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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, March 2008 Issue



Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
http://tsalerts.freespaces.com
travelnewsletter@aim.com
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2008 
All Rights Reserved.


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In This Issue:
Life-size Bronze Statues, Booth Western Art Museum

Booth Western Art Museum

  • Dine Around Seattle
  • 50% Off One-Way Thalys Tickets
  • Upgraded Consular Information
  • Air France Holidays L.A. to London
  • Ireland Off-season Specials
  • 40% Off Barge Cruise
  • Santa Fe Winter Savings
  • Four Seasons Hawaii Fr.ee Night
  • Porter Airlines Flies to U.S.
  • 10,000 Bonus Miles to Middle East
  • Hurtigruten Savings on Norwegian Cruises
  • California Rate Cuts
  • Bond with Brugge, Brussels
  • Emerald Vacation in Ireland
  • Make Sure Travel Insurance is Safety Net
  • Thrifty Triple Miles w/Frequent Flyer Programs
  • Historic Hotels’ Winter Warmers
  • Exploring Georgia’s Mountains
  • Paraiso De La Bonita 4th Night Fr.ee

  • Dine Around Seattle

    Now in its seventh year, Dine Around Seattle returns for its spring run Mar. 2 through 31, 2008.

    Sundays through Thursdays, 30 select Seattle area restaurants will offer prix-fixe, three-course dinners for $30 and many will offer prix-fixe three-course lunches for $15, with choice selections among appetizers, entrées and desserts.

    Find information and menus here.


    50% Off One-Way Thalys Tickets

    HURRY! BOOK BY MAR. 2 - - Rail Europe offers 50 percent off the price of one-way, full-fare tickets on all routes of the high-speed Thalys train connecting Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. Tickets must be booked by Mar. 2, 2008 for travel through Mar. 20, 2008.

    This offer is for first- or second-class full-fare tickets between all French, Belgian, and Dutch cities Thalys serves. The regular one-way full-fare ticket between Paris and Brussels costs from $234 for first-class or $140 second-class. The promotional fare drops the price to $109 first-class or $70 second-class. Between Paris and Amsterdam, the regular full-fare ticket costs $291 first-class or $179 second-class. The promotional rate is $149 first or $90 second. The promotional fares are non-exchangeable and non-refundable.

    Thalys takes one hour 22 minutes from downtown Paris to Brussels, most of the journey is at 186 m.p.h. In 2008, all Thalys tracks will be high-speed and travel times Paris to Amsterdam (now 4 hrs 11min.) and Paris to Cologne (presently 3 hrs 50 min) will be cut to 3 hrs 9 min. and 2 hrs 50 min., respectively. Up to 27 trains travel between Paris and Brussels daily.

    Rail Europe or 888/382-7245 (U.S.), 800/361-7245 (Canada).


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    Upgraded Consular Information

    The State Department improved its consular affairs web site which provides the latest information for international travel. Since 1995, the Department posted current travel information on every country and updates on developing issues and special conditions that Americans may face abroad.

    The Department modernized the look and feel of the consular internet site, and repackaged their travel planning documents for going abroad into accessible, user-friendly formats. Reports on current conditions in all nations, previously known as Consular Information Sheets, are now known as Country Specific Information.

    Reports about conditions, expected to be of limited duration and scope, previously known as Public Announcements, are now Travel Alerts. These new names for familiar, reliable reports will help you find information more readily. Travel Warnings, which contain information on continuing conditions throughout a country, continue in their current format.

    For information by phone before traveling abroad call 877/407-4747.

    State Department Travel Information and Frequently Asked Questions.



    Air France Holidays L.A. to London

    Air France Holidays offers a package in honor of Air France's new non-stop flight from Los Angeles International Airport to London Heathrow.

    The "Presenting London from Los Angeles" package is priced from $839 and includes roundtrip, non-stop airfare on Air France, six-nights’ hotel accommodations in London, continental breakfast daily, hotel taxes and surcharges, and airline fuel surcharges. Prices do not include airport taxes and fees.

