Campus Vacations

By Arthur Frommer
June 4, 2005
Like the TV hosts of "Fantasy Island," they enable you to briefly re-experience the "shortest, gladdest years of life"

Remember them? Those wondrous years? You lived in a dorm, next door to a dining hall. Your days stretched on without limit, it seemed, and there was time for everything: discussions lasting hour after hour, a movie at night, the stillness of library and lab, your mind pulsing with new ideas and challenging thoughts.

"Bright college years"--through a wise use of vacation time, you can touch them again, feel the glow, recharge the spirit. At scattered colleges and universities, a number of short-term summer programs enable adults of all ages to briefly re-experience "the shortest, gladdest years of life."

For a weekend or longer in summer, when the campus blooms, colleges open their residences, dining halls, and classrooms to every sort of student from around the nation, without conducting tests or issuing grades, and at wonderfully low costs. Few other short vacations offer so much pleasure, and yet such mental growth.

And how do these programs differ from the "learning vacations"--an exotic cruise, an archeological dig--that we, as alumni, are so often offered in the mails? First, because they are offered to alumni and non-alumni alike. Second, because they are operated by the university itself, often on a nonprofit basis, and not by a commercial tour operator or professor-turned-entrepreneur. Third, because many of them take place on campus. Fourth, because, unlike other classier, costlier seminars conducted on campus, these place you not in nearby hotels but in simple college dorms, from which you take your meals in adjacent student cafeterias, exactly as you did at the ages of 18, 19, 20, and 21. And last, because, unlike the somewhat similar Elderhostel programs, they are available to youngsters in their 30s, 40s, and 50s as well.

Great books vacations, one week or longer

Perched on a mountainside overlooking a stunning view of Santa Fe, New Mexico--all adobe and earth colors--St. John's College is, together with its sister school in Annapolis, Maryland, a proud and defiant guardian of the Western cultural tradition. Its undergraduate curriculum is largely based on the required study of 100-some-odd acknowledged classics over a four-year span, chronologically, beginning with Homer's "Iliad" at the dawn of written history, and continuing just barely to the 20th century through readings of Heidegger, Einstein and Freud in the senior year. On the way, students learn Greek and Euclidean geometry, attend solemn lectures in philosophy and aesthetics, and argue their conclusions in small, weekly "seminars," each led by two of the college's famed "tutors"--who perform a role similar to that of the dons of Oxford and Cambridge.

It is these awesome seminars, two hours apiece, six days a week, and each attended by no more than 17 persons assisted by two "tutors," that St. John's has now been re-creating for adult vacationers over the past several summers. Each one-week summer seminar has dealt with a single, acknowledged masterpiece of thought--a "Great Book" carefully read and exhaustively discussed. And visitors attend (and live at St. John's), as they choose, for either one, two or three weeks, thus reading one, two or three "great books."

Although the books chosen for summer change each year, a recent selection ran as follows: In Week One (July 11 to 16), a six-day seminar either in Freud's "Introductory Lectures," Joseph Conrad and Henry James' "The Soul of Terror," Gregorian chant, or Fyodor Dostoevsky's stories and short novels.  In Week Two (July 18 to 23), Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni," Jane Austen's "Persuasion," Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," or Thomas Mann's short stories.  In Week Three (July 25 to 30), Benedict Spinoza's "Ethics," Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom," Gustav Mahler's first, fourth, and fifth symphonies, or Maurice Merleau-Ponty's "Phenomenology of Perception."

The price? During the summer of 2005, one-week tuition is $950, and includes registration and books. Attendees may also register for one morning seminar and one afternoon one ($1,800). Two weeks cost $1,800, and the entire three weeks a reasonable $2,600. Festive arrival and farewell receptions are also included in the charge. Room and all board at dorms on campus are $485 per week, or students could splurge and stay at a hotel in town. By the way, the tuition price is cut in half for teachers.

Seminars meet daily for two hours apiece. All other times, participants either read, sun-bathe, hike or relax, or go touring in the environs of Santa Fe and beyond, which are surely among the great attractions of America: Chimayo and Taos, Los Alamos, Bandalier National Monument, Indian reservations, and the in-city art galleries, museum, shops, and historic structures of Santa Fe itself. The weeks of one's stay need not be consecutive or in order; and participants may choose any week or weeks of the three-week schedule.

Several summers ago in Santa Fe, I attended a one-week "test run" of these vacation seminars, reading and discussing Thucydides' "The Peloponnesian War" in the course of a seven-day stay. Grouped with 14 other "students" of all ages (most in their 40s and 50s) around a long table, at one end of which sat the president of St. John's, his fellow "tutor"--an impressive Greek scholar--at the other end, we pondered and discussed, argued and agonized over, issues relating to the very basis of civil society, as prompted by the tumultuous conflict between Athens and Sparta. It was a remarkable intellectual experience, that continues to resound in memory, and yet the week was exhilarating and happy, as we each day emerged from Greece of the fifth century B.C., into the southwestern sunlight, and roamed the mountain scenery of New Mexico by car. Surely we were the first auto-load in history to argue "the Melian dialogue," of Thucydides' classic history, on the highway outside Albuquerque!

Write for literature to: Summer Classics, St. John's College, 1160 Camino Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, NM 87505-4599 (phone 505/984-6117, fax 505/984-6003, email Web:

Ann Kirkland attended three summer sessions of the St. John's College program, and was so impressed that in 1998 she launched a similar "Classical Pursuits" program at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, where she is a resident professor. The 2005 session comprises 12 great works, including Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary", Virgil's "Aeneid", and John Milton's "Paradise Lost".  Seminars are kept small (limited to 15 members) to allow participants to voice their thoughts and get to know classmates. The program price is affordable: CAD$1,100 and a low US$925. That rate includes enrollment in one seminar for the week, lunches, receptions, and some excursions, but does not include lodging. For singles, the most affordable place to stay is on campus in air-conditioned private rooms for CAD$425 week (about US$344 for the week), a price that includes a hot breakfast every morning. Couples who prefer housing with private bath will find the best price at the Bay Bloor Executive Suites near campus (800/263-2811;, with rates of around US$400 for the week. By the by, the campus is within walking distance of downtown Toronto, so there is ample opportunity to visit that city's many mind-stimulating museums, concert halls, galleries, and attractions. For more information about St. Michael's Classical Pursuits program, write to Classical Pursuits Inc., 349 Palmerston Blvd., Toronto, ON M6G 2N5, Canada, call 877/633-2555, or e-mail Look up program information on the Web at

Colby College of Waterville, Maine, plays host each August to the Great Books Summer Institute, an intensive discussion and analysis of six outstanding books that participants (up to 250 of them) have already read and pondered prior to arriving for their one-week stay. Colby is a typical, New England college, on a "green," with steeple and spire atop its traditional, red-brick, main building, which makes a great setting for studying great literature. The program is a serious week of hard but rewarding work, in a convivial, high-spirited atmosphere. Participants continue their debates over the lunchtime table in the school's dining hall. This year's session was August 7 to 13, 2005; the fee $480 per person, either single or double occupancy, including all lodging in college residence halls, all meals (including a Maine clambake), and all tuition, as well as the six books sent to you via U.P.S. about four months in advance.

