The Magnificent Taal Lake

“What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty, and never see the Dawn” by Logan Pearsall Smith. In the world where we live in, our way of life has been made simpler and more convenient with the existence of the Internet and modern technology in general. But one great disadvantage that it brings to us is the undeniable fact that it gradually makes us lose physical interaction with nature and other people as well. I feel one needs to begin to look beyond the confines of our homes, workplaces, and cities that we adore for us to see the beauty that lies on the other side of the earth. Like this dangerous yet ecstatic vision in the province of Batangas, on the island of Luzon, Philippines known as Taal Lake.

A vista of Taal Lake, formely known as Bonbon Lake, can be enjoyed from many surrounding locations like, Mt. Maculot, Balete, San Nicolas, Batangas and a lot more. But the “Tagaytay-Taal Ridge” in Tagaytay City is the most preferred vantage point, both for foreign and local tourists alike, to enjoy a safer and a sweeping view of the lake.

Taal Lake is the deepest and the third largest lake in the Philippines and also famous for being the home where the world's smallest but most active volcanoes lie in its waters, called Taal Volcano. Making it to the list of lakes from all corners of the world possessing “all the right extremes” showcasing nature at its most spectacular, as the fourth most beautiful lake in the world.

Moreover, Taal Lake is the crater of a crater of an island. Near the center of Taal Lake is Volcano Island that has a small lake that holds a small island called the Vulcan Point. And if you need further explanation - Taal Lake is the world's largest lake on an island in a lake on an island that has its own small island within. Whew! Amazing right?

Furthermore, Taal Volcano will be equally worth mentioning being an integral part of Taal Lake. Taal Volcano has had 33 recorded eruptions since its first known outburst in 1572. Its most catastrophic eruption occurred in 1754 and 1911. Making the whole region surrounding Taal at considerable volcanic risk any time any day. That is why it has been declared as a permanent danger zone. And a joint effort from the Department of Tourism, PHIVOLCS and other local units have been closely monitoring Taal Volcano's activities to make sure significant development will be immediately relayed to the traveling public and “exploring fans” as well.

Yet despite Taal's obvious dangerous attributes, it has maintained its reputation as one of the Philippines major tourist attractions and photographed views. It surely have won the hearts of nature lovers, travelers and sightseers who came from far and near witness a uniquely intriguing natural wonder.

Fresh Pond Seafood of Arlington Mass., Prioritizes Accurate Seafood Labeling

Editor's note: this is the second in a series of articles, at The Weekly New England Travel and Vacation Gazette, focusing on Massachusetts seafood restaurants and sellers that say that they are committed to accurate labeling of their seafood. Seafood mislabeling has been a hot topic in the news lately as the Boston Globe recently wrote about many seafood restaurants and markets in the area not labeling their seafood correctly).

I recently had a chance to talk with Marty Hagerty, owner of Fresh Pond Seafood in Arlington, Mass., about the recent seafood mislabeling controversy,  covered by the Boston Globe. He emphasized that they would never mislabel any of their seafood: "I can tell what I'm buying."

Those words have a lot of weight, given Fresh Pond Seafood in Cambridge gained a household name reputation in the area. Marty's father opened that store about 35 years ago until its closure in 2006. Marty, 48, and in the seafood business for more than 25 years, recently opened his new location -- a fish market that also has four booths for dining in -- at 75 Summer St. in Arlington.

Hagerty expressed disappointment in other seafood restaurants and markets involved in mislabeling their seafood. He cites Nantucket scallops as an example of a seafood that can be mislabeled or "cheapened."

"We sell Nantucket Bay scallops at certain times of the year -- very expensive -- but some, I'm sure, mix in cheap scallops and try to pass it off as Nantucket scallops," said Hagerty. "I think (in general) many of these people that got caught mislabeling knew what they were selling. Just my opinion."

Hagerty's main sea scallops supply comes from George's Bank in Boston -- very different than the "processed" or "wet" scallops that are quite commonplace.

