Continuing with our series celebrating the national parks, this week we look at the Midwest region, stretching from Ohio in the east to Arkansas in the south and the Dakotas in the northwest.
In Lake Superior off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Isle Royale is an outdoor haven. The park is a UNESCO international biosphere reserve. The park is set to be the new home of 20 to 30 relocated wolves in the next three to five years after the population was reduced to one female in 2017. About 400 islands make up the park, so kayaking and canoeing opportunities are just about endless. The artist-in-residence program enables artists in all mediums to capture the beauty of the park and share it with others.
Unlike Isle Royale, which closes from Nov. 1-April 15, this northern Minnesota park stays open all winter. Visitors can explore by snowmobile, cross-country skis, snowshoes or driving along the ice road. The time-honored Minnesota tradition of ice-fishing goes on all winter. On the right nights, the Northern Lights put on a show across the sky, and in summer the August Perseids meteor shower dazzles. Lakes makeup about 40 percent of the park and are its lifeblood, becoming a highway to adventure when the ice melts.
The eponymous thermal springs have been in use for 8,000 years, and visitors can take a dip in the traditional Buckstaff Bathhouse or get a 21st-century experience in the Quapaw Baths and Spa. Direct federal supervision of this Arkansas park began in 1877, making it the oldest park managed by the National Park System, predating the system by decades. Once you pass Bathhouse Row in the National Historic Landmark District, there are 26 miles of hiking trails and campsites at Gulpha Gorge.
Covering 380 square miles of the largest undisturbed mixed-grass prairie in the U.S., Badlands in South Dakota is home to impressive modern animals such as bison and bighorn sheep, as well as fossils of some of the most fearsome and fascinating creatures such as ancient rhinos and saber-toothed cats. The South Unit of the park is co-managed by the Oglala Lakota tribe, who have inhabited the area for hundreds of years and held Ghost Dances in the 1890s.
Roosevelt, one of the champions of establishing the National Park System, came to the Dakota Territory in 1883 and found a landscape full of majestic creatures. The North Dakota park is home to bison, elk, badgers and prairie dogs among many others. Scientists in the park are studying bison DNA to gain a better understanding of how to maintain and grow the population after our national mammal was nearly hunted to extinction in the 1800s. “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune,” Roosevelt said in encouraging conservation. The park named after him is doing its part.
There is a seemingly endless number of travelogues to choose from to inspire your journeys. Let’s be honest, it’s the best topic to write on. Travel transforms people, so it’s no wonder that it makes for such good stories. Plus, from time immemorial, tales of faraway lands have captivated the human imagination. Here are a few we love to read for your next flight.
The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
Chronicling Twain’s trip around the Mediterranean in 1867 with a group of Americans aboard the chartered ship Quaker City, the book is cobbled together from newspaper columns Twain wrote about the journey. Twain contrasts the attitude of America, where everything is new and history is being written in real time with the focus on the past he encountered in Europe and the Holy Land. He also critiques tour guides, recognizing what makes a good one and what doesn’t, something we all can learn from. He does it all with the humorous insight only he possessed.
Travels with Myself and Another, Martha Gellhorn
Perhaps most well-known as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway, Gellhorn was a talented travel writer and war correspondent in her own right and has a journalism award named after her. She and Hemingway (the titular other) fell in love while covering the Spanish Civil War, and Gellhorn covered conflict from then to the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. This memoir highlights some of the not-so-great aspects of travel — the tediousness of getting from Point A to Point B, the havoc travel can wreak on the digestive tract — along with the awe: “I saw, drugged with sleep and shivering, the great African sky which I have been seeking — a riot of stars, velvet black, felt as an arch, and the air seeming to glint with starshine,” she recounts.
A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle
Mayle and his wife moved to Provence, and this book details the first year. For every beautiful meal washed down with the perfect wine pairing, there is a cold wind or a harsh lesson in the relatively lax work ethic of handymen. All in all, it’s a lighthearted fish-out-of-water account that conveys the lesson that life is better when you take it easy, even if your projects might never get completed. There are more important things than working your fingers to the bone to meet the constant deadlines of the modern workaday world.
West With the Night, Beryl Markham
Markham grew up in colonial Kenya (then British East Africa), where she began her flying career as a bush pilot and befriended Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. In 1936, she became the first woman to fly solo westward across the Atlantic, after several predecessors had died in the attempt. The westward transatlantic flight is harder because the wind is against you. When her fuel tank vents iced over, she crash-landed in Nova Scotia. West With the Night details these experiences in lively prose. A telltale anecdote about Markham’s rebellion against social norms, an ex-husband of hers tried to claim he wrote most of the book, despite evidence that Markham submitted a partial manuscript to a publisher before meeting him.
