Atlanta gets new World of Coca-Cola

The New World of Coca­Cola is scheduled to open Thursday, May 24, in Atlanta.

The new facility's 62,000 square feet of visitor area makes it approximately twice the size of the original World of Coca-Cola.

It will feature more than 1,200 artifacts from around the world that have never been publicly displayed before. Only about 50 artifacts from the previous World of Coca­Cola will be showcased.

In addition to the displays, the facility has a fully functioning bottling line that produces commemorative 8-ounce bottles of Coke, tastings of more than 70 different products, and a Pop Culture Gallery featuring works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, and Steve Penley.


Atlanta Travel Guide
Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce


Scottish distillery going for the green

(Double-click on map to enlarge.)

An Aberdeenshire, Scotland, businessman is entering a very old business in a very new way.

Euan Shand has announced he will construct a US$6.9 million green distillery in Huntley to produce malt and grain whiskies, vodka and gin.

The distillery will be powered by woodchips supplied by local firms who will replace the trees used in the process to give it a carbon neutral rating. It also will also have a "living" grass roof.

The operation, expected to employ about a dozen workers when it opens in 2008, will be on a two-acre site formerly occupied by a dairy farm. Shand, who runs Duncan Taylor & Co., bottler and seller of rare whiskies, also plans to have a visitors center, bottling plant and warehouse on the site.


Official Aberdeenshire Site
Aberdeen & The Grampian Highlands
Castles of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire


Touring New York City's beer gardens

"Between 1820 and 1860, 1.5 million immigrants arrived in America from Germany, bringing with them their own cultural traditions -- among them outdoor beer gardens.

"Unlike the bars in Irish neighborhoods, the German beer gardens catered to whole families, and public drinking was just one of their attractions. Although many of New York's historic beer gardens have disappeared, this summer you can still enjoy a cold one at any of these authentic beer gardens around the city."

So reads the introduction to Daniel Lehman's story on the am New York.com site.

He takes readers on a tour of authentic beer gardens in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. A quick, informative read.

Beer garden history
NYC's last original beer garden


What do you feed a visiting monarch?

Most of us like to sample the local cuisine when we travel, particularly abroad.

When the crown is on the other head and, say, Queen Elizabeth II and her hubby, Prince Philip, visited the colonies last week, what were the served at the White House?

Here are the menu and wine selections they chose, according to the Office of the First Lady:

Spring Pea Soup with Fernleaf Lavender
Chive Pizzelle with American Caviar

Newton Chardonnay Unfiltered 2004
Dover Sole Almondine
Roasted Artichokes, Pequillo Peppers and Olives

Saddle of Spring Lamb
Chanterelle Sauce
Fricassee of Baby Vegetables

Peter Michael Les Pavots 2003

Arugula, Savannah Mustard and Mint Romaine
Champagne Dressing and Trio of Farmhouse Cheeses

Rose Blossoms
Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2004

Oh, the photo above? Haven't you ever heard of the Queen Mug?


Royal Garden Parties
Food, glorious food, in Southern England
Which English kings died after overeating?


The mummies of Guanajuato

William M. Dowd photos (Mummy photos provided)
The view from a hillside overlooking Guanajuato shows the colorful buildings and the triangular park at the center of the city. (See ground-level photo below.)

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- Guanajuato is a revered place in Mexico.

The historic central highlands community of 76,000 situated northwest of Mexico City is in the middle of one of the world’s richest silver mining areas, and the region has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the capital city of the state of the same name.

It is the home of former President Vicente Fox Quesada, and the birthplace of the late renowned muralist and cubist painter Diego Rivera who lived here with his wife, the late painter and activist Frida Kahlo whose life was chronicled in the 2002 Selma Hayek film “Frida.”

It has a large and varied arts and culture scene, helped along by the University of Guanajuato, founded in 1732, earlier than six of our eight Ivy League universities and 44 years before the U.S. became an independent nation. It hosts the annual Festival Internacional Cervantino, an event dedicated to the writer of “Don Quixote,” Miguel de Cervantes, that draws visitors from all over the world to attend readings, plays, concerts, dance and art exhibitions and even parades.

And, Guanajuato has mummies.

An unintentional tourist draw, to be sure. But, even though this beautiful city of rainbow-colored buildings and geometrically trimmed trees in the triangular downtown park known as Jardin de la Union is widely regarded as the cultural center of Mexico, it is taking advantage of the bizarre resource.

Fittingly, I first saw the mummies near the end of a long afternoon spent in various cafes and strolling the hilly streets of Guanajuato during the annual Day of the Dead festival, an event that coincides with our Halloween.

