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September 26, 2004|Maggie Barnett | Times Staff Writer


Merrier than at the mall

Do your holiday shopping in a winter wonderland during a nine-day tour of the Christmas markets of Germany and Austria beginning Dec. 4.

The tour group will spend the first five days in Germany shopping the markets of Wurzburg, Nuremberg and Rothenburg and visit the Imperial Castle in Wurzburg and "Mad King" Ludwig's castle in Linderhof.

A highlight of the trip is a traditional Christmas dinner in Munich.

In Austria, participants will visit Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg, then ride through the Austrian Tirol to Innsbruck to visit the Imperial Palace. There will be time to stroll the city or shop the Innsbruck Christmas market.

"One of the great things about these trips [is] the towns. They are so charming," said Paul Gonzales, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "It's like a fairy-tale shopping experience."

Cost: $1,744 per person, double occupancy ($433 single surcharge); includes seven nights' accommodation, airfare from Los Angeles, ground transportation, baggage handling, tours, lectures and excursions, some meals, and hotel and restaurant service charges and taxes.

Contact: AAA Travel Agency, Automobile Club of Southern California, Los Angeles; (213) 741-4160 or


Leisurely trek Down Under

SAIL aboard a catamaran on a tour of the Great Barrier Reef during a three-week journey in Australia and New Zealand beginning Jan. 18.

Tour-goers will start in Melbourne, visit the Yarra Valley, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef before moving on to New Zealand. There, the itinerary includes Queenstown, Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, the Fox Glacier, Christchurch and Auckland.

Cost: $5,995 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $1,195); includes airfare from Los Angeles, all internal flights, 18 nights' accommodation, most meals, sightseeing tours, entrance fees and gratuities. Airline taxes and departure fees not included.

Contact: Odysseys Unlimited, Watertown, Mass.; (888) 370-6765 or


Feasting on shrimp in Baja

Celebrate Mexico's "pink gold" during the San Felipe Shrimp Festival on the Gulf of California, starting Nov. 5.

The three-day tour will travel south from San Diego by bus along the Baja Pacific coast, stopping for lunch in Ensenada before crossing the peninsula to San Felipe.

Revelers can choose from among a variety of food vendors competing for the best shrimp dish, listen to mariachi bands, watch ballet folklorico performances or walk along the beach.

The tour returns through Mexicali.

Cost: $282 per person, double occupancy ($67 single surcharge); includes bus trip with guide from San Diego, two nights' accommodation and some meals.

Contact: Baja California Tours Inc., La Jolla; (800) 336-5454 or


Discover the North by rail

Ride the rails across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver on a seven-day sightseeing tour that begins Jan. 23.

Leaving from Toronto after a tour of the city, the group travels by bus to Niagara Falls and, the following day, boards the transcontinental train the Canadian, which travels through the plains and the Rocky Mountains.

The tour stops for lunch in Jasper, Alberta, and continues on to British Columbia. The final day is spent touring Vancouver.

Cost: $1,999 per person, double occupancy ($200 single surcharge); includes airfare from L.A., bus transportation, hotels and sleeping compartments on the train, most meals (without alcohol), sightseeing tours and admissions, baggage handling and taxes.

Contact: Great Western Tours, Pasadena; (626) 578-1161 or (800) 344-7090.


Indigenous plants, people

EXPLORE the west coast of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal on a 10-day Sierra Club cruise departing Nov. 24. Travelers on the 128-passenger Yorktown Clipper will be able to observe Costa Rica's wildlife and exotic plants.

The tour, led by the Sierra Club's Kern Hildebrand, begins in San Jose and travels by bus past the Poas Volcano to embark at Puerto Caldera. The small group will visit several of the country's national parks, including the Curu wildlife refuge, as well as Carara and Manuel Antonio national parks.

In Panama, the tour includes a stop at a remote village of the native Choco Indians in the Darien Jungle and a transit through the Panama Canal.

Cost: $3,595 per person, double occupancy ($1,680 single surcharge); includes all meals, lodging, shore excursions, guides and ground transportation. Airfare to San Jose is not included.

Contact: Sierra Club Outings, San Francisco, (415) 977-5522 or

The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. Send information to Tours & Cruises, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 or

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