"Basically, with processed scallops you throw 500 pounds of scallops into a vat with chemicals and they blow up, looking very pretty," said Hagerty. "When you cook them, though, they shrink! We use the 'dry' scallops from George's Bank that have no chemicals added."

Other properly labeled seafood sold at Fresh Pond Seafood include: shrimp, lobster meat, halibut, salmon, flounder, scrod, haddock, Bluefish, catfish, sea bass, snapper, Mahi Mahi, steamers, mussels, little necks, cherrystones, oysters, tuna, grey sole, swordfish, soft shell crabs, Maine crabmeat, crab cakes, trout, stuffed clams and shad roe.

Hagerty doesn't mind Fresh Pond Seafood being inspected, as he clearly takes pride in selling his seafood as labeled.

"I welcome any inspections," said Hegarty. "I know what I'm buying. I've been going to the pier since I was 17!"

Editor's note, part II: restaurants and fish markets in the Boston area, please write us about your business that doesn't mislabel seafood! We will consider calling you back for an interview. Thanks!

Two South of Boston Seafood Restaurants That Avoid Seafood Mislabeling

Woods Seafood, Plymouth, Mass. (photo by Eric)
A Boston Globe series entitled "Fishy Business" recently revealed alleged seafood mislabeling amongst many fish restaurants and sellers in the area. A Globe crew collected 134 seafood samples and sent them to a lab in Canada, which found 48 per cent of the seafood mislabeled.  For a quick "101," I recommend you check out a Boston Globe video here on seafood mislabeling, which explains the "who, what, when, where, why and how" of this troubling news. You can also find links to related articles on this page.

After reading about this reported seafood fraud, I thought it would be a good idea to contact local seafood restaurants and markets in hopes of finding some businesses not involved with seafood mislabeling. I think locating these type of establishments is important, as I know people that have read the articles are now suspicious of all local seafood restaurants and markets. Can't blame them -- how does one know who is on the up, and others that either knowingly or inadvertently mislabel their seafood?

I checked in with two of my favorite locally-owned and operated seafood places, Pier 18 Seafood and Grille in East Bridgewater, Mass., and Woods Seafood in Plymouth, Mass. For full disclosure, I have no affiliation, including vested interest, in either of these two seafood spots. I think the key takeaway with both of these restaurants is that they have the confidence to say that they welcome testing.

Peter Soroka, owner of Pier 18, took an immediate stand-up position and said, "We weren't tested (by the Globe), but welcome any testing. We don't have that issue (with seafood mislabeling). We're very honest and deal with reputable fish dealers. We don't lead people wrong."

Saroka cites the fish in a fish and chips meal as a classic example of taking a short cut, with many restaurants using cheaper pollock instead of haddock or cod -- something Pier 18 will never do.

"They (other businesses) get away with it, it's much cheaper,"said Saroka. "We don't do that here."

Jay Kimball, who bought Woods Seafood at Plymouth Harbor 23 years ago, prides his restaurant on being reputable.  The presence of a public fish market on the premises authenticates the restaurant seafood, says Kimball.

"If you came in off the street and saw on the menu our swordfish, scallops, bluefish, or salmon and asked staff where it came from, they could point to our fish market where you can see everything clearly labeled. We're transparent in everything we do."

A virtual walking encyclopedia of his inventory and where it comes from, Kimball prides himself of knowing his New England seafood suppliers, as well as those from outside the area. As examples, his scallops come from New Bedford,  farmed raised salmon from Canada, wild sockeye salmon from Alaska, crab meat from Maine, and swordfish from the outer banks of Nova Scotia and Maine.

Kimball said he wasn't contacted by the Globe, but would always welcome any kind of official testing. Regarding his business, Kimball says that Woods Seafood receives routine inspections from the local Board of Health and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That's it for now! Please check back in often as I will be writing more in the next month or two about Boston area seafood restaurants and markets that say that they don't have an issue with seafood fraud -- and welcome any testing.

Editor's note: restaurants and fish markets in the Boston area, please write us about your business that doesn't mislabel seafood! We will consider calling you back for an interview. Thanks!

