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Travel

Food & Foliage at Nancy’s Airfield Cafe

As a mom who loves good food and a cool experience, I’m pretty open to dining adventures that allow my kids to be included.  This weekend, we celebrated my husband’s birthday with lunch & extended family at Nancy’s Airfield Cafe in Stowe, MA. We loved every buzz and bite that came our way.

After a ride along the foliage filled backroads that left me mesmerized we wound our way to Nancy’s Airfield Cafe.  Situated at the edge of Minuteman Airfield,  Nancy’s offers aviation aficionados the opportunity to watch aircraft depart and arrive at this small air field while enjoying a hot meal and cool cocktail. Ideally situated for arrival by car or aircraft, this dining destination will have those who came by car rubbing elbows with those who made Nancy’s part of their leisurely flight.

The quaint interior is filled with country charm. From the artwork for sale on the walls to the simple tables set to allow guests to catch sight of the aircraft coming and going, the simplicity of Nancy’s lures in locals who regularly make this a must for breakfast and lunch.

Lines around the corner are a normal part of dining at Nancy’s where reservations are not allowed (although large parties are encouraged to call) and 10 is tops for those seeking seating together. If dining with kids be warned that the best seating is in the exterior room on the runway. However, children are not allowed to be seated in that room due to an unlocked emergency door that opens onto the runway (apparently too many kids have tried to escape). Topping out this week with our party of 10, we were seated within the interior space of Nancy’s where the windows offer obstructed views of the choppers and planes parking on-site.

Expecting little of the food at a place that pride’s itself on its location, I was more than pleased by my meal. I took a chance ordering a specialty cocktail, hoping that at it’s $9 price tag it would please my picky palate. And it did, just strong enough my gin based libation was tart and refreshing with little sweetness; I enjoyed it so much I ordered a second.

After skimming the regular menu and specials I decided on something I would not typically order- bratwurst on a pretzel roll. For $14 two hearty sausages, topped with sauerkraut and mustard arrived with a few pickles on the side.  A bit too much for me, I quickly passed one to someone with more of an appetite and set to work enjoying what was on my plate. The meat was juicy, and full of flavor with just enough topping to enhance the flavor and just enough bread to enjoy the juice. I ate every last bite and left feeling comfortably full. Those with me ordered an array of dishes ranging from lamb burgers  to breakfast favorites like pancakes and egg sandwiches. Everyone left happy.

When the kids got restless and their food was gone a few adults brought them to the small expanse of lawn in front of the landing strip to run around while we finished our drinks and payed the bill. At that point, it was clear Nancy was ready to turn the table; upon seeing part of our party depart, she rushed over to request we relinquish one one of the tables we were using so she could set up another party. One can’t fault her as many of those lined up had hungry kids in tow and no chance of being seated in the other room so we happily obliged and made our way outside for goodbyes.

Much to our pleasure, a helicopter had landed on the lawn mid lot and our final treat was a close encounter of departure, which left the kids cheering and the adults happy to have successfully made it through a meal in a restaurant as a family without any tears (from kids or adults).

-Filling your desire to dine one family friendly spot at a time, Jess

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6 Tips Every Parent Needs to Tackle Story Land

Before you head to New Hampshire’s Story Land take advantage of these 6 tips that will make your day in the amusement park more enjoyable.Mother Goose