Students are split into groups of 15, each with an experienced, great books "leader" (not necessarily an academic), whose role is to elicit student comments and not to hand down scholarly judgments from above. During the session attended several years back by a friend of mine, books for discussion included Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain," Frijthof Capra's "The Tao of Physics," and William Barrett's "Irrational Man"; participants discussed the interrelationship of the books and their themes, in a week that was described to me as quite remarkably stimulating and satisfying. The 2005 theme is "The Fool," and books will include "Don Quixote" by Cervantes, "The Praise of Folly" by Erasmus, and Joseph Heller's "Catch 22".

For information, contact Colby Summer Institute, 824 Thomas Road, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444-1107. For information over the phone, call Tom or Carol Beam at 215/836-2380, fax: 215/836-7158, or e-mail Look up the program on the Web at

Shorter great book discussions

The Great Books Foundation (; 800/222-5870) helps to organize shorter discussion groups and seminars around the United States. In 2005 programs are offered in Mystic, CT, Chicago, IL, Bellingham, WA, and Toronto, ON. In recent years, groups have read and discussed works such as "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Elliot, "Pere Goriot" by Balzac, "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller, and "Pacem in Terris" by Pope John XXIII. For the 2003 weekends, there were discussions on "The Tragic Sense of Life," by Miguel De Unamuno, "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Divine Comedy," by Dante, and poetry by Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, and Billy Collins, among others. All-inclusive price (room, meals, books, and tuition) starts at about $280. For detailed information, applications, and brochures on any of the Great Books programs, call 800/222-5870 or go to

Especially for aspiring writers

Every summer, The University of Iowa opens its renowned doors to non-degree, noncredit students--namely, adults (ages 18 and over) interested in creative writing. The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is held over 10 one-week and weekend sessions throughout June and July, offering 130 workshops in a wide variety of genres--novel, short fiction, poetry, memoir, playwriting, journalism, children's writing, mystery and romance. Seminars are small and intimate with each class strictly limited to 12 participants. Weeklong seminars in 2005 include: "Beginning the Novel," "The Traveler's Story: Literary Nonfiction and Fiction," "Writing Short Fiction," "Writing Short Fiction for Literary Magazines," "The Art of the Anecdote," "Short Story Workshop," and "Character and Action." Weekend seminars include "Fiction Workout: Tighter Prose in Two Days" and "Writing for Moms, Soccer and Otherwise." No previous writing experience is required, in fact some seminars are specially tailored to the novice. "I came with apprehension; I'm going home with inspiration," commented one beginning writer, the Festival was a "trusting, safe and fertile atmosphere." "Workshop leaders" range from Iowa's professors to published authors.

Seminar fees are $225 per weekend, $475 per one-week course if you pay in full at the time of registration, $500 if you pay in two installments (non-inclusive of meals or housing). The most popular classes tend to be in fiction and novel-writing and fill up quickly. Participants have a varied choice of accommodations: the Festival will make reservations for a stay in a residence hall ($35 per night per person) or for those who wish to stay in an on- or near-campus hotel or B&B (rates vary, from $70 up per night), reservations can be made individually. For further information, contact: Iowa Summer Writing Festival, 100 Oakdale Campus W310, The University of Iowa , Iowa City, IA 52242-5000 (Phone: 319-335-4160, web:, email:

Aspiring adult creative writers of all levels are welcome at Wesleyan University's Writer's Conference. Held each year for five days at the end of June, which in 2005 will be from June 19 to 24, the Conference offers a particularly extensive program of daily seminars (consisting of short lectures, discussion and optional writing exercises), workshops, readings and individual manuscript consultations. All seminars are taught by award-winning faculty, including poets Elizabeth Willis and Honor Moore, fiction writers Robert Stone and Roxana Robinson, and non-fiction writers Philip Gourevitch and Jonathan Schell on subjects such as "Novel and Autobiography," "Short Story," "Literary Journalism and Memoir," and "Poetry". To supplement the seminars, there is an extensive series of guest speakers. Daily seminars run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with evenings dedicated to speakers and student readings.

Accommodations are available either on campus (in dormitory rooms) or at a nearby hotel and an on-campus meal plan provides all three meals daily. Tuition is $570, with the meal plan an extra $210 and dorm room accommodations an extra $140 -- the day student rate works out to $775 for five days, while the "boarding student" pays $910. Scholarships or Fellowships are also available, but are highly competitive -- a potential candidate must submit "representative samples of work in one genre" as well as a letter of application detailing experience and interests by April 8, 2005. Contact Anne Greene, Wesleyan Writers Conference, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT 06459 (phone 860/685-3604, fax 860/685-2441, email Or view the Web site at

Various disciplines

Cornell's Adult University is the most ambitious of the multi-disciplinary programs offering a choice of four one-week sessions. About 150 to 200 adults attend each week, enjoying comfortable student lodgings and highly regarded food, eminent professors, bright fellow "students," the verdant surroundings of Cornell's famous hillside campus ("far above Cayuga's waters"), and sensible prices: $1,240 to $1,390 per week per adult with double occupancy accommodations, including tuition and full room and board (or $710 with no room or board). Those requesting single rooms pay a supplement of $80 to $390 depending on lodging.

Most adults opt for a single one-week topic, taught in daily sessions (9 a.m. to noon resuming at 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.) throughout the week: "Joseph Conrad's Master Works," "Field Orinthology," "Introduction to Fly Fishing," "A Sailing Clinic," and "The Wine Class" are highly illustrative samples on the 2004 curricula. The quality of instruction, and convivial afternoon and evening recreation, create a setting so compelling that some guests almost need to be evicted after their week in "Brigadoon". Though the literature doesn't say so, guests are encouraged to stay for only a single week (but may add another), and early applications are advisable.

CAU also provides an extensive Youth Program. For 3 to 5 year olds, CAU offers a nursery school. For "tykes" (from 5 to 6 years of age), CAU offers such courses as "Birds and bugs," with crafts, field trips and games focused on ecology. For "explorers" (from 7 to 8 years of age), the program offers "It comes from planet earth," a fun geology course and other educational activities. Big Reds, Junior Cornellians, and teens (9-16 years of age) must pick one course- either a sports-related activity (horse-back riding, wall-climbing and sailing are always favorites) or a more academic focus--photography, world religions, or journalism, for example. The rates: $490 to $685 per child, depending on age (often the cost of the second child is reduced by a significant percentage).