    Air France Holidays or 800/237-2623.


    Ireland Off-season Specials

    Celtic Tours offers off-season tours to Ireland through Apr. 2008.

    • Tours include: The escorted Ireland Short Break tour - five days from $359 per person
    • The escorted Irish Harmony tour - seven days from $679 per person
    • The escorted Heart of Ireland tour - eight days from $759 per person.

    Prices are for the land portion only and do not include airfare.

    All packages include first-class hotel accommodations; breakfast daily; most dinners; sightseeing by motorcoach with a professional Irish driver/guide; visits and admission fees as listed in the itinerary; porterage of one suitcase per person; and tips and taxes in Ireland. Gratuities to the driver/guide is not included.

    Celtic Tours or 800/833-4373.


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    Fr-ee Fun San Diego
    This savings-packed FR.EE brochure features almost 40 Fun, Fr-ee Things to do in San Diego. When heading to Southern California, attend concerts or visit a State Historic Park and keep that cash in your pocket.

    To get your Fr-ee Fun San Diego brochure, for a $1 handling fee, click here to send us an email.


    40% Off Barge Cruise

    French Country Waterways offers a discount on a six-night barge cruise aboard the 18-passenger barge Esprit. The $3,200 price per person, based on double occupancy, is a 40 percent savings off the normal rate of $5,295, on select departures through June 2008.

    The rate includes accommodations, all meals, estate-bottled wine, open bar, sightseeing, bicycles and escorted transfers between Paris and the barge.

    The barge travels through Burgundy’s Cote d’Or wine growing region following the 18th-century Canal du Centre, the River Saone and the Canal de Bourgogne between St. Leger-sur-Dheune and Dijon.

    Daily sightseeing includes a walking tour of Dijon, the city of Beaune, the port of Chalon-sur-Saone, the La Rochepot castle, and a wine tasting in a private cellar.

    French Country Waterways or 800/222-1236.



    Santa Fe Winter Savings

    Santa Fe, NM in winter time is an inspired choice for value-conscious travelers. From ski packages, spa savings or fr.ee nights, here are some of the discounts in Santa Fe this winter.

    The Santa Fe Sage Inn - 866/433-0335 - offers two winter specials: The "Winter Warmth Upgrade" provides a newly renovated superior room, with two queen-sized beds or one king-sized bed, at the standard price. The special rate of $55 plus tax per night includes continental breakfast, high-speed wireless internet and fr.ee on-site parking. The "Let it Snow! Ski” package includes three nights in a superior room and a two-day lift ticket to Ski Santa Fe. Prices start at $191 per person, based on double occupancy.

    The Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza - 800/336-3676 - Through Mar. 23, 2008, the "Ski Santa Fe” package lets you ski the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Rates start at $540 per package including all taxes. The package includes: two nights of accommodations for two, two adult one day lift tickets; breakfast for two; four fre.e beverage coupons; and f.ree overnight parking.

    La Fonda’s - 800/523-5002 - "Two for Two" special winter package includes two nights lodging for two people and a fre.e dinner for two. Rates range from $529 to $679 plus tax and the package runs through Mar. 31, 2008. Reservations are required.

    Sunrise Springs Resort Spa - 800/955-0028 - Stay four nights and get the fifth night f.ree. Garden rooms are $165 per night and casitas are $205 per night. Room stays include fre.e newspaper, WiFi, bottled water, local calls, and parking. The offer is good through Apr. 15, 2008. Blackout dates and restrictions apply. Taxes are not included.

    Park Inn & Suites - 505/471-3000 - has a "Beat The Winter Blues" rate of $59 plus tax, based on double occupancy. The rate is good through Mar. 31, 2008.


    Four Seasons Hawaii Fr.ee Night

    Stay at the Four Seasons Resorts Hawai'i and stay an extra night with the “Night F.ree” promotion.

