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    Harmony,

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    Harmony is a city in Fillmore County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 1,020 at the 2010 census. The town bills itself as the "Biggest Little Town in Southern Minnesota" and features the largest Amish community in the state.
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    Travel Tips

    How to find the cheapest Mediterranean cruise and hit the seas for under $200

    Whether you’re gazing upon the Trevi Fountain in Rome, dining on baguettes in the South of France, or trying to wrap your head around the Acropolis in Athens, a Mediterranean cruise is the trip of a lifetime. When to book a Mediterranean cruise Booking far in advance (two years or more) or relatively last minute (two months or less) can often find you cheaper prices. June, July and August tend to be the busiest, and most expensive, months to take a Mediterranean cruise. Your money will often go further if you plan for the shoulder seasons in spring and fall, when the weather is still reliable, if chillier and grayer. Winter will get you even steeper discounts and fewer crowds, but in most cases, it lacks the sunshine and warm weather the Mediterranean is known for, and you’ll have fewer daylight hours to explore. How to find the best cruise deals Discount sites like Expedia, Kayak, or cruise-specific sites like Cruise Critic can lead to excellent prices. Cruises typically set their rates as per-person with an assumed double occupancy, or as per-day prices. Consider what’s included in that price. For longer trips, is there self-service laundry on board, or is there a fee? Are drinks ­– coffee, alcohol, juices, sodas – included? What are your food options, and what to reviews say about food quality? You’ll be spending a lot of time on the ship, so know what you’re paying for. Below, we’ve tried to give you an idea of the cheapest Mediterranean cruise options. Everything is in per-person rates. MSC and Costa dominate as the lowest-priced options (under $500) when it comes to Mediterranean itineraries, although Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean will sometimes have deals of note. How to choose a Western Mediterranean vs. Eastern Mediterranean cruises Both areas have Unesco World Heritage sites, unbeatable local cuisine and excellent shopping. Western cruises in the budget realm tend to focus on Spain, France, Tunisia, and western parts of Italy, such as Genoa and Rome. Eastern Mediterranean cruises hit Italian destinations like Venice, as well as Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. If you’re most thrilled by warm sandy beaches, the Eastern Mediterranean will be the best choice. Some Eastern Mediterranean itineraries may also include Albania or as far as Turkey and Middle Eastern countries, though we couldn’t find them on any budget itineraries. The best budget Western Mediterranean cruises If you want to keep your cruise real short, MSC runs deals on single-night itineraries from one western Mediterranean city to another for less than $100 per person. For example, as of this writing, there are April 2020 overnights from Genoa, Italy, to Marseille, France or Barcelona, Spain for $69. Keep an eye out for MSC’s promotional deals, which often include a 2-for-1 price with kids sailing free. For example, an eight day, seven night sailing on MSC Poesia (one of the most elegant ships in MSC’s fleet) to Italy, France, Spain and Tunisia in November starts as little as $389. On Costa Cruises, a three-night western Mediterranean itinerary can be as cheap as $231 in October, sailing to Marseille, Barcelona and Genoa. This one is on their Costa Magica ship, which attracts a lot of Italian cruisers and has Italian-themed decor to match. If you’re the plan-ahead type, you can spend three days visiting Rome, Naples and Barcelona on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, currently the world’s second largest cruise ship, for less than $400 per person, but you’ll need to book as far out as October 2021. When it comes to high season prices, the newly-launched Costa Smerelda sails to Barcelona, Palma, Cagliari, Rome, Savona, and Marseilles for as low as $669 in June. Bonus: the ship was designed to use 100% liquefied natural petrol to cut exhaust emissions. Royal Caribbean International’s best deal is a seven night trip in August through Italy, Spain and France on Explorer of the Seas – which has an ice skating rink, surf simulator, and rock climbing wall onboard – for $754. The best budget Eastern Mediterranean cruises: Eastern Italy, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro Limited on time and money? See three countries in four days for $279 aboard the MSC Musica in October, which sails to Greece, Montenegro and Venice, Italy. For folks with more vacation days, spend seven nights on the MSC Lirica to see several spots in Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece for $347. When it comes to the high season, Costa has a late May steal of a deal for a seven night cruise for $649 on the Costa Deliziosa, a relatively small ship with room for less than 2,300 passengers. This route stops in Venice and Bari, Italy, as well as several ports in Greece. Royal Caribbean International has seven night July itineraries that explore Greece and Croatia for less than $800 on Rhapsody of the Seas, which has run numerous awards from Cruise Critic, including 2018’s best dining, best entertainment, best overall cruise ship, and best value. A seven-day trip on the Celebrity Infinity in late June hovers around $940, likely because the ship is getting a planned major overhaul later in the year. But hey, it’s still a great way to Venice, Split, Kotor, Corfu, Naples and Rome, and people regularly praise the variety of restaurants onboard, renovation or not.

