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Visiting Iowa Bridges Has Become Novel Idea

February 07, 1993|KIM UPTON

The best-selling novel "The Bridges of Madison County" appears to be making south-central Iowa into a hot tourist destination. While there's no way to estimate the number of tourists who have found their way to the Madison County countryside where the novel is set, a spokeswoman for the local chamber of commerce said her office has been inundated with queries from readers asking for more information about the century-old covered bridges that play a significant role in the book. "There seems to be incredible interest," said Sherri Ellis, executive vice president for the Winterset Area Chamber of Commerce in Madison County. "The first person who came through our door was from California and we're getting calls from all over from people who, until this, had no idea what Iowa has to offer."

The slim volume written by Robert James Waller, dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, is the tale of a photographer who falls in love with an Italian war bride after stopping at her farmhouse to ask for directions. By the time the woman's husband and two children return from a four-day trip, she has decided against running away with the photographer, but they never forget each other. The book has apparently touched a nerve as this decade's "Love Story," the best-selling book and movie of the 1970s. Waller was inspired to write the novel after spending the summer of 1990 shooting pictures of the covered bridges, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And now the town of Winterset, Pop. 4,100, is on the tourist map.

Travel Quiz: What is the westernmost capital city on the European mainland?

Big, Bigger, Humongous: Princess Cruises has placed an order for what will be--at least for a year after it hits the water in fall, 1995--the largest cruise ship in the world. Not only will the 1,950-passenger, 77,000-gross-registered-ton Sun Princess top the Norway--now the largest cruise ship--by about 1,500 tons, it will have more private balconies than any other ship afloat (on 70% of the outside cabins), and not just one atrium, like other megaships, but two, both surrounded by shops and lounges. It will have a pizzeria with cobblestone floors, an international food court and two main lounges for both stage and cabaret-style shows. Construction on the ship will begin within the next few weeks at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy. Not to be outdone, Carnival Cruise Lines will take delivery in late 1996--also from Fincantieri--of an even larger ship, a 95,000-gross-registered-ton vessel, according to a Carnival spokeswoman.

Quick Fact: Travelers planning a trip to San Luis Obispo can now get information about the mission town, including lodging, sites, activities and a map, by calling a toll-free number: (800) 676-1772.

Not for Skiers Only: The "Non-Skiers Guide" listing public and private sites in Northern and Central California for sledding, snowmobile tours/rentals, ice skating, sleigh and dog-sled rides and other snow-play activities has just been released by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The six-page guide includes a map and brief description of each site with activities, equipment rentals, specific location and phone numbers for more information. For a free copy, send a self-addressed, business-size envelope with 52 cents in stamps to: Sno-Park Program, California Department of Parks and Recreation, P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento 94596-0001.

Picture-Perfect: Sixty-nine photographs of the people who shaped public policy and opinion in the years following the Vietnam War and Watergate--"The Family 1976: Richard Avedon's Portraits for Rolling Stone"--are on exhibition through June 6 at the Smithsonian Institution's Portrait Gallery in Washington. The project began when Rolling Stone magazine commissioned Richard Avedon to photograph the presidential candidates in the 1976 primaries. Avedon quickly expanded the assignment to a statement of power in America. The names themselves paint a portrait of the time: Cesar Chavez, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Barbara Jordan, Bella Abzug, Gerald Ford, Thomas Eagleton, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Rose Mary Woods. The National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets, N.W., is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Admission is free. For information: (202) 357-2700.

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