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Travel

Kenya, Africa. Pixabay photo

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

One of the reasons we travel is to broaden our horizons, literally and figuratively. Yes, we want to see new vistas, consider how others live, and cut ourselves a little break from our daily routines. The same could be said when we meet people from elsewhere. They come from different worlds, bring their personal history and cultural differences into view, and generally teach us about more than what exists in our own small circle.

Such is also the benefit of diversity. We don’t have to travel to find new worlds, we only have to be aware of others who come from those different worlds and admit them into ours.

All of which is to say that last Monday, as I went about my daily routine, I met a lovely woman from Kenya, and we had time for a leisurely talk. Now there were only three things I knew about Kenya. It is a country in Eastern Africa. A friend went with her extended family on a safari there some years ago and raved about it on her return. Runners from Kenya, both male and female, usually win the New York City Marathon. That’s it.

At least, that was it until we started to chat. Now that she raised my consciousness about her home, I realized that Kenya has been in the news lately. Elections were scheduled this past Tuesday, and they were hotly contested. This much I learned from the PBS News Hour Monday night. Because of my encounter, I paid more attention to that news segment as well as to a couple of news stories in The  New York Times. She brought her country within my view.

The news stories told me more.

William Ruto, 55, the self-proclaimed leader of Kenya’s “hustler nation” [his designation], was vice president for nine years but was now portraying himself as an outsider, representing the masses of frustrated young people, most of them poor, who just want to get ahead. He paints his rivals as elitist. That would include Raila Odinga, 77, who is running for president for the fifth time but who now has made an alliance with his former bitter rival, the outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is backing him. The race is expected to be close.

Why should we care about Kenya?

“Since its first competitive multi-party elections 20 years ago, the East African nation has emerged as a burgeoning technology hub, a key counterterrorism partner, a source of world-class athletes and an anchor of stability in a region roiled by starvation and strife,” according to the newspaper article. Some 80 % of Kenyans voted in the 2017 election, making for a democracy in the midst of nations run by strongmen. 

There are major concerns now. The pandemic and the Ukrainian War have badly affected their economy, which already was struggling under heavy debt to China for financing a railroad and road projects. This was part of its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, aiming to expand China’s economic and political influence in Africa. China never has financed the completion of this construction, leaving the railroad to end abruptly in a field 200 miles short of its intended destination in neighboring Uganda. But the debt remains to be paid, and the railroad is further enmeshed in serious corruption charges. Meanwhile China is reconsidering its early investments in African infrastructure since it paid out large amounts of money to countries with shaky economies. But the Chinese government still seeks influence in Africa, as does Russia, which was supplying much of its grain.

The 54 nations and 1.4 billion people on the African continent are important enough to us that Secretary of State Antony Blinken just started a tour of countries there. His trip and the election in Kenya are more meaningful to me now, thanks to the conversation I enjoyed with the woman who may become a new friend.

Now back to travel. She enticed me to visit with a description of their magnificent sand beaches along the Indian Ocean. Travel, imagined or real, is a beautiful thing.

Taking a solo backpacking tour through Europe proves the scars of COVID-19 are deep

French citizens in Marseille protest the country’s mandate of proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test. Photo by Kyle Barr
Taking a solo backpacking tour through Europe proves the scars of COVID-19 are deep

By Kyle Barr

France

Kyle Barr

There was a young man in Toulouse, France, one of only two people in a hostel dorm room, the other being me. We were two in a room meant to facilitate 15. A Parisian traveler, he had taken trains and buses down to Toulouse, named the Pink City (Ville Rose) for its famous blush-red brick. We had a good sight of the street and that colored stone out of the window we shared between our beds.

“I want to see more of my country while I can,” he told me during that cool, wet night in July. He also told me he still hadn’t gotten a vaccine for COVID-19. I had, but I was sleeping just 3 feet away from him.

This should be a normal interaction for travelers through Europe but, in a space like that, the conversation inevitably moves toward the pandemic. He tells me he did not know why he hesitated to get the vaccine. It could have been nerves. It could be the kind of anti-authoritarian impulses that us Americans know only too well. He, along with so many French citizens, have railed against the French President Emmanuel Macron for their mandated proof of a vaccine or negative COVID test for everything from cafés to concerts.

On July 14, Bastille Day, protests rolled out from France’s cities. I watched one in Marseille make its way from the old docks up to the local municipal building. The protesters were shouting “Liberté!” while holding signs reading, “Mon corps m’appartient!” meaning “My body belongs to me!”

