Sand blast

TRAVEL SMARTS

July 30, 2000|By Tricia Bishop

You can get down and dirty -- or just watch -- next weekend at the 22nd annual Delaware State News Sandcastle Contest. More than 250 contestants are expected at Rehoboth Beach Saturday to play in the sand and try their hands at sculpting the winning entry for cash prizes, gift certificates and merchandise from area retailers.

Last year's creations ran the gamut from Winnie the Pooh to medieval dragons and Jar Jar Binks of "Star Wars" fame.

No real skills are necessary to be a contestant, other than a basic understanding of wet sand, and participants are allowed to work in teams of any size. Registration begins the day of the contest, Aug. 5, at 8:30 a.m., and judging takes place at 3 p.m., when all artists must put down their pails and shovels and reveal their work. For more information, call the Delaware State News at 800-282-8586, or go to the Web site, www2.newszap.com / sandcastle.

GETTING AN INSIDE LOOK AT PARIS

The "Unofficial Guide to Paris" explains the details of French customs and culture along with delivering the information visitors need to make their trip a memorable experience.

Included are tips for finding the best hotels and more than 60 restaurant reviews.

Here are a few French myths the book debunks:

* French fries are not French; they originated in Belgium. They got their name because the practice of cutting thin potato strips was originally French.

* The French haven't a clue what French dressing is; that's an American thing. The most common salad dressing in France is vinaigrette.

* French bread is not particularly French to the French. They just call it a baguette, or a stick of bread.

To order a copy of the book ($15.99), call the publisher, IDG Books Worldwide, at 800-762-2974, or go to its Web site, www.idgbooks.com.

Alaska by railroad

Rail travel can be more than a means of getting to one's vacation destination -- it can actually be the vacation. Much like cruise lines, train companies offer package excursions complete with stops in cities and towns for exploration and adventure. The Alaska Railroad offers all that, plus the gorgeous scenery of the Alaskan wilderness.

The northbound route from Anchorage to Fairbanks, for example, crosses through forests and glacier-carved valleys and above mighty rivers. Travelers have spotted moose, bears, swans and caribou along the way. Other rail tours head toward Denali, Whittier and Seward, with sojourns into surrounding areas for wildlife tours, river rafting, helicopter sightseeing and hiking. For Alaska Railroad schedules and information, visit www.akrr.com, or call 800-544-0552.

Classic American roads

Last month, the federal government designated 30 roads in 20 states as "All-American Roads" or "National Scenic Byways." The All-American Roads are considered destinations unto themselves because of the exceptional and unique experience they provide. National Scenic Byways exemplify regional characteristics. Nationwide, there are now 72 of these highways and byways.

Here are a few of the newly honored roads (a complete listing is available online at www.byways.org):

All-American roads:

* Alaska's Seward Highway

* Maine's Acadia Byway

* Nevada's Las Vegas Strip

National Scenic Byways:

* Florida's Tamiami Trail Scenic xxx.Highway

* Illinois' Lincoln Highway

* West Virginia's Midland Trail

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