www.wvgazettemail.com Travel http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2016, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers New guide lists drool-worthy West Virginia pet-friendly vacation sites http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160825/GZ03/160829692 GZ03 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160825/GZ03/160829692 Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:16:15 -0400 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer With more Americans than ever now including pets in their entourage as they hit the road for family vacations or business trips, the folks at Wild, Wonderful West Virginia have sunk their teeth into the concept of marketing the state's pet-friendly attractions, accommodations and eateries.

"We love our pets as much as we do our children," said state Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin, who announced the release of the "West FURginia Guide" during a press conference Thursday in Charleston's East End Dog Park.

The free, 20-page booklet lists places to see and things to do while accompanied by dogs, cats and other leash-controlled pets.

"When people are away from home, they worry about their pets," Goodwin said, as she watched Gus, her shelter-rescued Golden Retriever-Saint Bernard cross-breed, romp through the dog park with some newly made friends. "And it can be quite expensive to board your pets while you are away from home. People who are in businesses that cater to visitors have recognized that becoming pet-friendly gives them a great opportunity to grow without having to spend a lot of money to do so."

"Six million Americans travel with their pets each year," said Alisa Bailey, president of the Charleston Convention and Visitors' Bureau. "They're willing to pay extra fees to be able to keep their pets with them while they travel."

Among unique pet-friendly attractions available in West Virginia, according to the new guide, are sternwheeler cruises to Blennerhassett Island State Historical Park, where leashed dogs and their human partners can roam the grounds of the reconstructed Harman Blennerhassett Mansion, wade on the beaches of the Ohio River island and jog its network of dirt roads.

At the eastern tip of the state, dogs are allowed to keep their owners company while exploring the spookier nooks of the historic town of Harpers Ferry while participating in Harpers Ferry Ghost Tours programs.

In Canaan Valley, snow-loving dogs are welcome to accompany their human keepers on several of White Grass Touring Center's cross-country ski trails, while far to the south, dogs are welcome to trade in the couch for a passenger seat in the family car to take in a movie at the Pipestem Drive-In near Athens.

According to the new guide, a surprising number of West Virginia restaurants are dog-friendly, with Morgantown leading the pack by offering at least seven canine-accommodating eateries. At Shepherdstown in the Eastern Panhandle, dogs are welcome at aptly named Lost Dog Coffee, Domestic's artisan cuisine and the Blue Moon Cafe. In Charleston, Fido-friendly food outlets include the deck at Tricky Fish cafe and water bowl-equipped Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream.

Dog-friendly cabins can be found at 18 West Virginia state parks and state forests, in addition to eight canine-accommodating state park lodges. Pet-friendly cabins are also available at private-sector places such as Yokum's Vacationland at Seneca Rocks, Berkeley Springs Getaways in Morgan County and New River Cabins near Fayetteville.

For more urban and upscale travelers, dogs are welcome at historic Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg, where courtesy water bowls, place mats and treats await canine guests. In the Charleston area, pet-friendly lodging is available at the Holiday Inn & Suites in South Charleston, Red Roof Inn and Country Inn & Suites in Kanawha City and the Residence Inn by Marriott at Northgate.

Also listed in the new guide are pet-friendly B&Bs, campgrounds and festivals, along with canine and feline day care, grooming and accessories shops across the state.

"Pet travel is growing across the country, and we're committed to make it a part of our marketing strategy," said Goodwin.

The West FURginia Guide is the latest in a series of new pocket guides released by Wild, Wonderful West Virginia, including the Craft Beer Guide, Wine and Spirits Guide, and Summer Guide. To get free copies of any of the guides, call 800-225-5982 or visit www.GoToWV.com.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: Take a tour of historic artifacts throughout the state http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829984 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829984 Sun, 21 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team Although West Virginia is only 153 years old as a state, its lands have been inhabited for more than 14,000 years. Visiting remnants of these ancient civilizations brings the traveler face to face with giant skeletons, enormous burial mounds, mystery carvings, museum exhibits and murals.

Despite many mounds being leveled by farmers and town builders, the Smithsonian Institution documented 50 Indian burial mounds a century ago. It was one of the largest groups of mounds in America. They were built between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago.

Today, only a few mounds remain, including the largest conical earthen mound of its kind, Grave Creek in Moundsville.

Grave Creek is big and impressive at 295 feet in diameter and 69 feet high. It is composed of 60,000 tons of earth, all moved by hand more than two millennia ago by a people known to the Indians as "the old ones." Today archaeologists call them Adena.

Originally a moat 36 feet wide and 4 feet deep surrounded the mound. Although archaeologists postulate that the old ones were smaller than modern man, evidence of 7-foot-tall giants was found both among mound skeletons as well as etched in stone.

Excavations conducted at Grave Creek during the 19th century turned up only a few whole skeletons, along with the shell jewelry, weapons, tools, robes, tobacco pipes and food containers buried with them.

Also uncovered was a mysterious sandstone tablet etched with runic figures - undecipherable to this day and on display, along with other artifacts from the excavation, at the Delf Norona Museum adjacent to the Mound.

Visitors can climb stone steps that spiral up the mound to the stone obelisk and low stonewall at the top.

Cresap Mound, an Adena site with petroglyphs, or rock carvings, is about 6 miles down the Ohio River from Grave Creek. Dated to about 2 B.C., Cresap was excavated in 1958 and found to contain 54 human burials. The mound is 15 feet high and about 70 feet in diameter.

At 35 feet high and 175 feet in diameter, the South Charleston Mound is second in size to Grave Creek. Built near the Kanawha River, it was first identified in 1803, and excavated by the Smithsonian Institution 80 years later. A giant skeleton surrounded by a dozen others was found along with the requisite artifacts.

The South Charleston Mound is now a small park. Stone steps spiral up the mound to a circle of stone at the top, where visitors can look down on a decidedly non-sacred scene of major industrial plants.

Other burial mounds are found nearby in Sunset Memorial Cemetery in Spring Hill, Shawnee Golf Course in Institute and the South Charleston High School campus.

Present-day Camden Park, the amusement park outside of Huntington, is home to the third largest mound in the state. A 20-foot-high conical Indian burial mound sits alongside vintage roller coasters and bumper cars. It has never been excavated.

The Romney Mound remains true to its original purpose and is the center of the Indian Mound Cemetery at the western edge of Romney in Hampshire County.

Reportedly the largest Hopewell Indian burial mound east of the Ohio River, the 7-foot mound was never excavated. Based on other excavations, tribal populations date back to at least 6000 B.C.

Oak Mound in Harrison County is 12 feet high and was never excavated. Other mounds are nearby in West Milford.

Other archaic sites include Ben's Run in Tyler County, one of the most extensive Indian fortifications remaining in the United States. Two parallel walls of stone and earth are 3 miles in length and enclose an area of more than 400 acres.

Petroglyphs are identified at 27 recorded sites in 16 West Virginia counties. Some of the most significant in the eastern United States have been found along the Guyandotte River in the small town of Salt Rock, Cabell County.

Indian Cave petroglyphs are easily accessible in the small Harrison County town of Goodhope.

Wildcat petroglyphs showing birds and a beaver are found on a large rock near the banks of a creek leading to the Big Sandy River in Wayne County. Images found in West Virginia range from birds and serpents to suns, bear tracks and abstract symbols.

There are several sets of controversial petroglyphs including two that some claim are runic writings of 13th century Irish monks.

A short path from the railroad tracks near Lilydale brings visitors to one set that skeptics claim are simply scratchings from Indians sharpening tools on the sandstone. Another set is enshrined on two huge boulders at Laurel Lake Wildlife Management Area.

The 7-foot Maiden of the Rock was found on the roof of a natural stone shelter overlooking a small valley in Putnam County. The huge slab has been removed to a mini-park in downtown Hurricane.

Although authentic points, stones and tools were found at the site, and the figure matches ones found in other locations, there are claims of 20th century etching.

Tall and majestic, Cornstalk was one of the great Shawnee chiefs and leader of the Northwestern Confederacy of native tribes. He led nearly 1,000 Shawnee and other warriors to engage an equal number of Virginia militia on Oct. 10, 1774, in a fierce day-long battle on a thumb of land between the juncture of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers.

Hundreds of Indians and Virginians were slaughtered in hand-to-hand combat. It was the biggest Indian battle to take place on West Virginia soil.

Though Cornstalk led his men away undefeated and met with the Virginians to establish a peace treaty, he would not live to fight again. Three years later, Cornstalk was taken hostage along with his son, and brutally murdered.

The Shawnee retreated west, and the Battle of Point Pleasant turned out to be the end of the Indian wars in West Virginia and the Ohio Valley.

Legend claims Cornstalk cursed Point Pleasant with his dying words. Twentieth-century events linked to the curse include reported UFO activity and the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967, when 46 people died within sight of the historic battlefield.

Today, the 4-acre Tu-Endie-Wei State Park is dominated by an 86-foot granite obelisk honoring the fallen Virginians and dedicated in 1909. Almost as an afterthought nearly a decade later, a smaller monument was erected to Cornstalk and eventually moved to the park from the courthouse. His bones are in a metal box at the base of the monument.

Point Pleasant has turned its Ohio River Walk into a combination art gallery and history lesson through 13 murals covering more than 600 feet of floodwall. Various scenes show authentic details of Native American and frontier life including the murder of Cornstalk. Noted mural artist, Robert Dafford, with various student helpers, painted them over five years.

The mother lode of Native American artifacts is found at the Blennerhassett Museum where 70 display units - hand-built wooden and glass cabinets more than 6 feet tall - line more than 60 feet of wall.

Amateur 19th-century anthropologist Thomas Stahle discovered many of the artifacts buried on Blennerhassett Island, some of which date back nearly 14,000 years. Stahle developed the displays and hand-lettered the explanation of each.

There are extensive samples of musical flutes, toys, whistles, hematite cosmetics and "paints," drills, cutting tools, pipes, ornaments, and more. A pair of 5-by-3-inch shell masks with etched facial features stand out among the thousands of rare artifacts.

The Blennerhassett collection is also home to the Cedar Rocks petroglyph, which was found near Wheeling. This arrangement of human and animal forms surrounding an abstract geometric pattern is a rare portable petroglyph, carved into a 3-by-2-foot sandstone slab rather than the more typical exposed bedrock.

The Darby Collection in the Myles Art Center at Davis & Elkins College has more than 5,000 Indian points and primitive stone tools dating back nearly 10,000 years.

A trip or two to visit the ancients will undoubtedly expand your experience of state history by more than a dozen millennia.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is the author of "Way Out in West Virginia," a must-have guide to the wonders and oddities of the Mountain State. She and noted photographer Steve Shaluta have released the second printing of the coffee-table photo book "West Virginia Beauty, Familiar and Rare." Both books are available around West Virginia and from WVBookCo.com.

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WV Book Team: Series explores neoliberal agri-food in Japan http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0605/160829985 GZ0605 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0605/160829985 Sun, 21 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Abby Freeland WV Books Team By By Abby Freeland WV Books Team West Virginia University Press publishes the "Rural Studies Series," which promotes the scholarly analysis of rural social issues. The series plays a vital role in publishing high-quality scholarship aimed at improving the lives of rural people.

The series has been especially effective in bringing to the attention of national and state-level policy makers the suggestions arising from the research presented in its volumes.

Sponsored by the Rural Sociological Society, the Rural Studies Series features books on a wide range of topics related to rural social issues. Of special interest are studies examining community and rural social organization, the social dimensions of agriculture, rural populations and economies, natural resources and the environment, and rural poverty and livelihood strategies.

This month, WVU Press has published its fourth book in the Rural Studies Series. "The Contradictions of Neoliberal Agri-Food: Corporations, Resistance, and Disasters in Japan" by Kae Sekine and Alessandro Bonanno provides an incisive analysis of the neoliberal restructuring of agri-food in Japan.

Employing original fieldwork, historical analysis and sociological theory, Sekine and Bonanno probe how Japan's food and agriculture sectors have been shaped by the global push toward privatization and corporate power, known in social science literature as neoliberalism. They also examine related changes that have occurred after the triple disaster of March 2011 (the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor), noting that reconstruction policy has favored deregulation and the reduction of social welfare.

Sekine and Bonanno stress the incompatibility of the requirements of neoliberalism with the structural and cultural conditions of Japanese agri-food. Local farmers' and fishermen's emphasis on community collective management of natural resources, they argue, clashes with neoliberalism's focus on individualism and competitiveness.

The authors conclude by pointing out the resulting fundamental contradiction: The lack of recognition of this incompatibility allows the continuous implementation of market solutions to problems that originate in these very market mechanisms.

Geoffrey Lawrence of University of Queensland notes "at a time when there is much over-generalization about neoliberalism and its global impacts, this provocative and revealing book provides a detailed case study of Japan, presenting a clear picture of how neoliberal settings - in supporting a corporate agri-food agenda - have worked against small farmers and fisher-folk. It is a fascinating, illuminating, and, ultimately, sobering analysis."

Shuzo Teruoka, author of "Agriculture in the Modernization of Japan, 1850-2000," calls Sekine and Bonanno's book "a novel and incisive analysis of the corporatization of Japanese agriculture and its acceleration after the triple disaster of March 2011. Groundbreaking."

Sekine is an associate professor of economics at Aichi Gakuin University, Nagoya, Japan. Bonanno is Texas State University System Regents' professor and distinguished professor of sociology at Sam Houston State University.

To order WVU Press books, visit wvupress.com, phone 800-621-2736, visit a local bookstore like Taylor Books in Charleston or go online to find the West Virginia Book Company (www.wvbookco.com).

For updates on books and events, follow WVU Press on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest or join our mailing list on wvupress.com.

Abby Freeland is the Sales & Marketing Director of West Virginia University Press and the acquisitions editor of Vandalia Press, the fiction

imprint of WVU Press.

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Write Your Own Column: Taking on the Appalachian Trail http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829987 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829987 Sun, 21 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Tim Estep Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Tim Estep Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail Editor's note: The following is an article submitted by Malden resident Tim Estep about his recent journey across part of the Appalachian Trail.

In May, my friend Rashell Taylor and I got the opportunity to take two weeks and hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, from Damascus to Atkins, Virginia, about 75 miles.

We are both nurses at Charleston Area Medical Center, and while we're both adventurous and love to camp, this hiking/backpacking trip was not to be taken on a whim; it took planning and preparation. So we got information and maps online and began planning.

I figured out the miles and the distances between the shelters, where to get water and how to eat, for there is not a McDonald's on the trail. We tried several recipes for protein bars, and we came up with CHAFA, (cashews, honey, almonds, fruit and applesauce). That may not sound good, but after hiking for 8 miles, it really is good and filling.

Of course we had to buy backpacking gear and still keep things very light, because ounces turn into pounds, and pounds turn into pain.

Also you can have all the right gear and food, but you need to practice hiking, because, as one man told me in our planning stage, "I don't care how many sidewalk miles you walk. Put a 30-pound pack on your back and walk uphill for 2 miles. It is not the same."

We found out that one sidewalk mile does not equal one Appalachian Trial mile. So we took practice hikes in the New River Gorge, up mountains locally, and hiked on the old gas and logging roads. And as we found out on the Appalachian Trail, you cannot buy hiking legs at Cabela's. You have to earn them.

The day came that we began our hike, May 9, from Damascus, Virginia. It started with walking up a flight of stairs - we had been practicing for this by taking the stairs at our jobs.

But the stairs were just the beginning of our ascent uphill for the next three hours. As we hiked, there were other hikers passing us, and we never saw them again.