Contact Cornell's Adult University, 626 Thurston Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850 (phone 607/255-6260, fax 607/254-4482, e-mail Or view the Web site at

"The Mini University" of Indiana University takes place during a week in mid-June (2005 dates are June 19-24) and consists of about 100 non-credit classes delivered by faculty members of the great Hoosier center of learning; participants are encouraged to attend up to 15 different courses in the five-day session. In the evenings there are picnics, films, and theater on campus. Registration fees for the Mini University are $195 for adults. Housing, meals and lodging are additional (lodging is available at either at an on-campus hotel or other off-campus locations). Costs are kept low by the fact that all profs donate their services free, as they speak on topics clustered under such headings as "Humanities," "Science," "International Issues," "The Arts," "Business and Technology," "Domestic Issues," "Health, Fitness, and Leisure," and "Human Growth and Development." Classes for 2005 include: "Is Wal-Mart good for America?," "Creating a Simple Web Page," "Black Spiritual as seen through the eyes of contemporary and traditional composers" "The influence of social class on schooling," "The stem cell debate once again," and "Jews and Muslims: from coexistence to crisis." Contact IU Alumni Association, Virgil T. DeVault Alumni Center, 1000 E. 17th Street, Bloomington, IN 47408-1521 (phone: 800/ 824-3044 or 812/ 855-6120, fax 812/ 855-8266 or email Or view the Web site at

Spring and summer "Adventure in Ideas" humanity seminars at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (formerly known as "Vacation College") draws its faculty from the several noted universities in the area (including Duke). In the past the program consisted of a full five weeks of classes, but the school now offers seven summer (and 10 per semester) two- or three-day courses ($105-$120 for two-day programs and $180-$195 for three-day programs). There's an early booking discount of roughly 10% for those who sign up more than a month in advance, and teachers and some other groups may qualify for discounts of 50%. Program topics are a mix of serious academia, pop culture, and current world events. Recent topics have included "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire," "Art and Social History in 19th Century America," and "British and American Adventure Writing." The seminars are comprised mainly of commuters; however, the program does reserve blocks of rooms in well-priced hotels in town. The most reasonable of these is the Holiday Inn Express (6119 Farrington Road, 919-489-7555 or 800-HOLIDAY), which charges $72 for two queen-size beds or one king bed if you say you are in a program at the university. Contact Humanities Program, CB #3425, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3425 (phone 919/962-1544, fax 919/962-4318, e-mail Or view the Web site at

The Dartmouth Alumni College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, operating for 40 consecutive years opens its doors in late July to host several three and five-day programs.  Starting July 26 in 2005, five-day programs include "The Guilded Age in Northern New England," and writing workshops in fiction, travel writing, memoir writing, and poetry. Three-day programs are on topics such as pop medicine, bread making, and wine tasting. It is among the oldest and most serious of summer campus sessions for adults, Dartmouth graduates, parents and their relatives and friends. Each morning two lectures are followed by small-group discussions with faculty; afternoons are left mostly free for tennis or golf on campus, boating, or hiking in the White Mountains. Evenings are devoted to films, special lectures, concerts, or plays. At the time of writing, prices were not set for 2004.  Tuition rates in 2003 started at $630 for the five-day program. A bed and breakfast package at dorms on campus ran $289/single, $476/double for six nights, and the Alumni College reserves rooms at the Hanover Inn at a pricey $185/night. (We found that you can stay at the nearby Ramada Inn for only $69/night.) Children (14 to 18 years old) can also attend the program. Contact Dartmouth Alumni College, Dartmouth Continuing Education, 6068 Blunt Alumni Center, Room 112, Hanover, NH 03755 (phone 603/646-2454, fax 603/646-1600, e-mail Program Director Roberta M. Moore at Or view the Alumni College Web site at

Yet another "Alumni College" open to all comers is hosted annually by Washington and Lee College in Lexington, VA (a beautifully restored town used as a backdrop in Civil War movies). Weeklong programs with almost everything you need (five nights' double or quad occupancy accommodations, 14 meals, books, tuition, and admission to films, museums, and performances) cost just $795; $820 for a single. There are five different programs to choose from each summer; 2004 choices include "America's Guilded Age: 1870-1920," "The Historical Jesus: Early Christianity and the New Testament," "East Meets West: Europe Since the Fall of the Soviet Empire," "Understadning the Middle East," and "Brain and Mind: Who Are We and How Do We Know?" To find out more, contact Washington and Lee Alumni College, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450, phone 540/463-8723, e-mail, Web:

Skidmore College's Summer Special Programs, in Saratoga Springs, New York, invites several different groups to use its campus in summer for residential adult study programs, and all are open to the public at large. We're particularly impressed by the four-week creative-writing course of the New York State Writers Institute. Hosted jointly by Skidmore College and the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, the program consists of courses in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Participants may enroll for two weeks or for the entire four week session; the courses can be taken for undergraduate and graduate credit or on a non-credit basis; academics are supplemented weeknights with evening readings by visiting and staff writers and on the weekends with publishing symposia and student readings. Among the distinguished visiting faculty are such luminaries as Lee K. Abbot, Julia Slavin, Rick Moody, Mary Gaitskill, Carol Phillips, Frank Bidart, and Philip Lopate.

Another exciting option is the Summer Seminars in Judaic Studies, a renowned program since 1980. Summer Seminars bring together scholars and eager students to study in a "culturally and intellectually rich atmosphere." The seminars seek to "to broaden and deepen (participants') experience, knowledge and understanding of Jews and Judaism." Each of the three week-long summer seminars offer one course focusing on a single subject matter. In week three of 2004, for example, the course is "The Zionist Movement and Modern Israel."

Beware: both programs are rigorous. A written form, (along with specific writing samples for the Writers Institute) as well as a $30 application fee, are necessary for admission to the programs. The application fee is deducted from the $700 cost of the program, which includes one week of tuition, housing, meals, and off-campus trips.  Contact Office of the Dean of Special Programs, Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-1632, (phone 518/ 580-5595) or view the website at

Three to nine-week summer classes at the University of Chicago Graham School of General Studies can cost more than $2,075 for those seeking college credit. But visiting adults can sit in on the classes and pay $1,300. There are language classes in Japanese, Korean, Greek, and Hebrew, as well as courses in computers, business, literature, history, and sociology. The prices only cover tuition, but rooms are available in a newly constructed dormitory for $195 per person per week (double room) or $235 per person per week (single room). You can also stay at single rooms with shared baths at the International House (1414 East 59th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637, 773/753-2270) can be booked for about $50/night or $900/month, not bad for this prime city location. For more information, contact Graham School, University of Chicago, 1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, phone 800/997-9689, e-mail, Web:

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How to Charter Your Own Yacht