  1. Plan for a weekday during July and August– Located int he White Mountains of New Hampshire the heat of the summer months allows you to maximize time on the rides. Often jam-packed on weekends, the long lines wreak havoc on impatient little ones; make your day better by going on a weekday.
  2. Pre-Order & Pre-Print tickets- Arrive with your tickets in hand and you’ll enjoy a quick and easy entry upon your arrival. It’s much quicker to scan a ticket than process a payment so even when the line wraps around the corner you’ll be through the gates in no time.The itsy bitsy spider
  3. Arrive at Opening- Story Land opens at 9:30am, get there as it opens to optimize your parking options and enjoy minimum ride lines. You’re early arrival really pays off as you’ll get to complete the entire park in one day.
  4. Head to the popular rides first- Rides like the Roar-O-Saurus draw crowds of big kids and excited parents as it’s the largest coaster in the park; head directly there when that section opens at 10am and you’ll be able to ride several times before the crowds flock to this section of the park. Other rides that find themselves with long lines include the Bamboo Chutes (log flume), Dr. Geyser’s Remarkable Raft Ride, the Polar Coaster and Cinderella’s Pumpkin Coach (Cinderella is only at the castle certain hours; if you’re cutting it close to break time walk to the castle and take the Pumpkin Coach back as the line moves very slowly).IMG_0482
  5. Bring Food- You can bring food into the park, which is a life saver for parents who have kids with food allergies or dietary restrictions (or have dietary restrictions themselves). Pack a simple snack or lunch that can easily be eaten without refrigeration or heating. There are plenty of food vendors available for purchasing treats, drinks and meals within the park and Story Land posts an ingredient guide.
  6. Wear quick drying clothes- Many of Story Land’s rides are going to get you wet, if you want to dry quickly dress in garments that won’t remain soggy all day long. Although bathing suits work for kids (or as shorts for men with t-shirts), it’s best to have on a bit more when wandering the park as ride seats get hot and shade is limited.Getting wet

Check out more Story Land and area tips here.

-Setting out to save parents from screaming kids one ride at a time, Jess

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3 Days on Nantucket with Kids During the Off-Season

Amazing Matriarch’s Guide: Off-Season on Nantucket with kids

White Elephant Residences
White Elephant Residences

When you think of Nantucket hot summer days spent seaside followed by warm summer nights mingling outside come to mind. But Nantucket in the off-season is quite spectacular. With few more than the locals on island, you can get a glimpse of real life on Nantucket, see the sites without the crowds enjoy a meal without fighting for a table, and snag a deal on top notch accommodations.

For three days, we packed one suitcase each and set sail for Nantucket Island. My husband, myself, our 5 and 2 year old embarked on the fast ferry from Hyannis to the docks of Nantucket on a chilly spring afternoon. Our adventure began immediately as the unexpected rough seas had the kids referring to Kwazi on Octonauts each time the boat bumped and jumped. Happy to disembark, this final boat arriving for the day (the seas were deemed too rough), we were warmly welcomed to Nantucket and rapidly whisked to our hotel.

The White Elephant is known as a harbor side, high-end, family friendly resort and our stay proved its worth. Located blocks from Downtown Nantucket, this resort is in a prime location for walking, allowing you to leave your car parked (or off island), and without the hassle of navigating traffic (even in mid April it increased as the week wore on) or finding parking. Staying outside of the Hotel and Inn itself, at the White Elephant Residences, our lodging more closely resembled an apartment, ensuring our family could spread out and enjoy our stay on Nantucket, even if the weather kept us inside. The two bedroom unit offered ample space for our family of four, and we sure did make use of it.

Whaling Museum
Whaling Museum

With two bedrooms the kids bunked up, enjoying a sibling sleepover all three evenings: movies in bed, staying up late talking and waking far too early; they had a blast in their shared bedroom. They both used it separately when quiet playtime and rest were on their mind. Best of all, they eagerly awaited the trinket placed on their pillow each night by the White Elephant staff- a stuffed elephant upon arrival, one lobster that evening and a whale the another, and I eagerly awaited watching the giddy excitement when they found their treasures.

Fully opening for the season the week we arrived, the White Elephant proved itself to be a well-oiled machine. Functioning as if it had been at full speed all winter, the concierge offered plenty of suggestions, including a sheet highlighting island events the week we were there, earmarked with ideas for entertaining the kids throughout the week. Best of all, they provided us with two guides geared towards kids about Nantucket.

Library time
Library time

The Nantucket Kids Adventure Guide was invaluable. It offered so many ideas for exploring the island that we could not possibly complete all that appealed to us on this one visit. Listing everything from playground guides to hiking trails to warnings, this book could have entertained us for weeks. The Look Book was a little old for, but still big hit with, my 5 year old son, allowing us to do a treasure hunt of Nantucket’s hot spots.