    Inspiration

    6 Perfect Spots to Immerse Yourself in Southeast Montana's History

    Interstate 94 and 90 are ideal for cruise control with long stretches of highway straight as an arrow. The prairie landscape goes on forever, dotted with cattle, crops, and badlands as you cruise along Interstate 94 and 90 in Southeast Montana. Break up the drive with stops at national monuments and state parks, not only to stretch the legs but to discover the fascinating stories that shaped the West. This corner of Montana has been home to prehistoric people, dinosaurs, homesteaders, and one epic battle between the U.S. Army and Native Americans fighting to preserve their way of life. The gateway to these parts is the city of Billings. The pace of life is slower in these parts of Big Sky Country – enjoy the ride! 1. Pompeys Pillar National Monument Courtesy Donnie SextonStart your journey in Billings, armed with a picnic lunch, then head east 30 miles on I-94 to Pompeys Pillar, a sizable rock outcropping. You’ll see first-hand the only physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from their epic two-year journey to the Pacific Ocean from St. Louis. Part way up this 200 ft. high sandstone rock, Captain William Clark carved his name and date, July 25, 1806. Clark named the rock “Pompy,”a nickname he had given to the son of Sacagawea, the only woman to take part in the expedition. A boardwalk leads to the top of the rock for sweeping views of the Yellowstone River and valley and a chance to view Clark’s signature. The interpretative center is a must stop to learn about this grueling journey. Picnic under shaded cottonwood trees adjacent to the mighty Yellowstone River, the same waterway Clark and his men would utilize on their return trip via dugout canoes. 2. Makoshika State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonContinuing east on I-94, dinosaur lovers will delight in Makoshika, an 11,538-acre badlands park located within a stone’s throw of the town of Glendive. The word Makoshika comes from a Lakota Indian phrase, meaning ‘bad land’ or ‘bad earth.’ Imagine hiking over the playground of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops. Back in 1889, a researcher scouring the area by horseback documented 500 triceratops skulls. The topography, from cap rocks, hoodoos, wrinkled hillsides, deep ravines, and boulders tossed about, begs to be photographed, especially at sunrise and sunset. With over 12 miles of trails, crowds will not be a problem in Makoshika. If your journey is via a motorhome or more adventurous with a tent and sleeping bag, this is the place to spend the night with both designated camping sites as well as backcountry camping. Add to this birding, an archery site, disc golf course, summer programs for kids, an amphitheater, mountain biking, visitor center, scenic drives – Makoshika has you covered! 3. Medicine Rocks State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonIt’s a bit off the beaten path but worth seeking out this otherworldly gem. To reach Medicine Rocks, exit I-94 at Wibaux, then head south on Hwy 7 for approximately 70 miles, passing through the town of Baker. The entrance is clearly marked. The area is characterized by sandstone rock formations, thousands of years in the making, shaped by wind and water, and peppered with holes and caves. It was a vision quest site for Native Americans, who would camp and scour the landscape for buffalo. Charging Bear, a Sioux Indian, described the site as a place “where the spirits stayed, and the medicine men prayed.” Their stories remain in the petroglyphs carved into the rocks. Cowpunchers and settlers of the old west left their names carved into the rocks as well. Don’t be tempted to carve your name on the rocks, as its both illegal and degrades this historic site. Hike it and camp it, and keep your eyes peeled for mule deer, antelope, and sharp-tailed grouse. 4. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Courtesy Donnie SextonSome say there are days when you can hear the war cry of the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians riding into battle against the U.S. Army back on June 25-26, 1876. Often referred to as Custer’s Last Stand, it was one of the last armed efforts by the Plains Indians to protect their land and culture. By the end of the bloody battle, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, along with over 260 men, would lose their lives. Between 60-100 Native Americans were killed, according to estimates. The Little Bighorn Battlefield memorializes the site of the battle. Interpretive signage along the 4.5-mile drive provides an insight into how the action unfolded. The road ends at the Reno-Benteen Battlefield, where additional troops, under the direction of Major Reno and Captain Benteen fought. A visitor center, museum, and Indian memorial, along with a national cemetery, make up the complex. In addition to the drive, walk the Battlefield on the various pathways scattered around this historic site. The Battlefield is 65 miles southeast of Billings on I-90. 5. Pictograph Caves State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonThink back 2,000 years and imagine prehistoric people painting on the walls of one of three caves at this historic state park. Little did these artists know, working in black and white pigments, they were creating a history book of sorts for future generations to understand life in ancient times. Later images, estimated to be 200-500 years old, were created with red pigment and featured rifles, horses, and other animals. The park is a short 15-minute drive from Billings on Coburn Road. The park is day use only and makes for a sweet spot for picnicking. Check out the visitor center and gift shop. Bring binoculars to get an up-close look at the pictographs. Those keen on birding should be amply rewarded with sightings at the park. 6. Chief Plenty Coups State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonIt’s a 40-minute drive via Hwy 416, then 418 to Chief Plenty Coups State Park, the home and farmstead of one of the great leaders of the Crow Tribe. Chief Plenty Coups started as a Crow Warrior, but through his visions, could see the white man taking over the Crow land. He felt it best to adapt and work with the whites so the Crows and their culture could survive. His wisdom and leadership would result in him being appointed chief of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe by age 28. He became one of the first Crow to own a farm and work the land on the Crow Indian Reservation. His efforts to bring harmony between his culture and that of the white people resulted in Plenty Coups being honored by his people as their last traditional tribal chief upon his death. If your visit coincides with their Annual Day of Honor, this year falling on August 31, you can enjoy a free buffalo feast.

