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TRAVEL TIPS

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Learning French in Montreal. Thanks to the International YMCA's French Summer School, you can learn French in Montreal - a city that cherishes its French heritage - without paying for expensive hotels and restaurants. The school offers three-week intensive (six hours a day) classes emphasizing conversational skills for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students. Rules for written French can also be acquired. Students can stay at the International YMCA at reasonable rates and enjoy their planned excursions and activities. For details, contact Janine Duchesne, International YMCA, 5550 Park Ave, Suite 200, Montreal (Quebec) H2V 4 H1. Telephone (514) 277-3323. Behind the scenes in Paris. If your plans include Paris this year, you might want to seek out Paris Secrets, a firm offering guided walking tours. Many of the routes are known only to native Parisians. For details contact the French Government Tourist Office, 610 Fifth Ave., N.Y. 10020 or call (212) 757-1125. In Paris, contact Paris Secrets, 12, Rue Chabanais, 75002 Paris.

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Moscow after the '88 Summit. Moscow is sprucing up - discos and McDonald's, no less; the ``Moscow Hotel & Restaurant Guide'' offers the latest in glasnost amenities. To receive this rather slender little booklet and a map to locate the city's best known attractions, as well as information on over 150 restaurants, theaters, entertainments, and recreational facilities, send $5.95 to American's Tourist Manual for the USSR, Box 636, Newark, NJ 07101.

Lodge-to-lodge by canoe. Canoe Country Escapes has assembled trips to make wilderness canoeing attractive to people who like a few creature com-forts. Lodge-to-lodge packaged trips near the Minnesota-Ontario boundary vary from short two-day, three-night trips for those with busy schedules to five-day, six-night trips for those with more time. Family, honeymoon, and fishing packages are available. Activities along the way include swimming, exploring, stargazing, observing wildlife, and listening to stories around a campfire. Arrivals and departures are from the Duluth Airport. Rates for four-night family package begin at $375 each for the first two adults, $245 each for additional adults, $160 each for children 3-15. For more details contact Canoe Country, 194 So. Franklin St., Denver, CO 80209, telephone (303) 722-6482.

Stalking the Royal Bengal Tiger. If you're an avid photographer or just someone who enjoys adventure, you might like to sign on for an Inner-Asia Expeditions tour. Itineraries range from a 15-day cultural journey through northern India and Nepal to a raft trip down the Karnali. Accommodations may include a stay in Tiger Tops Tree Top Jungle Lodge (the oldest and most luxurious lodge in Nepal), Karnali Tented Camp in Western Nepal or Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp in central India. All of these tours feature wildlife viewing. For dates and prices, contact InnerAsia Expeditions, 2627 Lombard St., San Francisco, CA 94123. (800) 551-1769 or in California, (415) 922-0448.

Viewing America through a Vistadome. Interested in the Canadian Maritimes, Labrador, Mexico's Copper Canyon, Nashville, Los Angeles? Why not go by train? The 12-day Labrador trip is of particular interest, especially for the extremely experienced traveler. The ecosystem is borderline Arctic. Highlights include walks across moss fields; a visit to Fremont, a city that has a shopping center built in the form of a windbreak; and the iron mines that are the reason for the existence of Labrador City. Plus, America by Rail president Larry Swartz describes the scenery as `` some of the most beautiful in North America.'' There are still openings in August and September trips. The last trip is Sept. 10.; this tour will resume again next July. The Copper Canyon trip is sold out for fall, but winter trips are available. To obtain a free, 48-page catalog of options, write America by Rail, Inc., 808 West Lake Lansing Road, East Lansing, MI 48823, or phone 1-800-351-7411.

A country retreat in Central New York. It's still possible to recapture the nostalgia of a turn-of-the-century summer estate. Tianderah, in Gilbertsville, is less than a four hour drive from New York City. The stone house, listed on the National Register of Historic Homes was designed and built by a Bostonian, William Ralph Emerson, a cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson. There are spacious bedrooms, a library, and music room. No alcohol or smoking is permitted. Outdoors, there's a swimming pool and 35 acres of grounds. Nearby attractions include polo, antiques shops, historic sights, and restaurants. Tianderah is about 40 minutes from Cooperstown, home of the acclaimed Glimmerglass Opera and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rates, including full breakfast, are $55 for a double w/ private bath, $50 for a double w/ shared bath. For more details call (607) 783-2796.

Art, culture, dance tours to Asia. This fall, the Jacqueline Moss Museum Tours trip will focus on the unique art, architecture, crafts, and dance of Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia. The tour, from October 24 to November 18, will include trips to a performance of the Wayang Kulit (shadow puppets), and the ``barong'' dance of Bali. The total cost excluding some meals is $4899 per person, double occupancy, with departure from Seattle, and $5328 per person, d.o., from New York. For details, write Jacqueline Moss Museum Tours, 131 Davenport Ridge Lane, Stamford, CT 06903 or call (203) 322-8709.

Packing for the weekend. First, begin with the right piece of luggage. A bag with soft sides and zippered gussets expands to carry more. Be sure the bag is well labeled, even if you aren't planning to check it. Then, make a list of clothing, and check off items you as you pack. Include a plastic bag for wet towels and swimsuit. Roll clothes to avoid wrinkles and to gain optimum use of space in corners. After the weekend, launder clothes and repack in bag. Keep an extra toiletries kit there as well. Then, in a few minutes, you're ready for the next weekend adventure.