The library, Atheneum as it’s called, is a short walk from the White Elephant and hosted two activities that my kids still talk about : a sing along and a LEGO challenge. Both free, and requiring tickets or pre-registration,  they were great ways to feel like a part of Nantucket and be indoors. Year-round activities change and are geared towards various ages, but are certainly worth looking into before you head over. I initially came across the Atheneum when doing a Google search in preparation for our trip on the Nantucket Island Events website. Offering a comprehensive calendar listing I was able to simply click on the dates I planned to be on island then further research those of interest.

Children's Beach
Children’s Beach

This website also clued me in on free art projects taking place at the Whaling Museum. A visit to the Whaling Museum, followed by diorama construction and a treasure hunt kept my kids entertained for hours after lunch at the Pharmacy’s old fashioned soda fountain.

Situated right outside the White Elephant, you’ll find a sandy shore for play, Children’s Beach. Home to a seaside playground, and snack shack (which had yet to open) we spent time there each day, sometimes returning multiple times a day. The kids loved digging in the sand, and even testing the still cold from the winter water while the air temp hovered in the mid 50’s. We watched the ferry arrive and lobstermen bring in their haul while climbing, swinging and sliding. Holes were dug, friends were made and the sand in their shoes even made it’s way to the mainland.

Dining on Nantucket is anything but ordinary. A collection of quaint eateries mix with foodie havens bringing locals and visitors a taste of island authenticity as well as trendy tastes. Breakfast was something prepped in our large kitchenette: bagels or cereal, but the rest of the day we dined out. Sandwich shops allowed us to bring back lunch so cranky kids could stick to nap time while the rest of of played games or snuggled on the couch with a movie.

Met on Main
Met on Main

When we dined out, we found ourselves in the midst of a dining culture often reserved for major cities. A family friendly dinner at Nix’s brewpub gave adults a darn good lobster roll while serving kids pizza to their liking. A lunch at Fog Island Cafe had us seated among working locals looking for a great sandwich and even better iced tea.

Hiring a sitter for our final night on Nantucket, we walked around town piping into several popular eateries for drinks and dinner. We kicked off the evening with a drink at Nautilus. With its small dining area, chefs table and bustling bar specializes in small plates and killer drinks. It was difficult to stop at just one cocktail as everything is made fresh and the balance of flavors ensure your cocktail showcases the ingredients within. This pre-reservation pop in gave us a glimpse of the menu and left us planning a return to indulge in dinner.

Dune, was where we found ourselves eating that evening and it lived up to all I’d heard. Overwhelemed by the menu choices, we opted to share what appealed to us. Fresh oysters; perfectly briny and icy cold found their way to our table to start our meal followed by a clam special laced with chorizo in a light and aromatic broth, then came a smoky roast shrimp and grits, fluffily cod and the miso ramen. Glasses of wine were poured and dessert ordered before we walked to our final destination that night.

Cocktail Time
Cocktail Time

LoLa’s hip vibe made their bar extra inviting. Loud music pumping and small groups chatting gave this Nantucket  restaurant the feel of New York City. After a quick nightcap, we turned in for the evening, welcomed back by our sitter who had successfully managed to get our excited kiddos to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Our boat ride home was bittersweet. As we checked out, we saw crowds checking in to take part in Daffodil Weekend. Boarding the fast ferry back to Hyannis, we pledged a return for more off-season fun, maybe in the fall.

 

-Making hot destinations easier to explore with your kiddos, Jess

Let us know how your trip to Nantucket turns out! #amazingmatriarch on social media. Find us on Facebook: at AmazingMatriarch Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  #amazingmatriarch 

April Vacation: Plans in a Pinch

Make the most of your spring break in Boston, without any advanced planning

April may be the height of spring in other parts of the country, but in the northeast, spring’s  just starting. The weather can be fickle making advance planning a bit of a pain when you’ve got the great outdoors on your mind. But don’t fret because there are plenty of plan in advance free options for the matriarch in a pinch.

Check out the Boston Marathon.

