Olympics of the Mind

Travel Smarts

Barcelona plays host to Forum of Cultures

May 23, 2004

Runners, swimmers and jumpers may be flocking to Athens this summer, but Barcelona is holding a different kind of Olympics - a five-month cultural and intellectual forum on solving the world's problems.

Organizers say they expect more than five million visitors starting this month for the 2004 Forum of Cultures - part festival, part meeting-of-minds on broad themes like peace, cultural diversity and sustainable development.

For Barcelona, it's a chance to recover the international limelight it basked in back in 1992 when it sponsored the Olympics - not to mention rake in tourist dollars and give itself a long-overdue facelift.

For visitors, it means dozens of conferences and cultural exhibits, 450 concerts by performers like Bob Dylan and Sting, plays, dance shows and speeches by guests such as former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

It's like a "cultural Olympics," said forum spokesman Oleguer Sarsenadas.

The city and regional governments and private investors have spent billions transforming Barcelona's northern shore in preparation for the forum, which runs through Sept. 26.

The 125-acre site features a large new port, a public plaza that organizers say is second only to Tiananmen Square in size and southern Europe's largest conference center.

There's also a new beach, a park and a striking triangular building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron that supporters hope will become what they call Barcelona's Guggenheim.

For a schedule of events, details on how to buy tickets through individual venues and other information, visit the Forum's official Web site: www.barcelona2004.org.

BOULDER: MUCH TO DO IN SPRING, SUMMER

What U.S. city has 83 inches of snow per year - as well as more sunshine than Miami or San Diego?

The answer is Boulder, Colo., where there are more than 300 sunny days in an average year. An hour from Denver and a 45-minute drive from Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder has plenty of things to do in spring and summer.

Outdoor attractions include mountain biking, hiking, swimming and boating in Boulder Reservoir, tubing down Boulder Creek, and taking in flower-filled meadows.

A tour of the Celestial Seasonings tea factory would not be complete without a stop at the sinus-clearing Mint Room. And on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall, the Zip Code Man will try to guess your hometown from your zip code.

Boulder's Chautauqua Summer Festival, founded more than a century ago by teachers from Texas who wanted to bring arts and education to the West, is one of just three remaining Chautauquas in the nation.

Concerts, lectures and performances run throughout the summer (for details: 303-440-7666; www.chautauqua.com). Other cultural attractions in Boulder include the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art, the Colorado Music Festival, which holds concerts four nights a week for seven weeks, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, with outdoor performances of Romeo and Juliet, Comedy of Errors and Antony and Cleopatra.

For a copy of Boulder's official visitors' guide, visit www.bouldercoloradousa.com or call 800-444-0447.

Enjoying Low-key Connecticut

The northeastern corner of Connecticut, which calls itself the Quiet Corner, is a landscape of farms and classic New England towns. Through Aug. 31, three of the area's inns are taking 20 percent off regular rates for a two-night stay that includes breakfasts, a dinner at a local restaurant, a fancy picnic lunch and two ice cream cones from a local dairy farm. Rates range from $390 to $510 a couple.

The participating inns (ask for the Sweet Summertime package):

Celebrations Inn, Pomfret: 877-928-5492; www.celebrationsinn.com

Daniel Trowbridge House, Pomfret: 860- 974-3622; www.danieltrowbridgehouse.com

Friendship Valley Inn, Brooklyn: 860-779-9696; www.friendshipvalleyinn.com.

Australia by train and coach

Say g'day to a kangaroo on a 16-day, 3,100-mile rail tour across Australia. The tours, which depart monthly beginning July 8, visit many of the scenic high points of the land Down Under, including Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Alice Springs and Kakadu National Park.

The tour group travels on a private train fitted with coaches that are unloaded each day for sightseeing. Tour members can choose from as many as three guided tours daily, varying in length and destination.

Cost: $5,325 per person, double occupancy, including transportation, accommodations, meals and excursions. Round-trip transportation to Australia is not included. Contact Ozback Explorer or ATS Tours: 800-423-2880, www.ozbackexplorer.com. - From wire reports

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