• Wheeling, West Virginia


    West Virginia

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    Wheeling is a city in Ohio and Marshall counties in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Located almost entirely in Ohio County, of which it is the county seat, it lies along the Ohio River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Wheeling was originally a settlement in the British colony of Virginia, and later the second largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Wheeling was where the creation of West Virginia was planned, and it was the first capital of the new state. Due to its location along major transportation routes, including the Ohio River, National Road, and the B&O Railroad, Wheeling became a manufacturing center in the late nineteenth century. After experiencing the closing of factories and substantial population loss following World War II, Wheeling's major industries now include healthcare, education, law and legal services, entertainment and tourism, and energy. Wheeling is the principal city of the Wheeling, WV-OH Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the MSA had a population of 147,950, and the city itself had a population of 28,486. From the acceptance of the new state of West Virginia into the union on June 20, 1863, until the Restored Government of Virginia's move to Alexandria in August of the same year, Wheeling was the state capital of both West Virginia and Virginia.
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    Locals Know Best: St. Louis, Missouri

    Ten years ago, if you asked Tamara Keefe where she thought she’d be today, she definitely would not have said St. Louis. In 2008, she moved to the city from California “kicking and screaming,” as she puts it. But her resistance was futile. Within six months, she had fallen under its spell and to this day she declares St. Louis is her one true love. The owner of Clementine’s Creamery, which has two scoop shops in town and a third opening in the spring, joins a number of other culinary entrepreneurs who’ve made the city their home, creating an accidental community of bakers, butchers, brewers, and craftspeople who see to it that locals have fresh baked bread, handmade kombucha, and plenty other delicious eats each day. Add to that the astonishingly low cost of living and a multitude of cultural options, many of them free, and it’s clear that the risk of falling in love with this town is high. (And that’s to say nothing of how Midwesterners are “gloriously friendly people,” Tamara quickly learned.) We checked in with Tamara to learn more. A City of Neighborhoods One of the many things that’s easy to love about St. Louis is its assortment of distinct neighborhoods. And there’s enough to do in each of them that you can spend the day and still leave not having done it all. Tamara has a fondness for Lafayette Square, the city’s oldest and most historic district that’s seen a lively community grow around its historic fixtures and sprawling park. Tamara recommends starting a day there with breakfast at Sqwires (, a secret among locals known for its killer brunches (smoked brisket hash, anyone?) and its bloody mary and mimosa bars on the weekend. Walk it off with a leisurely stroll through the boutiques and galleries along Park Avenue, the main drag. An eatery like Polite Society ( is a top pick for lunch, with plates like wild boar ravioli among the many choices. “It’s funky American cuisine and they do it right,” Tamara says. Nearby is one of her scoop shops, so definitely drop in to try one of her boozy creations, like maple bourbon or chocolate milk stout. (Those are the “naughty” options. She’s got “nice” liquor-free ones, too, like gooey butter cake.) Unwind at the end of the day with a drink at Planter's House (, which Tamra calls a “sexy little cocktail bar.” Cherokee Street (AKA: Cherokee Antique Row) is another neighborhood that’s worth a wander. With its many antique stores, it’s a Shangri-La for vintage lovers who can easily spend hours sifting through inventories of furniture, home goods, jewelry, clothing and much more. One standout is Dead Wax Records, an overflowing vinyl shop owned by one of the same people that runs the Mud House (, a coffee shop nearby that Tamara recommends. Once you’re all shopped out, cap off the day at Chaparritos, Tamara’s go-to for amazing chili verde and mean margaritas. A Hub of Culture If you live in St. Louis, it’s easy to see—and hear—your tax dollars at work. Many museums are free, the zoo is free, there’s an outdoor theater, the Muny (, where nearly 1500 seats are offered for free at every performance, and St. Louis is home to one of the country’s most celebrated opera companies, which you can see for as little as $12. “The arts are huge here and it’s really important for them to have access to it—for everyone to have access. It’s not just for the elite,” Tamara says. “Coming from SoCal, where you pay outrageous prices for everything, it’s just awesome.” Every city has a movie theater--or several--for regular entertainment, but St. Louis's main cinema, the independent, old-time-style Chase Park Cinema in the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel, comes with an added delight. His name is Jerry and he plays the vintage organ before every show and sees people off after the movie with a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss. Tamara estimates he's been there for decades. "Everyone knows him, everyone looks forward to it," she says. Nature Calls Should you need a break from the city, there are a few ways for heeding the call of the wild. Castlewood State Park, for one, features walking and running trails that snake along the Merrimack River. There are cliffs that make perfect perches for a picnic lunch. Tamara suggests stopping at Parker’s Table at Oakland and Yale ( a wine and food market where you can pick up provisions like sandwiches, soups, and the house sausages for the day. For kids, there’s an uncommon nature sanctuary. The Butterfly House at the Missouri Botanical Garden ( is a glass-walled conservatory that’s home to more than a thousand tropical free-wheeling butterflies. “They land on eyelashes, hair, clothes," Tamara says. "It’s so sweet and kinda magical. You feel like you’re in a Disney movie.” Daytripping Everywhere you go these days it seems like you're close to a wine country, and St. Louis is no exception. About 90 minutes west, Hermann (, a village settled by German immigrants, is Missouri’s wine region. A concentration of wineries could certainly keep you entertained for a full day. Break up the wine tastings with a stop at Old Stone Barn (, a working hay farm that doubles as an antique emporium. Another destination if you want to hit the road is Cottleville, and old-timey town with still yet more antique shops and charming B&Bs. Stone Soup Cottage (, a restaurant in an old house with just enough space for ten tables, is worth the trip alone, says Tamara. Perch yourself on the wraparound porch and start your evening gazing at the stars. Dinner, chef’s choice, consists of whatever’s fresh off the farm that day, so expect a wholesome meal.