The finish line may be the most rowdy and crowded spot along the route with revelers enjoying the lively bar scene that calls Boylston Street home, but the ‘burbs’ offer excellent options for families to sit back, relax and cheer on those completing the 26.2 miles. Pack a picnic (just in case you can’t get food when the wee ones hunger pains kick in), bring a folding chair and set yourself up in one of the town centers that welcome visitors to take in the excitement of the Boston Marathon. Options include:  Ashland, Natick Town Green, Wellesley, or Newton City Hall.

Get cultured at the MFA.

This may not be an outdoor activity, but trekking the kids to a Boston museum from your parking spot, or on the MBTA in the pouring rain is not exactly exciting. Throughout the week of April 20th, 2015, the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) will welcome early art enthusiasts to explore their inner Picasso with activities that make kids feel welcome and excite them about art. All the while allowing you to enjoy a bit of culture without worrying that their behavior will have you banned for life.

Head to a zoo before the summer crowds arrive.

Courtesy of Zoo New England
Courtesy of Zoo New England

Boston’s sprawling urban animal kingdom, Franklin Park Zoo hosts a variety of activities beyond their usual round-up.

Celebrate Earth day on April 24 with a Party for the Planet.  Along with exciting activities, you will learn what you can do to keep Earth happy. The party kicks off at 10:00 a.m. and continues until 3:00 p.m.

Enjoy animal exploration. You’ll be privy to a lesson about a specific animal in a fun, kid friendly way.  April 20 and 22 will find visitors engaged by Linne’s Two-toed Sloth at 10:00 a.m. and the Camel at 1:30 p.m. While April 21 and 23  showcases Tigers at 10:15 a.m. and Kea at 11:00 a.m.

Teens can get hands-on with Zoo New England’s ZooTeens where fun and educational activities are taking place daily from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Courtesy of Zoo New England
Courtesy of Zoo New England

Enjoy the Aussie Aviary kicking off its season just in time for April school vacation week. Open weather permitting from 10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each day this week. Visit with a seedstick in hand (available for purchase); meander through brightly colored budgies in an interactive space and you may just create a landing zone for birds to visit directly with you.

For a mere $5 fee (in addition to zoo admission)  you can head off to Africa, on a motion simulator ride that takes you on a 6D high-speed chase to capture poachers. Making your way amongst wildlife like elephants and wildebeest you’ll work with rangers to return a baby rhino to his mother.

Visit the Stone Zoo April 20 – 24, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and go beyond learning about the animals who live there to meet those who care for them. Zookeepers will be out and about for meet and greets at scheduled times, scavenger hunts will be set-up and other exciting hands-on activities await you like a very special Princess and Frog Day.

If you’re still seeking last minute things to do; check out USA TODAY’s 10best and find fun family friendly attractions for families with kids of all ages.

Encouraging every Amazing Matriarch to turn an ordinary April vacation extraordinary, Jess

Tell us about your April vacation adventures! Find Amazing Matriarch on Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  #amazingmatriarch. 

3 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Traveling with Kids

Get Ready for a Great Vacation with Your Kids

1. Research

Make your vacation great by researching where you want to go and how you’ll get there well in advance.

You may have a dream vacation in mind, but look into it a little further and realize that what you thought would be loads of fun has you crammed into a tiny hotel room (avoid a standard hotel room at all costs) with no escape when the kids hit the sheets well before your bedtime. The room types and amenities offered at a kid-friendly hotel far outweigh what you’ll find at more refined five star hotels.

Many hotels offer family friendly accommodations. Hilton brands like Double Tree and Hampton Inn are excellent options. Typically affordable, clean, comfortable, modern, and family friendly these brands plan with kids in mind. Some offer suites suited for families, others a single room set up with an area just for kids. Allowing you to kick back and relax when it’s lights out for the little ones. Attached waterparks, movie nights, crafts, complimentary sundae bars and a collection of take out options from area restaurants make for fun within the hotel when the weather does not go your way.