Leaving the Grindstone Campground on Sunday morning, our plan was to hike to the top of Mount Rogers, 5,729 feet, the highest point in Virginia. But we got caught in a strong downpour, so we just made camp along the side of the trail for the night. It took us an hour just to get a fire going out of wet wood, but we did it. And yes, we did get wet.

The next day, we hiked to the top of the mountain by means of God's natural Stairmaster, which was like climbing up and over lots, and I mean lots, of rocky steps. But once at the top, it was well worth the climb for the view of the extensive Blue Ridge Mountains.

Besides its height, Mount Rogers is known for the herds of wild ponies that roam in the Highlands of Virginia. They say do not harass the ponies, but when one mama pony and her colt came up to us and nuzzled our hands, it was hard to resist petting them - probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

They say if you do not have a trail name, the trail will name you. The trail named Rashell "5-Yard Stop," because she stopped about every 5 yards. Later I added her last name, "5-Yard Stop to the Top," because she never did quit or give up. She just kept taking forward steps.

To summarize the details of our first four days, we never once made it to our planned destination, but had to stop and come down side trails and go back up to the Appalachian Trail the following morning to resume our hike.

So the first four days we did not get a chance to talk to other people on the trail. But after the fifth day, we got to stay at the hurricane shelter, and the next day at the Trimpi Shelter.

It was here that I began to talk to other hikers and ask them, "Why are you hiking alone?"

The most common answer was, "I could find no one who could get off for five months to hike all the way through."

Others replied, "This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I finally got the time and chance to do it."

Most of them did wish that they had someone to hike with them.

Rashell and I are in our 50s and only had two weeks off our jobs (thank you Jennifer and Martha), but our perspective of sectional hiking was different from the through-hikers, who start at one end and keep going until they reach the other. Many behaved as if they were on a mission.

We were just enjoying the hike and the time spent together. And I found it is much better to hike with a friend, because together we enjoyed, in hindsight, the struggles and the difficulties of what the trail presented.

The trail also offers several wildflowers in bloom in the spring. The whole trip, Rashell said she wanted to see a lady slipper flower because she never had seen one before, and I hadn't either. But on the sixth or seventh day, as we were climbing uphill (the uphill never seems to stop), I saw what I thought was an unusual flower.

I pointed it out to Rashell, and I thought she was having a joyful religious experience. There were literally tears of happiness, for she had now seen a lady slipper flower. And as we walked on further that day and the next day, we saw several more that were just covering the ground of the trail.

Rashell and I are two different people, and our challenges and difficulties were different from each other. But during the hike we were able to talk with a serenity and comfort that could not happen in our normal busy lives.

We were able to slow down and hike the trail at a leisurely pace and enjoy the beauty of the scenery around us. We bounced random thoughts off of each other, most of them silly and funny, but they are memories that will last a lifetime.

Like, did you know that the Appalachian Trail is uphill regardless of which direction you go? We found out that roots and stumps do not move but they can move you - just ask Rashell.

I found out that a man can wear Secret and still be manly. We discovered the scents of the trail, clean forest air, fresh smell after a rain, campfire smoke, and wet and sweaty socks and shoes.

Something else we learned: the best part of the Appalachian Trail is the flat part.

We did finish our section of the trail on the day that we had planned, in spite of the many diversions we had to take at the beginning of our trip.

And at the end, we felt a great feeling of accomplishment and joy. Together we had experienced things that we may never do or see again, but together we will always have the memories of hiking this together. Happy trails.

You can see a video with more detail of our trip on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roT-jZrSrYE.

Tim Estep can be reached at testep7@yahoo.com.

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WV Travel Team: Discover the old-world charm of St. Augustine Beach http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160814/GZ0506/160819849 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160814/GZ0506/160819849 Sun, 14 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team By By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team When planning a vacation, it's often difficult to find a beachfront destination that has more offerings than the traditional sand and surf. While St. Augustine, Florida, offers stunning Atlantic beaches, the area also boasts some of the most historic attractions in the country.

St. Augustine has six beaches, each with its own personality. The most popular include Vilano Beach, Anastasia Park and St. Augustine Beach. Beyond the beach, the St. Augustine area is rich in history and adventure. Visiting the oldest city in the U.S. will be just the beginning of your historic finds.

While many flock to St. Augustine for its beaches, the area has some of the most historic landmarks in the nation. Colonial America began in St. Augustine 55 years before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and 42 years before Jamestown.

For history buffs, start your visit to St. Augustine by engaging in historic Spanish-period sights.

Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is one of the most recognized Spanish-period historical sites in the St. Augustine area. The Fountain of Youth is Florida's oldest attraction, with a guestbook dating back more than 140 years. Sample waters from the natural spring, and take in views of the water from the 600-foot Founders Riverwalk.

With a working archaeological dig on-site, visit several recreated Spanish and Timucuan buildings featuring shows and historical reenactments meant to educate and entertain guests.

A few blocks south, pass through the Old City Gates and tour the Colonial Quarter. Visit the Government House Museum, where Spanish governors once administered the colony of La Florida, with exhibits showcasing the city's cultural past. Consider taking a haunted pub tour - sample your favorite cocktails while learning the tales of the historic areas of St. Augustine.

Also nearby, visit historic attractions in the city's center, dating back to the 1600s. Be sure to check out the Plaza de la Constitucion and the Cathedral-Basilica, the home of the oldest Catholic parish in the United States. The church holds records of parishioners dating back to as early as 1594, and the structure dates back to 1797.

Visit the oldest house in the U.S., which is a National Historic Landmark. Owned and operated by the St. Augustine Historical Society, the complex includes the González-Alvarez House, the Manucy Museum, the Tovar House, the Page L. Edwards Jr. Gallery and gardens cultivated by the Spanish and British.

Ride the ferry across the Matanza Bay to Rattlesnake Island and take a tour of the Fort Matanzas National Monument. The fort was built in 1742 to defend against British attacks. The fort is evidence of Florida's Spanish past. You'll also find influence of Timucuan, French, British, Minorcan, Seminole and Swiss cultures.

The Marineland Dolphin Adventure is one of the largest oceanariums. It opened in 1938 and is now a dolphin conservation center. You can choose your level of interaction with these brilliant marine animals.

Touch and feed the dolphins, or get up close and interact with them. Some age restrictions may apply, so be sure to check with the oceanarium before your visit.

Numerous museums and historic buildings provide a glimpse into what life may have been like during various eras in St. Augustine.

More than 500 years ago, Ponce de Leon spotted beaches so stunning it drew him into the St. Augustine area and led to the first documented European discovery of Florida. Today, the area boasts more than 42 miles of beach.

Ponte Vedra Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in the area, with elegant resorts and challenging golf courses along the water's edge. Use Mickler's Landing to access the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Those looking for a more quiet beach experience may appreciate Vilano Beach. Tucked away in a charming beach town, guests will find shopping, local eateries and beach cottages for rent. It's a popular spot for surfers and kite boarders.

For guests looking for a traditional beach experience, St. Augustine Beach offers sunny accommodations, tropical seaside restaurants, a pier and plenty of outdoor activities for the entire family.

The St. Augustine area is not only a beautiful beachfront area, but there are lots of things in the natural world beyond the beach.

Anastasia Island State Park features a nature trail, ancient sand dunes and a coquina quarry. Coquina is a soft limestone of broken shells used to build many of the historic structures in the area. Beachcombers, campers and bird watchers alike will find much to be excited about. There are many options to rent bikes, paddleboards, kayaks, sail boats and more.

Lions, tigers and more can be seen up close and personal at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve.

For couples looking for a romantic weekend getaway, the St. Augustine area has plenty of options. The Old City House Inn & Restaurant offers romantic views of historic St. Augustine - guests overlook centuries-old oak trees dripping in Spanish moss and gorgeous Spanish architecture accented with narrow brick streets.

An evening at the Old City Restaurant offers candlelit dinners with gourmet options. Nearby, cap off the evening with delicious desserts, from bananas Foster to ice cream crepes at the Raintree Restaurant's dessert bar.

Spend time at the area's numerous golf courses, spas and wineries. The Cellar Upstairs at the San Sebastian Winery is a popular destination, where patrons can watch the river from an open-air deck with a glass of local wine.

If you're looking for some added fun for a couples getaway, consider dinner at A1A Aleworks where you can overlook Matanza Bay while enjoying fresh seafood. Take the 72-foot-tall ship, Schooner Freedom for a tour that departs from the city marina.

With the farmer's market, flea market, lighthouse tours, art exhibits and live music, your senses will never be dulled while visiting.

If you're ready for a visit to St. Augustine, AAA is here to help. For personalized assistance in planning your St. Augustine excursion, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing at 304-925-1136.

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WV Travel Team: Lessons about seashells on Sanibel Island http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160807/GZ0506/160809725 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160807/GZ0506/160809725 Sun, 7 Aug 2016 02:11:00 -0400 By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team By By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team Crunch, crunch, crunch.

With each step I took, scads of seashells beneath my feet were at risk of being crushed. There was no way to avoid the danger to the shells.

I was on Sanibel Island, Florida, the unofficial seashell capital of the United States, and great swaths of seashells - hundreds of different kinds - covered the beach, from the crystal clear Gulf of Mexico waterline to the highest tide line.

I had traveled with my wife, a self-proclaimed seashell aficionado, to Sanibel to check out the island's bounty before the third annual Island Hopper Songwriter Fest from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.

Fall is the perfect time for a visit to Sanibel, one of three barrier islands off the coast at Fort Myers (the others are Captiva Island and Estero Island, which is occupied by the resort town of Fort Myers Beach). Kids are back in school, and northern "snowbirds" (vacationers and winter residents) don't start arriving until early November.

Hotels offer rooms at steep discounts. And, for the third year in a row, dozens of singer-songwriters will entertain visitors with free performances at bars, restaurants and outdoor spaces on the islands and in downtown Fort Myers (which is worth a visit in its own right for tours of the winter homes of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford).

This wasn't our first visit to Sanibel. We had been there several times already. But, following reports of a storm a week earlier, we decided a visit to the island was in order.

Storms wash up the shells in vast quantities on Sanibel because of the island's geography - it juts out into the Gulf in a hook shape, its beaches catching the shells that are pushed ahead of the storm surge. The Gulf's prevailing currents and each day's tides also deposit shells.

But a warning: Those visiting for the first time often expect to find treasures akin to the great pink and orange conchs and other huge shells found in the warmer Caribbean Sea.

The colorful Florida fighting conch isn't as big as its Caribbean relatives, but it's just as colorful; most of Sanibel's shells are smaller, though no less exotic, than their warm-water counterparts elsewhere.

The shells found on Sanibel's beaches include huge numbers of whelks, which look like smaller, elongated conchs; a universe of scallop shells of all colors; and tulip shells, calico clams, giant heart cockles, king's crowns, common jingles, cat's paws, shark eyes, nutmegs, Atlantic figs and horse conchs (the official state shell of Florida), just to name a few of the hundreds of species that wash up on the island's beaches.

There are also cone shells, some of which sting with a sharp extendable harpoon, sometimes causing paralysis and, in the time that somewhat-accurate records have been kept, 30 deaths (none of them in the United States).

We opted to take one of the daily beach walks offered by a marine biologist from the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, located on Sanibel, which lies off the southwest coast of Florida across a 6-mile-long causeway from the city of Fort Myers.

Our guide was Stefanie Wolf, a young woman from Green Bay, Wisconsin, who had studied ecology for her undergraduate degree and continued on to a master's degree in biology. She started by reviewing the ground rules for the walk.

The shells, she said, were merely the hard, protective exoskeletons of the animals that lived inside them. And, while many of the shells that visitors find are empty husks, others are still living.

To determine whether they're alive, she said, you look into the shell's opening; if it's occluded with a firm membrane or if the shells of bivalves are tightly clasped, the shell is living.

Living ones should be placed back in the water - gently. With a look of disdain, the otherwise dispassionate Wolf told the group about one person on a beach walk who threw a living shell back into the water.

"They're living animals, for God's sake," she said. "Treat them with respect; don't football them."

Wolf imparted one last rule: It's illegal to take living shells out of Lee County, in which Sanibel Island is located. The message was clear: Don't let the law - or her - catch you absconding with them.

For the next hour, we walked along the beach as Wolf, wearing glamorous sunglasses, picked up shells she found at the water line and talked about them.

One thing quickly became clear: Wolf really knew her stuff, as had Marine Biologist Rebecca Mensch, a young expert on squid (with squid tattoos) with whom we had taken the shell walk a year earlier.

In terms that were occasionally more scientific than some members of our small group might have liked - I'm raising my hand here - Wolf told us all about each shell she proffered.

Much of Wolf's focus was on the reproductive habits of mollusks, the correct name for the animals inhabiting the shells, although she also dwelled on their eating habits, as many of the creatures are carnivores, not herbivores. (The previously mentioned Florida fighting conch, she told us, is a herbivore and gets along fine with other mollusks despite its name.)

When they're ready to lay eggs, whelks, for example, produce voluminous strands of sponge-like egg cases, which we found frequently on our tour. Eggs are deposited into tiny apertures, from which they emerge as juveniles.

As for the carnivores, the meat eaters of the shell world, several, including the nauticas and shark eyes, latch laterally onto the shell of their intended victim, then use a sharp protuberance to drill a hole into the animal inside the shell, killing it. It takes just a few hours, and dinner soon follows.

The price of our beach tour, $10, included a 50-percent discount to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on the other side of the island, closer to the mainland and across the road from the main entrance to the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also draws large numbers of visitors to Sanibel Island.

Near the museum's entrance, a plaque dedicated to Raymond Burr expressed gratitude for support of the museum's founding in 1995.

I asked Alec Economakis, the engaging college student from Potomac, Maryland, at the ticket podium, if the Raymond Burr on the plaque was the actor who starred in the old "Perry Mason" and "Ironside" TV shows. He replied in the affirmative, taking the opportunity to talk about the museum's history and collection.

Burr, a part-time resident of both neighboring Captiva Island and Fiji, liked to collect shells as well as catch TV criminals. His vast collection included many rare species, and, when invited to help fund the new museum, he apparently leapt at the opportunity.

We opted to take in the tank show, a featured attraction; it was led by Wolf, and covered much of the same ground as our beach tour. (The terminology seemed even more scientific; this might not be the best event for young children.)

One large tank was populated by shells that might co-exist in the ocean - both herbivores and carnivores.

"Some mornings, when we come to work, we notice that some of the mollusks are missing," Wolf told her audience. "They sometimes eat each other overnight."

We had never guessed that the life of a seashell could be fraught with such peril.

Martin W.G. King is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida.

The 2016 Island Hopper Songwriter Fest goes from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2. It starts on Captiva Island, which is connected to Sanibel Island by a causeway, with performances Sept. 23-25; continues with midweek performances in lively downtown Fort Myers; and ends Oct. 2 in Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island.

The headline act this year is Maren Morris, whose country hit "My Church" is rising on the Billboard Hot Country chart.

For more information on the lineup and festival venues, call 239-454-7500 or go to www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/island-hopper.

Sanibel Island has excellent beaches with clean restroom facilities and metered public parking (which gets scarce in high season). Bathers sometimes share the warm waters with dolphins, which often swim close to shore. Bowman Beach (mid-island) and Lighthouse Beach (closest to the causeway from the mainland) are among the most popular choices.

