Travel: Aussie artfest ... non-stop sax ... pumpkin eaters ... conkering heroes

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The Independent Travel
15-31 October

Australia

The Melbourne International Festival is an annual 17-day arts extravaganza which transforms the entire city into a vast stage with the finest in international and national visual and performing arts. The Victorian Arts Centre (a centre for the state's arts, not 19th-century artefacts) near the city centre will be given over to drama, dance, paintings, sculpture and street performers until the end of the month.

Until 28 November

Belgium

Brussels hosts the six-week Audi Jazz Festival at venues throughout the city, featuring such international jazz greats as Ravi Coltrane (son of John), Manhattan Transfer, trumpeter Wallace Roney and saxophonists John Zorn and Maceo Parker. To keep the club kids happy, less conventional acts such as British jungle stars Aphrodite and 4 Hero are included. Belgian players include pianist Ivan Paduart and singer/guitarist Barli Baruti.

12-17 October

Egypt

Verdi was commissioned to write an opera for the Italian Theatre, which opened in Cairo in 1869. The result, Aida, was one of Verdi's most spectacular. It took Egyptian audiences by storm when it finally opened in Cairo in 1871. More than 100 years later, this tradition is upheld and Aida will be performed this week at the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the new Cairo opera house.

11 October

France

The Jardins de Valloires in Picardy will be piled high with pumpkins this weekend during Citrouilles en Fete. The town, just south of the Nord Pas-de-Calais, marks the harvest of the most celebrated member of the gourd family, the pumpkin, with a grand market, exhibitions and tastings. Try gourmet pumpkin soup created by local chefs and wander around the adjoining 12th-century abbey. Picardy Tourist information (tel: 0171- 836 2232).

11 October

UK

Get out your vinegar-soaked "25ers" for a good thrashing at the World Conker Championships in Ashton, Peterborough, today. Some 3,000 conker connoisseurs turn up for this annual school of hard knocks. According to festival organisers, the crucial criteria for a conker-cracker are that it is well rounded and about an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Conkerers will converge on the village green between 10am and 4pm.

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