    Travel Tips

    How to Choose the Perfect Suitcase

    There are so many different types of suitcases on the market that the options can seem overwhelming. We put some of our favorite brands through their paces for strength, convenience, efficient packing, and water-resistance. What we found out is that, just as there is no one vacation destination that's right for everyone (don't get us started on the mountains versus the ocean), there is no one-size-fits-all piece of luggage either. In fact, selecting the perfect suitcase is more about understanding what you need from a suitcase than anything else. To help you narrow down this process, we've broken down our favorites into six distinct "personalities." Keep reading to find the one that's right for you. For the Neat Freak Keep shoes separate from clothes and dirty away from clean with the Samsonite EZ-Cart: A detachable shelf divides your roller bag into two stacked compartments. Attached bungee cords allow you to piggyback smaller bags on top, while the flexible four-wheel system makes pushing the bag in front of you as smooth as wheeling it behind., $290. For the Dapper Dan With its safari-inspired aesthetic, the Travelpro National Geographic Kontiki 22" Rollaboard might look right at home alongside Katharine Hepburn's cargo on The African Queen. Just check out the antique map lining and brass hardware. Fortunately, it's updated in all the right ways, with padded laptop sleeves and a rugged, DuraGuard-coated nylon fabric instead of canvas., $149. For the Multitasker The REI Stratocruiser pulls double duty as a carry-on and a backpack, thanks to stowable straps. It also features a clip-on daypack, so you can keep in-flight essentials close at hand while your bag's overhead. And unlike other packs, which often topple when upright, this one comes with a "kickstand.", $239. For the Adventurer Most bags can handle travel by air, rail, or road-but how about by sea? Not an issue for the fully submersible Hummingbird Carry-On Zip. With its durable vinyl exterior reinforced with scrim (a latticelike material used in sails), the bag is tough enough to keep valuables safe in a rain shower, in a rain forest, or on a reef., $150. For the Fashion Plate The Hideo Wakamatsu Jelly Bean carry-on comes in four colors as bright and cute as its namesake and includes stickers, ideal for customizing the dimpled exterior to avoid baggage claim mix-ups. But the bag's not just a looker. The outer shell—made of the same plastic used in motorcycle helmets—will have you wondering why it's not called the "Hard Candy" instead., $169. For the Jetsetter At five pounds, nine ounces, the GoLite TraveLite Wheeled Carry-On might seem like, well, a lightweight. True, it weighs two pounds less than leading competitors, thanks to its sturdy recycled nylon. But just because it lacks heft doesn't mean it lacks structure: Two internal compartments and two deep external pockets provide plenty of well-organized packing space., $99.