Well-marked off-road bike paths line Sanibel Island's main thoroughfares, particularly Periwinkle Way, where you can ride for miles. Billy's Rentals is one of several outfits that rents single-speed and high-performance road bikes and scooters.

Billy's is at 1470 Periwinkle Way; 239-472-5248, www.billysrentals.com/bikes/.

More Information on Sanibel sightseeing and shelling trips: sanibel-island.sanibel-captiva.org. In addition, the Sanibel and Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce's visitor information center is at 1159 Causeway Road on Sanibel Island, 239-472-1080, https://sanibel-captiva.org/.

n Daily Island Beach Walk

shellmuseum.org/programs-events/beach-walks

$10 adults, $7 children (includes half off admission to the Bailey-Matthews National Seashell Museum)

Leaves from Island Inn, 3111 West Gulf Drive, 9 a.m.

Reservations essential: purchase tickets online or call 239-395-2233.

n Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Daily museum talks; topics vary by day of week.

239-395-2233, www.shellmuseum.org/.

$11 adults, Children 5-17 years old, $5

n J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Reserve (National Fish and Wildlife Service)

Two miles west of Tarpon Bay Road on Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. January to April, and 9 a.m. to 4p.m. May to December.

Drive a marked route through alligator and bird habitats, $5 per car; $1 per biker or hiker.

Education center with exhibits on refuge ecosystems, migratory flyways, daily talks and a bookstore.

Popular tram tour, narrated, $13 adults, $8 children; reservations and availability (times vary by day of week), 239-472-8900 or concessionaire Tarpon Bay Explorers website for information, tarponbayexplorers.com/tour/refuge-tram-tour/.

Tarpon Bay Explorers also offers guided kayak trips, kayak rentals and a nature cruise, with some of the proceeds benefiting the Fish and Wildlife Service. For times and prices, call 239-472-8900, or go to tarponbayexplorers.com/.

(Main "Ding" Darling website: https://fws.gov/dingdarling/visitorinformation.html)

n Very expensive: Il Cielo

Italian cuisine with live piano each night.

1244 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-5555, www.ilcielosanibel.com/.

n Expensive: Sweet Melissa's Café

Well-regarded innovative cuisine.

1625 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-1956, sweetmelissascafe.com/.

n Moderate: The Sandbar

Superb steaks and fish dishes at reasonable prices in pleasant surroundings; excellent, friendly service.

2761 West Gulf Drive, 239-472-0305, www.sanibelsandbar.com/.

n Moderate: The Mucky Duck

A local institution on Captiva Island reminiscent of a neighborhood pub, but at higher prices.

11546 Andy Rosse Lane, 239-472-3434, www.muckyduck.com/.

n Inexpensive to moderate: The Lazy Flamingo

Fish, shellfish and burgers; happy hour (beer and wine only) each night 9:30 p.m. to midnight; one of the few places on Sanibel Island open late.

1036 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-6939, www.lazyflamingo.com/.

n Inexpensive: Over Easy Café

Breakfast and lunch until 3 p.m.; a local institution that's always crowded; closed Sept. 12-22

630 Tarpon Bay Road, 239-472-2625, www.overeasycafesanibel.com/.

n Inexpensive: Island Cow

Usually a wait in line for good, cheap eats at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

2163 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-0606, sanibelislandcow.com/.

n Casa Ybel Resort

Large, full-service, Sanibel Island beachside resort with all amenities, from $291.

2255 W. Gulf Drive, 800-276-4753, www.casaybelresort.com/.

n Song of the Sea

Small boutique hotel on the Sanibel Island beach, from $151.

863 E. Gulf Drive, 239-472-5170, www.theinnsofsanibel.com/song-of-the-sea/.

n Sundial Beach Resort and Spa Large resort with landscaped grounds directly on the beach on Sanibel Island, from $142.

1451 Middle Gulf Drive, 239-472-4151, www.sundialresort.com/.

n Pierview Hotel and Suites

Modern rooms on the beach in the resort town of Fort Myers Beach, from $130.

1160 Estero Blvd., 239-463-6158, www.pierviewhotelfmb.com/.

n Seaside Inn

Pleasant rooms and cottages around a pool, on a Sanibel Island beach, from $124.

541 E. Gulf Drive, 239-472-1400, www.theinnsofsanibel.com/seaside-inn.

n Captiva Island Inn

Charming bed and breakfast 150 yards to the beach, rooms and cottages from $119.

11508 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva Island, 239-395-0882, captivaislandinn.com/.

n Hotel Indigo

Stylish if small rooms on the edge of the Fort Myers River District, the city's lively downtown; rooftop pool and lounge, from $115.

1520 Broadway, Fort Myers, 239-337-3446, www.ihg.com/hotelindigo.

n La Quinta Fort Myers-Sanibel Gateway

Chain lodgings close to the causeway from Fort Myers to Sanibel Island, rooms from $66.

20091 Summerlin Road, Fort Myers, 239-466-1200, www.laquintafortmyersbeachsanibel.com/.

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WV Travel Team: History, hiking and crab picking at Chesapeake Beach http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160731/GZ0506/160739997 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160731/GZ0506/160739997 Sun, 31 Jul 2016 02:21:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team A century ago, thousands of people hopped the train for the short 35-mile trip from Washington, D.C., to Chesapeake Beach on the western edge of the Chesapeake Bay.

There was a huge amusement park with a roller coaster and boardwalk over the water until the 1920s. After that, the park was shifted onto land, where it operated until the 1970s. Not a trace remains of either the park or an elaborate Victorian hotel.

Today, Chesapeake Beach - and its twin, North Beach - remain a nearby getaway for the metropolitan area and any visitors to the nation's capital who choose not to make the long trek over the Bay Bridge to reach the ocean. It's still a short ride, but now by car.

Chesapeake Beach's convenient location has earned it the title of Charter Fishing Capital of Maryland, not surprising based on the long list of charter boats available or the fact that the town is built along Fishing Creek.

We did not go for the fishing, or even for the gaming, which fills the parking lot every night at the Chesapeake Beach Resort, Spa and Casino where we stayed. We went because of an odd historical connection between the resort town and Berkeley Springs. And because it's the closest beach.

Despite its rich resort history, the town is relentlessly contemporary, except for the train station, now converted into the Railway Museum. It remains at its original location and is the sole remaining structure of the Chesapeake Beach Railway line.

Open daily during the season, the museum is filled with exhibits displaying both the railway's and resort's history. It's easy to discover the story with friendly docents enthusiastic about telling it. I provided them with a new piece to the story.

My husband Jack and I decided to visit Chesapeake Beach because, in my research on Samuel Taylor Suit, the man who built Berkeley Castle, I discovered he was the original businessman who worked to build the railroad and the resort that was its terminus.

This came as a surprise to local historians who started the town's history with its incorporation a decade later. Who knows where my little tidbits will lead their search for roots.

Once finished with my inadvertent disruption of town history, we focused on eating and walking.

The Chesapeake Bay has one required food group: crabs. Crab cakes or crab pasta dishes are virtually everywhere. But the authentic experience is crab picking, spending a couple of hours diligently smashing and picking choice tidbits of meat from platters of steamed crabs.

We chose Abner's for our crab feast because we spotted it along Fishing Creek from the Railway Trail. It was an inspired choice.

Abner's was packed on a Wednesday night, seemingly with locals because the bustling waitresses appeared to know everyone in the place. Tables were covered with brown paper ripped regularly from a giant holder. Paper on the tables is always a good indicator that folks are serious about eating.

It's fortunate that crab meat is such a succulent treat, otherwise the effort that goes into picking crabs would be unjustifiable. Had we stayed longer, we would have sampled Tyler's Crab Shack, another location for crab picking, or we may simply have returned to Abner's and tried its outdoor deck.

The true gem of the visit was a 3-mile walk along the Fishing Creek Railway Trail, which followed the original train bed of the historic railroad and crossed miles of bay marshes and streams on a boardwalk along the creek.

A town official reported it took them more than 20 years to assemble all the necessary permits for the trail's path; I assured her it was worth every hour and commended the town government for undertaking such a beneficial project.

Living in the mountains, we tend to think any hike requires climbing. The pleasure of a flat hiking surface is hard to beat.

We walked to the end and saw the remains of the railroad trestle with uprights poking up from the water more than a century later. The trail was a busy place with walkers, bike riders and baby carriages as well as numerous birds, including great blue heron and red-winged blackbirds.

There are benches along the trail and an abundance of informational signage. The Oyster Cultivation project along the trail grows baby oysters in Fishing Creek that will ultimately be transferred to the Bay.

The water park is another impressive town project with eight huge slides, fountains, waterfalls and a lazy river. It was packed with kids and families on the hot summer afternoon.

Although our hotel had a sandy area complete with loungers, cabanas and an umbrellaed cafe, there is no way to access the water for swimming. Several marinas occupy the convergence of Fishing Creek and the Bay, supporting the charter fishing industry, and the hotel's Rod & Reel restaurant will grill and serve your fresh catch.

Our exposure to the water was from the balcony of our comfortable room from which we could watch seabirds, boats and waves crashing against cliffs down the coast.

For the real beach, boardwalk and shopping experience, we had to drive a mile or so to the cottage community of North Beach. Except for the welcome signs, it is impossible to distinguish the two towns. Further adventures nearby include Calvert Cliffs State Park, an ideal destination for fossil hunting.

Chesapeake Beach is preparing for a boom when plans get underway for a major expansion of the Chesapeake Beach Hotel and its casino area. There are also plans to provide more beach area and access to the water.

Should you find yourself at a conference in Washington, D.C., or the kids need a break from a vacation of monuments and museums, take the day trip to Chesapeake Beach.

For more information call Town Hall at 410-257-2230 or check online

www.chesapeakebeachmd.gov.

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Where it happened: Musical fans flock to Hamilton's New York City http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160726/GZ0506/160729771 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160726/GZ0506/160729771 Tue, 26 Jul 2016 03:47:00 -0400 By Becca Milfeld Special To The Washington Post By By Becca Milfeld Special To The Washington Post As much as I really want to see the awe-inspiring, bayonet-bearing, knee-sock-wearing, hip-hop phenomenon that is the musical "Hamilton," I've been having trouble justifying the equally phenomenal price of tickets.

So I created my own front-row Hamilton experience - which, unlike the play, involves almost no sitting. Instead, I spent a day and a half walking from one end of Manhattan to the other on what I've termed a Hamilthon. I was trying to catch a glimpse of perhaps the world's first consummate New Yorker: the real Alexander Hamilton, the one who doesn't sing.

And I was hardly alone.

From Hamilton's Harlem home to his grave in the Financial District, his new, musical-induced fans are everywhere - many with tickets.

With the Tony-, Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning musical sold out through May of next year, it's hard to find tickets going for anything close to face value at secondary agencies such as Ticketmaster.

With delusions of paying far less, I signed up, fingers crossed, for the near-daily online lottery for $10 front-row seats. On average, more than 10,000 people enter for 21 tickets, but at the advice of "Hamilton," I was not throwing away my shot.

I started my tour of Hamilton's life in reverse order, at his grave, in Lower Manhattan. Nestled in the modern cityscape at Broadway and Wall Street is Trinity Church and its ancient graveyard, where the dead date to the 17th century and tombstones read like a who's who of "Hamilton" characters, on whose graves people now place rocks, coins and other mementos. A succulent houseplant was at the foot of Hamilton's grave on the April morning of my visit.

It's no wonder so many people love "Hamilton," which has won 11 Tony Awards and catapulted its creator and original star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to fame.

The musical tells the story of the $10 Founding Father, born illegitimately in the Caribbean and orphaned after his dad left and mom died. Despite his rough start, Hamilton would go on to become George Washington's right-hand man in the Revolutionary War, the first secretary of the Treasury (largely credited with creating the nation's financial system) and one of America's top Founding Fathers. The cast is multi-ethnic, and a portion of the plot, told via hip-hop and other musical genres, centers on two women, Hamilton's wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, and her sister Angelica.

At Trinity, Eliza's grave is next to Hamilton's and Angelica is thought to be in a nearby vault belonging to the influential Livingston family. Hamilton's friend, the improbably named Hercules Mulligan, is several plots away.

"We don't have the official numbers, but we anecdotally know that there's more people that we see in the churchyard" since the musical opened, Trinity spokeswoman Lynn Goswick told me. Case in point: Our conversation was interrupted by a woman inquiring where Hamilton's son Philip is buried. (He died in a duel more than two years before his father. The church doesn't know whether he's in an unmarked grave or plot somewhere nearby.)

My logical next stop was the ancient dueling grounds in Weehawken, New Jersey.

A quick Uber ride through the Lincoln Tunnel brought me to the cliff-top Hamilton Park, which stretches along the Hudson River and overlooks the bank where Hamilton was mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr. The exact spot - approximately where Philip also was shot - is lost to history.

But the picnic-perfect park reveals a phenomenal Manhattan skyline and a nearby bust of Hamilton marks the rough location where the statesman fell. Placed beside the bust is a rock that, according to legend, Hamilton leaned upon after being shot. People now throw pennies on it.

I asked a man who lives in the house directly opposite the bust whether he had witnessed the same Hamilton mania I had observed at the graveyard in Manhattan. No, he said, because New Yorkers think New Jersey is impossibly far away.

"Hamilton did not die in New Jersey, thank God. That is the worst thing that can happen to a New Yorker. They got him back into a boat. He did make it across to the West Village," said Jimmy Napoli, who leads Hamilton walking tours, including a "Hamilton's Wall Street" walk I went on. (For the record, I, too, took a boat back across the Hudson, in a ferry named "Alexander Hamilton.")

At $50, the walk is a fraction of the musical's price. And unlike Miranda, who gave his final performance as Hamilton on July 9 (the role is now played by his former understudy, Javier Muñoz), Napoli isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, he has been giving Hamilton tours for decades.

"I have great vision and foresight. Twenty years ago, when I became a tour guide, I said to myself, 'It's just a matter of time before somebody writes a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, and I'm going to be on the ground floor when that happens,'" Napoli told my tour group of seven with a laugh.

He then went on to pull history from the pavement for three hours, explaining where critical events happened and the founding fathers once lived, spots now mostly covered by high-rise buildings.

With his fast-paced New York gusto, Napoli's could be the second best "Hamilton" show in town.

His favorite tour spot is Federal Hall, site of the First U.S. Congress, as well as the first Supreme Court and executive branch offices. But for me, the highlight was the room where it happens, the very location where Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Hamilton held a private meeting in which the two Virginians agreed to round up congressional support for Hamilton's plan for national assumption of state debts in return for Hamilton rounding up support to move the capital to Washington. The room, which was in Jefferson's house, no longer exists, built over by yet another office building.

My next stop would be a house with rooms where a lot of things happened: the only home Hamilton ever owned, his Grange estate. But not before saying goodbye to my tour at Fraunces Tavern, where the nascent Treasury Department once leased rooms and both Burr and Hamilton attended a meeting one week before their duel.

Over lunch, William Carter, a dad from Fredericksburg, Virginia, who brought his teenage daughter, Kayla, told us how at first he had doubts: "I said 'Rap and Hamilton? How dare you,'" but then was won over.

As Napoli put it, not only has Miranda "made Hamilton cool with the kids, I've got 80-year-old women from the South rapping in my face, which is really surreal."

With that, I headed uptown to the Grange, Hamilton's Federal-style house in Harlem in the shadows of what today is the City College of New York.