    Inspiration

    5 Things You Don’t Know About… Notre-Dame de Paris

    The April 15, 2019, fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris kept people around the world riveted, mourning the loss of the church’s 19th-century spire and medieval roof and the damage from smoke and flames to the interior. But the world was also relieved that the structure was ultimately spared, important works of art and religious relics (including what many worshippers revere as the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus during his crucifixion) were heroically rescued from the fire, and there was no loss of life. Although some people were surprised to find themselves so captivated by the crisis in the City of Light, in many respects, the worldwide focus on the cathedral was actually just a larger-scale version of the veneration the architectural wonder has enjoyed through most of its existence. After all, during the Middle Ages, cathedrals were specifically built to serve as the center of a community, drawing people not only for religious services but also for news, art, and music. Since its first stone was laid, in 1163, Notre-Dame has been doing just that, playing host to coronations (most famously that of Napoleon Bonaparte, who crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I in 1804), royal weddings (including that of Mary, Queen of Scots to her first husband, Francis, the Dauphin of France), and funeral masses for French leaders such as Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterand. Notre-Dame has also seen its share of mayhem and destruction, some of it brought about by its own king in the early 18th century (more about that below), some the result of anti-monarchy and anti-church rabble-rousing during the French Revolution, and some due to enemy shelling during World War I. We decided to take a deep dive into the history of Notre-Dame de Paris. Here, five lesser-known pieces of the cathedral’s history we hope will increase your fascination with and appreciation of what some have called the “beating heart of Paris.” 1. The Paris of 1163 Was a Very Different Kind of Town (Msalena/Dreamstime) Notre-Dame’s first stone was laid in 1163. Louis VII was king of France, and Pope Alexander III was believed to have been in attendance. (By some accounts, the Pontiff himself laid the first stone, though we suspect that tale is perhaps discounting how heavy a cathedral stone can be.) For some historical perspective: Across the English Channel, Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury and would soon find himself in conflict with England’s King Henry II and eventually lose his life. Although it’s not possible to know what the population of Paris was in 1163, an official census of households in 1328 suggests that the population when the original cathedral structure was completed in 1345 (yes, it took a long time to build a cathedral back then) may have been somewhere around 250,000. Today, the population of Paris is around 2,152,000. 2. The Sun King May Have Been Notre-Dame’s Public Enemy No. 1 Although war, plague, and revolution took their toll on Notre-Dame, the most destructive force in its history up until the fire of April 15 may have been King Louis XIV (1638-1715), the self-described Sun King whom Beatles fans may recognize as the inspiration for the inscrutably gorgeous song that appears on side two of Abbey Road. Louis XIV mandated what he termed a “restoration” of the cathedral to bring it in line with changing tastes (“taste” here being, unfortunately, only a figure of speech). What ensued was pretty much an act of vandalism, pulling down sculptures, replacing 12th- and 13th-century stained glass windows with clear glass, and demolishing a pillar in order to allow carriages to pass through the central doorway. In short, the Sun King needed a "no" man. 3. The Cathedral Was Ransacked During the French Revolution (Ivan Soto/Dreamstime) Sure, some good things resulted from the French Revolution (1787-99), including the eventual abolition of a tyrannical monarchy. But in addition to a period during which beheadings were all the rage, remembered affectionately as the Reign of Terror, some of the hiccups along the way included a ransacking of Notre-Dame, which was considered a symbol of the Ancien Régime. Sculptures were destroyed, lead was taken to make bullets, and many of the cathedral’s bronze bells were melted down to make cannons. 4. It’s Totally Okay That When You Think “Notre-Dame” You Think “Quasimodo” As we followed the news of the Notre-Dame fire, most of us couldn’t help recalling images and incidents from the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and its many stage and film adaptations. And that’s totally fine: Originally published in 1831 as Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo’s novel about the hunchback bell-ringer Quasimodo and his love for the gypsy Esmeralda was such a hit with readers that it actually inspired a fundraising campaign to repair the damage wrought by the Revolution and years of wear and tear. The restoration officially began in 1844 and took nearly 20 years. One could make the case that Hugo’s novel is responsible for the modern-day cathedral that so captivates us. 5. Most of Notre-Dame’s Bells Are New If you’ve read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, you’ll recall that the cathedral bells deafen young Quasimodo. It so happens that the 1856 bells that replaced the ones melted down during the French Revolution were considered quite noisy in their own right—discordant and substandard. As the cathedral’s 850th anniversary, in 2013, approached, new bells were commissioned and artisans studied church archives in an attempt to replicate the size and pitch of the originals. The new set of bells was installed in early 2013 and first rang out on Palm Sunday, in perfect harmony with the biggest, and only remaining original, the 1686 bell nicknamed Emmanuel.

