Rockport Massachusetts – A Sparkling Coastal Gem

Rockport, Massachusetts, known as the “Crown Jewel of the Massachusetts Coastline,” reflects the sparkle and charm of its generous, well-lit carets in the mirror-clear waters of its shoreline and beaches. Facing east is Front Beach, an active, popular spot on Sandy Bay. Off Thatcher Road you’ll find Long Beach-a well protected and lengthy stretch of inviting ocean-teased sand. Located on Beach Street between Main and Granite, Back Beach provides a breathtaking ocean view as you bask in the radiance of its near-white sunlight. Known for its quiet solitude, Cape Hedge Beach at South Street invites you to leave all else behind. A convenient walk from town, yet private and somewhat secluded, is Old Garden Beach-a rather small, intimate and welcoming retreat. For all those who cherish the benefits of reflexology, Pebble Beach (at the end of South Street) is completely covered with smooth, round pebbles and stones. Here, you can walk safely and healthfully, rejuvenated and renewed from the seaside stroll.

Thatcher Island’s Twin Lighthouses, built and first lit in 1789, stand tall as the longest surviving multiple lighthouses on the entire U.S. coastline. Built in 1835, the Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse announces the entrance to Rockport Harbor. Its stalwart beam can be sighted easily from the end of downtown Rockport’s Bearskin Neck. As in many historical seaside communities, lighthouses play major parts in both factual and legendary reports and accounts.

Rockport is home to many charming Bed & Breakfast / Inns. For example, as a guest at the Seven South Street Inn B&B, you’ll enjoy friendly, warm hospitality in a calm, relaxed atmosphere. At the Old Farm Inn located on Granite Street on Cape Ann’s rugged coastline, you’ll find yourself surrounded by five acres of lush green landscape enhanced by plentiful birch trees and flowers. Nearby is the breathtaking coastal terrain of Halibut Point State Park. Or, you may prefer The Inn on Cove Hill in the center of town. This historical site was built in the late 1700s and provides its guests with vivid memories of its colorful past.

Nestled on Pigeon Hill Street is one of Rockport’s major attractions-the Paper House, built in 1922 by Elis F. Stenman. A mechanical engineer and designer, Mr. Stenman’s paper house project began as a hobby. Although the paper was intended for insulation, the entire structure and its furniture were constructed of paper.

Located on Bearskin Neck, the well-known fishing shack has become one of the world’s most famous and easily recognizable structures, especially to artists and arts enthusiasts.

Artists and photographers are plentiful among Rockport residents, and many more visit frequently to capture the brilliant coastal color scheme enhanced by the crisp, pristine New England seaside sunlight. A stroll through town will delight art lovers, as galleries abound displaying works from a multitude of artistic schools and styles-all depicting the awesome splendor of this jewel-lined, charismatic coastline and community. Main Street is home to numerous galleries, including An Artful Touch, Anderson Gallery of Fine Art, Ken Knowles, Mercury, and Mosher. On Bearskin Neck, you’ll find the Kanegis, R. Lerch, and Muse galleries. Also located on Main Street is the Rockport Art Association, devoted to the preservation and development of the visual arts.

The new Shalin Liu Performance Center, named for its generous donor, will be the creative home to many excellent, exciting and innovative performances, including those of the highly acclaimed Rockport Chamber Music Festival, led by Artistic Director David Deveau since 1995. This new venue will facilitate new additions to the festival, such as a jazz series, world music performances, children’s concerts, and extended educational partnerships with local schools.