The Travels of Marco Polo, Rustichello da Pisa
If you have to be imprisoned, hearing some good stories to pass the time is as good as you can hope for. As cellmates go, Marco Polo might have been the best. While they were locked up together in Genoa, Polo shared tales of his travels with the author Rustichello, who wrote them down. While there is likely some embellishment, the book is a vivid account of Polo’s journeys through Asia, including service at the court of Kublai Khan. It went as viral as anything could in the days before the printing press, inspiring countless explorers.
Each year, cities around the world are chosen as capitals of culture to be highlighted and celebrated throughout the year. The European Union began the tradition in 1985 and elects two cities in member states annually. The American Capital of Culture Organization was created to follow suit, and UNESCO chooses an Arab Capital of Culture. The International Organization of Turkic Culture also makes an annual appointment, while the UK picks a City of Culture to serve for four years. This week, we spotlight cities recognized for 2019.
Matera is serving alongside Plovdiv, Bulgaria, this year as a European capital of Culture. In Southern Italy’s Basilicata region, Matera has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years as travelers branch out from the usual Italian haunts. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with traces of civilization dating back thousands of years. Matera’s old town, the Sassi, was carved from cliffside caves on the edge of a ravine. Over the years, more and more buildings have been stacked on top of each other, creating a striking scene that has caught the eye of filmmakers using it as a substitute for the ancient Holy Land and travelers seeking new adventures in Italy.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
This colonial hill town 150 miles from Mexico City is this year’s capital of culture for the Americas. A colorful city full of colorful people, San Miguel has attracted expatriates from the world over for its lively arts and gastronomic scenes. Artisans’ markets and galleries seem to pack every street, and the scenery itself is straight out of a painting. The weather is just about perfect at all times, with average temperatures in the 60s and an elevation of around 6,000 feet. Outside the city is a pyramid complex at La Canada de la Virgen, and the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi get all the publicity, but there are five other emirates rounding out the UAE. Sharjah is widely considered the cultural capital of the Emirates, home to a museum of Islamic art and architecture, Al Noor Mosque and a large aquarium. The Emirates Fine Arts Society is located in Sharjah, as is a museum of calligraphy. While Abu Dhabi and Dubai have embraced the ultramodern, Sharjah seeks to preserve Emirati heritage. That isn’t to say that’s it all stodgy all the time, as there are picturesque beaches on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, plus deserts and mountains to satisfy any outdoor thrill-seeker.
Osh made a name for itself producing fine silks for traders traversing the Silk Road, and in 2019 it’s Turkic capital of culture. The city remains a crossroads of cultures, with 80 or so ethnicities represented in the population. Sulayman Mountain, the only World Heritage site located entirely within Kyrgyzstan, supplies magnificent views of the city and its surroundings. There are traces of history commemorating pre-Islamic times, the Silk Road and Russian occupation. The mountaintop is considered sacred, and there are ancient petroglyphs at its base. Peruse the traditional bazaar and you’ll see more spices than you can count, another mark of the many cultures that have passed through.
Better known simply as Hull, this city on the east coast of northern England has been the UK city of culture since 2017 and will be replaced by Coventry in 2021. Hull’s Museum Quarter contains the Wilberforce House, home of William Wilberforce, who led the movement to stop the British involvement in the slave trade. The Deep is an aquarium at the confluence of two rivers with more than 5,000 sea creatures and a whopping 660,000 gallons of water inside. The city has a renowned theater culture, and the Hull City Tigers soccer team has enjoyed several seasons in the English Premier League in the last decade, reaching the FA Cup final in 2014.
Perhaps it’s just the company we keep, but a lot of friends made the New Year’s resolution to travel more in 2019. If you are one of them, we thought we’d help you out by offering our thoughts on some destinations to check out this year.
The islands are gorgeous, and there are way more to see than the old standbys most tend to flock to. If you have the chance to visit Rhodes or Patmos on a cruise, they will open your eyes to a whole different side of the Greek Isles. Many visitors to Greece tend to spend a day or two in Athens then head straight for the islands. But the mainland features the great sites of classical Greece. See the birthplace of the Olympics at Olympia, the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi and the ancient ruins of Mycenae that helped spawn Western civilization.