    Inspiration

    Locals Know Best: Portland, Maine

    When Ed Suslovic moved to Portland, Maine, in 1992, it was like he’d died and gone to heaven, he says. Coming from Washington DC, this beautiful, relaxed urban enclave along the ocean was a jolting culture shock—the best possible kind. He fell so deeply in love with the city that he devoted his life to it, serving as city counselor, mayor, and state legislator. Today he teaches at the Muskie School of Public Service at University of Southern Maine in Portland and remains a committed citizen and, by default, ambassador. We checked in with him and got the lowdown of how to make the best of a visit to this gem of a seaside city. Eat—and Drink—Your Heart Out Regardless of whether you leap out of bed before sunrise to start the day or peel yourself out from under the covers later in the morning, every day in Portland should begin with a meal at Becky’s Diner. (“Nothing’s finer than Becky’s Diner,” Ed insists.) Becky’s is the kind of place where, on any given morning, you could sit at the counter and turn to your right and start a conversation with a lobsterman or dockworker, then turn to your left and gab with a federal judge. Becky’s captures Portland’s everything-for-everyone, open spirit. The food is as notable as the vibe. Breakfasts dishes never fail here, especially if any sort of eggs doused with Captain Mowatt’s, the local hot sauce named for a famous sea captain. If you like it, pick up a bottle to bring home at Leroux, a kitchen and home goods shop just down the street. And the homemade pies and cakes are simply “to die for,” Ed guarantees. New England charm is alive and well at cozy family-run restaurants throughout Portland. Take, for instance, Susan's Fish-n-Chips. "It looks like it's in an old gas station, but don't be put off by that. Oh my god--it's the best fried fish ever, just light and crispy. You sit down with other folks at picnic tables and next thing you know you'll be sharing tartar sauce with them." Or Anthony's Italian Kitchen, which has such a discreet location next to the city's court house and police stations that you wouldn't know it was there if you weren't looking for it. Ed has a list of reasons to love it: homemade everything, huge servings/guaranteed leftovers, and the show. More than just run a restaurant, the family, led by patriarch Anthony, who Ed estimates is nearing 80, puts on a cabaret show each night, so they serve up one-liners and songs along with dinner. Ruski’s is another casual local that is, in no uncertain terms, an institution. (“It's been there forever. And some of the people at the bar have been there forever, too,” he quips.) Ed hung out there plenty before he got into politics, but once he did start running for office, Ruskie’s is where he’d mingle with the locals. It’s a standard come-as-you-are dive bar, with night-shift workers washing down home-fries with PBR at 9AM and countless regulars stopping in for Allen’s Coffee-flavored brandy and milk over ice, a traditional tipple in the region, at all hours. Across the intersection from this old-school stronghold is Little Giant, a gastropub with a grocery shop that Ed describes as an “upscale take on the corner store.” Owners Brianna and Andrew Volk also run Portland Hunt and Alpine Club, a cocktail bar that’s made a splash on the national drinks scene. Ed views the juxtaposition of Ruski’s and Little Giant as an illustration of what’s great about Portland today: the old and the new coexisting in harmony. “They couldn’t be more different and I love them both,” Ed says. A Small Neighborhood, a Big Impression Once upon a time, it was easy to pass through Woodfords Corner and barely notice it. But in recent years—including some under Ed’s mayoral watch, the city worked to change that. A turning lane was removed and a small pedestrian plaza was installed in its place. There’s a light sculpture and other small pieces of public art. Now, not only is it more pedestrian-friendly, it’s actually attracted businesses to addresses that once housed pawn shops or tattoo parlors and made Woodfords Corner a destination. You can always find your way there if you look for the iconic clock tower of Odd Fellow’s Hall, an old fraternal lodge visible from a distance. Right next door is Woodford Food & Beverage, a French bistro-style eatery that Ed describes as a casual neighborhood hangout, but you don’t have to be a neighbor to feel like one. “You’ll go in there and pretty soon people are inviting you to join them at a table for dinner,” Ed says. The restaurant was the original location of Valle’s, a famous chain that started in the 1950s. A nostalgic retro-tinged style gives the Woodford F&B its a charming old-timey vibe. Nearby is Big Sky Bakery, located in a fire station, making this another business that’s made the most of one of the street’s beautiful old abandoned spaces. Like any bakery worth its weight in chocolate chip cookies, Big Sky is popular with kids, but not just because of the sweets. On any given day, you’ll spot pint-size patrons crowded around a small table playing with dough the bakers put out for them. Break for Art The Art of the Matter. About six blocks from Woodfords Corner is Deering Center which, locals will tell you, used to be its own town. Today it’s merely a neighborhood, but one that offers quite an impressive array of things to check out given its small size. As Ed tells it, Deering Corner’s claim to fame is its main thoroughfare, Stevens Avenue, ostensibly the only street in the U.S. where you can go from kindergarten to college without leaving the drag. There’s an elementary school, a high school and one side of the University of New England’s main campus. UNE in particular is worth a visit because of the University of New England Art Gallery, a small outpost with frequently rotating roster of shows, many by young artists, and what Ed describes as a very interesting and interested staff, so go by and say hi. Day Tripper Much as he loves everything about Portland, Ed has all sorts of recommendations for things to do and see and eat outside the city limits, most of which you can do in a single day. His relaxing itinerary for what he considers an “ideal Maine summer day” starts with picking up coffee and donuts in town at one of the two donut shops in town and heading north about an hour up Route 1 to Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg. “I love it because it’s the biggest, most expansive beach in Maine, and at low tide, it just becomes immense,” he says, noting that you can get out of your car and walk over the dunes and still not be able to see the ocean because it’s so far away. Climb the sandbar and check out an old stone Colonial-era fort just around the bend. That’s just one of the many jaw-dropping visions to behold. Islands and lighthouses dot the oceanscape for miles. Nearby you have your choice of low-key lobster joints, but you’ll want to save your appetite for your trip home because a stop in Brunswick for a classic American meal at Fat Boy’s Drive-In is a must. “After a long day, you’re all sandy and salty and sunburned .” To hear Ed tell it, you pull up, put your headlights on, give the waitress your order, and she’ll bring your burgers (Ed deems them “phenomenal”), onion rings, frappes, and the rest to your car and you eat it there. It’s a piece of history, he says, but warns that after generations, it’s presently on for sale. Legions of loyal fans are hoping that the new owners carry out its legacy. Especially Ed.