Family friendly resorts offer excellent on-site options for everyone. There’s a reason so many families make their to Walt Disney World on school vacation weeks; there’s lots to do for everyone. Although this trip can be planned yourself, a specialist can ensure this trip is done the way you want. Our personal favorite Disney vacation planner is Kelly Wheeler with Key to the World Travel. She’s FREE, can find you deals and will make your trip magical. Not to mention, she has two kids of her own and loves Walt Disney World; she travels there with her family each year.

Home rentals are a wonderful way to enjoy a popular tourist destination. With so much space, you’ll enjoy not just your time exploring, but also your time relaxing. Your kids can have their own space and you can have yours.

2. Fly direct, working around your kids schedules

The lower fares from multiple stops can be tempting, but when flying with kids, especially those under five, the cost of a direct flight  will pay you dividends in peace of mind.

Having flown many times, with another adult and alone, both direct and with layovers, leaving on time and having been delayed, I always book the most direct flight with the least number of stops possible.

The only time a layover is to your advantage is when the flight is very long. Two options in this situation are to fly overnight (provided your kid’s a good sleeper), or get a layover that allows for one to two hours at a well equipped airport. Think play space, food court, places to run around. The hour or two will be well worth it when your kids can’t watch another show.

On one harrowing nap-time flight home (kids are always at their worst on the way home), alone with a rambunctious two year old, I found myself near tears. My son decided he was done with planes for the day, threw himself on the ground, screaming, while I tried to get him, his stroller and our carry on to our seats. If you’ve ever carried a flailing toddler around, you know this job requires both hands. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers who came to my rescue, because without help I would have had to leave everything (other than my son) behind.

3. Be Early

When an adult misses a flight, train, or other scheduled mode of transportation home it’s not fun, but manageable. If you’re traveling with kids and you miss your transportation, it is a nightmare straight out of Elm Street.

Rescheduling multiple seats can be tough, causing you to be delayed further, and your kids to get seriously cranky. Arrive extra early to the airport or train station, make your way through security let the kids buy some treats at the store and snacks to take along then read a few books or let them run wild before boarding.

And you’ll be headed off for a fantastic time away as a family.

Pi Day at the Charles Hotel – Enjoy 31.4% off Room Rates – Sale Starts 3/13

Enjoy 3.14159 Day on 3/14/15 with 31.4% at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. March 14th is Pi Day, a time for math lovers, and those who like any excuse for a party, to celebrate. 

Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159. Get in on the Pi Day action by taking advantage of a great hotel deal.

In recognition of Pi Day, The Charles on Harvard Square is holding a one of a kind FLASH SALE.  The sale takes place on Friday March 13th from 9am-5pm. What a better way to celebrate 3/14 than to be in Harvard Square with scholars and intellectuals alike at the Charles Hotel; the ‘smart’ place to stay.  Not available to spend Pi Day at the Charles Hotel, no problem!  This offer is available for travel dates:  March 14th – May 11th ensuring you get your stay at Pi Day prices.

To add a bit of fun trivia, 3/14 was also the day Albert Einstein was born.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”  – Albert Einstein

Experience the Charles and follow the pattern; make a smart decision to book a stay at this smart hotel!

Waterville Valley Resort + Kids = Rewarding Family Ski Vacation All Around

For most of us with young children, vacations aren’t really vacations at all.  It is a lot of work to pack up a family and relocate.  On top of that, you are dealing with schedule changes (especially for little ones under 5) and unfortunately most of the time you likely end your days with screaming children and a big pounding migraine.

A ski vacation is braving it especially with subzero temperatures, lugging ski equipment, getting  the children to and from the car and answering the endless chorus of are we there yet from the back seat.  Most sane people would avoid this at all costs.  Even though it’s a whole lot of work,  (and more if, like the AM team, you choose to head to the mountain mid-week, packing 4 kids in one car,  while your husbands stay home to work, meeting you for the weekend)  you will have fun at Waterville Valley.

After a whole lot of huffing and puffing, and equipment lugging,  Waterville Valley Resort made it all worth the trouble, placing smiles on all of our faces (including the husbands who joined us at the end).

