Travel Smarts

TRAVEL SMARTS

July 24, 2005

BEACH PARTY

Six European cities import sand for those who can't make it to the shore

Vacationers heading to European capitals this summer for museums, culture and fine dining can squeeze in an afternoon at the beach without ever leaving the city.

Stretches of sand are being trucked to urban riverfronts to create the feeling of a lazy day at the shore, just a seashell's throw from the buildings, shops and busy streets of Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Budapest, Rome and Berlin.

These sand-in-the-city installations are designed primarily for urbanites who don't have money or time for a summer holiday on the Riviera or the Baltic Sea. Several have been running for three or four summers now and have been a huge success, drawing thousands of city dwellers.

Bikini-clad sun worshippers and others have flocked to the Paris Plage, as the trucked-in sand along the Seine River is known in French, since it started in the summer of 2001. The 2005 beach, open until Aug. 21, offers deck chairs, beach bars and concerts. A Brazilian theme was planned, with stretches of sand named Ipanema and Copacabana, lush greenery to conjure up visions of the Amazon, concerts of Brazilian music, a samba school and beach soccer.

In Rome, a stretch of beach called Tiber Village opened last month on the banks of the Tiber River. The beach, in the shadows of St. Peter's Basilica and Castel Sant'Angelo, is built with trucked-in sand and synthetic grass. Visitors have access to showers, swimming pools, deck chairs, bars and restaurants.

Manmade sandbars are installed in several locations along the Spree River in Berlin. Palm trees, boardwalks, beach chairs and cocktails add to the illusion of a seaside in the city.

An urban beach scene in Belgium's capital called the Brussels Spa will be open until Aug. 21. The sandy stretch, decorated with palm trees, is along the Quai des Peniches, not far from the city center.

Ten best in the U.S.

The top attractions in the United States, from tripadvisor .com:

1. Walt Disney World, Orlando

2. South Beach, Miami Beach

3. Universal Studios, Orlando

4. Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.

5. Discovery Cove, Orlando

6. Hershey Park, Hershey, Pa.

7. Cirque du Soleil, Las Vegas

8. Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii

9. Six Flags AstroWorld, Houston

10. Blue Man Group, Las Vegas

CARIBBEAN RESORTS TURNING GREEN

The Caribbean is home to powdery white beaches, rum punch and, increasingly, environmentally friendly hotels.

One recent example is Young Island, a 35-acre island resort just off St. Vincent. In August 2003, the hotel established policies to conserve energy, reduce waste and raise awareness of the environment. Now, it is aiming for certification by the international Green Globe 21 program, which was established in 1999. The program evaluates resorts on nine environmental criteria, including ecosystem conservation and wastewater management.

Already, a tank collects rainwater for use in the resort's laundry. Staff members turn off walkway lights to unoccupied rooms at night and encourage guests to reuse towels. Unused food is donated instead of thrown away.

All 30 cottages have ocean views, open-air showers and private patios, but only eight have air conditioning. Rooms start at $175 in the off season, $195 in the peak season. The resort will be closed in September for upgrading. Reservations: 800-223-1108; www.youngisland.com.

In 2004, 18 Caribbean properties were certified by the international Green Globe 21 program. There are now 66, including the Bucuti Beach Resort in Aruba and the Royal Plantation in Jamaica. (You can search for properties at www.greenglobe21.com.)

Wine cruise in Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines is offering wine enthusiasts the chance to enjoy tastings, seminars with wine experts and wine-themed parties while sailing the Carib-bean. Carnival Liberty will sail Dec. 4-10 round trip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with stops in Freeport, Bahamas; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. Fares start at $504 a person for a double-occupancy room.

For more information: 866-299-5862; www.carnival.com.

-- From wire reports

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