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TRAVEL Q&A

Tour the Tour de France

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, October 12, 2008

Q. My husband and I have discussed attending part of next year's Tour de France bicycle race. Are there any tour companies that specialize in putting together trips focused on the Tour?

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Susan Gerock, Alexandria

A. Ça alors! The 96th Tour de France begins July 4 in Monaco and ends July 26 in Paris. And of course the big news is that seven-time winner Lance Armstrong is coming out of retirement to compete again. The route hasn't been confirmed, but it's rumored that, in addition to Monaco and France, the race will visit Spain, Andorra and Switzerland.

Among the companies organizing week-long Tour tours are Backroads (800-462-2848, http://www.backroads.com), a Berkeley, Calif.-based firm with an office in France's Provence region; and Thomson Bike Tours (888-446-5502, http://www.thomsonbiketours.com), based in Connecticut and Sitges, Spain.

Itineraries obviously aren't set, but both companies are taking reservations and say that excitement is mounting. "This year, because we're overwhelmed, we'll probably do four or five trips," Thomson co-owner Paul Rogen said of his company's King of the Mountains tours.

Be forewarned: These tours are not for the average leisure cyclist. Rogen said that in the mornings, participants ride portions of the route that the professional racers will ride later in the day, and he mentioned grueling nine- to 12-mile ascents. But then, he said, the tour members picnic and party until the Tour members whiz by, at which point the lowercasers simply turn around and watch the race live.

Backroads' trip will average 40 to 50 miles of alpine riding each day, and participants can expect to view the race stages on two or three days. "This is a riding trip for serious cyclists," said sales manager Rich Snodsmith. Both companies provide van support, a.k.a. "sag wagons."

Costs haven't been set, but you can get an idea from last year's price: Thomson charged $3,000 to $3,500 per person. The cost included accommodations, most meals and ground transportation, but not airfare.

Please recommend the most economical way I can take my 13-year-old daughter to see "The Little Mermaid" on Broadway. Are there discounted tickets? Thus far, on my own, I have not found any. I have no definite date in mind.

Patricia Soochan, North Bethesda

"The Little Mermaid," based on the 1989 hit Disney movie about a young mermaid who wants to live on land, frequently sells out, and when a show is that popular, it's hard to find discounted tickets. But we found good deals through BroadwayBox.com and TheaterMania.com, two companies that offer reviews, theater gossip and discounts -- and you don't have to pay to register, as some other discount sites require.

Through Nov. 21, both sites are offering orchestra and front mezzanine "Mermaid" tickets for $80 (regularly $110 to $120) and mid-mezzanine seats for $65 (usually $80 to $85). One catch: The discounts are available only for performances Tuesday through Friday. You can buy the tickets by phone, online or at the theater's box office.

Even cheaper is Kids' Night on Broadway, a deal from the Broadway League in which youths ages 6 to 18 can see a Broadway show free when accompanied by a full-paying adult on certain dates in February. Parking deals and special family discounts at Theater District restaurants also will be available.

Dates will be announced later this fall; check http://www.kidsnightonbroadway.com for details and restrictions.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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