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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, September 2005 Issue


Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
http://tsalerts.freespaces.com
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ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2005 
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A Profusion of Pearls
It's not too early to think holidays or treat yourself to this cultured stunner. Cultured black freshwater pearls interspersed with sterling silver lend a lovely luster to this spectacular necklace. The perfect accessory, the extender chain with matching pearl adjusts the necklace length from 15 to 18 inches. Unbelievably priced at $129.

A matching 8 inch long bracelet for a mere $109 completes the set. Click here to order.


In This Issue:
Tori at Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

  • Cork to New York $299
  • Sans Souci Resort End of Summer Sale
  • Alaska Airlines Kids Fly Fr,ee to Mexico
  • Ohio State Parks Senior Fall Discounts
  • Rockefeller Center Observation Deck Re-Opens
  • Discovery Cruise’s Reduced Mid-Week Rate
  • September for Seniors at Emerson Inn
  • Elk Lover's Package
  • Fly Fr.ee, $100 Credit, 50% Off on AWSC Cruises
  • 10 Tips for Sailing Through Airport Security
  • Save up to 50% on Seabourn Holiday Cruises
  • Malaysia Airlines Deals
  • Fr,ee Companion Air w/Travelers Cheque Card
  • Kids Fr+ee At Dreams Resorts & Spas
  • Choice Hotels Stay 2 Times, Earn A Free Night
  • Kyoto Chronicles by Kay Douglas
  • Virgin Flings

  • Cork to New York $299

    Slattery's Travel in Ireland and Ryan International Airlines will link New York with Ireland's second largest city. The twice-weekly charter flights to Cork Airport (ORK) from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), begin Oct. 26.

    The single-class, 210-seat 757s will depart New York on Sundays and Wednesdays, returning on Mondays and Thursdays.

    Slattery's will sell the flights, starting at $299 roundtrip plus tax (around $89), through its web site and travel agencies. The web site will not allow you to make the purchase without purchasing their insurance for $65 or providing information on insurance purchased from another source. You may be better off contacting a travel agent as the web site doesn’t provide the amount of the flight, just the amount needed for a deposit.

    If the new service catches on, it may expand to three or four times weekly and include a business-class cabin by next summer.

    Slattery’s Travel.


    Sans Souci Resort End of Summer Sale

    The Sans Sourci Resort and Spa in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, offers an end of summer sale through Sep. 30, 2005 with savings of 35 percent.

    Prices for the promotion start from $301.60 per couple, per night, with a three night minimum. Single rates start at $226.20. The price includes an oceanview suite, all meals, all beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), 24/7 room service, nightly entertainment, two private beaches, four pools, fitness center, selected spa services, golf greens fees, non-motorized water sports (including scuba), fr-ee tennis on lighted courts, airport transfers and government taxes. If you decide to marry on property, it will include your wedding ceremony, flowers, a cake, champagne and witnesses.

    The offer is on a first-come, first serve basis for the adults-only resort (no children under 16), for any arrival until Sep. 30.

    Located on Jamaica's north coast, four miles east of Ocho Rios, Sans Souci Resort & Spa is a "Four-Diamond" property with 27 oceanfront and hillside acres and 148 suites.

    Sans Sourci Resort and Spa click on "Last Minute Specials" or 866/557-6824.


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    Ohio State Parks Senior Fall Discounts

    Ohio State Park Resorts will offer a discount for seniors visiting the resorts on weekdays this fall. With the "Super Senior Discount" you receive a 20 percent savings on rooms booked Sunday through Thursday nights. The discount is available at seven Ohio State Park Resorts operated by concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

    Members of AARP or Ohio's Golden Buckeye program are eligible to receive the "Super Senior Discount." Seniors also can receive a 10 percent discount off rooms for weekend nights. Request the discounts when making reservations and present your Golden Buckeye or AARP cards upon check-in.

    Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates the lodges at Maumee Bay, Salt Fork, Mohican, Hueston Woods, Punderson Manor, Shawnee and Burr Oak State Park resorts.

    Other packages include a family getaway, available through Oct. 31, which includes a room for two nights, a $25 meal coupon and choice of an activity at or near the resort. Prices range from $249 to $259 plus tax.

    Ohio State Park Resorts details or 800/AT-A-Park.