Meandering around the Caribbean in your own yacht sounds fantastic. of course, it also sounds expensive and complicated. The truth is, chartering a boat often costs the same as or less than a traditional big-ship cruise or beach-resort stay. With a little sailing know-how--or the assistance of a trusty captain-for-hire--anyone can rent a boat and cruise to secluded dive spots, rollicking bars, and hidden coves. Dare to go bare: You need a driver's license to rent a Dodge Neon, but there's no official certification required to hire a 50-foot yacht. Instead, a charter company will ask you to list your experience, including sailing lessons and previous yachting trips, on a résumé. Based on that, and how you perform during an onboard briefing and Q&A session, the company will decide whether your group can handle the boat you've chosen (smaller ones are easier), where you can go (some places are tougher to navigate), and whether you need a professional captain. If two or three people in your group know how to hoist the main and get on and off the dock safely, chances are you'll get to man your own craft, also known as bareboating. If you've never sailed or your skills are rusty, the company might make you hire a skipper for some or all of the trip. The extra cost is around $150 a day. A good pro will bring you up to speed on the specifics of the boat and help you steer clear of dangerous reefs and lame restaurants; his or her presence should also help you relax. You'll still be the captain in terms of deciding where to sail each day, and whether passengers can start downing piña coladas at noon. Choosing an agency: It's possible to charter a boat through a small company, but most people report a wider selection, fewer headaches, and comparable prices with a larger operation or an established broker. Sunsail and The Moorings are the Hertz and Avis of the industry, renting fleets throughout the Caribbean (and nearly everywhere else sailing is popular). Ed Hamilton & Co. is a trustworthy broker that arranges charters with hundreds of boats in the Caribbean. Before making a reservation, do some research and ask a lot of questions. Get client referrals, ideally from people who have sailed on the ship you're interested in. If you're hiring a crew, ask about the captain's credentials and personality. Also, inquire about the age of the boat, the sleeping arrangements, the amenities onboard--some come with hot tubs, kayaks, and DVD players--and the procedure if something goes wrong. (The main sail tears while you're at sea. Now what?) Make sure any deposit you pay is held in an escrow account until just before departure, so that in the event of a worst-case scenario you can get your money back as easily as possible. Prices and particulars: Most rentals have a five- or seven-day minimum. Prices are determined by season (rates go up when temperatures in the U.S. go down) and a boat's size, age, amenities, and staff. Typical rentals range from about 32 feet (four to six passengers) to 52 feet (10 to 12 passengers). Fill the boat with friends and the starting price in spring or summer for a ship with a skipper and a cook averages out to about $200 a night per person, with food and drinks included. Bareboating can start as low as $50 per person per night, and the charter company will stock the larder based on your preferences--lasagna, quiche, burgers, veggie dishes, Heineken, Bacardi--for about $25 per person per day extra. Nearly all boats have barbecue grills, and fresh fish should be easy to come by. Dropping anchor: Consensus says the best spot for a beginner to get his sea legs is in the British Virgin Islands, where the winds are consistent, the waters are deep and sheltered, and there's plenty to do ashore. With dozens of islands concentrated in a relatively small area, most sailors spend their days swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the bars, shops, and beaches of yet another small port. Over the course of a week, you can snorkel in the caves at deserted Norman Island, which supposedly inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island; check out the giant boulders at the Baths on Virgin Gorda; and lounge on white-sand beaches and sip Painkillers--concocted with pineapple and orange juice, cream of coconut, dark rum, and nutmeg--at funky joints such as Foxy's Tamarind Bar and the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke. If you're ever looking for advice on where to sail next, tie up for the night, or go bonefishing, use the time-honored tradition of sailors all over the world: Ask at the bar. Don't drop anchor right next to another yacht--the whole point of a charter is privacy. 1. When someone waves at you from a nearby boat, he or she may be trying to tell you something. Don't simply wave back. 2. It's not so uncommon for a boat to be drifting halfway between Norman Island and St. John with everyone onboard fast asleep. Before you set out, be sure you've learned how to anchor properly. 3. If anyone within eyesight appears to be offended, put your swimsuit on. 4. Always remember to tip the crew--in cash. Transportation   Sunsail 800/797-5310,   The Moorings 800/535-7289,   Ed Hamilton & Co. 800/621-7855, Lodging   Foxy's Tamarind Bar Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, 284/495-9258   Soggy Dollar Bar Sandcastle Hotel, White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, 284/495-9888 British Virgin Islands Tourist Board Road Town, Tortola, 284/494-3134,

