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Briefs: Paint paradise with holiday trip to French Polynesia

| Sunday, Nov. 5, 2006

On a nine-night holiday trip to French Polynesia, starting Dec. 21, travelers can paint the landscapes that inspired Paul Gauguin. Participants can explore the islands of Tahiti and Huahine, swim, snorkel, visit a pearl farm or take classes in watercolor painting techniques. Cost: $3,395 per person, double occupancy ($1,200 single surcharge), including hotels, some meals and some excursions, as well as painting classes. Nonpainters can tag along for $3,095. Couples comprised of a painter and nonpainter often book the trip together. International airfare is not included, but a direct flight from New York to Tahiti is available through trip organizer Art Treks, in Bolinas, Calif. Add-on airfare from Pittsburgh is extra.

Details: 888-522-2652 or www.arttreks.com .

Two-week tour of India includes aid in villages

Tour Rajasthan and help village children while in Delhi, Varanasi and the Ganges River with trips to India starting Jan. 22 or Feb. 28. The 14-night tours stop in Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Udaipur and Jaipur. Participants will tour museums and historical sites, including the Taj Mahal, in Agra; the Maharajah's Palace, in Jaipur; and the City Palace, in Udaipur. The group will ride in Jeeps into Ranthambore National Park in search of tigers and deliver school supplies to villages outside of Udaipur, Jaipur and Varanasi.

Cost: $4,899 per person, double occupancy ($1,500 single surcharge), including round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, hotels, internal flights and ground transportation, most meals and sightseeing. The trip is sponsored by Escapes Unlimited in California.

Details: 800-243-7227 or www.escapesltd.com .

Armchair traveler

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge gets its close-up in "Arctic Wings: Birds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." With the help of eminent wildlife photographers and noted writers, biologists and conservationists, the book paints a picture of a world connected by birds. The Arctic is the migratory destination for 194 species of birds who nest and rear their young there. Two-hundred color photos depict the courtship ritual, nesting behavior and seasonal plumage of the birds. Included are intimate shots of nesting waterfowl and owls and species such as the Lapland longspur, rock ptarmigan and black-backed woodpecker. One bald eagle looks as though it should be on the presidential seal. There also are panoramic vistas of the tundra, which is anything but drab. Readers will discover facts about birds. For example, chickadees roost in tree cavities in a state of "regulated hypothermia," while the asymmetrical ear positions of the Great Gray Owl enable it to locate prey under several inches of snow. Bird lovers will also want to check out the CD of Arctic Refuge birdsongs that is packaged with the book.

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