    Alaska Airlines Kids Fly Fr-ee to Mexico

    Family vacations to Mexico will cost fewer pesos with Alaska Airlines "Kids Fly Fr-ee" offer. That's because each adult who purchases an Alaska Airlines vacation package to Mexico through Oct. 28, 2005, can take their child between the ages of two and 11 along for fr-ee. Travel is valid through Nov. 5, 2005.

    You can choose from Cancun, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Loreto, Los Cabos, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Vacation packages include roundtrip airfare on Alaska Airlines and hotel for the desired number of nights. Hotel rates are based on off-peak travel and prices vary by date. In addition, members of Alaska Airlines mileage plan can receive 1,500 bonus miles for booking their vacation online.

    Starting prices for one adult and one child (based on double occupancy for three nights) are:

    • Los Cabos from Los Angeles $362, Seattle & Portland $528;
    • Puerto Vallarta from San Francisco $581, Seattle & Portland $588;
    • Loreto from Los Angeles $354, Seattle & Portland $520;
    • Mazatlan from Los Angeles $345, Seattle & Portland $517;
    • Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo from San Francisco $642, Seattle & Portland $737;
    • Cancun from Los Angeles $556, Seattle $676.

    Alaska Airlines Vacations or 800/468-2248.


    Rockefeller Center Observation Deck Re-Opens

    Tishman Speyer, co-owners of Rockefeller Center in New York City, will re-open the renovated Top of the Rock observation deck Nov. 1, 2005.

    The observation deck, which will include three renovated lower levels and three renovated upper levels, is housed in the 70-story architectural heart of Rockefeller Center, 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The centerpiece of the project is the reopening of the observatory some 850 feet above the sidewalk on the 67th to 70th floors. The observation deck was first opened to the public in 1933.

    Top of the Rock will be open daily 8:30 a.m. to midnight. The sky shuttle will make a final run at 11p.m. each night. Introductory prices are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $9 for children six to 11 years old.

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    Fun, Fr-ee Things, San Diego
    This savings-packed FR.EE brochure features almost 40 Fun, Fr-ee Things to do in San Diego. When heading to Southern California, attend concerts or visit a State Historic Park and keep that cash in your pocket by knowing what you can see and do for fr-ee.

    To get your Fr-ee Fun San Diego brochure, for a $1 handling fee, click here to send us an email Order Fr-ee Fun San Diego in the subject line.


    Discovery Cruise Line’s Reduced Mid-Week Rate

    Discovery Cruise Line, a tour operator that sails from South Florida to Grand Bahama Island, extends it $99.99 per person rate to all weekdays. This was the same-day, roundtrip rate charged for Wednesday departures. Previously, the rate for other weekday same-day roundtrip cruises was $119.99 per person. The price for weekend cruises remains higher than the weekday rate.

    The $99.99 includes the cruise, three meals on the roundtrip cruise and all entertainment. Prices do not include port parking fees, transfers, or shipboard gratuities. A $10 security surcharge and immigration user fee is collected at pier side, and a $25 per person Bahamian departure fee and fuel surcharge is added to the purchase price for all junior and adult fares.

    Discovery sails daily from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama Island and offers Fun Day Cruises and Cruise 'N Stay packages to most resorts on Grand Bahama. Discovery departs early morning and arrives in Grand Bahama at 1 p.m.

    Discovery also has a special program for military personnel serving overseas. To thank them for their service, people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan any time during 2005 receive a fr-ee Discovery day cruise.

    The offer, valid until Dec. 31, 2007, is for a fr-ee roundtrip cruise to Grand Bahama, including all meals on board, all service charges, taxes and Bahamian departure fees. There are no additional costs involved.

    To register a family member, friend or loved one for the fr-ee cruise, send an email to reservations@discoverycruise.com. Discovery will mail a receipt and a holiday card to pass on to the service man or woman. The receipt entitles the service man or woman to their fr-ee Discovery cruise and must be presented at the pier at the time of sailing, together with a Military ID and a letter from their unit confirming the places of service during 2005. Advanced reservations are required.

    Discovery Cruise Line or 800/866-8687.


    September for Seniors at Emerson Inn

    The historic Emerson Inn by the Sea, in Rockport, MA, has a midweek special offer for travelers 55 and older.

    The September is for Seniors package includes a two-night Sunday through Thursday stay in a "cozy" room or non-ocean view queen room, breakfast buffet, fr-ee dessert for each person and a $10 gift certificate good in the gift shop.

    Available Sep. 5 to 29, 2005, the package costs $198 for cozy rooms and $238 for queen ocean front rooms per couple, a 60 percent savings.

