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Briefs: Seek out good luck in travels

| Sunday, April 26, 2009

In Italy, stroking the snout of Florence's bronze boar brings luck or love, depending on who you talk to. And in Pisa, certain figures -- such as the baby Jesus -- in the bronze relief doors of the Duomo, or cathedral, shine from being rubbed by visitors. The rubbing of some figures bring love, a guide says, while others -- was it the lizards• -- bring money. Whatever. Each traveler rubs them all.

Women traveling in Italy throw two coins into Rome's Trevi Fountain, a custom said to soon bring about a marriage. Tossing in three coins, despite what the titular song of the movie "Three Coins in a Fountain" says, is supposed to prompt a divorce. Just one coin -- pitched backward over your shoulder, by the way -- ensures an eventual return to Rome.

An odd sight at Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt, is tourists walking in a circle. It takes seven counter-clockwise loops around a statue of a scarab beetle to elicit luck from this symbol of the Sun God.

At Bangkok's Grand Palace, an unobtrusive fence is no deterrent in the quest for luck when a guide recommends reaching out to touch a small statue of an elephant. But it's important to keep your eyes peeled for the palace police. One traveler was caught red-handed patting the pachyderm, but wasn't expelled from the palace grounds -- so that could be considered lucky.

A triple play of Norfolk festivals

Three festivals are scheduled to take place in Norfolk over the next few months, showcasing everything from azaleas to marching bands and tall ships.

From April 27 through May 3, the city will host the Norfolk International Azalea Festival. The unusual event originated in 1953 as a way to celebrate the Norfolk-based North Atlantic Treaty Organization, by selecting one nation each year to honor through themed festival activities. This year, the Azalea Festival will present a weeklong tribute to the Czech Republic.

The Virginia International Tattoo takes places May 1 through 3, but it's got nothing to do with body decoration. The Tattoo is an exhibition of marching bands, massed pipes and drum teams, gymnasts, Scottish dancers, choirs and more. The tradition dates back to 17th century Europe.

Kicking off the prime summer season, 700 international tall ships, sailboats, battleships and cruise ships will mark Harborfest in Norfolk on July 4. There will also be children's activities, fireworks and entertainment.

Details: www.visitnorfolktoday.com .

Armchair traveler

If you still have time to shop in Paris between sightseeing and dining, make the most of your time with a new guide from the Little Bookroom.

"The Best Vintage Antique and Collectible Shops in Paris" was written by Edith Pauly, the French correspondent for "Interni," a design magazine based in Milan. She'll steer you to one-of-a-kind shops, many of whom have been in business for over 100 years.

Browse the 20-acre Saint-Ouen flea markets, chock-a-bloc with costume jewelry, glass bells and vintage Vuitton luggage. Looking for an antique doorknob• An establishment called Au Progres has 5,000 of them, as well as cabinet locks and period fittings. Masala is a small gem of a shop whose owner, Christine Berthollier, brings back treasures from Indian and Asian bazars. Aux Trois Singes sells antique garden ornaments and gardening tools, including French roof ornaments, Medici vases and much-loved watering cans. These items date from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

And don't pass up Les Portes du Monde, which sells hand-carved antique doors.

Photographer Sandrine Alouf displays a fine eye for detail with her intimate shots of each establishment. The book publishes May 5. (The Little Bookroom; $18.95; 240 pages; softcover)

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