We’re now in high season for travel to Europe, which means that many Americans will be traveling on Europe’s extensive rail network, many of them for the first time. Sure, it’s easy enough to buy a Eurail Pass before going, but is that the most cost effective way to go? Or is it cheaper to simply buy a point-to-point ticket? Here are five myths about rail passes in Europe.
While I certainly enjoy the occasional beer, I drink a lot less of it than wine and spirits, and I’m not a serious craft beer guy. I appreciate the process and the passion, I seek out local beer when I travel, and I have been to too many craft breweries to recall them all. But it has always seemed to me that the emphasis of the industry has been too heavily focused on heavy, heavily hopped, high alcohol beers, or esoteric options like coffee and fruit flavors (before you write in hate mail, remember the part about “seems to me” – it might seem different to you).
The water gets warm mid-summer at Cape May, New Jersey
By David McKay Wilson
When we hit Exit 0 on the Garden State Parkway in August, it will mark the 15th year we’ve return to Cape May, that seaside community at the state’s southern tip that caters to families, provides top-notch vacation homes for rent near the sprawling beach, and features the vibrant Washington Street Mall – a pedestrian strip with shops, restaurants, and ice-cream shops that teems with activity each night.
It’s a laid-back vacation village where kids can safely ride bikes around town, the Atlantic warms to the mid-70s for prolonged body-surfing and front porches rule at cocktail hour.
As New Englanders, we’d never considered the Jersey Shore because our childhood beach memories were formed on Cape Cod, staying in cottages up on the North Truro dunes and digging clams on the tidal flats in the bay. We discovered Cape May in 2001 when my cousin invited us down to the rental house his family had rented for many years. We fell in love with the place, and vowed to return, which we have done, year after year.
We aren’t the first to make a habit of vacationing in Cape May. Families have flocked there since the 18th century, when Philadelphians would arrive by stagecoach or boat. By the 19th century, New Yorkers arrived in style by train. We drive, arising before dawn to beat the traffic on the four-hour drive south from New York City’s northern suburbs.
Cape May lays claim to being America’s oldest seaside resort, and its more than 600 restored Victorian homes from the 19th century provide that historical context. Many of the old homes were transformed into inns along Jackson Street and Columbia Avenue, with the restored Congress Hall the centerpiece of Cape May’s downtown, which is considered a National Historic Landmark.
Cape May has a few high-rise hotels along the beach, but the Cape May we know is a homey place, a resort where you rent a house for a week, relax, and find time to play together. It’s a place where you park your car and walk to the beach or bike to the market. It’s a place where my kids and their cousins have grown up on summer holiday.
As more of our family members and friends have joined in, we’ve found ever bigger houses to rent through the Cape May Times or the CapeMayRentals.com. The best places are available in the fall, for the following summer, but last-minute bookings are still available. If all goes well, you’ll most likely get dibs on the place the following year.
That hasn’t always happened, with the owners deciding to come themselves that week, or rent to another family.
We’ve moved around a bit since 2002, getting a sense of the Cape May market. First it was the Hedgehog House at 811 Sewall Ave., a three-story green Victorian right next door to the place my cousins have rented. Then it was around the corner at Franklin’s Key.
We loved 20 Queen Street, just a block from the beach, with its fabulous wraparound porch that had awnings providing so much privacy it was almost as if you had another room. It rents for $6,650 in early August.
We did a year at 200 Madison – all air-conditioned, with a glassed-in front-porch and dining room big enough for 18. It’s $6,100 a week in early August, but dips to $3,700 a week in September.
809 Kearney Avenue at Cape May, New Jersey
Then came the Victorian Angler, at 809 Kearney Avenue, where we’ve stayed for the past several years, with eight bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and an outdoor shower that’s the best place to wash off after a day at the beach or afternoon of family doubles at the Cape May Tennis Club.
Most evenings, we gather on the front porch to catch up, partake in that evening’s signature cocktail and partake in lawn games out front – be it tossing bean bags in Corn Hole, or flinging Frisbees to score points in Kan Jam.
Then its dinner, with one family in charge of cooking that night, with a feast that could begin with raw oysters or smoked bluefish from the Lobster House.