The Monument to the Girondins in Bourdeaux. Photo by Kyle Barr

But the young Parisian man said that, despite his anger, it could actually change his mind.

“Maybe this will finally make me get the vaccine,” he told me.

Reuters’ data show an estimated 73% of France’s population has been vaccinated. That compares to an approximate 59% in the U.S. I wonder if that young man I met in Toulouse ever got his shot, but we were traveling in opposite directions, and I don’t think I’ll ever know.

There’s only one time that something can be done for the first time. So doing a European backpacking trip is one thing — an enormous thing to do as a novice. Doing it during a once-in-a-century pandemic is another thing entirely.

This past summer I made a very sudden decision to take a two-month backpacking trip through several countries in western Europe, starting June 23 and ending Aug. 18. Beginning in France, I went south to Basque country in Spain, back into France before going into Switzerland, then Germany, the Netherlands, then to Denmark before a quick flight over to Iceland.

My trip began on the very edge of when we all thought the pandemic would subside, just after many European countries started opening their doors to overseas travelers. My trip coincidentally ended just after those same nations started to roll back those open-armed policies. France instituted a COVID passport system just weeks after I left, and it is still only really available to French citizens, meaning that it would be nearly impossible to do half of what I could do just a few months before. Other European countries have instituted new restrictions and lockdowns. It means there was one small three-month period, one golden time slate when the classic Euro tour was still possible. That’s gone now.

Currently, rules are in flux, and Americans may find that restrictions can change between the time they book a trip and their departure dates. Unvaccinated U.S. passengers especially need to keep on top of all the changing regulations.

The statue of Ludwig I, Koenig von Bayern, King of Bavaria in Munich. Photo by Kyle Barr

I wonder now if things will ever return to that golden age of pandemic-era travel and, at the same time, whether we ever should go back. Because even during this perfect period when summer travel was (mostly) possible if one carried a vaccine card tucked inside a passport, adventuring alone in pandemic-scarred lands is not as it once was. It may never be the same again.

Germany

I stayed in a total of 17 hostels, one tiny hotel, two Airbnbs and two stays at kindly people’s homes. During my visit to Hamburg, Germany, I chatted up the hostel staff and heard, like most hostels along my route, they were doing barely 30 to 40% of what they had done in 2019. Backpacking alone relies on one’s ability to strike up conversations with strangers, to meet new people from all over and organize a day’s activities, but the pandemic has done more than hamper worldwide travel. It has also changed certain attitudes. Less people seem to be willing to sit down with strangers to have conversations while the pandemic lingers.

That’s not to say people are more obtuse or less friendly, but there is a sort of wariness hanging about all interactions. Most travelers I met spoke similarly about that general feeling hanging like a cloud above people’s heads. Part of it was the lack of people in hostels, but there also was a defining sense of separation.

Kyle Barr is a freelancer writer and the former editor of The Port Times Record, The Village Beacon Record and The Times of Middle Country.

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Most passengers on the Long Island Rail Road probably have one wish — to get to their destination quicker. This desire has been uttered for decades on the Port Jefferson line where commuters headed to the Big Apple or Nassau County need to change trains since tracks are only electrified west of Huntington, with diesel fuel powering all trains east.

While we’re more optimistic than ever that the wish may be granted, we must admit we’re only cautiously optimistic.

While the Long Island trains may never reach speeds of those in Japan, China and France, which travel at more than 200 mph, officials and community members are working harder than ever toward the goal of electrification. Both the Metropolitan Transit Authority and state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) have appropriated funds to support a study of the feasibility of electrifying the line, and a group of community members, informally called the North Shore Business Alliance, is advocating for the study by not only lobbying elected officials, but also presenting the benefits to civic associations and chambers of commerce along Suffolk County’s North Shore. There are a lot of people on board to move things forward.

Electrifying the rails means more than getting in and out of the city quicker, it also means living on Long Island and community would be more appealing. Hopefully, it would keep people here and draw more to the area. It would make commuting to work in the city easier, where salaries tend to be higher and opportunities more abundant. For those traveling east, it would decrease the time for traveling to Stony Brook University.

