An old-school weekend in Maine
At Budget Travel, we're obsessed with being on the cutting edge of what's happening in the world of travel. Whether it's a cool new boutique hotel in London or a new dessert-truck trend in the U.S., we want to be the first to know so we can tell you all about it.
Sometimes, though, something is cool precisely because it's not new. I was reminded of that a couple of weekends ago when I went to a friend's wedding on Chebeague Island, in Maine.
Everything about Chebeague is old-school, from the boat that takes you across Casco Bay to get there—a navy, white, and red passenger ferry that looks like it's right out of a children's book about New England—to the tiny Doughty's general store, the only place to stock up on basic provisions (I bought an absurd number of whoopie pies, the celebrated Maine dessert made of two rounds of Devil's Food cake with a sweet cream filling).
The wedding festivities were spread between two places, and I can't decide which one I like best. For the rehearsal dinner, we all gathered for a lobster bake at Chebeague Orchard Inn, one of the coolest B&Bs; I've seen in a long time. The white-clapboard house is adorable, and the apple-tree-dotted grounds are beautiful, but it's the young owners, J Holt and Jenny Goff, that give the place its character. My favorite detail: a little corner room that they've transformed into a kind of mini-vintage shop. The closet and chests are full of sweaters, dresses, and costume jewelry, and the shelves are stocked with fabrics. I didn't see a single item marked over $5.
The wedding itself—and our homebase for the weekend—was the 1920s golden-yellow Chebeague Island Inn. When we weren't playing board games by the huge stone fireplace in the great room, we were sipping cocktails on the porch, which runs along the entire front of the inn and looks out onto the lobster boats bobbing in the water. The morning of the wedding, we took out the inn's free L.L. Bean bikes and tooled around the island, exploring a few beaches along the way and stopping at Calder's Clam Shack http://www.caldersclamshack.com/ for lunch.
Is Chebeague Island new and exciting? Not even close. And that's exactly what makes it so cool.
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Nevermore, nevermore…well, maybe once more
Even though multiple cities have been duking it out for years over who lays more claim to Edgar Allan Poe—the great American writer lived in six states up and down the East Coast—Baltimore holds the distinction of housing his earthly remains. This week, two hundred years after his birth, Poe will be given a proper funeral that was denied him so many years ago, in the city that holds their famous resident so dear that they've even named their NFL team—the Baltimore Ravens—after one of his famous poems. To kick things off today (Oct. 7), there is an "open-casket viewing" at Poe's former home at 203 N. Amity St. from noon until 11 p.m. It is believed that Poe wrote over a dozen poems and prose while living in this home with his paternal grandmother, his aunt Maria Clemm, and his cousin Virginia—whom would later become his wife. ($5) Continuing the tribute on Thursday, Oct. 8th, an all-night candlelight vigil will be held from midnight until 7 a.m. at Poe's monument at the entrance of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. This will be an opportunity for the public to honor the writer with personal toasts, poems, and music, along with scheduled theatrical performances in an attempt to bring Poe's tales to life. (Free) There are many more themed exhibits and activities planned for the funeral and throughout the year, including some spooky walking tours. The grand finale of the largest Poe bicentennial event in the country will be held on Sunday, October 11th. Starting at 11:30 a.m., a fife and drum marching band and police escort will lead an antique horse-drawn hearse carrying Poe's casket from his Amity Street home to his final resting place at Westminster Hall for burial. The Addams Family actor and fellow Baltimorean John Astin will officiate over the two services at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., including speakers in the likeness of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who penned the Sherlock Holmes series), and the filmmaker and producer Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock. (Procession free, funeral $35 in advance, $40 at the door) In grim Poe-like fashion, there's still debate over what caused his death at age 40. Initially believed to be drunk, the writer was held at Church Hospital where he emitted morbid outbursts leading up to his death on October 7th, 1849. Upon later examination, it was determined that he had more likely been robbed and beaten instead. Nevermore 2009
Meet a "travel ninja"
Chris Guillebeau is a 31-year old entreprenuer in Portland, Ore., who has made a personal quest to visit every country in the world by the time he turns 35. So far, he says he has visited 119 countries (not counting airport stops or "sort-of" countries like Kosovo and Kurdistan). Along the way, he's learned a few tricks. He shares helpful travel tips for free on his site The Art of Nonconformity. He also sells advice in the form of e-books, such as How to Become a Travel Ninja. Today we ask Guillebeau about the travel lessons he's learned. What's been one of your biggest surprises? I was surprised at how much I liked Syria. In the U.S. we tend to think of Syria as a scary place, or at least as a state that is hostile to the U.S. government. When I was first applying for the visa, I had that impression too—the consulate in California kept putting me off, and finally requested an additional $40 "processing fee" paid in cash before returning my