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Reindeer in Scotland?

Not all reindeer live at the North Pole or in Scandinavia.

If the kids want to see the high-performance animals that power Santa’s sled, take them to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park. Introduced to the country in 1952, 50 of the country’s free-range herd live in their natural environment on the Cairngorm Mountains and the Cromdale Hills.

Through December, a cold-weather program includes a 10 a.m. breakfast date in the paddocks watching the reindeer being fed, and an 11 a.m. visit to the herd in the Cairngorm Mountains. On weekends, Santa visits between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Between May and September, the warmer weather also allows for a 2:30 p.m. hill visit.

Entry is 9 pounds for adults (about $15), 4.50 pounds for children 6 to 16 and free for children younger than 6.

For hikers, a four-hour reindeer trek can be organized through the park’s open moorland and along mountain trails. Each person can lead his or her own halter-trained reindeer on an easy-paced hike. The cost is 45 pounds per person. Find more details at http://www.reindeer-company.demon.co.uk.

Athens marathon

Next year’s Athens marathon on Oct. 31 in Greece will have a special meaning: It’s the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Legend says that a Greek soldier, Pheidippides, ran from a battlefield at the town of Marathon all the way to Athens to carry the news that the outnumbered Greeks had defeated the Persians. On his arrival in Athens, he supposedly cried, "Niki!" (Victory!), and then collapsed and died.

Today’s marathon runs the original course used during the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 from Marathon to Athens’ Panathinaikon Stadium.

Those who would like to run the course and do some sightseeing may be interested in what Apostolos Greek Tours has to offer. The agency is taking early reservations for its six- and 11-day packages to Athens during the race.

The six-day package costs approximately $1,685 per person (this is a 2009 price — the 2010 price is still being negotiated). It includes five nights of accommodations with breakfasts, a city tour of Athens and visits to the Acropolis and Agora, a visit to Marathon and a preview of the race route, transportation to the race with snacks on the bus and along the route, a pre-race pasta dinner and race orientation.

The 11-day package costs approximately $2,590 and includes the above itinerary plus guided tours to the Delphi, Epidavros, Mycenae and the flea market in Athens’ Plaka and three dinners. It also includes 10 nights lodging and two on-bus running clinics.

The Apostolos Greek Tours Web site is www.athensmarathon.com. Race registration is scheduled to begin in February. Details will be on the official Web site, www.athensclassicmarathon.gr, the beginning of January.

Turkey for the holidays

Spend your Christmas holiday exploring the city that was once the capital of the Christian empire under the Emperor Constantine: Istanbul, Turkey. The trip is organized by Esendal International Tourism & Travel of Turkey and runs Dec. 22 to Dec. 26.

City tours on Dec. 23, 24 and 25 visit the highlights of the city: the Spice Bazaar, Dolmabahce Palace, ancient city walls, Golden Horn, the Chora church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Greek patriarchate, Basilica Cistern, Haghia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace, Archeological Museum and Grand Bazaar. Also included is a cruise on the Bosphorus strait.

On Christmas Eve, visitors will have dinner and attend a service at the popular neo-Gothic Church of St. Antoine.

The price depends on the number of people participating and doesn’t include air fare. Accommodations are in double rooms. Per person, the cost for two is 850 euros; for four, 605 euros; for six, 520 euros; and for eight, 480 euros. It includes four nights in four- or five-star hotels, return airport transfers, land transportation in luxury vehicles, sightseeing fees and Christmas dinner.

Esendal also offers a New Year’s Eve tour Dec. 28-Jan. 1. Request info at tours@esendaltourism.com


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