    Emerson Inn by the Sea or 800/964-5550.


    Elk Lover's Package

    As fall arrives in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, the vibrant colors of fall can be seen in the park's aspens, willows and foliage. Plus the unique bugling call of the elk - similar to a flute - can be heard throughout the area.

    Experience the sights and sounds of nature in Grand Teton National Park with the "Elk Lover's Package" at Jackson Lake Lodge. Available through Oct. 1, the package is priced at $138 per night, on a space available basis for single or double occupancy. Reservations are required.

    Perched on a bluff overlooking Jackson Lake with the Grand Tetons as a backdrop, the lodge offers 385 guestrooms, suites and cottages with spectacular views.

    Jackson Lake Lodge or 800/628-9988.


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    A Face-It Luggage tag makes it less likely for a stranger or thief to walk off with your luggage and helps you recognize your luggage at a glance in hotels or airports. Face-It Tags are also available for briefcases, portfolio books, backpacks, sporting equipment, musical instruments, bicycles and more. Face-It Luggage Tags
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    Fly Fr+ee, $100 Credit, 50% Off on AWSC Cruises

    Cruising the Pacific Northwest this fall just got easier and cheaper.

    In October, American West Steamboat Company offers fr+ee roundtrip airfare to Portland, OR, from major U.S. gateway cities for select seven-night "Path of the Explorers" and "Three Great Rivers" itineraries.

    The "Path of the Explorers" itinerary departs Oct. 16 and 23, 2005 aboard the 235-passenger Empress of the North and the "Three Great Rivers" itinerary departs Oct. 22, 2005, aboard the 150-passenger Queen of the West. Both itineraries include cruising along the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers, following in the footsteps of Lewis & Clark.

    The per person brochure rates for the Oct. 16 and 23 departures start at $2,629 and rates for the Oct. 22 tour start at $2,149. In addition to fr+ee airfare, passengers will receive a $100 shipboard credit per stateroom which can be used onboard for souvenirs and alcoholic beverages (excluding gratuity). All rates are per person and based on double occupancy.

    Travelers can save an additional $400 with the Very Best Buy (VBB) offer on the Oct. 22 "Three Great Rivers" cruise and the Oct. 23 "Path of the Explorers" cruise. The savings code for these offers is CRT.

    In November, AWSC offers 50% off per person on the "Path of the Explorers" tours aboard the Empress of the North on Nov. 13 and 20, 2005, (Thanksgiving cruise), or the "Three Great Rivers" voyages on Nov. 12 and 19, 2005, (Thanksgiving cruise) aboard the Queen of the West. Per person brochure rates for "Path of the Explorers" cruises start at $2,269 and rates for the "Three Great Rivers" itinerary start from $1,799. The promotional code for these offers is CRS.

    Motorcoach trips to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and a whitewater jet boat ride in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, are just a couple of the shore tours that are included in each port of call. Onboard historians make daily presentations about the history along the cruise route. In the evenings, the showrooms host live showboat-style entertainment and different musical themes each night. American West Steamboat Company or 800/434-1232.



    10 Tips for Sailing Through Airport Security

    In an era of heightened security awareness, it is more important than ever to be a savvy and prepared traveler to efficiently navigate airport security checkpoints. Airport security personnel pull people aside for further screening on a random basis. If this happens to you, don't panic or become upset. Instead, be prepared with this travelers’ checklist developed by Travelers Advantage.

    • 1. Check the Permitted and Prohibited Items list on the TSA web site.
    • 2. As you head toward the security area, take a deep breath and remain calm. Check and be sure you have your boarding pass and a government-issued photo identification card ready for security personnel.
    • 3. Keep valuables (jewelry, cash, laptop computers, and cash) in carry-on baggage.
    • 4. Before you get to the screening checkpoint, place your mobile phones, keys, loose change, money clips, PDAs, lighters and metal hair accessories in your carry-on bag. Understand that TSAs at some airports will confiscate lighters.
    • 5. At the screening station, remove your laptop from its case and send it through the X-ray machine in its own plastic tray. Don't forget to label your laptop computer with your name, address and telephone number. These are one of the most frequently forgotten items at screening checkpoints.
    • 6. Store all undeveloped film and cameras containing film in your carry-on baggage. Ask for a hand inspection if you want to ensure the X-ray machine does not damage your film.
    • 7. If you are bringing a gift to friends or relatives, wrap it after you arrive at your destination. You may have to unwrap it to pass through security -- even if it is in checked luggage.
    • 8. Avoid carrying bottles of liquid through the screening checkpoint.
    • 9. Take your time unpacking and repacking your belongings -- or you may leave your laptop, keys, or wallet behind.
    • 10. Be prepared to remove your shoes and belt; many contain small pieces of metal.