    Inspiration

    Just Back From: New Hampshire

    Thanks to its soaring mountain ranges and northeast weather patterns, the Granite State is a well-known destination for skiiers, snowboarders, and winter-sports enthusiasts of all stripes, but there’s plenty to draw summer vacationers here as well, from the famed Lake Winnipesaukee to the lush White Mountains. I spent a few days exploring the state’s lakes, peaks, and valleys, seeing stunning landscapes, hiking beautiful trails, and eating as much lobster as humanly possible. Here’s how I did it. Day 1: Wolfeboro and Lake Winnipesaukee The drive from Massachusetts to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region via I-93 isn’t a particularly scenic or relaxing one, and yet, after two and a half long hours, when I pulled up to Lake Opechee Inn & Spa (opecheeinn.com) in Laconia, I might as well have been a world away. The family-owned and -run lakefront property has 34 country-quaint rooms with cozy lounge seating anchored by gas fireplaces, a kitchen and bar cranking out delicious plates and marvelous martinis, and a pair of fluffy, friendly golden-retriever overseers patrolling the place. I checked in and headed out to explore. About 30 miles east on the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee is Wolfeboro, billed as the oldest summer resort in the country. The one-time farming community features sandy beaches, green parks, multi-use trails, and museums of all sorts, from natural history to historic homes. Nautical types should paddle over to the New Hampshire Boat Museum (nhbm.org), an experiential nonprofit that examines the role of the state’s 900-plus lakes in the lives of its residents, while architecture buffs should allot time for a visit to Lucknow, the Arts and Crafts–style mountaintop estate known as Castle in the Clouds (castleintheclouds.org). Built between 1913 and 1914 and opened to the public in 1959, it's a striking tribute to the movement’s ethos of living in harmony with nature.  A display at the Wright Museum of World War II. (Maya Stanton) With time for one stop, I decided on the Wright Museum of World War II (wrightmuseum.org), where a permanent collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and operational military vehicles show the impact of the “war to end all wars.” Check out the full-scale tableau-style recreations of public spaces and private interiors circa the 1940s, the room filled with jeeps, tanks, and planes that saw action during the war, and outside, the museum’s very own victory garden, as well as special exhibits dedicated to subjects like World War I propaganda posters and the lively, slice-of-life sketches that soldier Charles J. Miller produced during his time in the South Pacific. Heading back to Lake Opechee, I was making good time until I passed Shibley’s Drive-In (facebook.com/shibleysdrivein), a small roadside joint hawking fried seafood, ice cream, and 24 flavors of soft serve in Lake Winnipesaukee’s Alton Bay. I u-turned when I saw the ice-cream sign and didn’t regret my pre-dinner cone even a little bit. I still made it back to the inn in time to catch the sunset from my room’s balcony. Too exhausted to get back in the car, I popped down to the hotel's restaurant, O Steaks & Seafood (magicfoodsrestaurantgroup.com/osteaks). It was Friday, nearly 9:00 p.m., as I settled into an Adirondack chair on the lawn, sipped a perfectly spicy, dirty martini, and waited for a table. I had modest hopes for the meal, but local oysters on the half-shell and an expertly cooked salmon filet with kale pesto and cauliflower and asparagus risotto far exceeded expectations. Bleary-eyed and satisfied, I knew I was sufficiently fueled for tomorrow.  Day 2: Zip Lines and Wine It felt like no time had passed when my alarm went off the next morning, but no matter—I was on my way to Gunstock Mountain Resort (gunstock.com) for some outdoor adventure. First developed as a recreation area as part of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration and originally featuring a chair lift, rope tows, hiking and cross-country trails, and a show-stopping lodge, the complex now known as Gunstock has grown well beyond its initial purview.  Learning the ropes at Gunstock Mountain Resort. (Maya Stanton) A popular skiing destination in the winter, it now boasts options for the om-seeker and the adrenaline junkie alike, from scenic lift rides, mountaintop yoga, and off-road Segway tours to a treetop ropes course, a mountain coaster, and one of the longest canopy zip lines in the continental U.S. As a zip-line newbie, I opted for 90 minutes in the clouds, and after a brief training session with my fellow adventurers (and a nerve-calming chat with the operators about how often the equipment is tested and vetted for safety), we hopped on the lift to the summit. The ride down is split into a couple of legs, and each time, stepping off those platforms was terrifying and exhilarating and didn’t get any less so with experience. After I’d soared the full 1.6 miles, though, I was ready to do it again. Make a full day of it here if you can. Once I caught my breath, I drove north to Weirs Beach (weirsbeach.com). Situated on Lake Winnipesaukee, this family-friendly destination features a boardwalk with mountain and lake views, mini golf and go-karts, kitschy beach-town shops, and, of course, swimming, boating, and picnicking. There's a plethora of places to stop for grub, like Lobster in the Rough (weathervaneseafoods.com), where vacationers were hunkered down for lobster rolls, and for a sweet treat, the Ice Cream Parlor Car on board the scenic lakefront railway.   Fruit-based wines are the name of the game at Meredith's Hermit Woods Winery. (Maya Stanton) Later that day, I drove up to Meredith, a busy little town in the heart of the Lakes Region, about 10 miles from the hotel. I parked by the marina and wandered through the waterfront Sculpture Walk, an annual, juried selection of works from sculptors around the northeast. By the time I finished, it was just about happy hour, and luckily, Hermit Woods Winery (hermitwoods.com) was only a few steps away. Named to Food & Wine’s 2017 guide to the 500 best wineries in America, Hermit’s wines are made from local whole fruit, resulting in beautifully balanced options, from a dry white blend of peaches, rhubarb, quince, and rosehips to a medium-dry strawberry rhubarb to a sweet blueberry dessert wine. Taste six varietals for $10, and take home your glass as a souvenir. For waterfront libations, Town Docks Restaurant (thecman.com) comes highly recommended. Enjoy breezes off the lake while sipping a watermelon cooler or a cucumber-basil smash, and try the mayo-dressed or hot-butter-poached lobster roll—just for comparison's sake, of course.  