    Finding the Music in Ireland

    What you'll find in this story: Ireland culture, Ireland attractions, Ireland neighborhoods, Dublin restaurants, Galway restaurants, Dublin hotels, Galway hotels, Dublin entertainment From the beginning, travel has been a big part of Kurtis and Heather Frank's relationship. The couple, who live in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling, Ill., met in 1999 while studying in Germany. They took advantage of their semester abroad, seeing an opera in Prague, touring the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and downing more than a few döner kebabs in train stations all over Germany. ("They put McDonald's and Burger King to shame," Kurtis says.) The couple got engaged on a trip to Boston, while overlooking the harbor just after a Red Sox game, and after they were married in 2002, went on their honeymoon to Hawaii. For their next adventure, the Franks asked us to help plan a 10-day trip to Ireland. They've never been and are hoping to visit Sarah Croke, a friend in Dublin who they went to school with in Germany, and take in some villages and gorgeous scenery on a road trip. Travel dates are based on a long shot: Toward the end of June, U2 is playing a couple of shows at Dublin's revamped Croke Park Stadium. "My wife and I are huge fans, along with half the planet, I suppose," Kurtis wrote to us in February. "It'd be fantastic to see U2 in their home country. Whether we'll be able to a) get tickets and b) afford going on the trip after purchasing said tickets remains to be seen." We told Kurtis and Heather to try and buy tickets at when they went on sale, but no luck: All 160,000 tickets for the two concerts sold out in less than an hour. The Franks decided to go to Ireland anyway. (In turn, we decided to help them out in their quest to see Bono, the Edge, and the rest of the boys; see below for more details). Since June falls in high season, we advised them to book flights several months in advance. Aer Lingus offers its lowest fares online and had an O'Hare-Dublin round trip for $658, not including taxes and charges. This was $14 cheaper than the best fares from Travelocity and Expedia. We also suggested consulting The Irish Echo and Irish Voice--available at newsstands in Chicago, Boston, New York, and other Irish hubs--where Irish travel specialists such as Crystal Travel and O'Connor's Fairways regularly advertise deals. The booming Irish economy and a weak U.S. dollar mean that Dublin--and all of Ireland--is dramatically more expensive than a decade or two ago. The Franks aren't looking for anything luxurious in terms of lodging, and our vote for best budget choice goes to Jurys Inn Christchurch. Sure, it's got that chain-hotel feel (floral bedspreads and dark woods), but rooms are bright and relatively spacious. Plus, it's directly across from Christchurch Cathedral in the Old City and just a five-minute walk to the cafés and pubs of Temple Bar. Speaking of which, we also like the Temple Bar Hotel for its location in the heart of the action. Although Kurtis and Heather shy away from tourist traps, there are some blatantly touristy activities that intrigue them. One is Viking Splash Tours, an especially fun way to get oriented in Dublin. Forget double-deckers with canned commentary. This tour takes place aboard a "duck"--a reconditioned World War II amphibious craft similar to those that run tours in Boston and other cities. It starts on land and eventually splashes into the Grand Canal Basin; riders wear horned Viking helmets and issue war cries at appropriate moments. The Guinness Storehouse is another big tourist site that interests the Franks; we urged them to go for the last tour of the day (8 p.m. in July and August) and have a pint at the brewery's top-floor pub, where there's a particularly spectacular view of the city. "We like to travel by rail, which is how we got around in Germany," Kurtis says. "Neither of us has experience driving manual transmission cars, and we've never driven on the left side of the road, so I guess the train is the safest bet." This was a problem. After a little prodding, the Franks took our advice to rent a car: Driving is by far the easiest way to get around in Ireland (and the train system isn't all that extensive). But most rentals are stick shifts, and automatics are more expensive. We searched for a four-day automatic rental and the cheapest options for Avis and Hertz were $302 and $350, respectively. Instead, we steered the Franks to local operator Dooley Car Rentals, which rents an automatic Ford Fiesta for $244 for four days, including basic insurance coverage. (To be on the safe side, we told the Franks to get written confirmation specifying that the car will be an automatic.) Admirably, the Franks aren't the kind of travelers who are hell-bent on packing everything into one trip. "We always try to view our vacations as if they will not necessarily be the last time we visit a place," Kurtis explains. "Quality over quantity tends to be our mantra." The idea is to tackle a small territory at a leisurely pace over four or five days. For a dramatic antidote to the capital, we pointed the Franks toward the solitude of Connemara, a region on the west coast that comprises one of Ireland's largest Gaeltachts, or Irish-speaking areas. Oscar Wilde called it a "savage beauty," and the remote landscape is a wild and woolly blend of heather-clad mountains, silent lakes, vast bog plains, and a smattering of appealing seaside villages. Ireland is so small--about the size of West Virginia--that the coast-to-coast drive from Dublin to the west coast takes just over three hours. There's something wonderfully exhilarating about traveling out of Dublin on the N4 motorway. Maybe it's how the road signs beckon to the west and galway with the promise of the great wide open. The N4 leads right into Galway City, a gateway to Connemara and as inviting a city as any. The narrow street layout in the city center remains unchanged since medieval times, yet the place manages to be vibrant and youthful. As the home of many art galleries, artisan workshops, and festivals, Galway has earned a reputation as the unofficial arts capital of Ireland. The city is also blessed with a location between Galway Bay and the grand expanse of Lough Corrib, which is said to have some of the world's best fishing and an island for every day of the year. Kurtis told us that he likes the Chieftains and Damien Rice, so we knew he'd be happy to learn that Galway is a terrific place to hear traditional and folk music. One of our favorite pubs for live sessions (Wednesdays through Sundays) in Galway is Tigh Neachtain, which positively exudes atmosphere thanks to a labyrinth of tiny "snugs" (small interconnected rooms) that haven't been changed since 1894. The Crane Bar, a rustic gem of a pub renowned for its nightly music sessions, is also worth the 15-minute walk or quick cab ride from central Galway to the seaside outskirts of the city. The combination of comfort and good price again led us to recommend a Jurys hotel in the heart of Galway. The Franks don't want to be tied to a strict itinerary, and we told them that their road trip can be as scheduled or as loose as they desired. Even in Ireland's more remote areas, it's rare to drive more than an hour without passing a B&B. In Galway they could hop a ferry bound for Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, for a day of scenic bike riding. Another possibility is the coastal drive (R336) that loops around Galway Bay to Roundstone and Clifden. Ensconced between mountains and the Atlantic, tiny Errisbeg Lodge, about a mile from Roundstone, is an especially beautiful place to linger for a night. From Clifden, the N59 skirts past the entrance to Connemara National Park, where herds of ponies and red deer roam free. The Franks could zip through Connemara in a few hours, but it's far more rewarding to stop often and hang out in the colorful fishing villages along the way. Before heading back to Dublin, they may want to spend the night at Breaffy House Hotel. Just outside of Castlebar, in County Mayo, a long driveway leads to an honest-to-goodness, trumpets-blaring, grand castle hotel at an affordable price. Even if the weather doesn't cooperate (and in Ireland it rarely does), the warmth and kindness of the people will make for great travel memories for Kurtis and Heather. To paraphrase an Irish blessing, may the road rise up to meet them. Surprise! Call us a bunch of softies, but after hearing that the Franks couldn't get tickets for U2 in Dublin at the end of June, we used our resources to score two seats. "I'm in total shock," Kurtis said after we gave him the news. "And I think that Heather just passed out. But I'm sure she'll be fine by concert time. Thanks so much!" Just remember to tell us how it was. How was your trip? Sean Sullivan served in the Peace Corps in Africa three decades ago, and we coached him--along with his wife, Rita, and friends Michael and Michele McMurray, pictured here at the Cape of Good Hope--on a return trip in February. "What made the biggest impact on me was the relations between the races in South Africa," Sean says. "The spirit of oppression, defeat, and hopelessness that existed 30 years ago has been replaced by a good-natured, positive spirit. We saw young blacks and whites strolling together easily. I was also impressed by the lively jazz scene in Cape Town, and, of course, we enjoyed Kruger National Park. We saw all the big game--lion, buffalo, leopard, even a cheetah calling her cubs." Transportation Aer Lingus 800/474-7424, Crystal Travel 800/327-3780, O'Connor's Fairways Travel 800/662-0550, Dooley Car Rentals 800/331-9301, Aran Island Ferries 011-353/91-568-903,, Galway to the Aran Islands $26 round trip, bus ride to the docks $6.75 Lodgings Jurys Inn Christchurch Christchurch Place, Dublin, 011-353/1-454-0000,, $151 Temple Bar Hotel Fleet St., Dublin, 011-353/1-677-3333,, from $162 Jurys Inn Galway Quay St., Galway, 011-353/91-566-444,, $139 Errisbeg Lodge Roundstone, Connemara, County Galway, 011-353/95-35807,, from $94 Breaffy House Hotel Castlebar, County Mayo, 011-353/94-902-2033, from $173 Attractions Tigh Neachtain 17 Cross St., Galway, 011-353/91-568-820 The Crane Bar 2 Sea Rd., Galway, 011-353/91-587-419 Viking Splash Tours 64-65 Patrick St., Dublin, 011-353/1-707-6000,, from $24 Guinness Storehouse St. James Gate Brewery, Dublin, 011-353/1-408-4800,, tour admission $18.75 Connemara National Park 011-353/95-41054, The Automobile Association of Ireland (click Route Planning for directions) Entertainment Ireland, for music and arts listings