    Travelers Advantage or 877/841-1335.



    Save up to 50% on Seabourn Holiday Cruises

    This year, Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Legend offer three holiday options: a traditional 16-day Caribbean holiday cruise that includes Christmas and New Year's at 50 percent savings. Or celebrate Christmas or New Year's separately, on one of two eight-day segments at savings of up to 34 percent. Both ships offer shorter cruises that begin or end at Caribbean island ports on Dec. 26, 2005.

    Both all-suite ships will be sailing 16 days roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale to Caribbean island destinations. Seabourn Pride's itinerary will include visits to Cruz Bay, St. John and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Charlestown, Nevis; Fort de France, Martinique; and Castries, St. Lucia where you may disembark. If you wish to celebrate only New Year's on board, embark at Castries and continue to Antigua; Virgin Gorda; St. Barts; St. Martin and San Juan, ending the cruise at Ft. Lauderdale on January 3, 2006.

    Fares for the 16-day roundtrip cruises feature savings of 50 percent off brochure fares, and start from $6,538 per person, based on double occupancy. With Early Booking Savings of up to 34 percent, fares for the eight-day holiday cruises start from $ 4,795 per person, double.

    Seabourn or 800/929-9391.


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    Malaysia Airlines Deals

    The Los Angeles to Taipei special starts from $499 roundtrip for economy fares. HURRY! BOOK BY SEP 15, 2005. The fares are valid to Nov. 30, 2005 and Jan. 16 to Mar. 31, 2006. Travel must originate from Los Angeles with no minimum stay and a maximum stay of 30 days.

    The New York/Newark to Stockholm-Arlanda special starts at $269 roundtrip for economy fares for travel through Mar. 27, 2006. Tickets must be purchased online by Sep. 30, 2005. Travel originates from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and the maximum stay is 30 days. Specials on first- and business-class travel also available.

    Special companion fares to Southeast Asia from Los Angeles and Newark. To Kuala Lumpur: first class first passenger $9,788, companion $99; business class – first passenger $4,988, companion $99; economy class – first passenger $899, companion: $449.

    To Bali, Bangkok or Saigon: economy class only – first passenger $943, companion $472.

    To Singapore: economy class only – first passenger $899, companion $449.

    The companion offer is good until Nov. 30, 2005. Tickets must be purchased by Sep. 15, 2005. Only one accompanied passenger per ticket purchase is allowed, and travel must be reserved and ticketed for the same flights throughout the entire itinerary. Both passengers must travel together throughout the trip. No more than one companion passenger per full fare passenger. Standby travel is not permitted. Neither passenger of this promotion is eligible for frequent flyer miles. This offer is not combinable with any other promotion or discount.

    Tickets are non-refundable and changes are not permitted Fares do not include applicable taxes and surcharges which are about $100 to $180 per ticket, depending on the flight. Seats are limited and may not be available on all flights.

    Malaysia Airlines or 800/552-9264.



    Fr+ee Companion Airfare w/Travelers Cheque Card

    Order the Travelers Cheque card online from American Express before Oct. 15, 2005 and you'll receive fr+ee companion airfare. The Travelers Cheque card is a prepaid, reloadable card that isn't linked to your bank account. Like Travelers Cheques, if it's lost or stolen, your balance is replaced within 24 hours.

    To qualify for the fr+ee companion airfare, you must purchase one roundtrip airline ticket from Airline Promotions, Inc. (API) at a published fare more than $349 before taxes. Fares before taxes that are less than the minimum do not qualify. You are responsible for all taxes, fees and surcharges for both tickets. Both travelers must have identical itineraries.

    The fr+ee companion airfare can be used between most major airports within the 48 continental United States, on American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United and U.S. Airways. Seasonal/holiday blackouts apply. Availability may be limited during peak times to certain destinations.

    Once you order your card, you'll receive a registration form with your card purchase. Fill it out and mail to the address printed on the form within 60 days of purchase. Once your form is received, a Companion Activation Certificate will be sent to you in 14 to 21 days. Call the toll-fr+ee number on that certificate to make reservations.

