Gotta Get Away

For every big industry a bunch of little cottage industries pop up. So you've got your car manufacturers and then you've got all the mechanics and the guy who makes the little pine scented air freshener and the fellow who makes the weird dog heads that go over the trailer hitch on the back of your truck. And for every J. K. Rowling writing about a British wizard there are more writers making their livings writing about the Harry Potter phenomenon or writing the Big Book of Quidditch. Then come the birthday cakes with Harry's face on them and the scarves knit in the school colors and the conventions and the tours of "Harry's England." Did you know that there are still loads of people heading off to Iowa for a Bridges of Madison County tour? And that there are more Da Vinci Code tours than any reasonable person would expect? I got to thinking about this tour thing and did some research and was extremely surprised by some of the vacations you can take.

When I Googled "Titanic Tour" I got 1,760,000 hits. Isn't that amazing? Fifteen hundred people die in a horrific accident and about a century later almost two million people write something about recreating the event. This website says "the Titanic Historical Tour enables travelers to "see" what happened on that fateful night of April 14th, 1912." The tour offers icebergs, an "interpretive meal" (will the vegetables dance?), a visit to the graves of some of the victims and a museum; all so you can imagine what it was like to be on the ship. Is it really that hard? It was cold and lonely and horrible and your chances of survival were very low if you were a man and significantly better if you were a woman or a child. I find it all too easy to imagine and my imagination says it wasn't romantic at all. If you're going to go on vacation and relive a dismal event, why not go on a tour of the trenches of World War One? Lest you think I'm joking take a quick look at this site, which does indeed offer two different tours that include visits to two preserved trenches.

When The Blair Witch came out there were insanely large numbers of people trotting off to Burkkittsville for tours of places like coffin rock and the weird little house in the woods, so many that the second movie was based on problems that arose on one of these tours. Thankfully that furor has pretty much died down but did you know you can go to Texas and take a Chainsaw Massacre tour? This website says it's the easiest and the most fun way to visit the locations seen in the films. Oddly I don't really associate the word "fun" with these movies, but to each their own I suppose.

If you've been a little blue because you thought there was no way you'd be able to spend Halloween night in Dracula's castle then rejoice and visit this website which offers an interesting tour that includes not one, but two castles or fortresses. You get to take a rowboat ride across a moat to visit the tomb of Vlad the Impaler - now isn't that significantly more romantic than looking at a deckchair from the Titanic? This vacation has quite a bit more for the Dracula fan, including following Jonathan Harker's path through the Carpathian Mountains to visit several of the sites in the book. You'll also attend a costume ball, a bonfire and listen to gypsy musicians as well as attend this fearsome event; "an actual "vampire" wedding ceremony as conducted by a local monk and his chanting nuns." I've read dozens of books about vampires but I've never heard of such a thing. If you attend please let me know how it was.

I found vacations or tours to suit just about any fan. Gone With the Wind - check. Sopranos - check. NFL dream vacations - 909,000 hits. Are you a fan of children's literature and lakes? Or poets who are mad, bad and dangerous to know? Then you'll want to head off to England's stunningly gorgeous and romantic Lake District to explore the homes of Arthur Rackham, Beatrice Potter and a number of other luminary authors. My sources tell me you can still take a steamer run by British Rail to visit many of the small towns and villages on Lake Windermere. You can find basic information on the Lake District National Park by clicking here.

And speaking of Potters, as for you, my dear little Harry Potter fan, what have you got planned for May? Were you going to mope around wishing desperately for July? Wouldn't you rather dash off to New Orleans for a few days for the Phoenix Rising Harry Potter Conference, complete with the Borders Riverside Quidditch Classic? Phoenix Rising takes place from May 17 through the 21st and offers two programming tracks; an academic track and an exploratory track focusing on writing, art, puzzles and games. This second track also offers L'Université des Arts Magiques Pirate Gold contest, an event carrying on a tradition started by the infamous pirate and wizard Lafitte. There should be something for every taste, whether it's scholarly debate, gaming or the masquerade ball.

Guest One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from a reader in Ohio who laments her imminent family vacation. She says, "Frankenmuth is Michigan's "Little Bavaria." Which means blaring polka music, strolling accordionists, and lederhosen-clad waiters serving greasy, unseasoned fried chicken. All of my least favorite things. I intend to drink my way through the weekend." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at