#BTReads: 'A Passion for Paris'

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
July 16, 2015
Lonely Planet - Paris, Ile-de-France
Lonely Planet

If I had to visit Paris with a traveling companion other than my wife, my choice might very well be author Da­vid Downie.

Reading Downie's A Passion for Paris: Roman­ticism and Romance in the City of Light (St. Martin's Press, 2015) is like strolling the city's boulevards with a funny, well-read, and wildly enthusiastic devotee. While many of us simply accept the notion that Paris is the world's most romantic city (guilty), Downie decided to ask "why?" His answer is a hybrid travel narrative, mem­oir, and history lesson that brings such notable Parisians as Baudelaire, Hugo, Balzac, and Sand into the dialogue as if they, too, are accompanying you.

Speaking of strolling the boulevards of Paris... When you put the book down and are ready to dive into the real Paris, you may want to book one of Downie's custom walking tours at

Your turn: Tell us what you're reading now by tagging #BTReads on social media! Or let us know below in the comments.

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Group Tours Are a Beautiful Way to See the World

Whether you're planning a family reunion, girlfriend getaway, or just happen to have a bunch of friends and relations itching to hit the road, we love group travel. It's a way of reconnecting with the people close to you while you simultaneously connect with a new environment and culture, new tastes and sights. Sure, seeing St. Peter's basilica for the first time is a thrill whenever you manage to get there. But seeing it through grandpa's eyes? Or watching two of your best friends stagger up the dizzying steps to the dome's top? Those are connections you'll never forget. We especially love the tour packages for groups of eight or more offered by Globus Journeys. It's an amazing way to enjoy guided tours, great accommodations, and the insider access that Globus's expert-planned itineraries are known for. If you're ready to jump on the potential savings of the historically low euro, Globus's itineraries include group tours to Italy, Ireland, Spain, England, France, Portugal, and include multi-country packages in Europe. Globus also has group tours to China, Japan, Costa Rica, and Africa. Globus has a well-earned reputation for assembling itineraries planned by local experts, which means you're in good hands when it comes to what to see, when to see it, where to eat, and more. When you know you're getting a good deal (package tours typically deliver big savings over an a la carte booking approach) and all your logistics are worked out in advance, you can get down to the important business of connecting and reconnecting that group travel is all about.


Best Things To Do In Berlin, Maryland, One of America's Coolest Small Towns

Located just a 15-minute drive from Assateague Island and Ocean City on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Berlin, Maryland, had the honor of winning last year's coveted “America’s Coolest Small Town" title. I had such a great time visiting this summer and couldn't wait to share this video from my trip with all of you! If you're planning to visit and see it for yourself this summer, here are five ways to make the most of your trip to this artsy, quaint, and historic part of the east coast. Get to know the locals Learning about a place from the people who live there is the best way to truly get a sense of that destination. Whether you speak to someone in a store or restaurant for travel advice or chat up the locals on a bench, you’re sure to learn something new. Never skimp on desserts Berlin has a town dessert that you don’t want to miss: the peach dumpling. The are was once home to one of the largest peach orchards in the country, and this dessert certainly pays tribute to those roots. Stop by Baked Dessert Café to get a sugar rush from this sweet treat that consists of peach slices sautéed in butter, brown sugar, and spices encased in a buttery puff pastry. The best part: It’s topped with homemade caramel sauce. Yum! Embrace your artsy side From galleries to glass blowing, there are plenty of great ways to get artsy in Berlin. Make a plan to meet Jeffrey Auxer and learn the art of glass blowing at his studio and gallery just off Main Street. Whether you create an ornament or your own special home décor souvenir, you’ll have a keepsake with true meaning and the knowledge that you challenged yourself (or your kids) to learn something new. Head to the local watering hole Pay a visit to Burley Oak Brewery, a sustainable brewery that guests can tour. Sip on inventive brews like the Dirty Blonde—a Belgian inspired ale made with yeast from a Trappist Monastery—the Tart Attack, or Hand Made Root Beer in the lively taproom. Plus, the beer tastes better when you know that just by drinking it, you’re supporting local farmers and small businesses, so give yourself a pat on the back as you toast Berlin. Window shop on Main Street Did you know the 1999 movie “Runaway Bride” with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was filmed along Berlin’s charming Main Street? Take a stroll down the main drag to look for antiques, unique gift items, or just window shop and soak in this small town’s ambience. Looking for more things to do around the Berlin area? Ocean City is just a 15-minute drive away. Also within a 15-minute drive of Berlin is scenic Assateague Island, a great place to spend the day or take the family on good old fashioned camping trip. Of course, no camping trip is complete with out s'mores. Here's how to make them perfectly.