The house, originally located on approximately 32 acres, is named after the ancestral manse of Hamilton's Scottish father and was completed in 1802, back when Harlem was a rural community nine miles from today's Financial District. However, Hamilton was only able to enjoy the home for two years before he died. Since then, the Grange has been moved twice and now rests on a green hillside in St. Nicholas Park, not far from its original location.

A group of four women, three wearing "Hamilton" T-shirts, were on their way out as I arrived.

"Our visitation numbers have skyrocketed since the play came out and the demographics of the people have changed," said park guide Gregory Mance, who explained that history majors and school groups have given way to "everybody."

In the first half of last year almost 11,000 people visited, a number that nearly quadrupled to more than 40,000 in 2016, according to the National Park Service. The spike is no doubt due to "Hamilton," which opened off-Broadway in February 2015 and on Broadway in August of the same year.

Little is known about the home's interior, so only three rooms have been restored, including the dining room, where there's a replica of the four-bottle wine cooler that Washington sent as a token of friendship during the nation's first major political sex scandal - a torrid affair with Hamilton at its center.

After receiving an email notification that I did not win the "Hamilton" lottery, I stopped by the Richard Rodgers Theatre some 20 minutes before a show and took a spot in the cancellation line, where a lucky few might nab an affordable seat if the Founding Fathers were to smile down.

Standing towards the back, I didn't stand a chance. And I wasn't going to buy a ticket from the several questionable men hawking them at outrageous prices. For a moment, I even wondered after so many jogs to the beat of "Yorktown" and morning bus rides furtively jamming to "The Schuyler Sisters": What if the show wasn't . . . as good as I imagined?

"I was concerned when I saw it it wouldn't live up to the hype . . . and it blew away the hype," Napoli the tour guide, who has seen it twice, said.

Okay, so it apparently is awesome.

But with tickets selling in the high triple digits, as Burr would say, I was willing to wait for it.

Milfeld is a Washington-based journalist. After writing this article, she finally nabbed tickets - for May 2017 - at just $199.Find her on Twitter: @becca_milfeld.

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Music, theater and football coming to Greenbrier Co. http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0602/160729888 GZ0602 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0602/160729888 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 02:00:00 -0400 By Kristi Godby WV Travel Team By By Kristi Godby WV Travel Team The following is a compilation of upcoming events in Greenbrier County:

n "Cinderellish," the world premiere of the musical comedy by Emmy-award-winning composer Arnold Margolin and Weslie Brown, is at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the State Professional Theatre of West Virginia, through Aug. 6.

Performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with Saturday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for children and students, $27 for seniors and $30 for adults.

The theater is located at 1038 Washington St. East in Lewisburg. For more information visit the website at www.gvtheatre.org or call 304-645-3838.

n Beginning Thursday through Aug. 16, the New Orleans Saints will conduct summer training at The Greenbrier Sports Performance Center. Enjoy the rare opportunity to see up-close professional athletes prepare for the NFL season.

There is no cost to attend the practices, but there is a $5 fee for transportation to the center. For more information visit www.greenbrier.com or call 855-453-4858.

n The Ivy Terrace Concert Series is a great way to start to a weekend; the free, outdoor concerts take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at Carnegie Hall, located at 611 Church St. in Lewisburg.

Grab a pizza from nearby Greenbrier Valley Baking Company or an ice cream from Cakes and Cones and enjoy the music.

The upcoming schedule: Thursday, Qiet; Aug. 11, Squirrell Hillbillies; and Aug. 25, BlackKingCoal. For more information visit www.carnegiehallwv.com/performances or call 304-645-7917.

n Aug. 5 is First Fridays After Five, which takes place every month in downtown Lewisburg. Shops, restaurants and galleries remain open through the evening offering refreshments and entertainment.

n Downtown Lewisburg celebrates the written word Aug. 5-6 at the Lewisburg Literary Festival. There is outdoor art, musical performances, activities for children and visiting authors; this year's featured writer is Sarah Gruen, author of "Water for Elephants."

All presentations are free, but require a ticket that may be reserved by calling 304-645-1000.

n Enjoy the acoustic and percussive instruments of Marguerite Aug. 6 during the First Saturday Concert Series at Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company, located at 862 Industrial Park Road in Lewisburg.

The free music starts at 2 p.m., and food from the Market on Courthouse Square is available for purchase. For more information visit www.gvbeer.com/events/ or call 304-520-4669.

n Celebrate the end of summer with the largest affair in the Mountain State. The State Fair of West Virginia runs Aug. 12-21. The event offers everything from agricultural exhibits to top-notch performers such as Vince Neil and Jake Owen.

Everyone has a fair favorite whether it is on the Midway, in the barns or on a stick, come find yours. For more information visit statefairofwv.com or call 304-645-1090.

n Get a glimpse of West Virginia's Civil War history during the reenactment of the 1863 Battle of Dry Creek. The action includes infantry, cavalry and artillery, all dressed in their period uniforms.

The combat takes place Aug. 20-21 in the beautiful Greenbrier State Forest, located at 1541 Harts Run Road in White Sulphur Springs.

For more information visit greenbrierwv.com or call 304-645-7149.

For more information about these events and places to eat, sleep and shop during your visit, go to greenbrierwv.com.

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Philadelphia ranks among America's best food cities http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0502/160729892 GZ0502 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0502/160729892 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 02:32:00 -0400 By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post By By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post No contest. The clear winners in the 2016 presidential convention game are the Democrats.

Hear me out. Anyone attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at month's end is bound to discover, as I did last year, that the City of Brotherly Love ranks among America's best food cities: No. 6, by my reckoning.

Not only is it home to supreme sandwich makers, but Philadelphia also delivers some of the country's best Italian food, at all price points; fashionable vegetarian restaurants; and a smorgasbord of ingredients and iconic eats at the revered Reading Terminal Market. (The last is especially useful, given the many restaurants expected to be fully committed Monday through Thursday during the event.)

The possibilities just get better, I learned after a recent reunion with the city. Since my last visit, the landscape has broadened to include noteworthy Japanese, Malaysian and - there can never be too many - Italian accents.

The "it" gastronomic neighborhoods: East Passyunk, dubbed the future of fine-dining in the city by Craig LaBan, restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer; and Fishtown/Kensington, where the artisanal focus borders on the Brooklyn-obsessed.

"Philadelphians want the rest of the country to know they're about so much more than cheesesteaks and pretzels," prime as those are, LaBan said. To eat in Philadelphia now is to "see the vitality of a city expanding its seams."

Is the city ready for a crowd of as many as 60,000?

"We just had the pope," said Gregory Vernick of the esteemed Vernick Food & Drink near Rittenhouse Square. (Observers said that visit was ruinous for some businesses that had to go dark due to street closures and security concerns, but Vernick counted strolls with his daughter on normally busy roads as a small blessing.)

At any rate, this isn't the city's first rodeo. In 2000, it successfully hosted the Republican National Convention.

Herewith my nominations for where to eat in Philadelphia. Fasten your feedbags: It's going to be a lovely bite or two.

Here's what you get when one owner, Chef Joncarl Lachman, is Dutch and another, Chef Lee Styer, is Pennsylvania Dutch: A tidy storefront in blue and white that lavishes both ring (tube-shaped) bologna and chipped beef on its eggs Benedict and gives diners the option of sweet or savory Dutch baby pancakes cooked in cast-iron skillets.

"Can I tell you about the specials?" Lachman asked. "Everything is special."

He and Styer are behind two other popular South Philly eateries, neighbors Noord and Fond, which means dishes from either sometimes pop up at the Dutch. (A recent afternoon found warm duck rillettes, courtesy of Fond.)

Omelets and waffles aren't just for breakfast, by the way; the Dutch stays open until 3 p.m. But you can also get soup or a Cobb salad as early as 8 a.m.

It's not just the name that tells you what to order in this seafood haunt, where big goblets of gumball-size oyster crackers play the role of flowers on the tables.

The walls, decorated with vintage oyster plates, and the wrap-around bar, populated by precision shuckers with the gift of gab, also strongly suggest that you get some bivalves. The rest of the menu impresses, too, be it bold snapper turtle soup, a banh mi stuffed with fried soft-shell crab or grilled bluefish on farro.

The chalkboard trumpets a milestone birthday for the restaurant: 40 years of catching, and captivating, old-school lawyers, Center City business types and discerning tourists.

There are conscientious cooks and then there's Angelina Branca, a novice restaurateur who opened a Malaysian outpost mostly because she wanted to share with Philadelphia the kind of food she grew up with 9,000 miles away. Lucky diners.

She uses coconut-shell charcoal, basically smokeless fuel that lets diners taste the many layers (lemon grass, cumin, fennel) of the exquisite marinade on her skewered meats.

And one of the two big grills is dedicated to cooking halal (humanely dispatched) meat, including goat that leaves the glowing charcoal as five or 10 sticks of sizzling splendor that only get better with a sweep through peanut sauce. Pulsing with chilies and tamarind, it's a perfect balancing act.

Ribbed stingray stays moist in its wrap of banana leaf, which imparts pleasant grassiness, and nowhere else in this country have I had better beef rendang, soft cubes of meat slow-cooked in coconut cream and treated to a jungle of herbs, sometimes including hard-to-find ginger leaves.

A mural of a street market depicts the place in Kuala Lumpur where a young Branca learned to cook from her aunt. In tandem with the chili-fragrant air, the scene lets us in on her story.

The room alone is intoxicating, with guitar music in the background, hammered-copper accents and, in the distance, a dancing wood fire.

"I want to relax the eye," said chef-owner Konstantinos Pitsillides, former tanner and farmer in his native Cyprus.

Then his food starts coming - sardines with spicy tomatoes, charcoal-warmed veal tongue - and you wish you were a crowd rather than a couple. The dips include an Iranian-inspired spread of pistachio, dill and feta cheese, a verdant companion to the house-baked flatbread.

Filleted at the table, branzino cooked in grape leaves resonates with lemon, thyme and rosemary. Meanwhile, dumplings plumped with warm -spiced lamb and arranged on minted yogurt evoke far-away and long-ago Armenia.

Forget your usual poison and sample a cocktail that hews to the restaurant's theme. Fair warning: One Cypriot, made with piney masticha, tequila, cucumber and sage, easily leads to another.

First you have to navigate a noisy, ground-floor, all-day Asian cafe and check in with a host at a podium in the rear. But all is calm once you're led to a door and descend a set of votive-lit stairs to an underground Japanese tavern with charred cedar walls that could pass for Tokyo, except that everyone speaks English.

Is this the best sushi in town? Pristine baby yellowtail on a pearly finger of warm rice, among other one-bite wonders, suggests it's a contender.

But the small plates are worth Snapchatting, too: notably, lush tuna tartare atop pads of chewy roasted sushi rice freckled with sesame seeds; juicy, deep-fried chicken (karaage); and pillowy bao buns packed with un-Asian - but awesome - corned beef and a wallop of mustard.

Yes, you can get pigeon at this all-day cafe, in the form of a grilled, sliced bird splayed over whatever vegetables look good in the market. But the place's real strength can be found on the concrete counter of the light-filled dining room: Almond croissants scented with orange blossom water that shower your plate - and table and lap - with buttery flakes, and buttermilk bran muffins that buck the usual with their fine crumb and moistness. (Pureed raisins make them sweet.)

One of the two co-owners, Pat O'Malley, spent eight years in the pastry department at New York's Balthazar; his baked goods are proof of time well spent.

Lunch finds an admirable hamburger, built with a crusty beef patty and a model sesame seed bun, as well as winning vegetables, sometimes sliced zucchini and summery tomatoes nestled in a bowl swiped with whipped feta.

The name of the place is reinforced by the wiry installation hovering over the community table: a cluster of bird cages that double as light fixtures.

Tuesday through Thursday, this street cart-turned-storefront is known for its tortas. Friday through Sunday - beginning at 5 a.m. on weekends - it sees overnight workers, then construction crews, followed by restaurant staffers and the church crowd, everyone here for a singular sensation: the best tacos in Philadelphia.

The specialty is lamb - shoulder, ribs, face - chopped while you wait at a small, cash-only counter, the front of which is lined with fixings: hot peppers (attention, Hillary Clinton), diced onion, chopped cilantro, guacamole, julienned cactus. Bundling the pleasure are supple tortillas made from corn that's milled on-site.

Husband and wife Benjamin Miller and Cristina Martinez watch over the place, a roost made cheery with maize-colored walls and significant with lithographs of Mexican revolutionaries, farmworkers and others.

Keeping those tacos company are lamb consomme, chockablock with chickpeas and tiny noodles, and pancita, which is basically an organ recital you can eat.

The word is out: "Earlier the better," said Miller, who has run out of lamb as early as noon some days. Follow his advice: Call ahead for a status check.

No matter how many new restaurants pop up between visits to Philadelphia, I always make time for dinner at Vernick Food & Drink off Rittenhouse Square.

Chef-owner Gregory Vernick, a disciple of the acclaimed Jean-Georges Vongerichten, has a knack for taking the best of each season and turning it into something you can't wait to repeat: toast heaped with chanterelles and charred eggplant, red curry shrimp on jasmine rice with long beans and peanuts, sweet pea ravioli tossed with braised rabbit and mint.

The cocktails are inspired; tequila, grapefruit, cardamom and lime leaves add up to an elegant Palomino.

And the service in the earth-toned retreat, which includes a cozy no-reservations lounge up front, underscores the city's brotherly motto.

With the bill comes a house-made marshmallow or petite palmier. What's not to love?

My nominee for the most beguiling new restaurant in a city rich with choice tables is this expansive haven in hopping Fishtown. Wrought from a long-vacant whiskey blending and bottling facility dating to the 1890s, the interior, set off with mosaic tiles and arched windows, gives everyone a view.

The Fireplace Room beckons with a concrete hearth, skylight and repurposed church pews; the Wood Oven Room, an open kitchen, stars the handsome source of heat for the restaurant's distinctive pizzas.

Chef Chris Painter dubs his food "urban Italian," giving him license to cook outside the box. Triumphs include veal tartare, creamy with Caesar salad dressing, set on toast bites; house-made spaghetti tossed with rings of squid and bottarga; lamb steak jolted with peppercorns and cumin and framed in favas and other beans; and pizza decked out with crumbled lamb, artichokes and a hit of lemon.

Throw in some ace drinks and some of Philadelphia's best servers, and prepare for a long run.

Eating here always makes me wonder when I'll get to see it again and why more meatless restaurants don't follow its wonderful recipe for food and service. I know I'm not alone.

"We're not vegetarians," I overhear a man say to strangers at the next table, "but this is cool!" Or hot, in the case of a fistful of battered cauliflower nuggets, their kick (thanks to red chili ketchup) tempered by a brushstroke of gingery whipped dal.

The menu is small in size but global in mind. Fried tempeh, radish kimchee and Sriracha-spiked Thousand Island dressing make for Seoul-ful tacos, while a pinwheel of wood-smoked, barbecue-sauced carrots lend their sweetness to an asado salad that's crunchy with pumpkin seeds and colorful with grilled corn and slivers of poblano.

The drinks are as serious as at any steakhouse, and the pedigree couldn't be meatier: V Street is sibling to Philadelphia's formal Vedge, one of the premiere vegan kitchens in the country.

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Six wheels, will travel: Crossing America with a bike in the car http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729893 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729893 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 02:00:00 -0400 By Melanie Kaplan Special to The Washington Post By By Melanie Kaplan Special to The Washington Post Some folks cross the country on a bike. I prefer to drive with a bike in my car.