    Rome Sweet Rome

    What you'll find in this story: Rome restaurants, Rome culture, Rome attractions, Rome neighborhoods, Rome churches, Rome museums When I was 22, I did Rome in three efficient days. With a backpack and a guidebook I covered St. Peter's, the Colosseum, the Pantheon. I ate a pressed sandwich. I sat on the Spanish Steps. A group of Italians drove me in their tiny Fiat to a genuine out-of-town restaurant. I liked the city well enough, but I didn't get why it seduced people. I prefer to peek under the skin of places, figure them out a little, and in Rome that seemed impossible. The city was a labyrinth of churches, ruins, and steep-walled palazzi barred by iron gates. To be honest, I was happy to tick Rome off the list for good. And then came the telephone call. My wife, Jennifer, a student of classical art, had won something called the Rome Prize. She was being offered a free year to live in Rome, and if I took time off from my job I could stay with her through the summer. We'd live atop the Janiculum Hill, in a room with 15-foot ceilings, overlooking a fountain. Dinner would be served promptly at 8 p.m. Could we come? How could we not? The Boston Globe gave me a leave of absence. We found a cat-sitter and a car-sitter. And we packed and repacked, weighing our crammed luggage until it fit precisely under the airline's weight limit, 74 pounds per bag. We arrived in January to find the streets raked by 40-degree winds. The Rome of my memory had been rolled into storage. Café awnings were furled; outdoor tables were stacked and chained. Some restaurants were shuttered completely until March. The city's crumbling grandeur was familiar enough, but the details of daily life felt endlessly strange. The streets buzzed with two-person microcars, smaller than anything I'd ever seen driven by adults. Policemen carried machine guns and sported intricately sculpted beards. Store owners were fastidious about handing out receipts, even for a cup of coffee, but they were creative in making change, often in my favor. Everyone wore thick quilted coats, and men all had the same moleskin pants in ocher yellow--but mysteriously, no stores appeared to sell them. We were living at the American Academy in Rome, a venerable institution seemingly designed to hold its occupants in splendid isolation from urban life. So although we had moved to Italy, we had almost none of the ordinary bureaucratic headaches expats have to endure. The academy was full of professors and artists, some of whom had been coming to Rome for years. They knew a version of the city that wasn't in guidebooks, and they knew who to call--a former colleague, a government functionary--for permission to see it. When they went out, I could almost always tag along. One early winter morning, we rode the number 75 bus over the river to the Colosseum stop. (Can you ever really grasp a city where the Colosseum is a bus stop?) We walked past the Arch of Constantine, past the Forum entrance, and stopped on the Palatine Hill. A grad student had landed a permit to visit a rarely seen building called the House of the Griffins. Even with permission, Rome doesn't yield its secrets easily: We shuttled back and forth between two gatehouses for 45 minutes before we found our contact, a custodian who spoke no English. He led us through a fence and stopped at a stone arch that opened onto a blank wall. There was no house, just a steep metal stairway running straight down into the ground. We climbed three stories down, plunging from a cold day into colder, damp earth, from an Italian park in 2005 into the living room of a man who wore a toga and sacrificed to Jupiter. The House of the Griffins is the long-buried mansion of a wealthy Roman who lived in the years before Julius Caesar. We played our flashlights over walls painted in faux marble--apparently the Romans have always loved faux marble--and floors in op art mosaics. Rome has more buried epochs than most cities have epochs. Every square inch of the city is like a pressed sandwich of history. Beneath the churches are older churches, and beneath those are temples, or the remnants of huts. It wasn't just me who couldn't get a handle on Rome. Nobody could. As more and more doors opened, and I read a bit of Italian history, I started to figure it out: Prehistoric settlements lay under the Republic, the Republic lay under the Empire, and the monuments of the Empire were leveled and pillaged by a nearly endless succession of popes. The popes put their crests on buildings as if they were signatures. Six mounds and a star was the work of Alexander VII; three bees was Urban VIII. Another door wasn't opening as easily, however: the language. Before I had come to Italy, I had studied Italian grammar and even started listening to CDs. With devastatingly accurate intonation, I could ask, "Is Chiara there?" And, "Is Amanda there?" But on the street I would produce one grammatically shining sentence--"Excuse me, where is the church with the preserved heart of St. Charles?"--and get back a rapid-fire mouthful that sounded like nothing I had ever heard. So Jennifer and I enrolled in Italian classes. Every day we trekked nearly an hour to the Piazza di Spagna to spend the afternoon under the crisp tutelage of Costanza, our infinitely patient teacher, wrestling with the past imperfect or the bizarre Italian double-pronoun. ("Did you give him the cheese?" Costanza would ask. "Yes," we'd reply. "Him-it I already gave.") It was one small step for our Italian skills, and a giant leap for our grasp of the city. Pretty soon we could get from the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain three different ways; we knew how to find Parliament, the only heated mall, the best gelato. But I still had to think out my sentences before I said them. I'd greet waiters with a crisp "buona sera" and they'd hand me the English menu. One morning I stood in a café with my friend Carl, an American