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Virginia is for (Flower) Lovers

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As a Maine girl through and through, I’ve been a bit confounded lately by my new blossoming obsession with the South—plotting long weekends in Charleston, pouring over my new subscription to Garden & Gun magazine (for the record, it’s more lifestyle than weed-whacking and ammo), and daydreaming about the rolling green hills, gracious historic pockets of Virginia—and the serious bloomage happening there right now. But, I'm rolling with it.

While the Northeast (and probably other parts of the country) has just a few new-season daffodils, cherry blossoms, and electric-yellow forsythia bushes right now, the Commonwealth is ablaze with heart-stopping flora—everything from Osage orange trees and wisteria-laden trellises to rare rose breeds and Elizabethan herb gardens. And this coming week marks its apex: Virginia’s Historic Garden Week (Apr. 17-25), now in its 77th year.

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Old School: Celebrate "Record Store Day"

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When was the last time you bought a new album at an actual brick and mortar record shop? In the age of iTunes, it’s become the norm to download music from the internet. I'm guilty, too, even though you can frequently find me and my camera jammed in the front row covering concerts for various music publications.

Tomorrow, take advantage of the spring weather and head over to your local record shop for Record Store Day, a celebration of independently owned record stores in the United States, and other countries worldwide, now in its third year.

In addition to special vinyl and CD releases being made exclusively for Record Store Day from the likes of Phoenix and Jamie Lidell, there will also be a number of in-store appearances and performances from a wide variety of musicians, including Slash, Emmylou Harris, and Yeasayer.  Search for your local participating stores here. I’ve put together a short list of standout events after the break.

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Tail Wagging and Wine at Top Montana Resort

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Those who know me well, realize there’s nothing I like more than a little “wine and bitch” session.  That’s why if I had my druthers, this April I’d be high tailing it—along with my dog Max—all the way out to Greenough, Montana for the second annual "Wine & Bitch Weekend" at The Resort at Paws Up.

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It's No Yolk: Giant Easter Eggs Invade German Park

Okay, so they're a little too big to include in a traditional Easter egg hunt, but c'mon, would you even want to hide these beauties?

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Spring Sightseeing: Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

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The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, held in the historic tidal basin in Washington D.C., began last Saturday, March 27th and will continue through April 11th. The festival celebrates the cherry trees that were a gift from Tokyo in 1912 and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Given the harsh winter weather that hit the area in the past few months, buds are just beginning to peek out on the capitol's battered (and recently groomed) trees. The jubilant pink flowers should be in full picturesque bloom April 4th, just in time for Easter visitors.

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National Parks Waive Park Fees Next Month

Washington Post |  The National Park Service will waive visitor fees next month during National Park Week, officials said Tuesday.

Parks will be open to the public free of charge from April 17 to 25, to coincide with National Park Week. The special fee program also coincides with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and the 75th anniversary of the nation’s most visited national park, the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 392 national parks will also offer special pricing deals on tours, lodging and souvenirs, the Park Service said.

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BAM (and NYC) Goes Baroque

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When, in 1989, American William Christie arrived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with his France-based vocal and instrumental ensemble Les Arts Florissants a new world opened up for audiences interested in opera, music, dance, theater, and something called "historical performance practice."

Christie and his troupe presented a work that was known—if it was known much at all—from music history books: Atys. It's a French Baroque opera by Jean-Baptiste Lully, who in his career served Louis XIV.  Seeing that production it was hard to imagine anything more intensely dramatic, musically vivid, revelatory in its beauty, or vivid in performance. Oh, and did I say, erotic? (Atys is a young man who professes indifference to love, but there’s a nymph who stirs his passions...)

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Snowy Fun at Alaska's Famed "Fur Rondy"

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In Alaska it’s about surviving winter—a long, long winter. Fortunately, people in Anchorage have not only a frontier spirit but a sense of humor. And so there is Fur Rendezvous, affectionately called the "Fur Rondy" by locals, now in its 75th year and serving up 10 days of crazy winter fun from Feb. 26 - Mar. 6.

The festival leads up to the start of the more serious Iditarod dog sled race, which kicks off March 7 (and runs a 1,200-mile course to Nome).

Racing is part of the action during Fur Rondy too, in the form of the World Championship Sled Dog Races, with 30 mushers and their teams competing for an $80,000 purse, on a 25-mile course. But that’s about as competitive as Fur Rondy gets.

Other festival events, as I witnessed for the first few days, range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including whacky snowshoe softball (competitors fall a lot), a Frostbite Footrace (costumes optional) and the World’s Largest Outhouse Race (yup, teams competing pushing outhouses).

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Paris Dispatch: Eiffel Tower News, Cool Apps, Exhibits, More...

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You can now buy tickets for the Eiffel Tower online at www.tour-eiffel.fr (English section); it’s also possible to reserve online at both the 58 and the Jules Verne. Van Cleef & Arpels took home the Best iPhone Application award at the Stratégies / Firstluxe.com 2009 Awards. “A Day in Paris”, was inspired by the brand’s site: unejourneeaparis.com. The app traces seven romantic, interactive circuits in Paris with poetic stops along the way.

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Pierre Cardin Buys a Village in Provence

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Fashion designer Pierre Cardin’s 60-year career is the subject of a book due this year (published by Assouline); the 89 year old designer has several anniversary-related events in store between now and September.

Several years ago, the designer bought the ruins of the legendary chateau Lacoste, in Provence, which was once the property of the Marquis de Sade. This reopened two years ago. Less known is the fact that the designer hosts theater and music festivals there: This year, Jeanne Moreau will open the festivities and star soprano Nathalie Dessaix is slated to perform. Tickets will be available on pierrecardin.com.

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