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Coming and Going: Lincoln's Life, Trouble in Bangkok, Window Watching in NYC

Sunday, November 30, 2008

SETTING PRESIDENTS
Team of Revels

Okay, here's a name you haven't heard in a while: Abraham Lincoln.

Kidding. What with the looming changeover in Washington, a president with Illinois roots and cable news anchors competing to see who can sell more copies of Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals," you might be forgiven for pleading Lincoln overkill. Sorry, but the 200th anniversary of Abe's birth is just around the corner, and that means a plethora of events in the three states that lay claim to him.

Everything began, at least for Lincoln, in Kentucky, where the future prez spent his first seven years. The Lincoln Heritage Trail takes you on a tour of the central part of the state (see a map at http://www.kylincolntrail.com); highlights include Abe's boyhood home in Hodgenville and the temple in Harrodsburg where his parents were married.

Continuing chronologically, we arrive in Spencer County, Ind., where Lincoln lived from age 7 to 21. "That's really kind of the forgotten part of the Lincoln story," said Melissa Miller, the Spencer County visitors bureau director. "People know the log cabin years and the statesman years in lllinois, but not so much about that part in between. We want to change that."

Among Miller's recommendations were the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, the Lincoln Pioneer Village in Rockport and, starting in June, a new "theatrical experience" called "LINCOLN" at the Lincoln Amphitheatre in Lincoln City. More ideas can be found at the official Web site (http://www.thinklincoln.org).

And last but not least, there's Illinois, home of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield (http://www.alplm.org). The ticker on the Web site may say the bicentennial is more than 70 days away, but that doesn't mean folks aren't already celebrating. "Illinois's state motto is 'The Land of Lincoln,' and we want to live up to that billing by hosting a birthday party as big as the 16th president's legacy," said David Blanchette, a spokesman for the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

On the docket: Christmas candlelight tours of Lincoln's parents' home and holiday celebrations at the church where they worshiped -- and that's just during the next few weeks. For more Lincoln than you ever thought possible, visit the commission's Web site, at http://www.lincoln200.net.

ASIA WATCH
Bangkok Airport Closed

On Tuesday, the situation in Thailand took a turn for the worse: Protesters stormed Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, shutting down the international hub and forcing airport officials to cancel flights. It remained closed when the Travel section went to press Wednesday. The protest was the latest one by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which opposes Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and is loyal to the monarchy.

PAD has been battling the government for six months, with the worst clashes happening Oct. 7, when two protesters were killed and hundreds were injured in clashes with police. Before that, Thailand had enjoyed 16 years of relative calm since a violent coup in 1992. (A 2006 coup that precipitated the current situation was bloodless.)

So, what does this mean for travelers?

CoGo spoke with Benjamin Melenson, who is a senior watch manager at iJET Intelligent Risk Systems, a company that advises corporations on travel and asset risks. "The biggest thing is that there's no reason not to go to Thailand at this point," Melenson said, although getting in and out of Bangkok is difficult right now. Flights are being diverted to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, and Phuket, in the south, both of which are long train rides from Bangkok.

The airport closing has affected as many as 10,000 people, said Melenson, who said it is primarily an attempt by PAD to call attention to its grievances. "None of this is aimed at foreigners."

HOLIDAY ATTRACTIONS
Window Watching in NYC

In New York City, viewing the wildly inventive window displays of Midtown department stores is as much a part of Christmas as sitting on Santa's lap and asking for a pony -- or a healthy portfolio. The iconic retailers recently unveiled their themed vignettes behind glass. Here are six that get the sugarplum fairies dancing.

· Barney's (660 Madison Ave., at 61st Street): Creative director Simon Doonan, the Picasso of window confectioners, spreads peace, love and eco-friendly fabrics with "Have a Hippie Holiday." Stars include the peace sign, which celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the wild-haired ladies of boho rock: Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin and Carole King.

· Bergdorf Goodman (754 Fifth Ave., at 58th Street): With "Calendar Girls," the month-by-month muses flaunt their seasons. For Spring, Misses June-August frolic among unicorns, turtles and a waterfall; in Winter, the ladies of January and February stroll in a white enchanted forest. And because four seasons isn't enough, the store added Holiday, a last-course feast thrown by Miss December and 12 curious monkeys.

· Bloomingdale's (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street): In "Oh What Fun," Bloomie's is dreaming of white-haired crooner Tony Bennett. Each vintage stylized window uses a song (featured on his new holiday album, natch) as its inspiration: "I'll Be Home for Christmas," for example, portrays a soldier returning from war and a mom cooking a turkey dinner a la Donna Reed.

· Lord & Taylor (424 Fifth Ave., at 38th Street): For "My Favorite Christmas Traditions," the store decorated its windows with miniature scenes that capture the old-time spirit of Christmas: chestnut vendors, a ballerina in full pink tutu, ice skaters and a gingerbread carousel from a pre-Zone Diet era.

· Macy's (34th Street at Herald Square): "Believe" is dedicated to those who still think Santa, not Mom and Dad, leaves the gifts under the tree. The decorations illustrate how magic, not science, brings to life Christmas's main ingredients.

· Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Ave., at 49th Street): "A Flake Like Mike" has nothing to do with the dimwitted guy in Accounting. Rather, the store based its decorations on the new children's holiday book of the same name. Watch for a flurry of mechanical flakes with "human characteristics."

For more information on New York City: NYC & Co., 212-484-1200, http://www.nycgo.com.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Fly from Reagan National to Cancun, Mexico, for $307 round trip, including taxes, with a sale from American Airlines. Travel Monday-Thursday through Dec. 31; some dates are sold out. Other airlines are matching. Book by Dec. 18 at http://www.aa.com, or pay $20 more by calling 800-433-7300.

Reporting: Scott Vogel, Christina Talcott, Andrea Sachs

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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