THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Time for advice on gardens, bargains

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Staff / March 27, 2005

Spring adds zing to travel. The weather turns pleasant almost everywhere, most destinations are still uncrowded, and in many places, prices are lower than in summer. Some springy possibilities:

Grand European Tours notes that Europe blooms in the spring, with daffodils in Britain in March, tulips in the Netherlands in April, wisteria and lilacs in France in May, and wildflowers in the Alps in June. You, of course, see a lot more than flowers on the tours, which range from nine to 16 days and begin at $2,000-$3,000. Booking by March 31 gets you a $300 discount per couple.

Visit www.getours.com or call 888-522-3950. The website also contains tools and tips specific to each destination, along with packing advice, local weather and time, and a currency converter.

Gardening specialists will be aboard the Mississippi Queen when the 416-passenger steamboat conducts Gardens of the South Vacations in April and May. These six- and seven-night cruises between Memphis and New Orleans include options, at extra cost, to visit such gardens as Dixon Gardens in Memphis; Anchucha Gardens in Vicksburg, Miss.; Monmouth Gardens and Rosalee in Natchez, Miss.; Rosedown Plantation and Gardens in St. Francisville, La.; Windrush Gardens in Baton Rouge, La.; Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans and the gardens of Oak Alley and Houmas House plantations. Departures are April 25 and May 2, 9, and 16. Prices begin at $1,790 for a six-night cruise and $2,035 for a seven-night cruise per person. Sometimes discounts are available.

For reservations, see a travel agent. For information or a brochure, call 800-543-1949 or visit www.deltaqueen.com.

Flowers are one attraction; food is another. Spanish Journeys, which is run by Cape Cod resident Teresa Parker, has space on two spring tours to Catalonia, considered the country's culinary capital: Mediterranean Spring, April 24-28, ventures into the countryside and up the Costa Brava, and In The Catalan Kitchen, April 28-May 1, offers cooking classes in Barcelona, where Parker trained as a chef. Land-only prices are $2,295 for ''Spring" and $1,795 for ''Kitchen."

Visit www.spanishjourneys.com or call 508-349-9769. Other culinary tours can be found at www.shawguides.com.

From May 20-22, several inns in the Manchester, Vt., area are participating in a fly-fishing weekend. Each of the ''Inns Along the Battenkill" is offering a two-night stay for two, including daily breakfast, at prices ranging from $225 to $525. The weekend opens with an evening dessert reception at The American Museum of Fly Fishing. Come Saturday morning, while one half of the couple has gone fishing on the Battenkill River, the other can enjoy coffee at the Country Willows Bed & Breakfast, followed by a talk about the area. Guests can then take advantage of free admission for one to the Norman Rockwell Exhibition, Robert Todd Lincoln's estate Hildene, and the Southern Vermont Arts Center. The weekend will also include the Gone Fishing & Crafts Fair on Saturday afternoon in the barn at the Battenkill Inn.

For more information about the package, visit www.vermontlodging.net/fishing. For more information about the Manchester area., visit www.manchestervermont.net.

Comedy, music, and mystery highlight weekends at two Massachusetts inns through May 7. The John Carver Inn in Plymouth and its sister property, the Cape Codder Resort and Spa in Hyannis are presenting dinner theater shows with titles such as ''Elvis the Murder Mystery," ''Comedy Magic & Spirits," and ''Death by Disco." Overnight packages, including the dinner and show, begin at $99 a night; the dinner theater itself is $40 plus tax and service charge.

For the Carver Inn, call 800-274-1620 or visit www.johncarverinn.com. For the Cape Codder, call 888-297-2200 or visit www.capecodderresort.com.

Here's an illustration of spring versus summer prices: The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, a 900-acre resort in Acme, Mich., has spa packages with meals and treatments beginning at $281.30 in spring and $365 in summer. There are also casino, romance, family, and golf packages with similar springtime savings. Spring rates are in effect April 22-June 9 and summer prices are for June 10-Aug 13.

Call 800-748-0303 or visit www.grandtraverseresort.com.

Uncommon Journeys is presenting springtime in Colonial America and Quebec by train and ocean liner. The 17-day trip, departing May 8, includes stays and sightseeing in Washington, Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestown, Montreal, and Quebec City, with New York at journey's end. The trip is fully escorted and includes a nine-day voyage aboard Holland America's MS Maasdam from Norfolk, Va., to Montreal. Prices start at $2,695; also check into free train travel to Washington under the company's early booking program.

Visit www.uncommonjourneys.com or call 800-323-5893.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at carpenter@globe.com.

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