During a typical summer, Falmouth Museums on the Green, home to the Falmouth Historical Society, brims with visitors looking to sneak a peek inside its many historical homes, gather for weddings or explore its many exhibits.
But the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. The museums remained closed for 2020, moving their speaker series online.
“For obvious reasons, it has been a year to remember, to forget,” said Mark Schmidt, the museums’ executive director.
The museums were set to open when the state allowed for Phase III businesses to do so, Schmidt said. With hand sanitizer available, plexiglass barriers and arrows in place to lead visitors, they were ready to go by the end of July.
But in the end, the decision was made not to reopen for the season, Schmidt said. The museums mostly are run by 200 volunteers, many of them older, and they didn’t want to run the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, he said. They also didn’t want to cram people into historic houses.
Instead, the board of directors decided to wait to reopen until the COVID-19 vaccines arrived, Schmidt said.
“There is no question it took a toll on us,” Schmidt said. “We were fortunate that our members were supportive in their giving.”
With funding in place for this year, Schmidt said, he believes the museum will make it until next summer. But he said that if 2021 and 2022 are anything like 2020, it will be hard to sustain.
“We will go forward with the fact that 2021 can’t be as bad as 2020,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt is optimistic that tourists will return to Falmouth and the rest of the cape next summer.
“I do think that there is a basic fatigue of being inside.”
But “I don’t think masks are going away anytime soon,” he said.
Despite the pandemic, the cape had the best performance in the state for tourism this past summer. Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said the cape can expect the same next year.
“I know it is so hard to look into the crystal ball these days,” Northcross said. “There is some good news coming our way.”
As vaccines begin to roll out across the country, many people are flocking to the Cape to escape the cities and visit their second homes, Northcross said. Plus, people who haven’t been traveling want to do so, she said.
If they can make it through the winter, Northcross said, businesses in the tourism industry have reason to be somewhat optimistic.
Now that the cape has survived a summer under COVID-19 restrictions, businesses understand the constraints and can plan better, Northcross said.
“I am a lot more optimistic than I think I should be,” she said when asked how tourism will go this spring and summer. “There are certainly challenges to get there.”
The ability to make it to next summer may depend on how much stimulus money makes its way to local businesses, Northcross said.
“Nobody knows how long this is going to go,” she said. “More stimulus is going to help bridge the gap.”
Tourism is fickle, said Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District. There are many hurdles to overcome, she said, including weather and financial stability, even during a normal year,.
The cape was lucky this year because the weather allowed for people to eat outside, Wurfbain said.
“We don’t know what the spring is going to look like,” she said. “No one has a magic ball. Even as the pandemic has some solutions with the vaccines, how long is it going to take to work out? When is it going to go back to when people want to spend?”
With tourist-driven businesses in peril, Wurfbain said, there needs to be support for the unemployed workers and assistance for those businesses. But like Northcross, she is optimistic about tourism coming back next year.
“I do see it doing well because Cape Cod is poised so well as a beautiful place to live,” Wurfbain said. “It is not super expensive, very wholesome and easy to get to. But I am cautious.”
The Osterville Historical Museum, which holds weddings, rehearsal dinners and large fundraising events throughout the year, had to rrethink much of what it did this year.
“I think that this year for everybody was such a different year, and we really focused on the things that we could do instead of all the things that we couldn’t do,” said Jennifer Williams, the museum’s executive director. “I think that made all the difference.”
Beginning in March, the museum helped to set up a virtual farmers market, allowing fresh local produce to be delivered to residents on Cape Cod. When summer approached, the traditional farmers market set up at the museum was opened as well, with social distancing and guidelines set up on the 2-acre property.
“We had to twist a few other things and morph as we needed,” Williams said.
Instead of holding a large, in-person fundraising event, museum staff moved its traditional art online, selling work from local artists, Williams said.
As winter approached, the annual Festival of Trees show was moved to the historic Crosby Yacht Yard, where large bay doors could open for better air circulation. Eleven decorated trees lined the wooden boats, Williams said.
The museum’s admission is free, Williams said, which puts it in a unique position to move into next year.
Tourism in Osterville already was on the high end this year, Williams said, with many people arriving at their second homes as early as March. She believes that will only continue next year.
“Everything is still very unknown in terms of what we can and cannot do for next year,” Williams said. “Moving forward we are expecting things to be as normal, or as normal as they can be.”
Tourism was deeply affected by the pandemic this year in Bourne, known as the Gateway to Cape Cod, according to Marie Oliva, president and CEO of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce.
Many large festivals, including Cape Cod Canal Day, had to be canceled and weekly outdoor concerts had to be stopped, Oliva said. Those activities typically attract a lot of people to the region, she said.
Whether tourism will return next year is a big question mark for Oliva.
“It is very difficult to plan when you don’t have specific information on when things might turn around,” she said.
Provincetown also had a very different tourism experience this year. All the nightlife was turned off, except for a few outdoor venues, and everyone was restricted to small group gatherings.
Tourism in town went much better than expected, said Anthony Fuccillo, the town’s director of tourism. Despite no parades or large group activities, a lot of people visited town, he said.
