Q. Are there small, upscale tours to Dublin for the 100th anniversary of James Joyce's Ulysses?
A. Joyce's novel recounts the journeys of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom through Dublin on June 16, 1904, so Joyce fans consider this year the centenary of that date, Bloomsday. And Dublin is planning ReJoyce Dublin 2004, a five-month festival, from April to August, to celebrate.
It consists of programs for children, literary neophytes and Joyce scholars alike. Theater and musical performances will complement art, literature and photographic exhibitions, as well as the free annual breakfast for 10,000 on O'Connell Street on June 13. Information: www.rejoycedublin2004.com.
The Irish Tourist Board, 345 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10154, toll-free 1-800-223-6470, www.tourismireland.com, can provide a list of tour operators, many of whom can arrange custom tours. But there are a few special Bloomsday tours.
The Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, (215) 732-1600, www.rosenbach.org, is sponsoring one June 12 to 17, staying in the Brooks Hotel. The $2,500 land-only cost includes most meals, tickets to performances, including a play at the Abbey Theater, and a manuscript exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library, with the Rosenbach's own handwritten manuscript of Ulysses. Michael Barsanti, the museum's associate director and Joyce expert, will lead a walking tour.
Another option is either of two tours _ June 12 to 17 or June 15 to 20, for up to 30 people each _ through O'Mara Travel in Dublin, www.bloomsday100.org or (353-1) 269-6033. Accommodations are in the Hibernian Hotel or the Academy Hotel, with daily breakfast, for $740 or $880 a person, double occupancy, land only, at $1.30 to the euro. The cost includes museum visits and tours of Joyce's Tower and the Guinness Storehouse. You can extend these trips with a four-night literary tour to the west of Ireland.
Back-Roads Touring Co., 14A New Broadway, London W5 2XA, (44-0208) 566-5312, fax (44-0208) 566-5457, www.backroadstouring.co.uk, also has a literary heritage tour to western Ireland and Dublin from June 6 to 17, for up to 12 participants. It goes to the home of Elizabeth Bowen in Cork; the Isle of Aran; and Thoor Ballylee, once home to Yeats, among other places, before two days in Dublin, including Bloomsday. It costs $2,495, land only, double occupancy.
Tips for visiting Spain's wineries
Q. Is there a best season for a wine tour to Spain, and is it difficult for non-Spanish speakers on their own?
A. Operators of wine tours in Spain agree that generally, the best times for such a trip are the spring and fall.
Genevieve McCarthy, an American who heads Cellar Tours in Madrid, and Christine Alonso of Vintage Spain tours in Burgos say that some wineries close or reduce their hours for parts of the summer. In spring, the wineries are not as busy as in the fall and may be more accommodating to visitors, while the fall has the advantage of being harvest time.
McCarthy suggested late February and March or October to early November for visiting sherry country around Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, where you can visit 300-year-old cellars. April, May, September and October are good times to visit Ribera del Duero and La Rioja, McCarthy said, as well as prime time to go to Priorat, famed for chic reds (like Clos l'Ermita), and Penedes, famous for Spain's bubbly Cava.
While these areas can be reached by trains and buses, the bodegas in Ribera and La Rioja can be a bit remote and a car is helpful.
Large wineries, especially in Catalonia, have multilingual staffers, but in other regions, like Ribera del Duero, you may not find English speakers. Cellar Tours, (34-91) 547-7568, fax (34-91) 559-9918 and www.cellartours.com, plans 10 group tours this year, but does custom trips. The land-only cost of its Classic Spanish Wine Regions tour, Oct. 4 to 10, is $3,220 a person, double occupancy, at $1.30 to the euro. It includes 13 meals and a visit to the Prado.
Vintage Spain, (34-69) 924-6534, www.vintagespain.com, offers five trips of two to six nights starting at $760 a person, double, and arranges custom or self-guided tours.
American operators offering wine tours include Cobblestone Small Group Tours, 757 St. Charles Ave., Suite 203, New Orleans, La. 70130; (800) 227-7889, and www.cobblestonetours.com, which has nine-day trips in May and October for $3,250 a person (land only).
Saranjan Tours, P.O. Box 292, Kirkland, Wash. 98083, (800) 858-9594, www.saranjan.com, does custom tours only, including day trips from the major cities.
For more tour operators, contact the Tourist Office of Spain, 1221 Brickell Ave., Suite 1850, Miami, FL 33131; (305) 358-1992, fax: (305) 358-8223; www.okspain.org.