Friday, August 17, 2012

Affordable American Adventures

I recently discovered a book that should be on the bookshelf of every budget traveller in North America. It’s called “100 Best Affordable Vacations,” by Jane Wooldridge and Larry Bleiberg, published by National Geographic.

If you’ve become cynical about travel in North America (guilty, Your Honour) and think it’s nothing but Interstate highways, overpriced Disneyfied attractions and people telling you to have a nice day, this book will make you think twice. From state parks to YMCA camps, Kentucky’s bourbon trail to Alberta’s icefields, a learning vacation in Maine to a minor league baseball game, it offers something to pique the interest of even the most jaded traveller.

A number of the entries are things I have actually done or places I have visited, although often back in the mists of time. For instance, Bardstown, Kentucky was a vacation spot with my parents when I was a kid. It’s a quintessential small American town with an unusual history. It is the site of the first Catholic church in the United States west of the Alleghany mountains, and the place where the pretender to the French throne who later became King Louis Philippe spent a winter with some of his followers. I remember staying at an old stagecoach inn where they showed us some quite good murals painted by the Frenchmen while they were trapped in the remote town by snow, or so the story went.

Researching Bardstown led me look into Berea, Kentucky, another interesting childhood holiday haunt, this time much closer to the mountains. It is the site of Berea College, still a tuition-free educational institution for underprivileged kids from across the United States, and of a charming southern-style hotel associated with the college. Berea is known for its crafts, some of which are produced by students.

I was pleased to see that some of these places and attractions I enjoyed in the past are still around, and I’ll be telling you about more of them in subsequent posts.

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