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October 17–19Sylt, Germany: 229 pounds round tripFly British Airways and Air Berlin from London Heathrow to Westerland Sylt.

This 25-mile-long island on Germany’s North Sea has long been a playground for Germany’s rich and famous. With immaculate sandy beaches, sparkling sea and energizing sea air, Sylt is a perfect vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

Start in the town of Westerland, where you can rent a bicycle from several locations or from your hotel for a small fee. Take one of the island’s many cycle paths out to Westerland Fun-Beach Brandenburg, where the surf can be rough and the winds blow strong from the west, making for excellent surfing conditions for beginners and experts.

Surfing lessons and rental equipment can be arranged at Surf Schule Westerland or at the Kurverwaltung in the village of List. You can also rent a Strandkorb – a wicker seat big enough for two with awnings to keep the wind out, pull-out foot rests and tables for relaxing on the beach.

Take a hike among the grass-covered dunes, enjoy some local oysters or hire a guide for a trekking trip across the Wadden Sea when the tide recedes, exposing mud flats and allowing you to walk to other North Sea islands.

In the village of Kampen, shop for elegant jewelry or visit designer boutiques with luxury wares. Visit Rantum or Keitum for tea, jams, artworks and handmade crafts.

December 17-22Nimes, France: 131.32 pounds round tripFly Ryanair from London Luton to Nîmes.

Advertised as being blessed by the gods, Nimes celebrates 300 days of sunshine a year and a well-preserved Roman past.

A good starting point for a weekend in Nimes is the Jardin de la Fontaine. This French garden, featuring rows of chestnut and elm trees intersected by grottoes and canals, is open year-round. The ruins of the Temple of Diane and a Roman bath are within the garden.

A short walk north of the city center is Mont Cavalier, a rocky hill on top of which sits the bulk of Tour Magne, the city’s oldest Roman monument. The hill also offers a panoramic view of Nimes.

Take a stroll along one of the city’s busiest streets, the Boulevard de l’Amiral Courbet, to the Porte d’Auguste. The Roman gate was built during the reign of Caesar Augustus, right around the birth of Jesus. A short walk away is the Maison Carree, a near-perfect Roman remnant, also built during Caesar’s reign. According to a Frommer’s travel guide, this building with its tall Corinthian columns inspired some of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural designs.

Maybe the most vivid example of ancient Roman architectural savvy is the Pont du Gard, a bridge created of huge stones fitted together without mortar. It has its own museum, La Grande Expo du Pont du Gard, with exhibits on the bridge’s construction and role through history.


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