Check out Waterville Valley with your  family:

Mountain

011a2ac2d1b3a0b84c3ad44724be8a9e0c162bed6cOnly a 2 hour ride from Boston, this quaint mountain resembles an idyllic vintage-esque ski mountain and village.  With 50 trails, this mountain has it all. Most of its trails are attractive to the intermediate skier, about 15% is dedicated to beginners and 22% is geared towards the advanced skier.  There really is something for everyone.  Best of all, lift lines move at record speed, eliminating the long waits that you’ll find at larger mountains in the north east, and allowing you to do what you’re there for-ski.

The mountain is extremely manageable with children. Drive right up to the base of the mountain and leave your car for a few minutes while you get your ski gear and family situated.  Everything that you need is located at the base of the mountain-lift tickets, kids camps, daycare, lodge, ski shop, and bar. It is very easy to navigate to and from the buildings there with entrances that allow you to set up your gear closest to the lift you are interested in riding.

There is a real community and family feel to this mountain.  You won’t find a bunch of hot shot 20 something’s buzzing down the mountain after a few too many; instead you’ll find yourself surrounded by parents just as eager to keep their kids safe as you are with yours. Everyone is helpful, and lifts on the lower mountain are slowed regularly to assist new skiers as they get on and off.

Staff

The staff at this mountain is incredible and really adds to the experience.  Everyone is very friendly and always showing a smile on their face (hard to come by anywhere now a days). Even when the temperature plummets to -34 with the wind chill, everyone is happy to help.

I most likely should not bring my phone skiing, but it is always by my side and is my lifeline when my kids are not. Of course, each day I had phone issues that the staff of Waterville pleasantly helped me with.

Day 1 – My phone was running low on battery and the wonderful staff at the bag check/info desk were kind enough to let me charge my phone up to full power as my son was in ski school and I really wanted power in case of an emergency.

Day 2 – While managing my hungry kids and husband, I misplaced my phone in the cafeteria.  Again the wonderful staff really came to the rescue to help me locate my phone.  Even after I gave up hope, they came upstairs to find me to offer another suggestion.  Luckily, I found it; in a pocket that I had previously checked (thanks mommy brain).

Ski School

Two mom’s who have not seen skis in 3 and 5 years = rusty skiers in need of a full day to regain some confidence. So, we put our boys (ages 4 and 5) in a  full day of ski school and let them have fun without us (while we did the same).  It was wonderful.  They really enjoyed skiing with their instructors, hot chocolate in between runs and meeting/playing with the other kids in their ski group.  They were actually asking to go back to ski school for the rest of the trip.  I personally despised ski school when I was younger, I couldn’t wait for my parents to pick me up.  So the fact that 2 boys wanted to go back to Waterville’s school even after skiing on the coldest day of the year was proof enough for me.

Private Lessons

Mike Furgal Business Card

One name, Mike Furgal!  Mike was rated top 100 ski instructors for ski magazine.  This is the second time that I have done a private lesson for my 2 year old with him.  Seeing as how 2 year olds do not have much of an attention span at this age, it is a miracle that Mike can keep her engaged and happy for an hour session.  Introducing her to the sport and allowing her to get comfortable on skis at a young age is allowing us to get out of the house for a fun family winter activity.

Rentals

We popped into the rental shop so Jess could rent skis for her 2 year old.  Everyone was super helpful and quick.  We were in and out of the shop in 10 minutes.

Apres Ski Entertainment – All Ages

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Happy Mommas!

Head to Buckets for Apres Ski, especially on Saturdays when the live band allows the adults to unwind with a few spirits and snacks while kids can grab a seat in the adjoining room for complimentary movie night as well as s’mores on the deck overlooking the mountain.  Our 2, 4 and 5 year olds were splitting their time between the movie and the dance floor.  After a long day of skiing, our kids were happy and distracted instead of miserable and tired.  Allowing us to hang out until 7pm when we could pop them in the car without worry of sleeping en-route home. And we all know that happy kids = happy parents!

Specials

Check out some fun deals that Waterville Valley is featuring in the month of March and April.

Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th – $17 lift tickets.

April Fools Day, April 1st – $1 lift tickets (and this isn’t a joke).