who gesticulates and fires off ciao bellas like he was born in Italy. He had a brilliant piece of advice: "You can't say 'um.' The minute you do, you're toast." He sipped his macchiato. "Italians just stretch out their words and make an 'ehhh' sound until they think of something else. Or if you really need to buy some time, say 'dunque.' " My dictionary said dunque meant "thus," but Italians use it as a kind of drumroll. So I started dragging out my syllables, peppering conversations with "dunque-aaay," "cioè-ehhhh," "però-ohhh...." I tossed in a few choice Italian gestures. Part of speaking the language right was acting it, according to Carl, and eventually I felt like I hit a kind of rhythm when I went to restaurants and asked for a table. But I still got the English menu. We emerged from the Catacombs of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter, a giant maze of tombs beneath a remote eastern neighborhood, into a bright February day when my cell phone rang. It was a reporter in Rome who worked with the Globe. My leave of absence had a string attached: If anything happened to Pope John Paul II, my Roman holiday would be put on abrupt hold. For a month and a half the news out of the Vatican barely stopped. My life orbited the surreal Vatican pressroom where every day the pope's dour spokesman would emerge to deliver the news in Italian. His Holiness invariably remained "tranquillo," despite the painful-sounding things being done to him. On April 1, we were told that the pope was "conscious, lucid, and serene"; during the night of April 2, he died. I was at home when I heard the news, and I immediately ran all the way to the Vatican. It was like speeding through two worlds in 20 minutes--the Rome I knew, where students still went to bars and families crowded into little trattorias--and a Rome that had suddenly erupted from history, with thousands of Catholics and tourists flocking to St. Peter's, looking up at the pope's empty window, saying Ave Marias by candlelight, packing a square that had been built 350 years ago for just this purpose. Journalists stepped off planes and wrote about how the Eternal City was being overwhelmed, but nothing could have been further from the truth: Rome had transformed from a place where buying a stamp can be impossible to one that casually kept 500,000 pilgrims housed and hydrated. Tens of thousands of volunteers emerged from nearby towns in matching yellow vests to help maintain order. The Knights of Malta, founded 1,000 years ago to treat sick crusaders, set up a modern, red medical tent right in St. Peter's Square. Every day the city delivered freight pallets loaded with bottled water to hand out to the crowds. This being Italy, the water was sparkling. Once Pope Benedict XVI said his inaugural mass, once the pilgrims went home and the story died down, I found that Jennifer and I were living differently. We stopped carrying a map. I could arrive at an unfamiliar bus stop and figure out, in 15 seconds, whether to hop on the bus or not. We knew if a cabdriver was taking us the long way. The weather had broken; walks at night were suddenly beautiful. My parents visited, and then Jennifer's parents visited, and we both slipped easily into tour-guide mode. Showing people around made me realize I had internalized a whole set of rules: Italians never wear shorts, never eat dinner before 8 p.m., never drink cappuccino after noon, never pay attention to don't walk signs. They call ahead for a table, but not too far ahead. I learned to describe Jennifer, who has brown hair, as bionda, or blonde, because of her light complexion. Perhaps most gratifying was that after weeks of wheeling and dealing with Vatican officials, recalcitrant nuns, and three different kinds of police, my Italian actually worked. My phone calls got more fluid, and the last time we booked a table at our favorite neighborhood trattoria, the "reserved" card on the table next to us said stranieri--"foreigners." On our table this time, the card said stefano. As the heat mounted, the city began to feel a little enervating, so we escaped for a five-day trip to the north of Italy. By the time we returned, the city had transformed itself again: Stages were being built in public squares for summer concerts. Streets were clogged with tourists, seemingly all moving in groups, seemingly all behind the same bottle-blonde lady holding aloft a folded umbrella. You could no longer just drop in for a quick scoop of gelato--you had to wait, but I didn't even know how to line up anymore. Instead of shoving right into the side of the line, a Roman tactic I had finally embraced, people seemed to form the orderly queues of their native countries. It was the Rome I remembered from my visit all those years ago, a crush of three-day visitors ticking Rome off their lists. But it wasn't the place where I'd been living. So, for my last weekend in Italy, we did as the Romans do. We went to the beach. Every local has his favorites During his six months in Rome, Heuser found himself returning to a few spots, not all of which appear in the guidebooks. Here's his partial, and highly subjective, list of museums, churches, and restaurants worth adding to any itinerary. Ancient art gallery Palazzo Massimo While busloads of tourists wait hours to get into the Vatican Museums across town, you can stroll right into this magnificent collection of ancient Roman sculptures, paintings, and mosaics. The top floor alone is worth the $9 admission, with several vividly frescoed rooms re-created from Roman villas. Your ticket also admits you to three other museums of historical Rome: the Palazzo Altemps, with more sculptures; the Crypta Balbi, an anatomy of the medieval city; and the Terme di Diocle-ziano. Largo di Villa Peretti 1, 011-39/06-3996-7700. Great collection Galleria Borghese Located in Villa Borghese park, the Galleria Borghese is a manageable jewel commissioned by the nephew of Pope Paul V expressly to hold his lush art collection--classical marbles, Renaissance paintings, and some of Bernini's greatest sculptures. The walls and ceilings, decorated to reflect the theme of the works displayed, constitute a museum in and of themselves. Piazzale Museo Borghese 5, 011-39/06-328-101, $10.50 (reservations required). Major church Santa Maria Maggiore This cavernous basilica is a thousand years older than St. Peter's and was built after the Empire collapsed, when Rome was crumbling into a backwater. Its grand accumulation of art and artifacts embodies the wealth and eclecticism of the Church--sparkling medieval mosaics, Rome's tallest bell tower, a purported fragment of Jesus's crib, and two garish Renaissance side chapels larger than some churches. Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore. Medieval basilica Santi Cosma e Damiano Of the thousands of people who go to the Forum every day, few pop out the side gate and visit this charming medieval church. One end was grafted onto the Temple of Romulus; the other is covered with sixth-century mosaics in a strikingly modern blue-green palette. A quirk in the building's history means the floor is much higher now than when it was built, putting visitors right up near the saints, the evangelists, and the flock of lambs. Via dei Fori Imperiali 1. Architecture showpiece San Carlino Architecture aficionados tend to skip the big-name churches, preferring buildings by Francesco Borromini. The baroque craftsman imbued his tiny structures with imaginative geometries that give mind-bending life to their plain stucco interiors. The most popular is probably Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, but I especially loved San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane, where the elliptical dome rises in a mystifying tangle of octagons and warped crosses. Via Nazionale at Via delle Quattro Fontane. Trompe l'oeil Convento di Trinità dei Monti Inside this French convent--you enter just to the left of the Trinità dei Monti church, near the Spanish Steps--is a long anamorphic painting in the cloister. It's a landscape that, as you move around, morphs into a portrait of a cloaked saint. Tours are given only twice a week. Ask if an English-speaking guide is available; otherwise the tour will be in French or Italian. Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, 011-39/06-679-4179, $6.25 (reservations required). Cheap tour The number 116 bus The 116 isn't the quickest way across town--walking is probably faster--but riding the tiny bus is like a ¬1 tour of the city. It starts in the parking garage next to the Vatican and wriggles its way through an hour's worth of Rome's great public spaces and boulevards--the Via Giulia, Piazza Farnese, Campo dei Fiori, the Via Veneto--before finally turning around in a bucolic cul-de-sac in front of the Galleria Borghese. Hop off and walk through the surrounding park, or just stay onboard and do the whole thing in reverse. Secret lunch Sora Margherita There's no sign outside this small temple of traditional Roman cuisine, and technically you need to be a member to eat there, but if you know how to find it they'll let you join on the spot. (Membership is free.) The menu changes every day, but as with much Roman cooking, simple is good--we liked fried artichokes, meat agnolotti in red sauce, and the house wine. If you get to Piazza delle Cinque Scole, in the Jewish Ghetto, and can't find it, look for a doorway draped with long, red, lei-like strands. Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30, 011-39/06-687-4216, agnolotti $9. Pick-me-up Granitas at Tazza d'Oro The most famous cup of coffee is at nearby Sant'Eustachio, but for my money--about half as much per espresso--the most consistently rich and perfect cup is at Tazza d'Oro, near the Pantheon. On a summer's day, the cult item is the granita di caffè, a slushy hit of intense, frozen coffee topped with stiff whipped cream ($2.50). Via degli Orfani 84, 011-39/06-678-9792. Roman pizza Da Ivo Arguments rage about the best traditional Roman pizza, a flat-crusted pie baked quickly in a searing wood oven. But if you follow the Romans, they're heading to Ivo--a cheap, busy, and fun joint, full of soccer memorabilia, in Trastevere. Call ahead and they'll often have a table ready; favorite pizzas are the apple-Gorgonzola and the sausage-and-mushroom with red sauce ($8.50 each). Afterward, stroll up the street to Santa Maria, one of the prettiest piazzas in the city. Via di San Francesco a Ripa 158, 011-39/06-581-7082. Trattoria Antica Roma Veal saltimbocca, fried appetizers, pasta all'amatriciana: Trattoria menus are remarkably similar, so the goal is to find a place that does the classics well and gives you an authentic Roman experience to boot. There's no cutesy ambience to Antica Roma, in a quiet neighborhood (Monteverde Vecchio) beyond Trastevere, but the crowd is local, the staff is mainly family, and the salmon pennette studded with fish roe ($11) is ridiculously good. Via Alberto Mario 17, 011-39/06-581-6809. Dinner out Antico Arco A "fancy" dinner tends to mean a trattoria with a great location and double the normal price for spaghetti with clams. Antico Arco, on the Janiculum Hill, just west of the city center, is in a whole different category--a youngish, upscale restaurant with dishes such as puff pastry filled with tomato and mozzarella ($13), and a carbonara like you've never imagined ($18). The impressive wine list is fairly priced. After dinner, walk past the Fontana Paola and look at Rome twinkling beneath you. Piazzale Aurelio 7, 011-39/06-581-5274. Gelato San Crispino There's average gelato, excellent gelato, and then this stuff. Portions are small and priced with a swagger (starting around $2.50 for a small cup), but San Crispino, near Trevi Fountain, is worth seeking out. The grapefruit one is so concentrated you can almost taste the pith. Via della Panetteria 42, 011-39/06-679-3924.