There is nothing as quintessentially Mexican as El Dia de los Muertos, a festival honoring the deceased that has been part of the culture since before the Spanish invaders. Originally held in July, but moved closer to All Saint’s Eve in November by Catholic priests brought here by the conquistadors, it is anything but a morbid or frivolous event. Families construct tiny temporary altars, festooned with large, colorful marigolds and chrysanthemums, near the doorways to their homes to welcome back the departed. At least one Guanajuato church has its three levels of steep steps turned into a public altar covered by candles, flowers and framed pictures of the dead.

Crowds stroll throughout this city built in a ravine and sloping up two mountainsides. Vendors line both sides of the cobblestone streets, selling foods, trinkets and crafts. I joined a stream of walkers headed for a large cemetery where they visited the graves of their loved ones, replacing wilted flowers with fresh, often washing down the stone or metal markers with pails of water purchased from entrepreneurial youngsters who set up shop at the cemetery gates.

Artwork for the Day of the Dead features skeletons involved in all sorts of earthly pursuits, playing instruments, dancing, drinking and eating. In Mexican culture there is nothing macabre about this, so it is easy to see why the Mummies of Guanajuato were so quickly accepted.

I was directed to the Panteon catacombs in the western part of the city, a very steep climb up the narrow Esplanada del Panteón that left me puffing for breath in the rarified area of the city’s 6,700-foot elevation. Not as staggering as Mexico City’s 7,350 feet but enough to make Denver’s famed 5,280-foot “mile-high” status seem paltry.

After a short pause to overcome my fears of cardiac arrest, I plunged on to the large, unremarkable concrete building known as El Museo de las Momias, the Museum of the Mummies. After paying a $2 admission fee to a bored but polite teenager who was more interested in her paperback novel than in chatting with a tourist, I was in.

I knew ahead of time that the mummies of Guanajuato were not intentional creations. Nothing of the Egyptian embalming arts about them. Thus, they’re in more of a raw state rather than neatly wrapped in ribbons of once-perfumed cloth and lying in stately repose.

These mummies are the curious product of the interaction of chemicals and gases in the local soil with dry air and erratic embalming techniques. There are more than 100 of them, and they cut across the economic spectrum of the city. Poor immigrants, children, revered community figures, criminals and clergy. All are represented.

They were first dug up between 1896 and 1958 for a simple economic reason. People of financial means paid a one-time grave tax that permanently ensured their departed a resting place. Others who could not afford the annual fee were in danger of having their relatives or friends exhumed and moved to a lesser graveyard to make room for the dead of families able to pay. Some families died out or moved away, leaving no one to pay the duty. Once the exhumations began, the accidental mummies were literally unearthed.

The group I walked through with showed all the reactions one could expect to this bizarre display of human remains frozen in various stages of decay – some dressed only in shoes and stockings, some fully clothed, many with head and body hair still intact, some displayed standing up, some with a limb or a head missing, most of them tiny in stature.

Shock, disgust, awe, black humor, gulps, empathy, smiles. You name it, it was visible. And that was just on the part of the visitors.

The grave tax law was changed in 1958, so no additional mummies have been exhumed, although many probably still are in their original resting places.

Now that I’ve checked that one off my list, I look forward to visiting some other offbeat museums such as the Banana Museum in Auburn, WA, the Toilet Seat Art Museum in Alamo Heights, TX, and the Cheese Museum in Cuba, NY. You’re never too old to learn.

Strollers pass by the maincured trees of the park known as Jardin de la Union.

Mexperience: Guide to Guanajuato
Language immersion experience
Dowd's Guides


Cape Cod is a thick chowder of attractions

William M. Dowd photos

Shops and galleries are tightly packed on Provincetown's famous Commercial Street.

PROVINCETOWN, MA -- The man in the bow held one oar out of the water, feathering the other to act as a rudder. His partner in the stern gamely kept pulling with both oars. Slowly, the chunky rowboat turned, its prow now aimed directly at the Provincetown II, the largest Cape Cod Bay scenic cruiser, which was moored to the foot of MacMillan Wharf.

With a little more maneuvering, its crew managed to bring it alongside the cruiser, but it was a precarious spot. The usually calm waters of Provincetown Harbor were churned up by a steady stream of boats making their way to the processional lineup at the other side of the wharf.

"Hey, Father!" called a woman who had been hanging on the rail of the larger vessel, peering down at the rowboat bobbing 20 feet below. "Maybe you better bless 'em early. I don't think they can make it around again."

