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Irish bus tourIf you’d like a quick overview of Ireland, consider C.I.E. Tours International’s “A Taste of Ireland” bus tours.

The packages are six or eight days long and cost from $598 (land only) to $853 per person, double occupancy, depending on whether you reserve for October, November or December.

The price includes airport transfers; tea and scones at a farmhouse; sightseeing by coach; a tour of Dublin; the services of a professional Irish driver/guide; a ferry ride across the River Shannon; superior and first- class hotels for four nights; three dinners, including at Doyle’s Irish Cabaret, a medieval banquet in Bunratty Castle and a dinner in Killarney; admission to Dublin Castle, Blarney Castle, Blarney Woolen Mills, the “Essence of Kerry” and “Skellig Experience” audio-visual shows; and the Cliffs of Moher.

The site also has a “Taste of Scotland” tour starting at $748 as well as other itineraries, including independent travel and cruises. Find details on all tours, including those for 2008, at www.cietours.com.

German holidaysThe German Tourist Board hopes to tempt you with the following packages:

• Saarland hikes: “Three Days on the Best Three” is the Saarland Tourist Board’s offer for hikers who want to walk on what it calls the three best paths in Germany. The paths are in the three-country corner of Germany, France and Luxembourg.

The special begins at 149 euros per person, double occupancy, and includes two nights’ lodging in Losheim am See, breakfasts, three-course dinner, brandy and beer tasting, entry to the wellness center and a hiking map.

For those who would like to make a pilgrimage, the tourist board also offers a two-night package along the Jacobs Road from Hornbach over Saarbrücken or to Sarreguemines.

The package costs 147 euros per person, double occupancy, and includes two nights’ accommodations with breakfasts, welcome drink, transfer service to the hotel and hiking brochure with pilgrim’s pass.

The tourist board’s telephone number is (+49) (0) 681-927- 2019. Its Web site is www.tourismus.saarland.de/hiking.

• Harz specials: The Jacobs Residenz in Ballenstedt in the Harz Mountains has a variety of offers for three holiday apartments in a beautiful 18th-century building.

A weekend “short trip” costs 89 euros per person, double occupancy. It includes accommodations, breakfast buffet and a three-course meal or buffet in a local restaurant.

A Sunday through Friday “Active and Fit” package costs 159 euros per person, double occupancy. It includes five nights’ accommodations, breakfasts, Nordic walking course, a walk through Burg Falkenstein, a train ride from Quedlinburg to Mägdesprung and bike rental.

A family special for two adults, two children and one infant costs 279 euros. It includes five nights’ accommodations, breakfasts and entrance to the Aschersleben zoo.

The Residenz Web site is www.residenz-jacobs.de. Its telephone number is (+49) (0) 394-83-97538 and e-mail address is c.jacobs@residenz- jacobs.de.

• Short and sweet: The Dorint Hotel Chain is offering “Kurz und Gut!” four-night package deals good throughout the year.

The offer at the Berlin Adlershof and Berlin Tegel hotels, for example, costs 199 euros per person. It includes four nights’ accommodations, breakfasts, evening buffet and use of spa facilities. Other prices are available at locations throughout Germany, as well as Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Basel, Switzerland, and Prague.

Details at www.dorint.com (in German).

Cooking weekendIf two or more of you are interested in a weekend cooking course and holiday on the Liguria Eastern Riviera near the Cinque Terre National Park in Italy, consider this offer from the four-star La Francesca Resort and Villas.

The program costs 350 euros per person and includes two nights’ accommodations in a cottage that overlooks the sea, breakfasts, two dinners, two self-prepared lunches and two two-hour cooking lessons on choosing ingredients and using basic cooking tools.

Details at www.villaggilafrancesca.it/en

Best BetsGERMANY: The oldest handicrafts fair in the Odenwald is this weekend in Michelstadt’s Odenwaldmusem and Schenkenkeller. Sixty exhibitors at the Autumn Market will demonstrate traditional techniques, such as dish painting, glassmaking, basket weaving, spinning and toy making. Other products include newly pressed olive oil, soaps and candles and Christmas items. The market opens Saturday at noon and Sunday at 10 a.m. and closes both days at 6 p.m. Tickets cost 3 euros for adults; children up to 14 get in free. Details at www.odenwaldmaerkte.de (there is an English version).

The first Mountain Cheese Olympics will be held in the Alpine town of Oberstdorf through the weekend. More than 400 types of cheeses from 10 countries are expected. The minimum requirement for competitors is that they must have been made from milk of cows grazing at altitudes higher than 650 meters. A jury will evaluate them for appearance, texture, consistency, flavor and aroma. Find more details at www.oberstdorf.de.

IRELAND: Halloween has become a big party in Dublin and the surrounding area with events culminating in the Samhain (“summer’s end”) parade on Oct. 31. The Hallowfest for families will be held on the grounds of the South Dublin County Council in Tallaght from 2-5 p.m. Sunday and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. On Halloween, the grand parade begins at about 7 p.m. in Dublin’s Parnell Square and travels through the city to the Temple Bar quarter, where the party begins and finally ends with fireworks. If you’re “suitably attired,” you can march in the parade. The Web site for the Hallowfest is www.hallowfest.ie.

SCOTLAND: “Out of Eden: Scotland and Africa” is the theme of this year’s Storytelling Festival, Friday through Nov. 4 in Edinburgh. Alexander McCall Smith, author of the popular “Ladies’ Detective Agency” series, based in Botswana, will join a program that includes storytelling events, workshops, training, literature, music, song and visual arts events. Find the program at www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk/festival/scottish_storytelling_festival.htm.

— Jayne Traendly

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