Summer in the City: New York Philharmonic Free Concerts in the Parks is Cherished Summer Tradition

The New York Philharmonic is conducted by Thomas Wilkins in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks Presented by Didi and Oscar Schaefer series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks Presented by Didi and Oscar Schaefer is an extraordinary gift to New Yorkers and visitors. For almost 60 years, this world-famous orchestra has presented these free performances in parks in all five boroughs bringing “priceless music, absolutely free” to communities and reinforcing the bond that exists between New York’s hometown orchestra and its people. In the process, the orchestra brings people together in shared joy.

The New York Philharmonic is conducted by Thomas Wilkins in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series which featured violin soloist Randall Goosby © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The world renowned orchestra has offered these free summer concerts in the parks since 1965 – since 2007, presented by Didi and Oscar Schaefer – and over that time, have brought “priceless music, absolutely free” to 15 million music lovers.

This year’s program included Beethoven’s Egmont Overture; Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, featuring Randall Goosby — who made his NY Phil debut on a Young People’s Concert at age 13 — as soloist; Elgar’s Wand of Youth Overture; the New York Premiere of Carlos Simon’s Four Black American Dances; Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol.  

Conductor Thomas Wilkins gives fascinating, folksy notes for the musical selections in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Conductor Thomas Wilkins, who is the principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, introduced the pieces. About Mendelssohn’s exquisite Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 64 (1844), with the virtuoso violinist Randall Goosby who so exquisitely brought out the melodic sweetness, Wilkins said, “it is so magical – one of the few where the movements are all connected. At the end of the first, there is one B-Natural hanging in the air – the bassoonist is not done – that says ‘follow me into the second.’ There is more impact between the second and third movements – no break but one note of silence, like a ball in the air that hangs until the soloist enters.”

Violin soloist Randall Goosby, an alum of the Lincoln Center Young People’s Orchestra program, performs the exquisite Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilkins loves to engage with the audience, and makes the music so accessible with his folksy anecdotes that make your ears perk up at key portions with new appreciation. We get to preview Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2023), which will be part of the orchestra’s fall repertoire, in the concerts he returns to the NY Phil to conduct, October 17 and 19,and learn how the four dances span Black American heritage – the first, recasting a traditional dance of enslaved Blacks into the voice of the orchestra including shuffling feet and clapping hands; the second, a waltz depicting how young Black girls in the 1930s would have their “coming out” parties, then a tap dance, and finally, we are taken to church for a “holy dance” with the instruments evoking the murmurings and exultations of a church service. And then, we get to meet the composer who comes on stage.

“Four Black American Dances composer Carlos Simon joins Conductor Thomas Wilkins on stage. The piece will also be featured in October © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For the past several years, the concerts have also provided a platform and a showcase for young composers who absolutely astonish with their talent (most astonishing: they not only compose the piece but do the orchestration). It is like seeing a young Mozart, or Elgar, whose Overture from the Wand of Youth (Music to a Child’s Play) Suite No.1, Op.1a, written when Elgar was just eight years old (he later expanded it), and imagining where these prodigies will be in 20 years.

This year, 16-year old Dalya Shaman’s “Floating in the Stars” and 10-year old David Wright’s “Tarzan’s Rage” dazzled the audience.

16-year old Dalya Shaman’s stunning tone-poem, “Floating in the Stars,” is performed as part of the Young Composers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dalya Shaman, a tenth grader at NEST+m High School, has been composing music for six years and plays the cello. She described the inspiration for her tone-poem, “Floating in the Stars” which uses harp and orchestra bells to evoke the whimsy and wonder of star gazing and the sensation of drifting among the stars, as the artwork of VYC students Vivian and Odette Iannetta.

Conductor Thomas Wilkins congratulates 10-year old composer David Wright after performing his “Tarzan’s Rage.”© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

David Wright, a fifth grader at PS 11 in Brooklyn who is also an accomplished baseball player, said his work, “Tarzan’s Rage” also was inspired by the Iannettas art, and seeing a man jumping which he imagined as Tarzan and the contrast of dark and light colors as a war, which is how he came to “Tarzan’s Rage.” The music is thrilling, and one can imagine David composing movie scores.

Conductor Thomas Wilkins leads the New York Philharmonic in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilkins’ conducting style is very relaxed, with minimal movement and theatrics. He is a joy to watch. He likes the music to be well punctuated, defined, the complex seemingly more simple and elemental than it is, so it is more accessible and can be better appreciated in such an open setting. You immediately appreciate why he is also the Boston Symphony’s artistic adviser for Education and Community Engagement, professor of orchestral conducting at Indiana University, and is actively engaged with the NY Phil’s Young People’s Concerts, begun 100 years ago and popularized by Leonard Bernstein.

Violin soloist Randall Goosby with conductor Thomas Wilkins and concertmaster Frank Huang and the New York Philharmonic performing Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“At this stage of my life,” Wilkins reflects in the festival program, “I just want to invite the orchestra that is in front of me to experience what it means to be in love with music.”

“He remains devout in his belief in assuring access to the infinitely renewable power of music,” Mark Burford reports. ‘Who else deserves to experience beauty for the first time? Who else needs to find wonder?’”

Conductor Thomas Wilkins leads the New York Philharmonic in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The evening concludes with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol Op. 34, which flows immediately into Santore’s World Famous Fireworks display, putting just the right crescendo on the evening.

The span and diversity of the pieces is enlightening and exciting, especially with such a focus on Simon’s 2023 composition and the young composers.

The New York Philharmonic is conducted by Thomas Wilkins in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series which featured violin soloist Randall Goosby © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic is performing these summer concerts in all five boroughs: Central Park, Cunningham Park concert in Queens, Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, and Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Then, musicians from NY Phil perform a free Indoor Concert, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer,on Sunday, June 16, 2024, at 4:00 p.m., at St. George Theatre in Staten Island; the program includes Clarke’s Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale for clarinet and viola; Mozart’s Oboe Quartet; and Prokofiev’s Quintet (tickets need to be reserved). 

“It is a joy to see tens of thousands of New Yorkers turn out to enjoy free concerts under the stars, creating a sense of community and shared experience that is rare and vital,” said New York Philharmonic President & CEO Gary Ginstling. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The New York Philharmonic’s annual Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, are always a highlight of our year,” New York Philharmonic President & CEO Gary Ginstling said. “It is a joy to see tens of thousands of New Yorkers turn out to enjoy free concerts under the stars, creating a sense of community and shared experience that is rare and vital. We are deeply grateful to Didi and Oscar, the visionary and generous couple whose love of music and of New York City’s parks is essential to making possible the ambitious tour of our hometown.”

Fireworks provide a crescendo to the New York Philharmonic’s concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The free summer concerts provide a wonderful taste of the cultural treasure that awaits at the Philharmonic’s concert venue, Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, that makes you want more.

The New York Philharmonic has announced updates to its 2024–25 season:

Updates to the Orchestra’s concerts:

• Augusta Read Thomas’s new work, commissioned by the NY Phil, is titled Bebop Kaleidoscope — Homage to Duke Ellington. Ken-David Masur, in his NY Phil subscription debut, will conduct its World Premiere on September 19 and 21, 2024, part of the program curated by NY Phil musicians — who serve as the first of the 2024–25 season’s Artistic Partners — that explores the Orchestra’s past and future.

• The Opening Gala concert on September 24, 2024 — conducted by Manfred Honeck — will include Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture and Puccini’s Turandot Suite, and will feature vocalist Cynthia Erivo making her NY Phil debut in selections from Broadway and the popular songbook.

In October, Thomas Wilkins will conduct NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism when Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2003) will be presented © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

• Nathalie Joachim’s new work is titled Had To Be and receives its New York Premiere on October 17 and 18, 2024 — on concerts that are part of the NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism — conducted by Thomas Wilkins, with cellist Seth Parker Woods (NY Phil debut) as soloist. The piece is co-commissioned by the NY Phil, Spoleto Festival USA, Orchestre Métropolitain, and Chautauqua Institution.

• Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten has been added as the opening work in the November 14 and 16, 2024, subscription concerts, conducted by John Adams, one of the 2024–25 season’s Artistic Partners.

• Tenor Kieran White will make his NY Phil debut in Handel’s Messiah, Presented by Gary W. Parr, December 11–14, 2024. Ton Koopman conducts.

In October, Thomas Wilkins will conduct NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism when Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2003) will be presented © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

• Baritone Leon Košavić (NY Phil debut) will perform J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 56, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, and soprano Talise Trevigne (NY Phil debut) will perform the same composer’s Cantata BWV 51, Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, on the Free Concert at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, January 17, 2025, joining conductor and 2024–25 season Artistic Partner Nathalie Stutzmann and Members of the New York Philharmonic. Additional repertoire will be announced at a later date.

• Justin Jay Hines will co-host the Young People’s Concerts for Schools on February 5–7, 2025, as well as the Young People’s Concert: The Future Is Innovation, on February 8, 2025, alongside Jerry Hou, who also conducts.

• The Lunar New Year Gala concert on February 11, 2025 — conducted by Tianyi Lu (NY Phil debut) — will include Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture; Unsuk Chin’s The Mad Tea Party, from Alice in Wonderland; Casella’s La donna serpente, Suite No. 1; Chen Yi’s Chinese Folk Dance Suite, featuring violinist Inmo Yang (NY Phil debut) as soloist; and Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1.

• The performances of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert, June 11–14, 2025 — part of The Art of the Score — will be conducted by Sarah Hicks (NY Phil conducting debut).

Updates to NY Phil presentations:

• Details of the season’s Kravis Nightcap series — featuring New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck as dancer and choreographer, as well as Musicians from the NY Phil — are announced. In the first, on September 21, 2024, Peck will collaborate with NY Phil Musicians, the first of the season’s Artistic Partners; on January 25, 2025, Peck will be joined by pianist Yuja Wang, the 2024–25 season Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence; and on February 27, 2025, Peck will reunite with violinist Hilary Hahn, with whom she performed on a Kravis Nightcap in January 2024. All three performances will take place at the Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall.

• The season’s six New York Philharmonic Ensembles at Merkin Hall concerts, featuring Musicians from the NY Phil, will take place on September 29, November 3, and November 24, 2024, and January 12, February 16, and May 4, 2025.

In October, Thomas Wilkins will conduct NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism when Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2003) will be presented © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

• The Sound On presentation Composing While Black, Volume II, featuring Artistic Partner International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) — part of the NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism — will now take place on October 25, 2024. The location and time will be announced at a later date.

• The Sound On presentation on November 17, 2024 — curated and conducted by Artistic Partner John Adams and featuring Members of the NY Phil — will take place at The Museum of Modern Art, and will include Dylan Mattingly’s Sunt Lacrimae Rerum and Gabriella Smith’s Maré. Additional repertoire will be announced at a later date.

• The season’s series of Very Young People’s Concerts (VYPCs) — titled Philharmonic Playground — will be held in Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center, and will take place on February 22, 2025 (“Allegro and Adagio”); March 22, 2025 (“Forte and Piano”); and June 7, 2025 (“Treble and Bass”). The series will feature Associate Principal Viola Rebecca Young as host and Musicians from the New York Philharmonic.

New York Philharmonic, David Geffen Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023-6970, 212) 875-5656, www.nyphil.org.

_______________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Coast to Coast, Canada’s Heritage, Culture, Wilderness Beckon Ecotourists in Summer

Celebrating a birthday at Salmon n’Bannock, Vancouver’s original indigenous restaurant © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Edited by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

From coast to coast, Canada’s heritage, culture, wilderness beckon ecotourists this summer.

Experience Indigenous Cultures in British Columbia

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, culminating in National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, but all summer long, British Columbia offers any number of ways to experience histories, traditions and values of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Indigenous tourism encourages visitors to understand and respect different perspectives of the world, and to experience histories, traditions, and values in an authentic and unfiltered way.  

British Columbia has the greatest diversity of Indigenous cultures in Canada: of the 12 unique Indigenous language families in the country, seven are located exclusively in BC. Together, there are 204 unique Indigenous communities in BC. Here are 11 ways to engage in Indigenous experiences in British Columbia this summer. 

A Three-Hour Song, Dance & Cultural Experience  During festivals, weddings, and potlatches, the Tla-o-qui-aht People come together to share a wholesome meal while exchanging wisdom and stories, with the belief that good food facilitates an easier reception to teachings. Visitors can join the tradition at the Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort in Tofino, where the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation will host naaʔuu (which means “feast” in the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation language), an immersive experience taking place on select dates in June. The three-hour experience tells stories from the Nation’s history through song, dance, and traditional carvings, presented during a symphony of cultural delicacies and foraged ingredients. Proceeds go back to the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation to support language and cultural resurgence. Tickets start at $199 per person and can be purchased here. (Get there: From Vancouver, fly into Tofino-Long Beach Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines, or right into Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo or Comox and drive approximately 3.5 hours to Tofino).

naaʔuu expereince at Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort in Tofino (photo: Indigenous Tourism BC/Melissa Renwick) 

Indigenous tour operators lead visitors into their traditional territory, providing a new perspective of local wildlife, plants, and waters:

Guided nature adventures led by the local Nation – Explore Ahousaht territory with Ahous Adventures, which is owned by a nation that has stewarded the lands and waters of Vancouver Island since time immemorial. The popular hot springs tour cruises the coast and inlets of Clayoquot Sound, with guides pointing out wildlife along the way. Once onshore, guests take a 30-minute walk via wooden boardwalk through old-growth rainforest, leading to the healing mineral waters of the hot springs. Throughout the journey, guides will discuss the history and cultural significance of Hot Springs Cove, a site that has been used for centuries by the Ahousat Nation for medicinal and spiritual benefits. Dates: Tours are available throughout summer and beyond. 

Cruise an Island Archipelago – Sidney Whale Watching, serving Sidney (just 30 minutes from Victoria, BC) and the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island, is owned and operated by the Tsawout First Nation, with whale-watching experiences taking place on the traditional territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation. The three-hour whale watching tour cruises through the Gulf Island Archipelago, winding past orcas, sea lions, and bald eagles hunting for salmon. Sidney Whale Watching has a 95% whale-sighting rate throughout the year; if guests don’t spot a whale, they are welcome to join another tour free of charge, anytime. Dates: Whale-watching tours take place daily between March and October. 

A group with Takaya Tours, rowing a traditional First Nations canoe in Deep Cove (photo: Destination BC/Hubert Kang)


Take a cultural tour in a 35′ canoe – Takaya Tours, based in Whey-ah-wichen, or Cates Park, in North Vancouver, leads guests through the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Guests can paddle the protected waters of Indian Arm in replica ocean-going canoes, while guides share songs and stories of ancient villages. There’s also an option to add a rainforest walking tour to your paddling adventure. Dates: The Cates Park location is open between May and September for guided tours, as well as rentals of kayak, surf-skis, and stand-up paddleboards. 

BC Tourism Industry Awards Best Indigenous Tourism Operator Winner 2024 – Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours, which stewards the grizzly bear population in Bute Inlet—the ancestral home of the Homalco Nation—welcomes visitors to discover the area’s longstanding cultural and historical significance. The company’s full-day bear-watching and cultural tour leads guests to viewing areas that showcase grizzlies feeding on spawning salmon, along with plenty of opportunities to whale watch and bird watch. Guests can also wander through Aupe, an uninhabited Homalco village site. Dates: Tours are offered between August and October.

2023 Yelp Travelers Choice – Sea Wolf Adventures, which leads tours in the Broughton Archipelago and the Great Bear Rainforest, on Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Nation territory, combines cultural experiences with grizzly- and whale-watching safaris. The Grizzly Bears of the Wild tour connects guests with the iconic grizzly inhabitants of the Great Bear Rainforest, with bonus viewings of Pacific white-sided dolphins, eagles, orcas, and other wildlife. The full-day tour departs from Port McNeill, and includes Indigenous interpretations of local landscapes, as well as stories about the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw People. Dates: Tours run from May 31 through October. 

Skwachays Lodge, Canada’s first aboriginal art hotel, affords the nearest thing to staying in a First Nations community you might find in a major modern city © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Try Plant Medicine Lemonade  Opened in February 2024, The Ancestor Café in Fort Langley brings traditional Indigenous nourishment to locals and visitors while supporting Indigenous food sovereignty. The eatery is owned by Chef Sarah Meconse Mierau, a member of the Sayisi Dene Nation. On the menu: bison and elk Bannock tacos, handcrafted plant-medicine jams and lattes, and other delicacies made with traditional Indigenous ingredients. Beyond the food, the café features a fair-trade gallery displaying works by local Indigenous artists and brands. 

Indigenous-owned and operated accommodation welcome visitors come into their community to experience warm hospitality alongside stories and culture—all with a deep-rooted respect for nature: 

Gorge Harbour Marina Resort – One of the most desirable cruising destinations in BC – Located at the edge of Desolation Sound, on Klahoose Nation land, Gorge Harbour Marina Resort offers an idyllic home base for adventurers eager to explore the sound, Cortes Island, and the Discovery Islands. The resort offers a multitude of overnight options, including a rustic lodge with four rooms, a cottage enclosed by lush gardens, and two self-contained trailers. Summer-specific options include 21 full-service RV sites, six glamping domes, and six tent sites—open for the season now. Summer activities span live music on the waterfront, yoga at the harbour, family movie nights, as well as whale-watching tours offered between May 1 and October 15. (Get there: Take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo, then drive 1 hour and 45 minutes to Campbell River. From here, take a 10-minute ferry to Quadra Island, then a 45-minute boat trip to Cortes Island. You can also fly direct to the resort from Campbell River, Vancouver, or Seattle, Washington.)   

