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Best Rafting Conditions Since Drought Started

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The next few weeks will probably offer some of the best conditions in years for California white-water rafting, according to Dave Hart of the California Department of Water Resources in Sacramento. Thanks to heavy March rains, the Kern River east of Bakersfield, about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, is running better than it has since the drought started five years ago. One company that offers rafting trips on the Kern is Outdoor Adventures, P.O. Box 1149, Point Reyes Station, Calif. 94956, (800) 323-4234. Another is Kern River Tours, P.O. Box 3444, Lake Isabella, Calif. 93240, (619) 379-4616.

Wining About Italy: Visitors to Italy this summer may have to comfort themselves with vintage wine as they mourn the cold and rainy spring that damaged grape vines, olive groves and fruit trees in central and northern Italy. Snow, frost and rain were all part of Italy’s coldest spring in 15 years.

Meteorologists said the country hasn’t had such low spring temperatures and rainy weather since 1976. This year, despite a few weeks of warm temperatures in early spring, the weather turned wet and cold again in late April.

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“The grape vines, olive groves and many fruit trees in the area around Grosseto, Siena, Arezzo and Florence have been damaged,” the Tuscan agricultural federation reported.

Summer travel should not be affected. Just don’t order fruit cocktail.

Tunnel Vision: After the first rail tunnel between France and Britain under the English Channel links up this week, it will be two more years before tourists can take advantage of the convenience.

A service tunnel, not built for tourist travel, was the first to link up under the seabed last December.

The rail tunnel, operating on a shuttle system, is scheduled to open to traffic in June, 1993, when shuttles will carry passengers and their vehicles in double-decked trains. The estimated travel time between Paris and London is three hours.

The second rail tunnel is scheduled to be completed next month.

Quick Fact: Average per-day cost in 1989 to feed a business traveler in the United States: $32.15. Average 1987 cost to feed a family of four: $14.31. (Sources: Runzheimer International and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Shell Game: Want to tag a two-foot green turtle? The Foundation for Field Research is looking for volunteers to join an expedition to the island of Truk in Micronesia to study the health of the population of nesting sea turtles. The turtles also will be tagged with metal clips so that their migration paths, which may be thousands of miles, can be better tracked. Research will be done June 17 to July 28.

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Or for another survey, this one to Grenada’s Carnival in the Caribbean, travelers will help make an anthropological film to document the French Catholic and West African voodoo celebration called Carnival, or join a scuba team that will be diving under the shallow waters of St. George’s Harbor conducting an archeological excavation. Project dates are Aug. 3-17.

Team members contribute both labor and a tax-deductible share of expenses. For a free publication describing expeditions and how to join, write the Foundation for Field Research, P.O. Box 2010, Alpine, Calif. 91903-2010, or call (619) 445-9264.

I’m Alive, But Has Anyone Seen My Car Keys? Budget Rent a Car of New Zealand reports a sort of strange fallout from the New Zealand bungee-jumping craze: the company is losing about 10 sets of car keys a month. It seems the keys fall out of the pockets of customers who drive to Skipper’s Canyon Bridge, near Queenstown, and bounce upside down after jumping off the bridge.

It’s in the Bag: Airlines ranked according to complaints (most complaints first, leading into best records): America West, Eastern, TWA, Alaska, Northwest, USAir, Delta, United, American, Continental, Pan Am and (best record) Southwest. Total number of bags reported mishandled by U.S. airlines from January to December, 1990: 2,847,924. (Source: Department of Transportation.)

Paris Scratch: The Pompidou Centre in Paris (the modern art museum commonly called the Beauborg) and a black-and-white sculpture in the Palais Royal’s courtyard are among the public monuments that French people would most like to see destroyed. But they also would level the Cubist Arch de La Defense and the Louvre’s glass pyramid, had they the opportunity.

A survey carried out by the newspaper Journal du Dimanche said 41% of those polled favored tearing down the garish exhibition center, and the 252 striped columns set up by sculptor Daniel Buren in the 17th-Century Palais Royal.

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And 29% voted against the Cubist Arch de La Defense, 23% against the Louvre’s glass pyramid and 17% against the state-of-the-art Opera Bastille.

Ship in Shape: Visitors to Jamestown Settlement, just southwest of historic Williamsburg in Virginia, can now board and explore a new re-creation of the Susan Constant, largest of three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607.

The original Susan Constant was a merchant ship, about a year old in 1606 when she was leased by the Virginia Company of London to undertake the voyage to Virginia. For more information call (804) 229-1607.

Fair Warning: A small-town parade with homemade floats, local bands and easy parking will be part of San Luis Obispo’s 51st annual La Fiesta celebration, Tuesday through next Sunday. The Fiesta San Luis was originally held to raise funds to refurbish the then-deteriorating mission. Today it is a weeklong, community-wide celebration that includes events commemorating California’s Spanish heritage.

Among the events are a ceremony that involves the symbolic burning of gloomy feelings in preparation for the fiesta, traditional flamenco concerts and the coronation of the La Fiesta queen. Of course, there will a variety of Mexican food for sale.

For more information, contact the La Fiesta office at (805) 543-1710.

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