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Gardens of the Rich and Famous in France

February 04, 1996|KARIN DOMINELLO

Visit villas and gardens in Southern France that were created for the rich and famous in the early 1900s on May 3-13. Galleries with artworks by Impressionists are on the itinerary, as are country markets with items made from provincial fabrics.

The tour starts in Nice with visits to the flower market, the rose garden at the Cimiez Monastery and the Chagall and Matisse museums. Then on to see the Serre de la Madone garden created by American gardener Lawrence Johnston after he had created Hidcote in England. Included are visits to Hanbury Gardens across the Italian border and Monaco Jardin Exotique. Baronness Rothschild's collection of antiques and objects d'art are seen.

The second part of the tour goes west to Aix-en-Provence and takes in the homes of Cezanne and Renoir plus Arles and St. Remy de-Provence, where Van Gogh painted. Scenic drives take the group to ancient chateaux and hilltop villages in the Luberon Mountains, the setting for the book "A Year in Provence."

The last hotel is near the perfume capital of Grasse, which offers a chance to sample and see how the scents are produced.

Cost: $2,985 per person, double occupancy, including hotels, tours, events and most meals. Not included: international air fare. Contact: Ingatours, 5 The Dell, Pinner, Middx. HA5 3EW, England; telephone (800) 581-0911 (Note: eight hours ahead) or U.S. travel agent Marilyn Emdebrant: tel. (800) 786-5311.

Backyard Getaway

A two-night tour to the palm-lined avenues of Palm Springs and the mountain apple orchard village of Julian is offered by Pierce College Extension on March 22. The group will travel from Los Angeles by motor coach, spending two nights at the Spa Resort Hotel in Palm Springs, which features a health spa, mineral whirlpool baths and a casino. There will be a stop at the shopping outlet of Cabazon, then on to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a ride to the top of Mt. San Jacinto.

Guests tour Palm Springs with a guide who will point out the homes of celebrities. The communities of Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert are seen before departing for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This time of year the park is usually full of colorful wildflowers.

Cost: $299 per person, double occupancy, including motor coach transportation, two nights deluxe hotel accommodations, sightseeing and tram ride. Contact: Pierce College Extension, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91371; tel. (818) 719-6425.

That's Italian

A travel program focusing on the cultures, cuisine and the arts of Italy will be conducted April 2 to 14 by Faith Flam, director of the Ethnic Experience, an educational workshop. The excursion will include three nights each in Rome, Florence and Venice, with two nights in Siena.

In Rome, visits include the Vatican Museums with a collection of art, maps, tapestries and Michaelangelo's masterpiece painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A walking tour of the Jewish quarter--the oldest Jewish community in the West located on the banks of the Tiber River and once a walled ghetto--will be part of the itinerary in Rome.

After traveling by private motor coach to Siena, there will be a stop in Assisi to view Giotto's frescoes depicting the life of St. Francis, and in Siena for Easter celebrations. Before reaching Florence, the tour visits San Gimignano, a Tuscany must-see with its narrow cobbled streets and alleys, which has kept its medieval appearance virtually unchanged throughout the centuries.

The motor coach continues through the Umbrian and Tuscan countryside before arriving in Florence, home of Michelangelo, the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza Della Signoria. Guests see the Uffizi Gallery, with works by artists Da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael. A visit outside of Florence for a wine tasting and luncheon in an ancient castle is on the schedule before heading for Venice for three nights.

Cost: $3,098 including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, ground transportation, hotels, daily breakfasts and six meals, transfers, entrance fees and guide throughout. College credit is available through Cal State Northridge. Contact: Faith Flam, Ethnic Experience; tel. (818) 789-7046.

Size of Texas

Robert Bezy, Curator of Herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, will lead a trip to Big Bend National Park, the "Last Frontier of Texas," from April 20 to 27. Participants will have a private, guided tour at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, curatorial tours at the Museum of the Big Bend and the Overland Museum, and a private star viewing session at McDonald Observatory. The trip includes a half-day rafting trip down the Rio Grande and a chuck-wagon dinner with western entertainment. Accommodations include the historic El Paso Camino Real Hotel, a working cattle ranch and a mountain lodge within the National Park.

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