America's Best Cooking Schools

While serious foodies may think the Food Network's dueling Iron Chefs and Emeril's incessant exhortations ("Let's kick it up a notch!") will have a lot to answer for in that great six-burner kitchen in the sky, cooking school administrators acknowledge that these shows have sparked unprecedented interest in learning how to cook. If you add to that development a dollop of post-9/11 hankering to stay close to home and get back to old-fashioned nurturing, you've got a recipe for the latest hot travel trend: cooking school vacations. "This will be our biggest year yet for attendance in amateur classes," says Richard Smilow, president of the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE, formerly Peter Kump's Cooking School) in its 27th year in New York City. Cooking, once something only your mother did (well, some mothers did), now suddenly seems to have, dare we say it, sex appeal. "Cooking is a part of the new dating ritual," observes Larry Kaplan, a radiologist from Reading, Pennsylvania, who says that he hopes taking a five-day Asian cooking course at ICE will boost his post-divorce dating prospects. "It's a sensual experience of tastes," Kaplan says, "and it's a way to show caring that's a more intimate gift than taking a date to a restaurant." And best of all, the growing number of weekend and weeklong cooking vacation packages at inns, B&Bs, and cooking schools are great bargains. The ethnic cooking classes, especially, provide an exotic adventure to foreign lands--without the expense or bother of leaving the United States. We've picked the highest-quality cooking classes in America that also have the lowest prices available--and better still, are located in places where there's plenty more to do when you take off your apron. Whether for the weekend or the whole week, courses usually follow a similar routine: The chef goes over the recipes the students will tackle that day, offering insight and background on the cuisine, the ingredients, or the techniques required. At the end of class, the students sit down and dine on the fruits of their labor in a luscious multicourse meal, with lots of wine--and no cleaning up. It's one of the most soul-satisfying ways you'll find for getting your hands dirty since mud pies and finger paint--and this time, eating your creations tastes a whole lot better. New York City: The Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's New York cooking school) "We offer the widest range of three-, four-, and five-day cooking courses anywhere--we have nine teaching kitchens, open seven days a week, with technique classes in fine cooking, pastry, bread-baking, cake-decorating, and every ethnic cuisine from Italian and Japanese to Thai and Vietnamese," says Richard Smilow, president of ICE, which caters to professionals and amateurs alike. And a variety of people are attracted to the classes for equally wide-ranging reasons. "We had one woman who used to work in the World Trade Center--and our bread-baking class was the thing that helped her come back to Manhattan without being afraid," Smilow says. Others come for the adventure. The adventure? "I see this cooking class as part of my adventure travel and adult education," says Larry Kaplan (who also hopes it will help his dating odds). "I've done motorcycle racing for a week, hang gliding, just found a bullfighting school. Cooking is not as suicidal--except when we get to the hot chili recipe," Kaplan says at the end of his Asian cooking class. And the prices are very reasonable, especially for the quality of the instruction. Classes run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the school also offers a wide range of single-day workshops ranging in price from $85 to $100. Though the school has no arrangement with local hotels, there are many bargains to be had in New York City, especially in B&Bs, which few people know anything about (see Budget Travel's "New York Rooms Under $100" from the September/October 2001 issue). Cost: Three-day classes, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., $275-$415; five-day classes, $495; tuition includes snacks, a huge lunch, and wine each day; hotels near the school: Chelsea Hotel, Chelsea Inn, Gramercy Park Hotel. For B&Bs under $100 per night, contact: Affordable New York City, 212/533-4001; City Lights, 212/737-7049;, 212/614-3034; Manhattan Getaways, 212/956-2010; New York Habitat, 212/255-8018. Contact: The Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), 50 W. 23 St., New York, NY 10011, 212/847-0700, Boulder, Colorado: Cooking School of the Rockies The 12 students sitting around a huge stainless-steel table next to a vast, gleaming professional kitchen (complete with 12 burners, three ovens, and angled viewing mirror) are sipping fresh coffee, munching on crusty French bread with cream cheese and smoked whitefish as they go around the table explaining why they have come to Boulder to take this five-day course on "Basic Techniques of Cooking." "My wife wants me to be the cook of the family and my mom didn't cook, so I'm here to learn and maybe even to instill some better eating habits in my kids," says Chris Pritchard, of Louisville, Colorado, near Boulder. "I don't want to embarrass myself when I entertain," says Mary Delaney, a sales manager for Qwestdex in Denver. In the classical techniques course, students learn handy tricks like shaping your fingers into a claw so that you slice vegetables without slicing your fingertips, or knowing when meat is properly cooked by using the feel of the flesh in different parts of your hand as a guide. Other special five-day "Cooking Vacations" here (available from April through October) focus on desserts and bread techniques as well as ethnic cuisines such as Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, and more. For the five-day courses, the $575 tuition includes plenty of eating--breakfast, snacks, and a huge full lunch with wine that rarely leaves you wanting much for dinner. If gazing at the mountains constantly in your line of sight anywhere in Boulder isn't enough for you, here are a few budget tips on local food and fun: Japango sushi restaurant on Pearl Street offers half-price dishes and drinks before 6 p.m., The Med restaurant has $1 tapas midweek from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the Basemar Cinema Saver movie theater only charges $3. Cost: $575 tuition, includes five days of classes, breakfast, snacks, huge full lunch with wine each day. Contact: Culinary School of the Rockies, 637 S. Broadway, #H, Boulder, CO 80305; 303/494-7988, How to go & What to do: Fly into Denver and drive 40 minutes to Boulder. Walk off all those calories at the downtown Pearl Street pedestrian mall, where you'll find the Boulder Arts and Crafts Co-op displaying the talent of local artists. Hudson Valley, New York: Inn to Inn Cooking Vacations Here you'll find a truly moveable feast. Each day you travel through the lush green Hudson Valley a couple of hours north of New York City, starting with a tour at, perhaps, a local vineyard for a wine-tasting or at a sheepherding farm where a French master cheesemaker explains the process and offers samples. Then, the main event. Over three days you travel to three different vintage inns where the top chefs and often the pastry chef as well-trained in Europe and at culinary institutes--give you their undivided attention. They take you, hands-on, through the steps for cooking up their favorite four-to-five-course meals. Afterwards, you sit down and savor what you've just helped prepare--along with the chef's selection of wines. "My wife gave this trip to me as a birthday present--she didn't come, because she can't even boil water," says Roy L. Johnson, Jr., a senior vice president of Bank of Louisville, who had a ball pinching gnocchi in the same way that chef Allen Katz, owner of Allyn's Restaurant, had showed the class of nine. "I especially liked when Chef Allen sat down with us for the meal and admitted that he had a made a mistake on one of the dishes," Johnson says. "You learn that it's OK, that cooking's not rocket science; it should be creative and fun." Johnson's only regret was that he hadn't allowed enough time beyond the three-day cooking classes to tour the richly historical countryside. "I made a few side trips, to Cold Spring where George Washington camped out, to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (two hours away), and to a very old cemetery," he says. "But I wish I had known that West Point was only ten miles away." That's why he's coming back as soon as possible. "Next time I'll take my wife," Johnson says. "She won't attend the cooking lessons, but she'll love exploring the Hudson Valley." Cost: Three-day classes, Tuesday to Thursday (or weekends in winter) limited to 8-12 people; $380 includes snacks, huge lunches, wine; participants get 10-percent or greater discounts at the following vintage Inns: Aubergine, The Grand Dutchess, Le Chambord, starting as low as $85 per couple per night. Contact: Maren Rudolph, President, Vintage Hudson Valley, provider of Inn to Inn Cooking Vacations, P.O. Box 288, Irvington, NY 10533, 914/591-4503, How to go & What to do: The cheapest flights are usually into Albany International Airport, though Stewart Airport is closer to most of the inns. The region's attractions include West Point, Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown), the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison, Vassar College art gallery (free), Bardavan Theater in Poughkeepsie, the Olde Rhinebeck Airdrome (Rhinebeck), and the Vanderbilt and Franklin D. Roosevelt estates in Hyde Park. Walloon Lake Village, Michigan: Fonds Du Cuisine Cooking School "Our name means 