On Monday, August 21, 2017, a 2,200-mile-long, coast-to-coast swath of the United States stretching from Lincoln Beach, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, will experience a total solar eclipse, when the moon completely blocks out the sun and only the sun’s corona is visible. As the moon casts its shadow, midday darkness ensues, if only for just a few minutes (or seconds).
This, as they say, is a Big Deal — one of nature’s true wonders, the stuff of myth and memory.
The last time a total solar eclipse crossed the entire continental United States was in 1918 — almost a century ago. (There have been several other instances where total solar eclipses could be viewed in certain regions of the country — the last in 1979, when only Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota were treated… Continue reading
If you have a passionate interest in a particular topic — it could be just about anything — you’re a prime candidate for theme travel.
In my younger days, I was obsessed by the paintings of the 15th-century Flemish fantasist Hieronymus Bosch, and trekked all over Europe attempting to see every one of them; I fell a little short, but had a wonderful time and my dedicated purpose gave my journey added meaning.
I was traveling by myself, but theme travel often involves going with like-minded people who share your passion. Take theme cruises, for instance.
The Lure of Theme Cruises
For six years I wrote a regular theme cruise column for Porthole Cruise Magazine, which chronicled the adventures of folks who are crazy about the most wide-ranging subjects imaginable:
Birding cruises….mah jongg cruises…vegan cruises…vampire cruises…marathon (running)… Continue reading
As regular readers of this blog know, I have a soft spot for off-the-beaten-track destinations.
Yes, I love Paris and Venice and London, but I also like to explore the lesser-known out-of-the-wsy places that many travelers never reach.
Once years ago, I set off by train from Paris to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, a medieval abbey off the coast of Normandy that I had read about in college in the Henry Adams’ book, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres.
The trip took two full days because the train connections were awful, but I made it, and didn’t regret it. It’s a dramatically situated Gothic masterpiece, rising atop a rocky island with a maze of narrow streets surrounding it.
Traditionally, Mont-Saint-Michel has only been reachable by land when the tides are out, via squishy mud flats. When the tides come in,… Continue reading
It features a number of “exam” questions that, in a humorous way, are designed to get you thinking about whether you’d rather spend this January in Italy — on their 10-day tour of Rome and Naples called “Fundamental Italy” — or back home in the U.S. in the dead of winter.
Illustrated with photos old and new, the exam asks you to choose between, among other things, shoveling snow or standing in the sunshine overlooking Rome’s Tiber River; having a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or a cappuccino; eating American fast food or Italian pasta; and viewing a smoggy American city or what looks to be a dreamy photo of the Isle of… Continue reading
While most Americans are understandably sick to death of this year’s nightmarish presidential race, a British tour agency — called Political Tours — is busy putting the final touches on “US Election Tour 2016.”
Yes, a number of stalwart, stiff-upper-lip Brits — still reeling from Brexit — are actually ponying up £3,650 apiece to visit key locations in the epic confrontation of Trump vs. Clinton (AKA the Campaign from Hell).
The week-long tour — timed for maximum excitement from November 2 to November 9, the day after the election — visits the key battleground state of Florida as well as Washington, DC (which, of course, will be devoid of Congresspeople, who are all back home trolling for votes).
Political insider David Rancourt will lead the tour. Described as “a senior… Continue reading
I’m not very good at remembering all the special commemorative days and sometimes obscure holidays that I should.
For example, I forgot National Grandparents Day this year, even though I had written about it last year — and, even worse, it was my first Grandparents Day as an actual grandparent. It was only when a relative wished me a Happy Grandparents Day that the light went on in my head.
The United Nations first declared World Tourism Day in 1980 to highlight the social, economic, cultural and political benefits of tourism, which now accounts for about 10 percent of the global economy — the largest single industry in the world.
Airlines, cruise lines, rail lines, bus lines, rental car agencies…hotels, motels, B&Bs, resorts, inns…restaurants, cafes, street vendors…tour companies, guides, travel agents, guidebook… Continue reading
Cotopaxi, a company that makes backpacks, jackets and other outdoor gear — and donates a percentage of its earnings to worthy causes around the world — has come out with an infographic in celebration of this year’s 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service.
It shows the top five U.S. National Parks in terms of annual visitation, plus five “Hidden Gems” that are far less visited.
The top five visited National Parks, in order, are Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain, California’s Yosemite, and Yellowstone, which extends over parts of three states: mostly Wyoming, but also Montana and Idaho.
I’ve visited all of the most popular ones at one time or another, but have to admit I’ve never been to any of the Hidden Gens: Washington’s North Cascades, Florida’s Dry Tortugas, South Carolina’s… Continue reading
Research has shown that as we get older, we tend to become more altruistic
As “narcissistic and materialistic values wane in influence” (with age) writes Jim Gilmartin, CEO of the Chicago-based agency Coming of Age, which specializes in marketing to baby boomers and seniors,”concern for others increases.”
In the travel field, this trend has helped fuel the rapid rise of volunteer vacations, also known as “voluntourism”
The concept is simple: rather than go on a more traditional vacation, such as taking a cruise or staying at a resort, you sign up with a company or agency that sets you up to work on a project such as helping in wildlife conservation, building classrooms and homes, or improving local water systems, usually in the developing world.
Yes, you pay for the privilege of helping others, but it’s not necessarily all work and no play, and benefits accrue to the travelers… Continue reading
I just returned from a week-long cruise to Cuba aboard the Greek ship Celestyal Crystal, in the company of 776 fellow passengers, many of them from the United States.
Along with some journalists who were guests of Celestyal Cruises, the Americans were aboard under the auspices of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a Riverhead, New York-based “People to People” program promoting U.S.-Cuba relations.
The ship was also filled with Canadians, Germans, French, English and other nationalities who had been free to visit Cuba for years, mostly for Caribbean beach vacations.
Americans, on the other hand, have been highly restricted in travels to Cuba for decades, though things are now loosening up following President Obama’s recent rapprochement with Raul Castro.
As of March 16, 2016, just prior to Obama’s historic visit to Havana, Americans can now… Continue reading
With Season 6 of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones almost here, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with Westeros, Winterfell, Essos, King’s Landing, The Seven Kingdoms, the Iron Throne, Tyrion, Cersei, the rest of the Lannisters, Daenerys and the Targaryens, the Baratheons, the Starks, Lord Baelish, the Greyjoys, the Wildlings, the White Walkers…and dozens of other characters, places, families, armies, kings and would-be kings, sadists, liars, spies, schemers, charlatans, lovers, knights, dragons and dungeons we don’t have room to mention.
You can be forgiven if occasionally you get confused about who’s who and what’s what. But GoT is just about the most popular TV show in the world right now, seen in 193 countries (we’re guessing North Korea is the outlier), and we’re big fans, too.
What better way to get ready for Season 6 than visiting some or… Continue reading