The Meat House in Walpole, Mass., to Add Sit-Down Dining Area

The Meat House, a national butcher shop chain specializing in meats and gourmet grocery items, will bring a sit-down dining area to its Walpole, Mass., location in the next few weeks.

I spoke last night with Jeff, the general manager at the Walpole Meat House, who told me that the dining area will feature chairs and tables, a couch, wide screen televisions and free WiFi. Customers will be able to order from the deli sandwich menu at the counter. Additionally, an extensive salad bar will also be part of the new cafe. A partition will separate the cafe from the butcher shop, thus helping create more ambiance and definition to this elongated storefront.

The Meat House is a local success story, opening its first store in Portsmouth, N.H., in 2003 and eventually expanding to 30 stores in nine states (and with more on the way). The Walpole Meat House is located at 655 Main St., and is open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tel. (508) 668-2250.

Plitvice Lakes: Croatia's Finest

Somewhere halfway between the capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast, and in the mountainous region of Licko-Seniska county, lies Croatia's largest national park and the oldest national park in Southeast Europe. This lush valley of 16 turquoise interconnected lakes, laced together by a series of waterfalls, separated by natural dams of travertine, set in a deep woodland and miles of pleasant wooden-plank walks that follow the rumbling water is what makes this lake outrageously phenomenal. A place truly incredible and worth a million words... one of nature's finest – The Plitvice Lakes.

Discovered In 1949, Plitvice composed of 19.5 hectares of woods, lakes and waterfalls became the first national park of the Republic of Croatia. In 2000, the national park was expanded by a further 102 km². The Plitvice lakes are enclosed by the Mala Kapela mountain in the west while the eastern side are enclosed by the Plješevica mountain, which also represents the border to Bosnia and Hercegovina. The two largest lakes of the park Prošćansko jezero and Kozjak cover about 80 percent of the overall water body area. These lakes by the way, are also the deepest with a depth of 37 and 47 meters respectively. The 16 lakes that can be seen from the surface are clustered into the 12 Upper Lakes (Gornja jezera) and the four Lower Lakes (Donja jezera). Further, the lakes are renowned for their distinctive color ranging from azure to green, gray or blue. The colors change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.

30 years later, Plitvice Lakes National Park was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in recognition of its “outstanding natural beauty” thus declared it with all rights as the World's natural inheritance. What sets Plitvice lakes apart from the other known lakes is the fact that they do not represent separated, stationary waters. “The lakes altogether have always been seen as one composed system of lakes.” And as a World Heritage Site, Plitvice maintains a pristine environment that is nearly primeval in its beauty. This is the reason why swimming in the lakes is strictly prohibited.

So when in Plitvice, you have three options for exploring the site - you can either walk through the park and look for wildlife as you hike, or take an electric boat to take you from one side of the lake to the other or ride on a shuttle bus (panoramic train) to take you to a particular route to the park. Whichever way you want it, they all offer different views and a different experience while in Plitvice. Best of all, Plitvice Lakes National Park is open all-year round.

Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass., is More Than an Apple Picking Orchard

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Mass. (photo by Eric)
Apple picking season is over at Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass., but you can still "pick your own" fun activity at this fourth generation Central Massachusetts family-run business.

A great variety of apples is still available in the main indoor store. We bought a peck for $10 last week, and they are all gone -- the taste of the Cortland, Macs and Red Delicious we bought were absolutely fresh with that "just picked" taste! You can "mix and match" apples from the bins.

The snack area offers one of the most amazing apple dumplings, with the option to add some deliciously dense and creamy vanilla ice cream as well as Vermont-like cheddar cheese. Do not fret about adding the cheese to the dumpling, it is a surprisingly good combination.

Apple dumpling (photo by Eric)
What makes Brookfield Orchards a "must visit" destination beyond apple picking season, however, is the country store. One would not expect a country store that goes beyond an afterthought or "window dressing" an at apple picking destination, but Brookfield Orchards offers an authentic country store. We love browsing the antiques, collectibles, crafts, toys, books, cheeses, cider, maple syrups, jams, honey, etc. The country store starts out looking like a big garage and then turns into a quaint, charming, moderately-sized shop.