Over several road trips with a two-wheeler in my SUV, I've come to appreciate driving to faraway places but exploring them on a human-powered vehicle. At my destination and along the way, I hop on a bike to breathe fresh air, get my bearings, stretch my limbs and act like a local for a spell.

Cycling allows you to access routes impractical or unreachable by automobile; and unfailingly, getting out of the car on a road trip sets the stage for serendipity. When you slow from 70 mph to 15, the joy is in the unexpected.

I've learned some lessons on my six-wheel adventures. Here are some of them.

Last summer, on a 7,400-mile road trip, I was halfway into a 30-mile rainy bike ride in Portland, Oregon, when I realized that I had been negligent. I rode my steel-framed commuter, towed my beagle Hammy in a trailer, and wore a helmet and padded biking skort.

But inexplicably, I had left my travel bike pump at the hotel and my extra tube and patch kit back home. I was lucky that I hadn't blown a tire. During that ride, I vowed to never again bike without emergency gear at hand.

REI stores offer free bike maintenance classes, even if you don't buy your bike there. Your local mechanic can teach you basics, such as how to care for your chain and brakes and how to remove wheels and pedals if you are transporting your bike inside your vehicle. Always bring a bike lock, phone, money, local map and more water and food than you think you'll need.

Often, my first stop when I get to a town is the bike shop, where I can ask for ride suggestions. In Portland, I stopped in at West End Bikes and explained that I would be towing 50 pounds (beagle plus trailer); could they recommend a couple-hour ride that erred on the side of flat?

The shop folks sent me on two routes: one across the Gothic-style St. Johns Bridge and another along the east side of the Willamette River, where I discovered a path called Springwater Corridor. Near the beginning of the latter route, I glimpsed the new car-free Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

I biked by the Portland Puppet Museum, heard chickens in several backyards and passed a food-cart enclave called Cartlandia.

Before, after or in the middle of a long day of driving, nothing feels better than giving your muscles a workout. At the beginning of last summer's road trip, which began on the Jersey Shore, I rode at sunrise through a couple of beach towns before driving straight through to Chicago.

A couple of days later, I stopped in Big Timber, Montana - a speck of a town between Billings and Bozeman where Robert Redford filmed "The Horse Whisperer."

While dining at the Grand, a hotel restaurant with a moose head on the wall, I asked my local acquaintance to suggest a cycling route. The next morning, I started at an elevation of 4,000 feet and climbed steadily higher into the mountains, with Hammy behind me. Other than the occasional pickup whizzing by, I had the two-lane road to myself.

Back in town, a well-earned hearty breakfast awaited me at the Grand, and the endorphins from my ride ensured that my feeling of euphoria would last well into that day's long drive on the interstate.

And while you're staying there, get out of your car for good. In McCall, Idaho, last summer, I began my week-long visit with a 20-mile ride around town and Payette Lake.

My friend Dave showed me where to rent a paddleboard and where to look for moose. We pedaled to a yard sale and a hidden haven called Charlie's Garden, as well as Alpine Pantry for blackberry turnovers. As the days went by, I got around completely by bike - a picnic at Legacy Park, ice cream at Scoops, a tour at the smoke-jumper base, fish tacos at Mile High Marina and live music at Crusty's.

A few years back, I got into a similar rhythm with a fold-up bike during a week in Marfa, Texas. After my first ride around town, I was overcome with a sense of belonging: I looked at my bike, locked up outside, and saw parts of a tumbleweed in the spokes.

In Astoria, Oregon, which sits on the Pacific coast at the mouth of the Columbia River, I was set on avoiding the car during my visit, despite the daunting hills. The staff at Bikes & Beyond gave me the lay of the land. In town, I biked along the Riverwalk, a path along the old Burlington Northern Railroad tracks, complete with a live soundtrack of barking sea lions. Along the way, I parked at Pier 39 and ordered a cool drink at Coffee Girl, next to an old Bumble Bee tuna cannery.

Still, I yearned for a longer ride and considered cycling across the bay to Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, which seemed reasonable on the map. But a kind, soft-spoken local named Kurt, who makes bags from old canvas sails, cautioned me against it. He said the roads were too dangerous; drivers weren't necessarily mindful of cyclists. That was good advice.

Joining the throngs of commuting cyclists in a bike-friendly city is like linking up with a school of fish when you're in unfamiliar waters. For a week, I stayed with friends in West Seattle, but one Friday morning I needed to head downtown for a reporting assignment at the historic Panama Hotel.

I left Alki Beach after breakfast, cycling along the Puget Sound and over the West Seattle Bridge. Along the way, I realized I was in the middle of heavy two-wheeler traffic; locals were headed to work. Following the flow meant avoiding awkward, tourist-style stops to consult my map.

Late that afternoon, I returned to West Seattle. As I waited with other cyclists for a drawbridge to open and close, I suspected that the jaded commuters around me saw the delay as merely an obstruction between them and their weekend. But I could hardly suppress my glee at the moving bridge and boats.

When you get curious on a bike, you open yourself up to chance encounters and end up in some offbeat spots. Narrow alleys beckon. Shiny objects inspire detours. Commuting back to my friends' house in Seattle, I veered off the main drag along the port, mesmerized by the massive, colorful walls of shipping containers.

Among the pleasures of riding in unknown places is what I like to call micro-disorientation: teetering on the edge of being utterly lost. I usually look at a map and have a vague sense of my direction and distance before I begin, but I don't have a smartphone. Each ride is like a game: How many turns can I make and still remember the way back? Usually, more than I think, but I also have ridden miles in the wrong direction. In my pocket, I carry a map. I try to remember landmarks. I query strangers when necessary.

For planning routes in unfamiliar territory, my endurance-athlete friend Sarah - who recently drove cross-country, took a few days off from driving for long training rides and competed in a half Ironman Triathlon along the way - turns to technology.

She recommends Under Armour's MapMyRide, an app to map, record and share your workouts; Strava, a social network for athletes; and Ride with GPS, an app to find established routes or draw your own. After selecting a route (and checking the elevation), Sarah plots it on Google Maps and uses the satellite view to scrutinize course conditions - so by the time she's on wheels, she's not surprised by shoulderless roads or gnarly intersections.

Bike computers can tell us our speed, distance, heart rate, cadence, elevation and trajectory. But just for kicks, bypass analytics and soak up your surroundings. Waiting for a train to pass at a railroad crossing, for instance, is a wholly different sensory experience on two wheels than it is from behind a windshield.

Outside McCall, I pulled over by a farm to watch two bulls fight, kicking up dust and head-butting for 20 minutes.

Climbing a hill in Big Timber, I stopped to stare at four mule deer who stared back before they sprang over a fence and bounded across the road in front of me.

Yet what I remember most distinctly about my time cycling in Montana is the absence of all but the faintest sounds. Off in the distance, water trickled. On the side of the road, wind rustled leaves. With each pedal, I could hear my breath.

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WV Travel Team: Beyond the monuments, Washington, D.C., sparkles http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729898 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729898 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:01:00 -0400 By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team By By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team Our flutes looked like crystal, and the champagne was free (the reservations, however, had been hard to come by). My wife and I stood in the warmly paneled - and crowded - vestibule of a French bistro, waiting for our table, enjoying the merry cacophony, and the maitre d' provided the complimentary libations to take the edge off the delay.

There was plenty to look at: hipsters, young professionals, boomers, several radiant people who looked vaguely familiar, people dressed up and glowing and the decor: yellow walls above the paneling, tin ceilings, mosaic-tiled floor, red banquettes.

Next to us, a man in a white jacket sliced round loaves of bread and baguettes as rapidly and expertly as a chef might dice an onion; after he was done, one loaf after another, he swept the crumbs into a drawer of the rustic wooden bread station, pushed it shut and started all over again as servers glided by to pick up the baskets he filled.

But this wasn't Paris; it was Le Diplomate, the hottest new restaurant in Washington, one of many dedicated to the Gallic art of cooking. More to the point, it was on 14th Street NW, 10 blocks from the White House in the heart of what had been known for more than a generation as the riot corridor, a neighborhood burned almost to the ground in the civil unrest that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

For decades, it had remained gutted and dangerous, but now it is the center of an ever-expanding collection of trendy, and very popular shops, restaurants and performing arts spaces. Le Diplomate itself was built - at a cost of $6 million - in the shell of a former dry cleaning establishment, Diplomat Cleaners.

Over scallops and lamb, and after salads, appetizers of melted Gruyere cheese pastry puffs and a smoky, delectable salmon spread, we compared notes about Washington and how it has changed since we moved to Florida four years ago and the transformation of the city from a sleepy southern town in the 1960s into a gleaming metropolis today.

While we agreed the city's iconic monuments and government buildings were prime tourist attractions and a mainstay of the local economy, we also agreed that the city beyond the monuments was well worth a stop on any itinerary.

Over the next couple of days, I put it on mine, while my wife joined in the pre-party hoopla surrounding a much-loved aunt's 90th birthday celebration, the reason for our trip.

The next morning, I returned to 14th Street, the hub of African-American commerce in the city until 1968's violence, my wife joining me for an ample breakfast at Ted's Bulletin, a new restaurant that offers a comfort food menu. Then I took off with my camera - I'm a shutterbug - while my wife patiently waited at Ted's.

What I saw was eye-popping: Sleek residential lofts carved out of old, multi-story car dealerships; too many new restaurants and bars to count; fashionable shops offering clothes, decor, designer furniture, kitchenware and edgy art.

There were also entertainment spaces: Black Cat, a top venue for alternative rock, and the Studio Theatre, adorned with a likeness of a sister-in-law Nancy Robinette, whose acting career was spawned in part by Studio. (She's now on Broadway.)

Washington's theater scene is vibrant; more people attend the theater here than in any other U.S. city except New York.

In addition to the Studio Theatre, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (the official U.S. memorial to President Kennedy) brings touring and original productions to its stunning Concert Hall, Opera House and Eisenhower Theatre.

It's also home of the city's symphony, opera and ballet companies. Spectacular Potomac River and city views from its rooftop terrace and a good restaurant are added bonuses.

But the city's other theaters and companies also draw the crowds. They include the Shakespeare Theatre Company, with homes in both the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre, housed in a former department store, and sparkling new 775-seat Sidney Harman Hall; the venerable 1,626-seat National Theatre near the White House; historic 1,200 seat Howard Theatre, which launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye; the recently redesigned 680-seat Fichlander Theatre at Arena Stage, which includes two other theaters; and 661-seat Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was shot.

All present original, repertory and touring productions. The smaller Signature and Wooly Mammoth theaters are excellent as well.

Later that day, after a trip to Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, where I ogled meats, cheeses, flowers and crafts, I sat in Tryst, the cafe at the Phillips Collection, one of Washington's premier art galleries - home to an impressive collection of modern American masters and French impressionists, including Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" - and mulled the changes.

I had arranged to meet an old friend, Lucia Pollock, a former human resources officer at the National Gallery of Art, who soon arrived - after having attended a protest at the U.S. Capitol. Together we reminisced - over vegetable soup and pecan pie (Lucia) and thick, sweet potato soup (me) - not just about old friends, but about Washington's past and present.

Lucia, a local activist, agreed with me that most - not all - of the changes are for the better. We both liked Washington's increasing sophistication. We didn't like all of the city's new architecture. And we were dismayed that Washington still had no vote in Congress.

Another gallery, the Kreeger Museum, is housed in the Kreeger family's contemporary mansion in a tony residential neighborhood near the western end of Massachusetts Avenue. Once open only sporadically and by appointment, the museum and sculpture garden feature the family's notable collection of modern art. It now operates on a much more liberal schedule (free and no reservations required on Fridays and Saturdays; reservations required other days).

Dupont Circle, once a quiet neighborhood inhabited chiefly by students, the offbeat and the elderly, now gleams with imaginative restorations, new paint jobs and the requisite assortment of chic shops and restaurants.

Kramer Books and Afterwords, a book shop and cafe on Connecticut Avenue that inspired the renaissance of the area, was doing brisk business when I stopped in, as was Mission Restaurant across the street, its patio filled with diners. People relaxed in the sun on the lawn around the fountain in the traffic circle for which the area is named.

Another bookstore, Politics and Prose, sits farther up the avenue near the Maryland line and offers a vast selection of literature, much of it political or historic, whimsical gifts, free talks by members of the city's journalistic and political classes, and a cafe that was buzzing when I visited.

Scores of embassies march east and west from Dupont Circle along Massachusetts Avenue, but the grandest embassies are almost all to the west. Most were built in Victorian or Beaux Arts-style and served originally as homes for the city's gilded elite.

The Iranian embassy, once a glitzy hub of Washington social life, is boarded up and showing signs of neglect (the Cuban embassy is on the other side of town, on 16th Street NW).

Newer, however, are the statues in front of the embassies, chief among them the statue of Nelson Mandela in front of the South African Embassy (there's a memorial to Khalil Gibran in an adjacent shady glen); Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy; and a statue of Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, outside the Indonesian Embassy (the majestic, Beaux Arts-style former residence of Washington's noted Walsh family and home, at different times, to the American Red Cross, prospectors for gold, the Hope Diamond and, some say, ghosts).

The neighboring Cosmos Club, whose members are drawn from the city's political and social elite - including four presidents, two vice presidents, 56 Pulitzer Prize winners and numerous Nobel Prize and Medal of Honor winners - sits in splendor across the street from Anderson House.

That house, designed in the style of a walled Florentine villa, is now a museum dedicated to the Society of Cincinnati's role in the War of Independence and prides itself on being the nation's oldest patriotic organization.

Before leaving for the airport, I took advantage of Washington's spectacular spring weather to stroll across Key Bridge, which connects Arlington to Georgetown over the Potomac. At least, I started to stroll, but was soon caught up in the throngs of those who were speed-walking, jogging and biking down the sidewalk in both directions on their way home from work. I had to pick up my pace and keep an ear out for bicycle bells behind me.

I was treated to magnificent vistas that included the spires of Georgetown University, the park along the Georgetown waterfront, Foggy Bottom, the Washington Monument and the Kennedy Center before a bend in the river took the city out of sight behind forested Theodore Roosevelt Island (site of the memorial to the 26th president). Racing skulls glided under the bridge.

I thought of why I liked Washington so much and decided to return more often.

Martin W.G. King is a freelance travel writer based in Florida.

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The restaurants below are listed in the order in which they were mentioned in the accompanying article. For locations accessible only by bus, contact the restaurant or its website for information.

n Le Diplomate

202-332-3333, 1601 14th St. NW,

French, reservations essential U Street-Cardozo Metro or valet parking ($12). www.lediplomatedc.com.

n Tryst at the Phillips Cafe

202-387-2151, 1600 21st St. NW,

Dupont Circle Metro (north exit) Light meals, Phillips Collection. www.phillipscollection.org/visit/cafe.

n Ted's Bulletin

202-265-8337, 1818 14th St. NW

Comfort food, full-service bar. www.tedsbulletin.com.

n Afterwords Cafe

202-387-3825, 1517 Connecticut Ave.

Informal restaurant, Dupont Circle Metro (north exit). www.kramers.com/cafe.

n Mission Dupont

202-525-2010, 1606 20th St. NW,

Mexican food and specialty drinks, Dupont Circle Metro (north exit). www.missiondupont.com.

n Open City

202-965-7670, 3101 Wisconsin Ave.

Refreshments and light meals, bus, ample free parking. www.opencitycathedraldc.com.

n Northside Social Coffee and Wine

828-280-6466, 3211 Wilson Blvd.

