Visiting Downton Abbey the proper way

To the Abbey, James

If visiting the film location for Downton Abbey by coach seems uncouth, then perhaps a new privately chauffeured tour might be more proper.

After pick-up by private vehicle from a London hotel, the tour heads west to Highclere Castle, known to Downton fans as the home of the Earl of Grantham and his aristocratic family.

The drive then continues to Bampton, a village in Oxfordshire, where outdoor scenes of the fictional village of Downton are filmed, before the return journey to London.

The eight-hour tour costs from $249 a person for departures in July- September. See

Bespoke wheels

While there are plenty of exercise options on board the Italian liner MSC Magnifica, including a jogging track and three swimming pools, bicycling tours will be offered in its European ports this summer.

Passengers will be able to take the Lombardo bikes on guided tours around the streets of Stockholm, the White Cliffs of Dover, or retracing the steps of Russian royalty in St Petersburg.

Cycle excursions are on cruises on April 15-September 1. See

In Sydney, cycle enthusiasts can get their riding fix with a new on-demand service delivering bikes to hotels in the city. Livelo's Peter Barnes says guests can book online and choose from a fleet of road bikes that includes the premium Italian Bianchi Oltre XR (two hours, $180), Bianchi Sempre (two hours, $80) and Cannondale Caad10 (two hours, $50).

Bikes can be ordered seven days a week for consecutive days and each comes with helmet, Garmin GPS unit with maps and routes, lights, water bottle and spare tubes and inflators.

Be a queue jumper

As the world's most-visited paid monument, the Eiffel Tower attracts queues of up to two hours unless you have priority tickets, which Rail Plus now offers. The ticket includes immediate entry to the tower's three levels, no time limit, and a short orientation before ascending the iron lattice tower. It costs $55 an adult. See

Go play in the park

Parks Victoria hosts its Junior Rangers program over the Easter school holidays for children with an interest in nature, history, animals and the outdoors.

For ages 6-12, activities include Rockpool Rambles to discover sea creatures on rocky shores (Great Otway National Park); games of the early 1900s, including sack races, quoits and hoop'n'stick (State Coal Mine Wonthaggi); and Dreamtime Discovery with a morning spent with an indigenous park ranger (multiple locations). March 29-April 14. See

Holiday events organised by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service's WilderQuest program include the popular Bush Detectives: Whose Poo Is It? (Brisbane Water National Park) and Who Eats Who in the Rainforest (Dorrigo National Park).

On April 15-26. See

Share and share alike

Garuda Indonesia will start a new daily direct service between Melbourne and Denpasar on April 1. The additional two flights a week depart Melbourne at 9.50am.

Meanwhile, Garuda and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways have announced code-share destinations. Etihad's EY code is now on Garuda flights between Jakarta and Singapore and Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam.

Starting in June, Garuda's service between Jakarta and Perth, also with the EY code, will be timed to connect with services to and from Abu Dhabi. See

In European skies, Virgin Atlantic has launched its first domestic flight service, Little Red.

The service includes four daily round trips between Heathrow and Manchester, six daily round trips Heathrow-Edinburgh, and three daily round trips Heathrow-Aberdeen.

The domestic service will include 23-kilogram luggage check-ins, seat allocation, snacks, drinks and hot breakfasts on early-morning flights.

The flights will operate to and from Heathrow Terminal 1. See

Fiji on a plate, for Pete's sake

On the private and luxe resort of Dolphin Island in Fiji, food-lovers and their friends can gather for cooking classes under the instruction of chef Pete Evans.

The five-night trip includes the three-day cooking school with assistance by Sue Jenkins, owner of Mosman's Accoutrement; arrival by float plane; bure accommodation; and all meals and standard bar drinks.

It is on June 22-27 and costs from $NZ9900 ($7865) a person, twin share. See;

Send news items to

This story Visiting Downton Abbey the proper way first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.