Lighthouse hotelFor a different romantic hotel experience, head to Karnin on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom in eastern Germany and spend a night in the Lotsenturm, a 70-year-old lighthouse directly on the water.

Everything in the lighthouse is round, says the owner: the stairway, rooms, whirlpool, bed and deck with a panoramic view of a nearby bay. After an introductory tour of the lighthouse, the place is yours with no one else around, interrupted only by breakfast left on the stairs.

The cost for two is 220 euros (about $347) per night Sunday through Thursday and 250 euros per night on Friday and Saturday. After the third day, the price drops to 180 euros. Details at (in German).

Theater in the New YearSerious theatergoers may be interested in the British Theater Backstage tour in London conducted by Barbara Isenberg, a journalist in Los Angeles. The tour, which runs Dec. 28 to Jan. 6, combines attending the best of the current London theater, meeting with leading British theater artists and critics, and sightseeing during the day.

Highlights include six theater performances; discussions with a National Theater production manager, theater director or designer, London Times theater critic Benedict Nightingale and a leading theater artist; excursion to an exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts, Saatchi Gallery, De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea and The Royal Pavilion in Brighton; a concert in Wigmore Hall; New Year’s Eve dinner and celebration; and a traditional tea in the Chesterfield Hotel.

The cost is $5,940 per person, double occupancy, and includes eight nights at the Cavendish Hotel, plus transportation to and from events. Contact Susan Holden at Protravel at

Best BetsFRANCE: André Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the construction of the Palace of Versailles, also designed the Tuileries gardens near the Louvre. The 63 acres based on his blueprint make a great place for a garden festival — and that’s just what visitors to "Jardins, Jardins aux Tuilieres" can expect.

The Paris Tourist Board says the festival will feature nursery workers and horticulturists offering professional advice, workshops, exhibitions and a variety of artistic landscape projects.

Among them are the "Jardin des Abeilles" (bee garden), the "Jardin Exotique Parisien" (exotic Parisian garden), "Un Jardin Suspendu dans l’R du temps" (a hanging garden for today), the "Terrasse en Ville" (town balcony) and the "Jardin Ephémère" (ephemeral garden).

The festival is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is 10 euros for adults, free for ages 18 and younger. The Web site is (in French).

GERMANY: Each year the Chinese celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival to honor poet Qu Yuan, who committed suicide by throwing himself into a river with a large stone. On this day the Chinese ride in boats shaped like dragons and beat drums and gongs to scare off monsters and predatory fish to commemorate the time his devotees did the same to protect the poet’s body from being eaten until they retrieved it.

Friday through the weekend, Frankfurt celebrates its own version of the festival on the Main River.

Up to 66 teams of 18 to 20 paddlers and a drummer in colorful dragon boats are registered to compete on a 985-foot course between the Untermainbrücke and Eisernem Steg, On the Sachsenhäuser Ufer, the south bank of the river, live acts and food will entertain viewers. Details at

The town of Bad Wimpfen, on the Historic Castles Route on the Neckar River, returns to the Middle Ages this weekend during the Staufer Medieval Festival. Activities begin both days with a medieval parade starting at 12:45 p.m. From 1 p.m., the festival grounds are filled with medieval action, such as fighting and weapon shows, games and food.

At 4 p.m., knights clash in a mounted tournament, followed at 6 p.m. with a children’s tournament. Tickets cost 8 euros for adults, 3 for children.

Find more information, in German, at; the Bad Wimpfen Web site is

NETHERLANDS: The world’s largest Eurasian festival, celebrating its golden anniversary on the Malieveld in the center of The Hague, runs through the weekend. Walk through the Grand Pasar and find hundreds of stalls offering Eastern merchandise and food. Or enter one of the five theaters where the Tong Tong Festival is being held, and catch a music and dance act in the Bintang Theatre, a cooking demonstration in the Culinary Theater, a performance in the Bibit Theatre or a workshop in the Bengkel studio.

The festival runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekend. Tickets for adults are 11.50 euros on Friday and 14 euros on the weekend. Children 2 to 11 pay 4.50 euros. Details at

— Jayne Traendly

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