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A BILTMORE RETREAT FOR GREEN THUMBS

Attention, all green thumbs: Gather gardening tips on a two-day retreat at the Biltmore Estates in Ashville, N.C., with gardening authors P. Allen Smith and Kate Karam.

The May 1-3 package includes a discussion of the estate's gardens with Smith, Karam and the Biltmore garden staff.

The Biltmore, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, was built in 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt and is surrounded by 75 acres of gardens. The National Historic Landmark houses more than 70,000 antiques and art objects, including paintings by Renoir and John Singer Sargent.

Cost: $498 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge not available), including two nights' accommodations at the Inn on Biltmore Estate and breakfast. Air fare is not included.

Contact: Biltmore Estates; (800) 624-1575, www.biltmore.com.

Prague as a living textbook: Study the arts and evolving political and cultural profile of Eastern Europe on a 16-day summer-abroad program sponsored by Riverside (Calif.) Community College.

The June 29 tour will be led by educator Jiri Holub of Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. It will concentrate on Prague and Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, and Budapest, Hungary.

"For study-abroad programs, Eastern Europe is kind of an undiscovered jewel and is really a fine experience for students of all ages," said sociology professor Jan Schall, coordinator of international education at Riverside Community College.

During a week in Prague, the group will visit St. Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, the Clock Tower and Charles Bridge. Participants will tour Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, the Jewish Quarter and will view the city lights on an evening river cruise.

The group will spend one day in the well-preserved medieval city of Cesky Krumlov in southern Bohemia and four days in Budapest, where participants will visit Belvaros, the city center and the Castle Quarter.

Cost: $2,500 per person, double occupancy ($575 single surcharge), including air fare, hotels, some meals, subway pass, river cruise in Prague, some admissions and international student identity card. Tuition fees ($52) are not included.

Contact: Jan Schall, Riverside Community College; (951) 222-8340.

World War II battle sites: Visit the Pacific Theater of World War II on a 25-day cruise from Honolulu to Beijing.

The May 29 cruise aboard the Pacific Princess will stop at battle sites including Midway Island, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. On board, guests may attend lectures by historians and veterans meetings and join social groups.

Cost: Cabin rates begin at $3,845 per person, double occupancy ($2,307 single surcharge), including accommodations, shipboard meals, entertainment and port charges. Air fare to Honolulu is not included.

Contact: Joan Irvine Travel, Newport Beach, Calif.; (949) 548-3481 or (866) 508-7477, www.travel-port.com.

Maggie Barnett, Los Angeles Times

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