Travel Steals & Deals


Nine million of us will troupe off to Europe this year and promptly act like lemmings. Just like every year, we'll go to London and Paris and Rome and Munich this summer--then complain bitterly that there are too many damn tourists around. Why not stop the insanity right now and get off Europe's beaten tracks? You don't even have to work too hard because a handful of innovative tour operators have done all the thinking for you.

Follow the music
Want to sit in a cafe in Vienna with a classical music expert and dissect Schubert and Mahler? Listen to Liszt in his hometown of Budapest? The capital cities of music in the 18th and 19th Century are the focus of a tour called "In the Footsteps of the Great Composers." Accompanied by music teacher Prentiss Carrol Dunn and classical guitarist Joseph Fratriani, the 11-night program winds its way through the musically significant sites of Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Salzburg, and also includes concerts, theater performances, and music-themed sightseeing. Sponsored by IST Cultural Tours (800-833-2111), all-inclusive land and air packages start at $4,475.

Islands in the stream
Two of the world's most solitary places--the English Channel islands of Guernsey and Jersey--are the highlights of an 11-day tour that starts in London and ends in Paris. Travelers visit both rural Guernsey and its bustling "Thursday market" in St. Peter Port. Jersey, occupied by the Germans during World War II, is a one-hour ferry ride away. Don't miss the chance to inspect the old Nazi coastal fortifications there. The tour also includes sightseeing in Brighton, the endearingly hokey British seaside resort; a visit to Admiral Nelson's H.M.S. Victory in Portsmouth; and visits to the D-Day landing beaches in France. Sponsored by Globus (800-851-0728), land-only prices for the "Channel Islands Adventure" start at $1,149 and include accommodations, daily breakfast, four dinners, and bus and ferry transportation.

Food fantasies in Bologna
Tourists rarely visit Bologna, but the city is culinary Mecca for serious foodies. The 7-day "Gastronomic Capital of Italy" package makes the most of Bologna's bounty and includes food and wine tastings, four intensive cooking classes, and a pasta-making session. Participants make everything from risotto to biscotti under the tutelage of Mary Beth Clark, managing director of the International Cooking School of Italian Food and Wine (212-779-1921). Prices start at $3,000--or $2,450 for non-cooking travelers.

Cruising the Scottish links
You know you're gonna play golf this summer, so why not do it someplace historic and get a cruise thrown in, too? "The Scottish Highland Golf Cruise" package includes rounds at five of Scotland's toughest courses--Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Boat of Garten, Newtonmore, and Gleneagles--and a cruise on the Caledonian Canal. The seven-day land package from Five Star Touring (800-792-7827 or 212-818-9140) costs $2,320 and includes: five nights on the 8-passenger Vertrouwen; a night at the Gleneagles Hotel; all meals; greens fees; shore excursions, and taxes.

All prices are per person based on double occupancy.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

Copyright 1993-2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.