Day 3: Into the Mountains I couldn’t say goodbye to the Lakes Region without getting out on the water, so I booked an early-morning boat ride with EKAL Activity Center (ekalactivitycenter.com). A 28-foot antique Chris Craft that once belonged to royalty, the Miss Meredith seats up to seven, but at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday, I had the whole thing to myself. Lake Winnipesaukee was quiet too, and as we zipped around the calm, glassy lake, it felt like a window into a simpler, more peaceful time. The 87-year-old Miss Meredith looks great for her age. (Maya Stanton) But that zen feeling was short-lived. Before long, I was back in the car, northward bound for the White Mountains. Forty-five minutes later, I arrived at the Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery (woodstockinnnh.com) in North Woodstock, just in time to watch the World Cup final with a pint of seasonal craft pale ale in hand. If you don’t want to waste your precious hours on such things, hit the Peaked Moon Market (peakedmoonfarm.com) in nearby Lincoln for sandwiches and other provisions, then drive west until you reach the kid-friendly Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves (lostrivergorge.com). A natural choose-your-own-adventure-style obstacle course, Lost River features a warren of caves that are open for exploration and perfectly sized for pint-sized pathfinders. A wooden boardwalk winds its way down into the gorge, past a waterfall, across a suspension bridge, and up to a treehouse with life-sized animal carvings. Pause to take in the views of Kinsman Notch, and watch the kids do their thing. Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves. (Maya Stanton) From there, I headed back east, then north to Franconia Notch State Park (nhstateparks.org) and Flume Gorge, a natural gorge at the foot of Mount Liberty, with smooth granite walls standing 90 feet high and as little as 12 feet apart. The boardwalk winds through and up to the top for a view of Avalanche Falls, the 45-foot waterfall at the heart of the Flume. There's quite a bit of foot traffic, but peaceful nooks and crannies are easy to find along the way. Cannon Mountain's easy Rim Trail offers great vistas, but the heights aren't for the faint of heart. (Maya Stanton) Further into the park, you’ll want to queue up for the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway (cannonmt.com)—unless you’re afraid of heights. Sure, you could hike to the top, but if you're short on time or energy or will, the cable car will get you to the summit in no time, and the perspective from 4,000 feet is spectacular. On the August day I visited, it was a breezy 61 degrees, and visibility was 20 miles in every direction. Take a spin around the rim trail while you’re up there, and hit the observation deck for the full 360. Then, it was east through Franconia Notch to North Conway, my base of operations for the next two nights. Be sure to allow time for a leisurely drive—the park is so rich with photo ops that I got adept at pulling over on short notice and whipping out the camera. I would've stopped more, but I had a reservation at the Christmas Farm Inn (christmasfarminn.com), an 18th-century Cape Cod-style farmhouse just outside of town in Jackson. After the Great Recession, a father gave the property to his daughter as a holiday gift, and its next owner converted it to an inn, welcoming the first guests in the winter of 1946. Today, it’s owned by a German-American couple who racked up years of globe-trotting experience in the hospitality industry before settling down in rural New Hampshire. Their expertise shows in the inn's welcoming environment, from the friendly greeting at the door to the communal fire pit on the front lawn. Hole up in the cozy pub, order a glass of wine, and dig into copious servings of dishes like steamed mussels and chorizo in an addictive tomato-garlic-wine broth and hearty, creamy cannelini beans with prosciutto, caramelized onions, Parmesan, and garlic bread. Unable to manage another bite, I drove back to North Conway and tucked myself in at the Merrill Farm Inn (merrillfarminn.com).  Day 4: Lobster and Leisure Time I was still stuffed from the feast the night before, so on my last full day in-state, I skipped the complimentary breakfast and had a leisurely morning and a light lunch before diving into the afternoon’s full slate of activities. I rolled up to the Lobster Trap (lobstertraprestaurant.com), a North Conway institution since 1958, and placed an order for a final lobster roll. Unlike most spots with seafood rolls on the menu, this one was customizable, and as an avowed celery-hater, I was thrilled to be able to omit it from the proceedings. It wasn’t the best version I’ve ever had, but the meat was fresh and sweet, and at $15 for a roll and a salad, it was definitely the most cost-effective. A customized lobster roll (no celery!) at North Conway's Lobster Trap. (Maya Stanton) Fueled up and ready to go, it was time for some action. Mount Washington Valley is home to several adventure parks, from Cranmore Mountain Resort (cranmore.com), which features giant swings, tubing, bouncy houses, and a bungy trampoline, to Attitash Mountain Resort (attitash.com), with the longest zip line east of the Rockies, a mountain coaster, water slides, an airbag jump, and a climbing wall, to Wildcat Mountain (skiwildcat.com), where you can take a gondola ride to the summit or play 18 holes of alpine disc golf. Take your pick, based on geography, experience, and age levels—you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The view from the top of Mt. Washington. (Maya Stanton) Next stop, Mount Washington itself, the highest peak in the northeast and one with a fair bit of history. Dating to 1861, the Mt. Washington Auto Road (mtwashingtonautoroad.com) is the country’s oldest man-made attraction, while the Mount Washington Cog Railway (thecog.com) is the world’s first mountain-climbing cog-driven train. At $78 per adult and $41 per child roundtrip, the Cog is a steep ride (pun intended), but one that train buffs may find worth the expenditure. For me, the auto road was more than sufficient. I opted for a guided tour, and as my intrepid driver navigated the narrow turns, often one-handed to point out the landmarks, I tried not to think about how close we were to the edge, and how glad I was not to be behind the wheel myself. Diana's Baths draws crowds during the day, but in the early evening, it's a peaceful retreat. (Maya Stanton)Before dinner, I had one more place to check off my list: Diana’s Baths, just outside of North Conway. A half-mile through the woods on a flat, easy trail, with picturesque pools and cascading falls, it looks like something out of a fairy tale. Go early or late to cool off without the crowds, bring a fiver for the self-service pay station, and beware of mosquitoes—they're brutal along the way. For my final Granite State meal, I went out with a bang at The Wild Rose Restaurant at Stonehurst Manor (stonehurstmanor.com), an old-school estate with mountain views and seafood from the Maine coast. Summer guests love the baked lobster, but I branched out from my all-seafood diet and tried the prime rib. A hulking cut of medium-rare beef served with chunky mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli, it was, like that antique boat ride, retro in the most satisfying way. For something a little less refined but just as meaty, Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing Co. (moatmountain.com) is right across the street and serves a wide-ranging menu of burgers, barbecue, and wood-grilled pizzas, sourced from local suppliers whenever possible. Day 5: Back to Reality With what promised to be a huge storm incoming, I got an early start back to Boston's Logan Airport, taking the Kancamagus Highway (kancamagushighway.com), an American Scenic Byway, in hopes of squeezing in a bit more sightseeing. But that hope was dashed when the skies opened up. When I got to the airport, I learned the weather seriously delayed my flight. Normally, I’d be beside myself with frustration, but in this case, it gave me the chance to have one last seafood roll for the road. This time around, I went with an overflowing crab-stuffed version, and it couldn’t have tasted better. Until next time, New England.