passport. But when I actually got there, I felt completely comfortable. Everyone was friendly, I felt safe the whole time, and it ended up being one of my favorite countries so far. What are your feelings about short-term "voluntourism" programs? Good question. As for me, my wife Jolie and I spent four years living on a hospital ship docked off the coast of West Africa. We worked with refugees, displaced people, presidents, warlords, and other volunteers from all over the world. I went there knowing very little about international development and almost nothing at all about Africa, and it was an incredibly transformative experience. I don't work in Africa anymore, but I still visit the continent as a traveler at least once a year. As for "parachuting in" somewhere (figuratively speaking), sometimes it can be beneficial and sometimes not. It definitely isn't beneficial to do it on your own, but if you connect with the right organization that needs short-term volunteers for specific needs, it can then be a win-win for everyone. Check out idealist.org for opportunities. The more flexible you can be, the better. How do you strike up conversations with locals?It helps to avoid staying in the big American hotel chains all the time. Understand that this doesn't necessarily mean roughing it in a hostel—a local boutique hotel or nice guesthouse may offer similar comfort, but with much more of a chance to get to know people than the Marriott would. As a bonus, those properties will also usually be much cheaper. You've written about "How to Buy a Round-the-World Plane Ticket." Why aren't those tickets more popular? It takes a fair amount of research to book a good Round-the-World (RTW) ticket, and that's probably the biggest reason why more people don't do it. I also don't think everyone realizes how flexible RTW tickets can be, as well as what a good value they are if you want to visit several places within a year. About 50 percent of my travel is booked through RTW tickets now, with the remaining 50 percent a combination of frequent flyer tickets, paid tickets, and overland travel. My past two trips have been with OneWorld, but I use Star Alliance as well. Of the three major alliances, SkyTeam is behind the others in terms of RTW products. What's your pet peeve with how the media covers travel? The main thing that bothers me is a preoccupation with safety and cautiousness. Despite all the places I go, I don't necessarily think of myself as a risk-taker. But being aware of your surroundings is much different than being afraid to go somewhere. Almost without exception, I've been treated well all over the world. Another thing that bothers me a little is the generalization that "people everywhere are basically the same." In my view, some cultural things may be the same in different places, but other things are quite different—and accepting the differences is OK. You've put together a list of the 28 things you wish you had known before you had started taveling. What's the most memorable mistake that you've made? There are so many! But so far the biggest has probably been double-booking myself on two non-refundable flights back from Asia. I was in Warsaw, Poland, when I discovered the mistake by chance a few days before I flew to Tokyo. I had to say goodbye to a nice, Business Class awards trip on Singapore Airlines and buy another economy ticket on United. I wasn't happy about that, of course, but in the long-run, things could be worse. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Volunteer Vacations: A First-Person Account Australia may never be cheaper in our lifetimes (20+ comments) Better than Florence's Duomo? (15+ comments) Should there be a law against 3-hour tarmac delays? (125+ comments) ELSEWHERE Edward Hasbrouck's website and book, The Practical Nomad, has great info on buying round-the-world tickets Airtreks is the top website for planning a round-the-world trips
Up All Night in Paris: The Nuit Blanche art party
Bertrand Delanoë will probably go down in Paris history as "The Fun Mayor." Under his leadership, the city has launched Paris Plages and the Velib' bike-sharing program. The city has also begun Nuit Blanche, an annual celebration of contemporary art. Nuit blanche means sleepless night, so you won't be surprised to learn that the event takes place in the wee hours. This Saturday (Oct. 3), installations will be open for free. Public viewing begins at 7 p.m. But most of the hundreds of thousands of visitors will opt for after-Midnight art. Curious minds and culture vultures will be packing the streets until close at 7 a.m. This eighth edition of the Nuit Blanche festival will be centered around three neighborhoods in Paris. Châtelet-Marais and the Latin Quarter are to be expected, but 2009 also features an extraordinary trail through the 19th arrondissement. This northeastern side of the city, which houses more working artists than any other, will host a smattering of sites in and around the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. This wild and hilly landscape, which long ago inspired surrealists like André Breton, will filled with light installations (and probably a few libations) until the sun comes up. Download the full program in English, if you like. Practical Info: For the night of Nuit Blanche, the Paris Métro (subway) line 14 will be running all night. Line 11 (which runs northeast from the center toward the Parc des Buttes Chaumont) will also run all night, except for stations at République and Belleville. All other lines will close around 2 a.m. Taxis will be almost impossible to find, so plan to walk, bike, or use the Métro. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Our Affordable Paris series
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