Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ heats Atlanta

November 15, 2013
Guests on the Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tours visit Atlanta film locations, including The Swan House, staged at Presidents Snow’s Mansion. Photo credit: Courtesy Atlanta History Center

The Swan House served as Presidents Snow’s Mansion. Photo courtesy Atlanta History Center

All eyes are back on Katniss and Peeta as the sequel “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” comes out on Nov 22. A week later, Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tours launches Catching Fire Tours in Atlanta, where the sequel was filmed. The same group led outstanding theme trips and tours in North Carolina, where the first “Hunger Games” was filmed. This time they’re partnering with Atlanta Movie Tours to present immersive fan tours highlighting locations used in Catching Fire.

Learn archery while touring Hunger Games sites in Atlanta, such as The Swan House, staged at Presidents Snow’s Mansion.  Photo credit: Hunger GamesTM Unofficial Fan Tours

Learn archery while touring Hunger Games sites. Photo credit: Hunger GamesTM Unofficial Fan Tours

The one-day tour costs $94 and includes location tour, transportation, lunch, and hands-on activities. Locations include: Presidents Snow’s Mansion (The Swan House at the Atlanta History Center), District 12, The Victory Tour, and the beginning of the Games – tick tock! A series of weekend experiences is planning as well. Those, costing $549, include lodging, meals, transportation to filming locations, tour guides and mentors, and hands-on activities like archery, food that your favorite characters would have experienced, and a Gala Banquet. You’ll use your newly learned survival skills to compete in your own games simulation.

To make reservations, go to www.hungergamesunofficialfantours.com or call 855-668-4332.

Southport: A ‘Safe Haven’ for ‘Under the Dome’

May 12, 2013

One of the loveliest waterfront towns on the entire East Coast is Southport, North  Carolina. It’s also a popular place for shooting films. One, “Safe Haven,” just came out on DVD. Another, the TV series “Under the Dome,” debuts this summer. Here’s a story I wrote about Southport, which ran May 12 in “The Boston Globe.” 

By Diane Daniel

The Southport Yacht Basin, where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean, is home to several seafood restaurants

The Southport Yacht Basin is home to several seafood restaurants

With maps in hand, Nina Walsh and Mary Koehler gazed up at Moore Street Market, a popular cafe housed in a historic wood-frame building in picture-perfect Southport, N.C., on the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

“When we saw the movie, there it was, and I thought, hey, I ate lunch at that store!” Koehler said. The friends, both living in nearby Leland, with Walsh a recent transplant from Swampscott, Mass., had made a return trip to Southport after seeing the romantic thriller “Safe Haven,” based on the book of the same name by syrupy scribe Nicholas Sparks.

“They told us about this tour in the Visitor’s Center,” said Walsh, waving a “Safe Haven Filming Locations” pamphlet. “Everyone walking in the door was asking about the movie.”

The river pilots' tower has been redone to look like Station WYBS for the filming of "Under the Dome"

The river pilots’ tower is “Station WYBS” for the filming of “Under the Dome”

Because nearby Wilmington houses the largest film production facility east of Los Angeles, Hollywood is old hat in these parts. Southport’s credits include the 1986 film “Crimes of the Heart,” the TV series “Matlock,” and the just-out HBO movie “Mary and Martha.” The highest-profile show to be filmed here is still in production — the Stephen King science-fiction series “Under the Dome,” set to premiere on CBS June 24.

Waterfront Park, overlooking the Cape Fear River, is a popular spot for relaxing

Waterfront Park, overlooking the Cape Fear River, is a popular spot for relaxing

But “Safe Haven,” released May 7 on DVD, stands out as the one anointed for red-carpet treatment because the town itself plays a leading role. If you’ve seen the sentimental film, in which “Katie” (Julianne Hough) winds up on the Carolina coast after fleeing a dangerous Boston cop and then falls for local shop owner “Alex” (Josh Duhamel), you’ll likely agree that Southport steals the show. With a few exceptions, everything depicted in “Safe Haven” exists — a picturesque harbor, small retail shops dotting a lively downtown, streets lined with Victorian homes, stately oaks draped with Spanish moss, and bustling waterfront seafood restaurants. And, yes, the town of 2,900 residents really does host an exuberant July 4th parade — officially the North Carolina Fourth of July Festival — which attracts upwards of 50,000 visitors. Last year’s parade was even reenacted a month later for the filming, using townspeople as extras.