For Cape May, the Victorian Angler is a great value, at $4,000 a week. We’ve paid more than $6,000 for previous houses, but they all had air-conditioning. The Angler, staying true to its Victorian roots, has no summer-time cooling, except for the fans in each of the bedrooms and the cool Atlantic breeze off the Atlantic, just two blocks away.
We’ve developed our routine over the years. We walk daily to the Queen Street beach, sitting just to the left of the lifeguard stand, where our cousins and another Connecticut family knows to meet us. There, we’ll body-surf the waves, fling Frisbees, or hunker down under a beach umbrella to read that novel we’ve saved for vacation reading.
If we think far enough ahead, we rent a box at the beach to store our beach chairs and umbrellas.
Beach pinci at Cape May, New Jersey
We buy locally grown vegetables at Duckie’s Farm Stand on Broadway and hit the Lobster House for smoked bluefish and mussels. We walk to town after dinner for soft-serve ice cream at Dairy Queen. We adorn our table with bouquets of zinnias from Tina’s flower stand on Madison Avenue and nab the fudge samples outside Morrow’s Nut House on the Boardwalk.
At the Cape May Tennis Club, which has 14 clay courts on Washington Street, we rent court time for our annual family doubles matches.
The traditions change too as the children grow older, and they become more independent. When the kids were in grade school, we’d rally our crew for a ride out to the Cape May Lighthouse, a few miles down to Cape May’s southern tip. Then we gathered them together to ride over the Broadway bridge out to the Cold Spring bike trail – a 14-mile jaunt that our youngest, an 11-year-old, did with alacrity one August.
Now the teens don’t ride with us much. Instead, they put on their helmets and ride on their own north to Wildwood, for an afternoon at the amusement park. The adults, meanwhile, have widened their bike-riding terrain as well, venturing as far north along the Atlantic as Stone Harbor, and circling back west to take Route 47 by the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.
Perhaps this year we make it as far north as Avalon, or even Sea Isle. Who knows what will unfold in this year’s Cape May adventure?
David McKay Wilson, a veteran journalist who lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, is an avid cyclist, skier and swing dancer. His travel writing has taken him around the world, with his work appearing in the Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, and several Gannett daily newspapers.
Known as much for skiing as sunbathing, summer in New England is short and sweet, so locals and visitors alike make the most of it, flooding beaches and coastal resort destinations from Connecticut to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard to the Maine Coast, and the lakes and mountains of the unspoiled inland Northeast. Because of this sudden population boom, many eateries are dispensing traditional summer fare. And if you have a hankering for a lobster roll, fried clams or many other foods the Northeast associates with this time of the year, you need to get them while the getting is good.
Since leavingWisconsin after college, I’ve lived in big cities and small towns, on the East Coast, West Coast and in between. My life’s landscapes have featured mountains, high desert, rivers and oceans. Yet no geography speaks to my soul more than the lakes and eclectic woodlands of the northernMidwest, where we vacationed as a family back in the “Ozzie and Harriet” years.
From our home in southern Wisconsin, we headed north, joining several other families in our respective “housekeeping cabins” at a rustic resort on a pine-fringed lake. Our days revolved around fishing, swimming, twilight diversions like “Kick the Can” and if it rained, board and card games.
Without fail we spent one evening safe in our cars, watching the bears ransack a local garbage dump. Amusement came easily back then, without electronics–except for a transistor radio. Life was carefree indeed for all except mom (housekeeping cabins did require a housekeeper and cook, after all).
Fast forward several decades when my four siblings and I acknowledged that we might not have too many more summers with our aging parents. We decided to go retro and once again rent housekeeping cabins at a lakeside resort. This time northern Minnesotawas the destination, and for five precious summers, three generations returned to Lodge of Whispering Pines on Big Lake, near Ely, Minnesota.
Getting to Ely—near the Minnesota-Canadian border and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness—was its own adventure. Family members living in Iowa and Minnesota would drive from home while the rest of us flew to Minneapolis, then drive 250 miles north, thrilled when the road narrowed and farmland gave way to fabulous forest, a blend of conifers—pines, spruces, firs and junipers—and deciduous favorites including aspen, oak, birch, mountain ash and maple.
Ely (pop: 3,460) is the quintessential Midwestern seasonal tourist town. If you’re in the area over the Fourth of July, the Main Street parade, followed by a carnival in Whiteside Park in the heart of town, is classic—brats, beer, corn-on-the-cob and if you’re lucky, polka dancing!