    The Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele offers a fourth night fre.e promotion through Dec. 18 2008. Nightly room rates start from $345.

    The Four Seasons Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay offers a fifth night f.ree with breakfast promotion through Dec. 18, 2008. Nightly room rates start from $495.

    The fre.e night offers must be used with the initial stay of consecutive paid nights and can’t be combined with any other offer, package or promotion. Advance reservations are required and certain blackout periods apply, which vary by property. Rates are subject tochange and are per room, per night and exclude taxes and gratuities.

    Four Seasons or 800/332-3442.


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    Porter Airlines Flies to U.S.

    With a focus on convenience and speed, Toronto-based Porter Airlines expands into the U.S. with seven daily roundtrip flights between Toronto City Centre Airport (TCCA) and Newark Liberty International Airport starting Mar. 31, 2008.

    Weekend service consists of two Saturday roundtrips and three Sunday roundtrips. Tickets are available for purchase now. Prices start at $120 CDN, plus applicable fees and taxes, for one-way flights.

    Porter Airlines flies from its own terminal at Toronto City Centre Airport, situated minutes from downtown. The lounge includes wireless Internet access, refreshments, and a business center. F.ree Porter shuttle buses offer a transfer to Union Station, steps from the financial and entertainment districts. The airport is also accessible by public transit, taxi, limo or personal vehicle.

    While on board, your receive fre.e premium snacks, wine and beer, a spacious cabin with leather upholstery and extra leg room.

    Porter Airlines or 888/619-8622.



    10,000 Bonus Miles to Middle East

    HURRY! BOOK BY MAR. 15 - - Discover Tel Aviv, Dubai, Beirut, or Abu Dhabi and earn bonus miles with United Vacations.

    Purchase a vacation to one of these Middle Eastern destinations by Mar. 15, 2008 for travel through May 15 and again Aug. 15 through Oct. 26, 2008 and receive up to 10,000 bonus miles per reservation. Be sure to enter promotion code MEMILES when booking.

    The vacation package must include the flight and hotel stay with a minimum package price of $3,000. The reward is 5,000 bonus miles per adult with up to 10,000 miles per reservation. The offer is not valid for group bookings, cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion and is not retro-active.

    Allow six to eight weeks after completion of travel for bonus miles to be posted to your Mileage Plus account. You are responsible for all taxes and fees related to award travel.

    United Vacations or 888/854-3899.


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    Click Here to Order from On The Go Publishing.


    Hurtigruten Savings on Norwegian Cruises

    BOOK BY MAR. 15 - - Hurtigruten Cruise Line offers several opportunities for savings on cruises along Norway’s coast.

    You can save up to $500 on a Norwegian coastal voyage from March through December 2008. When you book a southbound voyage, you also receive a f.ree shore excursion. The $500 discount can be combined with fre.e trans-Atlantic airfare for two on 12-day sailings or f.ree companion airfare on six- and seven-day voyages departing Mar. 1 through Apr. 30 and Oct. 1 through Dec. 15, 2008. To receive the discounts, cruises must be booked by Mar. 15, 2008.

    Another discount option is 50 percent off the fare for a companion during May and September sailings.

    The cruise includes all meals aboard ship, taxes and port charges. Air taxes and fuel surcharges of $399 are additional.

    Six-, seven- and 12-day cruises take in Norway’s fjord-filled 1,250-mile west coast between Bergen and Kirkenes. The ships make 34 port calls from fishing villages to cities such as Tromso and Trondheim.

    Hurtigruten or 800/323-7436.



    California Rate Cuts

    Everyone loves a bargain. But bargains at the top hotels and resorts are hard to find. When they surface, discerning travelers should take advantage of them. Here are a couple of discounts at two California properties.

    Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, in Ojai, CA - 888/697-8780 - a favorite escape for Hollywood celebrities for more than 80 years, offers a $260 rate for a standard double room, Sunday through Thursday, until Mar. 31, 2008. This represents a saving of $140, or 35 percent off the published rate of $400 per night. The rate includes fre.e valet parking, a morning newspaper, and resort privileges including fitness classes and access to the resort's swimming pools and golf driving range.

    San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, CA - 805/565-1700 - the place where JFK honeymooned and Winston Churchill stayed offers a mid-week Sunday through Thursday “Ranch Getaway.” The package lets you stay in a junior suite or cottage. Junior suite rates start at $599, a savings of $296. Cottage rates start at $899; a savings of $396. Breakfast for two is included.



    Bond with Brugge, Brussels

    Visit Bruge, Belgium and see this city's cathedrals plus nearby Brussels on this eight-day Bruges & Brussels by Rail package.

    The trip, from Gate 1 Travel, includes roundtrip airfare from New York, six nights' accommodations, and intercity train tickets. Package prices start from $989 per person, based on double occupancy, plus airport taxes of up to $240 per person. Departures from Philadelphia are $17 additional, $40 for D.C., $141 for Houston, and $236 for L.A.

    The $989 fare applies for October 2008 departures. It’s $10 additional for an Apr. 28 departure and $50 additional for other April departures. You can book this package nearly year-round, but not at this price. Supplements for summer departures are up to $310.

    The package includes breakfast daily and roundtrip train travel between Brussels and Bruges, with reserved seats. In Brugge, you spend three nights at the Ibis Brugge Centrum Hotel 1.6 miles from the city center. In Brussels, you stay at the 184-room Ibis Brussels off Grand Place. For $210 more, you can upgrade to fancier hotels: the NH Bruges Hotel and the Hilton Brussels City Hotel.

    A single supplement starts at $231. Airport transfers are not included. The one-way train ride between the airport and downtown Brussels is about $8, while a private car costs about $138.

    Gate1 Travel or 800/682-3333.



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    Emerald Vacation in Ireland

    Dooley Vacations offers a six-night Emerald travel package that includes a one-night stay in a castle.

    In April 2008, the Emerald package costs $868 per person, based on double occupancy. The rate includes roundtrip airfare from New York, Boston or Newark. Departures from Chicago, Dallas or Houston are $891; $868 from Atlanta, Philadelphia or Orlando; and $912 from Denver, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

    The lowest rates for the Emerald package are offered November and December 2008 and January and February 2009. Holiday periods are usually blacked-out. During the November through February time frame, the six-night package with airfare from New York starts at $699 per person, based on double occupancy, with departures from other cities available.

    The Emerald package offers flexibility and a way to create your own itinerary. It includes the first night in a pre-booked hotel in Shannon or Dublin, four nights in Irish farmhouse bed and breakfasts throughout the country and your final night in a castle. The package also includes a standard shift car rental for the week, breakfast daily, a Waterford Crystal Factory guided tour and a 10 percent discount on purchases at Waterford Crystal retail shop.

    Dooley Vacations or 877/331-9301.


    Make Sure Travel Insurance is Safety Net

    Weather delays, terrorism scares and general overcrowding lead to frightening travel news. If you’ve ever been stuck on the airport tarmac for hours or had a flight cancelled on your way to a cruise or land vacation, you faced the possibility of losing hundreds or thousands of dollars of your hard-earned vacation savings.

    So you’ll just insure the trip and there will be no problem, right? In the majority of cases, you’d be wrong according to the Financial Planning Association.

    Most people think that purchasing travel insurance will protect everything from lost luggage to unforeseen medical bills – that’s rarely true anymore. So when shopping for travel insurance, understand what you’re really buying. Here are some important things the FPA suggests you check before you buy:

    Start at least a month in advance: Most people make vacation reservations fairly far in advance to get the best fares. You need to do the same for travel insurance. Book early and you’ll get the best coverage and rates. You’ll find that carriers are particularly picky about pre-existing conditions for medical or dental treatments, so read the fine print.