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The Travel Writer’s Handbook will take you there

October 18, 2012

I’ve written a bit about what it takes to be a so-called travel writer. As I tell people, I’m a writer who travels and writes about it. I write about a lot of other things, too. For an upcoming trip to Greenville, SC, I’ll be working on a travel story, an arts story, and a bicycling story, or, more specifically, a profile about a women-centric bike shop.

But of course it’s the “travel” part that appeals to most people. I’ve taught several classes on the topic, mostly about how to find outlets and pitch ideas more than how to write, and I’m often approached by people who want to know how to “be a travel writer.” I have one all-time favorite book I recommend, and am thrilled that it was again updated – “The Travel Writer’s Handbook: How to Write – and Sell – Your Own Travel Experiences,” by Jacqueline Harmon Butler and Lousie Purwin Zobel. (Agate Publishing, $19.95) The seventh edition came out this year (last update was 2007). I’m sure we’d all get a good laugh comparing the first edition, in 1980, with the current one, as the markets and the technologies continue to change with lightening speed. Louise, who created the book, passed away in 2008 at the age of 86, but so much of her writing is relevant that she remains an author, at least for this edition.

Jacqueline Harmon Butler

Jacqueline takes readers step-by-step through pre-trip research and planning, marketing strategies and story approaches. She includes information on background research, query writing, finding new angles for tired subjects, and interviewing techniques. If you really want to be a travel writer, follow the tips in this book and you have a darn good chance of succeeding. If, on the other hand, you just want to write for fun – start a travel blog! If you’re more interested in getting paid to go on vacation, as so many people seem to be, I have no idea how that’s done. When you figure it out, please, please share the answer with me!

Restaurants not to be missed in the NC mountains

October 9, 2012

If you love going to the North Carolina mountains and good eatin’ (and who doesn’t?), you need this book: “Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants & Recipes from Western North Carolina” (John F. Blair, $19.95), by food critic John E. Batchelor. John doesn’t know it, but he helped me with researching my guidebook, “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” because I learned about tons of restaurants in the Triad region from his stories in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem papers. Thank you, John!

The book came at the right time for me, as I’ll be in Boone in a month and haven’t been there for several years. I think I’ve picked out the place, thanks to John: Vidalia. We’ll see. If you happen to be in the state already, John will be promoting the book – with chefs in tow – at several bookstores around the state. Check out the schedule here and keep in mind you’ll probably be treated to some nibbles, too, but no guarantee.

Author John E. Batchelor

 “Chefs of the Mountains” is part of a series started by my friend Ann Prospero, who wrote “Chefs of the Triangle.” Like Ann did, John gives us tasty morsels about each chef’s personal and professional life, followed by several recipes. There is a big difference: color photographs grace this book. Lucky John! The only thing missing is a price key. Maybe next edition?

John says all 40 chefs use fresh, local ingredients, and in sidebars in highlights some of the farmers and artisanal producers, such as Imladris Farm in Fairview and Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton. You can learn more about visiting those farms in my guidebook. Geez, we’re so complimentary and complementary!

My one word of warning: don’t traverse the twisting, turning NC mountain roads on too full of a stomach!

 

Dining guide points the way in North Carolina

September 17, 2012

My pal and busy “Durham Foodie” blogger Johanna Kramer just birthed her first book, and it’s a great one for food-minded locals and visitors to the  Triangle region of North Carolina. (And, really, who isn’t food minded?)

Food Lovers’ Guide to Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings” (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95) is chock full of information on restaurants, markets, culinary events, cooking classes, wine and beer spots and more.  You’ll find the books at the usual places, in stores and online.

Johanna Kramer signs her new book at the launch party in Durham, NC

Skimming through the 254 pages of listings, I’m transported to some of my favorite spots (Pie Pushers food truck, Guglhupf bakery and restaurant, especially the outdoor patio) and reminded of all the places I still need to visit (I’m too embarrassed to confess which ones I’ve yet to check out). Even Johanna’s book launch party on Sunday introduced me to a new spot — G2B Gastro Pub, a sleek but friendly bar/restaurant tucked away in the back of a small office complex in Durham.

In the back of the book you’ll find 18 recipes to whet your appetite, including Macaroni au Gratin from chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh; Market’s Ketchup, by Chad McIntyre of Market, also in Raleigh; and Raw Vegan “Pad Thai” from Triangle Raw Foods.

As I told Johanna, I’m even impressed by the index and appendices, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.  So come for a visit and see for yourself!