However, as we have said before, we are cautiously optimistic. While the study will look at how much faster trains can go, it will also look to see if electrification makes sense financially, something we Long Islanders need to understand. The winding nature of the Port Jeff line presents a set of logistical troubles as well. There is still a possibility electrification may not make economic sense, which stands to reason as it has been discussed for generations. In 2000, one study estimated it would cost $500 million to electrify the Port Jefferson line from Huntington to the end.

There’s also a change some communities may not welcome as they may foresee problems that might arise from faster trains, one being that many towns may not want more people living in their areas, citing traffic problems and perhaps more multihouse units being constructed or development.

But back to the positive side of the coin, faster trains may actually mean less cars on the road especially on the Long Island Expressway and Northern State Parkway as more may find taking the train easier. There will also be those who now live on the North Shore who opt to take trains out of Ronkonkoma but now can head to the station closer to their home.

We may not know what the feasibility study will turn up but moving it forward will increase the odds of one day either riding a faster train or finally putting the dream to rest.

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Québec City seems like a delightfully European-styled destination that is only a nine-hour drive from here. Montreal, officially Montréal, is even closer, only six hours or so. The old cities there are filled with beautiful stone buildings that speak of some five centuries of North American history, a unique culture that is a French-Canadian and English mix, lively street scenes and shops, museums, sports and scrumptious restaurant food.

I can attest to all that because I attended a press convention that was held in Canada this fall, and a friend and I drove there and back. By the way, the road trip is a scenic joy as we traveled along the Molly Stark Trail amid the Green Mountains through Vermont and back on the Adirondack Northway. The only way it could have been better is if the leaves had been turning. As it was, the trees were at their lushest, the highways were clear and the weather was perfect — in the 70s with low humidity and azure blue sky.

I was thrilled that the local residents could understand my French and even more so that I could understand theirs. I haven’t tried to speak French since I was last in Paris, a while ago. I discovered that the French Canadians speak more slowly than the Parisians generally, so communication of at least a rudimentary nature was mildly possible. I certainly understood how much they dislike President Trump, which they told us often enough after they discovered we were visiting Americans.

Quebec City, referred to that way to distinguish it from the larger Province of Quebec, is located both above and below cliffs that line the northern bank of the wide St. Lawrence River. The Upper Town, home of the now-famous Château Frontenac, was where the elite among the early French settlers lived, including the clergy and government officials. Merchants and craftsmen lived in the Lower Town along the river. The strategic location of the city permitted the French to repel both British and American invaders for more than a century and enabled trade to flourish among New France until Wolfe and de Montcalm fought on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 and the British won. The Quebec Act of 1774 allowed the French to continue to speak French and to practice Catholicism, and by keeping the French satisfied probably kept them from joining the American Revolution. To this day, road signs are in French although children learn English from second grade on and are bilingual.

After a couple of days, we made the three-hour drive to Montreal and the location of the convention, still enjoying glorious weather. I keep marveling at the weather, knowing that of the original 28 men who accompanied Samuel de Champlain from France in 1608, 20 died from the harsh first winter.

The Island of Montreal was considered, in the early days of settlement in the mid-17th century, to be only an outpost for fur trading. Over the centuries, however, it has become one of the world’s largest primarily French-speaking cities after Paris and the second largest city in Canada — only Toronto is larger. The Port of Montreal is one of the world’s major inland ports, served by the St. Lawrence Seaway. It is a city of skyscrapers, festivals and considerable diversity, and it too has marvelous restaurants, along with the cultural and entertainment offerings one would expect. I only got a short tour of Old Montreal and some time in the art museum, where there was a good exhibit on Picasso and African art, because in Montreal I had to work. I enjoyed the meetings and learned some things there that our newspapers will be telling you about in subsequent issues, also on our website.

Our return on Sunday afternoon took us an hour to cross the border compared with fewer than three minutes on the way into Quebec on a weekday. We left our northern neighbor, however, with a strong urge to revisit soon.

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This past week, we went “shufflin’ off to Buffalo.” Bet you don’t know where that expression came from. I certainly didn’t know that “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” is a song from Act II of the 1933 movie, “42nd Street,” and that it was a railroad saying even earlier. All I had to say was that I was going to Buffalo, and the response was immediate: “Shufflin’ off?” I was asked.

The second reaction was also the same. “Better bring your long underwear,” I was urged. “And a shovel. Is it snowing there yet?” Well, I’m going to tell you that Buffalo gets a bum rap. First of all, it was 82 degrees in the afternoon when it was only 80 degrees on Long Island. Fortunately I had passed on the suggested long underwear. I did bring a pair of shorts, but I did not wear them because I didn’t see anyone wearing shorts in the city. When I am traveling, I’m a big believer in the “When in Rome” adage.

