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ESCAPE KEYS: Portsmouth, Va.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

GETTING THERE: Portsmouth is about a 3 1/2 -hour drive from the Capital Beltway. Take Interstate 95 south to I-295 south around Richmond, then I-64 east toward Hampton. Several airlines offer nonstop flights from this area to Norfolk; fares on Southwest from BWI can go as low as about $118 round-trip, with restrictions.

WHERE TO STAY: The comfortable Patriot Inn Bed & Breakfast (201 North St., 757-391-0157, http://www.bbonline.com/va/patriot; from $100) has four antiques-filled rooms with private baths. Hawthorn Hotel & Suites at the Governor Dinwiddie (506 Dinwiddie St., 800-527-1133, http://www.hawthornhotelandsuites.com; from $79) opened in 1945 as the Hotel Portsmouth, fell into disrepair and reopened as the beautifully renovated Hawthorn in 2005.

WHERE TO EAT: At Stove, the Restaurant (2622 Detroit St.), chef and co-owner Sydney Meers serves upscale Southern with a sense of humor and a side of camp. Entrees from $23. For diners wanting a romantic repast, Cafe Europa (319 High St.) in Olde Towne is one of the region's favorite spots; it specializes in Continental cuisine. Entrees from $12.

WHAT TO DO: Olde Towne Lantern Tours are held June 3-Sept. 6 and cost $5; reservations not necessary. Info: 757-393-5111, http://www.visitportsva.com. The dated but fascinating Naval Shipyard Museum (2 High St.) is $1.50-$3. Info: 757-393-8591, http://www.portsnavalmuseums.com.

The information center (see below) can provide details on other attractions, including the Courthouse Galleries art museum (High and Court streets), the Children's Museum of Virginia (221 High St.) and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame (206 High St.).

INFO: Portsmouth Visitor Information Center,800-767-8782, http://www.visitportsva.com and http://www.oldetowneportsmouth.com.

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