‘Hunger Games’ fans feast on North Carolina sites

April 11, 2012

What’s left for “Hunger Games” fans after reading the trilogy by Suzanne Collins and seeing the blockbuster movie? Visiting the fantasy post-apocalyptic world, of course. No passport is needed to enter the country of Panem, where teenagers are pitted against one another in deadly fights, only a vivid imagination and transportation to North Carolina, where the movie was shot in its entirety. (The film production employed about 5,000 people and spent more than $60 million, making “Hunger Games” the largest movie made in the state.)

Some filming sites, scattered from the mountains to Charlotte and points in between, are private but can be viewed from the street, while others are open to the public. The NC Division of Tourism has published a four-day self-guided tour as well as a list of spots of interest.

The abandoned Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran filled in as District 12

Included is the site of District 12, where the main characters live, filmed in Henry River Mill Village, an abandoned mill village outside of the town of Hildebran, just off Interstate 40. The village, which held Katniss’s house and Peeta’s family’s bakery, is private, but can be seen from the road.

Thirty-five miles south, in Shelby, old cotton warehouses were the scene for the reaping, the event where District 12 tributes (game participants) are chosen. Charlotte stood in for the wealthy, totalitarian Capitol, where tributes are trained to fight. Several scenes were shot at the Charlotte Convention Center, which also happens to be home to this year’s Democratic Convention.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (game scene shot in Dupont State Forest). Photo credit: Murray Close

Almost all the game scenes were shot in Dupont State Forest, about 40 miles south of Asheville. Visitors can tour the 10,000-acre park on their own or sign up with Hunger Games Fan Tours, where an official tour guide, aka “sponsor,” will take customers, or “tributes,” through the battle scenes.

During one-day and weekend trips, guests will learn survival skills, including archery, slingshot techniques, and fire building, and will be taken to several sites from the film, including waterfall scenes and where Katniss tried to escape from the fire.

Leigh Trapp (left) and Tammy Hopkins, founders of Hunger Games Fan Tours, at Triple Falls in Dupont State Forest

Tammy Hopkins, co-owner of Hunger Games Fan Tours recently said she’s seen a flood of interest. “Just today, I got sign-ups from families in Kansas, Chicago, and South Carolina.”

Weekend participants will even be treated to special “Hunger Games” dishes. “We wrote down every meal in District 12 and the Capitol. We take all this seriously. We want to honor the book and the movie.”

 

‘Making an Exit’ around the world

October 12, 2011

Just back from New Mexico, where we found the cemeteries there to be strikingly similar to those in indigenous northern Argentina — colorful and lively. They draw reverent yet celebratory crowds on certain days, especially the Day of the Dead. (In Taos, we hunted for and found the grave of Dennis Hopper.)

Those visits got me in the mood to read Sarah Murray’s new book, “Making An Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre — How we Dignify the Dead.” I’m ready to sign up for a worldwide death tour. (I’ve already done the Chapel of Bones swing through southern Europe.)

I first learned of Sarah’s work through her book “Moveable Feasts: The Incredible Journeys of the Things We Eat.” Sarah, a Brit and a longtime Financial Times writer now based in New York City, is a quintessential journalist — curious about everything and a terrific researcher and story teller.

In Ghana, you can have the fantasy coffin of your choosing (photo Sarah Murray)

In her introduction, she writes of her father’s death and wonders how she would like her own handled. “Writers often tell us about places we must see before we die. I want to explore some of the ones we end up in when we’re dead.” Her research took her to Hong Kong, Mexico , Ghana, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, Iran, Sicily, and Bali. So this is as much of a travel book as a survey of funerary practices, all the way down to its souvenirs — Sarah ordered a coffin from Ghana, famed for its wild vessels of death. Hers is in the shape of the Empire State Building and rests in her living room.

Check out her book and her blog (with death-themed photos that are full of life) and if you’re in New York, she has events on Oct. 20 and Oct. 30. Wish I could be there, dead or alive.

Asheville’s Tupelo Honey Cafe puts out cookbook

May 25, 2011

Tupelo Honey Café is one of those landmark dining spots that actually deserves its popularity. Tourists and locals alike go to the Asheville restaurant for Southern comfort food with a modern twist. It’s a high-volume place (and a second location was added last year), so I don’t know what the local-sourcing ratio is, but for sure it’s there. You can read a little more about that below in the entry I wrote on them in my book.

Longtime fans and newcomers will enjoy their just-out cookbook, “Tupelo Honey Café: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $29.99), written by Asheville writer Elizabeth Sims with Tupelo chef Brian Sonoskus. (For you local readers, the pair will be doing signings and tastings at A Southern Season on June 5 from noon to 2, and The Regulator Bookshop on June 6 at 7 p.m. I can’t get to either, dangit.)