Helping you find some family fun outdoors even in the middle of winter, Thia

Festivals in the Azores:Celebrate on Portugal’s Nine Islands

There’s always something going on in the Azores. Although the summer season comes with temperatures hovering within an idyllic range of averages (lows in the 60’s and highs in the upper 70’s) you’ll find that island locals create reasons to celebrate on the black sand beaches of their 9 islands year-round.

Visit Azores/Facebook
Visit Azores/Facebook

Make your way to Santa Maria in August for the Festival Mare de Agosto.  Praia Formosa beach hosts the Mare de Agosto Festival for four days at the end of August. Enjoy concerts featuring artists from around the world. Started in 1984 when some Azorean musicians put together a jam session on stages throughout the island, it has evolved into one of the most popular music festivals in the Azores.

Get religious on Sao Miguel at the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres each May. Held the fifth Sunday after Easter, this festival celebrates with parades weaving throughout the city with a religious statue as its centerpiece. Ending at the convent at Esperanca in Ponta Delgada, this ritual procession has been taking place since the sixth century.  A street fair joins the three day festival where you’ll find visitors flocking to churches and chapels in a pilgrimage.

Portuguese mainlanders make their way to Faial for the Week of the Sea Festival in August. Complete with a whaling boat competition in Faial’s canal, a street parade, procession and music performances by some of Portugal’s greats, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a true local celebration of the the Sea.

Join the grape harvest in September on Pico at the Mes das Vindimas festival. During this time you’ll find yourself among locals helping to squeeze the grapes for liquors, brandy and Portuguese wine.

July is prime time for a trip to Sao Jorge where you’ll find the Semana Cultural das Velas Festival in full swing. The most popular event on the island this festival is filled with concerts, dancing local crafts, a regatta and even a bullfight.

The Azores celebrates their own Mardi Gras with Carnival in March. Every island has its own events, but those on Graciosa are the most popular event that island sees all year. The Parades are filled with creative costumes and the year-round visitors line the streets in droves to be a part of the action.

March through the streets of Terceira in June when the island’s Sanjoaninas Festival (festival of Saint John) is in full swing.  Taking place in commemoration of the patron saint of Terceira, Saint John. Check out the daily marches, parades, and decorated cars within the town of Angra do Heroisimo.

The island of Corvo celebrates the Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres in August. The largest festival on Corvo includes a procession through the village streets atop a colorful carpet made by the local craftsmen. Celebrating the legend that states that Our Lady of Miracles was responsible for drawing pirates away from the island, this is special time for Corvo.

Flores is the spot to visit for the Santa Cruz Festival each August. One of the Azores’s largest festivals it draws a good crowd. Here you’ll find stunning flower displays covering the arc in the main street. 27 Emperors crowns are on display at this most important Holy Ghost Festival.

To learn more about the Festivals of the Azores, and plan your trip, check out their website: http://www.visitazores.com/en/calendar/all/parties-festivities

– A woman in need of a snow-less, solo escape to the Azores, Jess

Winter Attire Tip: Layer Up & Embrace the Cold

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Bundled up to brave the elements

I was once winter phobic, self diagnosing myself with “seasonal affective disorder” the second I heard it was a thing, and hibernating until the last bit of snow had melted. I was mostly miserable from November until April, and really unsure of why I lived in Boston (in truth, I like to be able to see my family, and that’s the reason I never left). Fast-forward to my mid-thirties, 2 kids and a job that has me traveling to check out winter activities, and my outlook has totally changed; I’ve learned to embrace winter and it’s made me a better person.

Bundled up, in every warm layer I own, with a value pack of hand and foot warmers in my bag for “just in case”, I have fun, outdoors, all winter long.

My new found love affair with winter started when my son began ice skating and my husband built him an ice rink in our back yard (a city kid myself, I still think this is the most amazing thing I’d ever seen). I wanted to be out there so badly that I’d toss my figure skates and ski pants with a cute little hat and fashionable wool coat to take a few twirls before finding myself frozen and begging my then two year old to come in.

