi in the Sushi Bar ($3.30 to $8.25 a piece).
The Harvey Nichols restaurant and cafe, (0171) 235 5250, serves dinner and lunch. The food includes French, Italian and modern British. In the restaurant prices range from $16 to $43.75 for a main course. At the cafe dishes cost from $6.60 to $13.20.
At 158 New Bond St., Nicole Farhi's designer clothes shop includes a bar and restaurant, (0171) 499 8408, with wines sold by the glass. The food is a mix of Mediterranean, American and British. At the bar, salads and snacks range from $8.25 to $15, and in the restaurant main courses (grilled wild salmon, grilled spring chicken) cost $21 to $23.
At 27 Old Bond St., the New York designer Donna Karan has opened a small snack bar that serves sandwiches, cakes, bagels and flans in her DKNY store; (0171) 499 8089. A sandwich meal is about $8.
Fenwicks, at 63 New Bond St., (0171) 495 5402, has a restaurant serving Mediterranean-style food. Main courses, which include salmon cakes and wild mushroom risotto, range from $12.40 to $16.30.
Selfridge's on Oxford Street opened a restaurant in June called Premier, (0171) 318 3155. The menu, which changes to reflect seasonal foods, is $26.40 a person for two courses, $29.70 for three courses.
At the South Bank arts complex the Royal National Theater's restaurant, called the Mezzanine, (071) 928 3531, serves brasserie-style food ranging from Mediterranean to traditional British. Fish stew is $15.25.
At the Royal Festival Hall the People's Palace, opened in January, (0171) 928 9999, offers panoramic views of the River Thames as well as a menu with "real modern classics" like grilled sirloin steak. Prices range from $17.30 a person at lunch to $82.50 a person for dinner with wine.
You could also take up an overseas membership in Morton's, an elegant dining club open for lunch and dinner. The monthly fee is $57.75. More information: Morton's, 28 Berkeley Square, London 5HA, England; (0171) 499 0363, fax (0171) 495 3160.
Choose a wine bar over a pub, where the food is not generally distinctive and a lone woman might attract unwelcome attention.
Can you give me information about saints' feast days in Italy or tell me where to write to get information about them?
Italy celebrates saints' days on two levels: the national and the local.
National saints' days are marked on Nov. 1, All Saints' Day, and Dec. 26, for St. Stephen (Santo Stefano).
Offices and shops are also closed in the following cities on feast days honoring their patron saints:
Venice, April 25, St. Mark.
Florence, June 24, St. John the Baptist.
Genoa, June 24, St. John the Baptist.
Turin, June 24, St. John the Baptist.
Rome, June 29, SS. Peter and Paul.
Palermo, July 15, St. Rosalia.
Naples, Sept. 19, St. Gennaro.
Bologna, Oct. 4, St. Petronio.
Cagliari, Oct. 30, St. Saturnio.
Trieste, Nov. 3, St. Giusto.
Bari, Dec. 6, St. Nicola.
Milan, Dec. 7, St. Ambrose.
For a full listing of events for next year, including many religious observances, contact the Italian Government Tourist Board, Rockefeller Center, Suite 1586, 630 Fifth Ave. New York, N.Y. 10111; (212) 245-4822, fax (212) 586-9249.
Where could I obtain information about places where pets are welcome in Canada?
"Accommodations in Quebec," put out by Tourisme Quebec, the official tourism agency in Montreal, lists hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, cottages, apartments and efficiencies in 19 regions of the province with such information as prices, number of rooms, phone and address. Those that accept pets -- and there are many of them -- carry the symbol of a small blue dog.
To get a copy, call Tourisme Quebec at (800) 363-7777, or fax it at (514) 864-3838.