WORTH A TRIP: You've heard of fusion food -- but fusion vacations? In the December Outside, Nick Heil tracks a heady mix of altruism and adventure on the Sight-to-Summit Expedition in Nepal, which brought together "thoroughbred" mountain climbers and eye surgeons to help restore sight to hundreds of elderly people blinded by cataracts. After performing operations in improvised field hospitals, the gang headed off to tackle one of the Himalayas' "celebrity" summits. But it soon becomes clear that the real peak experience was witnessing patients at the moment their bandages came off. "As the eye patches fell to the grass, one man leaped up and started dancing," Heil reports, while an ecstatic woman exclaimed, "It is like seven suns." Reader beware: You may find yourself rethinking that nice, margarita-soaked beach holiday you've been planning.
WORTH A FLIP: American Legacy ("The magazine of African-American History & Culture") visits Salvador, Brazil, with "the largest concentration of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere," taking us from a church built by slaves where African drums replace the usual organ, to a Candomble temple where ancient African religion is practiced, to a poor district where the spirit of Malcolm X and samba swirl together . . . Fond of things that go bump in the night? Check into Baskerville Hall Hotel in Wales, The Sunday Times Travel recommends. Site of a famous Sherlock Holmes mystery, it also hosts "Haunting Breaks," where guests might snap photos revealing "ectoplasm" or hold seances to summon a dead relative. At the least, the daunting gothic facade will send shivers down your spine . . .
While Carmen Electra frolics on Aspen Mountain's manicured Colorado slopes, not far away, intrepid adventurers are belly-flopping down treacherous tracks on souped-up air mattresses. Known as airboarding, the sport is relatively new in the United States, Esquire says. It's like "riding an Olympic luge, except headfirst and rudderless, with trees and boulders scattered across the track and medical help hours away by snowshoe." Hooked yet? How about ripping down the mountain at speeds that would get you pulled over on the freeway? Fortunately, a guide explains, "Airboards double as air bags" . . . If you'd prefer to chip away at mountains rather than hurtle down them, give opal mining a try. Fork over $90 a day, Country Discoveries reports, and you can search for rare black opals at the Royal Peacock Opal Mine in Nevada's Virgin Valley -- finders, keepers . . .
For those who remember Moscow's food scene being glum as a guard at Lenin's tomb, you're in for a surprise. Gourmet claims "deciding among the many restaurants, cafes, and coffeehouse that have replaced the grim establishments of the past can be bewildering." At a seafood spot, the "glass floor reveals huge sturgeon and carp swimming beneath your feet," while a Ukrainian-style tavern "offers one dish more fabulous than the last" as you gaze on a grandmotherly figure tending "real farm animals" in a courtyard. Or get a taste of the lifestyle that sparked a revolution at Cafe Pushkin, "where the glories of 19th-century Russian dining are re-created" . . . It's not your granddad's trailer: "Far from a retirement den outfitted with La-Z-Boys, BaseCamp is a mobile outpost for adventurers," Surface says of the latest silver bullet from Airstream. The new sleeper/trailer comes with a kitchen, two bunks, its own attachable tent and "a ramp to roll on off-road toys" -- yet it's compact enough be towed by almost any car . . .
To score a ticket for the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament in Germany, you practically have to offer up your firstborn. Budget Travel walks you through the labyrinthine lottery process, and also provides alternatives, including brokers who will merely demand thousands of dollars . . . Travelgirl bares all to take in France's "nude city" of Cap d'Agde, which numbers 40,000 naturists during peak season, complete with nude supermarkets, nude Internet cafes, even a nude post office. We especially like the hilarious nude Barbie dolls that illustrate the story (photos of real patrons are forbidden).
WORTH A CLICK: For a more classic French experience, follow the lavender road, France Magazine advises. With the right information, furnished by Association Routes de la Lavande (www.routes-lavande.com), you'll be able to track down hidden trails and villages "not even mentioned in the usual maps," where waves of fragrant blooms intoxicate travelers.
WORTH A CLIP: Don't know Jin Shin Jyutsu from Mandi Lulur? Nope, they're not the latest kung fu stars, but spa treatments. Tear out SpaFinder's "Asian primer" for explanations of all the trendy new treatments drifting over from the East. (FYI, those named above are a type of Japanese acupressure and a cleansing "body ritual" performed on Javanese brides.)
WORTH A GAWK: Eeeuw! On Jan. 26, Brisbane, Australia, holds its Cockroach Festival, described as "the greatest gathering of thoroughbred cockroaches in the known universe," according to Travel Savvy. In true Aussie style, "the winning cockroach is fed a glass of beer." No word on whether tourists visiting for the big event stay in roach motels.
-- Gayle Keck