Actually the city looked quite pleasant to me, larger than I had imagined, clean and with a fair share of tall buildings. The population of more than 250,000 residents makes it the second largest city in the state. I understand that Buffalo, like a number of rust-belt cities, has undergone quite a face-lift.

Admittedly I did not see much of it since I was there for the fall meeting of the New York Press Association, and that meant I was locked into the hotel site where the workshops were held. But we did have a chance to look around a bit when we went out to the Anchor Bar, where Buffalo chicken wings were allegedly invented. It’s a pleasant and good-sized sports bar, and most people at the tables were, sure enough, having chicken wings with blue-cheese dip and cut-up celery sticks on the side, although one lady was eating a good-looking dish of shrimp scampi. She must have been a native.

In the way of cultural attractions, the city has an art museum, a science museum, a theater district, multiple art galleries, and the historic Martin House that was recommended for viewing. Buffalo was once the scene of considerable wealth from the auto industry, where Pierce-Arrow automobiles were manufactured, also the railroads and the Erie Canal. As a result there are a number of urban mansions. It also has a river walk on Lake Erie that houses several eateries. Food, in fact, is big. And people we met, in restaurants, the hotel and on the streets were friendly and unhurried — such a change of pace for a native New Yorker like me or even someone born and bred on Long Island. It always helps when the weather is beautiful, which it was for our entire stay.

The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum was enough to make lovers of antique automobiles cry for joy. The museum, which is large and planning to get larger, also has antique bikes and motorcycles, all in seemingly shiny new condition. And it even houses a filling station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s a remarkable piece of architecture.

It was an eight-hour drive from Bridgeport, where the ferry docked, to Buffalo, and that does not count the stops. The roads are excellent, the roadside trees just beginning to suggest autumnal colors, and we spent one night on the way up in Canandaigua, about an hour and a half from Buffalo.

In the heart of the beautiful Finger Lakes region, the area is deservedly famous for its Riesling wines, which I confess to having tasted. The village, its name derived from the Seneca tribe, was the scene of the Susan B. Anthony trial in which she was accused of voting illegally in 1873, since women were not then allowed to vote. She was found guilty and fined $100 with costs, which she did not pay.

Colleagues were surprised that we drove to Buffalo rather than just flying there, but I remembered from a previous trip many years ago, when I was a high school student, that the Mohawk Valley and upper New York state are truly lovely destinations. This trip confirmed that memory.

Cody Carey, on right, is biking cross-country with fraternity Pi Kappa Phi to spend time with people of all ages dealing with disabilities through dinners, dances, kickball games and more. Photo from Cody Carey

By Kevin Redding

Cody Carey wanted to do something a little more adventurous this summer than work double shifts at a local restaurant. So the Miller Place-bred junior accounting major at Ohio State University decided to strap on a helmet, hop on a blue Giant Defy road bike and push himself further than he ever thought possible.

Joined by 29 other members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity from all over the country, Carey, 21, is currently on a 67-day, 4,000-mile bike ride from Seattle, Washington, ending Aug. 12 in Washington, D.C., with scheduled stops along the way to spend time with people of all ages dealing with disabilities through dinners, dances and games.

Cody Carey meets disabled people on his cross-country Journey of Hope. Photo from Cody Carey

The Journey of Hope is an annual fundraising bike excursion hosted by the fraternity’s national philanthropy, The Ability Experience, since 1987 that raises funds and awareness for people with physical and mental disabilities — ranging quadriplegia to Down syndrome to autism.

“It’s incredible to see, especially with everything in the news about students today and this next generation,” The Ability Experience Chief Executive Officer Basil Lyberg said. “It’s very encouraging to understand the power that young people have to impact their communities and that they’re not just talking the talk, they’re out walking it. And in our case, riding across the country.”

Split among three teams of cyclists, each team takes on a different route that ultimately converges in D.C. Individual riders are required to raise $5,500 to contribute to an overall goal of $650,000, and Carey, the only Ohio State student on the ride this year, has already raised $5,799 through an online campaign.

He said members of the fraternity, which spans colleges and universities across the country, are encouraged to participate in the ambitious experience and he knew it was something he would regret not doing.