    Family

    12 Awe-Inspiring American Castles

    Who doesn't go a bit giddy at the sight of a castle? The good news is that you don't have to head to Europe for honest-to-goodness ones of the Cinderella variety—we have plenty right here in our own backyard. Railroad barons commissioned most of these estates, but at least one housed a legitimate king and queen (bet you didn't know this country had its own history of royalty!). Each is an engineering wonder in its own right, with some even constructed out of old-world castles that were shipped across the ocean. And each is open to tours should you decide to make a trip (a select few will even let you spend the night). Read this and you might just discover a side of America you never knew existed. SEE THE 12 AWE-INSPIRING CASTLES 1. GREY TOWERS CASTLE  Most colleges contend to be fortresses of learning, but Arcadia University in the suburbs north of Philadelphia can back it up with battlements acquired in 1929. Grey Towers was built by eclectic sugar refiner William Welsh Harrison between 1893 and 1898 and modeled after Northumberland's Alnwick Castle (a.k.a. the most archetypal expression of the medieval style). The 40 rooms wowed with gilded ceilings, tapestries, ornamental paintings, and hand-carved walnut and mahogany woodwork in styles from French Renaissance to Louis XV—and of course a Mirror Room—while secret passages behind fireplaces and underground tunnels. Self-guided tours of public areas are possible while classes are in session (the building now contains dorm rooms and administration offices). Free brochures outline the history. 450 South Easton Rd., Glenside, PA, 215/572-2900, arcadia.edu. 2.'IOLANI PALACE  Other properties on this list may be bigger and more lavish, but the 'Iolani Palace has one thing above them all: legitimacy. America's only true palace—as in, royalty resided here—was built from 1879 to 1882 by King Kalakua and Queen Kapi'olani. The goal was to enhance the prestige of modern Hawaii in a kind of Victorian-era keeping up with the Joneses. (The palace had electricity and a telephone even before the White House.) Stone-faced with plenty of koa wood inside, the two-floor American Florentine–style building includes a throne room, grand hall, and private suites, including the upstairs room where the queen was imprisoned for five months following the 1895 coup. Today, concerted efforts are underway to find artifacts and furniture (like the king's ebony and gilt bedroom set) that were auctioned off by the post-coup Provisional Government. 364 South King St., Honolulu, HI, 808/522-0832, iolanipalace.org. Admission $12, guided tour $20. 3. HAMMOND CASTLE  Like a modern-day Frankenstein's castle on Massachusetts's rocky Atlantic shore, Abbadia Mare (Abbey by the Sea) served as both home and laboratory for prolific inventor John Hayes Hammond Jr. after it was completed in 1929. Hammond is largely credited as the "Father of the Radio Control," as in tanks and planes and remote-controlled cars. He was also a lover of medieval art, and the castle was designed to showcase his collection. The building itself is a blend of 15th-, 16th-, and 18th-century styles, including a great hall with elaborate rose windows and pipe organ plus a courtyard featuring a two-story meat market/wine merchant's house brought over from southern France. And, yes, like any proper mad scientist, he made sure there were secret passageways. Self-guided tours are available along with annual Renaissance Faire fund-raisers, psychic gatherings, and spooky Halloween events. 80 Hesperus Ave., Gloucester, MA, 978/283-2080, hammondcastle.org. Admission $10. 4. FONTHILL CASTLE  Celebrating its centennial in 2012, the former home of industrialist-turned-archaeologist Henry Mercer is an ode to artisanship: All 44 rooms (10 bathrooms, five bedrooms, and 200 windows), 32 stairwells, 18 fireplaces, and 21 chimneys are hewn from hand-mixed reinforced concrete in a mishmash of medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine styles. Thousands of handcrafted ceramic tiles were inset throughout, including Mercer's own Moravian-style tiles plus Persian, Chinese, Spanish, and Dutch productions he collected. Today, the 60-acre Bucks County estate serves as a museum to pre-industrial life, with 900 American and European prints at Fonthill and even more artifacts (like a whale boat and Conestoga wagon) in its sister building, the Mercer Museum, a fun house–like six-story castle in its own right. East Court St. and Rt. 313, Doylestown, PA, 215/348-9461, mercermuseum.org. Admission $12. 5. CASTELLO DI AMOROSA  Word to the wise: Imbibe the cabernet sauvignon and pinot grigio at the Castello di Amorosa winery carefully, because somewhere in the 121,000-square-foot, 107-room, eight-level complex there's a dungeon with a functional Renaissance-era iron maiden. It took 14 years to construct the castle using historically accurate medieval building techniques. The end result is an "authentic" 12th- and 13th-century Tuscan castle with drawbridge and moat. The frescoes in the Great Hall and Knights' Chamber are hand-painted, some 8,000 tons of Napa Valley stone hand-chiseled, the Hapsburg-era bricks, hand-forged nails and chandeliers, and 500-year-old fireplace all tediously imported from Europe. That sense of awe? Very modern. 4045 N. St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA, 707/967-6272, castellodiamorosa.com. Admission $18, including wine tasting. 6. BOLDT CASTLE  What do you do when you come across a heart-shaped isle while vacationing with your wife in the Thousand Islands? If you're upstart industrialist George Boldt, you buy it and hire 300 stonemasons, carpenters, and artists to build a six-story, 120-room testament to your love. There were Italian gardens, a dove-cote, and a turreted powerhouse, plus all the imported Italian marble, French silks, and Oriental rugs money could buy. But when his wife Louise died in 1904, the heartbroken Boldt ceased construction on the Rhineland-style Taj Mahal and left it to the elements for 73 years. Today, tourists can visit from May to October for self-guided tours—or book a wedding in the stone gazebo. +44° 20' 40.29" N, -75° 55' 21.27" W, Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY, 315/482-9724, boldtcastle.com. Admission $8. 