Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Heritage Q&A With Nancy Parode, Senior Travel Expert for About.com

Today’s post is next in a series of Q&As with people who have a passion for heritage- and culture-related travel.

Nancy Parode discovered her passion for world travel in third-grade reading class, long before she was able to travel anywhere on her own. She badgered her parents as a teen until they allowed her to spend an exchange semester in Ireland, and she's been on the go ever since. Her articles have been published in Northern Virginia, Military Spouse, IntoWine.com, The World & I Online, NotForTourists.com, budget travel Web sites, local newspapers and military family newsletters. These days, Nancy covers the topic of Senior Travel for About.com, writing and blogging about travel topics, destinations and issues of interest to Baby Boomers and mature travelers.

1. Where have you found inspiration and/or life-enrichment during your travels?
I love connecting with people from different times and places through travel. By walking in the footsteps of others, we can discover why things happened the way they did and see the influence of events and discoveries on art, music, even architecture. I particularly enjoy seeing how people—ordinary people like my own immigrant ancestors—lived and worked. As you might guess, I visit at least one living history museum on almost every trip.

2. Tell us about your most recent trip. What heritage or cultural sites did you visit?
I just visited Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island for the first time. What a fantastic convergence of cultures! From the fortress and village at Louisbourg (French) to the Acadian town of Chéticamp to the Great Hall of the Clans at the Gaelic College, I was amazed to see so many different cultures and musical traditions in one area. We drove the Cabot Trail and wandered through the town of Baddeck, where Alexander Graham Bell flew his kites and tested his Silver Dart airplane and hydrofoil boat. I especially enjoyed the lunchtime ceilidh (music and dance demonstration) we experienced at the Celtic Music Centre in Judique and, of course, the day we spent exploring the meticulously restored Fortress of Louisbourg.

3. What is your most memorable heritage or cultural travel experience?
You mean I have to pick just one? When I was a teen, I visited Boston, Lexington, Concord and Cambridge, Massachusetts, with my family. We walked the Freedom Trail and visited all those historic sites associated with the American Revolution—Paul Revere's house, the Bunker Hill Monument, etc. I never forgot that trip, not only because of my abiding interest in the colonists who wouldn't knuckle under to Parliament, but also because my father, who went to college in the area, took us to places and restaurants he’d frequented as a student.

A couple of years ago, I repeated the entire trip, not only with Mom and Dad but also with my own husband and children as well as my brother and sister-in-law. What fun to see my children discover Boston and the surrounding towns for themselves and to hear their grandfather’s college tales—we heard a few new ones, too! We visited several historic restaurants in Boston, including Durgin-Park. Dad used to eat there as a student, because the inch-thick pork chops were cheap and filling. The menu cover says, “Your grandfather probably ate here!” I have a great photo of my son, grinning from ear to ear and pointing at that menu. The combination of family history and American heritage made this second trip to Boston an adventure I’ll never forget.

4. Where is one heritage or cultural destination you think everyone with your interests should visit?
As I’ve said, I love learning about the American colonists and the Revolutionary War. If you're like me, Virginia's Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown) is a must-see destination. You can spend days and days learning about daily life in Virginia’s first permanent colony as well as in its colonial capital. Just up the road, you can see the very spot where Cornwallis faced down the colonials for the last time – and realized he couldn't beat them. Amazing.

5. What sorts of things do you like to learn during your travels?
I like to learn about the daily lives of people who lived a long time ago—or even a short while ago. American history is one of my passions, and I want to know what people throughout the history of the United States thought, how they lived, what they ate and what helped them get through the hard times, whether it was music, sports, writing or something as simple and profound as love of family.

I loved reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the Betsy-Tacy series as a girl, because each book described everyday life as it really was. I think series like these sparked an interest in hands-on history that I'll pursue forever—last summer found me helping my daughter dip candles at Conner Prairie in Indiana, for example. Someday I’ll get to De Smet and Mankato to see the places my favorite authors brought to life in their books.

6. What does heritage travel mean to you?
To me, heritage travel connects the past, present and future in a very concrete and meaningful way. I love standing where Louisa May Alcott grew up, looking at views George Washington treasured, listening to music and watching dances from another time and place. No textbook or timeline can substitute for travel experiences like these.

7. What are your favorite heritage- and culture-rich destinations?
I recently visited the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, a UNESCO World Heritage site intended to preserve the region’s fragile natural beauty as well as the Mayan ruins there. I took a Mayan-ruin tour of Sian Ka'an that completely altered my impressions of ancient Mayan culture. I can't wait to take my family there. In Europe, my favorite city is Rome – every single important era in western history is represented there. Here in the U.S., I truly enjoy showing people who visit me around the great cities of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. There's so much history here. I never run out of things to do.

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