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UK weekly edition, Wednesday, August 13, 2008

To our readers: Stripes UK is considering dropping the Cheap Seats feature. With escalating airfares that change on a daily basis, we fear the column is not serving our readers the way it should. If you have any thoughts on the feature or suggestions for a travel-related column you think would better serve you, please e-mail us at: uknews@estripes.osd.mil.

Next Month — Sept. 18-23Fez, Morocco: 118.40 pounds round tripFly Ryanair from London Stansted to Fez-Sais.

Start your exploration of this opulent city, the oldest in Morocco, with a winding stroll along the streets of old Fez. Visitors will find a nearly endless supply of shops and stalls selling jewelry, furniture, crafts, carpets, spices and leather goods. Purchases can be delivered to your hotel atop a donkey, which is still a major mode of goods transport in the city.

Visit one of the four tanneries — Chouwara is the largest — to see some of the world’s finest leather, produced with centuries-old processes. Sensitive noses beware — strong odors abound at these tanneries.

Then explore the 14th-century Jewish quarter, or Mellah. Before you start, get an official guide at the tourist information office to show you around, so you don’t get lost in the quarter’s maze of streets. See the dulled grandeur of the houses that line the avenues. In the southwest corner of the Mellah, visit the Jewish cemetery, one of the oldest in Morocco. The elderly guardian can show you around the 18,000 whitewashed tombs and surrounding garden.

Next, visit the Dar Batha Museum, which contains a collection of Moroccan arts and crafts including examples of woodcarving, stucco, embroidery, Berber carpets, jewelry and textiles. Don’t miss the museum’s famous blue-and-white ceramic collection and exhibit of astronomical instruments.

The Belghazi Museum is housed in a 17th-century palace. This private museum’s collections are similar to those of the Dar Batha, with many of the items on display there for sale. However, unless you have recently won the lottery, a purchase is probably out of the question.

Since Islam, Morocco’s main religion, prohibits consumption of alcohol, it can be difficult to locate a bar or other nightlife spots in Fez. Instead, spend the evening enjoying traditional Moroccan cuisine at one of the many restaurants that have outdoor gardens and patios.

Three months — Nov. 14-16Ancona, Italy: 63.60 pounds round tripFly Ryanair from London Stansted to Ancona.

Start with a walk along the ferry docks and a visit to the ruined church of San Agostina. Stroll over to the 19th-century Teatro delle Muse theater, which has been reopened after a complete restoration, and continue to the regimented row of 13 water-spouting masks, the 16th-century Fontana del Calamo.

From there, head to Palazzo Ferretti and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche, containing collections of Attic vases, Roman bronzes and Iron Age jewelry. At Ancona’s Pinacoteca Civica gallery, on the Palazzo Bosdari, view Crivelli’s "Madonna and Child," and Titian’s "Apparition of the Virgin."

Standing high above the modern port city is the oldest part of town, home to Ancona’s most visible landmark, the medieval Cathedral of San Ciriaco. The interior includes a painted wooden roof in the form of an upturned boat and a soaring 12-sided cupola. In the crypt, you can see the remains of an ancient pagan temple.

For a side trip, travel northwest to the Renaissance city of Urbino and visit the twin-towered palace, which has been copied many times throughout Italy.


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