“I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone and do something that’s essentially life-changing and that I’ll never forget,” Carey said. “This experience has definitely made helping people even more of a strong value of mine. Everybody should help anybody they can on a daily basis.”

Cody Carey finds some time to sightsee on his trek. Photo from Cody Carey

Since embarking June 6 on the Journey of Hope’s TransAmerica route, Carey and his fellow cyclists have pedaled through seven states, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, hitting the road each day at 6 a.m. and wrapping up in the early afternoon. The riders generally sleep on gym floors and YMCA’s within the towns they visit, and travel an average of 75 miles per day. During a 12-hour bike rides, the athletes aren’t allowed to listen to music for safety reasons. Carey laughed about the long rides, and admitted there are parts of home he misses.

“How much I miss my bed,” he said. “There’s lot of chatting with the others, lots of silence, and lots of wind.”

He has ridden through sprawling peaks and snow-capped mountains in Montana, crossed over valleys in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, past cornfields in Kansas and said he has loved “taking in the big, beautiful country on two wheels.”

But for Carey, nothing compares to the experience of meeting locals from each state during the ride’s friendship visits. After a morning of pedaling, cyclists visit local groups supporting people with disabilities and take part in a long list of activities, from drawing with kids to playing wheelchair basketball and kickball to having lengthy conversations with teens and adults who face challenges every day.

“It’s been extremely heartwarming,” he said of the visits. “Many of the organizations say it’s like Christmas when we come by. We just make sure the adults and kids are having a great time. You don’t realize everything you have until realizing it can be taken away like with the people we’ve met that have suffered injuries, and with those who are disabled their whole life.”

Referring to the impact it has had on his fellow cyclists, he said, “I’ve never seen a group of guys cry as much as I do now.”

He recalled a special moment in Casper, Wyoming, when a man who recently suffered a brain tumor relayed a resonating message.

Cody Carey meets disabled people on his cross-country Journey of Hope. Photo from Cody Carey

“We were all about to get up and go play some games over in a park when he stood up and sat us all back down to tell us not to stress over the little things in life,” Carey said. “Because, he said, you can wake up one day and have something like what he experienced happen to you and your whole life could change. He told us to enjoy every second we have as we are, which was really touching coming from a guy now considered disabled. It kind of just pointed out all the stupid things we stress about in our regular lives.”

Preparation for the journey consisted of getting on a bike just a week and a half before heading to Seattle, Carey admitted, but being an athlete during his days in Miller Place provided him with much-needed mental stamina. He played soccer, which he competed in at a national level, and lacrosse, too.

“I’m so excited for him, he’s always been in terrific shape and he probably has thighs the size of tree trunks now,”Carey’s mother Elizabeth Hine joked. “I’m proud as heck of him. Between seeing the country and all the people, he says this is the best summer he’s ever had.”

Just two days into the cross-country ride, Carey said the group logged 125 miles over 24 hours while passing through Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state.

“Everyone on that route, except one person who suffered hypothermia, finished, and at the end of it we all looked at each other and said, ‘That’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done in our lives,’” Carey said. “We all say that our bike is our disability and we have to overcome it each day.”

Huntington commuters board train. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Long Island Rail Road commuters may face some additional strain in their usual commute in the coming weeks.

The elevator at the South Parking Garage at the Huntington LIRR station is now out of service and is being replaced, with construction that began July 11. According to a press release from the town, this project is “much-needed,” to increase the reliability, safety and comfort for those who regularly use the elevator. The town said it estimates that the elevator will be out of service for about four months, with construction wrapping in November.

“We realize that no matter what the alternative, riders will be inconvenienced,” the press release said. “Please be assured that our contractor will endeavor to complete the project as quickly as possible.”

In an effort to make the change as painless as possible, the town asked for input from residents to help create options for those who, because of physical handicaps, find the elevator necessary.

“I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we’re not on the first page of Newsday, but we do have real problems,” Georgina White, a Huntington resident said at the June town meeting where the input was gathered. “This is really a hardship. I did go online and take the survey, but the proposed suggestions are really poor. The handicapped and the elderly, and the people with strollers are going to be held. I suggest that you try to put the shuttle, that’s handicapped accessible, from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. It needs to happen.

She acknowledged the elevator has had a lot of issues in recent years, including breakdowns and filth, and commended the town for finally getting a new elevator. But She encouraged the town to improve its ways of getting the motive out, as she feared not enough residents realized the changes that were going to soon occur.