    Is full coverage available? That’s a good question, and it sometimes depends on dozens of factors unique to your trip. Your carrier might not offer protection on your chosen airline or cruise line. You’ll find that terrorism insurance is rare and complicated. And you have to examine medical insurance options closely to understand exactly what is covered. The rare soup-to-nuts coverage – covering trip cancellations, lost luggage, delays that leave you stranded, flight accident, emergency medical and medical evacuations – is typically priced in the hundreds of dollars and may only cover up to 75 percent of the total cost of your trip.

    Start online: If you really want an eye-opening experience in buying travel coverage, go to some of the leading web sites that deal in single or multiple-insurer offerings. InsureMyTrip.com is a good first stop in analyzing coverage. Type in the necessary information on your trip (dates, age of travelers, medical coverage needed, etc.) and it spits back more than a dozen possibilities at all price levels. Clicking on any of the choices will give you a detailed view of what those policies will and won’t cover.

    Check with your credit card company: It’s time your credit card company earned its money. Call customer service and find out what kind of travel protection they offer automatically or by fee. You may end up saving money, or, if you travel often enough, you may want to go with a particular card company that provides better travel coverage. But even for cards that tout their travel benefits, it’s critical you investigate exactly what their insurance covers relative to where you want to go. Take the time to make them explain the coverage to you.

    Call your HR department or health insurer: Your health benefits may not cross state or country lines. Before you take any trip, check to see if your employer’s or your own personal health coverage will be effective there. An emergency room visit can cost at least several hundred dollars and a short hospital stay can cost thousands more. You might be interested in travel insurance if you find your own domestic insurer won’t pay claims in certain parts of the country where you’re going.

    Ask about hurricane coverage: The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. Even if you don’t live in a hurricane area, severe hurricanes can disrupt flights all across the nation, which may lead to a delay of your trip here or abroad. Ask whether your travel insurance has hurricane coverage and what it entails.

    Lastly, if you’re stuck, never be afraid to ask for a break. If you’re sidetracked due to a major disaster (weather-related or otherwise), ask if your airline, hotel or other components of your vacation will give you a credit or discount on your bill. It’s rare, but some destinations might see it as a chance to build goodwill. Ask nicely, the worst they can do is say no.



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    Thrifty Triple Miles w/Frequent Flyer Programs

    Thrifty Car Rental puts a little getaway in future by allowing you to earn triple frequent flyer miles with eight airlines. The offer is valid on rentals booked in advance online through May 15, 2008.

    A minimum three-day rental of a midsize car or larger vehicle from Thrifty is required. Participating airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, ATA Airlines, Continental, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways programs.

    To book a qualifying rental, visit Thrifty’s web site and use promotion code TH8S when making a reservation. The reservation must be made online at Thrifty’s web site to qualify for the promotion. Twenty-four hour advance reservations are required.

    Other restrictions may apply. This offer is valid at participating Thrifty locations worldwide, and may not be combined with any other offer. This bonus mile offer and airline miles are subject to the terms and conditions of each participating airline's frequent flyer program.

    Thrifty Car Rental.


    Historic Hotels’ Winter Warmers

    The National Trust Historic Hotels of America member hotels offer getaways, which are subject to availability and must be booked in advance. Packages with no specified date are good through Mar. 30 or 31, 2008. Unless specified, tax and gratuity are not included. Certain restrictions and blackout dates apply.

    Concord’s Colonial Inn, Concord, MA - 978/369-9200 - Winter Warm-up
    Relax and enjoy this historic hamlet. From $149 per night, double occupancy.

    Kelley House, Edgartown, MA 508/627-7900 - Kuddle at Kelley House - (thru Apr. 31, 2008)
    Stay overnight and receive champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries on arrival and breakfast in bed the next morning. $199 per room, per night, double occupancy. Additional nights from $89.