The story of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts on Granite Street is truly one of artistic innovation. In 1967, Herbert and Ina Hahn bought the last remaining farm in Pigeon Cove, two miles north of Rockport. In less than a year, they transformed the land and buildings into a beautiful miniature New England village-a performing arts camp for teenage girls. The camp was named “Windhover,” the title of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about a falcon airborne and hovering against the wind, symbolizing man’s soaring imagination and art’s spiritual quest. Windhover became a non-profit foundation in 1983, and in 1986 completed the transition from arts camp to performing arts center. Along with focusing on creating dance and dance/drama reflecting the community, Windhover Dance Company is devoted to re-constructing and performing the works of two pioneer choreographers in the field of modern dance-Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

Rockport restaurants, famous for their splendid waterfront views-especially at sunset-serve fabulous fresh seafood, as well as a varied menu to please many palates. The Greenery at Dock Square offers a gorgeous harbor view along with a versatile menu, excellent grilled fish and lobster, and delicious homemade desserts. At Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant on Main Street you’ll choose from a large menu while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze. Ellen’s Harborside, located on Historic T Wharf with its panoramic view of Rockport Harbor, serves highly acclaimed chowders and seafood, as well as Tender Pit BBQ Ribs. Also, along with your meal, Ellen’s is currently offering your favorite wines and spirits. (As history tells it, back in 1856, the “Hatchet Gang” organized by Hannah Jumper, a spinster and seamstress, ran the “demon rum” out of town. This event left Rockport a dry town until April, 2005, when a vote by Rockport residents overturned this 149-year-old “tradition.” At present, several Rockport restaurants are licensed to offer alcoholic beverages along with meals.)

Of course, after lingering over food and drink at seaside, you’ll want to stroll through town and browse in its many unique and enchanting shops. At Bearskin Neck Leathers you’ll be delighted with the large selection of fine leather goods, including jackets, handbags and footwear. Nearby is Earth’s Treasures, with an appealing display of international products such as handcrafted jewelry, Himalayan salt lamps, incense, candles, gemstones, books and CDs. Then, visit the Blue Gate Gardens on Main Street where the florist and greenhouse provide the very finest choice of plants and flowers.

The two main early industries of Rockport on Cape Ann were fishing and the stone quarry business. This rock-bound cape, once host to countless ship wrecks, now warmly welcomes visitors as its treasured guests-whether they arrive by land, by sea or hydroplane. You really must visit soon! Until then, this sparkling jewel glistens from the golden crown of its sunlit beaches, teasing you toward a taste of its rocky, rugged legends; smooth sifting sand; cool, soothing sea tides; and its own very special brand of New England coastal charm. General source: Rockport Chamber of Commerce (a division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce): Travel Guide for Gloucester & Cape Ann, MA, 2006-2008.

Copyright 2008 – Ellen Gilmer

Yarra Valley: Melbourne’s Sweet And Sparkling Sensation

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when Melbourne is mentioned? FOOD! Yes, this Victorian City is screaming restaurants as its offers the best food choices with the ambiance of your choice from European to Asian. In accordance to enjoyment of the best food choices, indulge into the best wine in all variety there is.

In the outer suburbs of Melbourne lies the Yarra Valley which is the wine region that can be visited and explored in a one day wine tour. Included in the list of its famous wines are Chardonnay’s, Shiraz and Cabernets, Bianchet, and Mas Serrat to name a few. In order to experience the Yarra Valley Wine at its finest and understand how it came to be, plan a wine tour. Throughout the day, you’ll be guided by a real wine expert, experience cellar door tasting at Yering Station, Yering Farm, and Rochford Wines.

As you immersed yourself to one of the world’s primary grape-growing region, you’ll feel like you’re in the setting of the movie “A Walk in the Clouds”. Yarra Valley has Victoria’s earliest vineyards. The earliest being planted at Yering Station in 1838 and has spread rapidly until the 1870’s. There was a period of which dairy products became the primary focus so the wine production ceased in 1921. However, it regained its importance and replanting began in the late 1960’s. At present, the Yarra Valley is recognized by the world as a primary producer of world class wines in all varieties. It offers sparkling wines at its finest.

Imagine yourself learning from the experts of wines and the art of wine tasting with one of the world’s prominent producers of best wines. You can pick your preferred glass of wine and bring it to lunch and dine in a restaurant surrounded by the glorious valley with rolling hills nurtured by the Yarra River. That is what I call a learning experience in classic relaxation.

