Originally created 03/28/04

Travel briefs



Pop landmarks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Let's say you're standin' on a corner in Winslow, Ariz. What's the "fine sight" you'll see?

If the line "...it's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford," pops into your head (along with the rest of the words to the classic '70s Eagles song, "Take It Easy"), then you're just the kind of person who will appreciate a new Web site devoted to pop culture landmarks.

Along with hundreds of other places, the "corner" immortalized in the Eagles song is listed on the www.hamptonlandmarks.com site, complete with directions. (It's the northwest corner of Kinsley Avenue and Second Street in Winslow, on historic Route 66; a bronze sculpture of a man with a guitar stands beneath a sign that says: "Standin' on the corner.")

The Web site is based on a book called "James Dean Died Here: The Locations of America's Pop Culture Landmarks" (Santa Monica Press, 2003) by Chris Epting. The book is a gold mine of places associated with TV shows, movies, crimes, celebrities and sports, from the house where "The Brady Bunch" was filmed in Studio City, Calif., to the site near Gibsland, La., where Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed by lawmen in 1934.

The Web site is sponsored by the Memphis-based Hampton Inn chain, which runs a "save a landmark" program, refurbishing roadside landmarks and historic sites around the country. Reservations for Hampton Inns near your favorite landmark can be booked from the Web site.

Best of the Caribbean

WINTER PARK, Fla. -- Aruba has been named best "all-around destination" by Caribbean Travel & Life as part of the magazine's annual readers' favorites awards. Other winners are:

Best beach, St. Martin's Orient Beach; most romantic destination, St. Lucia; best diving, Cayman Islands; best local food, Mexican Caribbean; best shopping, St. Thomas; best nightlife, Aruba; best beer, Jamaica's Red Stripe; best adventure destination, Belize; best cruise port, St. Thomas.

For a complete list, check out the magazine's April issue.

Ontario festivals

TORONTO -- Warm weather means festival season in Ontario, with something for everyone.

From April through November, the Shaw and Stratford festivals, two of the world's finest repertory theater groups, offer 26 plays, from "Pygmalion" and "Macbeth" to "Guys and Dolls" and "Pal Joey." Check out www.shawfest.com and www.stratford-festival.on.ca for details.

From May 6 to 25, millions of tulips will be in bloom in Ottawa for the Canadian Tulip Festival, one of North America's largest floral displays. For more information, go to www.tulipfestival.ca.

Toronto has a large gay community, and its Gay Pride Parade draws a million spectators as the highlight of Pride Week, which takes place June 21 to 27. Visit www.pridetoronto.com for more information.

If you want a taste of the Caribbean without flying south, consider visiting Toronto between July 18 and Aug. 4 for the Caribana festival. The 37-year-old celebration features masquerade costumes, calypso music and Caribbean food - everything but warm, turquoise water and palm trees. Details available at www.caribana.com.

For more information on planning a trip to Toronto, call (800) 363-1990, or visit www.torontotourism.com.

Pocket guides

NEW YORK -- Sometimes you need an encyclopedic reference to help you plan a major excursion. Other times, you just need the basics - a map, a list, a phrase.

Several different travel publishers have come out with compact, easy-to-use and downright beautiful pocket-style guides for people who want to travel light.

-"Let's Go City Pocket Guides" survey dining, nightlife, shopping, culture and other sights in 10 cities: Paris, London, Berlin, Venice, Amsterdam, New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Each $8.95 guide is no bigger than a slim brochure, but the sturdy, glossy cardboard covers fold out to reveal surprisingly detailed maps. And while the indexed 38-page booklets inside can only skim the surface of the best of each city, they manage to include a great deal of information while weighing just a few ounces - from what to order at Legal Sea Foods in Boston to the must-see paintings at the Art Institute in Chicago.

- Looking for the bathroom in Berlin or perfume in Paris? Or maybe you'd like to know how to ask, "Do you have vegetarian dishes?" - "Avete piatti vegetariani?" - next time you're dining in Rome.

You need "Berlitz MiniGuides," which come in three different subjects - "Surviving in ...," "Eating and Drinking in ..." and "Shopping in ..." - and in four different languages: French, Italian, German and Spanish. The $3.95 guides fold up to the size of a credit card, with sturdy, glossy outside covers to keep them from getting damaged in your pocket, purse or wallet. They unfold to 11 1/2 by 16 inches, with the information provided on 36 easy-to-read four-color panels, broken down into appropriate categories for instant retrieval.

The "Surviving" guides help you tell time, find lodging and use money. The food and drink guides help you decipher menus and order your favorite foods, literally from soup to nuts. And the shopping guides give you words for locating items, bargaining, shipping, complaining and asking for help in everything from antiques shops to grocery stores.

-Knopf "MapGuides" are handy, practical and perfect for those of us who are slightly impaired when it comes to map-reading. You don't have to search a huge crackling sheet with a microscopic index for one of 10,000 dots on the map, because the maps are organized by neighborhood and drawn in small scale, each one accompanied by text about the restaurants and attractions in that immediate area.

The quality of the books' hues and heavy paper also give these $8.95 guides an evocative quality that stands apart from the glossy, garish look of most travel books. The ochres and grays of the stone house and alley on the cover of the Budapest "MapGuide," for example, immediately bring to mind the muted colors of an old European city, making the book a pleasure to hold and look at.

There are also Knopf "MapGuides" for Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Florence, Havana, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Marrakesh, Milan, Munich, New York, Paris, Prague, Provence and the Cote d'Azur, Rome, St. Petersburg, San Francisco, Seville, Shanghai, Stockholm, Venice and Vienna.

NASCAR guide

GUILFORD, Conn. -- If you're one of those dedicated NASCAR fans who plans vacations around races, throw a copy of the "Insiders' Guide to the NASCAR Tracks" in the back of your RV before you hit the road.

