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Briefs: Spirits check in at Richmond hotel

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The Linden Row Inn, a 70-room boutique hotel carved out of seven graceful, historic Greek Revival townhouses in the heart of downtown Richmond, is an old, antique-filled property, with enormous 12-foot-ceilinged rooms and winding staircases that list charmingly toward the banisters.

It’s just the sort of place where you easily can imagine encountering a spectral vision in crinoline in an upstairs hallway or floating on the long, romantic veranda on a moonless night. It does, in fact, have an Edgar Allan Poe connection.

According to hotel literature, young Poe lived across the street for a time with his adoptive parents, in the home of one Charles Ellis, and spent happy hours frolicking among the flowers with the Ellis children. Years later, the story goes, he memorialized this childhood playground as the “enchanted garden” in his mournful1848 poem “To Helen.”

Nobody says Poe’s ghost still is hanging around, but, surely, the inn has something supernatural to offer. There were slave quarters in the back, and a succession of girls’ schools pre- and post-Civil War, one run by the widow of a Confederate general.

The Linden Row Inn is at 100 E. Franklin St., Richmond. Rooms start at $119. Continental breakfast is included.

Details: 800-348-7424 or www.lindenrowinn.com .

Armchair traveler

At some point early in life, perhaps, when looking at a world map, we realize that we cannot possibly go to every place in the world.

Judith Schalansky grew up in East Germany loving atlases that seem to suggest the Earth is an infinite place. To Schalansky, an atlas, which many of us take for granted, is a neglected form of poetry.

“Atlas of Remote Islands” is the anti-guidebook. Schalansky writes about places she never has set foot in. Instead, she “visits” 50 islands around the world. Some of them are world-famous (Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Iwo Jima), and some, like the aptly named Lonely Island in Russia, have no inhabitants at all.

There is a haunting quality to the text that is reflected by the stories the author tells. Franklin Island in the Antarctic Ocean, for example, is named after Sir John Franklin, the 19th-century polar explorer who never returned from his ill-fated voyage to find the elusive Northwest Passage. Other islands reside in the thin line between the imagination and reality. More than 600 people might live on the Chilean island of Robinson Crusoe in the Pacific, but it is named after the famous literary figure rather than the real-life castaway, Alexander Selkirk, who is said to have inspired Crusoe creator Daniel Defoe. (Penguin; $28; 144 pages; hardcover)

The wedding crashers

Two Swiss tourists who chose the Maldives’ white-sand beaches as the setting to renew their marriage vows were instead mocked by the officiator, who chanted abuse and curses in the local language at the unsuspecting couple.

The ceremony, posted on YouTube with English subtitles translating the abuse, has embarrassed the Maldives, and President Mohammed Nasheed condemned it as “absolutely disgraceful.” Police arrested the celebrant and a helper — an apparent damage-control bid for the country whose economy is driven by tourism. Police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam says that the two men under arrest were hotel employees.

The government identified the couple as Swiss nationals but did not name them. The video shows the woman in a white dress and the man wearing a white shirt and khaki trousers, standing with their palms facing upward around a table with two rings in coconut shells. Two witnesses and the celebrant also are present, all of them in a palm-leaf enclosure. The officiator begins chanting in the Dhivehi language that “under penal code clause seven, forbidden fornication is now legal,” and goes on to insult the couple, including calling them “swine.” The Maldives is an Indian Ocean archipelago of 350,000 people chosen by many tourists for weddings and honeymoons.


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