7. GILLETTE CASTLE  It's elementary: Get famous (and rich) by playing Sherlock Holmes on the stage; build your own Baskerville Hall. Pet project of campy eccentric William Hooker Gillette, the 24-room castle was completed in 1919 by a crew of 20 men over five years using the actor/playwright's own drafts and designs. It's also the focal point of his 184-acre Seventh Sister estate, a forested bluff overlooking the Connecticut River. Outside, the local fieldstone reads like crumbling medieval; inside, the built-in couches, curious detailing, and inventive hand-carved southern white oak woodwork is all arts and crafts. As for cat images? There are 60. (Gillette had 17 feline friends.) Gillette Castle State Park, 67 River Rd., East Haddam, CT, 860/526-2336, ct.gov. Grounds open year-round; interior tours available Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Admission $6. 8. OHEKA CASTLE  Second behind Asheville's Biltmore as the largest private estate in the nation, OHEKA—an acronym of Otto Herman Kahn, its millionaire financier original owner—ended up abandoned in the late 1970s and sustained extensive damage from fires, vandals, and neglect. After a 20-year renovation, it's back in form and is now a 32-room luxury hotel. Think Downton Abbey just an hour from Manhattan (themed packages available), or for that matter, Citizen Kane (photos of it were used in the film). Originally set on 443 acres, massive tons of earth were moved to make the hilltop location of the 127-room, 109,000-square-foot manse the highest point in Long Island. The Olmsted Brothers planned the formal gardens, the Grand Staircase was inspired by Fontainebleau's famous exterior one, and 126 servants tended to the six-person family when they came for weekends and summers. The 1919 price tag: $11 million. That's $110 million in today's money. Sounds about right for a man whose likeness inspired Mr. Monopoly. 135 West Gate Dr., Huntington, NY, 631/659-1400, oheka.com. Admission $25. Double rooms from $395 per night. Guided tours available. 9. BISHOP'S PALACE  Of all the Gilded Age Victorians built by Nicholas Clayton along Galveston's Gulf Coast, the Bishop's Palace (née Gresham Castle, 1893, after its original owner, Santa Fe railroad magnate Walther Gresham) remains the grandest—and not just because its steel and stone hulk survived the Great Storm of 1900. Its small lot and oversized proportions with château-esque detailing of steeply peaked rooflines and sculptural chimneys still dominate the street, while inside the 14-foot coffered ceilings, 40-foot octagonal mahogany stairwell, stained glass, plaster carvings, and Sienna marble columns exude richness. Keep a lookout for the bronze dragon sculptures. After serving as a Catholic bishop's residence for 50 years, the house is now open for tours. Book a private guide to see the usually off-limits third floor. 1402 Broadway, Galveston, TX, 409/762-2475, galveston.com. Admission $10, private tours from $50. 10. CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS  Location, location, location—as important in castles to fending off conquers as forgetting Gilded Age woes. And for millionaire shoe baron Thomas Plant, that meant setting his 1914 Lucknow Estate (named after the Indian city he loved) on the rim of an extinct caldera high in the Ossipee Mountains with unbroken views over 6,300 private acres of woods and lakes. The mansion by comparison is relatively subdued: A mere 16 rooms, it's practically minuscule compared to the other castles on this list. Throughout, the arts and crafts philosophy of artisanship and living in harmony with nature is expressed in the stone walls, inventive handiwork like the jigsaw floor in the kitchen, and functional decor that eschews ostentation—all planned at Plant's 5-foot-4 height—plus a few technological innovations like a needle shower, self-cleaning oven, brine fridge, and central-vacuuming system. Much remains wholly preserved today. Route 171, 455 Old Mountain Rd., Moultonborough, NH, 603/476-5900, castleintheclouds.org. Admission $16. 11. THORNEWOOD CASTLE  It's not every day Stephen King chooses your luxury B&B as setting for his haunted-house TV miniseries Rose Red. Then again it's not every day that a 400-year-old Elizabethan manor house is dismantled brick-by-brick and shipped round Cape Horn to be incorporated into an English Tudor Gothic castle in the Pacific Northwest, as Thornewood was from 1908 to 1911. The property was a gift from Chester Thorne, one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma, to his wife and apropos of its origin, the 54-room castle is now a prime wedding venue, with antiques and artwork galore plus an Olmsted Brothers–designed garden and three acres of fir-dotted grounds overlooking American Lake. Book a room to get an inside look at the building; there are also tours and events that are occasionally open to the public. 8601 N. Thorne Lane Southwest, Lakewood, WA, 253/584-4393, thornewoodcastle.com. Double rooms from $300 per night. 12. HEARST CASTLE  Understatement of the millennium: William Randolph Hearst's 1919 directive to architect Julia Morgan to "build a little something" on his ranch in San Simeon. Then again, a 115-room "Casa Grande" inspired by a Spanish cathedral is a relatively modest proposition compared to the 250,000 acres and the 13 miles of coastline it's set on. It's when you add in the three additional Mediterranean Revival guesthouses (46 more rooms total), 127 acres of gardens, the Neptune pool with authentic Roman temple pediment, the zoo with roaming reindeer and zebra, Egyptian Sekhmet statues on the terraces, and the private airstrip that things get a bit over-the-top. Magnificent doesn't begin to describe the museum-quality artwork, which drove the architecture as much as anything, from Renaissance statuary to Gothic tapestries and entire ceilings, nor the palatial scale of the publishing magnate's vision for "La Cuesta Encantada" (The Enchanted Hill)—still unfinished upon his death in 1951. 750 Hearst Castle Rd., San Simeon, CA, 800/444-4445, hearstcastle.org. Admission from $25.

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