    Travel Tips

    Where to Find the Best Pizza in America

    MIDWESTERN PIZZA: CHICAGO-STYLE AND BEYOND "Pizzeria Uno on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Birthplace of Chicago-style." —James Michalek "In Chicago, I head to Lou Malnati's for famous deep dish pizza." —@SheilaS "Classic Slice in Bay View, WI (Milwaukee)." —Jill Gronowski Czajkowski "We love the pizza at Dough Trader Pizza in Spearfish, South Dakota. Yummy sourdough crust from start that is 100 years old. It is pizza to die for." —Cheryl Wyckoff Smith "In Chicago, Eduardo's." —Michelle Buchecker "Imo's Pizza in St. Louis. Delicious!" —Reesa Lehr "Pizza Shoppe in Kansas City, near Liberty, Missouri. The crust has the right amount of crunch with great sauce that compliments any toppings." —Mamie Kuhl "In Chicago, Lou Malnati's, and in Madison, Grampa's Pizzeria." —Sher BonDurant "Gino's East in Chicago." —Alisha Nicole "The Art of Pizza in Chicago. Best deep dish in the city, hands down." —Jennifer Hayes "Alibi in Troy, Michigan." —Denise Martin-Capling "In Chicago, Pequods Pizza. The caramelized crust is awesome." —Kanya Babu IS THE NORTHEAST AMERICA'S PIZZA CHAMP? "Federici's [Family Italian Restaurant] in Freehold, NJ. My parents had their first date there in 1950." —Carol Davison "Patzeria Perfect Pizza on West 46th Street near Broadway in NYC. It is literally a hole in the wall consisting of a counter and four seats, but the pizza and cheesecake are fabulous! New York Style at its best. We stop there every year during our annual trip to NYC." —Michelle Persinger Caruthers "Louie and Ernie's, in the Bronx, is my favorite pizza in NYC." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello "Pepe's in New Haven." —Michele Herrmann "Lombardi's on Spring Street in Manhattan." —Alex Chan "Al Capone's in Downtown Boston. Their subs are outta this world also!" —Denise Keats "Grimaldi's. They have several locations, but the best is in Brooklyn." —Lisa Gordon Liff "Pizza Land in North Arlington, NJ. Soprano's Pizza." —Ana Rosa "Benny Tudino's in Hoboken, NJ." —Lori Schmidt Ernest "Pizza Wagon in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NYC." —Michelle DiGaetano "Santarpio's Pizza, in East Boston, near the airport." —Mike Buscetto "Rowayton Pizza in Rowayton, CT! You can sit outside in the summer, it's BYOB and you can smell the salt air. Divine!" —Kelsey Leigh Williams "Lobingers in PA." —Kerry McAllister "Stanziato's in Danbury, Connecticut." —Kristy Anderson Boiano "Alfredo's Pizza in Bally, PA. Greasy, foldable, and delicious. The best." —Anita Ling Vanzile "Pizzeria Regina in Boston's North End." —Gina Cali "Sally's in New Haven." —Kelly Jameson Walker "American Flatbread in Burlington, VT. Mack's Pizza in Wildwood, NJ." —Rich Brown "Stone Harbor Pizza in Stone Harbor, NJ." —Marilyn Capolarella Currey "Pino's Pizza in Cleveland Circle, Boston." —Michael P. Nasser "Paras Pizza in Sanford, Maine." —Cathy T. Bradbury SOUTHWESTERN-STYLE PIZZA "Dion's Pizza in Albuquerque. The salads there are awesome too!" —Thu Doan "Rome's Pizza in San Antonio, the De Zavala location. Yum. I really miss it (living in Chicago now). Be sure to check out the menu. My favorite pizza is the Tomato Duet. There are other great unique topping combos." —Kim Jones"Oregano's in Gilbert, AZ. So delicious!" —Carrie Collins PIZZA WITH A SOUTHERN ACCENT "DiCarlo's Pizza in Wheeling, WV. Order by the slice or by the tray. Best there is." —Helen Gibbs "Slice Pizzeria in New Orleans on historic Magazine Street near the boutiques, between the Zoo and Garden District." —@Winny_Churchill "Vinnie Van Gogo's in Savannah, GA." —Aubrey Hanson "In Atlanta, it's Antico Pizza or nothing!" —Lauren Hanson Mitchell "Oklahoma City, Plaza District: Empire Pizza is phenomenal. Everything from standard to exotic local flavor combinations. Great price, just over $3 a slice, and you must try adding the pink sauce!" —Holly Fothergill "Primanti Bros. in Fort Lauderdale. Family-owned small chain brought their pizza to Florida. They have a 24-hour shop across the street from the beach. Also have heavy duty sandwiches. Grab some of that great pizza and go and eat it in front of the waves." —JoJo Red THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WEST "I'd like to say I travel the world for pizza, but Blaze Pizza is great and they are headquartered in Pasadena, California, about three miles from my house!" —Shannon McConnell "George's in Brookings, South Dakota. Walk up window!" —Ann Shoup "Gioia in Berkeley, CA." —RuthAnn Yeo "Boston's North End Pizza Bakery (aka Boston Bob's Pizza) in Kailua, HI. We always went there when I was a kid and Bob would put on whatever music we wanted—he always got a kick out of us asking him to play The Beatles!" —Kaeli Conforti" Tony's Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Gina's Pizza and Pastaria in Corona del Mar, CA." —Julie Hamilton "Big O To Go in Mission Viejo. Same location, same owners for 30 years, and the best fresh ingredients piled high on every pizza." —Pi Scofield "Quei Bravi Ragazzi in Encinitas, CA." —Allison Fraiberg


    Is it time for major bus companies to send drivers to charm school?

