Five things I learned from birdwatching in Down East Maine


During a recent trip to Down East Maine, birdwatching per se was not top of mind. I set out to experience and get in tune with the natural splendor of the of the place,  Acadia National Park in particular.

As so often happens, the most enlightening travel experiences come from unexpected quarters. My renewed appreciation of the region’s vast ecosystem came through birdwatching, with a pro, Michael Good, MS.

Oh, I recognize common “backyard” birds: brilliant male cardinals, squawky blue jays, blackbirds with flashy red trim (not a scientific term). I’ve got a bead on swans, geese, various ducks. In summer, I can spot a neon yellow finch, dazzling hummingbirds. Shorebirds, beyond majestic blue herons or elegant egrets, get lumped into one of two categories: “gulls” or “smaller-birds-that-live -at-the-beach.”

Beyond that, I am an ornithological black hole. But here’s what I learned….

Michael grounded this field trip in biology by sharing  the Latin name, gender and approximate age for each bird, and weaving the geography and biodiversity of Mt. Desert Island into the bird narrative.  His knowledge made it interesting; his passion made it fun.

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3 Day Nature Itinerary: The best of Down East Maine

First of all, what exactly and where exactly, is Down East Maine?  It is geography mixed with sailing terminology that broadly refers to the 7,000 miles of coastline  – including 4600 islands – from Maine to Canada.  In the days of cargo schooners, boats headed to ports along the New England coast sailed “downwind,” from Boston pushed along by the prevailing southwest winds, and in an easterly direction on their compasses. “Down East” –  a terse Yankeeism  –  just stuck.

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Pittsburgh’s Ace Hotel: It’s a place you can go

“It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.!” extolled a disco hit in the late 1970’s made popular by the then-exotic band, the Village People, with waving arms and flexing fingers silently echoing the iconic letters. In Pittsburgh, it is still fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A. which has now morphed into the classy and very hip Ace Hotel, minus the double entendre of the song.

The Portland, Oregon-based chain of locally focused hotels found the perfect venue;  the one-time Y.M.C.A-turned-hot-hotel captures the unique aesthetic of the once-gritty East Liberty neighborhood. The Ace proudly respects both its antecedent and the transformation of the Steel City into a biotech and information-based economy in step with its long-standing creative culture.   Here’s why, in Pittsburgh, I found that the Ace is, indeed, a place you can go.

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Travel Inspiration: Magic in Menemsha

Summer along New England’s coastline  can be magical – the play of light on water,  vacations memorialized in family lore by the childhood summers of carefree ease.  Among the thousands of craggy inlets and coves lies Menemsha Harbor, situated along the western coastline of Martha’s Vineyard, part of the town of Chilmark, MA. This post’s picture essay endeavors to capture its essence and provide inspiration for your own summer magic. Continue reading “Travel Inspiration: Magic in Menemsha”

Add The Flatiron District to Your NYC Bucket List

It stands to reason that New York’s Flatiron District – the locus of creativity in Manhattan and the epicenter of New York’s thriving tech scene – is going to have some pretty great places to eat, drink, and shop.  It’s the triple play of cool. Here’s the lowdown on why it deserves a slot on your New York City bucket list.  Continue reading “Add The Flatiron District to Your NYC Bucket List”

Escape to Shelter Island: 5 Insider Tips

Tucked between the North and South Forks of Long Island’s fabled East End, Shelter Island  was a safe haven for generations of seafarers who sought refuge from the ravages of the North Atlantic.

Today it’s a haven from the havoc of modern life with a very family oriented and pet-friendly vibe.  Shelter Island has yet to install a traffic light but there is no mistaking its laid-back summer sophistication.  Here are some tips as you plan your escape …..

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The Tuscany That Will Inspire You

Tuscany has been an inspiration for centuries.  Its great city-state of the 14th century, Florence, gave birth to the Renaissance which in turn inspired the humanistic philosophy of the modern era. Travel in a leisurely discovery of the small towns of the region, such as Montrechi, pictured above, or spend the perfect afternoon at La Foce, near Pienza.  Hopefully, this brief picture tour, a smattering of the region, serves as an inspiration for you to add Tuscany to your bucket list, or revisit this special place.  Continue reading “The Tuscany That Will Inspire You”

How to Spend a Perfect Tuscan Afternoon

Head to the gardens of La Foce, a 15th Century estate in Tuscany’s  Val d’Orcia, nestled among the ancient hill towns near Siena.  The hilly terrain falls into a rolling landscape demarcated by lines of towering cypress trees; ancient olive groves and a puzzle of terraced vineyards create a checkerboard of bounty. La Foce is a tour de force of gardening, brilliantly melding the agrarian terrain with masterful landscape design. But first, of course, there’s lunch…… Continue reading “How to Spend a Perfect Tuscan Afternoon”