Trips abroad have Wisconsin connections

With spring fever – and we WILL have it soon – comes wanderlust. If your dream is to roam far away, consider these one-of-a-kind trips, led by people who live in Wisconsin.

These excursions typically involve no more than one dozen travelers, and the escort provides an insider’s view of the country. If you know of other foreign trips with a Wisconsin connection, please drop a line.

Ireland: Dublin native Philip Ryan and partner Carolyn Janette of Milwaukee have compiled itineraries that reveal significant pieces of the Emerald Isle’s alluring terrain, culture and history.

You have two choices: north (to Belfast, Derry, Ardara, Pontoon Bridge and Westport) and south (Dunmore East, Clonakilty, Dingle, Aran Islands and Westport). Some people do both tours, back-to-back.

Still open: June 10-17 (Northern Ireland), and Sept. 9-16, 16-23 and Sept. 30 to Oct. 7. Cost is $1,700, not including airfare to/from Dublin. Accommodations typically are guesthouses/bed and breakfasts.

For more: Inroads Ireland, Madison, 608-238-7326, www.inroadsireland.com.

Nicaragua: A June 14-22 study tour about gender equality is being presented by the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua, which helps the working poor. Participants will learn and see the struggles and achievements of women who have been helped by the council.

Travelers also will meet leaders of the women’s movement in Nicaragua, the Central American country that has a sister-state relationship with Wisconsin. Cost, including airfare, is $900 to $1,200. The rate is based upon the participant’s ability to pay.

For more: www.wccnica.org, 608-257-7230.

Italy: Sicily is the destination for a 10- to 12-day trip in late May that is being coordinated by a teacher of language and culture classes at Madison’s Italian Workmen’s Club.

“Those who have an understanding of spoken Italian will profit from a linguistic immersion,” says Giovanna Miceli Jeffries, the tour guide. The trip will “acquaint you with the landscape, art, history, culture and cuisine of Sicily.”

Estimated cost is under $3,000, including airfare.

For more: 608-238-1991.

Madison’s Greenbush Heritage Foundation presents an Oct. 27 to Nov. 10 trip to Italy (Rome, Florence, Pisa, Mantova, Venice, Verona and Milan). Tour guide is Riccardo Bambi, and cost is $2,890, not including airfare.

Mantova is a Madison sister-city. A minimum of 20 travelers is sought for this tour. For more: www.iwcmadison.com, 608-270-9757.

Morocco: Tour leader Youssef Amaroui is a native of Morocco whose wife owns and operates The Dardanelles, a Mediterranean restaurant in Madison. He takes travelers to markets, castles, fishing ports and into desert on camelback.

Accommodations include home stays, hotels and (optional) nomad tents. Activities include cooking lessons (Youssef is a trained chef) and other introductions to Moroccan culture.

The next trips, each 16 to 18 days, will be in mid May and mid October. Cost will be $2,850, plus airfare to Marrakesh.

For more: Nomad Adventure Travel, Madison, 608-217-1426, www.nomadadventuretravel.com.

Morocco: Joan Peterson of Madison, author of “Eat Smart in Morocco,” leads a culinary tour of the country Oct. 23-31. The itinerary includes home cooks preparing classic recipes and professional chefs who offer cooking demos.

Participants learn about local specialties and customs as they tour cultural and historic sites. Cost is about $2,855, not including airfare to Casablanca.

For more: 608-233-5488. Joan’s “Eat Smart” food series can be seen at www.gingkopress.com. The tour is arranged through Unitours Maroc, www.unitourismorocco.com.

China: Music, regional crafts and food are among highlights of a Dec. 29 to Jan. 12, 2009, trip being led by Dr. Xiping Zhou, an acupuncturist and herbal specialist in Madison. Stops include Bejing, Shanghai and Suzhou; the cost of $3,500 includes airfare.

A Yangtze River cruise and visits to three additional cities will be part of an August 2009 trip that will cost about $4,500.

For more: China Delight Tour, Madison, 608-236-9000, www.chinadelighttour.com.

Bike or hike: Four active adventures, presented by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, still have openings. Destinations and estimated costs are Germany’s Bavaria (by bike), $3,600, June 28 to July 13; Austria (hiking), $3,930, July 19 to Aug. 2; Ireland (hiking), $3,880, Sept. 11-25; and Argentina (hiking, some biking), $3,300 (without airfare), Nov. 17 to Dec. 1.

The university has organized hiking and bicycling trips for 23 years.

For more: UWSP Adventure Tours, Stevens Point, 715-346-4080, www.uwsp.edu/hphd/bikehike.

If you’re more in the mood to savor places close to home, head to www.wondersofwisconsin.com and see which of Wisconsin’s 66 small towns are finalists in the 20-category Best Towns in Wisconsin contest.

One vote is allowed per e-mail address. Voting ends April 24.