Finally, the fresh air and views of the apple orchards and rolling hills make Brookfield Orchards a visual delight. It's a scene that makes people linger, not wanting to leave this peaceful, idyllic paradise. So, yes, there is life beyond apple picking at an apple orchard in the New England fall!

Brookfield Orchards
12 Lincoln Rd.
North Brookfield MA
Tel. 508- 867-6858

American Planning Association Chooses College Hill in Providence, R.I., in its "America's Best Neighborhoods"

A pleasing scene at Prospect Terrace Park, College Hill,
Providence, R.I. (photo by Eric)
Congratulations to the College Hill neighborhood of Providence, R.I., for making USA Today's "America's Best Neighborhoods", as designated by the American Planning Association (APA).

The APA chose "10 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces" in our nation that met its high standards of community excellence criteria, and they clearly thought very highly of College Hill. In the article, you'll see marvelous photos of historic Angell and Benefit Sts.

No argument here on College Hill receiving this accolade!  To me, College Hill resonates as the jewel of Providence -- an already great city, overall. The brownstone architectural elegance, stately Colonial and Victorian homes, beautiful Prospect Terrace Park, the presence of  Ivy League Brown University, as well as the Rhode Island School of Design, make for a fabulous neighborhood. And what a fantastic place to stroll to a village-like area of shops and restaurants along Thayer Street, North and South Main Streets, Waterman and Angell Streets.  In a way, you don't even feel like you're in the city; rather, it's like a bustling small college town.

Although I could think of several other neighborhoods in New England that are every bit as nice as College Hill, the American Planning Association made a nice choice here!

A "Nacho" Above the Rest at the Ninety Nine Restaurant in Billerica, Mass.

The Ninety Nine Restaurants chain set a Guinness Book of World Records achievement for building the world's largest nachos with a weight of 3,999 lbs. (notice the "99" in the total weight?) at its Billerica, Mass., restaurant. What a great idea to kick off Boys and Girls Club Fundraising month by raising $2,000 with this event.

The Boston Channel reports that four teams of five people created the larger than life nachos plate with 1,105 lbs. of nachos, 825 lbs. of Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses (melted using oversized torch guns!), 439 lbs. of cheese sauce, 451 lbs. of salsa, 459 lbs. of chili, 199 lbs. of jalapeño peppers, 90 lbs. of diced red onion, 421 lbs. of sour cream, and 8 lbs. of chopped cilantro.

Holy molecular gastronomy! Kudos to the Ninety Nine Restaurants Executive Chef George Tagareli and staff for creating this plate that benefits the Boys and Girls Club in their fundraising efforts.

Idyllic Grafton, Vt., Rebounding Nicely from Hurricane Irene Floods

Grafton, Vt., is perhaps the most idyllic Vermont community, in my mind. There's so little here, but, ultimately, this community has everything you could ever want as a Vermont traveler looking for a true getaway -- a classic old inn (the Grafton Inn), a few shops to enjoy (including the phenomenal Grafton Village Cheese), a covered bridge, tree-lined streets to stroll and beautiful southern Vermont mountain views. Unlike some of the fabricated, superficial Vermont towns (you know, restored to look more like an outdoor museum than a real town), Grafton is the real deal.  It was so sad for us to hear how the community was greatly damaged by a flood, due to August's Hurricane Irene. Most of the downtown district escaped harm, as the outskirts received the brunt of the violent storm's damaging effects. However, Grafton has made a rapid recovery -- fantastic news for the residents as well as travelers looking for that fall foliage magic in the area. Amazing the community has rebounded so quickly, given the stories we were hearing not too long along from the local and national news.

I recently received an email from Julia Lyon, of People Making Good (a PR firm out of Burlington, Vt.) describing Grafton's comeback:

After experiencing devastating flooding resulting from hurricane Irene, Grafton Village Cheese and the town of Grafton, VT have recovered at an astonishing speed and are in the midst of a spectacular fall foliage season. Grafton Village Cheese has been the maker of world-class artisanal cheddar for over a century, and the creamery is proud to be back to hand-making their traditional cheddars as well as aging their new varieties in the cheese cave.