Nemiah Valley Lodge – Off-grid & highly requested – Open year round, Nemiah Valley Lodge is located in the Chilcotin region, on Tŝilhqot’in Nation land. Here, guests are immersed in the food, history, and traditions of the Xeni Gwet’in community through local events, cultural experiences, and wildlife viewing. The all-inclusive packages include lodge activities such as lakeside yoga and meditation, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, archery. Note: Nemiah Valley is taking bookings for 2025. (Get there: The lodge is a 30-minute floatplane ride from Whistler. Alternatively, take a flight from Vancouver International Airport to Williams Lake (available throughout the summer), and drive 2.5 hours to your destination. The lodge also offers a transfer from Williams Lake.) 

Talaysay Walking Indigenous Tours experience in Stanley Park in Vancouver (photo: Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout)

Tsawaak RV Resort – A 2024 Indigenous Tourism Award Winner – Whether you’re seeking a cozy wilderness cabin or a place to park your RV, Tsawaak RV Resort— located in Tofino, on Tla-o-qui-aht Nation land—offers a tranquil space for rest and rejuvenation. Guests can choose from 34 RV sites and 13 longhouse-style cedar cabins—all situated close to Mackenzie Beach and a 30-minute walk from town. The central amenities building offers laundry facilities and vending machines, while the visitor center houses an art gallery and retail shop. The resort provides easy access to Tofino’s most popular adventures, including surfing, hot springs, and hiking. (Get there: From Vancouver, fly into Tofino-Long Beach Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines, or right into Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo or Comox and drive approximately 3.5 hours to Tofino.)

Spirit Bear Lodge – Located in the largest, temperate coastal rainforest in the world – Wildlife viewing and cultural experiences take centre stage at Spirit Bear Lodge, located in Klemtu, on Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation land. The lodge’s all-inclusive adventures are anchored by visits to cultural sites of the Kitasoo Xai’xai People, who have lived for thousands of years in the Great Bear Rainforest—the largest temperate coastal rainforest in the world. Guests can search for the elusive Spirit bear, watch grizzlies roam lush estuaries, see whales and other marine life, and explore the remnants of ancient villages. Open from August to October, with limited reservations available. (Get there: Board a flight at Vancouver International Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines to Bella Bella. You’ll be met by Spirit Bear Lodge staff and shuttled to the dock, where a lodge boat will take you on the two-hour journey to Klemtu.)

Wildlife viewing experience at Spirit Bear Lodge (photo: Indigenous Tourism BC)

For more authentic Indigenous experiences in British Columbia visit www.indigenousbc.com

Nova Scotia Hosts Worldwide Celebration of Acadian Heritage

This August 10-18, Nova Scotia will host the Congrés mondial acadien (CMA), a worldwide celebration that takes place every five years and brings together the Acadian diaspora from around the world for musical events, culinary and cultural attractions and family gatherings. Several major outdoor concerts featuring noted Acadian artists are scheduled, including Canada’s National Acadian Day on August 15. From the brightly painted houses of Yarmouth and picturesque views of seaside villages like Belliveau Cove and Pointe-de-l’Eglise, visitors will find vivid reminders of the French settlers who first claimed Nova Scotia as their home in the early 1600s. The CMA reunites and welcomes communities, families, and visitors to the province to honor Acadian history and to commemorate the thousands displaced in 1755 when the Acadian people were expelled from the province by the British for not taking a vow of loyalty to King George III. (https://cma2024.ca/en/).   

Throughout the summer, there are important Acadian historic sites to visit in Nova Scotia:

Grand Pré National Historic Site: Open from May 17 to October 14, the Grand Pré National Historic Site is a powerful way to discover the history of l’Acadie (a historical Acadian village in Nova Scotia settled from 1682 to 1755), its people and its culture. The location is a monument that unites the Acadian people, and for many, it is the heart of their ancestral homeland. Guided tours lead visitors through the center of this Acadian settlement and where they can learn about the history of the mass deportation of the Acadians, “Le Grand Derangement,” that began in 1755. This tragic event continues to shape the vibrant culture of modern-day Acadians across the globe. Tours are available in July and August. 

Explore the oldest Acadian region still inhabited by descendants of its founder in Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle Ecosse.

Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse: Explore the oldest Acadian region still inhabited by descendants of its founder in Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Founded in 1653 by Sieur Philippe Mius-d’Entremont, the village is a breathtaking, 17-acre space overlooking Pubnico Harbour. Attractions include historical buildings and original 19th century wooden homes like Duon House and Maximin d’Entremont House, a lighthouse and local cemetery, nature trails with natural fauna and flora indigenous to the area, and opportunities to learn about the historic Acadian fishing and farming traditions.  

Rendez-vous de la Baie Visitor Centre: Open year-round and located on the campus of Université Sainte-Anne in Clare, Rendez-vous de la Baie Visitor Centre is an Acadian cultural and interpretive center. Attractions include an artist-run gallery, a souvenir boutique, a 263-seat performance theatre, and an outdoor performance area. Travelers can experience the interpretive center and museum which delve into the Acadian peoples’ history through multimedia displays of music and language with free guided tours available. The venue is also a trailhead for a three-mile network of walking trails leading to the breathtaking Nova Scotian coast (guided walking tours available). 

More information: Nova Scotia, www.novascotia.com  

New Brunswick’s Acadian Heritage and new Travel Experiences

Another place to experience Acadian heritage is in New Brunswick, just across the strait from Nova Scotia:

Historic Acadien Village is an open air living history museum with costumed (fully bilingual) interpreters who recreate the roles of real people. What makes this place so extraordinary, though, is that you walk a 2.2 km circuit through 200 years of history – the 40 buildings represent a different time, the oldest from 1773 up to 1895, then, you walk through a covered bridge built in 1900 into the 20th century village where the buildings date from 1905 to 1949. As you walk about, you literally feel yourself stepping across the threshold back in time.

You not only visit but can actually book a room to stay at the Hotel Chateau Albert (1910). Albert opened hotel in 1870 but had financial problems from the beginning and was put out of business by Canadian Pacific railroad.. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1955, and restored using the original plans. It now offers 14 rooms (with bathrooms) that you actually can book to stay overnight. (hotelchateaualbert.com, 506-726-2600).

Historique Acadien Village, 5 rue du Pont, Bertrand, NB, 1-0877-721-2200, [email protected]villagehistoriqueacadien.com  

Metepenagiag Heritage Center displays how the Mi’kmaq would have lived, season by season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Also in New Brunswick, Metepenagiag is an active archaeological site and research center where artifacts unearthed have provided proof the Mi’kmaq have been occupying this land for at least 3,000 years. When you first walk into the exhibition building, you can look into the lab where researchers examine artifacts. Some of the items, like a 1200-year old Earthenware pot, arrowheads and other items are on display.

What is more, you can overnight in a tipi (glamping), cabin or lodge, have a First Nations dining experience, storytelling and be immersed in the 3,000-year heritage around a campfire. Or take part in “A Taste of Metepenagiag” and learn about foods and cooking techniques. New experiences are also being developed.The Mi’kmaq operate SP First Nations Outdoor Tours, authentic indigenous experiences that begin with a traditional welcome, a river tour by canoe or kayak, storytelling; and authentic First Nations dining and accommodations (56 Shore Road, Red Bank NB, Metepenagiag, 506-626-2718).

Metepenagiag Heritage Park, 2156 Micmac Road, Red Bank NB, 506-836-6118, [email protected] 1-888-380-3555, metpark.ca.

In 2024, New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canadian province just over the Maine border, unveils novel experiences for visitors including new ways to explore the capital city of Fredericton, dining the bottom of the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy, a revitalization of a favorite gathering spot in Canada’s oldest city, Saint John, and 60th anniversary celebrations of the FDR International Park on Campobello Island.  

Visitors to Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park this year can not only observe the natural phenomenon of low and high tides alternating as much as 40-plus feet, they can also dine on the ocean floor © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dining on the Ocean Floor: Visitors to Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park this year can not only observe the natural phenomenon of low and high tides alternating as much as 40-plus feet, they can also dine on the ocean floor. In 2024, Hopewell Rocks will offer its new culinary adventure: “Dining on the ocean floor”. Travelers will relish in the magic of dining among some of the most extraordinary rock formations in the world with a private, locally sourced three-course meal and specialties served from Magnetic Hill Winery in Moncton. After enjoying cuisine by the sea, park-goers can return the next day at no additional admission cost, which starts at $15.85 CAD, to behold both high and low tides. For more information about Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park and updates about dining on the ocean floor, visit https://www.thehopewellrocks.ca/.  

Coffee Connoisseur Tour with Barista Brian: Home to top attractions like Odell Park, Boyce Farmers Market, and Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick, is also an ideal location for coffee lovers wishing to expand their knowledge and taste buds. For a new way to explore the city, visitors can join internationally celebrated latte artist Barista Brian on the new “Coffee Connoisseur” walking tour. Brian has earned his title while decorating lattes for attendees of the Sundance and Toronto International film festivals and for multiple Hollywood celebrities. Participants will sip, savor, and learn about locally roasted coffee at four independent coffee shops in the capital. Barista Brian is famous for his renowned latte art creations and has produced multiple latte portraits of celebrities including Meryl Streep, Conan O’Brien, Jennifer Lopez, Kristen Stewart, and more. While touring, Brian will provide education about everything from single origin beans to sustainable coffee, the history of coffee, and how to properly taste. Attendees will enjoy tastings of several coffee drinks such as a blend, delicious espresso, single roast, and will finish off with a latte displaying the handcrafted art of Brian. For more information about Barista Brian and his work, head to https://www.baristabrian.com/. To purchase tour tickets and view available dates,  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/coffee-connoisseur-tour-with-barista-brian-tickets-764462898107.  

Campobello Island’s FDR International Park Celebrates 60th Anniversary: A symbol of international cooperation, the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Park on Campobello Island is jointly administered, staffed, and funded by the people of Canada and the United States. In 2024, the landmark is celebrating its 60th year standing as a representation of global collaboration. Throughout the month of July, special anniversary festivities will unfold amidst the breathtaking views of the New Brunswick Island connected to Maine by bridge. The former U.S. president and his family would spend their summers on Campobello Island, and visitors can now experience the former 34-room summer mansion firsthand. Given as a wedding gift to Franklin and Eleanor in 1908 by Franklin’s mother Sara Roosevelt, the cottage quickly became a key piece of the couple’s beloved island. Activities include “Tea with Eleanor” in the backyard and guided tours. For further details and event updates, visit https://www.rooseveltcampobello.org/.  

Market Square Boardwalk Revitalization: In Uptown Saint John, Canada’s oldest incorporated city, the Market Square Boardwalk will show off a new look in 2024. It is now known as Ihtoli-maqahamok (The Gathering Space), chosen through a community process between Saint John citizens, the Civic Commemoration Committee, Common Council, City of Saint John staff, and consultation with First Nations’ leaders from The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick. The boardwalk has undergone a rejuvenation that includes a larger 360-degree stage with increased public space for live performances, tidal steps leading to the Bay of Fundy, and the installation of a winter outdoor skating surface that will convert to a verdant green space in the summer. The restaurants of Market square were also upgraded with glass-panel installations, creating patios with year-round dining. Ihtoli-magahamok (The Gathering Space) draws its design inspiration from the three foundations of Saint John: its people, the water, and the rugged rocks that define the city’s character. To learn more about the reimagined Market Square Boardwalk, head to https://saintjohn.ca/en/parks-and-recreation/ihtoli-maqahamok-gathering-space

Travel planning assistance from Tourism New Brunswick, 800-561-0123www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

Summer is a 5 Sensory Season in Newfoundland and Labrador

From the rolling waves lapping off the coastline to the colorful clotheslines dancing in the ocean breeze, Newfoundland and Labrador is home to the slow way of life, especially when the seasons change. As spring rolls into summer, regular visitors to the province return, including the whales, birds and icebergs that heighten all senses. Visitors can experience the first sunrise in North America, witness the migration and play of whale species that return to the shores each year, and taste food foraged from land and sea. For relaxation, guests can soak in the bounty of the ocean in a bath with seaweed gathered off the coast of Grates Cove, go for a cold-water dip in the many outdoor locations including the North Atlantic Ocean, or sit and listen to the push and pull of the beach rocks as they roll with the waves. 

Sea of Whales Adventures: The Atlantic Ocean surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador boasts as many as 22 diverse whale species. Just off the Bonavista Peninsula, travelers will smell the ocean breeze and be humbled by the spectacle of whale species like humpbacks, sperm, orcas, feeding, migrating, and playing on Sea of Whales Adventures whale watching boat tours. Family owned and operated since 2009, Sea of Whales Adventures offers three-hour whale watching tours daily from May 15 to October 14 and two-hour tours daily from June 15 to September 3. The two-hour tour rates start at $90 CAD for adults and $60 CAD for children, while the three-hour tour rates start at $110 CAD for adults and $80 for children.  

Family owned and operated since 2009, Sea of Whales Adventures offers three-hour whale watching tours daily

Preserving the Dark Sky: Terra Nova National Park, the first designated Dark Sky Preserve in the province, allows travelers to gaze into the cosmos untouched by light pollution. Under the Dark Sky Preserve Program, the park is committed to protecting and improving nocturnal ecology by adjusting, retrofitting, or eliminating light fixtures while delivering new educational and interpretive programs on astronomy and various dark sky themes. The most popular viewing locations include Sandy Pond, rated to have the darkest skies in the park, Ochre Hill, historically used as a fire-watch station, Blue Hill, the highest point in the park putting guests among the stars, and Visitor Centre, with the starlit sky reflected across the water. New in 2024, UNESCO World Heritage Site Gros Morne National Park is applying to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for designation as a Dark Sky Preserve, offering visitors even more unaltered space to bask in the celestial views. 

Wild Island Kitchen: Open year round, Wild Island Kitchen offers travelers the chance to dine aside breathtaking seascapes listening to the crashing waves while wild and sustainably caught seafood is cooked over an open fire. The locally owned tour and culinary group provides menus that change daily based on what is foraged and discovered each day, with guides teaching guests how to cook and prepare the cuisine. The “From Sea to Plate” Tour features sustainable, high-quality seafood cooked with water from the sea and cooked over an open fire, and guests can expect four to five courses over a three-hour period. For a shorter, one-hour experience, visitors can book the “Mug-Up” Tour which typically departs at 10 a.m. and includes a trip down the cove for a cup of tea or coffee and an interpretative food journey inspired by traditional coastal delights. Tour rates start at $175 CAD, but guests are encouraged to email [email protected] for specific pricing per tour. Pre-booking is required for both culinary experiences. 

Grates Cove Seaweed Baths: In the northernmost part of Newfoundland and Labrador, weary travelers can soak in a seaweed bath at Grates Cave Co. Known for its healing and rejuvenating properties, seaweed is harvested off the coast of Grates Cove and transformed into 7 Fathoms skincare, producing a high-quality, highly bioactive brown seaweed extract suited for personal care. Grates Cove Co. uses the product, densely packed with essential nutrients and minerals, for the fresh seaweed baths in the comfort of the bathhouse overlooking the North Atlantic. The bathhouse is bookable from Monday to Sunday for two-hour time slots from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2-4 p.m., and 5-7 p.m., and the price per couple is $110 CAD + HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). 

More information: Newfoundland and Labrador,  www.newfoundlandlabrador.com  

See also:

ON THE TRAIL TO DISCOVER VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

WALKING TOURS, DINING EXPERIENCES REVEAL VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

TRAIL TO DISCOVER BRITISH COLUMBIA’S INDIGENOUS HERITAGE WEAVES THROUGH WHISTLER-BLACKCOMB

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: EXPLORING FRENCH ACADIA’S CULTURE, HERITAGE BY BIKE!

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: METEPENAGIAG HERITAGE CENTER HIGHLIGHTS MIRAMICHI VISIT

________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us atfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Best Bike Trips for This Summer’s Travel

Fondest memories of travel are from bike tours like BoatBikeTour’s Bruges-Amsterdam trip, with this memorable scene of biking passed windmills after a rain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Biking is my favorite form of travel – I love the perfect pace – not to fast, not too slow to be able to really be in the moment – being outside with no window or barrier, going through villages and neighborhoods you would not likely see traveling by car, bus or train, being able to stop and admire the view. And I love at the end of the day, feeling both physically accomplished and exhilarated, with the endorphins sparking. You feel you are an active participant in your surroundings, not a mere spectator. All your senses are activated.

The end of our self-guided bike trip along the Danube Bike Trail from Passau to Vienna © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In decades of travel, the experiences I cherish most include riding the biketours.com’s self-guided Danube Bike Trail trip from Passau to Vienna with my sons; being transformed seeing people and villages in Albania (e-bike recommended); the exhilaration of reaching the top of Cadillac Mountain on Discovery Bicycle’s Maine Coast tour; and the warm feeling after a hot shower, wrapped in a lush bathrobe in a historic inn after a hilly, rainy ride on a hybrid bike (e-bike available)  on Discovery’s Eastern Quebec Townships trip; the sheer delight of biking from Bruges to Amsterdam and sailing on a boat with Boat Bike Tours.

