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Tours & Cruises

Barging for a Bit Lesson Europe's Waterways

July 01, 2001|KARIN ESTERHAMMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Float a little easier down Europe's waterways with a discount in July and August for one-week barge cruises.

Go Barging, which specializes in canal cruising, takes visitors through some of Europe's loveliest landscapes and best-preserved medieval and Renaissance towns and villages.

During those two months, the discount is $250 per person for cruises on the waterways of France, England or Scotland.

Each barge accommodates six to 12 passengers. There are plenty of stops to visit historic abbeys, castles, museums and wineries, to stroll through open-air markets and to meet local people. Bicycles are available for those who want to pedal off to see more of the countryside.

An on-board chef prepares meals based on the regional cuisine.

All cabins have windows that open, storage space and a private bath or shower.

A minivan accompanies the barge to take guests on daily excursions.

Cost: from $1,990 per person, double occupancy, including cabin and all meals. International air fare is extra.

Contact: Go Barging; telephone (800) 394-8630, Internet http://www.gobarging.com.

Colorado: Pioneer Trip

Every Saturday through August, authentic wagon trains will trace wagon routes through Pawnee National Grassland in northeastern Colorado.

This travel adventure through time starts each Saturday night with a Western-style feast at a ghost town followed by three days on the trail. On Wednesday the group loops back to Sterling, shakes off the trail dust in a motel, visits the Overland Trail Museum and returns to the Denver airport.

Highlights of the trip include finding--but not keeping--Indian arrowheads, learning about ancient tepee rings, storytelling around the campfire and a visit by a mountain man. And it's always possible that an Indian medicine man will drop by or a cowboy or two might stop to share some grub.

Cooked fresh on the trail every day, the food is Western: steaks, homemade biscuits and gravy, flapjacks, bacon and eggs. Guests will live like pioneers but will have such camping comforts as cots, tents and sleeping bags.

All ages are welcome, although the trip is not recommended for children younger than 6.

The wagons are bumpy, and many participants prefer to alternate riding and walking (one to two miles a day).

Cost: $650 per person, with a 10% discount for children younger than 12. All camp gear and meals on the trail are included. Not included: air fare to Denver and lodging and food in Sterling.

Contact: Wagon Train Vacations; tel. (800) 284-0367, http://www.wagontrainvacations.com.

Colorado River: Rafting

Paddle the Colorado River through a 26-mile stretch of red sandstone and shale canyons on a canoe trip Aug. 17 to 19. Participants may take side trips into deep box canyons, exploring a landscape created over millions of years.

A Denver Museum of Nature and Science zoology research associate will lead the group. The river current, gentle enough for a novice paddler, offers occasional small Class 1 rapids to add a little excitement.

Cost: $305 for adults, $215 for children 8 to 12. The trip includes canoe guides, all meals from breakfast on the first day through lunch on the third day, and pre-trip canoe instruction at Cherry Creek Reservoir. Not included are tent and sleeping bag, transportation to the site and entrance fee to Cherry Creek State Park for a practice session. Participants also pay for their trip to Denver, where a shuttle will take them to the launch spot.

Contact: Denver Museum of Nature and Science; tel. (303) 370-6304, http://www.dmns.org.

Pyrenees: Biking

Explore a remote corner of Europe, the Pyrenees, on a bicycle journey that departs Sept. 14. The cycling route crosses the border between France and Spain several times as it winds through foothills.

This 15-day ride goes from the Atlantic Coast to the balmy beaches of the Mediterranean, and the territory in between is a diverse region of meadowland, ice-clad peaks and bare rock canyons. The average daily cycling distance is 35 miles, and longer or shorter distances are available to cyclists of different abilities. The terrain is hilly. Van support is available.

Cost: $3,395 per person, including first-class hotels, gourmet dining and a support vehicle. International air fare is extra. The tour is limited to 20.

Contact: Gerhard's Bicycle Odysseys, P.O. Box 757, Portland, OR 97207; tel. (800) 966-2402, http://www.since1974.com.

Ireland: Walking

Walkers can follow the paths of saints and poets through Ireland's Ring of Kerry with the Wayfarers of Rhode Island. Departures are scheduled for Aug. 6 and Sept. 3 and 24. History and Celtic culture are an integral part of the walk. Highlights include a visit to the birthplace of Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell. The itinerary also takes the group to the town of Kenmare and some 16th century gardens. Other stops include a stone circle, a Franciscan abbey and the ancient Staigue Fort in County Kerry.

The Wayfarers guides are experts in the region's history, literature and flora and fauna.

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