A Romantic Pas de Deux

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2008

Q. My wife's greatest joy is the Kirov Ballet. I've always wanted to fly her to some exotic spot where they're touring and surprise her with tickets. Do you know what its upcoming schedule is?

Larry Patrick, Clarksville

A. Attention, Mrs. Larry Patrick: Stop. Reading. Now. You're ruining your husband's surprise. And a doozy it will be, for while the Kirov's worth the trip wherever its venue, wouldn't a spring vacation in Italy make for an even more perfect pas de deux? The celebrated ballet company will be on an Italian tour, performing "Swan Lake" in Parma (May 3-4,, Modena (May 6-7, and Ferrara (May 10-11, And don't let the subject matter deter you: We're talking the Soviet era, happy-ending, prince-gets-the-girl "Swan Lake," which will also descend on the Teatro La Fenice in Venice later in the year (Nov. 5-9, Tickets are available via the theaters' Web sites.

If your tastes run toward destinations and repertory a bit less obvious, consider a trip to the U.K. in May when the Kirov visits Manchester (May 13-17, and Birmingham (May 20-24, There, the program will feature George Balanchine's marvelous three-act ballet "Jewels" on some dates, at which point you'll have the opportunity to additionally surprise your wife with either a ruby, emerald or diamond at intermission, depending on which act she prefers.

You're welcome, Mrs. Patrick! (We knew you couldn't stop reading.)

I'm planning a trip to Costa Rica. What should I look for when it comes to guided tours?

Kathy Birge, Falls Church

As Central American countries with 0.03 percent of the world's land mass and 6 percent of its biodiversity go, Costa Rica is blessed with respectable tour companies. Costa Rica Expeditions (, 011-506-257-0766), for example, has been around since 1978. CRE offers hikes inside butterfly gardens, boat excursions through a rain forest and overnight stops at lodges both rustic and elegant at once. Off Road Costa Rica (, 011-506-653-1970) supplies travelers with '70s-era Toyota Land Cruisers and machetes -- really -- in hopes of enabling a uniquely memorable vacation.

"If you're not careful, you can just go to the big five places in Costa Rica," founder Ted Horwitz said, referring to such tour bus bait as the Monteverde cloud forest, the beach at Guanacaste, etc. Horwitz's travelers instead embark on guided safaris in their 4x4s, and the mud will fly.

"Come during the rainy season from May to early September, when the mud's the best," he said. "It's a blast out there."

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