Sunday, March 11, 2007

BOOK: "World Party: The Rough Guide to the World's Best Festivals" (Rough Guides, $24.99)

TARGET AUDIENCE: People who like to party with a few thousand of their closest friends.

In Porto, Portugal, during June's Festa do Sao Joao, "hitting on" someone is taken literally -- with plastic hammers. (They used to use leeks, but that got, you know, weird.) Spain's festival calendar is filled, from Pamplona's annual running with the bulls to La Tomatina in Buñol, where 30,000 people throw ripe tomatoes at one another. (The authors provide tips on how best to do each without injury.) In India, don't miss (not that you could) the flatulent camels of Pushkar's annual fair. Virtually every day, there's a festival going on somewhere.

The origins of many of these municipal bashes are religious. In the book's top 20, four positions are taken by Carnival celebrations in places where, judging from the descriptions and color photos, local confessionals should be busy during the ensuing Lent. Clever icons identify the attractions and perils of the 200-plus events: fancy costumes, parades, drugs, nudity. And party-till-you-puke alcohol consumption.

-- Jerry V. Haines

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