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Italian journalist visits Alabama to promote tourism

Italian journalist and blogger Simona Sacri toured Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham last week as part of her trip to the southern USA. Sacri, who has the site is one of Italy’s top bloggers. She has been selected by the Italy Visit USA Association for best travel blog and was the winner of the 2015 Media Award by the same organization.

Sacri is using the hashtag #myTravelSouthUSA during her journey. In a website posting she said that she will show the complex and authentic experience of the old South through the in-depth exploration of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Sacri started her trip in Jackson, Mississippi and then traveled to Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham before traveling back to Mississippi on her way to Louisiana.

In Selma she posted a photograph of the Edmund Pettus Bridge with the message “Travel to learn. Remembering the ‘Bloody Sunday’ and all the difficult moments of the civil rights movement.” In Montgomery she posted a photo of herself in front of the downtown civil rights mural with the message “Today I’m in Montgomery, Alabama to discover the Rosa Parks Museum and the end of the trail of Martin Luther King march. Emotions and so many things to ponder, can’t wait to write about.”

In Birmingham she posted a photo from inside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute with copy that read, “My journey across Civil Rights and their stories arrives in Birmingham, Alabama. I have a dream.”

The local tourism organizations of Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham helped the Alabama Tourism Department with her trip. Travel South USA and Alabama’s shared representative in Italy, Olga Mazzoni also assisted with this project.

Alabama’s blooming and that means it’s time to take pictures

To paraphrase an old song, Alabama’s Bustin’ Out All Over. That means it’s time to get those cameras out and take pictures. Here are a few helpful hints on how to get the best images for your efforts.

Take only interior images between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Old Sol is just too brutal at that time of day to get good outdoor shots. When shooting exteriors make sure the sun is shining on the object of your lens. Taking a picture in the afternoon of anything facing east doesn’t usually yield good results.

Also, attractive people can add a lot of interest to your images. Make sure they’re wearing solid and bright-colored clothing. Shorts and blue jeans should be worn only when they are appropriate to the location and/or event. Have them face the camera and appear to be having a wonderful time – if they’re really having a great time that’s a bonus.

In tourism, as in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Try to frame the images so that the location, attraction, event or other subject is obvious to the viewer.

Of course the Alabama Tourism Department always wants to get new images so, once you’ve captured all those green trees and flowering shrubs with your camera, you can send them to us. We are looking for images that are at least 4” X 6” and 300 dpi.

The Best of Birmingham as seen in Travel & Leisure

Chefs, musicians, and creative locals are driving the Alabama city’s recent rebirth. Here are the places where you’ll find them.

OvenBird: The latest project from chef Chris Hastings and his wife, Ida Hastings—of Hot and Hot Fish Club fame—draws inspiration from Southern barbecue and the open-fire traditions of South America, with everything cooked over wood (hickory, pecan, and fruit, for example). Belly up to the Calacatta-marble bar with a view of the hearth, or sit under the crepe myrtles in the courtyard to share plates like octopus and squid with chorizo, fennel, and orange.

Carrigan’s Public House: Set on a cobblestoned street in an emerging area downtown, this former warehouse is leading a cocktail renaissance. You’ll find perfectly executed classics (negronis, Manhattans), plus inventive drinks with a sense of place, like the Black Sails: locally made Trim Tab brown ale and peppery Buffalo Rock ginger ale, as well as gin, grapefruit, and celery.

Open Shop: Parts clothing store, art gallery, and music venue, this new addition to historic Woodlawn is a favorite of local creatives. Founded by singer/ producer Armand Margjeka, a force in the local community, it hosts listening-room-style concerts and pop-up dinners. On Thursdays, shoppers can stay late and sip cocktails while browsing Giorgio Bratto leather jackets and Madeworn rock ’n’ roll tees.

Saturn: This mod, space-themed performance spot—an outpost of New York’s Bowery Presents—brings national indie bands like Futurebirds, Beach House, and the Polyphonic Spree to the Avondale neighborhood. The adjacent bar, Satellite, serves tongue-in-cheek drinks like the Rocket Booster, a bittersweet frozen slushie of honeysuckle vodka, Campari, and Tang.

Red Mountain Park: For a city with such deep industrial roots, there are a surprising number of green spaces here—including this 1,500-acre oasis south of downtown. On the Red Ore Zip Tour, you’ll soar 40 feet above the mountains on ziplines. Look down to see mining sites where the iron ore used to build Birmingham was excavated.

Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook: This much-anticipated, 100-room boutique hotel is like a country retreat smack in the middle of a big city. Set in the tony, tree-lined Mountain Brook area, the English Tudor–style property has an on-site sculpture garden and hosts wine-blending classes.

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Fitzgerald story published

A year before F. Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack, he completed a short story about a hard-drinking writer diagnosed with cardiac disease.

“And as for that current dodge ‘No reference to any living character is intended’ — no use even trying that,” Fitzgerald warns at the start of “Temperature,” an 8,000-word piece dated July 1939 that is receiving its publishing debut in the current issue of the literary quarterly The Strand Magazine.

Presumed lost for decades, “Temperature” was written while the author known for “The Great Gatsby” struggled to find work in the movie business and hoped to revive his fiction career. His screenwriting contract with MGM had expired and twice in 1939 he had been hospitalized because of alcoholism.

“He felt anachronistic and was trying to find a voice that didn’t echo with the Jazz Age,” Kirk Curnutt, author of “The Cambridge Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald,” wrote in a recent email. “To this end he experimented with more hardboiled tones and sardonic comedy.”