Based on those responses and the town’s recommendations, the following actions will be taken:

1. The town has added handicapped parking spaces on both sides of the tracks. On the north side, the additional spaces are on ground level in the parking garage. On the south side, the additional spaces are on level 2 of the parking garage. Both locations will provide easy access to the handicapped ramps. If at all possible, the town suggests users should try to arrange their trip so eastbound and westbound trips depart and arrive on the same track. Information on which platforms trains usually depart from or arrive on is contained in the full Port Jefferson line LIRR schedule.

2. Consider alternate stations. In particular, parking is available at the Northport station, which has only one track.

3. A town Public Safety vehicle will be available at the station during peak hours — 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. — to transport persons with disabilities from one side of the tracks to the other. To arrange a ride during those or other times, call Public Safety at 631-351-3234. Riders can call from the train to make Public Safety aware of their need in advance.

4. The town has reached out to the LIRR and asked that announcements about track changes be made as early as possible, so commuters will know if there is an issue before they board the train.

5. If a rider has questions or a problem, they should call the Department of Transportation and Traffic Safety at 631-351-3053.

“I appreciate all you’re trying to do,” White said. “Could we work together to communicate some better things for people in our town?”
After she spoke at the meeting, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) thanked her for her suggestions and encouraged her to meet with the town’s director of transportation to continue a dialogue.
The news adds to rider woes, as those dealing with Huntington’s maintenance may also be delayed by Long Island Rail Road work at Pennsylvania Station.

Stony Brook international students at a party hosted by the Colatosti family of Setauket. Photo from Stony Brook University

Soon hundreds of international students will be arriving at Stony Brook University to begin their academic careers in search of advanced degrees. For most, it will be their first time in the United States. They have no family or friends here, and are in a completely foreign and unfamiliar environment.

The Host Family Program, a community-based organization now in its fourth decade, provides a newly arrived international student with the friendship of a local American family. Run by volunteers with the cooperation of the university, it has been directed by Rhona Goldman since 1974. It is not a home-stay program; students live on or near campus. Host families invite students to share a meal, some sightseeing, or a favorite activity.

Both students and host families have the enriching experience of a cultural exchange and gain perspective about the world. A host family may be a retired couple, a family group, or a single individual. The only prerequisite is the desire to make an international student feel comfortable.

Students will arrive on campus in late August for the start of the fall semester and are looking forward to meeting an American family. The university will host a reception for the students and the host families to meet each other before the semester begins.

There is always a shortage of local volunteers to host all the students who apply. To learn more about hosting, email Rhona Goldman at: [email protected]

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Footprints mark a sandy trail at Cupsogue Beach in Southampton. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Finding an enjoyable vacation doesn’t have to involve booking a cruise to the Bahamas, a plane ticket to California or even a train ride to New York City. With Long Island’s more than 100 museums, 20 state parks and 30 wineries/vineyards, going somewhere great is as easy as stepping outside of your own backyard (and contains less risk of trampling your neighbor’s freshly planted rhododendrons).

A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano
A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano

So hop in your car — or better yet, save gas money by hopping in a friend’s car — and explore an unfamiliar township. Because whether you’re looking for fun for the whole family, an escape from reality or a romantic getaway, you’ll find that the list of things to do here stretches as long as the Island itself, and well beyond the length of this list.

Oyster Bay
Spend a day in Oyster Bay if you love history. Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park encompasses hundreds of acres of gardens, trails and woodlands, not to mention a 1920s Tudor mansion. There’s also Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, home of Theodore Roosevelt from 1885 through 1919, and Raynham Hall Museum, former residence of Robert Townsend, George Washington’s intelligence operative.  Who knows, maybe history will repeat itself and you’ll visit again.

Huntington
There are a ton of things to do here. Purchase tickets to an unforgettable show or concert at The Paramount Theater, tour the Heckscher Museum of Art and historic Oheka Castle or explore the outdoors at Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve.

Smithtown
Tap Nissequogue River Canoe and Kayak Rentals Inc. to rent (or bring) a canoe or kayak, and paddle along 5.5 miles of tranquil river. If you still can’t get enough nature, take a stroll at scenic Caleb Smith State Park Preserve or visit the rehabilitating animals at Sweetbriar Nature Center.  If you still can’t get enough nature, build a tree house in your backyard when you get home or something. But before you go, be sure to stop at Whisper or Harmony Vineyards in St. James, listen to live music and buy a bottle of wine.