With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, Fuccillo said, he is optimistic about next year.
“People have been cooped up and want to bust out of their four walls,” Fuccillo said.
Still, many things are uncertain, Fuccillo said. He believes people will continue to wear masks and group gatherings will be limited all the way to the end of 2021.
“I think we will see it come back, but not back to what it was,” Fuccillo said. “Not quite yet.”
Eight nature destinations for a fall getaway in Spain
elpais– 1Valley of Ultzama (Navarre) One of the highlights of Bosque de Orgi (Forest of Orgi), located in Lizaso, in the Spanish region of Navarre, is an oak forest containing specimens that are hundreds of years old. The area has well-marked trails going through and around it. The valleys of Ultzama and Basaburua also feature other good spots for enjoying the colors of the fall season. One of them is a simple walking trail that starts in the municipality of Jauntsarats, meanders through the oak forest of Beheitiko and takes visitors to the foot of two very singular specimens with Monumental Tree designation: the oak tree of Beheitikolanda, which is 30 meters tall, and the oak tree of Kisulabe, whose trunk is believed to be the widest in the entire region of Navarre. To the north of Ultzama, on the border with the neighboring valley of Baztan, the area near the port of Belate still conserves valuable forests of ancient beech, oak and chestnut that form a special habitat that is part of Red Natura 2000, a network of nature protection areas in the European Union. For more information: bosquedeorgi.com and espaciosnaturales.navarra.es
2Selva de Oza (Huesca) This dense forest in the natural park of Valles Occidentales, in the portion of the Pyrenees that falls within the limits of the Spanish region of Aragón, reaches a climax of color when its fir, pine and beech combine in an explosion of greens, yellows and ochres. The peaks here reach as high as 3,000 meters, and the valley of Hecho affords numerous hiking options for beginners and pros alike on either side of the Aragón Subordán river. One trail leads to the Corona de los Muertos (Crown of the Dead), believed to be a burial site from the Neolithic period, around 3,000 BC. Another trail leads hikers to the beautiful adjacent valley of Estriviella, while a third takes them up to the castle of Acher, at an elevation of 2,384 meters, which affords a broad view of the Selva de Oza forest. There is a campsite (camping-selvadeoza.com) that will remain open during the upcoming long weekend of October 12, after which it will close for the season. For more information: selvaoza.es GETTY IMAGES
3Castañar de El Tiemblo (Ávila) Alder, oak, mountain elm, hazelnut, maritime pine and chestnut all feature prominently in the Castañar de El Tiemblo (Chestnut grove of El Tiemblo), in the natural reserve of the valley of Las Iruelas, in Spain’s Ávila province. The oldest oak has been dubbed El Abuelo (The Grandfather) and is estimated to be over 500 years old. A low-difficulty circular trail (PR-AV54) begins at the recreational area of El Regajo and runs for 4.3 kilometers, passing close to this spectacular specimen and winding its way through the enormous chestnut trees of El Resecadal. For more information: patrimonionatural.org
4Valle del Genal (Málaga) In Sierra de las Nieves, a natural enclave in southwest Málaga that became Spain’s 16th national park this past summer, it is important to listen as much as it is to look if you go there in the fall. At sunset, visitors can not only enjoy the palette of greens, yellows and browns from the forests of holm oak, cork oak, pine, fir and chestnut, but also hear the bellowing calls of male deer during the rut. The area known as Bosque de Cobre (Copper Forest), which gets its name from the reddish tinge on the leaves of the chestnut trees that cover the mountain range and the neighboring Valley of Genal, contains several well-marked trails. For more information: sierradelasnieves.es and malaga.es
Fragas do Mandeo (A Coruña) The ‘fragas’ of Galicia are probably the closest thing in real life to an enchanted forest. They are dense, humid. old-growth forests whose tall, imposing trees seem to dare visitors to step within. One of the most pristine of these areas is the Fraga do Mandeo, near the town of Betanzos and part of the biosphere reserve Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo. Here, both banks of the Mandeo river are covered with ‘carballos’ (a local name for the common oak), ash, chestnut, alder, elm and maple, along with underbrush species such as the endangered ‘píjara,’ a fern from the Tertiary period. There are two trails leading out from the Chelo nature learning center. The shorter and easier one (2.5 km round-trip) goes to Teixeiro Bridge after winding through a forest of hazelnut and the ruins of an old water mill. The second trail (6.3 km) follows the Mandeo upriver, taking hikers past the Cabra reservoir (home to salmon) and the abandoned spa of O Bocelo, whose springs continue to spout sulfur water. The lookout point of Espenuca offers excellent views of Mandeo canyon and the area of As Mariñas. For more information: fragasdomandeo.org and marinasbetanzos.gal
6Nansa River Path (Cantabria) A magnificent expanse of gallery forest runs along the lower end of the Nansa river, in Spain’s northern region of Cantabria. Hazelnut, chestnut, ash and alder add their own special colors to a 14-kilometer trail that begins in the village of Muñorrodero and presents very little difficulty, as steps have been built to clear the steepest spots. The entire trail is contained within the Nansa River Special Conservation Zone, which is part of the EU’s Red Natura 2000. For those unwilling to walk the whole distance, the halfway point is approximately located at the hydroelectricity plant of Trascudia. Animals that are often spotted in the area include grey herons, common kingfishers and otters. A visitor center in San Vicente de la Barquera offers guided tours and activities in the area. For more information: redcantabrarural.com