Bike trips have become so popular, they have veered far from the humdrum into the heretofore unimaginable. There is hardly any place in the world where you cannot explore on two-wheels (hybrid, road bikes, gravel bikes, e-bikes), where there are not guided trips, or self-guided trips (where you rent the bike, have vouchers for accommodations, and your luggage is picked up and magically appears at the next inn, much easier now with Ride GPS and similar apps). Also, e-bikes have opened a world and extended your years in the saddle – you no longer have to be afraid when the ride is rated a 4, with major hills.

Jubilant to have made it to the top of Cadillac Mountain, a five-mile ascent (with a hybrid!), a wonderful option on Discovery Bicycle’s Coastal Maine trip© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, whether you are a family, a couple, a group of friends, or traveling solo (as I do), bike tours are ideal. Here are some recommendations:

Biking the award-winning Mickelson rail trail on Wilderness Voyageurs’ Badlands and Black Hills trip through South Dakota © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilderness Voyageurs has a huge selection of offerings, especially trips that take advantage of rail-trails (the company is based along the Great Allegheny Passage in Ohiopyle, PA).They have trips on 30 rail-trails across the USA (11 are in the Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame), and have been the operator of RTC’s Sojourn trips on the GAP. They offer a marvelous selection of trips on New York’s Erie Canalway, on the new Empire Trail Network (from Battery Park up to Albany, but the trail network actually goes all the way up to Canada), as well as Missouri’s KATY Trail (longest rail trail in the USA), C&O Canal and Mickelson Rail Trail in South Dakota (I thoroughly enjoyed its Badlands & Black Hills tour). The trip I am looking to do next is the Coeur d’Alene & Hiawatha Trail in Idaho – two Rail-to-Trail Conservancy Hall of Famers, with 10 tunnels including the famous “Taft Tunnel” at 8771 feet long, 7 steel trestles, one 220 feet high). The company has an extensive selection of road bike tours in Michigan, Texas, Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, Gettysburg & the civil War, Shenandoah & Skyline Drive, Kentucky Bike & Bourbon, Colorado, New York’s Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks and a new offering on the Maine Coast & Acadia (I am eying the San Juan Islands, Washington, six-day trip covering San Juan, Lopez and Orcas Islands). It also offers gravel bike tours and two itineraries in Cuba. The trips are well marked for their ability, and the guides, accommodations and meals are superb. (Wilderness-Voyageurs.com, 855-550-7705).-

Feeling tired but exhilarated at the end of a challenging ride (on a hybrid) on Discovery Bicycle’s Eastern Quebec Townships trip © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Discovery Bicycle Tours has actually added departures on four otherwise sold out itineraries this year: GAP Trail Getaway, ride the full Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail in 4 days, from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, PA (Level 1), new departures Sept. 14-17, Sept. 19-22; six days of carefree riding on the P’tit Train du Nord, one of the most scenic rail trails in the lovely province of Quebec, just over the border in Canada (take your passport! Level 2-easier to intermediate, new departure Sept. 17-22); a four-day Appalachian Rail Trails, one of Discovery’s newest tours, offers some of the best trail riding in the Virginia-West Virginia region; new departure Oct. 6-11); and a four-day New York Finger Lakes Getaway trip where you unpack once, stay in a high-end inn, and spin through New York State’s famed winery region filled with delightful farms and villages and perhaps spot Amish buggies (easier-intermediate, departure Sept. 22-25). Discovery Bicycle Tours offers cycling vacations through the US, Canada, New Zealand, Europe,
Chile, Cambodia, and Vietnam. They are already taking bookings for 2025 for its 8-day Bike & Barge Netherlands North tour; 8-day Moselle River Bike & Barge; 8-day E-bike & Cruise Croatia. Discovery Bicycle Tours, which I traveled with on their marvelous Maine Coast and their Eastern Quebec Townships trips, provides excellent value for what is high luxury (inns, dining) – including bike rentals, even e-bikes, in the cost. (800-257-2226, 802-457-3553, [email protected], discoverybicycletours.com).

Catching up to our boat hotel, Royal Princess, as we bike on the path to Kinderdijk on the Bruges to Amsterdam trip with BoatBikeTours © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Netherlands-based Boat Bike Tours, which I traveled with on their fabulous Bruges-to-Amsterdam tour (by boat), has special offers for this summer, with up to 200 Euro savings per person on select tours: Sail & Bike Ijsselmeer & National Parks- 100 euro discount per person, on an elegant three-masted sailing ship, Elizabeth, cycling through dune landscapes, peaceful pastureland and historic fishing villages. In France, get 200 Euro discount per person: Taste Champagne (and brie!) in Champagne (Paris-Eparnay or Eparnay-Paris on the Zwaantje); or visit the best winemakers in Northern Burgundy (on the Zwaantje); the Paris-Montargis tour for beautiful medieval towns and royal history on the Fleur. There is also a 100 Euro discount pp on its Croatia/Greece programs; cycle through ancient landscapes as you explore the Aegean or Ionian islands of Greece, experience the layered history of the Croatian coastline or island-hop the gorgeous Croatian islands. (https://www.boatbiketours.com/all-offers/, boatbiketours.com, NL: +31 20 72 35 400, USA: +1 203 814 1249).

Discover Slovenia’s attractions, like Predjama Castle with Backroads © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Backroads, a pioneer in biking trips since its founding in 1979 by Tom Hale, has branched out to all manner of active, multi-sport programs, and from its California origins, to span the world. It still offers one of the most extensive opportunities for biking – in fact, 143 different itineraries this year, including all the major US destinations (California, New York, Kentucky, Vermont), plus a huge selection of international destinations. Among them: 6-day Bordeaux & Dordogne Bike Tour; Brittany & Normandy Bike Tour; 6-day Tuscany by the Sea Bike Tour; and  Croatia & Slovenia Bike, and eight-day Vietnam & Cambodia Bike Tour, and the trip I am eyeing, eight-day Japan Bike Tour featuring Nikko National Park to Kyoto (https://www.backroads.com/trips/BJNI/japan-bike-tour). (backroads.com, 800-462-2848).

Among DuVine Cycling’s favorite itineraries for first-timers is the Douro Valley of Portugal © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There’s still time for DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co.’s offer to first-time Duvine travelers to take $250 off any 2024 scheduled departure tour booked by June 9. Among the favorites for first timers: Bordeaux, France; Douro Valley, Portugal; Tuscany, Italy; Costa Brava, Spain; Greek Isles Yacht & Bike Tour. Its catalog of all-inclusive, luxury cycling vacations spans the United States, Europe, Latin America and Africa and include family, adventure, challenge, cycle & sail, specialty, villas, private tours, and, of course, classic itineraries. BTW, 2025 tour dates are live on duvine.com to take advantage of best rates and dates—especially for destinations that sold out fast in 2024: tulip season in Holland, new departures in Norway, and its popular hiking and biking tour in the Italian Dolomites (duvine.com, 888 396 5383)

Butterfield & Robinson offers such exotic cycling trips such as Ultimate Morocco, The Sahara to Marrakech Biking © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The high-end operator, Butterfield & Robinson, offers such exotic cycling trips as Ultimate Morocco, The Sahara to Marrakech Biking (with time spent in bustling souks, historic Kasbahs and indigenous Berber camps hidden among the Sahara’s silky dunes) and Vietnam biking Expedition through lush rice paddies and local villages, discover ancient cities, enjoying delicious Vietnamese cuisine and culture. B&R has released its 2025 offerings, including a new Bali Multi-Active; Japan Tayoma biking. It’s new, limited edition Sri Lanka: Cultural Triangle to South Coast Biking, February 9 – 16, 2025  is an eight-day sojourn that takes you from the port city of Negombo to the sacred city of Kandy, concluding in Galle Fort, and visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites like Sigiriya Rock. (butterfield.com, 866-551-9090)

VBT Bicycling Vacations’ Prague to Budapest tour is available as an 11-day air-inclusive © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

VBT Bicycling Vacations, an early pioneer in bike trips through Vermont, has long ago spread wings to far-flung destinations, to the far reaches of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. One trip that has caught my eye is a six-day Utah: Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks (rated easy/moderate, bike included, offered September to October) and Maryland: Eastern Shore & Chesapeake Bay (easy, bike included, offered June-October), Among the Europe itineraries is an eight-day Danube Bike & River Cruise: Prague to Budapest, available as an 11-day air-inclusive. More exotic: South Africa: Cape Town & the Garden Route, easy/moderate, bike included, available as an 11-day air-inclusive package, or 9-day land-only; New Zealand: The South island, 12-days,Jan 6-17, 2025,air included.(vbt.com, 877-774-1942, 855-443-0719) 

Looking for more hard core?

Biking in Sonoma, California’s wine country, one of Trek Travel’s most romantic bike tours of 2024 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Trek Travel’s trending trips include: Andalucia bike tour (breathtaking views, savor exquisite tapas, taste classic wines, and experience warm hospitality set to the rhythm of passionate music.); Norway bike tour (Pedal past the Nigardsbreen and Bergset glaciers and conquer Sognefjellet Mountain Pass, northern Europe’s highest); Shenandoah Valley Gravel Bike Tour (pedal along pristine unpaved roads nestled in the valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains). Cycle through Tuscany, or Explore Coastal Charm of Croatia. Looking for romance on your bike trip? Its top “Romantic Bike Tours in 2024” include Mallorca Island; Loire Valley; Andalucia; Santa Barbara Wine Country; California Wine Country. Trek Travel is also a leader in gravel bike trips, the newest trend in cycling. (There may still be time to take advantage of a $250 discount: use code EXPLORE250 at checkout. trektravel.com, 866-464-8735)

Escape Adventures has a bike tour along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Prominent in active travel, Escape Adventures has a wonderful selection of rides through national parks, including Glacier National park Road Bike tour; Canyonlands National Park; North Rim of the Grand Canyon; Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon Road Bike Tour; Canyonlands, Arches & Moab by Mountain Bike. More exotic: a road bike Tour de France Experience; Vuelta a Espana Experience; New Zealand road trip. With 100 destinations, Escape Adventures caters to the full spectrum of active travelers, respective to fitness level and activity type. From road cyclist to mountain biker to electric biker, hiker, and multi-sport enthusiast, and from first timer to friends and family groups of all ability levels. Escape Adventures is introducing a guided “bikepacking” 5-day camping and mountain biking trip along the 144-mile-long Maah Daah Hey Trail System (MDH). Majestic plateaus, jagged peaks and valleys, large expanses of rolling prairie, and rivers intertwine to offer the adventurous outdoors enthusiast a taste of pure, unadulterated badlands. Located adjacent to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the MDH is one of the lengthiest stretches of continuous trail in America. Hailed as an IMBA epic, the MDH unfolds on 95% singletrack. The guided tour starts at $1,499 per person double. (https://escapeadventures.com/tour/maah-daah-hey-singletrack-mountain-bike-tour/ https://escapeadventures.com/, 800-596-2953)

Discover France is offering cycling trips that combine the exploration of iconic mountain pass and Tour de France routes with daily luxury accommodations and local gastronomy. Available in the Alps, Provence Mont Ventoux, the Pyrenees and the French Riviera, these prestigious cycling adventures lets you discover charming regions while taking on a sporting challenge. Its trip through the Dordogne region lets you ride and discover charming villages, stroll through the narrow streets of medieval towns built on cliffs, such as Rocamadour, experience its rich gastronomy, such as the famous black truffle and finish the trip with an escapade in the Lascaux Caves, one of the many prehistoric sites of the region. Its “Tour de France: Dolomites & Grand Departure Adventure,” is an 8-day VIP Bike Tour that includes a ride through the famous Dolomites and a stop in Florence(Italy) for the grand departure of the Tour de France. During the first few days you will challenge yourself by riding in the Italian mountains. Then enjoy VIP access to the Tour’s historic start in Florence. Riding on the official road of the Tour and crossing the finish line in Bologna will end this adventure on a high note. (DISCOVER FRANCE 427 Rue Hélène Boucher Mauguio 34130 France, discoverfrance.com).

Biketours.com pioneered biking in Albania © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For excellent value in bike tours, my go-to is BikeTours.com – basically a broker of programs in just about every country in Europe, even Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Estonia (I took a fabulous boat/bike trip through Greek Islands), plus Japan and South Africa and the United States. They basically represent local operators, so offer much the same itinerary as the high-end offerings, but with more choice of accommodations and opportunities for lower cost. They also offer perhaps the best selection of self-guided trips, which can be 30-50 percent cheaper than guided tours (we’ve done their self-guided Danube Bike Tour Passau-Vienna, and self-guided Venice-Croatia and guided Greek Isles boat/bike trip, and a guided Slovenia trip). The company, under its previous owner and founder, Jim Johnson, opened Albania for biking, which I experienced the trip with Johnson. You appreciate how significant biking is to really understanding a country and its people, when you ride through villages (e-bike recommended). Albania is perhaps Europe’s best kept secret. We were impressed by Albania’s diverse landscapes—snow-capped mountains, deep forests and beaches—its rich heritage and culture and how people in rural areas were actually excited and curious to see visitors in their villages, especially those traveling by bicycle. This also has to be one of the best values in European cycling: experience the 9-day “UNESCO Sites of Albania” guided 1190E or self-guided from 950E. (biketours.com, 833-216-0635, 215-613-0874)

________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Summer in the City Opens with Museum Mile Festival, Finishes with US Open

The Guggenheim Museum is one of eight major institutions that are free to explore during the annual Museum Mile Festival © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s summer cultural season kicks off with the 46th Annual Museum Mile Festival – the Big Apple’s “biggest block party” –on Tuesday, June 18, from 6 to 9 pm, rain or shine. Walk the mile on Fifth Avenue between 82nd Street and 104th Street while visiting eight of New York City’s finest cultural institutions, open free during these extended hours: The Metropolitan Museum of ArtNeue Galerie New YorkSolomon R. Guggenheim MuseumCooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design MuseumThe Jewish Museum; Museum of the City of New York; El Museo del Barrio; and The Africa Center. Several neighborhood partners, including the New York Academy of Medicine, the Church of the Heavenly Rest, Asia Society, and AKC Museum of the Dog will also join in this celebration. 

The Museum Mile Festival is the Big Apple’s biggest block party, with street entertainment and free admissions to museums © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s an electric, eclectic festive atmosphere, with live music and street performers all along the avenue, plus special exhibitions, works from permanent collections and special family-oriented activities inside.

One of our favorite stops is the Museum of the City of New York (celebrating its 100th anniversary this year), where you can visit its newest exhibition Changing the Face of Democracy: Shirley Chisolm at 100 and the send off of its centennial exhibition This is New York: 100 Years of the City in Art and Pop Culture . Grab a Kids’ Activity Guide for the little ones.

Dancing to the 1920s Hot Jazz of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island (June 8-9 and August 10-11, 2024, 11 am-5 pm), starts with a magical ferry ride from Battery Park or the Brooklyn Navy Yard. People come dressed to the 9s in 1920s/Gatsby-style outfits, bringing picnics and take part in the music and zeitgeist of the 1920s. With music and dancing led by festival founder and host Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra, the merriment continues with a score of other entertainers: the bedazzling Dreamland Follies, a 10-lady Art Deco dance spectacle evoking the Great Ziegfeld, the fantastic Queen Esther paying tribute to jazz royalty of yore, Peter Mintun tickling the ivories with his incredible piano skills and the Gelber & Manning band. Enjoy the renowned and fun-loving dance troupe, Roddy Caravella and The Canarsie Wobblers with their scandalous Charleston numbers and rebellious and exuberant spirit of the Roaring ‘20s. Entertainments are interspersed with fun events like dance lessons and a period bathing suit contest. This isn’t free – it’s a ticketed event. Tickets and info at www.jazzagelawnparty.com. (Reserve a ferry ride to access the location.)

The New York Philharmonic returns to Central Park for its free summer concert series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, have become an iconic New York summer experience since they began in 1965, transforming parks throughout the city into a patchwork of picnickers enjoying friends, family, and priceless music under the stars, for free! This summer, Thomas Wilkins conducts the Orchestra in a program that ranges from classics by Beethoven, Elgar, and Rimsky-Korsakov to Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, with Randall Goosby as soloist, to new music by Carlos Simon and NY Phil Very Young Composers. All outdoor performances begin at 8 PM and conclude with fireworks! (The Free Indoor Concert in Staten Island begins at 4 PM.): June 11 Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx; June 12 Concerts in the Parks: Central Park, Manhattan; June 13, Concerts in the Parks: Cunningham Park, Queens; June 14, Concerts in the Parks: Prospect Park, Brooklyn; June 16 Free Indoor Concert: St. George Theatre, Staten Island.

The New York Philharmonic Summer in the Parks performances finish with a dramatic fireworks display© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The cherished Shakespeare in the Park, traditionally held at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, this year is a traveling show while the Delacorte is undergoing its most significant revitalization of its 62-year history. Instead, this year the Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) is offering  a “GO PUBLIC!”  festival of of free summer programming taking place across all five boroughs. Its Mobile Unit is presenting a joyful, bilingual (English/Spanish) musical adaptation of “The Comedy of Errors,”  May 28-June 2 – The New York Public Library and Bryant Park on the Fifth Avenue Terrace (Manhattan) June 6-9, June 13-14, June 20-21 – Hudson Yards (Manhattan). Also: A.R.R.O.W. Field House (Queens) J. Hood Wright Park (Manhattan) Maria Hernandez Park (Brooklyn) Roy Wilkins Park (Queens) St. John the Divine (Manhattan) St. Mary’s Park (Bronx) Sunset Park (Brooklyn) Wolfe’s Pond Park (Staten Island).

