Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 13 News List

Hot deals for cool vacations

The summer tourist season is over and the harvest is just beginning, a time when Europe is less expensive, crowded and hot, but still has many cultural events

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Yet the interior scene is even more bustling as hundreds of patrons regularly make their way to each day's many visual arts, dance, literary and musical events (www.southbankcentre.co.uk).

Add to that an array of new bars and restaurants in this expansive building - part of a US$220 million renovation of the center's Royal Festival Hall that was completed in June - and you have a culture club like no other.

To celebrate the reopening of the 56-year-old concert hall, some of the world's greatest orchestras are scheduled to perform in the 2,800-seat auditorium this fall.

The pianist Mitsuko Uchida will join with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in performing works by Mozart, Strauss and Wagner on Nov. 5. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra will concentrate on the music of Haydn and Mahler on Nov. 11, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam will perform Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony Nov. 30.

Those in search of an alternative to classical music may prefer the sounds of the South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo on Oct. 15 and Oct. 16 or Sinead O'Connor on Nov. 12. Young hipsters (like those who regularly skateboard in the concrete park outside the center) should check out Video Games Live on Oct. 22, a new performance showcasing the music behind games like Tetris and Space Invaders, performed by a full symphony and choir and accompanied by a backdrop of cutting-edge visuals.

Afterward, head to the Skylon Bar and Grill (www.skylonrestaurant.co.uk), a new restaurant which serves modern European food (smoked wild Pacific halibut; roasted corn-fed guinea fowl), but more importantly offers one of the best views of the London skyline.

For a more casual setting, head to the Riverside Terrace Cafe, where you can dine outdoors and watch the steady stream of boats.

Madrid: cool to be green

After the blast furnace of the Spanish summer, Madrilenos eagerly await the gentler climate of fall, when they can stroll through the city's parks and gardens.

While Retiro Park (Plaza de la Independencia) may not rival Vermont for leaf-peeping, the towering oaks, chestnuts and sycamores provide enough blazing yellows and rich russets to make a worthy backdrop for the new fall fashions that the locals proudly sport on their daily paseo.

Other favored green zones include the romantic Botanical Gardens (Plaza Murillo; open 10am to 7pm; entry, US$3, which stretch between the Prado Museum and Atocha rail station in the heart of the city and seem little changed since they were inaugurated in 1781.

Even closer to Madrid's historic center, amid the bustle and noise of La Latina neighborhood tapas bars, is the tiny Garden of the Principe Anglona (10am to 6:30pm). Nestled between the Plaza de la Paja - the site of Inquisition burnings - and the precipitously downhill Calle Segovia, the garden was originally laid out in 1761. When the leaves start to fall, the garden seems to float among the red tile rooftops and church spires of Madrid's oldest quarter.

Follow Calle Segovia down to the Campo del Moro (Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto, 10am to 6pm), with its knockout view of Madrid's Royal Palace looming above. Once a royal party ground of Hapsburg kings, the Campo today is bursting with specimen trees, fountains, promenading peacocks and a charming duck pond that is beloved - if a bit terrorized - by children.

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