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Castles in the sandGlass and castles are...


Castles in the sand

Glass and castles are the only things made from sand anymore. The Don CeSar Beach Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla., is sponsoring a fantastic one-day display of magical and ambitious sand sculptures, ranging from beasts of today, like alligators and dolphins, to beasts of yore, like dragons and sphinxes, to replicas of famous buildings and people.

Artists will break out shovels and pails for the Dolphins to Dragons Sand Castle Creations event, Aug. 27, and guests at the resort can take in live reggae, beach volleyball games and fresh seafood right on the beach, while watching the sculptors inject life into the sand.

The Don CeSar resort, jutted up against the waters of the Gulf of Mexico since 1928, is offering rates for families for the event and through September 30. Call (800) 637-7200 for more information. Welcome to the world of lassi, pappadam, saag and tandoori ovens. Complex and subtle, Indian cuisine is the topic featured on a tour of the Indian subcontinent this fall by Cox & Kings.

The company is offering a 21-day "Splendors of India" tour leaving Oct. 14. Julie Sahni, a writer and authority on Indian cuisine, will lecture on the culture, history and cuisine of northern and southern India. The tour, which includes all meals, will visit Bombay, Madras and New Delhi. Visitors will see coconut, banana and pepper plantations on the way to the spice capital of Cochin.

The price is $4,750 per person, double occupancy, and includes accommodations, domestic flights and sightseeing; air fare to India is additional. For more information, call (212) 935-3935 or (800) 999-1758.

Park directory

Planning a trip to any park in the United States was just made easier by the publication of "Parks Directory of the United States," by Darren L. Smith, a heady, nuts-and-bolts roster of not only the nation's national and state parks, but wildlife havens and historic trails as well. At 831 pages, it's designed to be used at home, not to be schlepped around the trailside. It also comes with a heady price tag ($145), but hey, this book retraces all 1,170 miles of the Nez Perce Indian retreat route of 1877. Hardcore stuff. Call (800) 234-1340 to order a copy.

The hills are alive . . .

For all the changes of language, currency, temperament and ethnicity among the peoples of Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, France and Austria, the one unifying factor remains the Alps, the behemoth mountain range which stretches across these countries. But the Alps aren't just for skiing. Try them in the summer, when the mountains in the lower elevations shed their fields of ice and place large patches of soft mountain greenery in their stead. It's a hiker's paradise, with established -- and not so established -- trails, well-marked, and, depending on the month, well-used. You can walk from town to town, trek the peaks, ride up the mountainsides in chairlifts and funiculars ("Now why would I want to ride a funicular," Cary Grant once said in a movie, "I can't even spell it."), and roll back down. Just remember to bring a lot of film and a picnic basket, and to tread gently. For more information about a summer vacation in the Alps, talk to a travel agent.

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