Next up is Movie in the Parks (July 11–September 6), bringing free screenings of Shakespeare in the Park’s version of Much Ado About Nothing to parks throughout the City. (Can’t make it to any of them? This recording and other Shakespeare favorites are available to stream for free.) Visit the website for specific dates and locations (https://publictheater.org/programs/shakespeare-in-the-park/summer-24/go-public/).

In summer, all the city is a stage, and every lawn a picnic table © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bryant Park is also hosting picnic performances of New York City Opera’s full production of the perennial favorite, Puccini’s Tosca on May 31, June 1, August 23 and 24, at 7 pm. (New York City Opera: Puccini Celebration) as part of a summer-long arts and culture festival, sponsored by Bank of America, from June 6 to September 13, featuring an amazing series of dance, music, theater, movies, plus eateries, shops and a carousel. (https://bryantpark.org/activities/picnic-performances for schedule).

The Hudson River Greenway is a whole destination in itself, and one of the best places to bike. In fact, it is part of the Empire State Trail Network, that goes from Lower Manhattan up to the Canadian border © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Hudson River Greenway is a whole destination in itself, with every imaginable sport (tennis, pickleball, basketball, kayaking), fabulous eateries, even a sand beach, plus along the way, historic and cultural places like the monument to the Irish famine, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Whitney Museum, Battery Park and ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, plus concerts such at two venues within the enchanting “Little Island.”

From June through September, Little Island presents a series of all new work across dance, music, theater and opera in the Amph  ($25, tickets and schedule, https://www.littleislandtickets.com/). In addition, there are free concerts Wednesday-Sunday in the Glade.

Little Island is a unique green space unlike any other in New York City. The award-winning public park is located in Hudson River Park and features two performance venues where visitors can experience cultural events all summer long © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The newest experience on the Hudson River Greenway is Gansevoort Peninsula. Located in Hudson River Park between Gansevoort Street and Little West 12th Street, and opposite the Whitney Museum of American Art, which affords an actual sand beach (1200 tons of sand, beach umbrellas, Adirondack-style chairs, even misting stations, and boardwalk)  for lounging. Also look for “Day’s End”, a public art installation by artist David Hammons, donated to Hudson River Park by the Whitney Museum of American Art.  See the full events calendar, https://hudsonriverpark.org/, https://hudsonriverpark.org/the-park/piers-and-places/

New York City has been named the most cultural city in the USA. Here’s what’s of note happening this summer, compiled by the New York City Tourism + Conventions, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau:

NYC The Metropolitan Museum of Art is presenting “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” through July 28 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Through July 28, The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism, an exhibition exploring how Black artists portrayed everyday modern life during the 1920s–40s in Harlem and across the United States amid the Great Migration. Featuring 160 works including painting, sculpture, photography, film and ephemera, it’s the first art museum survey of its kind in New York City since 1987.

The Whitney Museum of American Art has unveiled the roster for Whitney Biennial 2024: Even Better Than the Real Thing, featuring 69 artists and two collectives. This edition marks the 81st installment of the museum’s esteemed exhibition series, the longest-running survey of American art. The program is now open and runs through August 11. Beginning September 25, The Whitney will unveil Edges of Ailey, a comprehensive exhibition celebrating the life and impact of American dancer Alvin Ailey, featuring daily performances, workshops and a diverse range of artworks and archival materials.

Experience a surreal journey inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden, with Wonderland: Curious Nature, from May 18–October 27Follow iconic characters through whimsical scenes in the garden and explore imaginative horticultural displays inside the Haupt Conservatory, featuring installations from renowned artists including Yoko Ono, Alyson Shotz and Abelardo Morell.

A tribute to Ming Dynasty architecture, the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden in Staten Island—one of just two authentic classical outdoor Chinese gardens in the US—is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Crafted in Suzhou, China, its elements include roof tiles, pavilions and bridges. Inspired by ancient poetry and paintings, the garden features magnificent rock formations resembling mountains. Visitors can explore pavilions, a bamboo forest path, waterfalls and a koi-filled pond.

The Morgan Library & Museum, which is marking 100 years since its establishment as a public institution by Jack Morgan as a repository of fabulous documents, is exhibiting Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature and Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio. The next exhibition in the campaign will be Liberty to the Imagination: Drawings from the Eveillard Gift, on view beginning June 7.

Since its inception in 1824, the Brooklyn Museum has become a global cultural center, driven by the innovative spirit of its borough. As it celebrates two centuries of groundbreaking initiatives, the museum invites audiences to explore special exhibitions and events showcasing its vibrant artistic community. Highlights include the launch of immersive exhibitions like Solid Gold and Brooklyn Made. Notably, the museum boasts an in-residence composer, Niles Luther, who scores music for various exhibitions and artwork on-site, making it the only museum in the United States to offer such an immersive experience. Visitors can expect a year of discovery and celebration in honor of its bicentennial—kicking off with a 200th Birthday Bash on October 5.

A destination that takes you to other worlds, Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History offers fabulous innovative exhibitions. Admission by timed entry, reserved online. Open daily, 10 am–5:30 pm. American Museum of Natural History,200 Central Park West, 212-769-5606, amnh.org.

Be prepared to be dazzled and fascinated when you visit the American Museum of Natural History and the Gilder Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New performing arts offerings are revitalizing New York City’s cultural landscape with the expansion of iconic venues and the emergence of new stages. The historic Apollo Theater recently debuted the Victoria Theater, its first expansion in 90 years, which introduced two new stages and created an arts campus in Harlem. The inaugural season promises a diverse lineup including Alex Harsley, Stefon Harris and David Hammons. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the newly restored Brooklyn Paramount, now a concert hall, hosts various shows featuring acclaimed acts like Sting, Liam Gallagher, St. Vincent, Orville Peck and many more in its 2024 lineup. Across the East River, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC) stands as a beacon of artistic expression in Lower Manhattan, welcoming emerging and established artists across various disciplines since its launch in September 2023. The PAC’s inaugural 2023–24 season continues this summer with the opening of An American Soldier, The SurvivalCats: “The Jellicle Ball”.

One of New York City’s newest performing arts venues, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center, in Lower Manhattan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Jackie Robinson Museum commemorates the groundbreaking contributions of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball and one of the most celebrated baseball players of all time. Robinson’s legacy extends far beyond the baseball diamond, as he also made significant strides in civil rights, economic empowerment and social justice. From now through December 31, the museum is offering a free self-guided walking tour, Jackie Robinson’s Harlem, for visitors looking to dive deeper into Robinson’s connection to the neighborhood.

The Alice Austen House,Staten Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City is the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ movement. The Stonewall Inn, site of the historic 1969 riots, stands as a symbol of resilience and is soon to be complemented by a dedicated visitor center opening in June. Other cultural sites include theLeslie-Lohman Museum of Art, which celebrates LGBTQ+ identity through exhibitions and programs that showcase the ever-evolving queer experience, as well as the Alice Austen House Museum, which features the pioneering photographer’s work and has been a National Site of LGBTQ+ History since 2017. On the Upper West Side, the forthcoming American LGBTQ+ Museum at the New-York Historical Society, set to open its doors in 2026, will be the nation’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history.

One of the best parts of the US Open at the Billie Jean Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, is getting to see tennis greats like Rafael Nadal practice © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

If Summer in the City starts with the Museum Mile Festival, for me, the end of New York’s summer comes with the US Open Tennis Championships, the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year. The tournament dates back to 1881, and since 1978, the tournament has found its home at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a magnet for the best tennis talent worldwide such as reigning champions Coco Gauff, Novak Djokovic, Diede de Groot and Alfie Hewett. The tournament takes place August 26–September 8, 2024. Insiders tip: the week before, it is free to watch the thrilling play of the qualifiers’ tournament, and see the tennis stars practice.

New York City Borough Pass, Citywide: a new sightseeing pass designed to showcase the beauty of the neighborhoods and cultures across all five boroughs. The pass features a diverse roster of popular attractions, museums, performing arts venues, including the Alice Austen House Museum, MoMA PS1, New York Botanical Garden, Van Cortlandt House Museum, Staten Island Children’s Museum. (888-921-5333, https://www.nycboroughpass.com/)

The Go City Pass for New York City offers 100 different options in all five boroughs. For example, the two-day all inclusive pass, giving access to as much as you want/can do from among 105 attractions is $134 – regardless of how much the actual attractions charge (GoCity.com, 800 887 9103).

For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit nyctourism.com.

________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Bethpage Memorial Day Weekend Airshow at Jones Beach Kicks Off Long Island Summer

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

US Navy Blue Angels headline the 20th anniversary Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island, over Memorial Day weekend © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the best airshows in the world happens right in our own backyard each Memorial Day weekend: the Bethpage Jones Beach Air Show, celebrating its 20th anniversary, cannot be beat for spectacular aeronautical feats amidst the ambiance of Jones Beach, where you see the action right in front of you, just above the ocean and stretching to the horizon. The intense action is so close, you often can see the pilots in the cockpits, and so fast and daring, it takes your breath away. The event takes place from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 (insiders tip: there is a rehearsal/practice run on Friday).

US Navy Blue Angels in their F/A-18 Super Hornets demonstrate their legendary precision at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island, over Memorial Day weekend © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The show this year is headlined and climaxed by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels – a team of six performing their heart-stopping maneuvers in their F/A-18 Super Hornets. They are famous for the Diamond formation, when they fly as close as 18 inches apart, but what most excites me is when the two solos fly extraordinary maneuvers, including coming at each other at 300 mph. Don’t blink or breathe or you will miss it!

US Navy Blue Angels in their F/A-18 Super Hornets demonstrate their legendary precision at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island, over Memorial Day weekend © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
US Navy Blue Angels in their F/A-18 Super Hornets demonstrate their legendary precision at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island, over Memorial Day weekend © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The airshow traditionally opens with the United States Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, who launch out of a plane some 25,000 feet high, stream down at 200 mph, and float down into the crowd on the beach carrying the American and POW flags. The Golden Knights portray the image of being the most formidable parachuting competitors and demonstrators in the world today

The U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team opens the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this Memorial Day weekend © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

American Airpower Museum Warbirds, flying vintage WWII fighters and patrol planes, pay homage to Long Island’s historic role as the nation’s arsenal of democracy. Republic Aviation, the complex in Farmingdale where the AAM stands now, produced over 9,000 P-47 Thunderbolts, and today the museum’s collection preserves the heritage and history.  The Warbird performance will conclude with a precision aerobatic demonstration of one of the museum’s legendary WWII Fighters.

Three World War II planes from The American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale circle over the crowd including a Douglas C-47, a supply and troop transport plane with stripes on its fuselage so allies knew not to shoot it down. The others were a British Curtis P41 Warhawk and a P-51 Mustang © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The American Airpower Museum has events scheduled from Friday through Sunday, and is where you can even see participants in the air show take off and land, and even take flights in vintage aircraft. (More details below, www.americanairpowermuseum.org, 631-293-6398.)   

The US Navy’s F-35 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II Demonstration Team and Legacy Flight shows off the capabilities of this 5th Generation fighter. The F-35C is the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter. With a top speed of 1,200 mph, the F-35C is even capable of setting off sonic booms. The F-35C has the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history, giving pilots 360-degree access to “real-time” battlefield information. The demo will feature a Legacy Flight formation, providing a unique comparison between the past and present.

U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team and Heritage Flight showcases the combat capabilities of the A-10 “Warthog”  by performing precision aerial maneuvers.  Additionally, the team brings attention to the Air Force’s history by flying formations with historical aircraft in the Air Force Heritage Flight.

Long Island’s own David Windmiller performs at the Memorial Day weekend Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Long Island’s own David Windmiller, who began flying when he was just  14 years old, soloing for the first time on his 16th birthday, performs aerobatics in his Zivko Edge 540, thrilling spectators with seemingly impossible feats. Equipped with a custom built project engine of Teledyne, thrust to weight ratio over 1:1,  Windmiller’s plane has a climb rate of 3,700 feet per minute, and a rote rate of 420 degrees per minute, making his plane the ideal aircraft for aerobatic flight.

Mike Goulian, the most decorated aerobatic pilot in North America, performs at the Memorial Day weekend Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mike Goulian earned the distinction of becoming one of the youngest pilots to ever win the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Champion at the age of 27. His signature air show performance combines the heart-stopping gyroscopic tumbling of modern display flying with the crisp, aggressive, demands of precision competition aerobatics.

Warbird Thunder’s formation aerobatic routine is fast paced and entertaining © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Warbird Thunder features the North American SNJ Texan, an aircraft used to train “The Greatest Generation” for WWII and Korean Conflict. The performance features two SNJs, performing formation aerobatics offering a great spectator experience due to the aircraft’s large physical size, beautiful radial engine sound, and fantastic smoke presentation. The SNJ was nicknamed “Ol Growler” because of its distinct deep and throaty roar. Warbird Thunder’s formation aerobatic routine is fast paced and entertaining. The two aircraft perform formation loops, aileron rolls, barrel rolls, and Cuban Eights and thrilling opposing aerobatics.

The world-famous Skytypers, who are based at Republic Airport (and basically invented and patented skytyping) demonstrate thrilling combat maneuvers in their flight squadron of vintage WWII aircraft © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Skytypers – my personal favorite – is a flight squadron of vintage WWII era U.S. Navy SNJ-2 trainers that perform low-altitude precision-formation maneuver mimicking the tactics and maneuvers utilized during WWII air battles. The Skytypers may be most famous for their skytyped messages in the sky which can be seen for nearly 400 square miles.

The world-famous Skytypers, who are based at Republic Airport (and basically invented and patented skytyping) demonstrate thrilling combat maneuvers in their flight squadron of vintage WWII aircraft © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Farmingdale State College Aviation Center students demonstrate the prowess learned at  the largest collegiate flight school in the Northeast region, and the only SUNY School to offer a 4 Year Degree Program in Aeronautical Science, the Aviation Center averages 5,800 Flight Hours a Year in Solo and Dual Flight Instruction.

106th Rescue Wing, NY Air National Guard HC – 130 / HH 60 Formation provides a demonstration of how it provides combat search and rescue coverage for U.S. and allied forces worldwide. In December 1994, the 106th established the record for the longest over water helicopter rescue mission when it saved a Ukrainian sailor in the icy waters off the North Atlantic. The 106th may be best known for a mission during a 1991 storm made famous by the movie “The Perfect Storm”. The HH-60 is tasked to perform day and night personnel recovery operations in hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war, civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support, and rescue command and control.

Take advantage of the Bethpage Air Show Mobile App. Text ‘Airshow’ to 516-842-4400 to download the app for performer and sponsor information, a site map, helpful FAQs. (Available from the App Store and Google Play.)

The event has drawn as many as 444,000, and last year attendance totaled 351,000, so arrive early (parking fee is $10).

Alternate the experience with a visit to the American Airpower Museum, right across from Republic Airport, where many of the air show participants fly from to the show, where you can see the vintage aircraft in the Heritage Flight and where all weekend long there are special events, including an opportunity to meet members of the USAF A-10 Demo Team from.

American Airpower Museum Offers Close-Up Views, Activities During Memorial Day Weekend Jones Beach Air Show

American Airpower Museum’s “Warbirds” take off for the Memorial Day Bethpage Air Show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Farmingdale, NY– Memorial Day Weekend kicks off American Airpower Museum’s summer with its “Legends of Airpower WWII Warbirds” performing in the Bethpage Jones Beach Air Show, on Long Island, with activities that begin on May 24 (practice day) and continue through the festival weekend May 25-26. 

AAM’s legendary warbirds including the WWII B-25 Mitchell bomber, North American P-51D Mustang, Grumman TBM-3E Avenger Torpedo Bomber, and Curtiss P-40M Warhawk “Flying Tiger,” will take to the skies over Republic Airport on Friday, May 24th, (practice day) plus Saturday to Sunday, May 25th/26th, for the Jones Beach Air Show.  Additional aircraft will be in the air including AAM’s WWII North American AT-6 Trainers, Vietnam era AT-28D Nomad and our Cold War era L-39 Jet Fighter/Trainers. 

Military aviation enthusiasts can share AAM’s WWII C-47 80th Anniversary D-Day Living History Experience, when WWII Airborne reenactors interact with visitors on Saturday, May 25th.

Flight experiences are also available each day on one of AAM’s AT-6 Texans, plus its red WACO Biplane.

Watch AAM’s awe-inspiring aircraft take off to perform practice flybys over Republic all day Friday, May 24th.  Get up close and personal with these historic bombers and fighters of yesteryear.  Then come to AAM to catch more aerial action Saturday and Sunday, as AAM’s warbirds lift off to perform in the air show. 

Throughout the weekend, visitors will be enthralled as US Navy Blue Angels, USAF A-10 “Warthog” and the ever-popular Skytypers, take off and return at Republic Airport. Blue Angels practice on May 24th.  You can witness the museum’s Warbirds and US military aircraft take off and land from its flight line on Saturday and Sunday for the Jones Beach Airshow. 

Visitors to AAM will also have opportunities to meet members of the USAF A-10 Demo Team. The team is appearing at the Jones Beach Air Show for the last time this year before being disbanded, as A-10s are retired from the USAF inventory.  The USAF A-10 Demo Team will operate out of their home base on the American Airpower Museum’s Ramp off New Highway, in Farmingdale, taking off and landing on May 24 (practice day) plus May 25 and 26 for their Jones Beach Airshow performances.  

