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UK weekly edition, Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Next Month — Sept. 26-28Murcia, Spain: 108.78 pounds round tripFly Ryanair from London Luton to Murcia. Murcia is an often-overlooked destination because the region is nowhere as lush and green as those surrounding it, but hidden within the city of Murcia are many great treasures.

On the Plaza del Cardinal Belluga is the cathedral with its 316-foot tower and 25 bells. Many different styles and cultures are expressed throughout the 23 chapels within the cathedral. Outside, near the city hall, is the Palacia Episcopal, home of the bishop of Murcia. Both are worth exploring.

Tourists can enjoy the mild winters in Murcia, choosing from many outdoor activities. Water-sports lovers should visit the Mar Menor Nautical Center, open all year. It provides services for more than 20 water sports for everyone from beginner to expert. Dry-land adventurers can enjoy hiking, pony-trekking and rock-climbing. Evenings can be spent at the many lively bars and restaurants in the area around the university.

Three months — Nov. 17-23Bad Gastein, Austria: 125.40 pounds round tripFly British Airways from London Gatwick to Salzburg.

Catch the train from Salzburg to the mountain spa resort Bad Gastein for a vacation that combines relaxation and recreation in pure mountain air.

In the winter, Bad Gastein offers tourists more than 124 miles of slopes, going as high as 8,858 feet above sea level for skiing, boarding or carving whether you are a beginner or a pro. There are also plenty of beautiful landscapes for cross-country skiers and snowshoers to explore in peace and quiet.

Vacationers can find all the equipment that they will need at one of the resorts many rental centers.

The resort also offers plenty of child-friendly activities including many play zones, toboggan rides and evening sledding expeditions. Children can learn to ski under the direction of certified ski instructors during the winter or go on a llama trek in the summer.

The summer also offers plenty for the adults, with more than 75 miles of hiking trails that explore the hillsides’ clear streams and rivers, lakes and waterfalls. There is also an 18-hole golf course set against the great alpines and many cycling or mountain biking trails that lead to local farmhouses and mountain inns to keep everyone busy.

Year-round visitors can take advantage of the "healing" properties of the high-altitude and radon-enhanced waters and air at the Gastein Thermal Health Center. Besides a list of complimentary therapies such as massage, the center offers the Gastein Cure, which includes treatments in the mountains thermal waters, vapor baths and in the Healing Galleries. The people of Bad Gastein claim the galleries in carved-out tunnels in Radhausberg mountain have a healing climate with high humidity and elevated radon levels that infuse the body and are a potent natural therapy for many ailments.


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