    From time to time, companies decide to send their workers to "charm school" to learn how to interact positively with customers. In the world of travel, there's a strong history of this type of staff education. In February of 2010, for example, Delta reacted to horrible customer service ratings by sending all of its consumer-facing employees to charm school. Just a month earlier, the city of New Delhi started signing cabbies up for charm school in advance of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. And as far back as 1991, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey created a program called "Airport Nice" to train airport employees on how to greet arriving travelers in a more pleasant manner. Customer service education is not a bad idea. Often times, a company's ability to retain its clientele has as much to do with the level of service it provides as it does with the products it offers. I'm a veteran bus rider. I have friends across the Eastern Seaboard and I frequently find myself four-wheeling it between cities. Sometimes, the bus drivers are kind and considerate, but other times they're downright surly. I'll never forget the bus ride I took where the driver ranted for at least 15 minutes about how cell phone calls were not allowed. He threatened to leave offenders on the side of the road. When I tried to call my family to let them know when I would be arriving, he screamed at me so forcefully that I wouldn't be surprised if he scared passing automobilists. Then there was the driver who, in an effort to be helpful, I'm sure, gave a 30-minute welcome spiel on an ear-shatteringly loud sound system that covered everything from the location of the bus bathrooms (in the back of the bus) to the current weather (sunny) to polite requests to keep phone conversations to a minimum. He reminded us (repeatedly) to let him know if we needed anything (change in temperature, rest stop, questions about our destination). He encouraged us to get to know our seatmates. He told us what he had had for dinner. He assured us he was well rested. And he did this every time he picked up new passengers—as this was a local bus, this happened five times. It was thoughtful, but it was too much. Even my iPod couldn't drown him out. I arrived in New York with a headache and an eye twitch. On my most recent bus trip, the driver, while kind and jovial, showed a complete lack of filter by declaring loudly into her walkie talkie "oh yeah, I'm back on the road now. My lawsuit is pending, they said they saw me at the bar but they didn't. I was just dizzy." Now, I'm not saying that her lawsuit was justified or not or even questioning whether or not she was drinking—I have no way to know. But I do know that that was an unsettling conversation to overhear just as we were taking off down the highway. I texted the conversation to a friend who promptly responded "wow, she must be wasted—buckle up!" Not funny. (For the record, we made it to New York without incident.) I reached out to Greyhound to see what kind of customer service training their staff must go through and they responded with this note: Customer service training is an integral part of the Greyhound driver education program. New Greyhound drivers receive extensive customer service training as part of their orientation and driver school. The training focuses on foundational service skills that build customer loyalty and help drivers work through challenges if they occur. In addition, drivers are trained on wheelchair and special needs safety, as well as how to assist passengers with different abilities. Once students complete training school, they return to their home terminals for additional training under the direction of their certified instructor. I'm not sure what exactly that customer service training entails and, to be fair, the majority of bus drivers I've experienced on Greyhound are perfectly pleasant. But the exceptions have been so outrageous that they're blog-post worthy. It's possible that as a frequent bus traveler I am not only more exposed to situations, I'm also more sensitive. But I'm wondering—has anyone had a similar experience? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: A Neat Freak's Guide to a Clean Suitcase The 7 Most Dangerous Travel Jobs Secret Hotels of Paris


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    DESTINATION IN West Virginia

    The Top of WV

    West Virginia ( (listen)) is a state in the Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the northeast, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, and Ohio to the northwest. West Virginia is the 41st-largest state by area and ranks 40th in population, with a population of 1,793,716 residents. The capital and largest city is Charleston. West Virginia became a state after the Wheeling Conventions of 1861, at the start of the American Civil War. Delegates from northwestern Virginia's Unionist counties decided to break away from Virginia, which also included secessionist counties in the new state. West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, and was a key border state during the war. It was the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state, the second to separate from a state after Maine separated from Massachusetts, and one of two states (along with Nevada) admitted to the Union during the Civil War. Some of its residents held slaves, but most were yeoman farmers, and the delegates provided for the gradual abolition of slavery in the new state constitution. The state legislature abolished slavery in the state, and at the same time ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery nationally on February 3, 1865. West Virginia's Northern Panhandle extends adjacent to Pennsylvania and Ohio to form a tristate area, with Wheeling and Weirton just across the border from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. Huntington in the southwest is close to Ohio and Kentucky, while Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Panhandle region are considered part of the Washington metropolitan area, between Maryland and Virginia. West Virginia is often included in several U.S. geographical regions, including the Mid-Atlantic, the Upland South, and the Southeastern United States. It is the only state entirely within the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission; the area is commonly defined as "Appalachia".The state is noted for its mountains and rolling hills, its historically significant coal mining and logging industries, and its political and labor history. It is also known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and hunting. Other nominated names for the state included Vandalia, Kanawha, Appalachia, and Western Virginia. The capital was originally Wheeling, before switching to Charleston, moving back to Wheeling, and finally back to Charleston. While it is now a solidly Republican state, it was Democratic from the Franklin D. Roosevelt era to the 1990s. The first governor was Arthur Boreman.