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Sweet discountsIf you’re considering something special for Valentine’s Day, you might want to consider a cruise with Viking Cruise Line. If you reserve your trip by Feb. 7, you receive $400 off the cabin price.

The cruises travel various locations in Europe, Russia and China. For example, the seven- night Danube River trip from Budapest, Hungary, goes through Austria to Nuremberg, Germany. In addition to watching the scenery, you visit seven ports for tours: Budapest, Vienna, Melk (Benedictine abbey), Passau, Regensburg, Kelheim (Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Gorge by boat) and Nuremberg.

The tour price begins at $1,799 per person, double occupancy, and includes the cruise, city tours with transportation, all meals, welcome reception and dinner, Captain’s Farewell Dinner, individual port guides and payment of port taxes.

The exotic nine-day Imperial Jewels of China, Beijing to Shanghai, begins at $2,598 per person, double occupancy. Highlights include a four-night cruise on the Yangtze River; six nights’ accommodations in Shanghai, Xian and Beijing; tours to Shanghai (Bund, silk carpet workshop, Shanghai Museum), Three Gorges Dam, Lesser Three Gorges, Fengdu (Snow Jade Cave), Xian (Terra Cotta Army), Beijing (Great Wall, Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace); nine days of meals, farewell dinner, airport transfers, in- country flights and port charges.

See www.vikingrivercruises.com.

African safariThose who have dreamed of taking a real African safari might be interested in a trip to Kenya from Aug. 8 to 16.

The “Serengeti Plains Stopover Photo Safari” has been organized by Jacqueline Wade of International Safaris. Wade lives in Germany and has been offering trips for 25 years. Group size is 10 to 12 people.

After an overnight in Nairobi, tourgoers fly to Amboseli National Park at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro for a game drive to see elephants, cheetahs, lions, buffaloes, zebras, rhinos, giraffes and antelopes. The next site is Sweetwater Tented Camp on the foothills of Mount Kenya and home of the Jane Goodall chimp research center. That’s followed by a flight across the Great Rift Valley to the Masai Mara to explore land over which migratory herds of wildebeests and zebras move up from the Serengeti Plains. The trip ends in Nairobi.

The cost is $4,996 per person, double occupancy, and includes in-country flights, lodging, park fees, safari meals, game drives, private driver/guide per vehicle and taxes.

The company also will be offering The Great Migrations of East Africa in Tanzania Feb. 1-8, 2008.

Call (+49) (0)7253-279434 or e-mail at intsafari@aol.com.

Ride le Tour routeEven if you can’t qualify for the Tour de France, you can bike the Alps routes on a tour with Discover France.

The company is offering five options, all for strong riders.

The self-guided group, Freney l’Oisans, will ride July 15-20 in a group of 10. Highlights include one stage of the pro race on the summit of the Col de Galibier, as well as the Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes, Cols de Glandon and Crois de Fer. Hill grades are 7 percent to 12 percent, and biking time takes three to six hours.

The cost is 780 euros per person, double occupancy, and includes five nights’ accommodations, dinners and buffet breakfasts; route book with maps and cue sheets for all rides, including information on sites along the route; plus souvenir cycling jersey, energy drinks and bars, emergency support and arrival orientation.

There is also a semi-guided trip in the Pyrenees for 30 participants July 21-26 for 1,350 euros.

For those who want more of a tour experience, there’s the guided La Clusaz–Les Deux Alpes ride July 13-20 in a group of 14. Highlights include three stages of the pro race, including Le Grand Bornand, Col de Galibier, and Col de Tamnie or Grand Bornand. Other climbs include Alpe d’Huez, Glandon/ Croix de Fer and other scenic routes. The ride is fully supported by the agency’s team members.

The cost is 1,845 euros per person, double occupancy, and includes seven nights’ accommodations, dinners, buffet breakfasts; ride guide, mechanic, support vehicle; a phone card plus energy drinks and bars, souvenir cycling jersey, arrival and departure transfers, full road book with maps and cue sheets.

Private tours also can be arranged; www.discoverfrance.com/TDF.html#tours.

Best BetsSWITZERLAND: Although snowfall is scanty this year, the Belalp Witches Race and festival is under way. The event is said to be based on a medieval legend in which a married witch from Belalp turned into a raven to fly to her illicit love trysts. She is said to have killed her husband by emptying her bird entrails in his eyes and forcing him to fall from a ladder. Today’s festival, peaks Friday with all-night parties and on Saturday with the witches race. Groups of skiers dressed in witch costumes begin the 12-kilometer run at 11 a.m., fortified by barrels containing some kind of alcoholic brew on their backs. Details at www.belalphexe.ch (in German).

GERMANY: The tourist board is waiting until the last minute to decide whether hundreds of dogs will compete in this year’s Todtmoos sled- dog races. If you want to attend this race and social event, call ahead to know their decision. The number is (+49) (0) 7674/ 9060-0. The e-mail address is info@todtmoos.net. The Web site: www.todtmoos.de.

— Jayne Traendly


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