The A-10 takes off from the American Airpower Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Of historical significance is that these Warthogs will be operating from the very grounds they were developed and built on – and with this final performance, they honor the legacy of all those from Long Island who worked at Fairchild Republic.

AAM President Jeff Clyman says the goal for this three-day extravaganza is two-fold.  “To honor the men and women of the ‘Greatest Generation’ who built, maintained and piloted the iconic warbirds of yesteryear, in a bold defense of freedom during WWII, as well as active-duty military, reservists and the national guard, who continue this mission today.”  Clyman said that public support strengthens AAM’s mission to educate the next generation about American military aviation history, and will also help maintain the Museum’s iconic aircraft.  “Help keep ‘em flying,” he added.

As a special promotion, every paying Museum guest (18 and over) Friday through Monday, is entered to win a Cockpit USA “made in the USA” leather flight jacket.  Cockpit USA, sponsor of the American Airpower Museum, is official supplier to the United States Air Force of A-2 leather flight jackets.  Various genuine leather flight jackets and other militaria specially priced and on sale all weekend, can be purchased at AAM’s gift shop.

Park for FREE in AAM’s lot or along New Highway.  Food and Ice Cream trucks are available onsite.  AAM is also open Monday, Memorial Day, closing at 4:00 p.m.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday 4 p.m.). Tickets and preregistration not required.  Regular admission is $15 for Adults, $12 for Seniors and Veterans and $10 for children ages 3 to 12.  

American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport, Hangar 3, 1230 New Highway, Farmingdale, NY 11735, (631) 293-6398,  www.americanairpowermuseum.org.

The American Airpower Museum, Long Island’s only flying military aviation museum (“Where history flies”) is located on the landmarked former site of Republic Aviation at Republic Airport, Farmingdale, NY.  The Museum maintains a collection of aviation artifacts and an array of operational aircraft spanning the many years of the aircraft factory’s history.  The Museum is a 501 (c) (3) Nonprofit Educational Foundation Chartered by the New York State Board of Regents.

Summer on Long Island

Jones Beach State Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Jones Beach Airshow is Long Island’s kick-off to summer.

Jones Beach State Park is a world-class beach destination, with 6.5 miles of white-sand beach,  oceanfront, miles-long boardwalk for biking and walking, 2,400 acres of maritime environment. Eat at the Boardwalk Café and at the Gatsby on the Ocean Restaurant and ice cream shop; swim in the pool, enjoy the new WildPlay Adventure Park with zip lines (https://wildplay.com/jones-beach/, 800-668-7771); play miniature golf, shuffleboard, basketball, corn hole, paddle tennis, table tennis, pickleball, playgrounds, splashpad and concerts on the boardwalk and the Northwell Theater; learn about the marine environment at the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center.

Biking the path along Ocean Parkway from Jones Beach to Captree State Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jones Beach is also at the middle of Bike Long Island’s premier bike path, from Cedar Creek Park in Seaford, 5.4 mile ride to Jones Beach’s East Bathhouse on the Boardwalk, then 9.4 miles along Ocean parkway to Captree State Park. (You can also connect with the Bethpage State Park bike path.)

Biking on the Bethpage State Park trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other stellar Long Island attractions and events this summer:

Cradle of Aviation Museum was established to commemorate Long Island’s part in the history of aviation and offers 75 air and space craft and galleries chronicling 100 years of aviation on Long Island. a digital planetarium and theater (films “Superhuman Body” and “Cities of the Future”). Charles Lindbergh Blvd, Garden City, NY 11530, 516-572-4111, www.cradleofaviation.org.

The lunar module built on Long Island by Grumman is on view at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Uniondale © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Long Island Children’s Museum offers 14 interactive exhibits plus live theater, art spaces and daily activities to provide hours of exploration, engagement, and enchantment for children. At LICM, a 40,000 sq. foot facility, children discover their passions and their relationship to the world we share through creative educational programs and cultural experiences that accommodate all backgrounds and abilities. Also enjoy the historic Nunley’s Carousel, one of three intact Stein & Goldstein carousels still in existence. (Long Island Children’s Museum, 11 Davis Ave., Garden City, NY 11530, 516-224-5800, www.licm.org)

Creative play at the Long Island Children’s Museum, Uniondale © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Old Bethpage Village Restoration, one of my favorite places in the world, is a living history museum, where costumed interpreters and artisans and every home and structure tell a story. Upcoming events include Decoration Day (May 25-26); Revolutionary War encampment Weekend (june 1-2), Marching through History (June 15-16); Cowboy Mounted Shooting Show (June 29, 10 am-2:30 pm); 1864 Independence Day Celebration (July 6-7); Grand Army of the Republic Encampment (July 20; raindate July 21); Olde Time Baseball Tournament (Aug. 3-4); Olde Time Music Weekend (Aug 17-18); Long Island Fair (Sept. 13, 15); 1880s Haunted Halloween (Oct. 26-27). For information and tickets, https://www.oldbethpagevillagerestoration.org/events. (Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage, 11804, 516-572-8409, Email: [email protected]).

Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame is where you can see and appreciate the artistic accomplishments and heritage that have come from Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Brooklyn, through permanent collection and special exhibits at its first permanent location in Stony Brook. To date, LIMEHOF has inducted more than 120 musicians and music industry executives, and offers education programs, scholarships, and awards to Long Island students and educators.  (97 Main St., Stony Brook, NY 11790, [email protected]631-689-5888, www.LIMEHOF.org)

Adventureland, Long Island’s destination amusement park since 1962, offers 30 adult and kiddie rides, including FireBall, North America’s first and only rollerball coaster, and Turbulence, Long Island’s only spinning roller coaster, and water rides and kiddie rides. Two new rides were unveiled this 2024 season: Moon Chaser and the Jr. Pirate Ship. (2245 Broad Hollow Road (RT. 110), Farmingdale, NY 11735,  631-694-6868, Email: [email protected], https://adventureland.us/).

Splish Splash, with 96 acres of slides and attractions, is the largest waterpark in the tri-state area, offering 20 water slides including high-speed slides like Bombs Away, Riptide Racer, and Bootlegger’s Run, the first water coaster in New York with breathtaking drops), two wave pools, a large Kiddie Area, lazy river (Located just off the Long Island Expressway, Exit 72 West, Calverton, www.splishsplash.com).

For more summer adventure: Long Island’s Wine Country with more than 75 wine producers along the North Fork, South Fork, and western Suffolk County; Montauk Point, the Hamptons,  Fire Island, plus Long Island’s historic lighthouses and mansions.

More ideas from Discover Long Island, 330 Motor Parkway, Suite 203, Hauppauge, NY 11788, 877-386-6654, Email: [email protected], www.DiscoverLongIsland.com

________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Hyéres: The French Riviera Without the Glitz or the Crowds

Plage de la Madrague, at the end of our hike along the Sentit Litoral © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Laini Miranda & Dave E. Leiberman, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Is it possible to experience the blue waters, amazing seafood, and slow pace of a French Riviera vacation without the glitz and crowds? It is if you visit the port town of Hyères, jutting off the southern coast of the Cote d’Azur between Lavandou and Cassis. We went in late September when the crowds of the high season had vanished and the weather was still warm enough to lay on the beach and enjoy bathtub temperature waters. 

We arrived on a Tuesday and drove straight to the Vieille Ville (Old Town), leaving our car just beyond the pedestrian streets. Colorful pastel walls line the streets, with classic Provençal shops interspersed with boutiques,artist galleries, and medieval buildings, including a 12th century Knights Templar Tower-turned exhibition space. 

Place Massillon in the center of Vieille Ville, complete with cafes, artesan shops, and the 12th-century Tower of Saint-Blaise © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The town still recalls its 19th century heyday when artists and writers like Picasso, Dalí, Tolstoy, and F. Scott Fitzgerald used to vacation here. The narrow streets are filled with artisans sharing their work and wares. There is even a “Parcours des Arts”, a route that takes you passed dozens of artist studios and galleries. We loved learning about the history and design of boomerangs at Wallaby Boomerangs with Stéphane Marquerite, a professional boomerang player and maker whose gallery also houses examples from throughout history and from across the world.

Stéphane Marquerite tells us about his collection of handmade boomerangs from around the world at Wallaby Boomerangs, part of the “Parcours des Arts” in the Vieille Ville © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are 5 main sections in Hyères: Old Town, the port, El Capte, Giens, and Toulon. Giens and Toulon are connected to the Port by a long skinny stretch of land with salt flats on the east and the long sandy Place d’Almanarre on the west. Off the coast you will find three islands that make up Les Îsles d’Or (“Islands of Gold”): Porquerolles, Port Cros, and Levant.

The colorful streets of Vielle Ville, the old town of Hyéres © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We stayed on the Port, about 20 minutes driving from the old town and 10 minutes to Giens. Here we were closest to the ferries to Port Cros, one of the three main islands. There are also several excellent restaurants, including U Primu, right on the port with eclectic seafood-inspired dishes. 

El Capte is a small neighborhood just below El Port, and seems to have a busier nightlife with more restaurants and bars. L’Almanarre, on the other side of this strip, is a long stretch of golden sand and clear waters famous for kite surfing (don’t miss a chance to see them flying over the water on a windy day!).

Wandering the narrow streets of Vieille Ville, Hyéres © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Giens is a beautiful area at the bottom of Hyères with a few streets and a handful of restaurants that make up the center of this small village. Hotel Provençal is a popular hotel with a prized location and balcony overlooking epic views of the sea and islands in the distance. Make reservations in advance for a romantic dinner on their gorgeous balcony (but make sure you stop in if even just to check out the view). At the bottom of Giens you will find the Tour du Fond, where you will catch the ferry to Isle de Porquerolles. Also right near here is Plage Pradeau, a beautiful restaurant above the beach of the same name, serving the freshest fish as well as an extensive menu of inventive dishes. Be sure to book a table in advance. Ask for the table by the water if you want to have an intimate dinner surrounded by lush foliage just a few feet above the sea. 

Hiking the Sentit Litoral © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

La Madgrague  is on the west side of the peninsula and only has a few restaurants, but what it lacks in establishments it makes up for in its beaches. Here at L’Madrugue is where we picked up the Sentit Litoral, a breathtakingly beautiful hike around the peninsula. The full route is 6 miles, but you can choose to do as much or as little as you want. Our favorite part was the northeastern section with panoramic views of Ponte d’Chevale and some small islands just off the coast. On the day of our hike there were 30 mph winds on the east side of the peninsula, but the northwest was calm and delightful.

While there are many beautiful beaches in Hyères, one you must visit is the Isle de Porquerolles. A 20 minute ferry ride ($25 at the time of writing) brings you to an island with crystal clear waters and world class snorkeling. No cars are allowed, but you can easily explore the island by bike, which you can rent from one of several spots clustered at the edge of town just a few yards from where the ferry lets off.

Plage Notre Dame on the Isle de Porquerolles © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The most famous beach on the island is Plage de Notre Dame, a long, narrow stretch of clean sand and clear water. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks since here you are several miles from the nearest concessions. Another beach we enjoyed was Plage de l’Arent, with similarly clear waters and a slightly deeper shore than Notre Dame. Unfortunately we got here a little too close to the departing ferry hour to enjoy a meal at the beach bar there, but definitely plan to return for lunch on a future trip. 

In Hyéres you can experience the blue waters, amazing seafood, and slow pace of a French Riviera vacation without the glitz and crowds © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

With seven beaches, many hikes, a contemporary art gallery, and great boutiques and restaurants around a central town square, there is plenty to do here to warrant more than a day trip. There are a few hotels on the island ranging in prices, but we found most rooms to be booked at least two months out (even in low season), so plan in advance. Ferries run between Giens and Isle de Porquerolles every hour from 9am to 6:30pm.

Scouting the water before snorkeling at La Madrague, after our hike along the Sentit Litoral © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On a future trip we plan to also check out Port Cros, the “wilder” of the three main islands. Port Cros is an hour ferry ride from Hyères, has 2 small beaches, miles of rocky, steep hikes, and boasts some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. Both the island itself and its surrounding waters are declared National Parks. Port Cros is also known for its several nude beaches. But if you’re specifically looking for an island to visit au natural, Isle de Levant, the furthest island from Hyères, is known as the nudist island, as clothing is optional from its beaches to much of the town itself. 

In Hyéres you can experience the blue waters, amazing seafood, and slow pace of a French Riviera vacation without the glitz and crowds © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During our 3 weeks in France, Hyères was one of our favorite stops. We visited multiple towns and beaches of the Cote d’Azur, including Nice, Villefranche sur Mer, Eze, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, Cassis, and Marseille. We actually found Hyères to have the most beautiful beaches in terms of soft sand and swimmable water. Of course, all of these places have plenty of picturesque shores, hip beach bars, and the posh ambience you think of when you picture the French Riviera. For this trip, however, we preferred the quieter vibe and golden sands of Hyères to the more common rocky shores of the rest of the Riviera and were thrilled to find this hidden gem.

Pro Tip: Download the app Windy to track the mistral winds while you’re visiting Hyères, or anywhere on the Cote D’Azur for that matter. If the wind is blowing from one direction, just go to the other side of the peninsula!

For more planning help, visit Hyères Tourist Office, Rotonde du Park Hôtel 16 avenue de Belgique Centre-ville 83400 Hyères, France,   https://cotedazurfrance.fr/en/offers/hyeres-tourist-office-hyeres-en-2915102/, www.hyeres-tourisme.com

_______________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Visiting Colmar, France, is Like Stepping into a Storybook

Maison Pfister is a centerpiece of Colmar, France and has become the historic city’s symbol © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Colmar, in France’s Alsace-Lorraine region, is a storybook village – its buildings literally decorated to tell a story. And when you wander around its narrow, twisting streets, you walk through 500 years of history, lose all sense of what century you are in and fall totally under its spell.

Almost miraculously, the city has managed to remain mostly unscathed through centuries of wars. So as you stroll around, you come upon architectural jewels from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. (You can follow a self-guided historic walking tour of silver Statue of Liberty figures in the pavement.)

I became curious about visiting Colmar when I saw a short report about it being the childhood home of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty, and the images of how colorful and charming it was. I had to see if for myself.

So I take advantage of the ease of visiting Colmar from Strasbourg, the starting point for a European Waterways canal cruise through the Alsace Lorraine on its luxury hotel barge, Panache. It is just 45 minutes on the train, every half hour, a most enjoyable, comfortable and scenic ride, 28E roundtrip, no need to reserve – and  join the hordes of day-trippers exploring this  fairytale-like place.

It’s a short, pleasant walk from the Colmar train station into Le Petit Venise (Little Venice), the historic district (really similar to Strasbourg’s Le Petit France), and I am immediately enchanted.

Colmar is famous for its half-timbered houses and richly decorated merchants’ mansions. Some date from the Middle Ages, such as the Adolf House, the oldest in Colmar, built in the second half of the 14th century; and the “Huselin zum Swan” on Schongauer Street.

Maison Pfister, built in 1537, manifests exquisite art and design of the Renaissance© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Renaissance is on display in one of Colmar’s most magnificent structures, Maison Pfister with ornate bay windows (oriels), long wooden gallery and exquisitely painted murals, which has become a symbol of the city. Maison Pfister was built in 1537 for Ludwig Scherer, a wealthy hatter from Besancon. The paintings that decorate the façade, attributed to Christian Vacksterffer, represent 16th century Germanic Emperors, Evangelists, Church Fathers, allegorical figures and biblical characters and scenes. It is named for the merchant Francois-Xavier Pfister who acquired the mansion in 1841.

The exquisite paintings that decorate the façade of Maison Pfister © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I come upon a house at 34, rue des Marchands with a plaque dated 1435 and a note that says this was the residence of master painter Caspar Isenmann “(Zum Grienen hus”). Another marvelous structure is “Cour du Weinhof,” at 12-16 rue des Marchands, which is a medieval 14th century granary.

A plaque says this was the residence of master painter Caspar Isenmann “(Zum Grienen hus”), dated 1435 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A 14th century granary in Colmar © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So many of the buildings are adorned with beautiful, even playful, whimsical decoration – as if there is a competition for who can have the prettiest or cleverest or most festive, or perhaps a public ordinance that requires everyone to be incredibly festive and clever. I wonder.

The whimsically decorated buildings make Colmar seem like a storybook © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The whimsically decorated buildings make Colmar seem like a storybook © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The whimsically decorated buildings make Colmar seem like a storybook © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I go in search of the intriguingly named House of Heads. Built in1609 in German Renaissance style, it has a three-story bay window, and a façade embellished with 111 heads and masks.

The intriguingly named House of Heads, Colmar © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You walk through a fabulous pedestrian zone -a listed “protected sector” – that takes you from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, from “Little Venice” to the Tanners district with its grand white-fronted houses.

Similar to Strasbourg, there are districts, or neighborhoods, built around trades.

Colmar’s Poisonnerie quay where fish caught mainly in the River Ill were stocked and sold, dates from the 14th century © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Poisonnerie quay where fish caught mainly in the River Ill were stocked and sold, dates from the 14th century. Part of this district was damaged in a major fire in 1706 but some houses were rebuilt. The whole area underwent urban revitalization from 1976 to 1981.

Colmar’s Poisonnerie quay where fish caught mainly in the River Ill were stocked and sold, dates from the 14th century © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Tanners Quarter, rounded by the Rue de Montagne Vertne, Rue des Tripiers, Rue des Tanneurs and place de l’Ancienne Douane, is the epicenter of the protected old town center. Its tall, timber-framed houses built during the 17th and 18th centuries, often have a final open-worked level which was used by craftsmen to dry their pelts. The district was restored 1968-1974.

