Travel briefs: Fireflies abound at Smoky Mountains

Sunday, May 22, 2005

GATLINBURG, Tenn. -- Maybe you know them as fireflies or lightning bugs or June bugs.

They're actually bioluminescent beetles, a species known to scientists as Photinus carolinus, and one of their most spectacular light shows takes place each June in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The fireflies in the Smokies -- unlike most fireflies -- light up precisely in unison. The synchronized display is actually a mating ritual in which the male attracts the female by flashing a yellow-green light twice per second, in timed bursts of four to eight flashes.

Visitors to the Smokies who want to learn more about the phenomenon can attend lectures on the subject with two scientists who've studied it at the Little River trailhead in Elkmont on June 6 and 8, from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For details, call the Smoky Mountain Field School at (865) 974-0150.

Magazine lists best luxury travel options

MALIBU, Calif. -- A hotel in Hungary and a seaside Thai resort topped the annual "Best of the Best" travel list appearing in the June issue of Robb Report, the luxury lifestyle magazine.

The Gresham Palace, a Four Seasons hotel -- www.fourseasons.com/budapest -- is located in a newly restored Art Nouveau landmark on the banks of the Danube River in Budapest. The 1906 building originally housed a British insurance company. It was damaged during World War II and fell into disrepair under Communism.

Now beautifully restored, the hotel's wrought-iron gates boast peacock motifs, the stone facade is decorated with arches and cathedral windows, and indoors you'll find a soaring winter garden.

Also on the Robb Report's "Best of" list is Trisara, which opened on the island of Phuket in Thailand just two months before the tsunami hit in December. The resort incurred only minor damage. Trisara has 2000-square-foot ocean-view villas; a spa offering yoga, meditation, massage and other treatments; and landscaping that includes waterfalls cascading through 40 lush acres to the sea.

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