Mommy & Marcus hockey in our yard
Mommy & Marcus hockey in our yard

I was so disappointed, I turned to my winter expert, my husband (who has not bought himself an article of clothing since before we met, and has me choose his suit daily)  for winter fashion tips. And although I really did not like what I heard, I slowly succumbed to his suggestions, and as much as I hate to admit it; his tips are 100% responsible for making me a winter warrior.

He taught me how to dress for warmth (rather than style), and layer myself into a nice cocoon of warmth that can get me through a few slope-side hours in the (sunny, windless) single digits. I replaced my Ugg boots with REI recommended warm, waterproof  Vasque  boots, traded my dress socks for Smartwool socks (snag for less at Nordstrom Rack where they’re often only $10/pair) and layered the crap out of my clothes. I’ve been known to pile 5 (thin) layers beneath my coat and three beneath my snow pants (Under Armour & The North Face are my favorite layering brands). I bought thick, insulated, waterproof, $70 winter gloves (because I lost one of mine enroute to Stowe last weekend) and a hat I hate being seen in, but love on my head on a cold winter day. And when the cold takes my breath away I turn to Turtle Fur to protect my neck and face.

And I’m warm.

Skiing at Stowe this past weekend, the weather was frigid, the staff of locals at the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, where I was staying, made it clear they would not be visiting the mountain that day, the room on the shuttle, short lift lines, and crowd in the lodge confirmed it was a crazy cold day. But we were determined to brave it.

Snow Shoeing home from Thia's
Snow Shoeing home from Thia’s

Truth is, dressed for the weather, we hardly noticed the sub-zero temps, making my first time on skis in five years, the best ski day skiing I’ve ever had.

Not only was I toasty warm, but I got to enjoy my daughter’s first day skiing, my son’s first time on the chairlift and my husband’s ability to make even the coldest outing fun.

So, I’ll keep the layers on, forget how silly I look, skate, ski, snowshoe, build snowmen all winter long, and enjoy every moment of fun that winter has to offer- with or without my kids by my side.

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.Anton Chekhov

Skip the Chocolates, Toss the Flowers and Head to Boston for Some XO this Valentine’s Day

 Treat your someone special to a Valentine they’ll never forget; book a vacation or staycation in Boston. Too much work? Not at all;  we have your itinerary set, you just have to make the reservations, buy the tickets and get yourself into the city.

Stay at the Ames Hotel where their XO special is just oozing romance. Your room,  a corner or deluxe king , is modern in decor, with elegant touches. Enjoy the  “Sexy Shower” with your someone special (these large scale glass showers give you full view of the room). Pack light as The Ames has everything you need to get intimate in their  “Intimacy Kit”.  After  you’ve made use of your room, refuel with your complimentary box of artisanal chocolates from EH Chocolatier.  

Ames Hotel Room
Ames Hotel Room

 Please your lady outside of your room with a little shopping utilizing the included “Because I Love You” gift card for $75 to Alex and Ani. Top it off with a little refresh when you take advantage of the professional make-up application that comes with your stay at the Katrina Hess Studio

While she gets pretty, he heads off for a  luxurious hot towel shave at Ball and Buck.  This barber shop is housed within men’s wear store making it the ideal place to buy something to wear when you’re not in your room.

Make your way back to the Ames Hotel for a late lunch, or light snack and the two complimentary cocktails that await at King St. Tavern. Spend a little more time in your room before heading off for a romantic dinner at the  Hungry Eye where a cozy spot is standard. The $200 per couple price is a steal for the menu they have planned.

Chef Jody Adams at Boston Wine Expo 2014
Chef Jody Adams at Boston Wine Expo 2014

 

When Valentine’s Day comes to an end, hold off on heading home. Instead spend a the afternoon at  the Seaport World Trade Center  where the Boston Wine Expo will be making a splash on the wine world. Enjoy the two stages of chef demonstrations and  sample great wines from around the world, just be sure to add a seminar to your itinerary because these “classes” are informative and fun.
Need more ideas, check out my Boston articles and lists on 10best.
-Hint, hint hubby. XO, Jess
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