    Eagle Mountain House, Jackson, NH - 603/383-9111 - Fire & Ice Package
    Two-night package includes lodging, local sleigh ride, f.ree cross-country ski passes, breakfast daily, cocktail tasting session, and one romantic dinner. Take home a commemorative fleece blanket. From $228 per person, midweek based on double occupancy. Weekend nights slightly higher.

    Vanderbilt Hall Hotel, Providence, RI - 888/826-4255 - Winter Getaway
    Stay in the lap of luxury. Spend two nights and get the third night fre.e. From $269 per night, double occupancy.

    Antrim 1844 Country House Hotel, Taneytown, MD - 410/756-6812 - Winter Getaway
    Start with afternoon tea, hors d’oeuvres, a six-course meal and a nightcap. From $119 per person, Sun. To Thu.; from $139 per person Fri., and from $169 per person Sat.

    The Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797, Gettysburg, PA - 717/337-2000 - Romantic Escape
    Special getaway for two. Relax in a room with a fireplace, Jacuzzi bath, champagne and a dozen red roses. Romantic dinner for two and breakfast the next morning. One-night package is $295 per couple.

    The Blennerhassett Hotel, Parkersburg, WV - 304/422-3131 - Warm Up to Winter
    Rates from $129 per couple, per night, double occupancy. Valid Fri. to Sun. only.

    The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC 919/933-2001 Carolina Romance
    The romance package includes accommodations for two, champagne, strawberries and chocolates, breakfast. From $190 per couple, per night.

    Union Station Hotel, Nashville, TN - 615/726-1001 - Romance Package
    The package includes accommodations, full breakfast and a chilled champagne. $199 per couple, per night.

    The Vernon Manor Hotel, Cincinnati OH - 513/281-3300 - Romance Package
    Savor champagne, chocolates, turndown service, and breakfast in bed. $139 per night, double occupancy.

    Hotel Metro, Milwaukee WI - 414/272-1937 - Shop til You Drop Package (no expiration)
    Pamper yourself in the spa with a 30-minute massage or reflexology treatment. Unwind with a $20 Metro Bar gift certificate and f.ree overnight parking. From $239 per night.

    Hotel Colorado, Glenwood Springs, CO - 970/945-6511 - Ski, Swim and Stay
    Get ski lift tickets for Sunlight Mountain Resort and swim passes at Glenwood Hot Springs. Get breakfast the following morning. $159 per person, per night, double occupancy.

    Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, Tubac, AZ - 520/398-2211 - Winter Therapy
    Pamper body, mind and spirit. Overnight accommodations in a suite with patio, a round of golf for two and one 50-minute massage or facial are included. From $180 per person, per night, double occupancy.

    Hotel Whitcomb, San Francisco CA - 415/626-8000 - Only in San Francisco Getaway
    Getaway features a guestroom, breakfast, valet parking, chocolate turndown service and a packet of historic tour and museum info. $139 per couple, per night.

    Rosario Resort and Spa, Eastsound WA - 360/376-2222 - Rosario Romance
    Indulge in champagne and chocolates, exotic bath salts, glowing candles, cozy fire and a piano CD. Receive 30 percent off meals or spa treatments. From $199 per couple for the first night, $99 for subsequent nights.

    Mayflower Park Hotel, Seattle WA - 206/382-6990 - Gates of Paradise (through Apr. 6, 2008)
    This one-night package includes two admission tickets to the Gates of Paradise exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. $189 per night for a classic room, $209 for deluxe accommodations.

    National Trust Historic Hotels of America.


    Exploring Georgia’s Mountains - - photos and article by Nicki Chodnoff

    When you mention the state of Georgia, images of antebellum mansions, soul food and Southern hospitality may come to mind. Most people don’t think of mountains. Yet the mountains in the northeast part of the state are part of the Blue Ridge mountain chain. This stretch of mountains are the oldest range in the nation, estimated at more than 1 billion years old. The mountains in north Georgia are also part of the Appalachian Mountains and serve as the backdrop to numerous cities and counties, such as Clayton, Gainesville, and Elberton.