'the fundamentals of food,' so we focus on good foods, simply cooked," explains David Beier, chef and owner of the Fonds Du Cuisine Cooking School at Michigan's Walloon Lake Inn. Beier, who trained with European chefs and worked in 18 restaurants, has been teaching "techniques, rather than recipes" for the last 18 years. "You can get recipes on the Internet, but I teach how to thicken a sauce, sharpen a knife, braise, saute, how you can get organized in the kitchen and make the most of the few hours you have there, techniques that allow you to look at any recipe and be successful," Beier says. The series of classes is very intimate, usually about four to six people, so everybody can be involved in cooking an entire meal. The four hours of daily instruction (from Sunday to Thursday, October through March) are an intensive but highly sociable experience. "The view on the lake here is beautiful--and the students usually drain the wine bottle at the three-course midday meal they share," Beier says with a laugh. Those who don't go to their rooms for a nap can spend the rest of the afternoons in the beautiful outdoors. The inn is situated right on the 35-mile, turquoise, sandy-bottomed Walloon Lake, just a few miles from some of the best downhill (and cross-country) skiing in Michigan, and less than a mile from Lake Michigan. In winter there is also ice-skating (indoor and outdoor rinks) or snowshoeing. In spring, there's morel hunting. Cost: $400 per person (double occupancy); $440 for a single, includes four days (16 hours) of classes, four nights at the inn, breakfast, and a huge lunch/dinner daily; classes run from Sunday to Thursday, October through March excluding the holidays (though Chef Beier is willing to adapt the timing to suit groups). Contact: David Beier, owner and chef, Fonds Du Cuisine Cooking School at Walloon Lake Inn, P.O. Box 459 Walloon Lake Village, MI 49796, 800/956-4665, How to go & What to do: The closest airport is PLN in Pellston, Michigan, 45 minutes away; Traverse City Airport (TVC) is 75 minutes. Skiing, ice-skating, hiking at your doorstep. Oakland, California: The Art of Thai Cooking Loha-unchit grew up in Thailand, learning her country's subtle spicing and techniques at her mother's side. She has been teaching cooking classes in California since 1985 and has written two books: Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood and It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joy of Thai Cooking. Her classes are as complex as the flavors of her native land. "I teach about harmonizing flavors-blending hot, sour, sweet, salty, aromatic, bitter, astringent--all the aspects of taste," Loha-unchit explains. "I don't separate the food from the culture, so people get a cultural experience here, too. It's creative; it's casual--like having a group of friends over to your house," she says. And that is, in fact, what Loha-unchit is doing, as she teaches the classes out of her home. "The kitchen is cozy," says Dallas resident Gregg Stone, director of business development for a software company. It's not what he expected when he first came to Kasma's class last summer, but he soon realized the homey setting was a plus. "I think the fact that it was a normal kitchen (with the added feature of a second gas range and an assistant to help clean up) took some of the mystique out of the cooking process--and it kept the cost down," Stone says. "The price was very reasonable--you can't believe how stuffed with fresh ingredients her refrigerator was for that class each day." The tuition includes all-day classes, preparation of five to seven dishes a day, meals throughout the day, and food field trips. "Kasma took us to an outdoor Oriental farmer's market and to Oriental grocery stores in Oakland," Stone says. "We jumped the BART and went to San Francisco's Chinatown. And I went to a grocery store in Berkeley called the Berkeley Bowl--an old bowling alley converted to a grocery store with a produce section second to none." Though accommodation is not included, there are B&Bs and hotels within walking distance of the class. What does Loha-unchit want students to take away with them (besides some good Thai green chili curry paste)? "I want them to see that cooking is therapeutic," she says. "Working with ingredients is tactile; if you focus on the senses and the process rather than the results--and you keep tasting and making adjustments, you don't have to worry about the results. It will always be good." Cost: The $500 tuition includes five days of classes (with a maximum of 12 students) in summer only (though single classes run March through October), from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., field trips to Asian markets, breakfast, snacks, lunch, and wine; Kasma has a list of nearby B&Bs and motels starting as low as $65 per night. Kasma also takes groups on cooking tours of Thailand: $3,350 for 28 days, including airfare from the West Coast. Contact: Kasma Loha-unchit, P.O. Box 21165, Oakland, CA 94620, 510/655-8900, How to go & What to do: San Francisco is 20 minutes away; you don't have to rent a car--Kasma picks students up from the Bart station one mile away. Five-day classes are also available, but only during summer months. Essex, Vermont: Whisk Away Weekends at the New England Culinary Institute Though the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) offers a rigorous professional training program, its weekend packages are decidedly low-key. There's only one main cooking class (though you can pay extra and take another). The rest of the time you spend eating at the Institute's two excellent restaurants, kicking back in the school's award-winning country Inn at Essex, and enjoying Vermont's scenic countryside and the towns of Montpelier and Burlington. "I've always enjoyed cooking but I never cooked with my girlfriend - so we went together and had a great time," says Mike Bruno, director of online marketing at iMarket inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts. "And the food at Butler's [the Institute's fine dining establishment where the advanced second-year student-chefs cook] was four-star," Bruno says. As for the price for the weekend, Cathy Whalen, a high school teacher from Plattsburgh, New York, who went with her mother, says at first she thought the rate was high. "But after we went, we both thought it was quite reasonable for what you get--the Butler Inn was the best food I've ever had in my life--and the Sunday brunch buffet..." Cathy sighs at the memory. "I thought the students must have worked for a week on it." The price covers two nights at the inn, two dinners, continental breakfasts, a huge Sunday brunch--"and in our room, there was a gift of a chef's hat and apron waiting for us," says Bruno. Though you spend less time in class instruction than at other schools, you get many opportunities to think about and watch food preparation. "At the NECI Commons restaurant (where first-year student-chefs toil) there are windows so you can watch the students preparing the foods in the kitchen. I watched them do desserts," Bruno says. Cost: Chef Inn Training: $189 a couple for a three-course dinner demonstration. Contact: The Inn at Essex, The New England Culinary Institute, 70 Essex Way, Essex, VT 05452, 800/727-4295 (ask for reservations), How to go & What to do: Burlington International Airport is minutes away, with a free shuttle to the inn. Nearby there's the University of Vermont, Shelburne (art) Museum, several downhill ski areas and golf courses, scenic cruises and fishing on Lake Champlain, and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory (closed on Sunday). Quakertown, Pennsylvania: Cooking at The Inn at Turtle Pond "Your vacation begins with a dinner I prepare for your arrival on Friday evening," chef and host Una Maderson explains. And that's just for starters. Saturday morning, after a breakfast of juice, fruit, yogurt, homemade granola, and quick breads, you roll up your sleeves in her fabulous kitchen, with huge windows overlooking a two-acre lake and 24 acres. Maderson specializes in Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, Asian, and vegetarian foods but will tailor the cooking to her students' needs. "I bought the weekend for my husband as a birthday gift--I just went along and hung out, walking the trails around the lake, and I got to eat the wonderful food," says Kathy Williams of Teays Valley, West Virginia. "Una has a wonderful log house--she and her husband are so interesting and cultured," Williams says, "it was more than my husband and I imagined it could be. I can't wait to go back." "She made me feel a lot more confident as a cook," adds Dean Williams, a land management professional. "I was always intimidated by fresh herbs--how to prepare them and use them. And I never would have considered undertaking puff pastry before. But Una is very patient and knowledgeable," Williams says. Cost: $330 includes two nights at the inn, two days of classes, and all meals. Contact: Turtle Pond, Inc., 210 Axehandle Rd., Quakertown, PA 18951-4904, 215/538-2564, Web address: How to go & What to do: Turtle Pond is 90 miles west of New York City and 45 miles north of Philadelphia; airports include Philadelphia International Airport, 45 minutes away, and Allentown (ABE airport--Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton), 25 minutes away. Nearby towns offer hot-air ballooning, an antiques center, and the year-round Main Street Theatre. New Hope, about a 20-minute drive east, on the Delaware River, is full of art-and-antiques shops. Doylestown, the county seat, a 25-minute drive south, is home to the James A. Michener Art Museum, the famously eclectic Mercer Museum, and the Moravian Tile Works.