And here is some additional info Julia sent us on Grafton Village Cheese:

With plenty of time until Vermont’s foliage season begins, Grafton Village Cheese of Grafton, VT has fully recovered from the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene that recently affected the area. The cheese creamery and village of Grafton were able to pull together quickly to rectify any and all damages. Grafton Village Cheese’s retail stores in Brattleboro and Grafton are both open for business. The scheduled milk deliveries are now back in place allowing for both locations to be handmaking cheese, including usage of the cave aging facility at the Grafton location. 

The main points of access, Route 35, Route 30 and Route 121 in and out of Grafton, VT are open.

This is just great, great news! We hope you can check out Grafton, Vt. It's a true New England gem of a community, and we're so happy to hear that our New England neighbors up there are doing so much better!

The Amazing Loch Lomond

Many of us live in cities with all the crowds, stress, noise and dirt in the environment. Most probably we have not often come across nature, searched for it or even be one with it. But there is this marvelous place in central Scotland that will surely blow you away; a dream place for those wanting to escape from a boring and almost monotonous pace of city life.

With exuding natural beauty of a 24-mile-long freshwater lake interspersed with picturesque islands, diverse landscapes and medieval castles, all these existing components makes up the lovable loch that we call, the Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond is a freshwater Scottish “loch” lying on the Highland Boundary Fault, the boundary between the lowlands and highlands of Central Scotland. Measuring 27 and a half square miles, it is the largest single inland waterway in Great Britain (by surface area), the second largest lake in Scotland and most probably the most famous lake after Loch Ness. It is now part of the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, Scotland's first national park and most spectacular visitor destination. The loch has 30 or more other islands, some so small that they disappear when the water levels are high, and others large enough to be (sparsely) inhabited. One of the loch's islands, Inchmurrin is the largest island in the British Isles, while Inchconnachan island is home to a colony of wallaby (marsupial), its young is known as “joey” just like many other marsupials.

The very name Loch Lomond depicts nothing but nature in perfection. The main tourist focus is on the western shore, around Balloch. This is the place to head for boat trips and home of the Maid of the Loch, an authentic paddle steamer and utterly unique venue for events and functions. Further, development is attracting large numbers of visitor like the this magnificent addition to the area, the Mull Railway, which will link Balloch and Loch Lomond Shores. Also on the western side are the villages of Arden, Tarbet and most northerly, Adlui. Arden boasts Scotland's most beautiful Youth Hostel. The most picturesque of the loch's villages is Luss on the west bank. Its streets are laid out in a linear pattern and were originally part of the planned estate village built by the Colquhouns. Recently restored, they present a pretty sight.

The loch is one of the country's premier boating and water sports venues. It is open to every kind of watercraft including kayaks, canoes, wind-surfers, jet skis, speedboats and cruisers. Having said all these, Loch Lomond presents the perfect retreat for the young, the old, the busy people who deserve to enjoy or get a life!

Coastal New England during the Fall Season

Nubble Lighthouse in the early evening -- amazing! (photo by Eric)
Don't forget about coastal New England during the fall season!

We tend to think of the mountains in New England as the place to take in the fall colors of New England. It's true that you'll get a higher concentration of fall foliage in these regions. We find, however, that visiting places like southern Maine during the fall makes for just as fun of a time. The summer crowds lessen greatly and many of the shops and restaurants are still open for the season. If you're lucky, you'll catch a fall harvest event, thus adding to the overall grand feeling of being by the coast.

Virtually empty Short Sands Beach (photo by Eric)
We love York Beach, Maine, during the fall. On a good weather day, it's nice walking Short Sands Beach or Long Sands Beach and virtually having the beach to yourself. Or sitting on the rocky coast and gazing at Nubble Lighthouse -- one of America's most photographed lighthouses. We've also seen some decent fall foliage in this area, but that's not the real star of the show. Rather, it's just enjoying the coast in some good weather -- and before the harsh winter begins. In a way, it's like holding onto the last legs of summer, and that's always a good thing when in New England!

