Photo Of The Day: Summer Afternoon

As the leaves turn to orange, then red, then brown, before disappearing entirely, memories of lazy summer days tend to slip further and further away. Today’s Photo of the Day, taken by Flickr user Trish Hartmann in Plön, Germany, captures the essence of late summer perfectly. The foliage is bright green, and the water reflects the sunlight. You’ll want to keep this shot on file for the depths of winter.

Do you have any photos that evoke summer and warmth? Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

A Night Aboard ‘Ms. Nancy Boggs’ At Far Rockaway’s Boatel

It was like stepping onto the set of a horror film. An array of dusty knick-knacks lined the shelves, ranging from empty glass bottles to vintage photographs and eyeless doll heads. Torn pantyhose, some colored red, were strewn up as curtains. In the closet, there was a musty aroma and a pile of something furry.

This would be our home for the evening.

We were onboard “Ms. Nancy Boggs,” a 1967 Drift-R houseboat that had been outfitted as part of the Boatel floating hotel project at Marina 59 in Far Rockaway, Queens, just an hour from downtown New York City. Described as an “interactive art and sound installation,” the Boatel consists of 16 themed houseboats, clustered around a central dock that functions as an outdoor kitchen and common space. “Bad Irene” combines futuristic décor with Bollywood kitsch; “Sweet Annisa” sports a red vinyl interior said to have been designed for West Indian drug lords; and “Americano” was built for a weekend bender with Vanilla Ice, Richard Pryor and Neil Patrick Harris. Personality? This place has plenty.

boatel

Our adventure had begun earlier in the day, on the A train from Manhattan. Boatel’s website had advised us to come “adventure-ready,” so our overnight bags were stuffed accordingly: bug spray, sunscreen, sleeping bags, booze and an assortment of costume apparel left over from last year’s trip to Burning Man.

By the time we arrived at Marina 59, the sun had already fallen. A few grizzled sailors manned the entrance to the Boatel, swilling Coors Light on plastic chairs. When we inquired about our night’s accommodations, a fairy-like blonde appeared with directions to our boat and an invitation to return if we wanted sheets.

The dock had seen better days, and its panels groaned under our weight. After unloading our gear onto Nancy and gaping at her oddities with a mix of whimsy, curiosity and fear, we poured ourselves a drink and ventured out to explore our surroundings.

First stop was the convenience store next door, where we were instantly reminded that we weren’t in a nautical Never-Never Land, but rather smack in the middle of one of Queens’ rougher neighborhoods. The cashiers seemed used to drop-in hippies from the Marina, though, and they laughed at our tie-dye and face paint.

Back in the Marina, we dropped by a shipping-container-turned-art-studio, filled with paintings that were colorful but angry, and filled with sexual symbolism. A pillow and yoga mat lay in the corner, as evidence of artistic commitment.

Walking back to the boat, we encountered two goats that seemed perfectly at home in the middle of a parking lot in a dilapidated marina in Queens. This would be an interesting night.

Back on the dock, a lecture was in progress. In addition to houseboat accommodations, Boatel also offers a variety of community programming, including lectures, live music and a “Floating Cinema” featuring screenings of nautical classics like “Treasure Island” and “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.” Two-thirds of the way through, the lecture was interrupted by a theatrical play on a shark attack, complete with splashing kayakers and projected images of sharp teeth.

Post-lecture, we barbequed, drank and relaxed on the pier. Between the softly lapping waves and surreal surroundings, it was easy to escape the pulsating energy of the city we’d left just a few hours earlier. Conversation jumped from topic to esoteric topic, and laughter echoed in the air. No one checked their smartphones. Somewhere between late evening and early morning, we slipped into deep sleeps, aided by Nancy’s gentle rocking.

Morning came, and intense sunlight woke us long before we were ready. As my eyes fluttered open, I took in the surroundings: the glinting glass bottles, the vintage photographs. The light was soft streaming in through the pantyhose. Even the doll heads didn’t look so creepy in the light of day.

Stepping off the boat, we greeted the friends we’d made the previous evening and began to prepare a light breakfast. But soon, the morning calm was interrupted by a band of police inspectors, who stopped at each boat to inquire about the Boatel’s safety practices. Despite my initial reservations the night before, I now felt affectionate toward the Boatel, even a bit defensive of the otherworldly atmosphere the artists and organizers had managed to create. The Boatel is no luxury “I’m On A Boat” experience, but it is certainly something special, and we shared as much with our interrogators. Then, with one last look back at the dock, the goats and Ms. Nancy Boggs, we braced ourselves to reenter the real world.

