Thursday, December 27, 2012

Battle of Fort Fisher...again

If you've traveled to Wilmington, you've probably heard of Fort Fisher. If you've seen the recent movie "Lincoln," you're sure to have heard of the place.

Just a few dozen miles south of Wilmington, the Civil War-era military bastion was built to guard the important port city from Union attack up the Cape Fear River. Once North Carolina seceeded from the Union in 1861, the city -- and thus the Fort -- became a prime target for the Union.

On Jan. 19, the Fort Fisher State Historic Site will host a living history program to commemorate the anniversary of the Second Battle of fort Fisher, the largest land-sea battle of the war. Here are excerpts from the state's news release:

"Kure Beach, N.C.: The year 2013 marks the 148th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. ... Thanks to the recently released Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” and its multiple references to Wilmington, North Carolina and the Battle of Fort Fisher, millions of movie-goers are now more familiar with the fort’s important historical role as the last fort to fall to Union troops during the Civil War. Fort Fisher embraces this new spotlight and welcomes history buffs and fans of the movie year-round to explore its Civil War battlefield, monuments, museum, and special events.
As part of the state's observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources’ Fort Fisher State Historic Site will host “Sheppard’s Battery: Confederates Defending the Left Flank,” a special living history program on January 19, 2013. This year’s anniversary commemoration will focus on the Confederate defenders at Sheppard’s Battery and around the “Bloody Gate” on the left flank of Fort Fisher. Re-enactors will set up displays of Civil War camp life and talk with visitors about the life of the Confederate infantry and artillery troops during the January 1865 campaign. Other highlights include Civil War authors, artillery and infantry demonstrations, cannon and small arms firings, including the site’s rifled and banded 32-pound cannon atop Sheppard’s Battery. Events begin at 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Volunteers in period costume will bring history to life throughout the day. Guest speakers include local historian Ernie Kniffen, who will discuss new findings on his extensive research of Confederate sailors and Marines. Author Richard Triebe will sign books and discuss N.C. troops who were captured at Fort Fisher and sent to a prison camp in Elmira, N.Y. Also on site will be author, educator, and member of the Wilmington Railroad Museum board of trustees, James Burke, who will sign and promote his book, “The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad in the Civil War.” At 12:30 p.m., the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Unit will dedicate a new highway marker for the Civil War blockade runner Modern Greece, which ran aground and sank near Fort Fisher.

Fort Fisher’s programs afford visitors a wonderful opportunity to learn more about local history and Fort Fisher's role in the Civil War. Fort Fisher, the largest earthen fortification in the Confederacy, once protected the port of Wilmington and the vital blockade running trade on the Cape Fear River. After two massive bombardments the fort fell to a Union infantry assault on January 15, 1865. With the capture of Fort Fisher, Wilmington’s port—the “Lifeline of the Confederacy”—was closed to foreign trade.

Fort Fisher State Historic Site is located in Kure Beach, just 20 miles south of Wilmington, at 1

Fort Fisher State Historic Site is located in Kure Beach, just 20 miles south of Wilmington, at 1610 Fort Fisher Blvd. S., along US Highway 421. Visitors, residents, and motorists are advised of loud explosions during cannon firings and artillery demonstrations. ... "

If you've never been to a re-enactment, you'll want to catch this...especially if you're a Civil War buff. And enjoy a chilly walk on the beach while you're there.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Comfort...where we stay

We patronize a number of hotel chains when we travel, depending on the city and the price. But we do have a preference.

It's the Choice Hotels line of lodgings. More specifically, we generally stay at a Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites or Sleep Inn.

The reasons are simple. All three offer rooms that usually are comfortable and clean. We usually can find a good price on a room at the hotels. We have found a few gems.

We both are fond of sneaking away to the lobby to read quietly, and Choice tends to provide cozy lobby spaces. Depending on the owner/franchisee, the hotels usually offer a decent free breakfast. In short, we rarely have been disappointed with our reservation.

Sleep Inns, a bit lower on the chain's spectrum, are simple and usually clean. They are affordable. And they have a funky circular shower that breaks the hotel-room monotony.

We book with Choice so much that I joined its Choice Privileges rewards plan. It's brown-wrapper plain, and I recently had a bad experience with it. But it's simple to use, and we enjoy a free room about once a year!

In a future post, I'll share the way I search for a good price on accommodations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deal alert! Oceanfront efficiency

Pay $40 per night for an $80 efficiency at The Whaler Inn Beach Club. It’s a deal through The News & Observer’s site. But hurry. You have to make the purchase – up to five nights -- by midnight Saturday.

We’ve never stayed at The Whaler, but it’s been around forever and has a good reputation. The oceanfront hotel is in Pine Knoll Shores, just down the road from Atlantic Beach, on the Crystal Coast. It boasts an enclosed swimming pool and game room, if you’re taking the children.

There are a number of restrictions. It’s only for Sunday through Thursday stays. The deal is subject to availability, but fewer than 30 nights have been booked of a total of 300 available.

Click here for all of the details.

Surprise her. Or him

Many years ago, when our daughter was 2 or 3 years old, it struck me that my wife was feeling pretty stressed. What I did next has stayed with her and me all these years. Let me recommend this course of action to you, when you see your spouse feeling weary.

The thought popped into my mind to take my wife away for a short vacation. And I mean short: We didn't have lots of vacation money. I looked around for what for us would be an exotic destination, but close enough that it wouldn't cost a lot in gas and meals.

I'm not sure how, but I came up with Danville, Va. It was just a few hours away. It was across the state line, which was exotic enough. It had a section with old houses, where we could just walk and enjoy. I learned that it had a museum of the Confederacy, which for us meant indulging our enjoyment of history. And I found a good hotel whose rates were modest in early spring.

My little daughter and I called ourselves "kidnapping" Mom from an appointment that she had that  morning. We drove up to Danville, which straddles the Dan River, along back roads lined with trees just beginning to show their spring buds. We packed a lunch, I seem to remember, but otherwise we ate at local places that didn't charge chain-restaurant prices.

We left early enough in the day to see a good portion of Danville's sights. We stayed only overnight, but that gave us enough rest to take in more of Danville the next day, including its quaint downtown.

It ate up just two vacation days, but that was plenty to absorb a lot of at-home stress. It was time very well spent!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Crystal Coast freebie

One of our favorite times to spend at the beach is the late fall and winter. Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. The crush of tourists is long gone...which makes long, quiet walks on the beach that much easier. The weather is usually pleasant, and sometimes even warm. And here's a treat: Cottage rental rates are at their lowest.

Here's one better. Bluewater Vacation Rentals is repeating its offer of one night free when you rent a cottage or condo for three nights. The deal is good from December 15 to January 6. You must pick from a selection of rental properties and then call 866-976-3512 to make the  reservation. And you must mention the 4-for-3 promotion.

Actually, there are a growing number of families that have started a tradition of spending Christmas or New Year's at ocean's edge. Some of the rental companies even offer Christmas season vacation packages that include a Christmas tree delivered to your cottage door! Be careful, though, since rates can be higher during the holiday weeks than the rest of the winter season.

We're old-fashioned enough that Dec. 25th has to be at home. But we've spent more than a few January 1sts in the salty air.