Our rendezvous site in Ely was the Chocolate Moose, where homemade fresh fruit pie is king (strawberry-rhubarb is a family favorite). The Moose is ideally situated next door to Piragis Northwoods Company, the stem-to-stern outfitter for any regional adventure on land and water.
White Pine cabin
The Lodge of Whispering Pines–a 30-minute drive north of Ely—features 11 cabins and a cozy lodge with massive stone fireplace, nestled among the pines around a pristine cove. We always chose White Pine, where the large screened-in porch overlooks the lake, and Timberwolf, designated as the site of activity for family night owls. With only one other resort and a handful of cabins dotting the lakeshore, we felt as if Big Lake was our own.
As when we were kids, days revolved around fishing, swimming and twilight games. This time, we divvyed up the cooking and household chores, ensuring that mom was free of household chores. My brothers, nephews and dad were fishing at dawn, seeking prime angling spots in a small motorboat. My sisters and I kayaked several times each day, watching eagles soar, beavers maintain their lodge, and water lilies, right out of a Monet painting, float lazily. Around the campfire after dark, we invented new versions of S’mores (the “Elvis” includes peanut butter) while warding off swarms of thirsty mosquitoes.
Though we didn’t venture beyond its craggy shoreline, Big Lakeis an entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), home to some of the finest wilderness canoeing opportunities in the world. The expansive region includes nearly 1.3 million acres of lakes and old-growth pine forests, and boasts 1,500 miles of canoe routes and 2,000 campsites.
View from White Pine cabin
The end of our week at Whispering Pines was always bittersweet. Tradition dictated that our last family meal included the fishermen’s catch for the week, more bountiful some years than others. At sunset, our family flotilla took to Big Lake one more time, absorbing its beauty and our shared adventure as an indelible memory. It was out there–waves gently lapping around my kayak, treetops silhouetted against the setting sun, and family laughter echoing across the lake–where I knew I was home.
Julie Snyder lives near Lake Tahoe, where her current pet project is Nevada Humane Society. As a writer, editor and publisher, she’s contributed to a variety of lifestyle, in-flight and travel publications, and produced award-winning catalogs for Backroads travel company. Among her passions are animal welfare, walking, travel and the Green Bay Packers.
The view from the kitchen window. Photo by Gayle Potter.
By Everett Potter
I’ve spent the past few weeks lakeside in western Maine, in a cabin — or “camp” in Maine-speak — that dates back to the 1940’s or earlier, slowing down and trying to remove myself — if only temporarily — from the electronic maelstrom that is daily life for many of us.
It’s a place with creaking floors, a stone fireplace and windows that swing inward to open, letting in the great outdoors. That outdoors provides red squirrels chattering noisily on a tree limb and katydids humming their particular white noise at this time of year. At night, it’s the sometimes eerie, occasionally comical cry of the loon, a cry that can reach a hysteric crescendo should something be amiss.
I confess that while there isn’t a tuft of insulation to be found inside my cabin, there is broadband. As a journalist, I am as wired as the next guy. But with the lake shimmering and sending light waves flickering across the beamed ceiling, a cormorant perched on a nearby stone, the hummingbirds that visit almost daily, and the laughter of my daughter as she paddles a canoe to a nearby island for the first time in her eight years, the electronic universe I usually inhabit has some serious competition.
There’s a lot to be said for visiting Los Angeles in the winter. For those of us living in such seasonally unpleasant places as Toronto or New York, it’s an escape to sunshine. You won’t exactly find yourself sporting a bikini in January, but it’s a heck of a lot better than six inches of snow and temperatures that make your eyelashes freeze.
But as much as I enjoy a mid-winter getaway, it turns out that there are plenty of reasons to head to Los Angeles in the summer, too. For one thing, you actually can sport that bikini. For another, well, see below for a list of LA attractions that are best enjoyed during the sizzling days and balmy nights of August.
Cinespia. Photo by Catherine Streeter.
1. Catch a movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Saturday nights from May through September, Cinespia screens classic and contemporary films against a massive mausoleum wall within the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Gates open at 7:00, but locals of all ages line up early, picnic blankets in hand, to claim their patch of lawn. It’s a bit of a free-for-all, but a friendly enough one (and the good news is, if you forget your corkscrew, your neighbor will undoubtedly have one). Soon, everyone is settled, the pre-show DJ is spinning, drinks are flowing and extravagant picnics are laid out. Now in its 10th year, Cinespia is quintessential summertime LA. For details and the full schedule of August screenings, see www.cinespia.org.
