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Lease a Swiss cowThose who want to really participate in the dividing of the Swiss cheese (see this week’s Best Bets) might want to take up a special offer: lease a cow for the summer.

The Family Wyler has had the tradition for 25 years and suggests it makes for a great family holiday in the summer. You choose a cow from about 105 candidates (photos available) and get the cheese (minimum of 30 kilograms) from the milk she produces when you visit in the fall.

Two offers are available. The “full leasing” fee costs 380 Swiss francs (about $315) and you “own” the cow June through September. You also get a certificate, a guided tour of the farm, refreshments, and a cow visit with instruction in milking and care of the cow. It also includes four hours working in the Alps with your cow during which you might pick stones from its hooves or help with other cow care. In September, her cheese is yours.

A “partial lease” costs 200 Swiss francs and is good for one month. It includes the cow certificate, farm visit and refreshments (no cow work). You also receive a maximum of 10 kilograms of her cheese.

Find details on the Web at www.kuhleasing.ch (in German).

Wine trips in FranceIf you’re interested in Bordeaux wine and culture, you might want to take up some offers by Vitivinitour.

The two-day Destination Wine Harvest lets you participate in the winemaking process directly. After an introductory lecture at the Bordeaux Wine School, participants travel to the Sauternes vineyards, where they get involved in the process from picking the grapes, observing in the vat room and watching the first fermentation (with tastings).

The cost is 450 euros per person, double occupancy, and includes tasting course at the school and vineyard excursions, one night’s accommodation, two lunches and one dinner. It runs Sept. 22-23, 29-30 and Oct. 6-7.

If you prefer sipping wine and enjoying art, then the two-day Art and Wine — Private Collections in the Medoc program might be for you. On the first day you attend a wine-tasting and oenology course at the school and a free visit to either the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art or Museum of Decorative Arts. On the second day, you visit three Grand Crus (with tastings) and visit the private art collections.

The price per person, double occupancy, is 280 euros (three-star hotel) or 310 euros (four-star) hotel. It includes one night’s accommodation, two lunches, one dinner, wine visits and tastings and museum visit.

For information on these and other packages, go to www.tourisme-vin-bordeaux.com/en.

Best BetsGERMANY: Although it’s called a sausage festival, Bad Dürkheim’s Wurstmarkt is actually the country’s biggest wine fest. It begins Friday and runs through Tuesday, resumes the following Friday and finishes on Sept. 17. The fest features 36 wine stands, food stalls and wine tents, along with 15 amusement rides and games. Depending on the number of guests, they stay open until midnight Sunday through Tuesday and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Details at www.duerkheimer-wurstmarkt.de (in German).

ITALY: Rome stays up all night Saturday for La Notte Bianca, or “White Night,” an evening of free entertainment put on by major museums, cultural organizations and sports centers. This year’s theme is “The World in One Night,” and it runs from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next day. After 10 p.m., public transportation is free. If you want to start earlier, “Waiting for La Notte Bianca” has a program for Friday night. Details at www.lanottebianca.it.

Naples’ annual Pizza Fest, which pays homage to one of the city’s best-known products, runs through Sept. 16. On the program are dough-making and topping contests and plenty of entertainment. See www.pizzafest.info/2007/home.htm (in Italian).

SWITZERLAND: According to www.alpenregion.ch, Switzerland’s cows are milked in the summer pastures in the Alps and cheese is made and stored in huts. In the fall, the cheese must be distributed fairly to the farmers. How is this done since not all cows produce the same amount or quality of milk? A mathematical formula called the Mäsmälchen is used to figure out the vagaries of production by the cows of each farmer. The distribution takes place at an annual event called a Chasteilet. This Sunday’s Chasteilet is in Hasliberg in the Mägis Alps region.

— Jayne Traendly

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