When Michel-angelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) arrived in Rome in 1592 to join the studio of celebrated artist Cavaliere d'Arpino, the young apprentice was relegated to painting fruit and vegetables. But the vivid realism of Caravaggio's early works laid the foundations for a new genre-still life-and artistic style: Baroque. The Royal Academy's exhibition of Baroque painting, titled "The Genius of Rome, 1592-1623" features 145 works produced by Caravaggio and already established European artists like Peter Paul Rubens, Adam Elsheimer and Annibale Carracci who flocked to the Eternal City at the turn of the 16th century in pursuit of the lucrative commissions offered by Pope Clement VIII and his cardinals. Through April 16.
A century ago there were as many as 80,000 geisha in Japan. But few teens today want to undergo the years of training in dance, music and clever conversation required or follow the rigid lifestyles of Japan's elite female entertainers. While the real thing is a rarity, dressing up as a geisha has become a popular tourist pastime in Kyoto. Prices range from $60 to $300, depending on the type of costume, make-up and services chosen (it costs more to go for a walk outdoors). Most customers opt for the white-painted face, colorful kimono, elaborate obi sash and 10-cm-high clogs worn by maiko (trainee geishas). The Japanese National Tourist Organization has information on geisha studios and services. See .
With adventure travel embracing the elderly and families, hardcore thrillseekers are after new ways to test their limits. If paying for sleep and food deprivation, extreme discomfort and "pain compliance" sounds appealing, Team Delta offers a range of courses, including the Prisoner of War Interrogation Resistance Program. For $975, participants spend three days trying not to reveal the details of a secret "mission" to a team of former military personnel. While interrogation can be painful, the Philadelphia-based organization claims their techniques are not harmful (but staff are trained in first aid). Most programs are held at sites in Pennsylvania and Georgia. For details and to book, see .
Literary-minded guests who forget to pack reading matter can now borrow best-selling books at over 230 Country Inn and Suites hotels across North America. The "Book it and Return" program is free, but borrowers are expected to return books when they visit the same hotel or another property in the chain.