2. Dine in the courtyard at Château Marmont
The legendary Château Marmont merits a visit at any time of year. The Sunset Boulevard folly (it was modeled after a Loire Valley castle) was constructed in 1927 and hasn’t been out of fashion—or the spotlight—since. Guests have included everyone from Greta Garbo and F. Scott Fitzgerald to John Belushi (who died in one of the bungalows) and Lindsay Lohan (who is said to have stayed for more than two years). Much more than just a celebrity haunt, the Château is timeless, as famous for its discretion as for its dramas, with cozy public spaces and Old Hollywood glamour. In summertime, the idyllic courtyard is the place to be. Framed by palm trees dripping with lights, it’s the perfect venue for both romantic dinners and impromptu parties. Don’t worry about misbehaving; there’s nothing you can do that these walls haven’t seen.
3. See a concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Listening to music under a blanket of stars is always a pleasure, but enjoying a concert at the Hollywood Bowl is truly magical. The largest natural outdoor amphitheatre in the country, the venue is the summer home for the LA Philharmonic. It also hosts numerous rock and pop concerts during its short season, which runs mid-June through late September. A range of options for purchasing food and alcohol can be found inside the grounds but, even better, for many events it’s possible to bring your own. Like Cinespia, there’s a great community vibe in the air. For details and a calendar of events, see www.hollywoodbowl.com.
Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.
4. Eat fish tacos at Paradise Cove
There are fancier places to eat fish tacos in LA, but none feels more authentic than the Paradise Cove Beach Café in Malibu. If you can get here during the week, it should be easy enough to secure a table outside, where your toes sink into the sand and you gaze toward the ocean as you contemplate the relative merits of fish, shrimp, Kobe beef, and spicy calamari tacos. I highly recommend the “Mix & Match” option, with a margarita to ease things down. Be sure to leave yourself time afterwards to lie on the beach and rate the surfers. www.paradisecovemalibu.com
5. Hang poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel
There are a number of painfully chic hotels in LA, and many more luxurious than the 240-room Roosevelt. But the Hollywood icon—originally opened for business in 1927 and host to the 1st Academy Awards two years later—is experiencing something of a hipster Renaissance at the moment. Furthermore, for a truly LA summertime experience—i.e. hanging poolside with impossibly beautiful people—it doesn’t get better. The David Hockney-painted pool plays host to plenty of private parties, but most of the time it’s possible to just catch some rays, grab lunch, and watch the scene.
6. Visit a Farmers’ Market
It’s true that Farmers’ Markets take place all year round in LA, but in summertime they really come alive—not just because of the mounds of bounty, but because locals tend to make it a proper event, thus encouraging the legion of prepared food vendors to set up shop. That means that in addition to beautiful fruits and veggies, there are stalls selling tamales, omelettes, grilled corn, crêpes, tacos, homemade mojito popsicles, and the like—perfect for a tourist to break bread with the locals (or to stock up on ingredients for a picnic at the Getty Center…see below). Almost every neighborhood has its own market on a designated day, but the best scene can be found at the Sunday morning market in Santa Monica. From 9:30 am to 1 pm.
The Getty Center. Photo by Catherine Streeter.
7. Picnic at the Getty Center
Architect Richard Meier’s modernist marvel sits atop a hillside overlooking all of Los Angeles—plus the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The exhibits are often wonderful, but I recommend the Museum here for its grounds as much as for its collection. The buildings themselves are made of a warm, honey-colored Italian travertine, all positioned to showcase the spectacular setting and surrounded by a series of gardens ideal for picnicking. You’d be hard pressed to find better views of the city. Parking is $15, but admission to the Museum and grounds are free. From the parking lot at the bottom of the hill, you’ll take a tram up to the top.
