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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vampire Travels

On the trail of vampires

Even before 'Twilight' and 'True Blood' helped raise their pop-culture profiles, vampires had left their marks in many places. The garlic is optional.

Vampires have long been objects of fascination in history, literature and lore. With the Nov. 20 release of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," HBO's "True Blood" and their countless imitators, Americans are welcoming vampires into their homes again. Though many consider Transylvania to be the lair of vampirism, there's plenty of vampire culture right here. Whether you have just come out of the coffin or long thirsted for night life, these locations offer plenty of opportunities to explore the dark side.

Exeter, R.I.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries in New England, many believed vampires were the source of the rampant transmission of tuberculosis. According to folklorist Michael Bell, author of "Food for the Dead," there are at least 40 documented cases in which corpses were exhumed and their vital organs burned and stakes driven through the hearts in attempts to halt the alleged vampires from spreading the disease.

The most famous case of exhumation is that of Mercy Brown of Exeter, whose brother Edwin had contracted tuberculosis. Because of the cold temperatures and the fact that she had recently died, Mercy's heart still contained blood that was not frozen or blackened. It was decided that she was a vampire, Edwin was forced to drink her blood, and Mercy's vital organs were burned. H.P. Lovecraft, who's buried in Providence's Swan Point Cemetery, wrote about Mercy's case in "The Shunned House." It's also said that Bram Stoker used Mercy as reference for "Dracula."

The Providence Biltmore, a historic building with imposing chandeliers and a giant '20s-style ballroom, is an ideal spot to stay while visiting. The hotel is near Swan Point Cemetery and 20 minutes from the more bucolic Exeter, where Brown is buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery. With the advent of winter, this New England sojourn will undoubtedly supply plenty of darkness for the photosensitive.

Providence Biltmore Hotel:

11 Dorrance St., Providence, R.I.; (800) 294-7709, www.providencebiltmore. Doubles from $119.

New Orleans

Whether it's the fictional town of Bon Temps in the "True Blood" series or the setting of Anne Rice's vampire novels, New Orleans and environs are well-known in vampire lore.

Oak Alley Plantation, built in 1839, was the location for Lestat's mansion in the movie version of "Interview With the Vampire." Its antebellum plantation cottages now have been converted into a bed-and-breakfast at this house on the banks of the Mississippi River about an hour from New Orleans.

Though "True Blood's" Fangtasia bar has no true brick and mortar, there are plenty of other watering holes for the undead in New Orleans' historic French Quarter: Sip a Dragon's Blood cocktail at Ye Olde Original Dungeon, which is decorated with coffins and cages.

Before you head out into the night, you might want to stock up on some vampire gear at Boutique du Vampyre, where you can get the Vamp N.R.G. drink or vampire-attracting perfume. Historic New Orleans Tours offers twilight excursions through the French Quarter that visit locations in Rice's novels as well as for "Interview With the Vampire" and "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant."

Oak Alley Plantation: 3645 Highway 18, Vacherie, La. (225) 265-2151, www.oakalleyplantation. Doubles from $200. Ye Olde Original Dungeon, 738 Toulouse St., New Orleans; (504) 523-5530, www.originaldungeon.com. Boutique du Vampyre, 712 rue Orleans, New Orleans; (504) 561-8267, www.feelthebite.com/home.html; Historic New Orleans Tours, (504) 947-2120, www.tourneworleans.com.

New York

Its dark, monochromatic interior makes Gotham's Night Hotel an ideal haven for bloodsuckers and night dwellers. Designed three years ago by Mark Zeff, the hotel's décor is accented with giant Gothic-style pillars, black-and-white leather chairs, black horsehair couches, pillows, antique wooden armoires, bookshelves and black-and-white erotic photographic prints.

Inside the hotel's lounge, Nightlife, a jail cell door keeps the bartender behind the bar. Check out the NewGothCity website at www.newgothcity.com for goth events and parties.

For a less vamp-sclusive outing, a must-do is Death & Co., which features cocktails such as the Sleepy Hollow Fizz (rum, lemon juice, maple syrup, pumpkin purée and egg yolk) and the aptly named 18th Century cocktail (Batavia Arrack, crème de cacao, vermouth and fresh lime juice). You might also stop by the Vampire Freaks clothing store to pick up new threads and info on the East Village's gothic and vamp parties.

Night Hotel: 132 W. 45th St., N.Y.; (212) 835-9600, www.night. Doubles from $199. Death & Co., 433 E. 6th St., N.Y.; (212) 388-0882, www.deathand. Vampire Freaks, 189 Ave. A, New York; (212) 505-8267, http://vampirefreaks.com/store.

Forks, Wash.

The success of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga has turned this town batty, and the Pacific Inn Motel is no exception. The six "Twilight" rooms offer fans an unusual overnight experience. Each is painted black and red, embellished with posters of the characters and are stocked with apples to munch on (they're meant to recall the novel's cover). The bathrooms have black towels with "Twilight" embroidered on them, but you'll have to bring your own glitter soaps and lotions if you want to get a glow like Edward's.

Dazzled by Twilight leads daily theme tours through Forks and the seaside town of La Push, but the innkeepers recommend that you take a trip through the stunning Hoh Rain Forest, where the giant trees and ominous fog dominate the scenery in the movie.

You can also stop for a meal at Bella Swan's favorite eatery in Port Angeles, Bella Italia (watch the garlic!), and take a picture next to Bella's cool old truck at the Chamber of Commerce.

Yet another "Twilight"-oriented restaurant is scheduled to open early next year. Now called the Lodge, it originally was named Volterra after the "New Moon" location. It will include a downstairs bar appropriately named the Dungeon.

Pacific Inn Motel: 352 S. Forks Ave., Forks, Wash.; (360) 374-9400, www.pacificinnmotel.com. Doubles from $66. Bella Italia, 118 E. 1st. St., Port Angeles, Wash.; www.bella. Dazzled by Twilight, 61 N. Forks Ave., Forks, Wash.; (360) 374-8687, www.dazzledbytwilight.

Santa Cruz, Calif.

The view from the Cliff Crest Bed & Breakfast Innoverlooks West Cliff Boulevard and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, two prominent locations in the '80s vampire flick "The Lost Boys." The rooms in this Queen Anne Victorian have king-size beds with hand-carved posts and canopies, lace-covered windows and fireplaces.

Although gentrification and the expansion of UC Santa Cruz have transformed the city, the movie's motorcycle culture is very much alive.

Check out riding with the Vampires Motorcycle Club, or visit the Red Restaurant & Bar, whose lounge is decked out with blood-red walls, roaring fireplaces and seductive low lighting that makes even the whitest pallor look delicious.

For a mid-morning feed, have brunch at the reputedly haunted Brookdale Inn & Spa, just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 9, which is said to be visited by the spirit of a former owner's niece who drowned in the creek that runs through the dining room.

Make sure you check out some of the rocky caves at Panther Beach, which look strikingly similar to the "vampire hotel" where the Lost Boys resided.

Cliff Crest Bed & Breakfast Inn: 407 Cliff St., Santa Cruz; (831) 427-2609, www.cliffcrestinn.com. Doubles from $145. Red Restaurant & Bar, 1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; (831) 425-1913. Brookdale Inn & Spa, 11570 Highway 9, Brookdale; (831) 338-1300, www.brookdaleinnandspa. Vampires Motorcycle Club, www.vampiresmc.com


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