    Traveling around this mountainous part of the state leads to unexpected surprises. Here are a few that I found.

    Booth Western Art MuseumBooth Western Art Museum
    While many people think avant garde or classic paintings when art museums are mentioned, the Booth Western Art Museum in downtown Cartersville, GA proves cowboys are always popular. The museum showcases contemporary Western American art and respectable Presidential, Civil War, movie poster, and illustration collections.

    There is no doubt to the museum’s theme as you approach the 80,000-square-foot limestone building, flanked by life-size cowboy bronze sculptures. Though much of what the museum presents is old, the museum is a new-comer, having opened to the public August 23, 2004.

    The more than 100 paintings and sculptures are housed in eight theme rooms. One room contains a presidential photo portraits and original letters written by every American president. Each president’s letter wasn’t necessarily written during the presidency, but at some time during the president’s life.

    The majority of paintings and sculptures are realistic, though there is a series of Andy Warhol silk screens depicting cowboys and Indians. The oldest painting in the collection is by Charles Craig in 1885.

    Our guide, Jim Dunham, is as varied as the museum’s diverse collections: he’s director of special projects and an artist of considerable merit. Dunham, an actor by training, made a living lecturing about Western movies or reciting the legendary Charlie Russell's Montana stories while he painted. What seems to fascinate mostly everyone is that he’s also one of the premier fast-draw artists in America, his hands substituting or instructing 37 movie stars in the art.

    Dunham demonstrated his talents regularly at the museum. His Colt .45 is almost a blur as he transferred it from the holster to his right hand. His left hand fanned across the hammer, firing five simulated shots. It all happened so fast it sounded like a single shot. Then, like the classic cowboy hero, he twirled the Colt on his index finger and slipped the weapon in his holster.

    Chickamauga National Military Park
    Visiting the National Military Park is a chance to stare history in the face. It may be what General Ulysses S. Grant felt touring the battlefield literally days after his Union forces won the battle that turned the tide against the Confederacy.

    Jim Ogden, historian for the National Park Service explained that Lookout Mountain, the Chickamauga battlefield and several other sites around Northern Georgia comprise America's first and largest national military park. “Congress authorized the creation of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 1890, largely thanks to the efforts of Union and Confederate veterans,” said Ogden. That cooperation became the symbol of reconciliation from a bloody war that pitted brother against brother or father.

    The peaceful, sprawling 9,000-acre park may look like a perfect place for a picnic. But two armies fought on these ridges and forests, 7,000 men died, often in hand-to-hand combat, in heated battles that would make or break the South's bid for independence. Troops came from 24 of the 35 states and four states: Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Tennessee had troops fighting on both sides.

    Congress mandated that the earthworks, farmsteads and even vegetation patterns stay the same as they were in the fall of 1863, when 150,000 soldiers fought over Chattanooga, TN. The city's railroads were a lifeline to industries in central Georgia and Alabama that kept Southern soldiers armed, dressed and moving.

    Listening to Ogden's tour, you can imagine the blue and gray uniforms dotting the beautiful fields and forests. The nearby ribbon of interstate highways seemed to disappear as he described the troops sweeping across the fields and taking shelter among the trees.

    Some 1,400 monuments and markers line some of the roads in the park, erected in 1894 and 1895 by veterans and the states who had troops fighting here. Many of the monuments mark troop positions. Although the top-rate Visitors Center features a time-line description of events, costumed interpreters and interactive displays, many people visit just to see the battlefield. Ogden notes more than 250,000 people visit the battlefield yearly while 150,000 visit the Visitor Center.