Compare hotel prices in York, Maine

50 Fun Travel Ideas for the New England Fall Foliage Season

Chocorua Lake. Photo credit:
Lawrence Carbonaro
Here are 50 New England fall foliage season destinations, attractions, restaurants and hotels for your trip planning purposes. Please feel free to add your favorite fall travel things to do in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont! Together, we can build an incredible list!

1. Pick apples at Belkin Lookout Farm, Natick, Mass:

2. Take a scenic New England fall foliage driving route: 

3. Discover some of New England's best fall foliage in Maine:

4. Enjoy apple picking, apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream and a general store at Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass.:

5. Visit the Shaker Hill Fall Apple Festival, Sept. 24-25 in Alfred, Maine:

6. Take a walk around Walden Pond in Concord, Mass.:

7. Get a taste of true apple cider at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Vt.:

8. Take in the million dollar views at low-cost Pack Monadnock Summit, Peterborough, N.H.:

9. See an amazing pumpkin Patch at Adams Farm in Cumberland, R.I.:

10. Ride the Conway Scenic Railway in Conway, N.H., for great views of the New England fall foliage season:

11. View some of the best New England fall foliage at the famous Kancamagus Scenic Byway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire:

12. Visit the Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vt., to experience an authentic New England country store in a beautiful town:

13. Hike Mt. Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, Mass., for some splendid fall foliage views:

14. Enjoy a peaceful day in Wrentham, Mass., northern Rhode Island, and the northeast Connecticut area:

15. Dine at the scenic 1761 Old Mill in Westminster, Mass., for some excellent New England fare:

16. Stay at the Stoweflake inn in beautiful Stowe, Vt.:

17. Find a hidden gem of a walk at the Walpole Town Forest in Walpole, Mass.:

18. Enjoy the sweeping views of the Mt. Washington Valley at the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield, N.H.:

19. Discover Vermont for its rural beauty:

20. Take a scenic motorcycle fall foliage ride in Central Massachusetts and Northeast Connecticut:

21. Visit Pleasant View Orchards, a classic roadside farm stand in Smithfield, R.I.:

22. Stay at the Bethel Inn, a charming resort in inland Bethel, Maine (the foliage is great here!) that has been serving the vacationing public since 1913:

23. Pick some apples at the Big Apple farm in Wrentham, Mass. This is an old-fashioned working American farm in business since 1950 and a rural community travel attraction on over 200 serene acres:

24. Take in classic fall travel attractions at Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire:

25. Splurge on luxurious lodging at the Wheatleigh in Lenox (the Berkshire Mountains):

26. Navigate a tricky corn patch at Jane and Paul's Farm in Norfolk, Mass.:

27. Take the Road Less Taken in the New England Autumn:

28. Enjoy Stowe, Vt., on a budget with these affordable travel attractions:

29. Get in the fall spirit at Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, N.H.:

30. New England towns perfect for staying overnight or for an extended time during the New England fall foliage season:

31. Stroll through Walpole N.H., a quintessential New England town:

32. Have fun at The Big E New England States Fair:

33. Dine by fireside at the historic Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, Mass.:

34. Hike through some beautiful forest at Hale Reservation in Westwood, Mass.:

35. Gaze at the innate beauty of Echo Lake in Franconia Notch, N.H.:

36. Be amazed at the variety of pumpkins available at the Epiphany Church of Walpole Fall Fair in Walpole, Mass.:

37. Stay at the Mountain Top Inn and Resort in Chittenden, Vt., with its breathtaking views: 

38. Enjoy a fall family vacation at the Red Jacket Mountain View and Indoor Water Park in North Conway, N.H. (in the White Mountains):

39. Dine at the historic, casual Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret, Conn., one of New England most beautiful small towns:

40. Stay at the 4-star Inns at the Equinox in charming Manchester, Vt., at the base of Mount Equinox.

41. Visit Brown and Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet, R.I., one of the oldest continuously operating country stores in the United States:

42. Dine and lodge at the historic Concord's Colonial Inn in Concord, Mass.:

43. Eat at one of the great New England diners -- the Miss Lyndonville Diner -- in Lyndonville, Vt.: Located in the Northeast Kingdom you're also sure to find some spectacular foliage in this region during the peak season!

