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Explore Europe at home

Have the weakened dollar and the economic slowdown made you say au revoir to that European vacation? Do not despair, mon cheri. In addition to local Bastille Day celebrations, there are several things you can do close to home that will at least make you feel like you've traveled abroad.

France

Activity: On Friday, the North Davidson Arts District has a Bastille Day event with mimes, artists, musicians and French fare. 6-9 p.m. Around 36th and North Davidson streets. Free. www.noda.org.

Also, the French American Chamber of Commerce of N.C.'s annual Bastille Day Celebration is Sunday. There's French wine, food, music and entertainment. 3-8 p.m. Extravaganza Depot, 1610 N. Tryon St. Free. www.faccnc.org.

Restaurant: Lulu in the Plaza Midwood area has food with a French twist. 1911 Central Ave. www.luludinewine.com.

Day Trip: Biltmore House in Asheville, a French chateau modeled after those in France's Loire Valley, is still America's largest privately owned home. Times and prices vary. www.biltmore.com.

Italy

Activity: Discovery Place's “A Day in Pompeii” – an exhibit that brings the ancient Roman city up from the ashes – opens Friday. 301 N. Tryon St. Tickets must be ordered in advance. www.discoveryplace.org.

Restaurant: One of the delizioso spots owned by Augusto Conte, a native of Italy: Toscana Ristorante, 6401 Morrison Blvd.; Luce, 214 N. Tryon St.; Coco Osteria, also at 214 N. Tryon St.; Il Posto Osteria, 310 Sharon Road; and Mezzanotte Brick Oven, 2907 Providence Road.

Day Trip: We're not Tuscany yet, but we do have some nearby vineyards that are producing good wines in scenic settings. A staff favorite is Childress Vineyards in Lexington (www.childressvineyards.com); browse the state's many winery options at www.visitncwine.com.

Germany

Activity: Visit the Carolina Room at the Main Library uptown to see an exhibit about our city and county's namesake, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, Germany. 310 N. Tryon St. 704-416-0150.

Restaurant: Waldhorn (pronounced Vahld-horn) is a good place for traditional and contemporary German food (from wienerschnitzel to apfelstrudel), from a family with German roots and experience. 12101 Lancaster Highway, Pineville. www.waldhorn.us.

Day Trip: Visit the BMW Plant in Greer, S.C., (on I-85 between Spartanburg and Greenville). Its Zentrum Museum is loaded with cool machines, including a Z3 used in the James Bond flick “Goldeneye.” Free. 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. www.bmwzentrum.com.

England

Activity: The British are known for their equestrian endeavors, so do some horseback riding along the wooded trails at Latta Plantation. 6201 Sample Road, Huntersville. $23 for guided trail rides; $60 for a two-hour sunset ride that includes dinner. Reservations required. www.charmeck.org.

Restaurant: The owners of Big Ben British Pub and Restaurant are from England, so they know how to pour a pint and serve up British fare, from cottage pie to fish 'n' chips. 801 Providence Road. www.bigbenpub.com.

Day Trip: See the British get their bums kicked at the Battle of Huck's Defeat, a Revolutionary War battle re-enactment at Historic Brattonsville. 2 p.m. Saturday. 1414 Brattonsville Road, McConnells, S.C. $5-$10. www.chmuseums.org.

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