This Weekend: The nation's largest garden tour

By Thomas Berger
October 3, 2012

It's easy to laugh at Virginia's tourism slogan, Virginia is for lovers—I should know, because I'm from there and that's been the slogan for as long as I can remember. So just put the slogan aside.

Virginia is a beautiful state, and right now its springtime beauty is on display in a big way: There are a few days left in Virginia’s 75th Historic Garden Week, which ends on April 27. The Garden Club of Virginia sponsors the event and says that it is "the oldest and largest statewide home and garden tour in the county."

It's definitely large, with more than 250 gardens, homes, and historic sites taking part. A handful of hotels and B&Bs; have special offers connected to Historic Garden Week, which you can view here. Highlights include the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond and Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, just outside of Charlottesville in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

And if you can't make it by this weekend, keep in mind that both of those places, and many others on the tour, are open year-round.


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Deals: Travel like Indiana Jones

In honor of the new movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Expedia has created travel deals either based on or inspired by Indy's escapades. Trips go to locales such as India, Nepal, Jordan, and Egypt, and include thrills such as an elephant safari and a night tour of the Amazon (without snakes, hopefully). The full list of deals is available at Sample deal: Egypt Tour from $2,299 A 10-day escorted tour round trip from Cairo with transfers and local transportation (train, plane, bus, boat), five nights' hotel, a three-night Nile cruise, one overnight train, a desert camel ride, and more. International airfare isn't included. Book by: Sept. 31. When: Until Dec. 31, 2009. Single supplement: $1,200. Expedia, 866/925-1793, MORE Watch's narrated video of the ancient desert city of Petra, where Indy is pictured above. [CORRECTION: This blog post originally said that the picture above was a still from Raiders. In fact, it's a still from The Last Crusade. We regret the error.]


D.C.: A new museum, dedicated to a free press

Today in Washington, D.C., the Newseum opened on Pennsylvania Avenue diagonally across from the National Gallery of Art. It's a 250,000 square-foot museum honoring journalists, who many Americans feel are out of touch with their fellow citizens, and the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of the press. (On the side of the modernist façade, the First Amendment* is etched in giant letters.) The Newseum has seven levels of galleries, theaters, and retail shops. There are exhibits on the past five decades of news history, a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photography, a mock-up of a TV newsroom where you can play reporter, and a sobering permanent exhibit on how the events of September 11th were covered. You'll also find wall panels that list the reporters who have been killed while doing their jobs. In all the hoopla, the roughly $450 million project was criticized by media gadfly Jack Shafer on NPR as a "vanity operation." (He's calling for a boycott, and recommends that travelers instead go to the Paley Museum in New York City.) Still, the Newseum might be worth a stop, especially for families looking for a different type of attraction on the National Mall. The Newseum uses the latest technology in its displays. And c'mon, taping a "report" in front of a simulated White House? That's just cool. (It may become even cooler for kids after MTV launches its new reality TV show about journalism, The Paper, next week.) Decide for yourself with a virtual tour. Tickets are $20 apiece. *Corrected 3:02 p.m. ET: The First Amendment is printed on the side of the building, not the Fourth, search and seizure (as originally posted, due to an editing error). ELSEWHERE The Washington Post offers tips on navigating the Newseum.