The Tanners Quarter has been restored © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Koifhus (Old Customs house) completed in 1480, is the oldest public building in the city. The ground floor was used as a warehouse, where imported and exported goods were taxed. The floor was used for meetings of the deputies of the Décapole, the federation of the 10 imperial cities of Alsace, formed in 1534 and for the Magistrate. When the Revolution abolished commercial privileges, the building was used for other purposes. Around 1840,  the building was used as a theater and in 1848, the first office of the discount bank. The Koïfhus was occupied by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1870 to 1930 and by a Catholic boy school and an Israelite school in the late 19th century. Today it is used for various public activities.

Colmar’s Covered Market: what is old is new again © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A marvelous place is The Covered Market, especially to pick up picnic fixings for lunch or snack. Designed in 1865, this building is made of bricks, with a metal frame has had several functions until being returned to its original purpose of market hall. About 20 merchants offer high quality products: fruits and vegetables, butchery, cheese dairy, bakery and pastry, fish and other terroir delights – yet another example of what is old becoming new again. (13 rue des Ecoles, Quartier de la Petite Venise).

I find a sensational patisserie that has the best croissants, which I munch just outside in a tiny park.

Musee Unterlinden

I wander a bit aimlessly, just soaking in the atmosphere, and find myself at one of Colmar’s most important museums, Musee Unterlinden.

Musee Unterlinden is housed in a 13th century convent building  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Founded in 1906, Musee Unterlinden is housed in a 13th century convent building that was linked to the former municipal baths building  by architects Herzog & de M Meuron, who added a contemporary extension. Within you wander through 7,000 years of history, culture and art from the prehistoric era to 20th century.

The museum is mainly known as a showcase of Rhenish Art, displaying a remarkable collection of paintings and sculptures of the Colmar region of the 15th and 16th centuries, a Golden Age for the Upper Rhine.

Musee Unterlinden’s star attraction is the celebrated altarpiece of Isenheim © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But its star attraction is the celebrated altarpiece of Isenheim, an exquisite polyptych created between 1512 and 1516 by the artists Niclaus of Haguenau (for the sculpted elements) and Grünewald (for the painted panels). It was created for the Antonite order’s monastic complex at Isenheim, a village about 15 miles south of Colmar, where it decorated the high altar of the monastery hospital’s chapel until the French Revolution.

Musee Unterlinden’s star attraction is the celebrated altarpiece of Isenheim © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Isenheim Altarpiece  is housed in the museum’s Medieval cloister, where you find the art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with works by Martin Schongauer, Hans Holbein and Lucas Cranach. The former baths building that opened in 1906 is used for special exhibitions, while the works of major 20th century artists including Monet, de Staël, Picasso and Dubuffet have a new showcase in the contemporary wing.

Musee Unterlinden’s star attraction is the celebrated altarpiece of Isenheim © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I wander down to the cellar of the former convent, and am fascinated to see its extensive archaeology section, with artifacts of the Haut-Rhin region dating back thousands of years. The collection has been expanding because of ongoing regional excavations. One section is devoted to prehistory and protohistory, the neighboring rooms to the Roman and Merovingian periods.

Musee Unterlinden’s star attraction is the celebrated altarpiece of Isenheim © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The extensive collection of historical objects and artifacts from domestic life and funerary contexts, mostly from the northern Haut-Rhine, presents an almost complete overview of the different stages of the region’s cultural evolution.

Musee Unterlinden’s collection of historical objects and artifacts presents an almost complete overview of the different stages of the region’s cultural evolution.© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I find it interesting to learn Unterlinden was founded by a man who was convinced of the importance of “making a contribution to forming and developing a sense of taste and beauty” and of “providing the lower classes with an opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and pleasures they are so often denied.” In 1847, Louis Hugot, archivist and the city librarian of Colmar since 1841, was inspired by his love of graphic art to establish the Martin Schoengauer Society with other local scholars. Two years later, the society published its plan to transform the Unterlinden Convent into a museum. 

Musee Unterlinden, Place Untrlinden, https://www.musee-unterlinden.com/en/home/.

Musee Bartholdi

The Musee Bartholdi inner courtyard is  where you see Bartholdi’s inspiring statue, “Grand soutiens du monde” – four women holding up the world © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The climax for my enchanting tour of Colmar comes when I (finally) find my way to the Musee Bartholdi (I seem to have overshot it a couple of times, even though everything is really close, even though there are metal markers in the street leading to the museum). The museum is housed in the childhood home of sculptor Frederick Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), who created the statue we know as the Statue of Liberty, but was actually named “Liberty Enlightening the World,” unveiled in New York in 1886.

Bartholdi’s inspiring statue, “Grand soutiens du monde” – four women holding up the world © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bartholdi was the son of a councilmember who died in 1836 when he was just two years old. The family residence was built in the 15th century and transformed in the 18th century into an elegant hotel particulier (town mansion).

When Bartholdi died, his widow defied his wishes (he wanted her to create a museum for sculpture) and turned his Colmar family home into a museum as a tribute to him. Opened in 1922, the Bartholdi museum is entirely dedicated to presenting the artist’s work as well as his process, so you see models, drawings, engravings and photographs.  You also see family furniture and personal mementos.

Going through Bartholdi’s childhood home, you feel you get to know him © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You enter through an inner courtyard, where you see Bartholdi’s inspiring statue, “Grand soutiens du monde” – four women holding up the world (bronze 1902).

The collection is presented on three floors of the mansion and walking through the family’s rooms lets you see Bartholdi as a person, how his idealism was manifested in his art, and you realize that his true genius is how his art inspires that same idealism in the viewer.

A portrait of Frederick Auguste Bartholdi in the Bartholdi Museum, Colmar © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A whole room (surprisingly small, but that makes it more intimate) is dedicated to the Statue of Liberty – you see his inspirations and some early designs, and fantastic historic photos of its production in Paris. It is thrilling to see Bartholdi’s process for the Statue of Liberty, which he titled Liberty Enlightening the World.

Indeed, Bartholdi’s colossal Lady Liberty famously celebrates freedom, and most Americans believe his symbols refer to the American Revolution and independence from tyranny, especially since it was dedicated in New York 1886, a little over a century after the Declaration of Independence. But Bartholdi intended Liberty to commemorate America’s abolition of slavery as a result of the Civil War in 1865 – the idea for the monument originated in 1865 but was pursued only after the Third French Republic was established in 1870. We see a model of the statue that has Lady Liberty’s foot stepping on chains, as if to crush the chains of bondage.

A model of Bartholdi’s “Liberty Enlightening the World”shows Lady Liberty crushing chains of bondage © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lady Liberty stands 151 feet tall, and the top of her torch brings the statue up to 305 feet – the largest statue that had ever been completed up to that time.

There are also his models for Bartholdi’s monumental statue, Lion of Belfort, which is as precious to France as Lady Liberty is to America. Bartholdi served in the Franco-Prussian War and took part in the defense of Colmar. I read that Bartholdi was distraught over Alsace’s defeat and over the years, constructed monuments celebrating French heroism in its defense against Germany. Lion of Belfort, which he created from 1871-1880, symbolizes the French resistance against Prussia’s assault during the 103-day Siege of Belfort, December 1870 to February 1871.

Bartholdi’s “Le Martyr modern,” reinterprets the tragic myth of Prometheus© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Colmar had always celebrated its native son, Bartholdi, and he had erected statues in the city, including his earliest works. But in the 1890s, German authorities restricted Bartholdi’s residency permit in Alsace, because several of his public monuments demonstrated support for a French Alsace. The sculptor found it increasingly difficult to travel to Colmar. In light of this, the Schoengeuer Society’s decision to set up a Bartholdi Room in the Unterlinden Museum in 1898 was a courageous move.

Bartholdi collaborated with the Schoengauer Society early on – his first major sculpture was created for the Unterlinden Museum when he was just 18 years old – a plaster statue of the founder of the Unterlinden Convent, Agnes de Hergenheim (1852), as well as the monumental fountain in honor of Martin Schongeuer, erected in the cloister of the former convent (1863). Bartholdi donated several works to the society which were transferred to the Bartholdi Museum when it opened in 1922.

Following the re-annexation of Alsace and Moselle by Nazi Germany in June 1940, Colmar was once again under German rule. The museum was shut down. The German forces destroyed Bartholdi’s monuments in the city – the statue of General Rapp was smashed on September 9, 1940; the Bruat fountain was dismantled. Figures of the four continents in red Vosges sandstone were crushed.

Nazis crushed Bartholdi’s Figures of the four Continents  but residents saved the four heads © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But some Colmar residents managed to get to the site to save the four heads and a part of the foot, which they hid in their cellars. The fragments were returned to the city after the war (they are on view in the museum) and a new version of the fountain was erected in 1958.

The museum reopened in 1979, very likely spurred by preparations for celebrating the Statue of Liberty Centennial.

Metal images of Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty embedded in Colmar’s walkway lead the way to the Bartholdi Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(We can see his works in the United States also: Marquis de Lafayette in Union Square, NYC; Bartholdi Fountain in the Botanic Garden, Washington DC.)

There is also a 12-meter high replica of the Statue of Liberty, sculpted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of sculptor Auguste Bartholdi’s death, located at the northern entrance to the town.

“Fontaine Schwendi”, depicting Lazarus von Schendi  (1898), in the Place de L’Ancienne Douane,  is one of Bartholdi’s works that can be found around Colmar © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The museum has a brochure (in French) with a map of where you can find Bartholdi statues and monuments around Colmar: Monument du Général Rapp – 1856 (first shown 1855 in Paris. Bartholdi’s earliest major work); “Fontaine Schongauer” – 1863 (in front of the Unterlinden Museum); “Fontaine de l’Amiral Bruat” – 1864; “Fontaine Roeselmann” – 1888; “Monument Hirn” – 1894; “Fontaine Schwendi”, depicting Lazarus von Schendi – 1898; Les grands soutiens du monde − 1902 (statue in the courtyard of the museum).

(Musee Bartholdi, 30 rue des Marchands, 68000 Colmar, https://www.musee-bartholdi.fr/)

Much of Colmar is a protected district, © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Another site I miss is the Synagogue. Built 1839-1842 on the site of an old farm, the synagogue of Colmar is the seat of the Israelite Consistory and the Grand Rabbinate of the Haut-Rhin.

I learn that the Jewish community was expelled in the 16th century, but returned to Colmar during the Revolution. The Rabbi was transferred from Wintzenheim to Colmar in 1823. The synagogue of Colmar was renovated in 1885 and an annex added in 1936. Used as an arsenal during the German occupation, the synagogue was restored after the war. It is the only synagogue in the region which has a bell tower. (3 rue de la Cigogne,)

Enjoy a boat ride to see Colmar from the river © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear

Unfortunately, I leave Colmar before seeing its Illumination. The town is illuminated from nightfall on Fridays and Saturdays year-round and every evening during major events in Colmar such as the International Festival, Regional Alsace Wine Fair and Christmas in Colmar.

Another reason to look forward to returning.

For more information about Colmar’s museums: https://www.tourisme-colmar.com/en/visit/presentation/museums

For more visitor information, contact Tourist Office of Colmar, Place Unterlinden, +33 (0)3 89 20 68 92, [email protected], https://www.tourisme-colmar.com/en. The website is really helpful for planning: https://www.tourisme-colmar.com/en/visit/presentation/discover

See also:

DISCOVERING STRASBOURG FRANCE’S CULTURAL RICHES

TIME-TRAVELING THROUGH STRASBOURG IN FRANCE’S ALSACE-LORRAINE

_______________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Time-Traveling through Strasbourg in France’s Alsace-Lorraine

The spectacular panoramic view of Le Petit France from the terrace atop Vauban Dam © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Staying over in the historic city of Strasbourg in France’s Alsace-Lorraine region, means that you can go out in the early morning, before the daytrippers crowd the streets, and soak in the atmosphere.

A cyclist rides through the Tanners Row, empty of people in the early morning © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I walk through Tanners Row, which in this early morning hour, is peaceful. A guy on a bike rides through, a reminder that this is still a neighborhood, a community.

I go to explore Strasbourg’s Les Ponts Couverts and the Vauban Dam, located a short distance from each other.

Strasbourg’s Les Ponts Couverts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Les Ponts Couverts (covered bridges) are three bridges spanning the River Ill, dominated by three imposing square towers, vestiges of the 13th-century city walls. A bit further, there’s a fourth tower nicknamed “the executioner’s tower.”

While I fruitlessly look for covered bridges, I finally realize that they were replaced in 1865 by these stone bridges without a roof (so not covered),where I am standing. As I observe the beautiful views from the bridge, a fellow tells me you can walk on the Panoramic Terrace on top of the Vauban Dam – in fact, the views from there are spectacular.

Statues stored in a cell within the Vauban Dam © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A short walk from the bridge is the Vauban Dam. “The Great Lock” was built between 1686 and 1700 based on plans of Louix XIV’s military engineer, Vauban. Built with 13 arches, it was constructed so that they could flood part of the city to defend against an enemy attack.  It is fascinating to walk through – some sculptures just hanging about gathering cobwebs – but most marvelous is a rooftop terrace, laid out in 1965, which you can walk over for a spectacular panoramic view of the old city.

Looking out from the interior of the Vauban Dam © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

From here, you can see the fingers of the River Ill coming together below you. (Pro tip: though amazing to see in the morning light, you are looking into the sun – the reflections on the water are amazing – but check it out in the late afternoon.)

The view of Le Petit France from the terrace atop Vauban Dam © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Palais Rohan

One of the many jewels of Strasbourg is the Palais Rohan. Constructed between 1732 and 1742 from blueprints by Robert deCotte, First Architect to the King, it was built for Cardinal Armand-Gaston de Rohan-Soubise, Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg, modeled after Paris’ grand mansions.

Palais Rohan was constructed between 1732 and 1742 from blueprints by Robert deCotte, First Architect to the King, modeled after Paris’ grand mansions.© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Following the French Revolution, the palace became the Emperor’s royal residence, and after 1870, a museum. Today, the Palais Rohan houses three stellar museums: the Archeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Fine Arts Museum – just walking through the palace to the various rooms where the exhibits are displayed is a phenomenal experience.

(I have to rush through in the couple of hours before I need to get to the Regent Petit France Hotel where we are getting picked up for the European Waterways canal cruise aboard the Panache. It would have been better to have four hours.)

The art and artifacts are gorgeously presented in an exquisite palace. Definitely follow the helpful “My First Visit…” brochures which detail where to find the highlights.

The Museum of Decorative Arts is set in the historical royal apartments in the Palais Rohan, today with the juxtaposition of a modern art exhibit © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of Fine Arts presents a fascinating overview of European painting up to 1870. Located on the first floor of the Palais Rohan, the museum offers a tour through the centuries and schools: Italian and Flemish Primitives (Giotto, Memling); Renaissance and Mannerism (Botticelli, Raphael, Veronese, Lucas de Leyde, El Greco); Baroque, Naturalism and Classicism in the 17th and 18th centuries (Rubens, Vouet, Zurbarán, La Belle Strasbourgeoise de Largillière, Canaletto, Tiepolo, Goya); 19th century (Delacroix, Chassériau, Corot, Courbet). 

Among the highlights is La Belle Strasbourgeoise, from 1703, a portrait of a woman from one of Strasbourg’s important families in the time of Louis XIV with her imposing two-cornered hat in black lace, painted by one of the best portrait painters of the time, Nicolas de Largilliere. Though the woman has never been identified, the painting has become a symbol of the museum, much as the Mona Lisa is to Le Louvre.

Museum of Decorative Arts is set in the historical apartments – so you visit the chambers of the King and the Bishop-Prince, with exceptional examples of “the princely style of life under the monarchy.” It continues into the wing of the old stables with a tour of rooms housing decorative arts collections tracing the diversity and development of applied arts in Strasbourg from 1681 to 1870 – world-famous Hannong ceramics, furnishings, sculpture and paintings, timepieces, metalwork, silver and goldsmith art, and a selection of mechanical toys from the Tomi Ungerer Foundation.

The Museum of Decorative Arts is set in the historical royal apartments in the Palais Rohan, today with the juxtaposition of a modern art exhibit © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The most interesting section is the Chamber of the Bishops – the suite of rooms forming the King’s apartments. Originally, there would have been portraits of bishops but in 1793, the paintings were burned by revolutionaries who replaced them with allegorical figures of the Civic Virtues, which is what we see today. One of the paintings dates from the First French Empire and displays the monogram of Napoleon I and the Empress Josephine.

Louis XV is said to have slept in this bedchamber during his visit to Strasbourg in 1744 and Marie -Antoinette in 1770 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the notable occupants of the King’s bedchamber were Louix XV, himself, who stayed here in October 1744, and the Daughines Marie-Josephe de Saxe in 1747 and Marie-Antoinette in 1770. The wood paneling is among the masterpieces of the French Rocaille style. Elaborately stylized shell-like, rock-like, and scroll motifs, Rocaille is one of the more prominent aspects of the Rococo style of architecture and decoration that developed in France during the reign of King Louis XV (1715–74).

Here, there is a disorienting melding of the old with the new: You go through the Royal Suite – bedchamber, Assembly Room which have been complemented with anachronistic modern art displays.

