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Nature volunteers needed

Outdoor buffs might want to look into a program benefitting Germany’s national parks, nature parks and biosphere reserves. Seeking volunteers from around the world, the Nationale Naturlandschaften Web site notes it needs volunteers with a variety of skills, from translating to working with rangers in park habitats. Jobs include protecting species and plants through activities such as tree-planting and building fences; leading excursions; monitoring animals and participating in research projects; maintaining park pathways and picnic areas; and doing office work, including data processing and press relations.

The site also has links to the European Volunteer Service, which offers young people up to age 30 the chance to participate in international volunteer projects.

See www.freiwillige-in-parks.de.

French food itineraries

Serious lovers of French gastronomy might be tempted to partake of an individualized itinerary drawn up by Wendy Lyn, an ex-pat who uses her expertise to research your requests, make arrangements and, if requested, accompany you.

Among the possibilities in Paris are wine-tastings in personal cellars and information on starting wine collections, cocktail and dinner parties in residents’ homes, trips to the best wine bars, private visits to Champagne cellars and lessons from a top food photographer.

In Provence, you might visit lavender and sunflower fields, olive and nut oil mills and vineyards; take classes in wine and food production; and take private cooking classes.

Prices begin at 250 euros for a day itinerary. Details at www.wendy-lyn.com.

Best BetsENGLAND: The promoters call Sunday’s Thames Festival "London’s biggest end-of-the-summer party." Held from noon to 10 p.m. between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge along the city’s major waterway, the celebration features a river pageant, river race, food stands, free workshops, concerts, films and music. In the evening, the Tongliang Dragon (Wriggle Dragon), a special 50-meter-long Chinese dragon, makes its appearance to lead the Night Carnival. For details, go to www.thamesfestival.org.

London’s Eltham Palace, whose history dates back 800 years, was redesigned in the 1930s, combining the then-popular and ornate art deco style. So what better venue to hold the Art Deco Fair on Sunday? Those who love the style originating in Paris with its geometrics and bright colors can find original 1930s items, ranging from furniture to jewelry. The fair is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is 8.20 pounds (about $15) for adults, 4.10 pounds for children. Find details at www.english-heritage.org.uk.

GERMANY: The biggest wine festival in the world runs Friday through Sept. 16 and again Sept. 19 to 22 in Bad Dürkheim. The Wurstmarkt (Sausage Market) offers wines from the region in the venue of your choice: a large rowdy wine (or beer) hall, a chummy Schubkärchler (small traditional stand) or a table in the peaceful wine village. For a little excitement, amusement rides offer a range of thrills, from the Music Express carousel to the XXL, which claims to be the world’s largest swing ride going up to 45 meters. Add to that entertainment and, of course, sausages. See more details on Page 23, and at at www.duerkheimer-wurstmarkt.de.

ITALY: The story goes that in 1454, two noblemen fell in love with the Lord of Marostica’s daughter. To avoid the loss of either man in the usual traditional duel for her hand, the lord instead had the suitors play a game of chess, with his daughter as the prize. This game, however, was to be played in front of the castle with armed people as playing pieces. Adding a festive air to the occasion, the lord threw in entertainment with theater, music and fireworks and invited the entire town. Today, everyone is once again invited to Vicenza for the biannual two-hour re-enactments of that colorful human game on a great marble chess board in the castle square, featuring more than 550 characters. Performances will be offered at 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, with a Sunday matinee at 5. Tickets run from 10 euros to 80 euros, depending on the day and seating. See www.marosticascacchi.it.

What better place to hold a pizza festival than in the city where it originated: Naples? Through Sept. 21 you can enjoy this gastronomic symbol of Italy in the Mostra d’Oltremare fairgrounds, along with wine and entertainment. The festival is open 7 p.m. to midnight. The city Web site is www.comune.napoli.it.

WALES: The 12th-century Dinefwr Castle in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, is the site for this year’s World Sheepdog Trials, which run through the weekend. Sheep dog handlers from 22 countries will compete to win the world championship, testing their skills at managing their woolly charges in everyday situations. In addition to the qualifying rounds, there will be equestrian stunt shows; falconry demonstrations; dog agility, fly ball, gun dog and heel work demonstrations; and food and crafts stands.

Day tickets cost 8 pounds (about $15) for adults, 3 pounds for children 5 to 16 years. Four-day passes also are available. Find more details at www.worldsheepdogtrials.org.


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