The priest obligingly shook the aspergillum, and a spray of holy water droplets from the wand went over the side and onto the rowboat and its occupants.

The scene was several years ago at the annual Blessing of the Fleet, a local tradition for more than a half-century. On this particular Sunday, it had begun 15 minutes early because that small interloper jumped the starting line. Each year some such oddity happens, which makes the culminating event of the three-day Portuguese festival so interesting.

This year the festival celebrating P-town’s Portuguese fishing village past is scheduled for June 21-23. For some it is the start of high season on Cape Cod, although some who mark the Fourth of July as the real tourist season regard it as merely an early bird special.

Whatever draws people to the Cape, and there is a stunning scope of activities on this storied 75-mile stretch of sandy soil jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, it has long been a primary domestic vacation spot for many throughout the Northeast as well as tourists from abroad, even in times of high gasoline prices such as the ones we're now enduring.

From Sandwich, the Cape’s oldest town, on the west just across the Cape Cod Canal from the mainland to Provincetown on the eastern end, it is a jumble of villages, art galleries, boat landings, iconic New England architecture and tourist kitsch. And, of course, the beaches, primary among them the protected Cape Cod National Seashore, a 43,600-acre legacy of the Kennedy Administration.

The Cape is a place that continually reinvents itself without throwing out its history. But the reinvention takes on different personae, from raucous P-town to reserved Sandwich.

P-town, for example, once was known primarily as a fishing port. Then it became better known for its art community. Now it’s known as a gay friendly vacation destination with lots of art galleries and a fishing community heritage that helps maintain its maritime atmosphere. A boisterous night life and a bustling Commercial Street shopping walkathon are legendary.

Many of its once-neglected alleys have been transformed into pedestrian pathways between neighborhoods. Buildings have been converted into charming little homes and B&B's with postage-stamp gardens. Some spots have become home to clusters of tiny stores that put less strain for rent and utilities on small-business owners.

The seasonal shops along narrow, bustling Commercial Street that runs the length of town are vying with the year-round businesses for tourist dollars. In a leisurely stroll, you come across everything from a Hallmark store to a drag nightclub, from fine dining to a saltwater taffy shop, from modern home decor offerings to antique finds.

Mid-Cape, Hyannis continues to trade on its history as a home to the Kennedy family, with a Kennedy museum on the main street in town and the famous Kennedy residential compound in adjacent Hyannisport still the target of gawkers and picture-takers. It is the most “typical American” spot on the Cape, with a hospital, radio station, the main office of the daily newspaper, a few shopping centers, a bustling main street, a small airport, loads of condos and hotels.

One of its biggest tourist draws is the annual Father’s Day classic car show that takes up several blocks of downtown and offers a visual feast for those into old Mercs and Fords and Chevys and Packards and more. I’ve visited it for several years, and each June the lineup seems to get longer and more fascinating.

The aforementioned Sandwich, on the west end of the Cape, is the quietest of the three benchmark communities. It is home to the Dexter Grist Mill, a working grist mill built in 1654 on Shawme Pond in the town center, to the Sandwich Glass Museum and to the Heritage Museums & Gardens, a sprawling year-round complex housing the J.K. Lilly III Antique Automobile Museum -– another spot for car buffs although obviously more formal than the Hyannis outdoor event, plus the Art Museum and 1912 carousel, plus various horticultural attractions.

The Cape can be a tough place to negotiate in high season – usually late June to Labor Day Weekend – for the uninitiated.

A view of Provincetown and Cape Cod Bay from the top of the Pilgrim Monument.

Travel is relegated mostly to a trio of main roads, which get backed up during peak hours headed to or from the beaches or to and from the nightlife.

The Cape proper extends from the Cape Cod Canal in the west to Herring Cove Beach in the northeast, shaped like the upraised arm of someone "making a muscle." It is traversed largely on routes 6, 6A and 28. Once you're off them, you'd better know the local layout intimately to avoid being caught hungry in the many cul-de-sacs and roads that dead-end at salt marshes or ponds.

I say “caught hungry” because this is a crowded place at feeding time despite the huge range if dining spots.

Logistically, since Route 6 (the Mid-Cape Highway) is a limited-access thoroughfare until you get past Orleans and head north, the principal dining clusters are mostly on routes 28 and 6A.

A four-mile stretch of Route 28 from the edge of Hyannis east to West Dennis on the Bass River is a prime example of how packed with dining variety the Cape's main roads can be.

At least 40 food-related spots are jammed into that span, from the fairly-new Oinky & Moo's southern barbecue in West Dennis to the self-explanatory old Riverway Lobster House in Yarmouth.