In the Decorative Arts Museum in the Palais Rohan, a room full of fascinating clockworks, including a cock clock and an astronomical clock, designed in the 16th century © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Seeing my interest, the guide directs me to a room with clockworks – the cock clock originates from the first astronomical clock dating from the 14th century of the Strasbourg Cathedral; in the center of the room are parts of the second astronomical clock designed in the 16th century by mathematician Conrad Dasypodius.

I visit a room that originally was the Prince-Bishops’ bedchamber, but when it was refurbished in the Imperial period, the bedchamber became Emperor Napoleon’s Morning Room and the antechamber of the Prince-Bishop became a small dining room. The decoration was damaged during bombing in 1944.

Emperor Napoleon’s Morning in the Palais Rohan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The entire Palais Rohan is an exhibit of decorative arts – it was built by Armand Gaston, Prince de Rohan Soubise, Bishop of Strasbourg from 1704-1713 who initiated the work. He wanted a building in the style of the Chateau at Versailles and commissioned plans from the King’s chief architect, Robert de Cotte. Construction, decoration and furnishing lasted from 1732-1742.

Archaeological Museum, the oldest of Strasbourg’s museums, was founded in the 18th century. It is fabulous. Housed in the basement of the Palais Rohan, the diversity and wide chronological range of the artifacts on display make it one of the most important archaeological museums in France.

The Archaeological Museum in the Palais Rohan has burial sites from the Bronze and Iron Age© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Archaeological Museum has fascinating exhibits that date back, remarkably, from 600,000 BC through the early Middle Ages (800 A.D.) You get insights into the daily life of Paleolithic hunters and the first neolithic farmers, Bronze Age and Iron Age burials, the everyday life of Gallo-Romans, and jewelry and weapons unearthed from Frankish and Atamanic graves.

Among the highlights in the The Archaeological Museum in the Palais Rohan is this chariot for traveling through the world of the dead © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the highlights: A chariot for traveling through the world of the dead, taken from tombs of Celtic princes from the Iron Age (750 BC-050 BC). And you can see the oldest tool in Eastern France – a chopper made of rock used for slicing or scraping, that was found at Achenheim and dated about 600,000 B.C. There is also a funeral headstone of a Gallo-Roman farming couple wearing their everyday clothes, that dates from the late 3rd Century A.D.

Palais Rohan, 2 place du Chateau Strasbourg, +33 (0) 3 68 98 50 00, www.musees.strasbourg.eu.

Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg

After returning from the canal cruise aboard the Panache and before taking the afternoon train back to Paris, I find my way down this really colorful street off Cathedral Square (that’s saying something in Strasbourg) to the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg. It is also not to be missed (and try to see early in your visit).

The Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg is housed in what once was the Grande Boucherie (slaughterhouse) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You wouldn’t believe that the museum, founded in 1920, is housed in what was the Grande Boucherie (the city’s slaughterhouse) built 1587-1588; it was renovated and reopened in 2013.

Entering the Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg is like entering a time machine that transports you to exciting, dramatic periods of France’s history: Gutenberg’s printing press and the rise of a printing/publishing industry in Strasbourg, and what that meant. The French Revolution. The 1870 Commune Revolt. World War I. The Nazi Occupation and resistance. The museum offers an engaging tour lets you discover nine centuries of Strasbourg’s existence through 1700 works on display –paintings, artifacts, possessions – and interactive and digital devices.

Strasbourg was a free city of the Empire, which meant it had its own walls and enjoyed the privilege of holding a market and minting its own coins. Strasbourg did not take an oath of loyalty to the sovereign and did not owe the sovereign taxes or military, except for an escort for his coronation. Such a “free city” was rare. On this basis, Strasbourg had an independent constitution that was considered highly democratic by the standards of the day.

A display of Jewish ritual objects on view in Strasbourg’s City Museum. Jews were expelled from the city in 1388. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

However, among those excluded from burgher status were servants, the poor and Jews, who were massacred in 1349, and after 1388, the survivors were denied the right to live in Strasbourg. The only activity Jews could lawfully engage in was usury (money lending), and certain trades. They could pursue these occupations in the city by day but had to leave in the evening. There is a moving display showing Jewish ritual objects (and as I had seen at the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame, a collection of Jewish tombstones).

There is an excellent display about Gutenberg, who developed his printing process in Strasbourg between 1434 and 1444 (legend has it he was inspired by seeing a wine press), then returned to his hometown of Mainz where he published his first printed volume in 1454. Gutenberg’s technological revolution spread with lightning speed. In Strasbourg some dozen printing houses sprang up between 1460 and 1480. The first publications were religious books (bibles) , classical texts and calendars.

Johannes Gutenberg is said to have invented his printing press in Strasbourg, which became a major center for printing and publishing © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The invention of printing, arbitrarily dated 1440, was celebrated in Mainz (as of 1837) and in Strasbourg, which raised the statue by David d’Angers honoring Gutenberg in 1840 (the statue we see today in Place de Gutenberg).

In the early days, printing was used to diffuse knowledge as well as criticism of the Church and of society in general. But authorities soon started printing decrees. In Strasbourg, the population was divided into six social classes – the first included servants and unmarried women; second class were day workers; third class were gardeners, and up to the sixth class, representing nobles, the Magistrate and jurists.

Laws promulgated by the municipality from 1531 onwards touched every aspect of life – religion, education, marriage, burial, use of inns, dress, begging, Jews, financial matters, games, behavior in the street, defamation, publishing.

One could say that the printing press enabled the “Rule of Law”.

Historical paintings of Strasbourg are on view in the City Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is fascinating to travel through time – through the Imperial period, the French Revolution, the Commune, the back-and-forth between being part of France and the German Empire, World War I, World War II and Nazi occupation.

I learn that 22 Novembre – the name of a main boulevard where my hotel, the Hannong, is – was the date in 1918 when the French Army entered Strasbourg. “For President Poincare, the enthusiastic reaction of the population was equivalent to a plebiscite. French became compulsory in schools and the civil service. Strasbourg, the regional capital, had to re-adapt to the French system of departments. Religion, important in both educational and political terms, had to make concessions to the secular state.”

The extensive exhibits focused on the World War II period are intense.

In July1940, once Petain had signed the armistice, Alsatians were encouraged by the Vichy regime to return to their homes – exceptions were Jews, “Francophiles” and French civil servants (30% of the population) – their property was seized, and what followed was “Germanization” of the population (again, since Alsace had gone back and forth between Germany and France).

In November 1944, Strasbourg was liberated from the Germans by General LeClerc. Strasbourg was bombed by both Allies and by Germans after being liberated in 1944.

The European Union was founded in 1992 – three of its institutions are based in Strasbourg: the European Parliament, the European Mediator and the Schengen Information Service.

“A day will come when war will seem as absurd and as impossible between Paris and London, St. Petersburg and Berlin, Vienna and Turin, as today it would be impossible and seem absurd between Rouen and Amiens, Boston and Philadelphia,” Victor Hugo said in the inaugural speech at the Congress for Peace, Paris, August 21, 1849.

I don’t even remember how many hours I spent here – the displays are really captivating.

(Information and portal to collections: https://en.musees.strasbourg.eu/museums)

Strolling around the historic district of Strasbourg to take in the fabulous architecture and ambiance takes on new dimension after visiting the City’s museum of history © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

More information at https://www.strasbourg.info and https://www.visitstrasbourg.fr.

Next: Stepping into the Storybook that is Colmar

See also:

DISCOVERING STRASBOURG FRANCE’S CULTURAL RICHES

_______________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Discovering Strasbourg France’s Cultural Riches

Strasbourg, France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral, as seen through the windows of Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I’ve come to Strasbourg, France, for a European Waterways canal cruise through the Alsace Lorraine on its luxury hotel barge, Panache. It is my practice now when connecting with a cruise or bike tour, to arrive at least a day early, especially when you have the opportunity to overnight in such a charming historic city as Strasbourg. That way I don’t have to worry about flight or weather delays and I can experience the destination in the morning and evening light, in peace and calm without the daytrippers, and have the time to really explore, discover and become immersed in its cultural riches.

The TGV train from Paris to Strasbourg © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The TGV train ride was absolutely gorgeous. (Less than two hours from Paris, you go from Charles de Gaulle Airport into the Gare de Nord, then take an easy 15 minute walk to Gare L’Est – glad I pre-purchased my train ticket and reserved seat on raileurope.com). It is surprising to see how soon out of the bustling metropolis you are in pastoral countryside. We whisk passed solar arrays, wind turbines, cows in pasture, and see traditional villages at the far end of fields. It’s cinematic.

Leaving Paris for Strasbourg by train, you are soon in the pastoral countryside © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And I still get into Strasbourg in the afternoon with plenty of time to explore.

There is much to experience in Strasbourg and I will actually have part of four days here. We will be picked up in Strasbourg on the first afternoon and taken to Krafft to board  the barge hotel, Panache, and actually cruise back into Strasbourg on its first full day when we will have a walking tour and overnight on the canal. I will have much of a full day again at the end of the cruise, when we are delivered back to Strasbourg from Niderviller, before I take the train to Paris. I do a calculation and decide on my only full day in Strasbourg, after exploring the old city in the early morning, to hop on the train for a 45-minute ride to see Colmar, and still get to enjoy Strasbourg’s beauty at night.

Hotel Hannong is perfectly situated, walking distance to Strasbourg’s historic sites © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I must say I am clever about seeing Strasbourg, beginning with choosing a charming boutique hotel, the Hannong, which I find on hotels.com, right in the historic district and walking distance from the train station, so walking distance to everything I want to see, even walking back late at night. I am able to book a room ideal for a single person (it’s as big as a walk-in closet but has everything I need) for a very attractive rate. The pleasant stay, hospitable staff, and location add immeasurably to the way I experience Strasbourg and make the best of my time. (Hotel Hannong, 15, Rue du 22 Novembre,67000 Strasbourg, +33 03 88 32 16 22, hotel-hannong.com).

Strasbourg’s old city © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So when I arrive, I  find my way to the Hotel Hannong (I’m disoriented and finally find someone to point me in the right direction (I’ve already downloaded directions but I don’t have internet), I drop my bag and go off to immerse myself in the old city’s charm.

Strasbourg’s picturesque Le Petit France is a UNESCO Heritage Site © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s just a couple of blocks to where Le Petit France begins, and I wander the narrow cobblestone streets, over bridges over the River Ill, where every turn reveals a picturesque scene of quaint quays and colorfully timbered structures from the Middle Ages, reflected in the blue water. The River Ill, which divides into five arms, is what spurred the construction of mills and the installation of tanneries centuries ago.

The Tanners district in Strasbourg’s Le Petit France dates from 1572 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So charming and tranquil today, even with the crowds of tourists in midday, Le Petit France, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in its day would have been the stinkiest, filthiest, poorest part of town, inhabited by tanners, fishermen, and animals, but as you get closer and closer to fabulous Cathedral, the residences become nicer and fancier and is where the wealthiest merchants and officials would have lived.

Strasbourg’s picturesque Le Petit France is a UNESCO Heritage Site © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Strasbourg’s picturesque Le Petit France is a UNESCO Heritage Site © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I come upon Place Gutenberg with a striking monument created by David d’Angers (1788-1856), erected in 1840. It commemorates that the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg developed moveable type that revolutionized access to the Bible, news, information, books, and even the law to the masses, while living in Strasbourg from 1430-1440, spawning an entire printing and publishing industry based in Strasbourg. The bronze statue stands on a granite base with four fascinating bronze relief panels that commemorate that Gutenberg came upon his idea for moveable type inspired by how a wine press worked, and how his invention influenced every corner of the globe.

The statue for Johannes Gutenberg in Strasbourg’s Place Gutenberg © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the reliefs, “Detail of America,” depicts Benjamin Franklin and other signatories to the Declaration of Independence along with other famous liberators including General Lafayette and Simon Bolivar. Another, “Africa,” portrays Wilberforce and other abolitionists bringing freedom and enlightenment to the slaves. The third relief, “The Printing Press in Europe,” portrays important figures of the Enlightenment –  Erasmus, Chaucer, Milton, Molière, Rousseau, Voltaire, Kant and Schiller (the original plaster panel, which gave prominence to Martin Luther, caused an uproar, I learn).  The Asian panel is more weathered, but includes Brahmans exchanging manuscripts for books, and Chinese people reading Confucius

Strasbourg’s Guttenberg Plaza © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this plaza, there is also an old-timey Carrousel 1900 that is a delight in the day, enchanting at night.

A traditional Punch & Judy show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

When I get to St. Thomas Church, I come upon an outdoor Punch & Judy puppet show, which traces back to Commedia dell’arte tradition in Italy in the 1660s. (I’m not a fan of the too accurate re-creation of its traditional slapstick humor and the tragicomic misadventures of the characters but the kids love it.) 

Families enjoy the traditional Punch & Judy show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Notre-Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg

The Notre-Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg dominates the city, in fact the entire region since it can be seen from great distances. Cathedral Square is a vibrant hub of musicians, vendors, and is ringed with some of the most important sites in the city – reminiscent of St. Marks Square in Venice. I will visit multiple times, and in the course of my visit, experience most of the important sites around the Cathedral. The streets that radiate from it are also full of colorful activity.

Chasing bubbles in Cathedral Square © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Construction of the Cathedral started in 1015, but came into its own as a monumental Gothic structure in the 1260s because of Erwin von Steinbach who designed the Cathedral to be the most modern building of its time in the whole of the Holy Roman Empire. It is still one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in the world. The hundreds of statues that decorate the Cathedral are incredible.

Strasbourg, France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Finally finished in 1439, the Cathedral, built of pink sandstone from the Vosges, features a 142-meter-tall bell tower, making it the tallest medieval building in all of Europe.

Strasbourg, France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is an imposing structure inside, as well, with 12th and 14th century Romanesque stained glass windows in mesmerizing geometric patterns. You can climb the 332 steps to the top of the bell tower for a spectacular view and explore an 11th century crypt below the main cathedral.

Strasbourg, France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On Saturday night, after I have rested a bit after coming back from Colmar, I stroll out of the hotel to Cathedral Square for the 10-minute Illuminations de la Cathedrale de Strasbourg, a free laser light show which begins nightly at 10 pm and runs continuously until midnight (in July and August). I find the neon colors jarring, but I love when the white fluttering strobe light gives the Cathedral a ghostly quality.

Strasbourg, France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral during the Illumination © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Strasbourg, France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral during the Illumination © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame

Just across the square from The Cathedral is the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame, an absolute must-see, where you walk through seven centuries of art in Strasbourg and the Upper Rhine. Its medieval and Renaissance collections show why Strasbourg is considered one of the most important artistic centers of the Germanic Empire from the 13th to 16th centuries.

At the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame, you see up close the stunning artistry of original statues that decorated the Cathedral © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During the 13th century, the construction of Strasbourg Cathedral produced some of the most exceptional sculptures of the medieval world. Many of them – such as The Church and the Synagogue statues on the south portal, and the west façade’s Tempter and the Wise and Foolish Virgins, the Virtues Crushing the Vices, and the Prophets – were removed from the edifice in the early 20th century to protect them from bad weather and pollution, and replaced by sandstone replicas. But here you see the original sculptures that decorated the Cathedral. To see them so close, life-sized, so you can really appreciate the artistry in a way you simply can’t by gazing up at the Cathedral, is astounding.

When I visit, the museum is featuring a virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms, videos and touch screens to situate the works where they had originally been set in the Cathedral.

In one grand room, I focus on the two sculptures known as “The Church and The Synagogue,” which I would not have known to look for, just walking about the Cathedral.

So much is embodied in these two statues, and why they were chosen: Positioned on either side of the south transept portal, the statutes of The Church and The Synagogue “each personify a covenant binding God to his people: the New Covenant of the Christian Gospel and the Old Covenant of the Jewish Torah, respectively,” the notes say.

Church Triumphant and The Synagogue Vanquished © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On the left, the Church Triumphant, “wearing a crown and holding in her hands a chalice and a banner surmounted by the Cross, fixes her self-assured gaze on the Synagogue. The vanquished Synagogue, blindfolded and holding a broken lance, averts her head, expressing her inability to recognize the messiah in the person of Jesus. She appears to let fall the tablets of the Law of Moses, symbolizing the supplanting of the Old Testament. But the extreme humanity and beauty of the young woman’s features suggest an awaited revelation rather than the stigma of blindness” [as if to suggest, Jews will come into Christianity’s fold].

Now that I know where to look, later I go out to see the figures at the Cathedral.

Church Triumphant and The Synagogue Vanquished statues as they are position on the Cathedral’s south portal © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In front of these two statues is a relief representing the biblical episode of “The Sacrifice of Isaac” at the hand of his father Abraham. The notes do not mention that this event for Jews, established the covenant with God and Jews as the “Chosen People”.

A relief depicting Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Besides the statuary, there are incredible paintings, triptychs and religious art – some of the most magnificent in the world – as you walk from room to room, floor to floor.

Jewish tombstones on view at the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame. Jews were expelled from Strasbourg in 1349, during the Black Plague © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I follow an interior staircase all the way down and come to an interior courtyard in which tombstones rescued from a Jewish cemetery are displayed respectfully. The notes say that in 1349, Jews were expelled from Strasbourg because of Black Plague.

I climb the staircase to an attic room, where the innovations in architecture and engineering are explained. You also see some of the original architectural drawings of the Cathedral – the oldest architectural drawings of their type – as well as a video.