This $12.95 guide to everything NASCAR includes not only the history of each track and highlights of local races - including schedules, best seats and directions - but also offers advice on where to eat and where to stay, including campgrounds. Track descriptions are also accompanied by "Make it a Vacation," which describes other attractions worth seeing in the area.

The book, published by the Guilford, Conn.-based Globe Pequot Press, is subtitled "The Unofficial, Opinionated, Fan's Guide to the Nextel Cup Circuit." Author Don Coble has been covering the NASCAR circuit for the Morris News Service since 1978.

Author cruise

NEW YORK -- Catch up on your reading while you cruise to the Mexican Caribbean - then discuss the book with the person who wrote it.

That's the idea behind the "Get Caught Reading at Sea Cruise" being offered aboard the Carnival Elation, which will sail Oct. 17 from Galveston, Texas, to Mexico and Belize. Passengers on the seven-day trip will include more than 20 best-selling authors, including Mary Higgins Clark, Vince Flynn, Heather Graham, Michael and Kathleen Gear, Lee Child, Christina Dodd and Debbie Macomber.

The authors will host book talks, read from their novels, discuss their approach to creativity and join in some shipboard activities. Graham plans to lead a scuba-diving excursion in Cozumel, and the Gears will take their fans on a tour of Mayan ruins.

Prices per person, double occupancy, begin at $999 plus taxes and fees. But you can get $250 off your fare by looking for a "Get Caught Reading at Sea" coupon in one of the program's featured paperback books. For details, visit www.getcaughtreadingatsea.com or call (312) 829-TOUR.

Dresden in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. -- From a 41-carat diamond to priceless porcelain and works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian, 400 treasures from the royal collections of Dresden are on display through Sept. 6 at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion in Jackson.

The exhibit features 15 galleries filled with artwork, jewels, armor and decorative and ceremonial objects from the 18th-century era of August the Strong and his son August III, electors of Saxony and kings of Poland. The objects survived the 1945 firebombing of the German city because they had been transported elsewhere and hidden. Many items were then removed by Russian troops at the end of World War II, but the Soviet government returned them to Dresden in 1958.

The exhibit is on view Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 12 noon to 6 p.m. Advance tickets are recommended. Adults are $20, students are $10 and children under 18 are $5. Call your local Ticketmaster or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

Virginia gardens

RICHMOND, Va. -- From April 17 to 25, visitors can catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse of some of Virginia's finest homes, gardens and historic landmarks during the state's annual Garden Week.

More than 200 properties that are not normally open to the public are on the tours. They include places that date from the mid-17th century to the early 21st, from homes connected to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War to an original Frank Lloyd Wright design in Virginia Beach. Locust Hill, birthplace of explorer Meriwether Lewis, is also on the tour, along with George Washington's family farm.

Among the privately owned homes that will be open to the public is the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee in Old Town Alexandria. In addition, guests may tour James River Plantations, historic Eyre Hall and other homes owned by the descendants of their original owners.

Prices for tour tickets range from $10 to $30 per event. Tickets may be purchased the day of the tour at any of the properties, or through www.vagardenweek.org, where you'll find a complete list of the properties included.

A comprehensive guidebook detailing the tours and other information is available by mailing $5 to Historic Garden Week in Virginia, 12 E. Franklin St., Richmond, Va. 23219.

For details by phone, call (804) 644-7776.

Tower of London

LONDON -- The Tower of London's roster of inmates through the centuries is a who's who of tragedy and infamy that includes Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes and Rudolf Hess.

While tours of the tower have long been a popular attraction with visitors, a new exhibit there opening April 28 will focus on individual stories of some of the prisoners, from the very first inmate in 1100 to 20th-century German prisoners of war. Some of the prisoners' possessions - like Lady Jane and Anne Boleyn's personal prayer books - along with manuscripts, art and other artifacts will be on display.

The exhibit will be open through Sept. 5. For more information, visit www.hrp.org.uk. The tower is open daily.

Hotel food

NEW YORK -- In his new book, "Hotel Secrets from the Travel Detective" (Random House, $14.95), NBC "Today" show travel editor Peter Greenberg recalls a time when hotel restaurants were "quite literally the last resort in the resort. ... You went there when you were too tired to go anywhere else."

But today, he adds, "not only are the guests eating in hotel restaurants, but people in the surrounding community are going there to eat as well."

As hotel food has improved, it's changed to adapt to the latest trends in healthy eating. This spring, for example, a number of hotel chains are updating their menus to reflect dietary preferences for low-carb foods.

In April, Sheraton will introduce "Lo-Carb Lifestyle" menus at 200 of its properties, featuring snacks like the "No Chip Dip," which has veggie scoopers (asparagus, peppers and celery) for a creamy spinach-and-artichoke dip, and "No Buns Allowed Burgers" - beef patties served with cheese, onions and coleslaw. The hotels are even offering to cater low-carb weddings.

Marriott's "Fit For You" menus, introduced in December, also take their cue from the Atkins diet, with high-protein and low-carbohydrate dishes, but the menus include low-cholesterol and low-fat choices as well. "Fit For You" food is also available for events, with high-protein, low-carb snacks like cheese and nuts offered during coffee breaks at meetings. In the Marriott bar, you can even order low-carb cocktails like the "Lean Margarita," which uses a syrup made from a no-calorie artificial sweetener instead of sugar.

Hyatt's on the low-carb bandwagon as well, with menus offering smoked salmon quesadilla and other high-protein dishes. A new menu of nine dishes is being offered at 100 Hyatts across the country to complement the hotel chain's "Cuisine Naturelle" menu, introduced 10 years ago to emphasize low-fat and low-calorie foods.