An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano
An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Brookhaven
This town offers some wonderful watery swimming, boating and fishing destinations: West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, Corey Beach in Blue Point, Davis Park and Great Gun Beach, both on Fire Island, are just some of the important names to remember when planning your next beach daycation in Brookhaven.

Riverhead
Head to the river for a family fun day. The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, located along the Peconic River, is home to birds, butterflies and bats, along with great numbers of ocean and river dwelling animals. Also fun for kids and adults alike are the Riverhead Raceway and Long Island Science Center.

Southold
Don’t hold out on visiting this beautiful Long Island location. Book a cab ride through gorgeous rural Southold and visit one or more of its many wineries and vineyards: Sparkling Pointe, One Woman Wines and Vineyards, The Old Field Vineyards, Croteaux Vineyards, Mattebella Vineyards, Corey Creek Vineyards and Duckwalk Vineyards are just the cork of the wine bottle. Later, dine at one of more than 40 eateries in the maritime Village of Greenport, considered one of the prettiest towns in the United States.

Southampton
See the seashore like never before at sandy, clean Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton, or lay back in luxury on a True East Charters boat tour of the Hamptons.  If staying grounded is more your style, spend a day playing minigolf with the family at the Southampton Golf Range, which also features a driving range, batting cages and an ice rink.

East Hampton
If you’re up for an art-filled adventure, spend an hour at the Pollock-Krasner House and view the paint-splattered space where abstract impressionist Jackson Pollock and fellow artist Lee Krasner created some of their most provocative works.  End the day in another world: LongHouse Reserve, where modern sculptures and furniture (created by a seasonal group of artists) fuse seamlessly with the interestingly landscaped grounds.

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A typical Highlander: The breed is well adapted to the extreme Scottish weather. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Scotland is a wonderful, wild and surprising place to visit.

My wife, Barbara, and I spent three days exploring The Trossachs National Park. We stayed in the village of Balloch at a bed-and-breakfast on a farm. George was a dairy farmer who had to sell his herd due to rising costs and lower milk prices. Sheila, his wife ran the B&B, Dumbain Farm, in a beautiful converted building that was the dairy barn.

The first day we drove to Luss, a 19th-century village that used to house slate quarry workers. Recognized as one of Scotland’s loveliest villages it is filled with many original stone cottages strewn with flowers and vines of every color and texture. We took walks around the village and through the farmland and former quarries around it. The paths are beautifully laid out and a delight to walk. We discovered a number of spoil heaps from the slate quarries; these remnants of the slate mining were clearly visible. In the afternoon we took a cruise on Loch Lomond. It was cold and cloudy but the scenery was spectacular.

The only downside was the almost complete lack of commentary. All the information you need to explore the villages, walks, hikes and lochs is on the website www.visitscotland.com.

The next day, Father’s Day (June 21), we drove through the incredibly beautiful Queen Elizabeth Forest Park to Loch Katrine. What superb vistas. We had a wonderful conversation on the loch cruise with a Scottish couple who were biking back from the other end of the lake. We saw a very pretty cottage built for Queen Victoria along the loch bank; she was visiting for the opening of the water supply from Katrine to Glasgow.

Unfortunately her 21-gun salute by the firing of cannons blew out all the cottage windows so she could not stay there.

We had lunch at the restaurant at the pier and dads were free for Father’s Day. We drove to Callander as the sun came out and walked a mile-and-a-half round-trip to Bracklinn Falls.

The water flows over and around gigantic slate stones that form walls around the falls. Along the walk we saw many sheep as well as long-haired Highland cattle, which are well adapted to the harsh climate. We had dinner in the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland, The Clachan Inn (1734), in the village of Drymen.

The next day we left Dumbain Farm and drove to Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland. We enjoyed the Riverside Museum and the 245-foot barque Glenlee (1896), permanently moored alongside the museum.

The barque has a well done and interesting tour, with information on the 15-man crew and how they fared as seamen over the years on various ships. The Glenlee and thousands of other ships were built here along the River Clyde including the Queen Elizabeth 2, also known as the QE2. The decline of shipbuilding has left Glasgow with only tourism as a riverside industry, but it is now a vibrant city.

We had just time enough in the day to stop at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and viewed exhibits on Glasgow’s history, among others. The museum is housed in a most elegant Spanish Baroque building.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.