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Real deals

Packages tempt with Golden State offers

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Staff / March 28, 2004

California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or to see but believe it or not, you won't find it so hot If you ain't got the do re mi Although legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie sang and strummed that tune in the 1930s, you still need the do re me. And while you could debate whether California is a paradise to live in these days, there's no denying that the Golden State is still something to see. Here is a smattering of possibilities.

Here's that word "paradise" again. The Paradise Point Resort & Spa in San Diego has a Married with Children package beginning at $349 through May 27. Included are a night's accommodations, a welcome amenity that includes four Corona beers with chips and salsa for the big kids and cold milk and cookies for the small ones, a round of putting golf, a family-sized pepperoni pizza delivered to your room, and complimentary parking.

Call 800-344-2626 or visit www.paradisepoint.com.

Ventana Inn & Spa on the rugged Big Sur coast would like you to dine al fresco. A Picnic by the Sea package begins at $600 and includes two nights' accommodations, two 50-minute spa treatments, daily breakfast for two, a morning "Ventana Discovery Walk," a picnic lunch, a guidebook to Big Sur, a daily afternoon wine reception, and dinner for two at Ventana's restaurant, Cielo. The package is valid June 15-Oct. 31. The inn is on 243 acres, 1,200 feet above the ocean.

Call 800-628-6500 or visit www.ventanainn.com.

Sacramento is more than just the place where Arnold Schwarzenegger conducts his business these days. There are the cobblestoned streets and wooden boardwalks of Old Sacramento, for instance; there is even the world's largest almond-processing plant. For a free, 187-page visitors guide that includes an in-depth look at the city's gold rush history and lists attractions, events, and accommodations, call 800-292-2334 or visit discovergold.org.

Visitors who have driven in Los Angeles probably wish they hadn't. For tips on taking public transportation, visit www.experiencela.com. Among other things, you'll find a list of destinations, such as the Hollywood Bowl and Farmers Market, that are easily accessible by public transit.

Two more handy websites: www.visitcalifornia.com for a variety of information and a link to getting a visitors' guide for the entire state, and www.visitlanow.com for what's happening in and around Los Angeles.

The controversy over gay marriage continues, and so do the marriages. The Handlery Union Square Hotel in San Francisco has a Gay Wedding package for $119 that includes overnight accommodations and a bottle of champagne. Couples who bring in their marriage license will receive an additional 10 percent discount. Visit www.handlery.com or call 800-995-HUSH.

Speaking of weddings, Santa Cruz County boasts that it is an ideal place to get married, with ceremonies taking place in secret gardens, sunny shores, amid giant redwoods, even atop a roller coaster. For a wedding kit, visit www.santacruz.org and click on "event planning," then "weddings." Kits can be ordered for $5 but are free if picked up at the County Conference and Visitors Council headquarters, 1211 Ocean St., Santa Cruz.

For more information, call 800-833-3494 or e-mail weddings@santacruzca.org.

Word of advice Cancellation policies vary widely at lodging places. Some will let you cancel or change a reservation with no monetary penalty 24 to 48 hours, or even just a few hours, before your stay was scheduled to start. Others require a notice of weeks or even months. Still others have a policy of no refunds or changes once a reservation has been made. Usually, but not always, such information is given to you in writing, although the print may sometimes be fine indeed.

As many who have tried will tell you, protesting the cancellation charges to your credit card company and the appropriate tourism bureau guarantees nothing. So you may well save yourself money and aggravation if, when making a lodging reservation, you ask what the cancellation policy is, and then get it in writing.

Exploring Libya Here's one for the adventurers out there. Mountain Travel Sobek will lead what it says will be the first American tour group into Libya since the lifting of travel restrictions by the US government. The trip, planned for April and again next fall, starts in the border town of Ghat, and features a six-day camel-supported trek through desert landscapes, rocky massifs, and huge sand dunes, with Tuareg guides leading the way.

Around a fire at night and during the long walks, participants will hear Tuareg stories and learn about people's lives in this unforgiving environment. They will also have an opportunity to meet nomadic tribes and explore rarely seen rock art sites.

There will be six days of moderate hiking, three nights with hotel stays, and six nights of camping. The 13-day trip departs April 23, and is limited to 15 participants. Land cost is from $4,150. The next trip will be Nov. 19.

Call 888-MTSOBEK or visit www.mtsobek.com.

Two-nation rail pass Rail Europe's new two-country passes offer unlimited rail travel in and between pairs of bordering countries, thus allowing even brief getaway trips. Available now are Germany-Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg) and Hungary-Romania, with other combinations to follow. The two-country passes are offered for five, six, eight, or 10 days, and remain valid for two months. Prices for Germany-Benelux start from $328 in first class and $246 in second class. Prices start from $200 for a five-day first class Hungary-Romania pass.

Visit www.raileurope.com or call 888-382-7245.

Korea card The credit card-size Korea Travel Card looks like a work of art and can facilitate traveling in the Land of the Morning Calm, a destination both different and delightful. The multipurpose card can be used at hotels, leading restaurants, and shops. Purchase of a card, in amounts from 50,000 to 500,000 won (about $43 to $430) gets you discounts and free travel insurance in addition to the convenience. When buying the card with foreign currency, a better exchange rate is offered by the bank.

Visit www.koreatravelcard.net. For more information about Korea, visit www.tour2korea.com.

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