10 Tourist-Free Adventure Destinations

This article was written by Mary Mazzoni and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. Sick of overcrowded streets, congested bus rides and suffocating travel groups? You’re not alone. One of the top trends in travel this decade is the quest for the untouched—those pristine, less-traveled destinations you can explore without bumping into selfie-takers at every turn. Luckily for us, the folks at the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) know a thing or two about traveling off the beaten path. To bring you the tourist-free experience you crave, we asked experts at the recent AdventureElevate conference in Colorado to share some of their favorite secret spots. Read on to get the skinny on these exotic locales before the crowds show up. For untouched culture: Tolar, Argentina This small town of less than 300 people is a favorite of Veronica Lampon of Say Hueque. Although her firm is the No. 1 tour operator in Argentina, it only sells around one trip a year to this unexplored location—so you’re sure to get a pristine adventure experience. Located in the deserts of Northern Argentina, Tolar boasts beautiful mountains, rendered in technicolor thanks to mineral deposits, and a unique cultural experience that can’t be beat. The remote location was heavily influenced by the Incas, and it remains untainted by waves of tourists. “You can still get a lot of that culture from 200 years ago,” Lampon told us. “It’s an amazing experience.” For watersport: Rio Cangrejal, Honduras Situated in Northern Honduras, the Rio Cangrejal is “one of the great whitewater rafting and kayaking rivers in Central America,” said Mark Willuhn of the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance. Using a coastal town like La Ceiba as your base, you can easily explore the Rio Cangrejal region and all it has to offer. After you give kayaking and rafting a try, head to the nearby Pico Bonito National Park to check out untouched rain forests without bumping elbows with other travelers. Or, peep exotic sea life on a snorkeling adventure on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef along the Honduran Bay Islands. Related: Secret American Beaches You’ve Never Heard of In your backyard: Point Reyes National Seahore, California Although it’s only an hour from San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore remains “very much a hidden secret,” said Christina Tunnah of travel insurance operator World Nomads. “It’s a jewel in that part of California that is still thankfully very pristine and still very rugged at the same time.” At Point Reyes, around 240 miles of trail beckons hikers, bikers and horseback riders to explore the protected countryside. On your travels, be sure to check out the historic lighthouse and the many wildlife viewing areas, such as the tule elk range or the Elephant Seal Overlook. Visit from January through April, and you may also catch a glimpse of the annual gray whale migration from one of the park beaches or headlands. Adventure made easy: Town-hopping in Alaska Visiting Alaska is a surefire way to get off the beaten path, but it can seem daunting to pick a locale amidst its 660,000 square miles of terrain. We caught up with Jack Bonney of Visit Anchorage for a local’s perspective. His tips: Start and finish your trip in Anchorage for seamless airport access, then use the railroad system to explore Alaska’s backcountry. Kick off your adventure in Seward, a small fishing town that’s about a three-hour train ride from Anchorage. Explore the untouched seaside village, and take a quick boat trip to Kenai Fjords National Park which is home to 38 stunning glaciers and some of the most breathtaking views in Alaska. For an even more off-grid experience, hop back on the Alaska Railroad to Spencer Glacier. “When the train pulls away, the people who got off the train with you are the only ones who are going to be out there,” Bonney said with a smile. Enjoy float tours, hiking and camping at one of the most spectacular glaciers in Alaska before the easy train trip back to Anchorage. Adventure and convenience? Sign us up! Soft adventure paradise: Amalfi Coast, Italy Looking for an offbeat trip but aren’t quite ready for sub-zero camping or remote hiking tours? Don’t worry. You can have the best of both worlds on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, said Tom De Napoli of Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Costa Rica. A less-traveled destination that’s far from rugged, the Amalfi Coast is home to pristine beaches and stunning hillside towns. Take a relaxing bike or scooter ride, or simply enjoy the scenery in this quirky destination that’s perfect for families and low-impact travelers. For unmatched diversity: Azores Although it’s a perennial editor’s favorite for top 10 lists, this autonomous region of Portugal remains a relatively unknown destination for North American travelers. A mere four-hour flight from Boston, the nine islands of the Azores each offer their own distinct landscape—ensuring something for everyone and banishing boredom for good. Explore the red deserts of Santa Maria, the lush mountain peaks of Sao Jorge, or the semi-submersed caves and stunning seaside vistas of Pico and Faial. Seriously, there’s so much more than we could ever list here. Check out their website to learn more. For ancient history: Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to “the most significant collection of prehistoric rock art in North America,” said Peter Grubb, founder of Row Adventures. It’s truly a trip of a lifetime, but expect a bit of a trek to get there: Visitors hike in on foot, using mules to carry their belongings, and are unlikely to run into anyone outside of their small tour group. Visited by only around 300 travelers a year, the site features remarkably well-preserved rock paintings from as far back as 100 B.C.   Spot some wildlife: Pantanal, Brazil “Honestly, the Pantanal is the most underrated destination,” said George Duffy of Adventure Engine. Or, as Lonely Planet puts it, “The Amazon gets the press coverage, but the Pantanal is a better place to see wildlife.” Tour the lush rain forests of the region, and you’re sure to see exotic native creatures maxin’ and relaxin’ without fear of tourist crowds. For sea life, head to Bonito for stunning freshwater snorkeling in warm, crystal-blue waters. Related: Secret Islands in France That No One Knows About Boozy adventure: Isle of Harris, Scotland The mostly untouched Isle of Harris is home to some of the best beaches in Scotland—not to mention the most remote whiskey distillery in the world, set to open later this year. Tour the distillery and even reserve one of its first barrels, which you can pick up in 10 years after it’s finished aging. On your visit, take in the island’s lush landscapes and stunning beaches on a cycling and hiking tour courtesy of Wilderness Scotland. The offbeat Eurotrip: Macedonia This landlocked Balkan nation, bordered by Albania and Greece, is the perfect place to “see authentic Europe that really hasn’t been disrupted by tourism,” advised Kathy Kramer of Firefly Journeys. In Macedonia, check out rolling countrysides, stunning mountain vistas and picturesque villages—without a tour bus in sight. Link up with Macedonia Experience for hiking and biking tours with expert guides to make sure you don’t miss a beat. WATCH: Go Now: The New Seventh Wonder of the World—That’s Empty


