Travel Weekly's Europe E-letter: April 27, 2005

R.R. R&R:  BritRail continues its efforts to get U.S. visitors -- two-thirds of whom never leave London -- out of the capital and onto the U.K.s railways, with the debut of its free vacation planner for 2005. The guide features information on BritRails commissionable rail products, including the all access BritRail Passes, regional passes and bi-national passes, as well as value-priced add-ons.

The BritRail England FlexiPass, valid for four, eight or 15 days travel within two months, start at $209 for standard-class travel and $315 in first class. And the BritRail London Plus Pass starts at $69 for two days of standard-class travel within eight days;  four- and seven-day passes and first-class seating are also available. To order, visit www.britrail.com or call (866) BRITRAIL (866-274-8724.

A NEW EU: Rail Europe and Destination Europe Resources (DER) are offering a new Austria and Czech Pass, the first such pass to link new European Union member the Czech Republic to a western neighbor. The pass provides four days of unlimited first-class rail travel within a two-month period, starting at $200 per person, when two or more travel together, or $230 for single travelers.  A discounted youth version for people under age 26 sells for $167.  Agent commissionranges from 4% to 9%, with highest commissions for online booking. To book, contact Rail Europe at http://agent.raileurope.com or (888) 382-7245; or DER at www.der.com or (800) 782-2424.

WINE-FREE SPAIN: Can a teetotaler enjoy a tour of a wine mecca like Spain? Operator Spanish Journeys, of Wellfleet, Mass., thinks so and has put together its first-ever sober journey for nondrinkers to northeast Iberia. Called Catalonia One Step at a Time, the land-only tour runs Oct. 7 to 14 and is priced at $3,695 (double occupancy) per person, including seven nights luxury hotel accommodations, ground transportation, almost all meals, a cooking class, tastings and a spa visit. Organizers of the alcohol-free trip, which begins and ends in Barcelona, stock hotel mini-bars with soft drinks and ensure free time coincides with English-language meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in Barcelona. For more information, call (508) 349-9769 or see www.spanishjourneys.com.

THE POPE EFFECT: Taking the recent election of German-born Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI as a cue, German tourism authorities are promoting Catholic pilgrimage travel to Bavaria as well as the upcoming World Youth Day for Catholic teens in Cologne, which the new pontiff is expected to attend. Officials anticipate renewed interest in Altoetting, a longtime Marian shrine in the alpine hill country of Upper Bavaria, the popes childhood home, thats gotten short shrift compared with Lourdes or Fatima. And from Aug. 16 to 21, more than 80,000 youngters are expected at World Youth Day events in  Duesseldorf, Bonn and Cologne particularly at the last-named citys cathedral, which is Germanys most popular tourist attraction. For more on Altoetting, visit www.altoetting.de; for the festival, see www.wjt2005.de. For more on germany, visit www.cometogermany.com.

LISBON DIGS, ROCKS: The new Bairro Alto Hotel is set to open in a renovated 18th-century mansion in Lisbon, Portugal.   Book now, because the hip hostelry -- conceived by renowned hotelier Grace Leo Andrieu -- will likely be a hot ticket during the upcoming Super Bock Rock Festival in the capital May 27 to 29. The lineup includes Marilyn Manson, Iggy Pop, Audioslave, The Hives and Moby. For more information on the show, visit www.superbock.pt/sbsr2005/home.html. For more on the Bairro Alto, see www.bairroaltohotel.com.

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