7Torca de los Melojos (Albacete) Among the foothills of the mountain ranges of Alcaraz and Segura, in southwest Albacete, the autumn charms of the natural park of Los Calares del Mundo y de la Sima go well beyond the famous river source known as Chorros del río Mundo. There are the colors of the gallery forests running along other rivers in the area, including the Segura, Zumeta, Taibilla and Bogarra. And there is the remote forest of Torca de los Melojos, which is accessible from the starting point of Fuente de las Raigadas, in Riópar. The trail is between seven and eight kilometers in total, and cuts through pine, holly, maple, kermes oak and yew. Inside the ‘torca,’ which is a circular depression in the land with steep sides, there is a singular oak grove with ancient specimens that manage to survive because of the high humidity content. For more information: areasprotegidas.castillalamancha.es and turismosierradelsegura.es
8Fageda del Retaule (Tarragona) In the landscape of pine, holm oak and mountain ridges of the natural park of Els Ports, in Catalonia’s Terres de l’Ebre (in southwest Tarragona province), there are also clutches of deciduous trees, including the unique Fageda del Retaule, said to be Europe’s southernmost forest of beech. This collection of tall, centuries-old trees sits on the humid northern face of the gorge of Retaule. One of the most notable specimens is a tree called Faig Pare (Father Beech, in the Catalan language), which was declared a Monumental Tree in 1992 and is estimated to be 250 years old. Its trunk has perimeter of four meters, and its visible roots make it a favorite spot for pictures. For more information: terresdelebre.travel
Four migrants found dead off Canary Islands as dangerous crossings continue
Four migrants were found dead on a boat heading for Spain’s Canary Islands.
It is the latest in a string of attempted migrant crossings since the start of the year, in which at least 20 people have died.
Helicopters went to the aid of the makeshift boat on Sunday south of El Hierro island, after being spotted by a fishing boat, the Spanish coastguard said.
It was carrying 23 people, of which 19 were hospitalised. Three were said to be in a serious condition.
This year has seen a surge in the number of people attempting to make the crossing between Africa and the Canary Islands, a dangerous route due to strong currents.
Between 1 January and 15 March this year 3,436 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands, more than double the figure recorded last year.
Late last month two women and a man died on another overcrowded boat, with 41 people rescued.
A few days before that, a two-year-old Malian girl was reported dead on another boat of 52 migrants from Western Sahara, which was also rescued by the coast guard.
The ultimate wine tour is in Croatia, 20 metres under the sea
The Dalmation Coast in Croatia is known for its stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and pristine seas. But did you know it’s also home to the world’s first underwater winery?
Along the Pelješa peninsular, not far from Dubrovnik, is the small village of Drače. Here lies the world’s first and only underwater winery, nestled within a shipwreck beneath the Adriatic. Tourists are invited to scuba dive to the cellar and explore this unique approach to wine production.
The Pelješac peninsula is known for its fine vineyards, which produce world-renowned varieties of wine including Dingač – the ‘king of Croatian wine’. But since 2011, Edivo Winery has taking a different approach to maturing its wine: submerging it under the sea.
Edivo Winery is the first winery in the world to have a licence for aging wine under the sea. It’s also the only one with a patent to sell wine in amphora – an ancient type of vessel traditionally made out of ceramic.
The innovators behind Edivo Winery say that ageing wine in this way brings a unique flavour and story to their products.
“We came to the idea of making undersea wine because we love diving and everything related to the sea,” says Nives Roman, manager at Edivo Winery.
The making of ‘The Sea Mystery’
The first bottle of wine to be successfully submerged in the sea began its journey in late 2013.
The team tried several locations around the peninsula at first and the spot they have now is ideal because the temperature of the sea stays at 15 degrees celsius all year round. A stable temperature is key to making wine.
They decided to name their unique creation ‘Navis Mysterium’ meaning ‘the sea mystery’.
How is the wine made?
The wine is made with locally grown grapes, some of which are native to Croatia, such as Dignac. It’s aged in a cask for one year before being sunk to a depth of between 18-25 metres, where it will mature for another two years.
During this time, the wine is sealed in a terracotta amphora or wine bottle. The wine doesn’t see the light of day until it’s opened and poured into a glass to enjoy.
“Every amphora is a hand made product, as it has to pass a 14-day procedure of handling and cleaning once it’s taken out from the water,” explains Roman, “Corals, seashells and algae become part of the packaging design. Therefore, every amphora or every bottle becomes a unique sculptural masterpiece – a perfect souvenir with the signature of the Adriatic Sea.”
The company’s diving team monitors the winery every 14 days, in between taking tourists down there. After an in-depth (pardon the pun) guided tour of the winery, guests can resurface and enjoy a fresh seafood meal to complement their wine.
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