La Nativite de la Vierge. At the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame, you see works that show why Strasbourg is considered one of the most important artistic centers of the Germanic Empire from the 13th to 16th centuries.© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
La Nativite de la Vierge. At the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame, you see works that show why Strasbourg is considered one of the most important artistic centers of the Germanic Empire from the 13th to 16th centuries.© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The museum is housed within La Maison de L’Oeuvre Notre-Dame, which has been the home of the Foundation of the Oeuvre Notre-Dame (the body responsible for administering work on the Cathedral) since the Middle Ages. It is actually two buildings: a Gothic house with its crow-stepped gable (1347) and a Renaissance wing with a scroll gable (1582). Just walking through the rooms is an experience.

Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame is actually in two buildings: a Gothic house with its crow-stepped gable (1347) and a Renaissance wing with a scroll gable (1582) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Fondation de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame (Our Holy Lady Work Foundation) was established in 1224 (!!) to improve the administration of donations and legacies for the construction of Strasbourg Cathedral. Every since construction ended, the Foundation has been in charge of restoration and conservation of the monument, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.

Plan on spending several hours wandering around this museum (I actually did it twice).

Musee de L’Oeuvre Notre-Dame/Aarts Du Moyen Age, 3 place duChateau, Strasbourg.

From here, I walk across the square to see the Church and Synagogue portal, before walking back through Cathedral Square (which reminds me of St. Marks Square in Venice) to the fabulous Palais Rohan.

Ancient: La Maison Kammerzell, built in 1467, and converted to Renaissance style in 1589, boasts exquisite carvings, with secular and religious themes, After refurbishing, it became a restaurant celebrated for its lavish frescoes painted by Leo Schnug © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What is so interesting (and fun) about Strasbourg is how the historic city seamlessly integrates – and respects – what is ancient and what is modern: the virtual reality in the Musee de L’Oeuvre Notre Dame, the neon laser lights that bathe The Cathedral for the nightly show, the modern art in Cathedral Square, the really modern art exhibit incorporated into the 18th century Royal Chambers of the Palais Rohan’s Decorative Arts Museum, the light rail that rings the Old City along cobblestone streets.

Modern: Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg’s historic district © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So much to see, experience and appreciate. My exploration continues.

More information at https://www.strasbourg.info and https://www.visitstrasbourg.fr,

Next: Time Traveling Through Strasbourg

See also:

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS’ PANACHE HOTEL BARGE CRUISES FRANCE’S ALSACE-LORRAINE CANALS IN LUXURY

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS ALSACE-LORRAINE CANAL CRUISE: STRASBOURG’S CATHEDRAL, WINE TASTING ON ROUTE DES VINS

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS ALSATIAN CANAL CRUISE: MYSTERY OF THE NECKLACE IN SAVERNE, LALIQUE IN LUTZELBOURG

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS ALSACE-LORRAINE CANAL CRUISE: A BOAT GUILLOTINE, TWO TUNNELS AND A MONUMENTAL CHAGALL

_______________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

European Waterways Alsace-Lorraine Canal Cruise: A Boat Guillotine, Two Tunnels and a Monumental Chagall

European Waterways luxury hotel barge, Panache, approaches the “boat guillotine” at the Arzviller boat elevator © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Day 6 Lutzelbourg to Niderviller

On Day 6 our European Waterways luxury hotel barge, Panache, cruises from Lutzelbourg to Niderviller where the cruise ends, during which we experience some of the most dramatic cruising – thrilling even considering how calm and restful the slow cruising on the canal is – of the trip.

I set out on the bike along the towpath but come to a fork and am confused which way to go, so return to the Panache. It’s a good thing I did return to the boat because the bike path would have taken me away from the boat.

Indeed, the canal takes a turn and we get our first view of an astonishing sight: the Arzviller boat elevator that will carry Panache 45 meters up a mountainside in mere minutes.

Captain Brian excites us with the image of a “boat guillotine”. But before we have the experience (we have to wait our turn), we tie up and walk a short distance to Cristal Lehrer (Cristallerie Lehrer) glass-blowing factory where we get to see demonstrations of the craftsmanship involved.

Demonstrating glass making at the Cristal Lehrer glass factory © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In 1920, there would have been 1500 glass workers in this area. One of the workers was Charles Lehrer. Decades later, his son, Bruno Lehrer, founded this glassworks.

Demonstrating glass blowing at the Cristal Lehrer glass factory © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We get to observe from an amphitheater as glassblowers heat the molten glass to 1700 degrees Celsius; use different oxides to create the different colors and shape them into a range of items.

Bruno demonstrates how he cuts glass at the Cristal Lehrer glass factory © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the cutting and etching room, a craftsman named Bruno shows us how he cuts shapes into a glass, etches images like a swan or a bird, changing the wheel for a different cut and then engraves my name in the glass, which he gives me as a gift. He tells me he has worked in this factory with his father from when he was 14 years old; now 86, the master craftsman is here every day demonstrating his skill. (It occurs to me later whether this is Bruno Lehrer, himself?)

Arzviller Boat Elevator

The extraordinary Arzviller boat elevator © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

An engineering feat when it was installed in 1969, and still the only one of its kind in Europe, before the Arzviller boat elevator was constructed in 1969, it took boats an entire day to navigate the 17 locks over four kilometers to ascend the 146 feet in altitude.  Before the Arzviller boat elevator, only one barge a day could pass through, but today, as many as 39 can make the trip each day.

Panache heads into the “boat guillotine” to enter the Arzviller boat elevator © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now back on the Panache, it is our turn to go through the “boat guillotine” – really the black door that comes down to seal the carriage, like a bathtub, into which our boat floats, to be carried, like an elevator, up the hill.  Two counterweights, weighing 450 tons each, powered by two winches, lift or lower barges safely up and down the hill at a 22-degree angle. It takes four minutes for us to be lifted to the top, where the door rises and we continue our journey on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin.

The Panache is lifted up the Arzviller boat elevator © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What an experience, but the drama isn’t over.

Coming out of the boat elevator, we cruise a bit further until we come to an enormous tunnel, just exactly the width of the boat, cut through the Vosges mountains.

Panache enters the first of two tunnels through the mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is unbelievably exciting to go through – I don’t even go down for lunch, which is served by candlelight – until we get through the tunnel, some 30 minutes later.

But that is not all, because we will soon come to a second tunnel that takes 20 minutes to get through.

Panache navigates the narrow tunnel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In between the tunnels, I go down for lunch which is also an event –fennel and anchovies salad; orange duck with couscous, and selection of cheese. White wine from Alsace, Gewurztramine 2020, a vegan, “vin biologique” wine “Evidence” ( named to reflect “the respect we have for biodiversity in our vineyards as “evidenced” by the return of game birds to our land, which has inspired this label”).

Captain Brian keeps watch as Panache navigates the narrow tunnel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And yet, there are still more astonishments to unfold on this day, our last full day of the cruise.

We are driven to Sarrebourg, a classic, historic French town.

Lunch served by candlelight as Panache goes through the tunnels © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A Monumental Chagall

The astonishing highlight in Sarrebourg comes at the Chapelle des Cordeliers. Built in 1265 by Franciscans, the church was used for barracks during the French Revolution; in 1870, during the German Annexation, the church was used for worship for German soldiers. From 1927, the History and Archaeology Society converted the chapel to a museum. But by 1970, the building, near ruin, was demolished, leaving only the choir of the chapel and an open space where a wall should have stood.

Marc Chagall’s monumental stained glass window, La Paix, at the Chapelle des Cordeliers, Sarrebourg, France © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Mayor of Sarrebourg at the time, Pierre Messmer, a former Prime Minister of France, entreated his friend, the world-famous artist Marc Chagall to create stained glass windows that would close the empty space. Chagall agreed to do it as a gift to the town. It took Chagall six months, from December 1973-Febuary 1974, to produce a series of six sketches for what became his largest stained glass window, 12 meters high by 7 ½ meters wide.

Detail from Marc Chagall’s monumental stained glass window, La Paix, at the Chapelle des Cordeliers, Sarrebourg, France © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Messner had asked Marc Chagall for Sarrebourg to be featured. Chagall, who had never been to Sarrebourg, had planned to visit in the summer of 1974, but he was not well enough to travel, so relied on photographs. It took two more years (1974-6) for master glassmaker Charles Marq to create it in the Simon de Reims workshop, where Chagall had all his stained glass projects produced. “There is all the genius of Chagall – the monumental dimension, the light and the transparency of the final realization,” the notes say.

Detail from Marc Chagall’s monumental stained glass window, La Paix, at the Chapelle des Cordeliers, Sarrebourg, France © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chagall died in 1985 at the age of 98 after creating one more stained glass work, but never saw “The Peace” installed. (https://www.sarrebourg.fr/parcours-chagall/chapelle-des-cordeliers/)

“For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world. Stained glass has to be serious and passionate. It is something elevating and exhilarating. It has to live through the perception of light,” Chagall wrote.

Detail from Marc Chagall’s monumental stained glass window, La Paix, at the Chapelle des Cordeliers, Sarrebourg, France © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

La Paix (“The Peace”) puts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden at the center, surrounded by a multitude of Biblical and religious symbols and subjects, as well as secular images that give a nod to the Alsace-Lorraine, our guide, Philippe Zugmeyer, explains, showing us Chagall’s sketches which we can compare to the finished work. “The face of Eve is very bright, white, brightest image. They are smiling, showing love. Look closely and you will see the face of girl from Lorraine – identified by the regional headdress she wears.”

Detail from Marc Chagall’s monumental stained glass window, La Paix, at the Chapelle des Cordeliers, Sarrebourg, France © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He points us to the Prophet Isaiah in green, an important symbol for Chagall of reconciliation of all creatures. There are the lamb, cow, bear, snake, lion. There is King David with a harp. Jacob’s ladder. Jesus on a donkey heralded by people smiling and cheering.  Jesus giving his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus on the cross. There is a baby to symbolize maternity (not nativity, he notes). Moses with two beams of light emitting from his head.

Marc Chagall’s monumental stained glass window, La Paix, at the Chapelle des Cordeliers, Sarrebourg, France © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“This is not a religious lesson, it is profane [secular],” he tells us. “It is about the region. Peace and reconciliation.” But he adds, “There is a lot we can’t explain – it is up to you to find your own meaning in the Chagall. What is clear is that Chagall intended to bring unity – peace. There are Old Testament and New Testament themes, symbols and imagery.”

Detail from Marc Chagall’s monumental stained glass window, La Paix, at the Chapelle des Cordeliers, Sarrebourg, France © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In addition to “The Peace,” the stained glass windows on the side walls were also designed by Marc Chagall. 

I never expected to see anything like this on this day.

From here we walk a short distance to the affiliated Musée du pays de Sarrebourg (Museum of Sarrebourg and its surroundings). Created in 1905, it was originally only an archaeological museum. Today, it is a modern building that includes a space dedicated to Marc Chagall, tapestries and an exhibition of earthenware and porcelain from the Niderviller manufacture and Roman artifacts.

Yvette Cauquil-Prince’s tapestry based on Marc Chagall painting on view at the Sarrebourg museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We see the tapestries created by Yvette Cauquil-Prince (1928 –2005), a Belgian-born weaver and master craftswoman who reproduced the works of renowned 20th century artists including Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Calder. But she is best known for her association with Chagall, producing over 40 tapestries of his works with meticulous, even impossible detail, several which we see here.

Sarrebourg, France, visited on European Waterways’ Panache Alsace-Lorraine canal cruise © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gala Captain’s Dinner

This is our last evening aboard The Panache and while each meal has been the ultimate in fine dining, tonight’s Captain’s Dinner when Captain Brian heads the table, has the feeling of a gala with formal table setting – white tablecloth, red cloth napkins, candlelight.

Last night’s Captain’s Dinner aboard Panache is a gala affair © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The meal features peas and wasabi tartlet; Jerusalem artichoke; lobster tail piquillos; chocolate with truffle; cheese selection. The wine is Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots (2018) from Albert Bichot, founded in 1831and still family-owned, and a Pino Noir Grand Cru from Burgundy (2014).

“This wine is like walking in forest after rain- grapes come from plot of soil at bottom of hill in Burgundy,” says Brian, who comes from Burgundy. “Grown in the forest, the grapes are half protected from the morning sun. Less sun, less sugar, less alcohol. The forest brings moisture, humidity – freshness. It’s very fresh – the flavor of rose, forest flavors, then red berries, an oak barrel and voila.

The Panache crew © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Captain Brian, who chose tonight’s cheeses, regales us with the back stories: Comte, a favorite of cow’s milk cheese from Franche-Comte, he says, “is a treasure. This is a tiny piece of huge wheel. To make it, you need the milk from 30 cows’ full day production.

The second cheese, Valencay, a hard goat cheese from the Loire, has a fabulous story:  after his disastrous campaign in Egypt, Napoleon visited the town of Valençay and was treated to this renowned cheese. For Bonaparte, the shape of the cheese – a pyramid – reminded him of his recent defeat so he furiously drew his sword and in one stroke cut off the top.

Third is Roquefort, the best blue cheese, bred where the mold comes to the cheese (instead of injected). “Legend has it that a shepherd boy left his lunch in a cave, but returned some time later to find the moldy cheese. He tried it.– don’t ask me why, he’s very French – and instead of getting sick or being poisoned, found the cheese delicious. That’s how Roquefort was discovered.”  (Interesting anecdote I discover: Before penicillin was discovered, many people in France simply rubbed Penicillium roqueforti on their wounds to prevent bacterial infection.)

In the course of our six-day cruise, I calculate we sampled 36 cheeses –about half of all the controlled French cheeses – and 40 wines.

We see gorgeous scenery, to be sure, but the barge experience is about doing, being present, the camaraderie. And so there are sentimental farewells when we depart – the seven days we have spent together feeling like a long time and as no time at all.

“Travel makes the world feel big and small at the same time.” “Travel is the elixir of youth.”

The next morning, we are driven back to Strasbourg – 45 minutes to cover the distance we have traveled in six days cruising (and biking). I have enough time to continue to explore Strasbourg before I take the TGV train to Paris.

The Panache does this Alsace-Lorraine cruise on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin in both directions, but I was thrilled going the way we went, from Strasbourg to Niderviller because there is a constant build up of excitement, starting with floating through that stunning alee as we sail into Strasbourg, and climaxed by going up the incline (in this direction) and through the two tunnels, with the Marc Chagall on the last day.

European Waterways’ luxury hotel barge Panache cruises the Marne au Rhin canal through France’s Alsace-Lorraine © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 12-passenger luxury hotel barge Panache cruises the Alsace & Lorraine in summer and autumn; Holland in the Spring, when the flowers are in full bloom, and  Champagne in May & June (Champagne itineraries typically include Brie cheese tastings, a tour of the Cathedral at Reims, Epernay and of course, tastings at renowned champagne houses).

This year, European Waterways celebrates its 50th anniversary of its founding by Derek Banks and John Wood-Dow, who helped pioneer the concept of hotel barging and itineraries that focused on culture, history, fine wine and gourmet cuisine. Among the first to operate on the Canal du Midi, their efforts helped spur a new niche travel industry that proved instrumental in the revitalization of Europe’s intricate network of scenic canals and inland waterways as tourism destinations – giving new life to villages and communities that had depended upon the canals that no longer carried commercial cargo.
  
With a 6-to-20 guest capacity and 1:2 crew ratio, European Waterways is able to provide lavish on-board service and can transport their guests on the narrower, more intimate inland waterways that are inaccessible to larger vessels. This fascinating network of smaller canals allows for flexibility, spontaneity and ample opportunity to hop off and explore by bicycle or on foot, in addition to walking tours of communities and daily, chauffeured excursions “off the beaten path” to experience wine tastings and private visits of stately homes.

One of the largest providers of all-inclusive luxury hotel barging in Europe, European Waterways is launching its newest, ultra deluxe vessel, the eight-passenger Kir Royale. Debuting in France’s Champagne region in May 2024, the vessel features major upgrades that include a more spacious layout with modern furnishings, three sundecks and a spa pool, an upper observation deck with a panoramic view, and four air-conditioned cabins with en suite bathrooms.

Kir Royale will cruise the River Marne and Canal latéral à la Marne, offering six-night all-inclusive sailings with exclusive excursions to some of the region’s legendary Champagne houses such as Moët & Chandon. Guests will also be treated to immersive experiences such as lunch at the boutique Grand Cru Champagne house of Frerejean Frères, and on-board gastronomic meals with wine pairings served by the vessel’s own master chef.
 
Kir Royal will cruise Champagne from May through October. It joins European Waterways’ 12-passenger Panache, which cruises between Château-Thierry and Châlons-en-Champagne from mid-May to late-June. Both vessels provide private transfers from a designated location in central Paris. Reservations are now open, with rates starting at $8,550 per person, based on double occupancy. Whole boat charters are also available.

Contact European Waterways, 877-879-8808,  www.europeanwaterways.com.

See also:

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS’ PANACHE HOTEL BARGE CRUISES FRANCE’S ALSACE-LORRAINE CANALS IN LUXURY

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS ALSACE-LORRAINE CANAL CRUISE: STRASBOURG’S CATHEDRAL, WINE TASTING ON ROUTE DES VINS

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS ALSATIAN CANAL CRUISE: MYSTERY OF THE NECKLACE IN SAVERNE, LALIQUE IN LUTZELBOURG

_______________________

© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Because travel is a life-enhancing, relationship building, world-changing experience