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Sunday, February 18, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Travel Q&A: Century Club is for serious travelers only

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Q: I would like information about the Century Club. If you've been to 100 countries, you can be a member. How can I join?

A: The Travelers' Century Club is a nonprofit club started in 1954 by a group of world travelers whose motto is "World travel ... the passport to peace through understanding."

To qualify for membership, you must have visited at least 100 of 314 organization-approved "countries." Although some are not official nations, they qualify because "they are removed from parent, either geographically, politically or ethnologically." Antarctica, for example, is divided into nine countries, based on areas controlled by the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Norway, New Zealand, Russia and the Falklands.

Long visits aren't necessary to check off a country toward membership. "It was decided even the shortest visit would suffice," states club literature, "even if only a port-of-call or a plane fuel stop."

The club sponsors luxury trips throughout the year. Trips in 2001 include two weeks in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Kaliningrad and Poland for $3,690 per person plus airfare based on double occupancy, and a 17-day "Arabian Adventure" that will visit such places as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar for $6,600 per person, double, with an optional week in Saudi Arabia for $1,080.

Membership costs $100 for initiation and $35 yearly dues. Information: 310-393-7419, www.travelerscenturyclub.org.

Q: I'm visiting Detroit in late spring or early summer and would like to visit the Cranbrook and fine-arts museums. Can you provide information?

A: The Detroit Institute of Arts is the sixth-largest fine-arts museum in the nation. It has more than 100 galleries with 60,000 works ranging from ancient art to graphic arts. In addition to its permanent galleries, the museum offers a variety of exhibits. From Feb. 25-May 6, "Treasures From the Royal Tombs of Ur," a major exhibit organized by the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, will feature 200 objects excavated from ancient Sumarian royal tombs. Info: 313-833-7900, www.dia.org.

The Cranbrook Institute of Science, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., about a half-hour north of the city, is part of the Cranbrook Educational Community, which includes schools, a contemporary art museum and gardens. The institute offers a planetarium with sky shows, laser shows and an observatory open to the public on Friday nights, weather permitting. It also offers various exhibits. Info: 877-462-7262, www.cranbrook.edu.

For general information on Detroit, contact the Detroit Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-DETROIT, www.visitdetroit.com.

Q: My husband, son and I hope to travel to Europe this summer. Should we be concerned about "mad-cow" disease?

A: Here's what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to say on the subject:

"The current risk of acquiring ("mad-cow" disease) from eating beef ... and beef products produced from cattle in Europe appears to be extremely small - perhaps fewer than 1 case per 10 billion servings - if it exists at all.

However, to reduce this possible risk, travelers to Europe may wish to consider either (1) avoiding such beef and beef products altogether or (2) selecting beef or beef products, such as solid pieces of muscle meat versus beef products such as burgers and sausages, that might have a reduced opportunity for contamination with tissues that may harbor the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as "mad-cow" disease) agent.

Milk and milk products are not believed to pose any risk for transmitting the BSE agent."

If you're a little edgy about beef products, order sweetbreads, and don't worry about it. For more info, contact the CDC at 800-311-3435, www.cdc.gov.

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