44. Visit Jackson, N.H., a truly picturesque, idyllic New England town:

45. Stay a while at picture perfect Chocorua Lake in Tamworth, N.H.:

46. Enjoy a family resort vacation at Woodward's in Lincoln, N.H., near many White Mountains attractions:

48. Stroll the Currier and Ives-like downtown in Keene, N.H.:

49. Stop by Phantom Farms in Cumberland, R.I., for some apple picking, fall harvest events, apple cider, and a visit to the yummy bake shop:

50. Stay at the Lodge of Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine, located in a setting of unspoiled natural beauty:

Lake Nakuru in Kenya Africa

Situated in the heart of the Great Rift Valley 160 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, Lake Nakuru is a bird watcher's paradise. A unique game-viewing venue and a notable spot for the Rothschild giraffe and home to the black and white rhinos. The lake is world-famous as the location of the “greatest bird spectacle on earth” by renowned ornithologist Roger Peterson, for its spectacular bird life particularly the myriads of flamingos that congregate the shallow soda lake together with tens of thousands of other bird species. Lake Nakuru is one of the world's première wildlife destinations.

Lake Nakuru was declared a national park in 1961 and covers 188 square kilometers of land of great ecological diversity - from lake water, woodland, bush grassland, to rocky ridges. It is the most accessible and most visited of the soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley. The national park was created mainly to protect the flocks of flamingos and other species in the hills and plains around the lake. Its algae-soaked waters attract the millions of lesser flamingos and the greater flamingos in the park that turn the shores pink.

Apart from the spectacle of the flamingoes, Lake Nakuru National Park offers its visitors great wildlife - a special sighting at the park is a number of rare Rothschild giraffe, trans-located for safety from western Kenya beginning in 1977. Moreover, Lake Nakuru National Park has recently expanded to include a large part of the savannahs to accommodate and provide a sanctuary for both white and the rare black rhino. The park boasts the most number of leopard per square kilometer than any park in Africa. Because of the park's proximity to nearby towns, the park is fenced to prevent the animals from wandering into town and most especially to keep the poachers out, not restricting the movement of wildlife. Nakuru officially became the shelter for protection for these endangered animals in 1987.

At the park, you will also see a healthy population of predators like lions and hyenas, black and white colobus monkeys, hippo and crocodiles, zebra and fish eagles, antelope and buffalo and large-sized python snakes that dwell the dense woodlands. The best vantage point to track the lake shore and watch huge flocks of feeding flamingos is from the Baboon Cliff. Other viewing spots are from Lion Hill and Out of Africa.

Thus, this lake offers one of the world's most spectacular wildlife sights. So if you are looking for the best possible wildlife photography opportunities, Lake Nakuru is the perfect place to be as animals are never out of sight. And if you still have the luxury of time, an overnight stay in here, will definitely complete your safari travel adventure.



Five New England Restaurants Perfect for the Fall Season

1761 Old Mill restaurant, Westminster, Mass.
Perhaps it's a mix of location, dining atmosphere and foods compatible with autumn, but I have found the following restaurants as ideal destinations during the fall season:

Salem Cross Inn West Brookfield, Mass. -- The historic home, roaring fireplace, post and beam design, rolling green fields outside and some delicious Yankee fare make the Salem Cross Inn an ideal fall dining spot, situated in the beautiful New England town of West Brookfield. Love the maple jack chicken sauteed with Applewood bacon scallions and sundried tomatoes. The chicken is then topped with Monterey jack cheese and a dijon mustard sauce. Yum!

The 1761 Old Mill, Westminster, Mass. -- This former saw mill features a waterfall, covered bridge, duck pond, long outdoor front porch and on the inside, a roaring fireplace (do I detect a pattern here?) and charming post and beam dining rooms. The steak, seafood and chicken dishes are quite good, although not up to par with the Salem Cross Inn. The best bet is the extensive Sunday morning brunch that includes some delicious popovers and some very nicely done chicken and seafood items. There's also a really good country store on the lower level!

Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret, Conn. This restored 1740s farmhouse is so cozy! Owners Barry & Brian Jessurun run this restaurant with pride and joy -- the farthest thing from just another generic big box restaurant. The comfort food breakfast, lunch and dinner items are amongst the best we've ever experienced. All this, plus folk entertainment at night! The atmosphere is just right -- informal, pleasant and with rural and modern charm combined. The location is fantastic, too, right in the heart of Pomfret, a quintessential small New England town. My favorite dish is the smoked mozzarella and basil ravioli with a cream sauce, asparagus, and roasted red peppers. If I had to take an out of town guest to a local restaurant, the Vanilla Bean Cafe would be it!

Parker's Maple Barn, Mason, N.H. Rustic and located in a remote area, this busy country restaurant serves huge breakfasts, very tasty lunches and a lot of items made with maple syrup. I love the maple ribs. maple frappe and fresh roast turkey dinner here. On the premises, there's also a gift shop. The area countryside with deep forest, lakes and ponds is a amazingly scenic destination during the fall foliage season.

Clay Hill Farm, Cape Neddick, Maine This special "date night" caliber restaurant is not located near the ocean, but rather in some beautiful countryside. Located in a rambling, restored and refined farmhouse, Clay Hill Farm offers modern cuisine without the stuffiness that sometimes mars upscale restaurants. They source many of their food  locally, and you can taste it in the greens and other vegetables. Clay Hill Farm also offers some very pleasant piano entertainment at night.  I've had lobster bisque, roasted half duckling (with merlot blueberry sauce) and grilled salmon that makes me wish this restaurant was located closer to our Boston area home. We'd be there as often as our budget allows!

Lake Garda in Italy

“Discovering this idyllic place, we find ourselves filled with a yearning to linger here, where time stands still and beauty overwhelms.” Whoever said this must have seen wonders beyond what man can afford with his ingenuity. So when in Italy, stop and stare on the peaceful and breathtaking Alpine scenery reflecting in the still, delicate waters of Lake Garda.

Lake Garda or Lago di Garda or Benaco is the largest inland lake situated in a beautiful area in northern Italy between Venice and Milan and split among three regions: Lombardy on the western shore, Veneto on the eastern shore, and Trentino-Alto Adige on the northern shores. A lake that boasts more than 48 kilometers of beaches from north to south and a scenic view of the cue misty mountain tops and bright bursts of bougainvillea is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque parts of Italy.

The formation of Lake Garda dates back around 1.5 million years ago during the last Ice Age. When a large mound of glacier spilled on a flat land next to a valley and flowed down from the Brenta Dolomites and gouged through the valley. Once the glacier melted the fresh water, a lake was formed which we now know as Lake Garda.

The lake also has numerous small islands and five main ones, the largest being Isola del Garda and nearby to the south is Isola San Biagio. The three other main islands are Isola dell'Olivo, Isola di Sogno and Isola di Timelone, all further north near the east side.

As the largest of the lakes, Lake Garda offers much to see and do – including deep blue waters, green forests, towering mountains, and picturesque towns. Luxury hotels and resorts that cater to both local and foreign tourists, dot the shoreline of the lake as well. It should come to no surprise why this place is the most visited lakes in Italy. Moreover, Lake Garda is a true outdoor fitness center where all sorts of “active sports” can be enjoyed. Many tourists visit the lake for the extraordinary opportunities the lake offers on its waters and throughout the inland area. The clear waters of the lake is perfect for swimming in summer and many popular sports such as windsurfing and sailing. Malcesine, Riva, Gardone, Brenzone, Caprino Veronese and Spiazzi are also excellent for mountain-hiking and biking and Canyoning and other outdoor sports providing panoramic views of the area.

Finally, a visit to this region is a delight to the taste buds – pasta, fresh tomatoes, the highly aromatic Italian basil, and the most glorious olive oil completes the whole package of pleasure. Lake Garda is definitely one difficult place to beat.