Traveler's Advisory

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When athletes and spectators descend on Beijing for the 28th Olympiad in September 2008, the host city wants its residents to greet them warmly, and in English. While taxi drivers must pass an English test from this month or lose their license, other locals are being encouraged to hone their language skills with community classes or the lessons aired four times a day on radio.

The Chinese capital has also launched a drive to eliminate signs in "Chinglish," the maladroit mixture of English and Chinese which confuses, and amuses, foreign visitors.

People who spot signs like collecting money toilet or no pets, combustible or explodable can dial a hotline, alerting a panel of English professors who will correct the offending sign.

Romania has a long way to go to achieve the functioning market economy required for E.U. membership. In the meantime, the

subsistence lifestyle still followed in many villages is being touted as "the ultimate stress-free holiday" for travelers jaded by luxury hotels and gourmet cuisine. More than 2,500 properties across Romania offer homestay programs that include accommodation, meals and the chance to

participate in daily activities "free from the blight of modern agricultural practices." The National Association

for Rural, Ecological and Cultural Tourism website ( lists the accommodation by location, facilities (television, heating) and languages spoken by the hosts.

North America
Paneled in rare Cuban mahogany and spreading over 2,600 sq. m, Ventfort Hall was among the most opulent of the 75 "Berkshire cottages" built by wealthy New York City families in Lenox, Massachusetts, in the late 19th century. Many of the estates have been demolished, but community effort saved this red-brick mansion, built by a sister of tycoon J. Pierpont Morgan, from the wreckers in 1997. Now being restored, Ventfort Hall is open to the public as the Museum of the Gilded Age. Guided tours run four times a day through October; a reduced schedule will be offered in the winter. See .

Europeans have long viewed French Polynesian islands like Mooréa as tropical Edens. But temperatures that rarely drop below 25šC haven't dissuaded a group of French skiers from planning the inaugural Polynesian Snow festival, to be held on Tahiti's sister island from Sept. 15-17. Snowboarding and skiing demonstrations will be held on a 50-m-long track of artificial snow. There will also be Tahitian feasts and displays of traditional dancing. See .