Travel Weekly's Europe E-letter: Jan. 19, 2005

CIT TOURS, the New York branch of Italian company Compagnia Italiana Turismo (CIT), appears to have ceased U.S. operations. Inquiries to the company by TravelWeekly.com about reports from agents have not been returned and the companys Web site is not functioning. ASTA reported that it expelled CIT, effective Jan. 11, for noncompliance with bylaws requiring members to respond to ASTAs mediation attempts. Meanwhile, Italian vacation packager Italiatour said the suspension of operations of its sister company CIT Tours will not affect Italiatour. According to Federico Santisilia, general manager of Italiatour, the company is financially, legally and operationally separate from CIT Tours, though both are owned by the Italian parent company CIT. We are still two different companies, said Santisilia.

DELICIOSO: Barcelona, Spain, kicks off its Year of Food, Cuisine and Gastronomy come March, with the first of some 150 events celebrating all things edible from the Catalonia region. Cooking demonstrations, tastings, appearances by world-renowned chefs, street fairs, gastronomic walking tours, fiestas and exhibitions are planned through March 2006. Why all the fuss? Some 600 years ago, Catalan cooks were the first Europeans to publish a cookbook in a Latin language. And today, 30% of tourism revenues come from Barcleonas 10,000 restaurants and specialty food shops and markets. For more, visit www.barcelonaturisme.com, or contact the Tourist Office of Spain at (212) 265-8822 or www.okspain.org.

GOOD EATS: Although it lacks a world-renowned native cuisine on the order of Spains, England today is a horn of plenty for the gourmet traveler. In fact, officials in ever-more-hip Gloucestershire published a new fold-out pamphlet, Food and Drink in Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds, a guide to dining, imbibing and fresh-produce shopping in the region. Local Michelin-acclaimed chef Robert Rees is also featured in the leaflet, along with a map guide to 44 food producers and retail outlets in the area, second-home to increasing numbers of British celebrities. For more information, or copies of the pamphlet, call (011) 44 145 242-5657, e-mail to [email protected] or visit www.glos-cotswolds.com.

FAIRYTALE BEGINNING: Denmark will mark the 200th birthday of native-born author Hans Christian Andersen on April 2 with a gala celebration at Parken, Copenhagens main stadium. About 300 world-famous artists will perform for a live audience of 40,000, plus millions more via worldwide satellite broadcast. The event will the official kick-off for Denmarks HCA 2005 tribute to the famous fairytale author. For more, go to www.visitdenmark.com/hca2005.

DRIVE BUY: Renault Eurodrive discounted prices on its unique short-term car-leasing program in nine European countries with an Early Bird Special on reservations made from Feb. 15 to March 31 for rental pick-ups all year. Eleven vehicles in the Renault line are discounted by as much as $120; for example, a 17-day lease on a Megane Classic 1.6 sedan is $1,019, down from $1,119. The leasing program is designed for travelers staying from 17 days to six months; the minimum age for leasing the vehicles is 18. Every lease is tax-free and includes a full factory warranty, unlimited mileage and comprehensive insurance policy. Renault Eurodrive pays agents 10% on all bookings. For more, call (800) 221-1052 or visit www.renaultusa.com.

YOUNGER=CHEAPER: Rail Europe and DER said prices on Eurail Youth Passes for rail travel by vacationers under age 26 are 3% to 8% less expensive this year than last, unlike prices for all adult passes, which stayed flat or rose a bit. Prices dropped for all validities of the 17-country Eurailpass Youth, which now starts at $382 for a 15-consecutive-day pass, down from $414; the 17-country Eurailpass Youth Flexi, now $451 for 10 days in two months, down from $488; and Eurail Selectpass Youth for three, four or five neighboring countries, now $241 for five days within two months, down from $249. Agent commission is 4% to 9%, depending on method of booking. Contact Rail Europe at http://agent.raileurope.com or (888) 382-7245, and DER at www.der.com or (800) 838-3903.
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