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Volcano tours

Now’s the time to see Iceland. Surprised? Take it from the organizers of volcano tours in Iceland at www.icelandtotal.com. They report that while the eruptions by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano affected flights to and from much of Europe last week, it had limited effect on Iceland itself. The Keflavik International Airport had remained open with flights to North America during most of the time as strong northwest winds blew ash out to sea. Contamination was centered on the southeast coast, while Keflavik International and Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, are in the southwest, where ash was nonexistent.

The tour company has altered but is still offering its Jeep volcano tours to the eruption site and say they will offer tours for the next weeks and perhaps months (they note that they have no way of knowing when the volcanic activity will stop). These seven- to eight-hour trips leave in the early evening so participants have the night sky as a backdrop to the thundering explosions. Tours start at 206 euros per person.

Other options offered by the company include helicopter tours of the volcano, starting at 587 euros, horseback riding, Northern Lights tours, Jeep trips around the island and self-drive tours.

The website also has current photos of the eruptions.

See Queen Mary 2

The harbor in Hamburg, Germany, celebrates its 821st birthday May 7-9 with a variety of maritime events, including a parade of ships, boat races, a two-mile harbor tour, food, entertainment and fireworks.

Among the highlights is the arrival of the Queen Mary 2, flagship of Cunard’s luxury ocean liners. For those who would like to get a close, outside view of the "Queen of the Seas," the tourist board is offering one-hour boat photo tours leaving at 11 a.m., and 1, 3 and 5 p.m. on May 8 and 13 from the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken. Cost of the tour is 12 euros for adults and 6 euros for children 12 and younger. Additional tours will be organized for Aug. 16 and 26 when the ship returns to Hamburg.

For details on tours and festival events, go to www.hamburg.de.

Park, sleep, fly

The website www.parksleep fly.com offers packages that include a night at an airport hotel, parking for seven to 14 days and a shuttle ride to the airport.

For example, the current price at the Albatros Airport Hotel, InterCity Hotel and Holiday Inns near the Frankfurt international airport in Germany run from 108 to 151 euros for two people. The packages are subject to availability.

The arrangement, widely popular in North America, is also offered at airports in Brussels, Belgium; Düsseldorf, Germany; Dublin, Ireland; Madrid, Spain; and Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Best betsCZECH REPUBLIC: On May 6, 1945, the U.S. 2nd and 97th Infantry Divisions and the 16th Armored Division officially entered Plzen and liberated it from the Germans. This Saturday through May 7, the city will celebrate the 65th anniversary of the event with its annual Liberation Festival, which this year will focus on war veterans. On the program are excursions to World War II sites, re-enactment camps, a re-creation of a 1945 street in Plzen, military market, historical military vehicle parade, memorial ceremonies and cultural program. Get details at www.liberationfestival.com.

FRANCE: On April 29, 1429, young Joan of Arc entered the besieged city of Orleans and, by May 8, she and her troops had freed it from the English. Beginning Thursday with a procession and sound-and-light show and continuing through May 9, the city remembers the heroine with its annual Fêtes de Jeanne d’Arc. Saturday’s events, which run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., begin with a medieval market and village, horse shows, camps, entertainment and procession. On May 8, the official tribute takes place with church services, provincial dances, military parade and historical procession led by Joan d’Arc. Find more at www.fetesjeannedarc.com.

GERMANY: Friday through the weekend, the Castle Museum Ronneburg in the state of Hesse celebrates Walpurgis Night and May Day, holidays noted in many Northern European countries. Walpurgis Night is named after St. Walpurga, an eighth-century abbess whose feast day is May 1. On the evening before, it’s said witches celebrate before they’re banished by the light of that day. On Friday at 8 p.m., the castle is the backdrop for a fantasy medieval world with a market and knights camp. An outdoor theater will present "The Fire Rutans" and "Fangdorn," the story of the last living dragon, followed by a fiery finale just before midnight featuring knights, Middle Ages performers and musicians. On the weekend, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the castle grounds open again with a program of medieval entertainment and the market. "The Fire Rutans" and "Fangdorn" shows are repeated at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Tickets cost 10 euros for adults and 6 euros for children 5 to 14. Children under 5 get in free. See www.burg-ronneburg.de.

SPAIN: Even Aristotle praised the beauty of the purebred Spanish horse, which is today closely associated with the Andalusia region. Each year Jerez de la Frontera celebrates this elegant beast with the Fiera del Caballo, or horse fair, this year running Saturday to May 9. First held as an animal market in 1284, the event is a colorful program that attracts not only horse lovers but also those interested in rural Spanish culture. On the program are a wide variety of horse events, costumed riders promenading in González de Hontoria park, stands offering the local sherry, bullfights, dance competitions and performances at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. Find information at www.turismojerez.com.

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