Coffee, baked goods, light meals, wine bar, Clarendon Metro. www.northsidesocialarlington.com.

n Jaleo

202-628-7949, 480 Seventh St. NW

Spanish tapas by noted chef Jose Andres, Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro. www.jaleo.com/dc.

n Zaytinya

202-638-0800, 701 Ninth St. NW

Outstanding Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine by Jose Andres, Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro. www.jaleo.com/dc.

n 2 Amys

202-885-5700, 3715 Macomb St. NW

Reasonably priced Italian starters, charcuterie and Neapolitan pizza; wine bar, bus. www.2amysdc.com.

n Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar

202-333-0111, 1736 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Intimate, bustling, romantic French bistro, bus. www.bistrotlepic.com.

n Lyon Hall

703-741-7636, 3100 Washington Blvd.

Excellent French-German cuisine in a boisterous setting, Clarendon Metro. www.lyonhallarlington.com.

n Baked and Wired

703-663-8727, 1052 Thomas Jefferson St.

Espresso and superb baked goods, including breads, cookies, cakes and pies to eat in or take home, bus. www.bakedandwired.com.

n Ray's the Steaks

703-841-7297, 2300 Wilson Blvd.

Excellent steaks at moderate prices, Courthouse Metro. www.raysthesteaks.com.

n Four Sisters Grill

703-243-9020, 3035 Clarendon Blvd.

Excellent fast-casual Vietnamese food, Clarendon Metro. www.foursistersgrill.com.

n Cava Mezze

703-276-9090, 2940 Clarendon Blvd.

Greek tapas, Clarendon Metro. www.cavamezze.com.

n Green Pig Bistro

703-888-1920, 1025 N. Fillmore St.

Sustainable cuisine. www.greenpigbistro.com.

n Whitlow's on Wilson

703-276-9693, 2854 Wilson Blvd.

Inexpensive diner food, rock and country bands at night, Clarendon Metro. www.whitlows.com.

n Iota Club and Cafe

703-522-8340, 2832 Wilson Blvd.

Coffee, full-service bar, inexpensive eats, rock bands at night, Clarendon Metro. www.whitlows.com.

n Screwtop

703-888-0845, 1025 N Fillmore St.

Superb selection of wines, cheeses, and light entrees; Clarendon Metro. www.screwtopwinebar.com.

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n Jefferson Hotel

1200 16th St. NW, 202-448-2300

Arguably the best hotel in Washington, with commensurate stratospheric rates, the Jefferson offers luxurious rooms, the highly regarded Plume restaurant and a cozy bar, Quill, with live entertainment; near the White House. www.jeffersondc.com.

n The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown

3100 South St. NW, 202-912-4100

Reimagined in an industrial building near the Georgetown waterfront, this sumptuous hotel offers exquisite, contemporary rooms and the superlative Living Room lounge; steps to many restaurants and shops. www.ritzcarlton.com.

n Washington Hilton

1919 Connecticut Ave., 202-483-3000

Huge convention hotel that offers all modern amenities and a seasonal outdoor pool. www.hilton.com.

n Wyndham Shoreham Hotel

2500 Calvert St. NW, 202-234-0700

Large art deco-era hotel perched on a slope above Rock Creek Park; outdoor, heated pool. www.omnihotels.com.

n Courtyard Marriott DC Dupont Circle

1900 Connecticut Ave., 202-332-9399

Modern rooms, some with spectacular views of downtown D.C. www.marriott.com.

n Key Bridge Marriott

1401 Lee Highway, 703-524-6400

Ideally located in Arlington, Virginia, directly across Key Bridge from Georgetown, this bustling hotel offers stunning Potomac River views from many of its upper floor rooms and is just a five-minute walk to the Rosslyn Metro; indoor and outdoor pools. www.marriott.com.

n Normandy Hotel

2118 Wyoming Ave., 202-483-1350

Intimate small hotel with modern amenities set between the Dupont Circle and Woodley Park-Zoo Metro stations. www.thenormandydc.com

n Tabard Inn Hotel

1739 N St. NW, 202-785-1217

A locally revered bed and breakfast that offers old-fashioned rooms, a lounge with a fireplace and live jazz and restaurant. www.tabardinn.com.

n Econo Lodge Metro

6800 Lee Highway, 703-538-5300

Pleasant if basic rooms near the East Falls Church Metro station (25 minutes to downtown D.C.) with free continental breakfast and Wi-Fi. www.choicehotels.com

n HI Washington DC, Hosteling International's Washington hostel

1009 11th St. NW, 202-737-2333

Shared accommodations and bathrooms and an excellent activities program, which includes group pub tours and visits to such places as the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center. www.hiusa.org.

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All venues are listed in the order in which they appear in the accompanying article.

n Black Cat

1811 14th St. NW, 202-667-4490

www.blackcatdc.com.

n Studio Theatre

1501 14th St. NW

www.studiotheatre.org.

n John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

2700 F St. NW, 202-467-4600

www.kennedy-center.org.

n Shakespeare Theatre Company

202-547-1122

www.shakespearetheatre.org.

n Howard Theatre

620 T St. NW, 202-803-2899

www.thehowardtheatre.com.

n National Theatre

1321 Pennsylvania Ave., 202-628-6161

www.thenationaldc.org.

n Arena Stage

1101 Sixth St. SW, 202-554-9066

www.arenastage.org.

n Signature Theatre 4200 Campbell Ave., 703-820-9771

www.sigtheatre.org.

n Wooly Mammoth Theatre

641 D St. NW, 202-393-3939

Ask about "Pay What You Can" shows and discounts for students and those under 30. www.woollymammoth.net.

n Whitlow's on Wilson

2854 Wilson Blvd., 703-276-9693

www.whitlows.com.

n Iota Club and Cafe

2832 Wilson Blvd., 703-522-8340

www.iotaclubandcafe.com.

n Birchmere

3701 Mount Vernon Ave., 703-549-7500

Name bluegrass and folk music acts, ample parking. www.birchmere.com.

n Concerts at the Capitol

U.S. Capitol West Lawn

Free symphony and pop concerts on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day; military band concerts throughout the summer.

n POV (Point of View)

Chic rooftop cocktail lounge at the W Hotel overlooking the White House, dress code, advance reservations necessary. www.povrooftop.com.

n Quill Bar and Lounge

1200 16th St. NW, 202-448-2300

Cocktails, light meals (expensive) and live music in an intimate setting at the fashionable Jefferson Hotel.www.jeffersondc.com.

n Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia

National name acts, touring musicals in a spectacular, open-air theater; lawn for picnics before the show; bus, ample parking. www.wolftrap.org.

nnn

All attractions are listed in the order in which they appear in the accompanying article. Where admission prices are stated, varying discounts for seniors, students and children are frequently available. For sites accessible by bus only, go to the attraction's website.

n Kennedy Center

2700 F St. NW, 202-416-8340

Free guided tours and roof terrace. www.kennedy-center.org.

n Eastern Market

225 Seventh St. SE, 202-698-5253

www.easternmarket-dc.org.

n Phillips Collection

1600 21st Str. NW, 202-387-2151

www.phillipscollection.org.

n Kreeger Museum

2401 Foxhall Road NW, 202-337-3050

Adults $10. www.kreegermuseum.org.

n Woodrow Wilson House

2340 S St. NW, 202-387-4062 www.woodrowwilsonhouse.org.

n Anderson House and the Society of the Cincinnati

2118 Massachusetts Ave., 202-785-2040

Free admission to museum, appointment suggested for library. www.societyofthecincinnati.org.

n Washington National Cathedral

3101 Wisconsin Ave., 202-537-6200

Highlights tour included in admission; year-round garden tour, $5 suggested donation; classic tower climb, $40, gargoyle tower climb $50; $11, bus, ample parking; many other tours and events. www.cathedral.org.

n International Spy Museum

800 F St. NW, 202-393-7798

Adults $21.95 (significant discounts for children, seniors and the military); explores the history of espionage, especially during the Cold War; Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro. www.spymuseum.org

n Theodore Roosevelt Island

15-minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro (in Arlington, Virginia), Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, hiking and birding trails. www.nps.gov.

n Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Garden

1703 32nd St. NW

Museum (Byzantine and pre-Columbian art) closed until November, but the garden, one of the most beautiful in Washington, is open; $10 garden admission includes guided tour of the garden; bus, no parking. www.doaks.org/about.

n First Friday Dupont

Free admission to visitors who stroll among Dupont Circle art galleries, some of which serve refreshments, on the first Friday evening of the month; emphasizes the local art scene. www.firstfridaydupont.org.

n Heurich House Museum

1307 New Hampshire Ave., 202-429-1894

Suggested donation of $5 for tours; ornate early 1900s mansion of Washington's Heurich Brewery family. www.heurichhouse.org.

n Rock Creek Park

1,700 acres of forest in a ravine that cuts through the heart of Washington from the Potomac River to the Maryland suburbs, picnic facilities, bike paths, 32 miles of hiking trails, public golf course, 13 miles of dirt and gravel bridle paths, with horseback riding lessons and guided tours on horseback available. www.rockcreekhorsecenter.com.

n Textile Museum

701 21st St. NW, 202-994-5200

$8 suggested donation; 20,000 textiles and objects spanning five continents and an equal number of millenia. www.museum.gwu.edu.

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Mountain lions' killer instincts could save human lives in the East http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160720/GZ01/160729959 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160720/GZ01/160729959 Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:29:41 -0400 By Karin Brulliard The Washington Post By By Karin Brulliard The Washington Post In 1921, an article in the quarterly journal of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife made plain the prevailing feeling about one native inhabitant of the state: "The one predatory animal for which practically no good can be said is the mountain lion," it began.

The big cats' main crime? Having caused a "heavy natural drain on the deer supply."

Nearly 100 years later, researchers have made a case in another journal, Conservation Letters, that mountain lions' deer-killing skills could be lifesaving to people on the other side of the country, where vehicles regularly crash into highway-hopping deer.

If mountain lions returned to their Eastern U.S. range, the study found, they could prevent 708,600 deer-vehicle collisions, 155 human deaths and 21,400 human injuries over 30 years.

That would save at least $2.13 billion, the authors said.

The mountain lions' return to the East, where people long ago killed them off, is certainly possible. The lions - also known as cougars, pumas and panthers - once lived across the entire hemisphere. While they're now mostly in the West, crowding is causing them to expand their range. There are now breeding populations in Nebraska and South Dakota, for example, and one male cougar even made it to Connecticut in recent years.

In most of the Eastern half of the country, deer have proliferated in the absence of cougars, destroying vegetation and contributing to so many car crashes that they're the most dangerous large mammal to humans in North America. To control them, officials have resorted to culling and more expensive efforts, like contraception and special highway crossings.

Laura Prugh, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Washington, said she and her co-authors wanted to bring a consumer-friendly, "Freakonomics kind of thing" to her research on large carnivores' roles in ecosystems.

To carry out this study, she said, they examined well-established data on deer-vehicle collisions, cougar predation on deer, available cougar habitat and deer populations in 19 Eastern states.

They assumed each cougar would kill 259 deer over an average six-year life span. To be conservative, she said, they assumed that about 75 percent of those ungulates would have died anyway from other causes, such as starvation, which is happening more often as deer strip Eastern vegetation.

To backstop their findings, they looked at South Dakota, where about half the counties on one side of the Missouri River have been recolonized by cougars in recent decades.

Before the cougar repopulation, deer-vehicle collisions were increasing at a steady rate each year. But in the counties where cougars set up shop, Prugh said, there was a "very dramatic change" within eight years: Deer-vehicle collisions dropped by 9 percent, preventing 158 such collisions that cost $1.1 million every year.

During that time, Prugh said, there was no big change in vegetation that might have led to a deer population decline, and deer hunting actually decreased, which might have led to a rise in collisions - if not for the cougars.

"That was very striking," she said. "When I looked at it, I was like, that looks like made-up data."

Michelle LaRue, a University of Minnesota wildlife ecologist who is executive director of the Cougar Network, which tracks cougar recolonization in the Midwest, said she thought the study was "a really interesting step forward in understanding the benefits that we don't think about when we think about mountain lions."

At the rate they're spreading, though, LaRue said she doesn't expect cougars to repopulate the East anytime soon. Young males, which need to find their own territory to avoid being killed by other males, are the pioneers moving East more rapidly, she said. But females typically migrate in a slower, "steppingstone" pattern, moving to the next open patch and settling down there. You need both genders, of course, to get a self-sustaining cougar population.

LaRue said research indicates that females will begin recolonizing new parts of the Midwest in the next 25 years.

"That's not very far, in relation to the entire continent," she said. "If it happens [in the East], it's going to take a long time."

That's probably a good thing, given that people, Prugh said, might not be psychologically ready for cougars in the Eastern woods.

"What I would hope is that, by making this fairly substantial benefit more concrete, people might be a little bit more accepting of them when they do show up," she said.

Prugh and her colleagues considered some of the costs of new cougar populations, including about $2.35 million worth of lost livestock and an unknown number of lost pets (although cougars, she noted, are "deer specialists," and probably wouldn't consider a house cat worth their time).

Fewer than 30 people would be killed by cougars over 30 years, their study estimated.

"Having cougars in the East looks like it would actually save about five times as many lives, through reducing deer-vehicle collisions, as they would actually kill," she said. "People don't stay awake at night worrying about crashing into a deer the next day, even though it could easily happen. But they might stay awake at night worrying about a cougar jumping on their back as they're walking through their neighborhood."

The chances of that happening are extremely low, she said, but added: "People's fear doesn't really track the statistics well."

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Tours fund restoration at Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ05/160719688 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ05/160719688 Sun, 17 Jul 2016 05:00:00 -0400 Lori Kersey By Lori Kersey WESTON - In an otherwise empty room with turquoise walls and bars on the windows, toys are scattered across the floor.

Crayons and paper, a soccer ball, stuffed animals and a music box: all gifts from the living to the dead of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

Office manager Bethany Cutright, during a tour of the place in late May, was at first dismissive of the toys, which are efforts to communicate with "Lilly," a little girl spirit that some people say haunts the place. Then she admits she's passed by the room and heard the music box playing on its own.

And that's not the only creepy thing to have happened at the old asylum, also known as Weston State Hospital, which closed in 1994 and is older than the state of West Virginia.

"I've walked every inch of this building in the dark with no flashlight, no problems," Cutright said. "[In the] winter time when there's nobody in here and I've had to come over and get something, I've heard somebody say something, and I know there's nobody else in here.

"That's when I get the goosebumps and the hair stands up on the back of my neck," she said.

The massive asylum, which has 9 acres of floor space in its main building alone, attracts paranormal enthusiasts from all around. A YouTube search for the asylum turns up 14,700 results that include ghost investigations both by amateurs and by "professional" ghost-hunting cable TV shows.

The asylum's reputation as one of the most haunted places in West Virginia is helping with a goal - restoring the centuries-old facility. Funds from paranormal tours - as well as historic tours, special events and souvenir sales - all go toward preserving the historic building.

Joe Jordan, an asbestos demolition contractor, bought the property at auction for $1.5 million in 2007 and opened it for tours in 2008. The first year, there were 7,000 visitors. That number increased tenfold, to 70,000, last year, Cutright said.

Cutright said since the end of the first tour season in 2008, all the money raised has gone to pay employees, buy supplies and preservation materials, and pay utilities and taxes.

"Over the last eight years, we have spent millions," Cutright said. "It is worth every penny invested to save such a magnificent National Historic Landmark."

