Creative power of Provence

TRAVEL SMARTS

February 24, 2002

Ever wanted to gaze at the same light that illuminated Van Gogh's world, walk the village streets Renoir once walked, or take a brush in hand and try to capture the same settings Cezanne painted? Picture Provence Tours, a 3-year-old Baltimore-based company, offers just that, and you don't have to be a Van Gogh to participate.

The company offers five weeklong tours called "learning vacations" for artists of all abilities. Guests travel through the Provence area of France indulging in great food, wine, beautiful sights and various art classes taught by experts.

The 2002 spring and summer roster includes a visual journaling class designed to improve creativity, a still-life painting seminar that uses Provence's landscapes as its props, an art lovers' sightseeing tour that visits places inspirational to great artists, a Renoir- and Cezanne-themed week and a photography session that explores the nuances of light.

The trips cost $2,395 double occupancy (nonparticipating guests pay $1,275) and include classes, accommodations, meals, museum entry fees and ground transportation (airfare to Nice is not included). For more information, go to www.pictureprovence.com or call 410-276-0718. -- Tricia Bishop

EXPLORING THE RELICS OF DEEP-SEA ADVENTURES

The National Marine Museum of Paris and the Louvre have released more than 200 French marine artifacts -- including historic ship models, paintings, navigational instruments, maps, photographs and sculptures -- from the 16th through 20th centuries and sent them on tour around the world.

The "Le Grand Voyage" collection, which is touring North America for the first time, will be at the First USA Riverfront Arts Center in Wilmington, Del., through May 19.

The exhibit chronicles high-seas adventure through relics of shipyard activity, wars, scientific voyages, sea trade and pleasure sailing.

Among the featured items are an 18th-century model of The Protector, a 64-gun vessel from the Revolutionary War; the restored gilded wooden figurehead of a woman holding a rock lobster, from Marie Antoinette's pleasure craft; an unsuccessful and unused 750-pound metal diving suit built in 1882 (its joints were never properly sealed; above); and the 1765 View of the Port of Dieppe, a painting by Joseph Vernet on loan from the Louvre.

The arts center, a 70-mile drive from Baltimore, is at 800 S. Madison St.; hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 to $14. For information, call 888-862-2787 or see www.riverfrontwilmington.com.

-- T.B.

Winter escape to Kent County

Feeling a little stir-crazy as winter drags on? The Kent County Office of Tourism is hoping to alleviate the doldrums and draw your dollars with a Winter Getaway discount plan that lasts through March 17.

Visitors will receive a 10-percent or higher reduction in rates at 20 bed and breakfasts. Area restaurants, shops and attractions also offer coupon discounts, which can be picked up from a participating inn after you've checked in.

For a complete list of available lodging, see www.kentcounty.com, where you can also get a list of 58 things to do on the Eastern Shore, or call 410-778-0416.

-- T.B.

Cruising with Wal-Mart

Millions shop at Wal-Mart for socks, groceries, appliances and hardware, but for cruises?

Well, maybe not quite yet, but that's what the company hopes will happen, because last month it joined forces with Carnival Corp. to offer cruise vacations (on any of the Carnival-owned cruise lines: Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Seabourn and Windstar) at "guaranteed lowest fares."

Packages range from three-day Bahamas getaways starting at $247 to weeklong romance excursions in the Mediterranean for $3,479 and up. And if you find a better deal within two weeks after you've booked, Wal-Mart will refund the difference.

To check out some examples, go to www.walmart. com, but to make a reservation or get a complete vacation listing, call 800-288-6030.

-- T.B

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