The Boatel is located at Marina 59 in Far Rockaway, Queens, just off the A subway stop at Beach 60th Street. Rooms are available from Wednesday to Sunday until November 1, with rates starting from $55/night.

10 of the world’s most unique vacation rentals

unique vacation rentalImagine sleeping in the renovated fuselage of a vintage 727 airplane in Costa Rica. Or how about feeding giraffes over the breakfast table at a castle in Kenya? These one-of-a-kind lodging experiences, and others, are available through online vacation rental websites like Airbnb, and often for less than the cost of a shoebox room in a budget hotel in downtown Manhattan.

Take, for example, the following sampling of Airbnb’s unique vacation rental listings:
  • Boot and Breakfast (pictured at right). A childhood tale comes to life in Tasman, New Zealand. $225/night.
  • Romantic Igloo. Temperatures in Igloo Village Krvavec in Slovenia hover around 0-5 degrees Celsius – perfect for cuddling. $189/night.
  • Alone on your own Fiji Island. Really get away by booking the private Fijian island of Nanuku. $350/night.
  • Ecopod Boutique Retreat. A low-carbon pod designed in partnership with Zendrome, Berlin, in the woods of Appin, United Kingdom. $241/night.
  • Aircamp Furillen. A vintage Airstream on tiny Furillen Island in Sweden. $204/night.
Airbnb also groups their most notable listings into fun collections, like “Trees and Zzz’s” for treehouse lodgings, “Grape Expectations” for wine country accommodations and “I’m On A Boat” for, well, boats.

For 10 of Airbnb’s most unique vacation rentals, check out the gallery below.

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Exploring the Welsh coast: Aberaeron and New Quay

Welsh coast, New Quay
Yesterday I mentioned that Aberystwyth is a good base from which to explore western Wales. On our second day in Wales my wife, son, and I hopped on a local bus and went south down the Welsh coast to the ports of Aberaeron and New Quay. Aberaeron is about 40 minutes from Aberystwyth and New Quay is only about 20 minutes further south from Aberaeron.

While we didn’t have long in Aberaeron, we liked this tidy little Welsh town with its brightly painted houses and fine view of the sea. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and pubs and we got the impression that it might be a better place to stay than Aberystwyth. Like in Aberystwyth, we heard a lot of people speaking Welsh. Most signs are in both languages. It’s nice to know that the language is surviving in the age of globalized English.

At New Quay we stopped for lunch at a pub on a cliff overlooking a sandy beach and broad harbor. The view was nice but service was slow and the food substandard. Sadly, this was the case with all too many of our meals in Wales, even though we usually followed local advice as to where to eat.

%Gallery-129265%The famous writer Dylan Thomas lived here for a time and New Quay was the inspiration for his fictional town of Llareggub (“bugger all” spelled backwards). Visitors interested in literary tourism can follow the Dylan Thomas Trail.

We’d come to take a boat trip instead. My five-year-old had never been out to sea so we decided to remedy that by going on one of New Quay’s many dolphin tours. Dolphins are abundant in these waters; we’d seen several from the window of the Seabrin Guest House in Aberystwyth. We chose a tour run by the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, which uses its profits to fund research into the sea life on this part of the Welsh coast. The sea was calm and the sun shone fine so we weren’t worried as we stepped aboard an inflatable motorboat with a half dozen other people.

This good weather was our undoing. The calm conditions had made the fish move further out to sea, and the dolphins had followed them. As we made our way down the coast on our one-hour ride we saw exactly none. Oh well. It’s best to remember that nature isn’t there for our amusement.

This stretch of Welsh coastline is beautiful, with jagged rocks rising high out of the sea. The strata of the rocks is clearly visible, which allowed me to give the kid a lesson in geology, and the cliffs are dotted with numerous caves that smugglers (our boat captain called them “pirates”) used to elude the customs agents. My son was more disappointed about there being no pirates than he was about the lack of dolphins! All was made better when he got to sit in the captain’s chair.

One local told me that New Quay isn’t the most pleasant place to be at night in the summertime. A lot of rough people come into town to get drunk and start fights, and two of his friends got knifed in one incident. We saw a big fight in Aberystwyth too. This isn’t unusual in the UK. When I lived in London, I regularly saw fights on the street on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s just a sad fact of life in this part of the world.

Still, we had a nice day and the kid had a great time and got to experience something new, which is what really matters. Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about a steam train we took through some beautiful Welsh countryside. Unlike my last two posts on Wales, this one will be entirely positive!