    American Express.



    Kids Fr+ee At Dreams Resorts & Spas

    Dreams Resorts & Spas in Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, Mexico launch their “kids fr-ee”' promotion. Families that book before Oct. 31, 2005 save if they travel before Nov. 5, 2005. The offer allows two children up to age 12 to stay, eat and play free when sharing a room with two paying adults, a savings of $50 per child, per night.

    Rates start from $170 per person, per night, in Los Cabos and include all meals, accommodations, beverages and cocktails, resort activities, twice daily maid service, mini bar refreshed daily, entertainment, taxes and tips.

    The children's program entertain kids ages three to 12. The nature- and science-based Explorer's Club offers activities including guided nature walks, iguana safaris, organized snorkeling trips, kayaking tours, horseback rides, sandcastle competitions, beach volleyball and museum trips. Activities differ based on resort location.

    Parents rest easy with children at the Explorers' Club as they receive pagers to ensure instant communication. High safety standards such as non-lockable doors, padded floors and rounded corners create a comfortable environment.

    Activities for the entire family abound with tennis, entertainment, fitness center, aerobics, hiking trails, mountain biking, volleyball, rock climbing wall and a host of water sports.

    Dreams Resorts & Spas or 866/2-DREAMS.



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    Buy Tickets at a Discount -- Special ticket outlets sell discounted day-of-performance tickets to theater productions, films, and sporting events. Discounts can be 50 percent or more. On The Go Publishing’s Cheap Tix Chart, still only $14, lists outlets in the U.S. and eight foreign cities that sell discounted, day-of-performance tickets. Click here to order the Cheap Tix Chart from On The Go Publishing.

    Choice Hotels Stay 2 Times, Earn A Free Night

    Choice Hotels bring back their “Stay 2 Times, Earn A Free Nigh.” promotion where you qualify for a free night’s lodging after two separate stays at any Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion or MainStay Suites brand hotels in the U.S.

    To participate in the promotion, which runs through Nov. 30, you must be a member of the Choice Privileges guest rewards program, which you may join on check in or check out and your stay will count toward the promotional free night. Consecutive nights at one hotel, regardless of check-ins or check-outs, count as one stay. There is no limit on the number of free nights you can earn. The Choice Privileges rewards program also offers special benefits such as express reservations, express check-in, free room upgrade when available, free local phone calls and incoming faxes, free newspaper and extended check-out.

    Stay on two separate occasions at any mid-scale Choice Hotels’ brand in the U.S. and you will receive a minimum of 6,500 bonus points. Along with the points earned from the original two qualifying stays, the bonus will give you enough points to redeem a free night on a future stay at most mid-scale Choice brand hotels throughout the U.S.

    With a Choice Privileges Visa Platinum credit card, you can earn free nights even faster. Every time and everywhere you use your Choice Privileges Visa card, you earn additional points, which can be redeemed for room nights, airline miles or gift certificates from national and regional retailers and restaurants.

    Stay 2 Times, Earn A Free Night or 888/770-6800.


    Kyoto Chronicles -- article and photos by Kay Douglas

     Tori (gates) at Fushimi Inari Shrine

    Since the first Imperial Palace was built at Kyoto in 794 AD, the city has been one of the most important cultural centers in Japan. In many ways the history and culture of Kyoto are the history and culture of Japan itself. It was one of the few major Japanese cities not bombed during World War II, and thus its ancient temples, palaces, and shrines still stand as they did centuries ago. The time-honored traditions of craftsmanship and ceremony still hold sway here, Kyoto being famous for its elegant tea ceremonies, colorful festivals, serene gardens, and refined cuisine. It is said that to truly experience Japan, one must visit Kyoto, and while perhaps this an overstatement, it is no exaggeration to say that Kyoto is a very special place, a fascinating blend of the old and the new.

    What may surprise Western visitors is that contrary to popular belief, one need not spend a fortune visiting Kyoto. While it is true that the very best restaurants, ryokan (traditional inns), and entertainments are indeed expensive, there are many alternatives which are well within the budget of a traveler of more modest means. I spent 10 days in the city in May, having taken advantage of a United airlines sale fare to the new Centrair Airport at Nagoya, which has easy rail links to Kyoto. I stayed in three different areas of the city, in accommodations ranging from moderately luxurious hotel to modest minshuku (pension), and traveled throughout the city and outlying areas by train, bus, subway, taxi, and on foot.