This is a good base of operations for families who like casual, inexpensive food plus proximity to inexpensive motels and elaborate miniature golf layouts, or for couples who need the nightlife. You never have to leave the locale to experience an astounding variety of foods: Irish pub, seafood, Thai, hot dogs and ice cream, soups and salads, Chinese, brunches, Mexican, Polynesian, pizza and the inevitable Dairy Queen, McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts spots and more.

Breakfast is a big deal on the Cape, what with most people wanting to just grab lunch on the run or pack a picnic to take along to the beaches or a trek on the Cape Cod Rail Trail bike pathway.

In West Yarmouth, for example, Molly's offers a traditional Irish breakfast (thick Irish bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, eggs, tomatoes, beans and home fries) for a paltry $8.50. I still think of the tiny slip of a girl I saw easily polish one off while her boyfriend toyed with a regular-sized ham and eggs.

And, Persey's Place, several blocks east of the Kennedy Museum, serves what it boasts is "New England's Largest Breakfast Menu" from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Recommended: such delightful oddities as hash Benedict, or chocolate chip/banana/walnut pancakes.

Once fortified, take a crack at climbing the Pilgrim Monument in P-town. The 252-foot tower was built to commemorate the Pilgrims’ first landing there. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1907. Three years later. President William H. Taft dedicated the finished structure. Climbing the interior stone steps is quite an undertaking, but worth it for the views of P-town and the bay from the observation area on top.

For those whose idea of a dream vacation is doing nothing but watch other people doing things, the Cape is a wonderland.

Watching the fishing boats unload a day’s catch at the Chatham pier on the southern tip of the Cape is an eye opener, and can be a nose-closer if you get too close.

Grabbing one of the many whale watching excursion boats heading into the bay or the ocean can be a relaxing experience in fair weather.

If you long for the simpler summer evenings of old, or for those who have seen it in movies but never experienced it, the Cape is a great place for strolling a sidewalk with an ice cream cone in hand. Or taking in a baseball game at any of the 10 fields that are home to teams of college-aged minor leagues in the 114-year-old Cape Cod Baseball League – Bourne, Brewster, Cotuit, Wareham, Chatham, Falmouth, Hyannis, Harwich, Orleans, and Yarmouth-Dennis. Factoid: One in seven major league baseball players get started in the CCBL.

In the final analysis, the words of the 1950s Patti Page hit song "Old Cape Cod" say it simply and precisely:

"If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air,
"Quaint little villages here and there,
"You're sure to fall in love with
"Old Cape Cod."

Cape Cod Online
Cape events calendar
State forests and parks
Golf Cape Cod
Insider's Fishing Guide
Cape Cod recreation guide
Boating & other watersports
Cape Cod Bike Guide


Oregon broadens wine country venue

(Double-click on map to enlarge.)

The twice-annual Oregon Wine Country Tour is growing not only in attendance, but in geographic scope.

The Memorial Day Weekend tour set for May 26–28, has been expanded beyond Yamhill County and the Oregon coast range to encompass the entire Willamette Valley, featuring wineries in the Portland, Salem, Polk County and Corvallis areas, as well as rural Yamhill County.

More than 120 member wineries are scheduled to be open between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Some are open to the public only during these events. Some will feature food, music and other interesting events. All host wine tasting, with many charging a tasting fee.

The Willamette Valley is known for producing pinot noirs, but also turns out varietals from pinot gris and pinot blanc to chardonnay, riesling, syrah and merlot. Information on the members of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association is available online or by calling (503) 646-2985.


Dowd's Guide to American Wine Trails
Wine Northwest
Willamette Valley Travel Guide


A new gimmick in airline food: quality

For those who complain that even in first class the food on airlines is wretched, Hawaiian Airlines begs to differ.

The airline has been experimenting with offering a tasting menu in first class, comprised of 20 different entrees on a rotation, with five available to choose from on any given flight. For lunch or dinner, customers will choose three of the five, and for breakfast they will select two of three plus will receive a fresh fruit plate.

The dishes have included the likes of Hawaiian crab cake with a pinneapple salsa, rock shrimp and lemon pepper ravioli with creamy sun dried tomato/basil sauce, and chicken tandoori with a tangy makhani sauce and sultana basmati rice pilaf," according to a company press release. In addition, they will be offering a Pomegranate Passion beverage which was created exclusively for the airline.

The tasting menu was introduced in March on the San Francisco-to-Honolulu route, but is being phased in system-wide this month.


Hawaii's Official Tourism Site
Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau
InfoPlease: All About Hawaii

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