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Barcelona may be getting the all the buzz with its Year of Gastronomy having kicked off in March, but don't overlook Madrid. This year the city celebrates the birthday of its most famous citizen, albeit a fictional one. Miguel de Cervantes brought Don Quijote to life in 1605; both Madrid and Cervantes hometown of Alcara de Henares will honor both the creator and his creation. You can get full details on planned events at www.donquijotedelamancha2005.com.

Tourcrafters (tel. 800/621 2259; www.tourcrafters.com) has special deals to Spain this summer that span from all-inclusive land/air guided deals to land-only quick hits at extremely low prices. An Internet-only special gets you a four-night/five-day land-only stay that includes hotel, daily breakfast and hotel taxes and gives you the option for a sightseeing day but mostly offers time on your own to explore what you want starts at only $222. Travel is good from July 1 to August 31. A Tourcrafter reservation specialist can help you add airfare. Accommodations at the $222 range are at the three-star Hotel Rafael Ventas, a short walk to the famous bullring "Las Ventas" and the old part of the city that borders the posh Salamanca shopping area. To upgrade to a five-star luxury hotel a stone's throw from, the same four-night trip costs approximately $576 at the Hotel Ritz. Not to be confused with the Ritz Carlton, the Hotel Ritz is an elegant hotel loaded with marble and baroque d¿cor. If you want to head to Madrid before July 1, 2005, Tourcrafters have a six-day four-night air/land deal with accommodations at the three-star Hotel Tryp Washington good for travel from April 1 to May 26, 2005 with departures on Wednesday and Thursday. A Web-only price of $769 for this package gets you daily breakfast and no airport or hotel taxes. Security and departure fees still apply. No add-ons necessary if leaving from New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago or Miami.

To get a little of Spanish flavor and hot a few cities in addition to Madrid, Freegate Tours (tel. 888/373-3428; www.freegatetours.com) has a ten-day eight-night air/land package to Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao. Starting at $1,649, the trip includes round-trip air on Iberia Airlines, flights within Spain to Bilbao and Barcelona, three nights in Madrid, two in Barcelona and Bilbao each, daily breakfast, special excursion meals, two half-day sightseeing tours in Madrid and Barcelona, transfers and hotel taxes. This trip departs five times in April and four times in May and June. Prices are per person based on double hotel occupancy with departure out of New York. Departures from other U.S. gateways are available at low costs. Security and air departure taxes are additional.

Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has several Madrid Getaways including three-night and six-night trips. The three-night excursion starting at $659 is good from April 4 to May 29, 2005 but must be booked by April 14, 2005. The above price is good out of New York with add-ons of $20 and $30 dollars for departures out of Boston and Washington, D.C. You get daily breakfast and all hotel taxes included in the tour price. This is not a guided tour. All your time in Madrid is yours. Prices are double occupancy. Single supplement runs around $150 with this particular hotel. More deluxe accommodations are available for additional prices as well. The six-night trip starts at $759 for travel through May 29, 2005. These trips are available throughout the summer months but increases in price accordingly with the peak-Europe travel season. Whether you choose to depart in April or August, however, all summer trips to Madrid must be booked by April 14, 2005.

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