Have you ever thought about what makes a wine sparkle? And to top it off, how come aged wine tastes better? In Australia, winemakers aim to pick their grapes at 17 to 20 degrees brix in order to avoid high sugar levels. High sugar levels in grapes more often than not produces still wines as opposed to decreased levels of sugars. As the fermentation process ensues, the bubbles are produced by the amount of the carbon gas that the process creates. This actually causes weak glass bottles to burst even prior to opening. Also this carbonic gas makes that cork-popping a fun moment when opening a bottle of wine for celebration.

In the subject of aging wines, aged-wine tastes better only if it has that balance of grape tannins, acidity, and fruit. In other words, not all aged-wines taste better, but if a wine has the perfect combination of components, the process of aging makes it bolder and richer in taste, flavor, and scent. This basically creates the notion that aged-wine has the upper hand of the younger one. So the next time you were offered a wine, you’ll know what to choose after the wonderful Yarra Valley tour!

Senior Group Travel Tours in Wine Country

In the rolling hills of Northern California, Napa Valley is picturesque, making it a prime vacation destination. During the fall, the mountainous terrain is covered with various hues of yellow, orange, and red-the perfect autumn setting. For food and wine lovers alike, Napa Valley, the food and wine capital of America, has the best of both to offer. From countless restaurants and bed and breakfasts set between wineries and vineyards is the perfect setting for a senior trip.

One convenient way to enjoy the best of Napa is taking a wine tour. There are many companies that offer discounted senior group tasting tours. The specifications for the tours vary by company; most, however, stop at five wineries by way of private car, bus, or limousine. Routes often vary-some tours begin with a ferry ride from San Francisco while others begin in Sonoma Valley. Public and private tours are both widely offered for senior tours. Private tours have the advantage of being customized. This may be appealing to those who are making return trips to this senior travel destination.

Another tour offered in Napa Valley is the wine train. This train offers a unique experience to visitors who are able to eat either gourmet lunch or dinner accompanied by fabulous wine while touring wine country.

If tours are not your style and you’d rather take a leisurely customized visit to Napa I have included some of the top rated wineries.

The Kuleto Estate Winery

This secluded estate winery founded in 1992 by restaurateur Pat Kuleto offers tours by reservation only. Tours are led by wine educators that feature current wine releases with cheese pairings. This vineyard is respected for its exclusivity as well as its highly rated wines.

The Beaulieu Vineyard

This century old vineyard has a legacy of benchmark wines. Known for its years of innovation in the wine making process, Beaulieu was responsible for the oak barrel aging process. This traditional vineyard is a must see. Visitor offerings include a variety of tours and tastings fitting every budget. A group may reserve a room or table and select the type of tasting experience they would like to experience, from cabernet tasting to a retrospective reserve tasting.

Domaine Chandon

Primarily known for its sparkling wines, champagne, and restaurant, Domaine Chandon offers many tour and tasting options as well as a package in cooperation with the Hilton and the wine train. Chandon offers many events throughout the year as well. Planning a visit here to taste the sparkling rose Chandon is a necessity.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Founded in the 1970s, the Joseph Phelps Vineyard has already produced 30 vintages receiving ratings over 90. This winery is known for its seclusion and attention to detail and intimacy in the wine making process. Many tour and tasting options are available.

The Robert Mondavi Winery

For those seeking to tour a larger more widely known winery, the Robert Mondavi estate fits the bill. This winery offers several art collections ranging from sculptor to painting collections as well as several exhibits. The Mondavi estate is also a popular event location. Tours and tastings range from wine education to food and wine tours.

There are many wineries and restaurants of interest in the Napa and Sonoma Valley areas. To plan a vacation that you can truly enjoy, be sure to do plenty of research! Look up your favorite type of wine and wineries in the area that are known for its production. Visits to Napa can be very leisurely making it a great destination for seniors who can take their time to relax, eat good food, and drink great wine.