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New Century Theatre: paying actors really does make a difference!

New Century Theatre: paying actors really does make a difference! One of the reasons that Northampton has been voted one of America's Best Art Towns is because of our professional theater company, New Century Theatre, which produces a roster of plays each summer. I'm pleased to be sharing news of their first production of the season starting on June 19, Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor." Every time I go to a New Century show I am impressed not only with the acting, but 0

Easthampton's Cultural Chaos 2014: more cred for the coolest town in the Valley!

Easthampton is becoming the place to be in Western Mass. On Saturday my friend Jack and I rode our bikes there from Northampton on the bike trail and we joined in the city-wide celebration called Cottage Street Cultural Chaos. Indeed, it was chaos, there was so much going on in a small sector of town, Cottage Street. First we parked our bikes and walked through One Cottage Street, where dozens of artists and craftspeople have studios. It was open studio for many of them, and 1

Biking by the water on Tampa's RiverWalk Bike Path

Biking by the water on Tampa’s Riverwalk bike path We rode the waterside bike walking paths in Tampa this morning, beside me was Kevin Craft, who runs the only bike shop in the center of Tampa called City Bike Tampa. I asked him what he thought about the coming municipal bike exchange, as is done in so many cities with bikes to borrow for short time rides. A bicycle rental business owner in Portugal a few weeks ago was telling me that he hated these 0

In Tampa, lightning strikes are deadly and a controversial train makes many locals unhappy

   A Town car picked me up at the airport in Tampa and as we crossed a bridge to turn onto an expressway, we saw a towering black column of a rainstorm, hovering like an apparition above the coast in the distance. "That's my golf club over there," the driver told me. "My golfing buddies are getting soaked." He said that the thunderstorms are fierce here, and frequent. "It's the second worst place for storms on earth."  Two people in Tampa have died in recent months from 0

Off to Tampa to meet the people and watch the Rays

I am flying to Tampa Florida this morning, four days in a city I've never seen, and a chance to schmooze and sit on a panel. I will be joining members of the Public Relations Society of America, at their annual travel conference. The group is made up of PR pros and representatives from destinations around the US and the world.  I always look forward to a trip to a new place. I've got time to hang out by the pool today, go to a big 0

In Deerfield, perhaps the best idea is to hire an assistant to Kayce Warren

I must admit, I sympathize with the Deerfield Selectboard in their quest to find a new Town Administrator. I attended a meeting a month back and they had three candidates to be interviewed. To me, it was clear that one guy stood above the rest, but after deliberating, the board felt completely differently. They are limited in how much conversation and meetings they are allowed to have between them because of open meeting laws, so they hadn't really gotten that much time to talk about 0

Riding the Lisbon waterfront: no room for cars

Didier Mimoso remembers a time back in 2008 when the monthly revenues from his bike rental service in Lisbon totalled what they now make in one day. He told his manager, Tania Galda, to hang in there--things would get better...and six years later, both Didier and Tania have lots of reasons to smile. Bikeiberia now owns hundreds of bikes and rents to dozens of companies all over Spain and Portugal, and they blazed the bike trail back before biking was such a popular way to 1

How much do things cost in Portugal?

 I joined our guide Paulo and Gilberto, the manager of the Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas here in Coimbra for dinner last night in the very ornate formal dining room of their Arcadas restaurant. There, as courses were paired with local wines, I asked them about how much things cost in Portugal and how they thought the economy was doing. That's one topic that is freely discussed with foreigners here and the general tone is that things are terrible--but they used to be even worse.   Young 0

Asparagus Fest in Hadley this Saturday: Music and spears in the Valley's 'grass capital!

When I am traveling, sometimes I tell people about the part of the USA where I live. If I’m traveling in May or June, I often explain that I come from the part of the world where the finest asparagus on Earth is grown. That’s one of the best ways to describe our Happy Valley, we’re where Hadley Grass makes us all famous. If you, like me, love asparagus and all that it symbolizes as a rite of summer-a-coming, and even love that first whiff 0

Armagnac is the lifeblood of Le Gers, Southwest France

Throughout my visit here in Le Gers, Midi-Pyrenees, there has been one consistent element that has bound together every person we met, every place we saw, and even what we ate. That has been the ancient, sacred drink of Armagnac, which we have sniffed, sipped and quaffed in elegant salons, mold-covered barns, dark ancient cellars and in elegant tasting rooms. Even the little railroad track machines we rode in Nogaro are named for this 40-47% alcohol distilled beverage. It's as much a part of the 0