    Most visitors come into the city by train to gleaming, futuristic Kyoto Station. This is a good place to get oriented and pick up maps and other helpful information. (Just next to the train station is the central post office, one of the few places in Kyoto with machines which accept foreign ATM cards.) Confusingly, there are two Visitor's Information Centers at Kyoto Station, one geared towards Japanese visitors and the other toward foreigners. While there are English-speaking staff members at the information center on the second floor of the main terminal building, more information and help are available at the new Kyoto Tourist Information Center located on the ninth floor of the Isetan Department Store. This may seem an odd place for a tourist information center - and it is - but the staff there can help visitors with everything from accommodations to setting up excursions with “goodwill guides.” This fr+ee service pairs visitors with English-speaking guides, and it's one of the more interesting ways to see the city. It's a good way to venture to off-the-beaten track sights or excursions on the periphery of the city, for example, for the guides can help with the sometimes confusing transportation system and can provide background information at places where no English signs are available.

    I set up just such an excursion with a university student named Gaku. We went to the Fushimi district south of Kyoto, to view the hundreds of bright red tori (gates) at Fushimi Inari Shrine. Gaku explained the religious significance of the shrine, instructed me on the proper Buddhist ritual for approaching a shrine, and even translated the fortune paper given to me by a Buddhist monk in return for an offering. Later, after finding an excellent restaurant for lunch, Gaku led me through winding streets to the Gekkeikkan Sake Omura Museum, housed in a traditional sake warehouse and containing displays on traditional sake brewing and a sake tasting room. To cap off the day, we sampled traditional foods such as pickles and smoked fish at the Nishiki-koji Food Market in the center of town, a bustling place where chefs from Kyoto's best restaurants come to select the freshest ingredients for their dishes.

    Heian Shrine Of course, most visitors wish to see Kyoto's famous temples and shrines as many are UNESCO World Heritage sites. With literally hundreds of temples and shrines throughout the city, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the choices. Most of these places charge entry fees, too, so a day's sightseeing to four or five temples can quickly become a costly affair. The other danger is “temple burnout.” After half a dozen temples, they all begin to blur. It's important to be selective - and it's also advisable to go as early in the day as possible to the most popular temples, such as Ginkaku-ji, which becomes utterly swamped with visitors. Some of the temples and shrines that I found particularly worthwhile included the Heian Shrine, with its massive orange tori; Nanzen-ji Temple, with its lovely grounds and impressive painted screens depicting tigers and leopards (the artists of that period thought the tigers were the male of the species and leopards the female); and Ryoan-ji Temple, which features the most famous Zen rock garden in the world.

    Kyoto Botanical GardenKyoto is a veritable feast for garden lovers, and in addition to the gardens found at most of the temples, there are several gardens worth seeking out. On a quiet, rainy afternoon, I found the koi pond and carefully tended greenery of the newly-restored Kaiuso Garden to be a pleasant retreat. In northern Kyoto, the garden was built by a samurai who gave up his warrior status to become a poet. Also in northern Kyoto are the grounds of the extensive Kyoto Botanical Garden. While the gardens at temples contain few flowering plants, this botanical garden alone more than compensates, with vast plantings of annuals and perennials. It's an enjoyable place to spend a sunny afternoon, and it's also extremely popular with the townsfolk, who set up easels to paint the roses or, armed with cameras, stalk along the rows of heavily-scented peony bushes in search of the perfect shot.

    Tucked among the hills on the western side of the city, the Arashiyama district is another peaceful haven, with its famous groves of bamboo and poetic "moon-crossing bridge" (Togetsu-kyo) spanning the Katsura River. The adventurous might wish to hike up to the Iwatayama Monkey Park, home to some 60 Japanese monkeys, or take the "Romantic Train" (Tokkoro) along a scenic river gorge. Not far from the end point of the Romantic Train ride, it's possible to return to Arashiyama by running the mild river rapids of the Hozu River on traditional boats tended by sturdy oarsmen. This hour-and-a-half long river excursion, known as the Hozugawa Kudari, is run multiple times each day throughout the year with the exception of January and February.

