NEW YORK, April 27, 2009 – With belt tightening becoming commonplace, more and more families are seeking European travel experiences closer to home. Domestic destinations can offer gondola rides, high quality Rieslings and Italian-influenced wines, operas by Puccini and Wagner, international cuisine and Old World architecture. “Cities like Charleston, Norfolk and Palm Beach have proud European roots,” according to Lou Rena Hammond, founder and chairman of her namesake travel public relations agency. “And wineries in Virginia and New York are producing varietals to give their Italian, German and French cousins some serious competition.” The following U.S. destinations offer a taste of Europe in North America:
ITALIANESQUE WINERIES IN VIRGINIA
Did you know visitors can experience Italian-style winemaking at Barboursville Vineyards? Guests are invited to participate in bottling or picking seasons. The winery, which attracts 80,000+ tourists annually, is located in Charlottesville, on the grounds of the former mansion of Governor James Barbour. With more than 140 wineries statewide and more than one million visitors including a trip to a Virginia winery during their visit, wine sales generate over $500 million in revenue for the state annually. For more information, visit www.Virginia.org/wine
EUROPEAN TIES IN CHARLESTON, S.C.
Settled by the British and named “Charles Town” in honor of King Charles II, South Carolina’s Charleston is said to be the most European city in the south. As a port, settlers from England, Spain, France and Italy were frequent visitors. Their legacy is seen in today in gas lanterns that illuminate cobblestone streets dotted with carriage houses, hidden gardens, antiques shops, cafés serving fine foreign fare and more than 180 churches. In fact, Charleston was one of the first cities to provide religious tolerance to the French Huguenot Church – and remains today the only city in the U.S. with such a church. Each year, Charleston hosts one of the world’s major art festivals: Spoleto Festival USA, which is the U.S. counterpart to the original event in Spoleto, Italy. This year’s festival (May 22 – June 7) will boast world-renowned performers such as violinist Sarah Chang; contemporary Japanese choreographer/performer Hiroaki Umeda and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
AROUND THE WORLD IN NEW YORK STATE
· Austria/Germany in the Finger Lakes – Due to the similarities of the climates to Austria and Germany, New York’s Finger Lakes region is home to Riesling wine estates. In 2008, Georg Riedel of Riedel Glas Austria Wine Glass Company, who has developed a specific glass for every varietal, visited Finger Lakes Wine Country to create a glass to best showcase the cool-climate Riesling wines. During this trip, Riedel noted “My excitement and respect for Finger Lakes wines continues to grow. At our recent workshop, I very much enjoyed leading your senses towards the tool which expresses the finesse and delicacy of your Rieslings in the right glass.”
· Glimmerglass Opera House in Cooperstown – Most European countries have some version of opera, whether it’s Italian, German or French. Glimmerglass Opera is a professional, non-profit summer opera company at the Alice Busch Opera Theater – located on the shores of Otsego Lake, referred to as “Glimmerglass” by writer James Fenimore Cooper in his Leatherstocking Tales.
· Geneva on the Lake – Murano, near Venice, isn’t the only place to admire Italian blown glass. Corning Museum of Glass, located in Geneva on the Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York, has incredible glasses from all over Europe. The world’s largest glass museum, Corning features 35 centuries of glass artistry, glass-blowing demonstrations, “Make Your Own Glass” experiences and an international glass market.
NORFOLK – AN INTERNATIONAL MELTING POT
In the 1600s, Norfolk, Virginia – named after Norfolk, England – was a busy trading hub for the import and export of goods to the British Isles and beyond. Today the city attracts visitors and dignitaries from around the world as the headquarters for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Each year, some 100 public festivals showcase Norfolk’s European roots and modern-day international influences. These include:
· International Azalea Festival: A Salute to NATO (April 27 – May 3, 2009) – This festival, which originated in 1953, celebrates NATO by honoring one member nation each year; Czech Republic was selected for 2009. Events include the Parade of Nations, Queen’s Fashion Show, Coronation of Queen Azalea and NATOfest, a full-day event complete with food, culture and entertainment from the 26-member NATO nations.
· Virginia International Tattoo (May 1-3, 2009) – Dating back to 17th century Europe, a “tattoo” is a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands. Norfolk’s tattoo, the largest in the U.S., will feature marching bands, massed pipes and drum teams, gymnasts, Scottish dancers, and choirs – all tolled more than 850 performers from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Czech Republic and Germany.
· Harborfest® (July 4, 2009) – An astounding 700 international tall ships, sailboats, battleships and cruise ships will dot the Hampton Roads harbor. The Independence Day festivities will include national, regional and local entertainment; children’s activities; fireworks and more.
CANALS OF VENICE IN PROVIDENCE, R.I.
Venice’s waterways can be found in the picturesque rivers of Providence, Rhode Island. Two rivers intersect downtown edged by cobblestone walkways, flanked by park benches, trees and flowering plants, and bisected by a series of graceful bridges connecting the business district to the city’s East Side. In keeping with this Venetian flair, visitors may cruise along the waterways in one of the city’s gilded gondolas. WaterPlace Park, which boasts a stone-stepped amphi-theater for summer concerts, serves as the starting point for Providence’s world-renowned WaterFire – a multi-sensory art installation of more than 100 dancing bonfires that wind along the Providence River. To complete this Italian adventure, be sure to visit the Federal Hill neighborhood, one of the country’s most popular “Little Italy” enclaves.
OLD WORLD SPLENDOR IN PALM BEACH
Worth Avenue on the island of Palm Beach is among the world’s best-known shopping streets, along with Via Condotti, Savile Row, and rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Europe. Inspired by his European travels, architect Addison Mizner was passionate about recreating the distinctive Mediterranean/Moorish-style architecture. A significant part of Worth Avenue’s lasting appeal is its charming side streets: Via Mizner, Via Parigi, Via Roma, Via de Mario and Via Bice, which are tucked-away passageways with quaint architecture, courtyards, tropical plants and ample Old World allure. Walking tours are held on the first Saturday in May, June, July and August. For information, visit www.palmbeachfl.com