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TOURS & CRUISES | MEXICO

Heads up on history, haciendas

November 06, 2005|Maggie Barnett | Times Staff Writer

DISCOVER the arts of Veracruz, Puebla and Tlaxcala on a cultural tour of the Mexican region that begins Jan. 12.

The 11-night tour focuses on art, archeology and history.

"We see archeological sites, and we see a lot of different types of art -- from ancient pre-Columbian to cutting edge," said tour leader Jean Grimm.

In Veracruz, the group will tour the fortress of San Juan de Ulua and trace the trail of Hernando Cortes, the Spanish explorer who landed there in 1519.

The group will visit the pre-Hispanic city of El Tajin and the Pyramid of the Niches in Veracruz. In Jalapa, participants will see the ancient Olmec stone heads at the Museo de Antropologia.

In Oaxaca, the group will tour private haciendas and La Iglesia de Santo Domingo, a cathedral built over 200 years starting in 1572.

Cost: $2,695 per person, double occupancy ($550 single surcharge), including hotels, most meals, ground transportation and admissions. International airfare is not included.

Contact: Jean Grimm Art Tours, Tempe, Ariz.; (888) 783-1331, www.mexicanarttours.com.

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CALIFORNIA

Rail holiday to San Francisco

HOP the train for a holiday in San Francisco.

The Silver Lariat, a refurbished California Zephyr railcar, departs Nov. 24 and Dec. 25 from San Diego, stopping to take on passengers in Orange County, L.A. and Burbank.

As the train heads up the Pacific Coast to the Bay Area, passengers will be served Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Participants will spend three nights in San Francisco at Fisherman's Wharf. They will tour Napa Valley wineries and attend a cooking demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone Manor.

Cost: $1,118 per person, double occupancy ($170 single surcharge), including hotel; most meals; all transportation, including train, bus and return airfare from San Francisco to Southern California airports.

Contact AFC Tours & Cruises, San Diego; (800) 369-3693, www.afctours.com.

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ITALY

Shopping for designer bargains

PROWL for Prada on shopping tours of Italy's designer outlets on Dec. 3 and March 11.

The six-night tours spend two nights each in Rome, Milan and Florence, where participants will go trolling for bargains in warehouses and factories.

Shoppers break for a winery tour of the Chianti region in Tuscany and relax one morning at Lake Como.

Cost: $1,995 per person, double occupancy ($500 single surcharge), including airfare from New York, hotels, some meals and ground transportation. Airfare to New York from Los Angeles is not included.

Contact: Shop Around Tours, New York; (212) 684-3763, www.shoparoundtours.com.

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MEXICO

Whale-spotting in Baja lagoons

WATCH migrating whales as they mate and calve in a quiet Baja lagoon on a tour that begins Feb. 9.

The five-night bus tour will include two days at Scammon's Lagoon, where California gray whales migrate in winter. On the trip south, the group will stay in Catavina, surrounded by Desierto Central de Baja California, Baja's unique Central Desert. Participants also will cross the Vizcaino Desert to Guerrero Negro, San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia and Mulege.

Cost: $829 per person, double occupancy ($196 single surcharge), including hotels, ground transportation, some meals and sightseeing. Transportation to San Diego is not included.

Contact: Baja California Tours, La Jolla; (858)454-7166, www.bajaspecials.com.

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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 write via e-mail to travel@latimes.com.

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