Set in Los Angeles, “Temperature” is an antic story of failure, illness and decline, common themes in Fitzgerald’s work. The narrative is consciously cinematic, with such lines as “And at this point, as they say in picture making, the Camera Goes into the House.” The protagonist is a 31-year-old writer, Emmet Monsen, whom Fitzgerald describes as “notably photogenic,” “slender and darkly handsome.” Circling around the self-destructive Monsen are medical authorities, personal assistants and a Hollywood actress and estranged lover.

Andrew F. Gulli, managing editor of The Strand, came upon the manuscript earlier this year while looking through the rare books and manuscript archive at Fitzgerald’s alma mater, Princeton University.

“Fitzgerald … couldn’t help using his satirical abilities to mock everyone from doctors, Hollywood idols and the norms of society,” Gulli said of the story. “When we think of Fitzgerald we tend to think of tragic novels he wrote such as ‘Gatsby’ and ‘Tender is the Night,’ but ‘Temperature’ shows that he was equally adept and highly skilled as a short story writer who was able to pen tales of high comedy.”

Fitzgerald’s stories had run in Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, but by the late 1930s he no longer had a wide following and was unhappy with his literary agent, Harold Ober, who in the past had supported him financially. In a letter sent to Ober in August 1939, Fitzgerald writes he was feeling so neglected that on his own he mailed submissions of “Temperature,” which was turned down by the Post.

“Sending a story direct may be bad policy but one doesn’t consider that when one is living on money from a hocked Ford,” he told Ober. “I don’t have to explain that even though a man has once saved another from drowning, when he refuses to stretch out his arm a second time the victim has to act quickly and desperately to save himself.”

Curnutt was amazed to learn that a copy of “Temperature” still existed and called the discovery a “great find.” Fitzgerald bibliographies list the story (sometimes referred to as “The Women in the House”) as unpublished or lost.

Fitzgerald called Hollywood a “hideous town” but also “the history of all aspiration.” It was the author’s literary setting for the rest of his life. By early 1940, he was turning out his self-deprecating “Pat Hobby” stories, dispatches about a failing screenwriter that ran in Esquire. He also worked on a Hollywood novel he left unfinished, “The Love of the Last Tycoon,” released posthumously as “The Last Tycoon.” Fitzgerald died in December 1940 at age 44.

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Trump opens B&B

The Trump name has been attached to skyscrapers, hotels and even a winery in Albemarle County.

Now, it’s on a bed and breakfast in the area, as well.

The 26,000-square-foot Trump Albemarle Estate, one of the two properties in the Trump Estate Collection, recently opened its doors to the public. Donald Trump acquired what was formerly known as Albemarle House from Patricia Kluge in 2012 for $6.5 million, well below her asking price of $100 million three years prior to the purchase.

Trump bought the vineyard and winery, owned and managed by his son Eric Trump, from Kluge in 2011.

Ten rooms — five in the main house, four in the pool house and a cabin on the property — are now available for booking, said Kerry Woolard, general manager of Trump Winery.

“We hope it’s something that people walk away not really having seen or experienced before, and certainly those are the comments that we’re hearing back,” she said.

Eric Trump, who was present for the opening, said he’s heard positive feedback from the estate’s first guests.

“This is an opportunity to stay at one of the most prestigious and architecturally significant estates in the United States,” Trump said in an email. “We want people to see and experience world-class accommodations in conjunction with classic Trump quality and service and a winery, which is unrivaled anywhere on the East Coast.”

Guests also will have access to other areas in the main house, including the dining room, living room and library. Other amenities include a pool, fitness facilities and spa facilities, as well as a movie theater, fly-fishing and horseback riding.

Woolard said opening a bed and breakfast adjacent to the winery is an opportunity for visitors to have a complete experience of Virginia’s wine countryside.

Derek Hunt, director of hospitality, said they wanted to find a way to utilize the house that would be to the benefit of the winery’s guests.

“After a lot of careful thought and consideration, it made the most sense to open a bed and breakfast,” Hunt said. “We really wanted to utilize the space and we wanted other people to come and really enjoy this incredible property and this access in a way we couldn’t offer otherwise.”

It wasn’t until a few months before the transaction went through for the house that changes to Albemarle County zoning policies would allow for a bed and breakfast to exist in rural areas of the county, such as the one in Trump’s name.

Previously, only a maximum of five rooms in a single dwelling where the owner resided was permitted for tourist lodging in rural areas. But now, the changes allow other structures on a property — in this case, the pool house and cabin — to be included for bed and breakfast dwellings, but still with a maximum of five rooms per dwelling.

Rick Randolph, the Scottsville District representative on the Albemarle County Planning Commission and the Democratic nominee for the district’s Board of Supervisors seat, was one of two members who voted against the zoning changes in 2012. He said he was concerned about the potential size of these operations in the rural areas.

“The scale of this operation is much larger than what I think the rest of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission had envisioned,” he said.

Woolard said she has heard these types of concerns but that she doesn’t see an issue with it.

“I don’t see how a 10-room, very boutique B&B has any negative impact on the area whatsoever,” she said. “To me, it only enhances the beauty of the property and the county, and really is a gem that Charlottesville and Albemarle should be proud of.”

As far as future plans for the area, Hunt said they’re focused on the bed and breakfast for now.

“We are really excited for the opportunity to share this property with others and provide a winery experience you can’t really find anywhere else,” he said.

Rates at Trump Albemarle Estate start at $349 per night, according to its website.

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