The beach and beyond

TRAVEL SMARTS

May 27, 2001

Now that the weather is warming up, it's time to start thinking about weekends in Ocean City. For a diversion beyond sun and sand, consider the area's 10 his- toric museums (www.octhebeach.com / museum), all within easy reach of the beach:

Ocean City Life Saving Station (above): Once home to the U.S. Coast Guard, the building now houses shipwreck items, old-style bathing suits and sea creatures. Boardwalk at the Inlet; 410-289-4991.

Girdletree Barnes Bank: Built in 1902, the bank is one of the country's smallest and features antique teller cages and counters. Snow Hill Road (Route 12), Girdletree; 410-632-1641.

Calvin B. Taylor House Museum: The restored 19th-century home features local memorabilia and shady groves. 208 N. Main St., Berlin; 410-641-1019.

Qeuponco Railway Station: It's no longer operational, but the station preserves its 1910 appearance. 8378 Patey Woods Road, Newark; 410-632-0950.

Julia A. Purnell Museum: The museum showcases utensils and methods used to keep house in the 18th and 19th centuries. 208 W. Market St., Snow Hill; 410-632-0515.

Mount Zion School: A one-room schoolhouse between 1869 and 1931, the building now stands as a reminder of early education. Ironshire and Church streets, Snow Hill; 410-632-0669.

Costen House: The Victorian home salutes the first mayor of Pocomoke and displays memorabilia from the time he inhabited the house. 206 Market St., Pocomoke; 410-957-3110.

Furnace Town Historic Site (left): 19th-century shops, along with picnic space and walking trails. 3816 Old Furnace Road, Snow Hill; 410-632-2032.

Sturgis One-Room School Museum: Built a century ago, the school was used to teach African-American elementary school students. 209 Willow St., Pocomoke; 410-957-1913.

St. Martin's Church: The outside of the 1756 church was recently restored to display its Flemish roots and architecture. The inside is still undergoing renovations and is set to open next year. Worcester Highway, Showell.

A ZEST FOR ITALY: ART, FOOD, WINE

Italian Gusto Tours of Italy, a Baltimore-based company specializing in tasting trips, is the brainchild of former college roommates.

Deborah Patterson and Josianne Pennington teamed up in 1999, 20 years after graduating from the University of Delaware.

"After college, Deb just disappeared," says Pennington, who years later saw her name while flipping through an adult education course schedule. "I saw she was teaching Italian, so I called . . . and we hooked up."

Patterson, a former Yale artist in residence, had been commuting between Italy and her hometown of Baltimore, giving private tours of the Vatican. Pennington was running her own international conference and seminar company and also living in Baltimore. They combined their talents and came up with Italian Gusto.

In October, they're offering an "Art, Cooking & Wine in Tuscany" tour ($2,895), an all-inclusive trip featuring the four-star Hotel Astoria as its home base and private cooking lessons in the Tuscan countryside -- including one in Chianti at a villa and vineyard belonging to the owners of Il Latini, a popular Florence restaurant.

For more information, call 410-494-8186 or go to www.italiangusto.com.

Fly away from annoyances

Tired of all the hassle involved in redeeming your frequent-flyer miles? (Can you say "blackout dates" and "limited seating"?) Then check out WebMiles.com, a new online frequent-shopper program that gives "WebMiles Rewards" for shopping at participating Internet retailers (including JC Penney, Borders and Spiegel).

Instead of earning miles from the airlines, which place restrictions on their redemption, you earn "miles" (actually discount points that can be traded for lower fares when you book through WebMiles) that have no restrictions -- as long as a seat is available on the flight you want.

-- Tricia Bishop

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