View from Runyon Canyon. Photo by Catherine Streeter
8. Take a hike in Runyon Canyon
Giving the Getty a run for its money in offering panoramic views, Runyon Canyon is also a Hollywood institution. You might recognize it from TV; pretty much any time any character on any show takes a hike in LA, it’s in Runyon. That said, it’s more of a walk than a hike, depending on which route you take, and won’t take you more than an hour. And what a walk it is…especially early morning or at dusk, when things are a little quieter (this is no well-kept secret; seemingly everyone in LA—and their dog—hikes at Runyon). Views change over the course of the hike, alternately taking in the Hollywood sign, more or less the entire city, and, on a clear day, all the way to the ocean. The park is open from dawn until dusk, and the easiest place to park is near the south gate, just north on Fuller Avenue from Hollywood Boulevard.
9. Have lunch at the Blue Plate Oysterette
For me, rosé is reserved for hot summer days, ideally consumed over a long, leisurely lunch of seasonal goodies. Located in an unassuming little space on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica is the two-year-old Blue Plate Oysterette—a perfectly simple spot boasting superb oysters, clams, ceviche, and other seafood treats. Arrive by noon and you should be able to nab one of the outdoor tables, which enjoy both views of the ocean and its refreshing breezes. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations. www. blueplatesantamonica.com
10. Watch the sunset at the beach
Nothing beats watching the sun sink into the ocean at the end of a great day. Do it in Malibu, do it in Santa Monica, do it in Venice—the view’s the same. Do it fancy, if you like; try the patio at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, or at Geoffrey’s or Moonshadows in Malibu. Or do it simple—from the end of the fishing pier in Venice, or seated in the sand after you’ve crossed the street from the Blue Plate Oysterette (you’re on holiday—nothing wrong with a four-hour lunch). If you hear people clapping, join in.
Catherine Streeter spent more than a decade guiding and researching luxury cycling and walking trips for Butterfield & Robinson. She applies that experience to her work as a brand and marketing consultant for travel companies, and has penned travel and lifestyle articles for the likes of SKY, Aspen Magazine, Indagare, and Vogue (Brazil). A film aficionado, Streeter has also written numerous screenplays, with an option under her belt and more on the horizon.
The view from the Island Inn on Monhegan towards Manana Island.
It had been 10 years since I last set foot on Monhegan Island, so on a sunny morning last summer, with my wife, daughter and niece in tow, we took the ferry from Boothbay Harbor on the 90 minute trip 10 miles out to
sea to the quintessential Maine island. Monhegan is shaped like a whale, a tidy little island of granite, evergreens and stony beaches with 160 foot cliffs. The handful of inns and guesthouses, shops and homes – just 75 people
live here year-round — are clustered on the sheltered side of the island, looking out at the bare Manana Island. There is a fine little shingle-clad library and maybe a dozen battered trucks on the island, used to haul lobster pots and to transport the luggage of “rusticators” like ourselves from the ferry, on the narrow, gravel roads that double as footpaths.
Monhegan painters at work. Photo by Gayle Conran.
In summer, lobstermen and their families tend to fade into the background as flocks of Sunday painters and a few serious artists arrive, many staying for weeks at a time in those tiny cottages with sea views.
If a seaside getaway is what you’re looking for this summer, there’s a lot to be said for staying in a remote lighthouse. A lighthouse is romantic and exotic, and when you check in, you’re pretty much guaranteed unimpeded sea views. Crowds and noise and neighbors are usually not an issue.
There are a handful of lighthouses around the US and Canada that offer guest accommodations in their former keeper’s quarters and out buildings. Some are more spartan than others — this is about the experience of sleeping in a lighthouse, not a luxury getaway –but all of them fit the bill for a unique getaway. And hey, it may finally give you a chance to read something that doesn’t require an electronic device for transmission.
West Point Lighhouse, Prince Edward Island
The West Point Lighthouse Inn on Prince Edward Island has 13 rooms with view of the Northumberland Strait. Eleven of the rooms have decks and two of them — The Keeper’s Quarters and the Tower Room — are located within the historic lighthouse museum. Rates for the one bedroom Tower Room are $160 CAN per night. Rates for the Keepers Quarters, with two queen sized beds, are also $160 CAN per night. Both have private bath.
Race Point Light, Provincetown, with the Keeper’s House on the left and the Whistle House on the right.
Miles of unspoiled beaches and the chance to see plenty of whales and seals and shorebirds is a good reason to consider booking Race Point Light, located among the dunes at the tip of Provincetown, at the very end of Cape Cod. You can stay in the three-bedroom Keepers House, with rates from $145 per night, per room, or in the two bedroom Whistle House, which rents weekly from $2,000.