    Brasstown BaldBrasstown Bald
    Think of it as Georgia’s roof top. Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia, reaches an elevation of 4,784 feet, an imposing presence in the northwest part of the state. Part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and located just south of the North Carolina border, the heavily wooded mountain is within the Chattahoochee National Forest. Its bare summit is topped by a five-story lookout tower.

    The Cherokee called the mountain Enotah and inhabited the area near the bald as early as 1650. Their legends tell the story of a flood that killed all people except for the families that landed on top of Enotah in a great canoe. The land was cleared by the Great Spirit and the survivors planted crops so they could live until the flood subsided. Brasstown was the name of a Cherokee settlement about five miles from the peak near what is known as Track Rock Gap. Whites began to make inroads into the area after the Gold Rush of 1828 when the Cherokee were forcibly removed in the "Trail of Tears."

    A great time to visit Brasstown Bald is when the rhododendron are in bloom in late spring and early summer. Fall is equally beautiful.

    The huge circular stone and wood observation deck and stone tower are large enough to see from the valley below. The present stone structure, completed in 1965, sits near the location of the original tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corp during the Great Depression. It houses a museum that explains much of the natural and human history of the area in an exhibit entitled "Man and the Mountain." Access to the tower is restricted, but a 360 degree view from the observation deck allows you, on clear days, to see four states, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

    Rhododendron GardenFred Hamilton Rhododendron Garden
    Within the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee, this famous rhododendron garden is the largest in the state with about 400 rhododendron varieties and 2,000 plants. Named for Fred Hamilton, a local resident who developed the only domestic yellow azalea in existence, the garden sprawls on the shore of Lake Chatuge. Hamilton named his yellow azalea after his wife Hazel.

    The Hamilton's long love affair with rhododendrons began in 1952 when they bought their first home near Atlanta and found native azaleas and rhododendrons on their property. The Hamiltons planted additional hybrids and opened their private garden to the public. In 1982 the Hamiltons donated their garden to the Georgia Mountain Fair and more than 1,000 plants were relocated to the present site. Each year, the Fairgrounds adds 100 new plants to the gardens. “Rhododendron are like ladies fashion, they change every year,” said Doug Fre.eland, the gardener at the gardens.

    A mile of meandering pine bark trails wind their way through the woodland garden, which is open year-round. Some plant or tree always seems to in bloom. To see its full glory, visit in April and May when dogwoods, tulip magnolias, native azaleas, lady slippers, and trillium, in addition to the rhododendron, bloom.

    You can combine a visit to the garden, which is f.ree of charge, while attending some of the popular events held at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds including the Georgia Mountain Fair, the Georgia Mountain Roots & Music Festival, the Georgia Mountain Fall Festival and Georgia’s Official State Fiddlers’ Convention.

    For more information, contact Georgia Tourism or 800/VISIT GA.



    Paraiso De La Bonita 4th Night Fr.ee

    Paraiso de la Bonita, a 90-suite boutique resort on Mexico's Riviera Maya, offers a "fourth night fre.e" special until Dec. 19, 2008.

    >Included in the special are accommodations in an ocean view suite; daily breakfast for two; a three-course dinner for two; two 50-minute massages (one per person); welcome bottle of tequila; full-size Bulgari bath amenities; f.ree roundtrip transfers to and from the airport in a Lincoln Navigator; daily afternoon tea; use of the resort's tennis court; fre.e use of the Thalasso facilities including sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, gym, plus daily Pilates and yoga classes.

    The package price from Apr. 14 to Oct. 31, 2008, is the least expensive, $1,800 for four nights, a 56 percent savings over purchasing the package elements a la carte during the winter season.

    The 14-acre beachfront resort is a member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World, and features ocean view suites with private outdoor terraces (some with plunge pools); living rooms, and marble bathrooms with sunken bathtubs for two.

    The Thalasso Center Spa features the only certified Thalassotherapy apa in North America.

    Paraiso de la Bonita.



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