Gear: Under-$600 laptops now perfect for travelers

Ultra-portable notebook PCs have come down in price in recent years, from $1,700 for the OQO and Vaio a few years ago, to $500 now. Today, for instance HP introduced the 2133 Mini-Note PC that costs about $600 once you add basic Microsoft software to it. That makes it competitive with the similar Eee PC, launched last month for $299 with Microsoft Office for an additional $199 (for $498 total). Many travelers may have a few good reasons to buy a second PC for vacations. For uploading photos when a digital camera's memory card gets full. Or for entertaining the kids at a hotel room, without risking damage to your main home PC that contains your precious files. Or for using the Internet to plan and book local activities at your destination. Here are details on the two newest, most promising laptops for travelers: HP offers a $599 version of the 2133 Mini-Note, which comes loaded with Microsoft Vista Home Basic, an Internet browser, 1.2GHz Via processor; and 100-odd gigs of memory (for storing images and other files). I recently played with the device under the eyes of a publicist and was impressed. Its 9 inch display and keyboard were wide enough for use for a a couple of hours at a time. Its anodized aluminum shell seemed tough enough to take a beating. And at 2.6 pounds, it felt light enough to tote in a backpack. Here are the favorable reviews from , PC Magazine, and ComputerWorld. Earlier last month, rival manufacturer ASUS introduced a line of ultra-portable computers that also include Microsoft Windows. (Up until now, ASUS machines have only run the Linux operating system.) These machines cost about $500, loaded up. I played with one at a local store (J&R;). It seemed ideal for traveling, weighing only 2 pounds. Its 7 inch screen and its keyboard were wide enough for leisure use but tiny enough to fit into a backpack. Both companies' machines seem ideal for travelers for another reason: They have built in shock protection. In other words, these PCs have solid-state disks, reducing the number of working parts that are easily breakable. HP's devices even come with sensors that automatically detect sudden changes in movement and disconnect key internal parts to prevent damage in case of sudden impact. Each machine mentioned here has enough memory to store your digital photos. And each has Internet access so you can stay connected on the road. DVD drives are usually an external accessory, for about $50 to $100. EARLIER Freebie: Get 1,000 prints digitized. A money belt that's actually a belt. Freebie: Photoshop hits the Web.


Paris: An ace food blogger shares her perfect Parisian food day

I'm not big on having tour guides lead me around when I visit a place (no matter how full of interesting facts they might be, I always find myself stifling yawns and plotting my escape). I do, however, love when I have a friend in the area who can introduce me to great local spots. I've never met Clotilde Dusoulier, author of the hugely popular blog Chocolate & Zucchini, but after reading her new book, Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, I'm going to consider her that friend. She focuses on exactly what I focus on when I travel (food), and she describes everything in the most delightful, conversational way. Divided into two sections—Eats and Shops—the book covers all Clotilde's (see? we’re already on a first-name basis) favorite food spots in the city. She also gives some great tips on eating in Paris: when to drink café crème (morning only), where to put your hands during dinner (on the table, not under), whether you should eat while walking (unless you want stares, no). She’s not at all snooty about these rules, just looking out for you—as any good friend would. Recently, Clotilde took a couple of minutes away from her culinary adventures to answer a few questions… You write such intriguing descriptions of restaurants—I want to try them all! Sadly, I'll never have enough time in Paris to get to even half of them. If you were to design the perfect food day in Paris, where would you go and what would you eat? I would pick a Saturday: in the morning I'd go to the Marché des Batignolles (an organic farmer's market in the 17th), then I'd have lunch at Rose Bakery (in the 9th). I'd take the metro to La Grande Epicerie de Paris (large food shop in the 7th) to see what's new, I'd pick up some chocolate from Jean-Charles Rochoux a few blocks away (in the 6th), and then I'd go home and take a nap before I head out to dinner at Ribouldingue (neo-bistro in the 5th). You give a great tip about buying ready-to-eat foods—bread, cheese, charcuterie, crudités, pastries—and having a picnic in one of Paris's many parks. Do you have any favorite picnic spots you could recommend? The choice of a picnic spot depends on the mood of the day, and I have several favorites listed in the book, but one I could mention is the Quai Saint-Bernard in the 5th, along the Seine by Austerlitz Bridge, where there are large lawns and several arenas in which you can dance (or watch people dance) ballroom dances on summer nights. I get the impression you can't walk down a single Paris street without discovering a great new shop or restaurant. Any new finds since the book went to press? I'm certainly keeping myself updated on what new, and making notes for the next edition! In the meantime, there are sneak previews on my blog and my moblog, where I post pictures of restaurant meals. SAVE THE DATE On Tuesday, May 13, Clotilde Dusoulier, author of the new book Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris and a terrific blog, answers your questions on Paris and food in a live online chat at