Asheville writer Elizabeth Sims with Tupelo chef Brian Sonoskus

The hardcover book is highly stylized, heavy on the design side and filled with fantastic photos of both mouth-watering dishes and Asheville scenes, past and present. Recipes (they all look fairly simple) include Green Tomato Salsa, Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower, Nutty Fried Chicken, Mondo Mushroom Ragout, and Goat Cheese Basil Grits. The beer pairings for each main dish are my favorite touch (don’t worry, there are wine pairings too), a nod to the city’s numerous breweries and brewpubs.

Here’s my Tupelo entry in “Farm Fresh North Carolina”:

Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Asheville (Photo by Andrew Collins, http://www.gaytravel.about.com)

Tupelo Honey Café opened in downtown Asheville in 2000 as a laid-back breakfast and lunch spot for southern comfort food with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. In its first decade, it grew into a tourist mainstay, adding dinner hours and a line of merchandise. In 2008 new owner Stephen Frabitore stepped things up even more, opening a second location and arranging a deal for a Tupelo Honey cookbook, to be published in 2011. Throughout this time, chef Brian Sonoskus has continued to draw customers with his creative, affordable dishes, many relying on area farmers. Much of the produce comes from Sonoskus’s own Sunshot Organics, a twelve-acre farm he started in 2007. He grows vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, loads of blueberries, and even raises some laying hens. As for the Tupelo honey found on every table? That’s from Florida, but we’ll let it slide.

12 College Street, 828-255-4863; 1829 Hendersonville Road, 828-505-7676; Asheville (Buncombe County), http://www.tupelohoneycafe.com.

‘Farm Fresh North Carolina’ has arrived!

March 6, 2011

Alpaca nuzzles Diane at Bedford Falls Alpaca Farm in Warne, Clay County.

So it’s finally here! “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” my farm-travel guidebook to my home state, is now out, Both my hometown papers, the Durham Herald-Sun and the News & Observer, have written it up this week, with more articles across the state to follow! The N&O piece used one of my favorite photos — me being nuzzled by an alpaca at the state’s first alpaca farm, Bedford Falls. What a fun day that was, way, way west in Clay County, a part of North Carolina that often gets relegated to an annex on state maps. I fell in love with alpacas during my research, and included a few alpaca farms in the book.

As for sales outlets, it’s available at the usual online spots and of course in stores all across North Carolina. Even NC Costco stores will start carrying the book in April! That is nuts (in a great way!) and a testament to how crazed the local-food movement has become. I pitched the idea for this book in 2007, the same year that “locavore” was named the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year. My, how times have changed.

In case you’re wondering what the heck a farm-travel guidebook includes, the subtitle says it all: “The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.”

If you want to know more about it, visit my “Farm Fresh North Carolina” website. And remember: Keep it Fresh in NC!

A gift idea for the armchair eco-traveler

December 18, 2010

Unlike most “best of” lodging books, the writer of “Authentic Ecolodges” actually visited every place in the book, quite an undertaking considering they’re scattered around the globe.

This beautiful art/gift/coffee-table book was written by Hitesh Mehta, a Florida-based landscape architect, environmental planner, and architect. To research the book, Hitesh, who is from Kenya, visited 44 lodges in 46 countries on 6 continents. Without me repeating what Hitesh says in his introduction, trust me when I tell you that his criteria for “ecolodge” is commendable. At their most basic, they embody the three main principles of ecotourism: 1) nature must be protected and conserved 2) the local community must benefit through community outreach and education programs and 3) interpretive programs must be offered to educate tourists and employees around the surround natural and cultural environnments.

That’s a good checklist for you to use on any place that calls itself an ecolodge.

Hitesh also looked at sustainable design and building practices, solid-waste disposal, energy needs and the like.

Cree Village Ecolodge in Canada

The only thing missing from each write-up, which contains pertinent information and luscious photos, is the price range, which I think is real disservice to the reader. Of course prices become outdated, but the reader wants to know a baseline and can take it from there.

Concordia Eco-Tents at St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

I’ll let you in on the North American spots in the book and you can check out the rest yourself. Both have been on my list to visit for years: Cree Village Ecolodge in Canada and Concordia Eco-Tents, U.S. Virgin Islands, and happen to be among the less-expensive spots in the book.

Happy eco-traveling, armchair and beyond!