It's a tough job, but somebody has to search the globe for little-known destinations for discerning travelers. For the past 35 years, Mike Thiel has been happy to oblige. He's climbed aboard all manner of transportation—from hot-air balloons to vintage steam trains to dogsleds—in order to curate upscale and exotic vacation experiences. As the son of a United States Diplomatic Corps officer who became a consultant for the oil and gas industry, Thiel has long been globetrotting and seeking respite from overcrowded beaches and tourist-filled hot spots. He founded Hideaways International, Inc. to share what he knows about luxury travel with everyday people. As his company has grown over the years, Thiel has advised high-profile media outlets such as Forbes.com on how to get away from it all, with a 2007 article about the world's best private beaches and a 2008 feature on avoiding spring-break crowds.
Thiel and his team of travel specialists guide people to high-end cruises, breathtaking Italian villas, and vacation-home rentals in the Caribbean. They even help clients rent a private island to feel like a celebrity or test out a dinosaur-DNA cloning project. Members of the Hideaways Aficionado Club also receive exclusive perks and discounts with participating partners.
Customers choose their own adventures when renting a kayak from Sebago Trails Paddling Co. Father-and-daughter team Bill and Katelyn Allen and their friend and business partner Virginia Arsenault use more than 30 years of business, kayaking, and local knowledge to suggest more than 30 adventures within 12 miles of the kayak rental site. Life-jacket-adorned paddlers explore a historic hand-operated lock from the 1830s, venture through the historic ruins of Gambo Mills, or head to one of the various beaches as their colorful kayak glides through the water, slicing the gentle waves with its bright red nose.
Urban Farm Fermentory aims to obtain as much of its ingredients from the local community as possible—even its founder, Eli Cayer, is a Maine native. At the Fermentory, juice pressed from Maine apples is allowed to ferment under the direction of yeast that occurs naturally in the air and on the fruit itself, producing a cider that is as tart as it is dry. Raw Maine honey goes into the experimental center’s crisp mead, and its kombucha is sure to please lovers of fermented tea and displease the ghost of Earl Grey. As it expands, the Urban Farm Fermentory is coming to serve as a hub for local artisans, providing a space for enthusiasts to provide workshops in such fields as making lacto-fermented foods such as kimchi, and harvesting mushrooms.
The 4-year-old lion Mufasa Obama roams his cage, purring between bites of raw meat, as his sister, Tawana, roars behind him. Mufasa, dubbed “Maine’s Little Lion King” by D.E.W. Animal Kingdom and Sanctuary’s caretakers Bob and Julie Miner, may be the nonprofit sanctuary’s most visible inhabitant, but he’s far from its only attraction. Across 43 acres of land, the roars and deep purrs of big cats mix with the quacks of ducks and the snorts of pigs. A staff of volunteers tends to gibbons, spider monkeys, and lemurs as they swing from trees inside a primate enclosure. Meanwhile, orphaned and injured native-Maine animals such as owls are sequestered for rehabilitation before being released back into the wild or signed for exclusive Tootsie Pops endorsements.:m]]
Whether leading visitors along the historic streets of Old Port or along the craggy coast near Portland's harbor in a trolley, the guides at Maine Foodie Tours regale visitors with background on the area's artisan cuisine. Each of them partners with local culinary artisans to uncover historical tidbits about dishes or reminiscences about the days when whoopie pies were still carved out of wood. On walking tours, they explain how fish houses, canneries, and textile mills have given way to coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants, stopping for samples of fish, cheese, and microbrews to illustrate each point. On chocolate tours, they may explore the history of the cocoa bean by leading guests to confectioneries that craft cupcakes, ice cream, fudge, and truffles. In the spring, summer, and fall, Maine Foodie Tours offers other excursions, such as trolley and bike tours.
The logo for the International Cryptozoology Museum is a coelacanth, one of the science's great success stories. Believed to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, a specimen of the armored fish was caught off the coast of South Africa in 1938 and identified by museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer despite its false mustache. In the optimistic spirit of that amazing discovery, the International Cryptozoology Museum displays exhibits profiling such mysterious creatures as Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Jersey Devil, along with lesser known beasties such as the Dover Demon, the Montauk Monster, and the Fiji Mermaid.