Battlefield guides

Experts offer custom tours, insights into Civil War siege, fighting at Vicksburg, Miss.

The Smart Traveler

December 11, 2005|By DALLAS MORNING NEWS

PICK UP AN EXPERT HITCH- hiker when you visit Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.

Like the military park in Gettysburg, Pa., Vicksburg has licensed tour guides who can ride in your car and provide personalized tours of the Civil War battlefields. Complexities of strategy and position, details of human drama and information customized to your interests are available through the service, offered only at these two parks.

Guides must pass written and oral tests on the military actions before being certified to lead visitors in the one-on-one programs.

Tours lasting two hours are offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day at Vicksburg. The cost is $30 per car. Book in advance at 601-636-0583 or visit nps.gov / vick.

A bonus at Vicksburg is the USS Cairo Museum, where the 175-foot Civil War ironclad is partially reconstructed and open for visitors to board. The gunboat (the name is pronounced KAY-roe) -- was sunk by the Confederates 10 miles north of Vicksburg in the Yazoo River and recovered from the mud in 1964. The Cairo was the first armored vessel ever sunk by an electrically detonated mine.

Details: nps.gov / vick / cairo / cairo.htm.

REFERENCE POINTS

MARK TWAIN ON TRAVEL

Lyons Press / $24.95

Mark Twain was an incorrigible wanderer, as this attractive collection amply proves. He went most everywhere, it seems: along the Mississippi, of course, but also the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, India, Egypt, Jerusalem, Venice, the Alps and Paris. Throughout his travels, he maintained a peerless eye for detail and a distinctive sense of humor that continues to charm and delight.

JUNE SAWYERS

MEXICO

Outdoors, staying busy

Active travelers can enjoy a different outing each day with the "Los Cabos Multisport Adventure." The year-round package in Baja California covers two days spent snorkeling and kayaking, one day of surfing and one day of nature hiking or riding a four-wheeler through the desert.

Also included are five nights' accommodations, daily breakfast and lunch, local transportation, airport transfers, sports equipment and taxes, for $585-$945, depending on the hotel selected. Dinners, gratuities and airfare to Los Cabos, Mexico, are additional.

"Multisport Adventure" is operated by Baja Wild: bajawild.com.

[Chicago Tribune]

NEW YORK

Baking with kids

Vincent Mary, a master pastry chef from the Lenotre Cooking School in Paris, is coming to New York City to give his "Parent & Child Cooking Class." Held in the pastry kitchen of the Sofitel New York, the half-day baking classes are geared for children at least 8 years old and accompanying adults. An autographed cookbook is included in the $75 per person fee. Tax is extra. Sessions run mornings or afternoons Jan. 28 and Jan. 29. Call 212-782-3029.

[Chicago Tribune]

GEAR & GADGETS

Say goodbye to those bulky photo albums stuffed with yellowing snapshots. Say hello (and, wow) to Brookstone's new PictureBook Digital Photo Album, which can store 10,000 photos on its 20 gigabyte hard drive. You can even organize your images into up to 20 customized folders and watch the photos as a slide show. Measuring 8 inches by 6 inches by 1.5 inches deep, with a bright 5.6-inch color LCD screen, the PictureBook accepts the seven most popular digital memory cards. You can also download images from a computer via the included USB cable and display them on your TV or DVD player using the included video cable. The rechargeable battery provides 3.5 hours of power. PictureBook is $500 from Brookstone: 866-576-7337; brookstone.com.

JUDI DASH

GETAWAY

Refresher course

The "Spa Sampler" at Five Gables Inn & Spa in St. Michaels includes a one-hour massage, a half-hour facial and choice of a body polish or body wrap for each person, as well as two nights' accommodations with continental breakfast, for $875 weekdays and $975 weekends for two people. Prices are valid through March 31. Tax and tips are additional. 877-466-0100; fivegables.com)

[Chicago Tribune]

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