The Arts-and-Crafts Vacation

They resemble resorts, with their outdoor pools and tennis courts, their wooden lodge buildings and country barns, their guests in skimpy sports clothes. But there all likeness ends. Within the barns are lathes and looms, potters' wheels and blacksmith's forge, all heavily in use throughout the day by guests in throes of creation. At a growing number of residential countryside crafts centers, more and more Americans are devoting their vacations to the mastery of a folk manufacture--the ability, say, to make a ladderback chair or an earthenware vase, a hand-bound book or a rough wool cloak. For them, the activity is a rewarding expression of art, a satisfying connection with the past, a deeply pleasurable return to human basics (in a time of high technology), and therefore the best possible use of leisure time. Nine awesomely scenic locations are especially active in the world of arts-and-crafts vacations. Penland, North Carolina: Penland School: Penland School, of Penland, North Carolina, an hour's drive from Asheville, is the big one, a sprawling complex of 41 buildings on 400 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain land. A pioneer in creating new American forms of craft art, it urges its guests to let their imaginations soar and tolerates outlandish experiments. "We blur the overlapping lines between fine and applied arts," says the school's director. The new approach is then applied to all the standard materials--wood, clay, fibers, glass, iron, metals, and paper--and results each week in countless varieties of stunning products emerging from classes taught by eminent figures. Sessions run from mid-March to mid-September, are between one and eight weeks in duration, are open to students of all levels of skill, and average $320 a week, plus room and board fees of $320 (dorms) to $839(double with private bath) per person per week. For more information or reservations, contact Penland School of Crafts, P.O. Box 37, Penland, NC 28765-0037 (phone 828/765-2359, fax 828/765-7389, email, web site Snowmass Village, Colorado: Anderson Ranch Arts Center Anderson Ranch at Snowmass Village, Colorado, is a somewhat costlier alternative of equal fame; it's found in the Rockies, ten miles west of Aspen, 160 miles from Denver, at an elevation of 8,200 feet. Many of the nation's most renowned craftspeople--prize winners, manufacturers of crafts, academics in the field--come here each summer (early June to late October) to teach weekend, one-, two- and three-week classes in woodworking and furniture design, ceramics and art history, in addition to courses in photography, printmaking, digital imagery, sculpture and painting. Some have such outstanding reputations that they attract other professionals, who make up a third of some classes otherwise composed of sheer novices--the advantages for these beginners are obvious. Interdisciplinary studies combining people from different fields are especially interesting at this high-quality gathering of leaders in crafts instruction, all in a setting of old ranch buildings refurbished to provide considerable comfort in both lodgings and labs. Tuition, including lab fees, starts at about $500 per week (children's and teen classes are cheaper), to which you add room and board costs of $495 to $1,295 per week, depending on room category. Acommodations range from simple dorm rooms to three-bedroom condos. For further information, contact Anderson Ranch Arts Center, P.O. Box 5598, 5263 Owl Creek Road, Snowmass Village, CO 81615 (phone 970/923-3181 or Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts Arrowmont, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a mile down a scenic road from a main entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is another nationally known visual arts complex, particularly noted for its instruction in odd new techniques: patination of metal, anodizing of aluminum, granulation of sterling silver, combining "media" on cloth; it is also, according to one faculty member, "the wood-turning capital of America" (and teaches the standard crafts as well). One- and two-week sessions are offered in March, April, June, and July, to persons of varying skills, including those of no previous crafts experience at all. Some students, energized by creative excitement, work up to 15 hours a day in well-equipped workshops or in the 10,000-tome library of arts and crafts. On average, figure on costs of at least $500 a week for everything. For further information, contact Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, 566 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (phone: 865/436-5860, or Elkins, West Virginia: Augusta Heritage Arts Workshops This workshop held every year at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia, at the edge of the Monongahela National Forest, differs sharply from the others in its emphasis on traditional crafts--not innovative ones--designed to preserve and transmit a proud Appalachian heritage of designs. Accordingly, classes are in such homespun subjects as stonemasonry, quiltmaking, fiddlebow repair, blacksmithing, basketry, and flint knapping. Nevertheless, director Margo Blevin contends that some classes here--like "contemporary quilt design," "create your own weaving"--are moving old-style crafts into the future. The center also has classes on music and dance. There are five separate summer weeks, early-July to mid-August (you can sign up for one or more weeks); tuition averages a low $365 a week; and room and board adds only $295 a week more and is provided in college residence halls and dining rooms. Sign up before April 30th for the best rates, discounted prices for children sharing a room are available. Contact Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College, 100 Campus Drive, Elkins, WV 26241 (phone 304/637-1209, email, or Brasstown, North Carolina: John C. Campbell Folk School John C. Campbell Folk School, in Brasstown, North Carolina, a 380-acre campus nestled between the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains, is still another of those primarily regional schools that seek to instruct in traditional, southern Appalachian crafts, and not in the unrestrained modern approach to the decorative arts. Most courses are confined to such old-world pursuits as spinning, knitting, and quilting, woodcarving and pottery, blacksmithing, enameling, chairbottoming and the like, all heavily functional--the abstract is generally eschewed. Still, the spirit here is dynamic and joyous, and courses (five and six-night programs) are offered year-around (except for occasional holiday weeks), at times when other schools are closed. Tuition fees start at $388 a week, but that charge can rise by another $100 for certain wood-turning and metal-finishing courses. For more information, contact the John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC 28902 (phone: 800/FOLKSCH, Web address: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Pendle Hill In a less rural, but equally serene location just 12 miles southwest of Philadelphia, Pendle Hill, a "Quaker-led study center," hosts 12 artistic workshops throughout July and August. On its 23-acre arboretum campus in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, the center mixes its varied curriculum of arts and crafts, ranging from photography to yoga, with a dash of spirituality. The result? Atypical offerings like "Handweaving: A Joyous Meditation," "Painting for Joy," "Clay, Myth, and Fairytale," "Writing for Life," and "Brushes with the Spirit." While it stands apart from other arts and crafts schools in its religious association, the program organizers promise it's strictly non-denominational. And its courses are comparably rigorous, drawing top scholars from across the country to lead the five-day sessions. With room for only 50 guests at the retreat center, programs are limited to 25 or fewer participants, keeping class sizes small. A window-lined art studio is open 24-hours for around-the-clock creation, and is equipped with potter's wheels, weaving looms, wide tables, and an electric kiln. Accommodations are simple, dorm-like rooms (single or double, air-conditioned, but with shared baths) and meals are served family-style in the communal dining room. Workshops are open to all skill levels and room (double), board, and instruction average $465/person. Commuters pay $400 on average for a five-day session, which includes meals. For more information, write or phone Pendle Hill, 338 Plush Mill Road, Wallingford, PA 19086 (phone 800/742-3150, ext. 142 or 610/566-4507). Its Website provides extensive information on the study-center at; the summer arts program listings are usually up by early March. Southwestern, Pennsylvania: Touchstone Center for Crafts Situated on 150 acres of wooded grounds, Touchstone Center for Crafts in southwestern Pennsylvania specializes in the centuries-old craft of blacksmithing, but offers the basics too. Students learn to fashion hinges, helmets, and well, nearly anything else they can think of that's made from metal, in the school's new (1999) blacksmithing studio, which includes 12 modern forges and one brick "historic" forge for those interested in traditional methods. Or they work with clay, paint, glass, metal, cameras, or fibers, under the supervised instruction of talented professionals (the school also offers the less-recognized arts such as "journaling," soap and paper-making, and bookbinding). Weekend and weeklong courses run from May to November, with about six hours of class time per day, and studios are open until 11pm, so you can keep working "after-hours." Tuition runs from about $300 to $400 for weeklong programs, but most weigh in around $300; weekend workshops are about half that price. Shop fees will add about $50 extra, with advanced classes and glass workshops running a little more. They also offer a family weekend in May that runs for $175 per adult and $75 for children, including tuition, meals and lodging. Students stay in two and four-person "rustic" cabins (this means no heat, air-conditioning, or bathrooms, but there's a centrally located bathhouse) for between $100 (quad) and $132 (double) per person per week, and tent sites are cheaper yet- just $35. Meals can be purchased for an additional $130/week, and are served cafeteria-style in the school's communal dining hall. And for parents enrolled in the school, children's classes (ages 6 to 12) are also offered. For more information or to make reservations, contact Touchstone Center for Crafts, 1049 Wharton Furnace Road, Farmington, PA 15437, phone 800/721-0177 or 724/329-1370, fax 724/329-1371, or e-mail View its web site at Layton, New Jersey: Peters Valley Craft Education Center Just a short drive from New York City, but worlds away in ambiance, Peters Valley Craft Education Center in Layton, NJ is set in the middle of the Delaware Watergap on actual National Park grounds. It is a stunning locale and a potent inspiration for the many students who visit this school each summer to test their skills at blacksmithing, ceramics, fiber, fine metals, photography, weaving and wood working. Most participants are amateur artists. As Ken Pierson, Executive Director of Peters Valley explains, "people of all ages come here to find an interesting hobby to dedicate themselves to, or to further explore an art they have already developed an interest in." Classes are held from mid-May to mid-September, with prices ranging from $220 for a two-day course to $425 for a three-day class). Lab fees can run anywhere between $10 to $700 but average around $50. Participants can stay off-campus or in dorms on campus--a shared dorm room costs $35 per night, a youth hostel is $10 a night, and B&B is $45.. For more information, contact Peters Valley Craft Education Center, 19 Kuhn Road, Layton, NJ 07851 (phone 973/948-5200 or learn about the school online at Deer Isle, Maine: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, in Deer Isle, Maine, is the only other northeastern location among the major craft centers, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from a spectacular wooded slope. It is also the only major center that requires students to send in an application, as well as a $35 nonrefundable fee. Students must be 18 or older to apply. A much-discussed architectural achievement, the school consists of two-dozen shingled structures--some lodgings, some workshops--with high-pitched roofs, all connected by wooden walkways elevated from the ground. Here, from June to September, roughly 80 students at a time, of all ages and degrees of skill, including beginners, come together in successive two- and three-week sessions to study crafts of clay, fibers, glass, graphics, metals, and wood, in studios that never close--they remain open for inspiration around the clock. Tuition is between $655 and $875, and room and board costs range between $280 for a day student, and $2115 for a three-week single room. Apply by April 15 for priority consideration. For more information, contact Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, P.O. Box 518, Deer Isle, ME 04627 (phone 207/348-2306, Web: For tours of the studios of noted craftspeople all over the world, contact Craft World Tours, Inc., 6776 Warboys Rd., Byron, NY 14422 (phone 585/548-2667).

