Tofo's Underwater Giants: LUNGING AND LURCHING past the shallow reef just beyond Mozambique's Tofo beach, our boat is transporting us out to Manta Reef. We are six divers all anxious to witness the enormous, elegant manta rays that glide around underwater like eagles soar across the sky, and our chances are good at this popular "cleaning station" with one of the largest populations of mantas in all the oceans.

Brazilian Gold Rush Era: In 18th-century Brazil, the prospect of rushing to Minas Gerais to eke out a living searching for gold or diamonds was a risky venture. It was a time when guns settled disputes, crime was rife and prostitution, gambling and drunken brawls were the source of entertainment. Heavily-taxed gold finds goaded discontented miners against the crown; hundreds of thousands of black slaves came into the country and died in the mines - the gold rush brought heartbreak and misery to untold fortune seekers. Yet, it also brought great wealth to the handful of settlements it established. It gave Brazil heroes, artisans and architecture, financed the British Industrial Revolution and fuelled Rio de Janeiro's economy.

Soccer in their Souls: ...In a dreamy slow motion I watched the watchers in their delirious frenzy as Brazil won the shoot-out 4-2. The live band played, the crowd danced and sang and congratulated one another, hugging and kissing strangers and friends, the firecrackers outside again, chaos, screaming and yelling, cheering and crying, people pouring into the streets blocking traffic.

Dolce Munich Unterschleissheim: A 20-minute drive from the center of Munich and 15 from the airport, this modern 255-room hotel makes a handy Bavarian base. It predominantly caters to business travelers, but it's chicer than your average conference crash pad, with a soaring glass atrium, a Cinq Mondes spa and a bright and breezy bar that serves German wine and Bavarian snacks. And if such traditional touches as cowbells, dirndls, wooden benches and cowhide chairs don't evoke a sense of place, the hotel's beer garden and glühwein huts put the spotlight on its Bavarian address.

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not a place for hackneyed embellishments.
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