What Is Your Best-Ever Travel Memory?

We recently asked several of our staff members to share their best-ever travel memory—here's what they said: "The summer my wife, Michele, and I traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K., for the unveiling of her sculpture of Ophelia, which is permanently installed in Anne Hathaway's Tree Garden." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Executive Editor "My first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower up close—in the evening. I rounded a corner and, suddenly, there it was, solid and looming, its delicate filigree lit in gold, more majestic than I ever imagined" —Jamie Beckman, Senior Editor "Unleashing epic yodeling skills I never knew I had on stage at a Swiss cultural show in Lucerne." —Kaeli Conforti, Digital Editor "Watching the sunrise over the dunes of the Sahara in Morocco was unreal!" —Jennifer O'Brien, Marketing Manager "Nothing beats feeding pigeons with my Nonna in Northern Italy." —Rosalie Tinelli, Marketing Associate "Drinking beer with my husband (then boyfriend) in the bar car of a train in northern Spain. We happened to walk by the train station in Barcelona that morning and made a last-minute decision to get on one and see where it took us." —Amy Lundeen, Photo Director "Being offered a place to stay by a kind stranger when I was traveling solo, lost and en route to Urbino, Italy." —Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor "My girlfriend and I took a ferry to Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancún and ended up free roam (no guide) snorkeling around the Garrafon Reef." —Chad Harter, Lead Developer "Touring stunning and amazing Sydney Harbour by boat on a spectacularly sunny spring day." —Maureen Kelley Stewart, Advertising Account Manager "Laying on a beach in Puerto Rico on high school spring break, listening to Sarah McLachlan, watching the blue-green waves roll in and out—the most relaxed I've ever been in my entire life." —Michelle Craig, Digital Ad Sales Planning Manager "First day of my first trip to Europe: Spending a picture-perfect day in the Piazza del Michelangelo, enjoying the beauty of Florence." —Elaine Alimonti, President, Publisher "Standing atop the Arc d'Triomph in Paris at dusk with my gorgeous Dutch boyfriend, overlooking the Champs Élysées, the sights of the city, and watching the lights begin to come up." —Jeannea Spence, Southeast Advertising Manager "A long walk on a beautiful deserted beach on Dingle Peninsula in Ireland." —Jo Neese, Neese & Lee Media Now it's your turn: We want to know, what is your best-ever travel memory? Share it below!