Geneological Vacations

A great many persons travel--and travel extensively--to the places of their family's origin, seeking "roots," knowledge of heritage. But most do so independently, visiting city registry offices, parish churches, and the like, without giving advance notice to these record-keepers, and usually simply showing up--in a village of Poland or Germany, a hamlet in Africa, a city of China. Because those visits could have been so greatly aided by expert advice and advance arrangements, it is surprising that so few tour operators are involved in the activity of "genealogy travel." The Specialty Travel Index--which you can access by going to five tour companies in the genealogy field, each a specialist with a rather narrow focus. Two operate genealogy tours to Norway, one operates such tours to Ireland, one to the State of Virginia, and one to Poland, Russia and the Ukraine. We know of several others: For African-American travelers Spector Travel of Boston, a 15-year-old firm specializing in African travel, offers "Roots and Culture" tours to Senegal, the Gambia, South Africa, Benin and Cote d'Ivoire which include roundtrip airfare, accommodations and breakfast, transfers three half-day guided tours, and a Juffureh and African naming ceremony. In addition to its prearranged packages, Spector Travel can help you plan a personalized itinerary for your own heritage tour to Africa. For more information, call Spector Travel at 617/351-0111; you can find them on the Web at Henderson Travel (phone 301-650-5700 or 800-327-2309, Web:, founded in 1957, is the oldest African American-owned travel agency in the U.S. Henderson offers a wide variety of heritage tours to Africa (Senegal, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, the Ivory Coast to list a few), and while many are upscale, some are quite reasonably priced. A seven-day history tour of Senegal, with first class hotels, guided tours, most meals, an excursion to a former slave marketplace, and airfare from New York, starts at $2,090 for certain departure dates. There are several resources for African Americans wishing to learn more about their history in the U.S., and for those simply wishing to travel with other African Americans. The African American Travel Conference (330/337-1116; has over 1,000 tour operators that are members, many of which are small organizations that specialize solely in heritage travel for African Americans. For those of Jewish heritage For Jewish cultural trips to Morocco, Spain, South Africa and Turkey, contact Heritage Tours of New York (212/206-8400 or 800/378-4555, Joel Zack, the company's founder, did post-graduate work studying Moroccan synagogues and the Jewish history of that part of the world. His love of the area's architecture and fascination with its Jewish past led him to create a tour company offering individualized tours for cultural "pilgrims" to the region. (Heritage Tours also has experience arranging group travel, such as synagogue excursions.) Religiously observant Jewish travelers can be fully accommodated on every trip, as Kosher meals are offered and Shabbat travel can be avoided if necessary. Call or visit Heritage Tours' Web site for more information. Jews of Central European heritage look to Routes to Roots, founded by a noted expert in the field, Miriam Weiner, the co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy. Miriam and her company offer research and archival services into family histories. Email, or go to for more details. For those whose ancestors came from the Czech Republic and Slovakia Weber Travel Worldwide Travel Service, founded in 1956, specializes in small group tours of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Guided by Joe Hartzel, President and founder of Czech and Slovak American Genealogical Society, the tours focus on culture as well as cultural history. Along with museum, castle and monastery visits, there are expert lectures on genealogical research, aid for the travelers in charting their own family's history and stopovers in cities and towns, large and small, throughout the region (Prague, Domazlice, Ceske Budejovice, Cesky Kruralov, Karlovy Vary and Telc among others). These 14-day pilgrimages cost $2,839 per person (based on double occupancy) for airfare, airport transfers, lodging, two meals a day, guides and various admission costs. For more information, call Weber Travel at 708/749-1333 or 800/886-7012; you can find the company on the Web at For Americans with Irish roots As you might guess, Irish Cultural Connections specializes in roots tours to the Emerald Isle. With the proper background information (which you must supply), it promises to connect you with the parishes, towns, churches, tombstones, and homesteads of your ancestors in the counties of Louth, Monaghan, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, and Meath. It will arrange accommodations at affordable prices and airport pickups can be included if booked in advance. Costs are approximately $150 per day land-only, though prices vary a bit depending on your itinerary. Call 011-353-47-86363, e-mail, or go to We were pleased to discover that the famed Elderhostel now offers several programs in Salt Lake City devoted to ancestral research in Ireland and the British Isles. For those of you unacquainted with it, Elderhostel is the premier educational travel company for adults 55 and older, with over 25 years of experience. In recent years, the tours lasted six nights, at $850. This price includes airfare, accommodation, transfers, all meals, and academic instruction. Elderhostel also provides an introduction to research skills, source info, interpreting collected data, practical archival work and genealogical research. For more information call Elderhostel at 877/426-8056 or visit them on the Web at For travelers of Scandinavian descent Finally, Bridge To Sweden is on hand to help those attempting to trace Scandinavian roots. The owners, a Swedish-American couple, attempt to make the process simple for their customers by doing much of the background research themselves. You provide them with the name of your ancestor and the parish from which they came and they organize tours which combine a standard touristic approach to Sweden with individually significant spots (eg. "that farm, where your family lived and the old stone church where your grandparents married"). Prices start at $3,200 for a shared room. Contact Bridge to Sweden, phone 607/786-0857, e-mail for more details. Find information on the Web at A general geneological resource If you're not interested in touring with a tour company there are also various resources for ambitious travelers to conduct their own personal genealogy tour. Travel Genie, for instance has provided detailed maps for travel and genealogy since 1985. If you are looking for an ancestral location but can't find it on a map, Travel Genie carries detailed sectional maps for Britain, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Poland and Sweden. Go to for more details. Also every one interested in genealogy must visit This site provides an abundance of links on such topics as how to do genealogical research, genealogy links all over the world, religious genealogy resources, genealogy societies and software. Conducting genealogical research beforehand will allow you to plan fruitful trips to areas of personal genealogical significance.