Out of the past in Va.



Fodor's / $21.95

If you've tried to buy a guidebook to Israel, chances are the most up-to-date book you found was from 2003. Fodor's has recently published a revised guide to Israel -- its first since 2001. And this fall it will release an updated Exploring Israel guide. Tourism to Israel sank after the Sept. 11 attacks, but it has been steadily increasing for the past several years. While Israel has long been a destination for Jewish Americans, in recent years tours for Christian travelers have become popular, too. Itineraries in the Fodor's guide include a six-day "Footsteps of Jesus" tour -- including the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Stations of the Cross, Mount Zion and the Sea of Galilee.



Bidding farewell to Steel Pier

Once famous for its diving horse and celebrities but more recently renowned for amusement rides and cotton candy, Atlantic City's Steel Pier is fading into history. The landmark once dubbed the "Showplace of the Nation" opened in 1898 and juts 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, but it will close in mid-October to make way for new development -- most likely a mixture of high-end condominiums, restaurants and shops.



Hertz paints green picture

Hertz Corp. last month began renting what it calls its Green Collection: more than 40 fuel-efficient car models. All the vehicles get 28 mpg or more on the highway, according to ratings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The most fuel-efficient car in the program, at 33 mpg, is the Toyota Camry. Hybrid cars are not part of the program. Customers pay $5 extra per day for the Green Collection. The program is available at 50 major U.S. airports, including Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.



It's indeed a small -- and entertaining -- world after all with Philips' newest portable DVD player. The PET 320 / 37, which is about the size of a typical portable CD player, comes with a generous supply of helpful features. Among these are a pop-out stand integrated into a rechargeable battery unit that snaps onto the back of the DVD player; a car cigarette lighter adapter; an AC wall adapter; a cable for connecting to a TV; stereo mini-headphones and a cloth pouch. The 3.5-inch digital display provides an acceptable -- though not razor-sharp -- picture, and the built-in stereo speakers provide crystal-clear sound. The unit can play commercial DVDs, all writable DVD and CD formats, and JPEG image files. The control panel has a zoom function and a menu button that enables the user to access the "bonus" content provided with many DVD movies. Portable DVD Player (PET 320 / 37) is $130 from Philips; www.store.philips.com; 800-451-2851.



Frank Gehry puts touches on hotel

Architect Frank Gehry, already a major presence in Spain with his dazzlingly successful Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, now has a hotel. In the heart of the Rioja wine region, about 80 miles from Bilbao, the hotel, the Marques de Riscal, is set at a 150-year-old winery, and some of Gehry's touches reflect that influence. An example is the roof -- constructed from curved plates of titanium suspended at different angles and tinted rose, silver and gold -- symbolizing a grapevine. The hotel, part of the Starwood organization, has 43 rooms, two restaurants, a spa and a cooking school.


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