Don’t get us wrong, we love a beach vacation as much as anyone. But with great food, great places and an exchange rate of nearly 20 pesos to the dollar, colonial Mexico is worth a visit. Mexico City is home to the world’s 11th- and 13th-ranked restaurants (plus another in the top 100) and the beautiful Soumaya Museum. San Miguel de Allende is both an artist’s and an art lover’s dream, you should see before it gets too popular, and Puebla is a culinary capital with a downtown that is one big World Heritage site. Queretaro’s baroque architecture is a thing of beauty, and Oaxaca preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures.
Most of the major cities Down Under are located on the eastern and southern coasts. There’s a whole lot of Outback separating Adelaide in South Australia from Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Perth, the fourth-largest city in Australia with about 2 million inhabitants, is the gateway to the Margaret River wine region, succulent seafood and black truffles just as good as any you’ll find in Europe. These factors contribute to Perth having the most restaurants per capita of any Australian capital and a great bar scene.
A safe destination and a gem of the Middle East, Jordan is inviting visitors to trek the Jordan Trail — about 400 miles traversing the country from Um Qais to the Red Sea — from March 1-April 13. If that’s too much for you, concentrate on such magnificent sights as Petra, an ancient city carved into cliff sides, and Wadi Rum, a valley with an otherworldly feel containing traces of culture from prehistory to the Roman era. Spas along the Dead Sea and resorts in Aqaba along the Red Sea will help you relax whether you brave the trail or not.
A trip to the “Arctic Riviera” will open your eyes to one of the last truly off-the-beaten-path spots on Earth. The people of East Greenland didn’t have contact with outsiders until the turn of the 20th century, and the area is still an isolated wonderland of Northern Lights and calving glaciers. Subsistence hunting is still very much a way of life and one that becomes harder to maintain as temperatures continue to rise and change the environment for animals and the people who rely on them to live.
South Africa is the perfect blend of wild and sophisticated. A few days in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands reveal a magnificent culture, while a safari shows off the spectacular wildlife you expect on a trip to Africa.
Stefany got to see the beauty firsthand on a recent study tour with African Travel. The journey began in Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands with a night at the boutique Le Quartier Francais. The hotel has the feel of a bed and breakfast with stunning mountain views from the pool area. Among the other properties in the Leeu Collection, Leeu Estates has magnificent views of vineyards and mountains, really providing a wow factor, while the 12-room Leeu House has a charming homey ambiance.
Each property is conveniently located near the wineries at La Bourgogne Farm and Haute Cabriere. The charming La Bourgogne offers tastings at a picnic out back with pleasant views, while the larger Haute Cabriere has grand views and allows guests down into the wine cellar for some hands-on learning.
About an hour from the Winelands, Cape Grace Hotel across from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a revelation. Views from the rooms are either of the harbor or Table Mountain. Each floor has different decor while maintaining an overall nautical theme. Tastings with a whisky expert can be arranged, and the wonderful Pinotage served is South Africa’s signature red wine. Virtuoso guests can have their own lockers to store wine or liquor. The service is excellent, and it’s possible to reserve a BMW car service with advance planning. Michael, the Cape Town guide, even managed to get them to the top of Table Mountain despite inclement weather that threatened to shut down the cable cars.
A day exploring the Cape Peninsula is a must, but be sure to dress in layers so you can enjoy the seaside views in comfort. A stop at Boulders Bay gave a preview of the amazing wildlife South Africa boasts, as a colony of African penguins calls the beach home. There are now 3,000 of the penguins thanks to a conservation effort that started with a single pair of breeding birds in 1982. Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa on the peninsula offers panoramic views.
From the Cape, the group headed out on safari. The first stops were Lion Sands River Lodge and Kapama Karula in the country’s northeast. They also saw the Tree House at Lion Sands, a great escape for honeymooners, and the upscale Lions Sands Ivory Lodge. Morne, the safari guide at Lion Sands River Lodge, was fabulous. His passion for the animals and sharing them with guests was on full display. He really got into the game drives, cutting his way through trees to make sure the group saw lions. He has a deep knowledge of the wildlife and their habits, helping to maximize the game-viewing experience. They even came across a leopard that got up close to Stefany’s feet! Every day was a new adventure!
Kapama Karula was breathtaking. The service, the food, and the decor all had a wow factor that made the stay so memorable. The guide here, Elmero, was just as passionate and knowledgeable as Morne. He made sure to explain the animals’ behaviors, which added a great deal to the game drives. They even pursued a leopard through the bush at night! All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and one DMC Travel Tailor is happy to specially arrange with valued clients.
Click here to watch the highlights of Stefany’s South Africa adventure:
Is Africa on your Bucket List? If so, reach out to Stefany at email@example.com to start planning your African adventure.