Before Jordan purchased it, years of neglect left the structure in serious disrepair. Some rooms, including a cafeteria and kitchen, as well as the catwalks that connected them to the main section, had to be demolished, Cutright said. When the structural issues were addressed, the staff turned its attention to the aesthetics of the place.

They plan each year's preservation project to be done in the winter, when the building is closed to tours.

"We try to develop a plan of action during the tour season so, while tour season is on, we're like, 'OK when November comes, this is what we're gonna start. If we get that done, we're gonna move on to this,' " she said. "It's an ongoing project. Sometimes we get into it and realize the money's not there."

The main hallway of the building was one of the first places that the staff has attempted to preserve, Cutright said. The hallway has been renovated three times, and the most recent is completely different than what it looked like the first time. This time they made it look like what they believe is more historically accurate, she said.

Part of that preservation was to recreate molding archways.

"[There are] a lot of them throughout the entire building," Cutright said. "Not a lot of them survived, and some of them that did survive were damaged really badly. So part of our preservation restoration was to recreate them. We actually used techniques that were implemented by people who do movie sets."

One ward in the hospital has been turned into a gallery that features artwork from patients. More than 300 pieces of art from patients were donated back to the asylum. The pieces date back to 1906, but they're mostly from the 1970s through 1990s. They were part of an art therapy program at the hospital. Many reflect the harsh backgrounds of the patients.

One, a drawing not much more than stick figures, depicts a patient's father choking him next to a tree and sun.

The staff also recreated what a patient ward would have looked like in the 1890s. Bright yellow paint covers the walls and rugs cover the floors.

They've also been working to recreate the doctors' and nurses' apartments on the upper floors as they would have looked when they were in use. When the facility was operational, there weren't a lot of other places to live in Weston, so the staff lived on site.

They've started work on an auditorium, but Cutright said that project will take a while. When the hospital was in operation, the space was used for dances and parties, church services and other events, Cutright said.

Plaster once covered the walls, but now they're stripped down to brick. Holes in the ceiling have been repaired, Cutright said. Work is needed on the auditorium floors, where guests are currently restricted from exploring.

"I have grand visions for being able to use this again," she said of the auditorium.

Not only the building, Cutright is also trying to preserve the history of the hospital itself. She spent last winter trying to collect the oral histories of former patients, who are dying off.

"I think it's important, personally, to save those," she said.

The asylum has its fair share of terrifying stories. One is of a former patient in the 1980s who killed two other patients. The patient suffocated the first man, Cutright said. He tried to strangle the other with a bed sheet. That didn't work so he put his head under a bedpost and jumped on the bed until it went through his skull.

While the scary stories make headlines, lesser known are the stories of patients who say the hospital made a positive difference in their lives, she said.

One former patient Cutright talked to was treated at the facility when she was a teenager. The woman, now in her 70s, credits the asylum with saving her life.

"[The woman said] 'I learned to cook. I learned to sew. I made friends,' " Cutright said. "When she turned 18 and left this hospital, she had a full career. She married the love of her life and had three kids...

"[She said] 'If I had not gone to that hospital, it's hard to tell where I would have ended up.' And you don't ever hear those stories."

Many of the stories from the facility live on in the memories of Sue Parker, a 72-year-old tour guide at the facility. Parker worked as a nurse at the hospital from 1957 until 1970, though she had no formal nursing training, she said. When the hospital brought in trained nurses, she took on another role.

When Jordan bought the building, he asked Parker to work for him, she said.

"Since we come back, I see a lot of improvements," Parker said. "Rebecca and them have been wonderful. Even the hallway out here they made a big difference just painting and redoing."

While in operation, the hospital was marred by reports of overcrowding and poor treatment of patients. But Parker wants people to remember the good things that happened at the hospital, not just the bad.

"It wasn't all bad," she said. "Yes, sometimes it was bad, but it wasn't all the time."

Displays in the old hospital highlight the evolution of mental health treatment over the years. A mannequin lies in a bathtub in a display about hydrotherapy. In another room, hooks that were used to restrain patients are still in the walls.

"We wouldn't be where we are today without the things that happened in these hospitals," Cutright said. "Now, Walter Freeman and the lobotomy - we think it's completely barbaric, but in the 1930s, it was cutting edge ...

"And in 50 years we may look back and say, 'Oh my God, we're putting chemicals in these people, I can't believe they were doing that,' " she said.

Not all of the building will be renovated and fixed up, Cutright said. Some of it will be left to urban decay on purpose.

"There's a need for that, because people travel here just to photograph the decomposition," she said.

For information about touring the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, see its website or call 304-269-5070.

Reach Lori Kersey at

lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-1240 or follow

@LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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Owners of Appalachian Glass keep its fragile WV history alive http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719697 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719697 Sun, 17 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch The Appalachian Glass Factory in Weston has a little bit of everything.

The Lewis County Convention and Visitors Bureau has an office inside what looks like an old feed store building.

There's a gift shop that sells a lot more than just glass, and there's a farmer's market with local fruits and vegetables.

At the rear of the building, Chip Turner or his son Todd stand in front of a furnace and give demonstrations on blowing glass, a technique that turns glowing, molten silicon into delicate globes, Christmas ornaments and playfully decorative fish.

Mid-morning, even with the door to the parking lot open, it's warm in the factory.

“It gets hot,” Chip acknowledged, sweating lightly. “During the summer, it can get up to 117 or 118 degrees.”

He keeps a bottle of soda close by as he works near temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees, explaining what he does as he goes.

The factory gets a lot of visitors, Chip said.

“We'll get upwards of 60 bus loads a year,” he explained while sipping coffee. “The tour companies love us. We don't charge anything.”

Visitors can buy something from the gift shop. There are plenty of options from ornaments and ring holders made in house, to animals and glassware made by other West Virginia glassmakers.

“We try to support each other,” Chip explained.

Glassmaking used to be a big industry in West Virginia, never as big as coal, naturally, but strong.

According to the West Virginia Humanities Council's West Virginia Encyclopedia, at one time about 15 percent of the nation's pressed glass tableware plants and about 21 percent of the flat glass industry was located in West Virginia.

Over the years, 20 different glass companies operated in Lewis County. When Chip was a boy, it was a common career path.

“They used to teach glassmaking at the high school,” he said. “You could take it as vocational training so that when you graduated from high school, you were practically ready for the factory floor.”

Not that Chip actually took the class — at least not at first.

“I took woodworking, which was right beside the glass class,” he said.

Mr. Carlton, the glasswork instructor, showed him how to do a few things anyway.

“Little animals,” Chip explained. “Trinkets.”

He said he loved working with it, loved making things out of the molten glass.

After high school, he worked at local glass factories, including Louis Glass, Princess Home Manufacturing and West Virginia Glass, where his father, Matt, had spent decades working in the company's machine shop, making molds and tools for the company.

Chip got a job in the maintenance shop at West Virginia Glass, but he said there were always opportunities to learn about glassmaking whenever the factory took on extra work or had workers out sick.

He took whatever chances he could get, and his skills grew.

“And then NAFTA killed all the glass in West Virginia,” Chip said, sourly, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement and enacted in 1994.

He started his factory in 2000. Eventually, his father and Chip joined the operation, and they've done pretty well so far, Chip said.

“We're a family-owned business, and we're in 38 states and 13 West Virginia state parks.”

Appalachian Glass is much smaller than the glass manufacturing companies that came before, employing hundreds.

It's more artisan than industrial, though Chip bristles at the word artist.

“We don't consider ourselves artists,” he said. “We're glassmakers.”

Chip sees what he does as a trade and a craft, not really an art. Modern society has elevated art at the expense of trades and crafts.

“It's kind of sad,” he said. “It used to be you could be proud to call yourself a blacksmith. Now, you have to call yourself a metal artist. You're not a potter anymore, but a ceramic artist.”

Chip said his family takes pride in what they do.

“We just make glass and try to keep history alive,” he said.

Telling part of the story of glass, he said, is almost as important as selling it. Chip said he does his part to keep the legacy of glass alive, sometimes in unusual ways.

“I rotate my tools,” he said.

Over the years, retired glassblowers have found him and gifted him with their old tools.

Glassblowers, Chip said, are very particular about their tools, especially the steel pinchers they use called a blower's jack.

Glassblowers used to fashion these tools from the tines of a pitchfork, with handles fit to the hand of the individual craftsman.

No two were exactly alike.

A blower's jack is used to shape the glass and also to separate it from the metal tube of the blower, but Chip said glassblowers didn't casually share them.

“But if you were starting out and the old guys liked you, they might tell you you could borrow an old pair.” He laughed and warned, “But you better make sure you put them back where you got them when you were done.”

He said each set of tools he's accepted represents a life.

“These were tools men used to put food on the table, a roof over their family's heads,” he said. “These were the tools that sent kids to college — and that way of life is gone.”

So Chip switches out his tools every so often, giving them a chance to do what they were meant to do again.

It's his way of honoring the men who came before him and remembering the industry that helped build the town he lives in.

It's a message he tries to share as often as he can, with whoever comes to his family's glass factory.

“I want people to fall in love with glass,” he said. “Glass has its own little life.”

He remembered when a woman told him about glass bottles found buried beneath an ancient ruin. After almost four millennia, there was still wine or liquid captured inside those bottles.

Chip said it dawned on him that his breath might be inside some of the glass Christmas globes he makes for nearly as long.

He takes a certain amount of pride in that.

“Stone erodes,” he said. “Steel rusts, but glass endures.”

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter. Follow Bill's One Month at a Time progress on his blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth/.

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Weston glass museum packed with 18,000 pieces http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719698 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719698 Sun, 17 Jul 2016 03:00:00 -0400 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch At first glance, the Museum of American Glass in Weston looks like an overgrown gift shop, like it might have started out as a little knick-knack shop, but then went wild after the glass animals multiplied and took over.

There's just so much of everything - antique carnival glass and candy dishes shaped like laying hens, which were popular with grandmas and great aunts, holiday drinking glasses emblazoned with rosy cheeked Santas, novelty soda bottles with Dali-esque stretched and bent necks that were a staple in the bedrooms of kids who grew up listening to Partridge Family records.

There are lamps, milk bottles, soda glasses, goblets, paperweights and arrowheads knapped from chunks of glass.

The museum has marbles for the kids and a glass bust of M.J. Owens, a West Virginia native and the inventor of the automatic bottle-making machine.

There's also a glass hammer securely kept in a case that couldn't possibly be used for anything - and this is just what's on the showroom floor.

There's more in storage, carefully packed away in boxes or stored on shelves, to be used later.

"We have 18,000 pieces," museum founder, volunteer and archivist Tom Felt said.

The oldest piece is a vase or decanter from the declining years of the Roman Empire, circa 100 A.D. There are also pieces from the colonial era of America, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and a lot of stuff from the 20th century.

There's a reason for that.

"Glass peaked in the U.S. between 1890 and the 1950s. There used to be dozens of glass manufacturers. We were preeminent in the world," said Felt, a former cataloger for the Library of Congress.

Most of them slowly disappeared following World War II, when Europe and Japan began flooding the glass market with less expensive products.

"We just couldn't compete," he said. "Then in the 1980s and 1990s, fuel skyrocketed."

The North American Free Trade Agreement didn't help either.

The Museum for American Glass opened in 1993, "with a mission to share the diverse and rich heritage of glass as a product and historical object as well as telling of the lives of glass workers, their families and communities, and the tools and machines they used in glass houses."

Their approach is decidedly omnivorous.

"Unlike, say, other glass museums," Felt said. "We include a little bit of everything. Other museums focus on a particular style or use. Often, they ignore the consumer glass."

The museum gets new pieces regularly.

"About 90 percent of it is donated by individuals or collector's clubs," Felt said.

The collection he said they're most excited about is a 203-piece collection of Steuben Glass.

Steuben Glass was founded in 1903 by English glassmaker Frederick Carder and named for the New York County where the town of Corning is located.

Corning Glass Works, now Corning Incorporated (makers of Corningware, among other things), took over the art glass company in 1918, which flourished and created a "prismatic crystal formula" that became the hallmark of Steuben Glass pieces.

The glass is remarkably clear and closely resembles ice.

Considered a vanity line, Corning sold Steuben to the Schottenstein Stores Corporation in 2008, where it struggled to turn a profit and was closed in 2011.

Corning bought it back a year later.

The glass can sell anywhere from several hundred dollars for small pieces to several thousand dollars for larger or limited edition pieces.

A Steuben Glass Mouse and Cheese Objet D'art, which looks like a block of crystal cheese with a gold mouse nibbling at it, can sell for as much as $6,000 to a collector.

The museum has an example of that design and many others, ranging from paperweights and hand coolers to art pieces meant to sit atop living room mantelpieces.

"It's really beautiful glass, but was probably most popular in the 1950s and 1960s," Felt said.

The Steuben Collection comes from the estate of businessman and Broadway producer Martin Massman.

Massman, who produced Broadway revivals of "The Glass Menagerie," "Of Mice and Men" and "Porgy and Bess," was a devoted collector of glass art.

"The glass company would call him when they had new pieces or if a particular piece came back to them," Felt said. "He bought quite a lot of it."

Massman died in 2014, and the collection came to the museum this year.

The museum will show all 203 pieces beginning in October. As a condition of the endowment, it has to display the entire set for a period of time before it can break up the collection to show in pieces.

"We expect to see some people come in just for the Steuben Glass," Felt said. "It has a devoted following."

Still, the Steuben Glass isn't the only thing to discover. The museum is a storehouse of history and nostalgia, capturing a way of life in America that has been gone for awhile.

"We try to show things that are both pleasing and unique," Felt said.

It also hosts different programs throughout the year for collectors, glass enthusiasts or just the curious.

Like many nonprofit groups, the Museum of American Glass is concerned about finances, Felt said. It is currently in the middle of a $250,000 Face the Future campaign to restore the outside of the building and make repairs.

"We feel that it's worthwhile," Felt said.

Reach Bill Lynch at

lynch@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-5195 or follow

@LostHwys on Twitter.

Follow Bill's One Month At

A Time progress on his blog at

blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth/.

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Republican National Convention: Where else to go in Cleveland http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ05/160719720 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ05/160719720 Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:30:50 -0400 By Andrea Sachs The Washington Post By By Andrea Sachs The Washington Post Don't assume anything. Not about Cleveland, the second-largest city in Ohio and site of the Republican National Convention from Monday through Thursday. Nor about its hometown-boy-gone-game-show-host Drew Carey.

"If you're a library person like me ..." the "Price Is Right" master of ceremonies said during a phone conversation about his old stomping grounds. He finished the thought with a recommendation to visit the Cleveland Public Library and its sweeping marble staircase and reading garden.

The Forest City native, and creator of the namesake show with the catchy "Cleveland Rocks" theme song, said he still returns to the scene of the sitcom - as recently as late spring.

For attractions, he said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a "no-brainer" and urges visitors to stop by the Great Lakes Science Center ("people forget it's next door"), the Cleveland Museum of Art ("a fantastic art museum"), the Cleveland Botanical Garden (10 acres of gardens, plus the Glasshouse) and the Museum of Natural History (home of Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor).

GOPers with a hankering for Polish or Ukrainian cuisine will "be in heaven," he said. Sterle's Country House, for one, pairs food (schnitzel, pierogies, haluski) with dance moves (polka nights) from the old country.

"It's stupid fun," Carey said.

For condensed nuggets of entertainment, Carey directs conventioneers to Public Square and East Fourth Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare packed with bars, restaurants, live music venues and comedy clubs such as Hilarities, where he performed stand-up.