    Saigen’in RestaurantHaving worked up an appetite with long rambling walks and fresh-air outings, I enjoyed sampling some of Kyoto's famous regional dishes. The cuisine is noted for its delicate, refined flavors, and perhaps the best example of this is yudofu (bean curd hot-pot), best enjoyed at one of the traditional restaurants often found just outside the grounds of temples. This vegetarian cuisine was developed by Buddhist monks and features a silky tofu that is one of Kyoto's signature foods. Just outside Ryoan-ji temple, Saigen'in restaurant offers reasonably priced yudofu meals in a spectacular setting. Patrons are seated on tatami mats before low tables, with views out over a serene garden. This is indeed an experience not to be missed.

    Market at Toji templeKyoto is noted for its fine craftsmen and exquisite hand-made goods. Dolls, lacquerware, fans, ceramics, and woven silk are some of the best native crafts. Shopping here is a delight, for the shop assistants, even those with no or little English, go out of their way to assist patrons. Near the bustling shopping arcades of Kawaramchi-dori, I found a quaint bookshop specializing in antique prints and maps, and after an hour’s perusal, I came away with a half-dozen interesting botanical and zoological prints. An even bigger bonanza awaited me at the biggest monthly market, held on the 21st of each month at Toji Temple. On that day, the grounds of this large temple complex and the surrounding streets become one vast flea market, with hundreds of booths selling everything from used kimonos (which often go for under $20) to complete sets of sake cups. This is one of the best places both to find a bargain and to soak up local atmosphere.

    Gion District Another distinct aspect of the city comes to the fore when the sun goes down. The Gion entertainment district, famed for its geishas (the preferred local term is geiko) and maiko (apprentice geisha), comes to life after sundown, with traditional lanterns lighting the streets and temples and the quiet clippity-clop of geiko's wooden clogs (geta) on the pavement as they make their way to their evening appointments. Perhaps the most colorful street is narrow Ponto-cho, once a red-light district but now filled with fashionable restaurants and tea-houses, any of which have verandas looking out over the Kamo-gawa River.

    At the end of a long day, the weary visitor can repair to a traditional inn or ryokan. While the most famous of these are almost prohibitively expensive - with prices upward of $500 a night - there are many lower-priced ryokan and minshuku (similar to a pension) which offer the same warm traditional hospitality at a fraction of the price. I found one at Hirota Guest House, run by Harumi Hirota, who is fluent in English (she was once an interpreter). Mrs. Hirota welcomed me warmly with a cup of tea and biscuits, seating me in a lovely room overlooking her garden. Afterward, I was taken to a traditional tatami-matted room with sliding doors, again overlooking the garden. This tranquil retreat seemed far from the bustle and hustle of the city, yet was in fact only a few blocks away from one of Kyoto's busiest thoroughfares. Those concerned with the sleeping arrangements "on the floor" (but in fact on very comfortable padded mattresses) need not be alarmed. I slept better here than in either of the western-style rooms I'd stayed in elsewhere in the city.

    Can’t get to Kyoto in the near future? Buy any of Kay’s beautiful photos that capture the spirit of the city. These stunning 8 x 10 images come ready for framing in a glossy or matte finish. Or, choose the framed version in a lovely solid wood 11 x 24 frame. Each unframed photo costs $12.95 plus $6.50 shipping and handling. Framed photos are $79.95 each plus $9.95 s&h. To select a photo, move your mouse over the photo to discover its name. To order, send an email for further instructions.

    For further information on Kyoto, consult the following websites:

    Kyoto Visitor's Guide -- monthly listings of events.

    Kyoto Tourist Information Centers.

    International Tourism Center for Japan.

    Email the Hirota Guest House.


    Virgin Flings

    Virgin Vacations offers a “London and Edinburgh Fling” package, for travel through Oct. 31, 2005. Starting at $899 per person, the package includes roundtrip airfare from New York (excluding taxes), three nights’ hotel accommodations in London and three nights in Edinburgh (including taxes), continental breakfast, and roundtrip airfare between London and Edinburgh. The package must be booked by October 24, 2005.

    The “Queen Mary 2 - Transatlantic Crossing” package starts with a six-day cruise from New York to Southampton, England and flying back with Virgin Atlantic Airways. The package costs from $1,549 for travel Oct. 8 through Oct. 20, 2005. Must be booked by Sep. 29, 2005.

    The New Year's in London Fling package departs Dec. 27, 2005 from New York. It starts at $529 per person and includes roundtrip airfare (excluding taxes), six nights’ hotel accommodations (including taxes) and continental breakfast. Must be booked by Oct. 27, 2005.

    Virgin Vacations.



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