"It's such a nice city to walk in, and it's on the lake," Carey said in all seriousness. "I really do miss it."

If you get a break, or simply need an escape, here are some suggestions on where to go in Cleveland:

n Buy a political party outfit: Kilgore Trout

n Chill out after a heated debate: Edgewater Beach on Lake Erie

n Go if you are not a hypochondriac: Dittrick Museum of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University

n Blow more hot air: Popcorn vendors at North Union Farmers Market (various locations)

n Fork a signature dish: Double bacon cheeseburger pierogi at Pierogi Palace at West Side Market

n Sip a patriotic cocktail: The Chocolate Bar's Let's Make America Great Again Martini - apple vodka, Goldschlager and cranberries stirred with a golf tee

n Freeze your tongue: Mitchell's homemade ice cream

n Track down an elephant or a donkey: African Elephant Crossing exhibit at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

n Feel tiny amid outside art: Free Stamp, a 28-foot-tall Claes Oldenburg sculpture

n Float down a river with a paddle: Upper Cuyahoga River

n Raise a glass in a presidential watering hole: Millard Fillmore Presidential Library

n Saunter down a cultural row: University Circle

n Rock it: Whipps Ledges in Hinckley Reservation

n Tiptoe through the petals: Cleveland Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park

n Roll in the money: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum

n Act like a team player: Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians

n Honor president No. 20: Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery

n Bridge the divide: Lorain-Carnegie Bridge

n Release your inner film fan: "A Christmas Story" House (a.k.a. Ralphie's house)

n Hide if you pledge allegiance to the opposing party: Coventry Village.

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In Cleveland, the GOP will find fine food - if someone will serve it http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ0506/160719721 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ0506/160719721 Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:30:23 -0400 By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post By By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post To read about it, Cleveland appears ready for its close-up for the Republican National Convention this month. Downtown's Public Square - 10 acres of green park - just reopened, following an investment of 15 months and $50 million.

Nearby, a new Hilton added 600 rooms to the city's inventory. Local pride was only burnished with the recent NBA championship of the home team, the Cavaliers, starring LeBron James.

But how does it taste? One civic booster, the award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer, likens the food scene to those in Charleston, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and both Portlands (Maine and Oregon).

I wouldn't go that far, having recently taken a big bite out of Cleveland, although I can vouch for wonderful urban farms, a passion for suds and restaurants emerging from former no-dine zones. (If you spot the local treasure, walleye is the way to go on a menu.)

One missing ingredient: good service. With a handful of exceptions - the upscale Edwins, the happy-go-lucky Mabel's BBQ - most of the places I tried treated this anonymous diner as if I were invisible.

At the trendy Butcher and the Brewer, I sat for several long minutes before any of the five faces behind the epic-but-not-busy bar bothered to make eye contact. At Alley Cat Oyster Bar, I was asked three times by three waiters if I was ready to order. One foot into an otherwise genial Nate's Deli, I was hit with "Can I help you?" - from a woman shouting from a booth in the back. And so on.

(A local cab driver had no idea where one of the city's oldest and most beloved institutions, Sokolowski's University Inn, dished out Polish fare.) Suffice it to say, Cleveland hospitality polls "low energy," to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump's library of insults.

The city's recent uptick in restaurants is partly to blame, said chef Zack Bruell, an observer of the scene since the early 1980s.

"All of a sudden, the labor force has been stretched to capacity," he said.

Donald Trump is calling for "showbiz" at the convention, scheduled for Monday through Thursday at the Quicken Loans Arena.

"Otherwise," Trump said, "people are going to fall asleep."

Probably nothing will be able to compete with the expected theater from the GOP's presumptive nominee and company. Anyone needing a break would do well to take his or her appetites to any of these vetted establishments.

If you didn't know its reason for being, it might strike you merely as a chic French restaurant with an impressive cheese cart and a bartender who knows what she's doing.

Although Edwin happens to be the middle name of founder Brandon Chrostowski, the name of the establishment is short for "education wins." Long story short: Chrostowski got into trouble as a youth in Detroit, caught a second chance with the help of a Greek chef and wants to see that others in similar situations have a way out - and up - after having been "touched by the system." (His words.)

Thus, the majority of the people greeting you, taking your order and cooking your food are former convicts, participating in a six-month program that teaches them what they need to know about the restaurant trade, from crunching numbers to tasting wine.

For your enjoyment: frog legs, potato-tiled grouper, dessert souffles and, with advance notice, pressed duck with blood sauce. Not to be missed is the grilled seafood sausage in a pool of shallot butter sauce - "proof," said the owner, "that food is a vessel for change." Amen.

Prolific restaurateur Bruell calls his eighth contribution to the food scene "a glass box on the river," and that it is: an exposed kitchen and breezy dining room overlooking a boardwalk on the eastern bank of the Cuyahoga River.

A hybrid between an East and a West Coast oyster house, the light-filled, oyster-hued seafood specialist serves a lobster roll, fried calamari (with kimchee), grilled octopus (with succotash), crab cakes and shrimp-stuffed peppers that come with a server's warning: "They've got quite a kick." Duly noted.

"EAT MEAT," screams an illuminated red sign at the scene of my across-the-board favorite eating experience in Cleveland, its barn-like expanse as shiny as the smile of creator Michael Symon, Iron Chef on Food Network and co-host of "The Chew" on ABC.

Ever heard of Cleveland-style barbecue? Pork spareribs reverberating with Eastern European spices suggest the idea has legs, as do sides such as spicy cabbage mixed with spaetzle. Also finger-licking good: fatty brisket cooked low and slow over fruitwood, and broccoli salad jazzed up with dried cherries and peanuts. A bartender whose beverages matched his banter helped keep me in my seat. Ever had a Sazerac snow cone? Don't knock it until you've tried it.

What to do with a surplus of green beans? If you're Karen Small, owner of one of Cleveland's early farm-to-table restaurants, you toss them in tempura batter, fry them to a light crisp and serve them with ponzu sauce and a dip sweet with reduced pineapple juice.

Seventeen years after putting the beans on her debut menu, Small said she can't take the appetizer off. Same for her hamburger, which wins fans with its grass-fed beef and arrives with a garnish of fine onion rings and a cone of hand-cut fries.

The chef's menu reflects her Italian background and her love of Asia, France and Spain, all of which means it's proudly American. And her sources include produce (lettuces, herbs) from the 6-acre Ohio City Farm, a neat field that has a view of the cityscape and is tended by Burmese refugees.

Find time for the exemplary chicken paillard lavished with an arugula-feta-ramp salad, and don't leave before you try the signature dessert, a divine caramelized banana split that gets its crunch from shards of griddled sticky buns and its punch from rye-infused caramel. The beautiful food suggests serious training; Small countered, "I'm self-taught."

Having previously indulged in the baked rice pudding, I can see why the pope, or at least his likeness, smiles on the dessert selection at this 93-year-old landmark peddling Salisbury steak and nonstop polka.

Never mind that the cabbage crammed with beef, pork and veal and draped with tomato sauce is food enough for three. To visit this Polish institution, run by the third generation of the Sokolowski family, without adding some pierogi to my cafeteria tray would be a shame.

The crescent-shaped dumplings, made with sour cream, stuffed with potatoes and cheese and drenched in butter and onions, merit a spot in the hall of fame of comfort food -- surely part of the reason the James Beard Foundation recognized Sokolowski's as one of America's Classics two years ago. "Enter as strangers," read a sign on the photo-plastered wall, "leave as friends."

The joint dares you to buy into a different breakfast. Anyone for a banh mi fueled with springy Vietnamese sausage, kimchee, a fried egg and a smear of "everything bagel" cream cheese? Try it; you'll like it.

If pancakes with white chocolate, candied jalapeños and salted caramel-coffee crumble are more adventure than you want at 8 a.m., ask for some Training Wheels. They're the menu's term for buttermilk flapjacks, naked save for powdered sugar and proof that simple (light and fluffy) is sublime.

A storefront with white walls, the cafe shows a sense of humor with a collection of black-and-white photos of a man getting an egg smashed against his head and another being splashed with milk. Whatever.

A quote on the chalkboard reads, "I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I'm awake." Too bad this (bracing) coffee comes not in a mug but a paper cup, supposedly so you can take it into the street to continue caffeinating after paying the bill.

"We encourage sampling," said Jesse Mason, lead scooper at the pint-sized shop. Cheers for that, because his weekly-changing menu runs to such enticements as sea salt caramel, mint chip and taro root - the No. 1 seller - each honest flavor made in small batches using organic milk from a local Amish-run dairy.

Rolled out two summers ago by the Los Angeles transplant and his wife, Helen Qin, the walk-in attraction takes ideas from everywhere: customers (lavender ice cream), Qin's Chinese background (black sesame-squid ink ice cream), even the owners' meals away from home (chicken and waffles ice cream).

One night a month, the creamery becomes a drive-in, showing movies on a 16-foot inflatable screen. And come this fall, the owners will return to serving ramen on certain nights, if only because they want to share a happy memory from Los Angeles.

Sure, you can get a Reuben or a burger. But your focus should be on the Middle Eastern specialties that the Maalouf family has been offering in this modest 50-seat cafe for almost three decades, such as chicken marinated in mustard and lemon, then grilled and rolled up in pita with whipped garlic.

The charm of their Lebanese food: "No shortcuts," said co-owner Ghassan Maalouf. The chickpeas and fava beans for the coriander-zapped falafel are ground on-site, and the eggplant for the baba ghanoush is roasted in-house.

"Nate's" refers to the deli's long-ago operator.

"The name doesn't matter," said Maalouf, whose parents never bothered to change the title so as to "leave vanity out" of the equation. The back booth is sometimes occupied by his now-retired father; an employee's young charge clears tables, even though he's no taller than the cart he's pushing through the dining room. Nate's is as much about family as it is about flavor.

For sheer ambition, it would be hard to top this epic industrial American tavern, its row after row of community tables ending in flashy tanks and tubes. An estimated 1,500 barrels of beer a year (about 380,000 pints) are, as the restaurant says, "hand-built." Any given day, upward of a dozen house beers are on tap.

Most popular? The crisp German-style Repeater Kolsch. Most unusual? Albino Stout, the shade of pale ale. Beers also find their way into a handful of cocktails.

Full-time butchers and charcuterie makers assure good (and innovative) eating. Think tacos hit with chorizo and pickled jalapeños, whole smoked chicken wings, lamb ribs in jerk sauce. But everyone is welcome, food-wise, hence the kale Caesar salad and the flatbread, flavored as if it were a pierogi.

If there's a golden boy in town, it's chef Jonathon Sawyer, whose James Beard award (2015 Best Chef: Great Lakes) and varied restaurants have won Cleveland a measure of culinary respect in recent years.

His youngest establishment is Northern Italian, intimate and eye-catching, with illuminated streams of glass beads dangling from on high and whitewashed brick walls creating a cool cocoon. Mirrored tables are a canvas for charred, Parmesan-flecked broccoli on a brush stroke of roasted eggplant, and pepper-spiked rigatoni draped with creamy lamb ragu.

Want the full Sawyer experience? Loosen your belt for his 12-course tasting menu: a parade of charcuterie, local mushrooms, house-made pasta and, teases the menu, "beast roasted with pine, hard wood or hay."

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Group says it's warning schools about Noah's ark attraction http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160712/GZ01/160719857 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160712/GZ01/160719857 Tue, 12 Jul 2016 15:35:32 -0400 WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. (AP) - A group opposed to a new Noah's ark attraction in Kentucky says it is warning hundreds of public schools against visiting the Ark Encounter.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says ark field trips would expose children to religious proselytizing in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Lexington Herald-Leader that warning letters went to more than 1,000 school districts in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent a message to school districts Monday in response saying that neither outside groups nor state education officials should dictate field trip selection. A school's site-based decision making council approves trips.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based group says it heard from parents concerned their districts will organize trips to the ark.

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A food lover's road trip to Columbus, Ohio http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160710/GZ0506/160719978 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160710/GZ0506/160719978 Sun, 10 Jul 2016 00:01:00 -0400 By Caroline Clippinger Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Caroline Clippinger Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail Columbus, Ohio - Ohio's tourism slogan might be "The Heart of It All," but the capital city of Columbus is quickly becoming the heart - and soul - of the state's culinary scene.

You can find this surprising dining metropolis just a quick, three-hour jaunt from Charleston, making it the ideal weekend getaway this summer. Columbus is a known haven for breakfast fanatics and ice cream enthusiasts, but there are plenty of options for every taste and budget.

Here's a quick breakdown of how a weekend might go:

Upon your Friday arrival, head for the historic neighborhood of German Village for a casual dinner with drinks. Harvest Pizzeria is the perfect place to unwind after the drive, followed by libations at its sister spot, Curio.

The focus at Harvest is on local ingredients, and the pizza shines as a result. Don't miss the Spicy Yuma pie, on a blackened and chewy crust topped with a chipotle-spiked sauce, corn, chorizo, roasted peppers, cheese and jalapeños. Add an optional egg on top and let the runny yolk ooze and enhance every bite.

To fight off the heat, head next door to Curio for innovative Prohibition-era cocktails like a Silver Dollar Pony, swimming in bourbon and bitters.

The next morning, venture over to Fox in the Snow Café for breakfast in Italian Village. This newer spot boasts excellent pour-over coffee, tantalizing custard donuts, and an arugula-crowned egg sandwich that will have you raving. Make sure to get there early or you might miss out on some of the best of the baked goods.

To stock your pantry at home, make North Market your next stop. Here you can purchase everything from colorful macaroons to crusty marble rye, and it is also the best way to get a taste of Columbus for lunch.

Hot Chicken Takeover is a personal favorite, specializing in fiery fried chicken and cool house-made ranch, but don't forget about renowned Katzinger's Deli Reubens, Brezel's jumbo chocolate chip pretzels or healthy quiches from Little Eater.

To enjoy a sunny Columbus afternoon, shopaholics can journey to Easton Town Center, an outdoor fashion mecca, while families and animal lovers can spend the afternoon at the award-winning Columbus Zoo.

At dinnertime, there are many mouthwatering choices, but for road trippers Wolf's Ridge Brewing is an easy winner. Such beautifully plated dishes aren't typically found in a brewery, but this restaurant excels at both food and beer. The bright and modern interior is the perfect place to indulge in dishes such as corn bisque and scallops, all paired with craft brews in every imaginable style.

Banish your sweet tooth by heading to the area's most beloved ice cream purveyor for dessert: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. There are various locations around the city, so stop into the shop nearest you, and experience the wide array of seasonal flavors. Opt for the mini scoops to try all the varieties, like salty caramel, pistachio and honey, or biscuits and peach jam.

Before leaving town, brunch at Katalina's Cafe is essential. The Breakfast Tacos and the sweet-and-spicy glazed bacon are fabulous, but the must-try items are the pancake balls. Plump nuggets of pancake batter are filled with your choice of Nutella, dulce de leche caramel or pumpkin-apple butter, and these bites are ready for dunking in maple syrup.

Fresh-squeezed juices and hot coffee will help kick-start your day, and the umbrella-filled patio laden with picnic tables make for a cozy morning experience. Katalina's alone is worth the journey to Ohio.

With its short distance from Charleston and wallet-friendly lodgings, Columbus is the ultimate road trip destination for local foodies.

Caroline Clippinger is a Columbus-based attorney and bonafide foodie. When she's not visiting friends or checking out the food scene in neighboring states, she writes the popular Columbus Culinary Connection food blog. Follow her postings on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CBusConnect.

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