Tag Archives: Susan Farewell

Farewell To Great Travel Experiences

Once upon a time, Westport was an artists’ colony. Then we were “the marketing capital of the world.”

Less well known — but also true — is our role in the travel industry. In 1925, Arthur Tauck invented the modern tour model. The Taucks are longtime Westporters; for many years Tauck Tours (now Tauck World Discovery) was headquartered in town.

In 1958, international explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad set up shop here. Lindblad Travel offered trips to then-exotic locales like the Galapagos Islands, Africa and Antarctica.

Susan Farewell

Susan Farewell

Westport is also home to Susan Farewell. A veteran travel writer — she spent 10 years as travel editor for Bride’s magazine, and also contributed to Travel + Leisure, Gourmet and many other publications — she branched out 4 years ago onto the web.

FarewellTravels.com carries her own stories, and those of high-profile journalists, on a variety of topics.

As these things do, it spurred a sideline. Readers often asked Susan to help with their own travel plans. A couple of years ago, she realized she could turn her knowledge and advice into a business of its own.

“With the internet, people can now make their own travel arrangements,” Susan says. “But there’s so much information out there, they can feel overwhelmed.”

Though Susan is a travel agent — she’s got all the certifications — that’s not how she describes herself. Her niche is her ability to drill down past booking airline tickets and hotel rooms.

“I think I bring more of an editorial sense to travel,” she says. “It’s a more hand-crafted approach.”

Thanks to her contacts, Susan connects clients with the best guides in a city. She suggests off-the-beaten-track galleries and restaurants, and steers travelers to places they might never think of going.

As a travel writer, Susan always got the guides and drivers who were assigned to heads of state, rock stars and other celebrities. She developed connections with the most interesting hotels, and discovered the best bakeries around the world.

Susan Farewell knows exactly where to go to see incredible sights like this.

Susan Farewell knows exactly where to go to see incredible sights like this.

“Westporters are very sophisticated travelers,” she says. “They’ve studied abroad, lived or worked abroad. They speak different languages. They want more than basic advice.”

Susan adds, “You can’t just pull that out of a hat. There’s a lot of roll-up-your-sleeves work. What’s the best restaurant on the road to Bilbao for lunch? It’s all about the nuts and bolts of each destination.”

Recently, she arranged for a honeymoon couple to “find” Champagne that had been planted at a secret spot in Iceland. She also organized a private picnic, courtesy of a noted chef.

On the way to safaris — a specialty — she plans wine tastings in South African vineyards.

Organizing travel is high-stress. It’s not for everyone — particularly busy Westporters who already have plenty on their non-travel plates.

That’s why — before traveling — you should say not “au revoir.” Try “farewell.”

As in, Susan Farewell.

Remembering Frazier Peters — And Mollie Donovan

A fascinating exhibit opened Sunday at the Westport Historical Society.

Called “Frazier Forman Peters:  At Home With Stone,” it honors the man who is arguably Westport’s most famous architect.

Frazier Forman Peters

Peters — also a builder, teacher and writer — was born in 1895 to a New York Episcopalian clergy family.  He graduated from Columbia University as a chemical engineer, but quickly grew disgruntled with the industry,

He came to Westport in 1919, hoping to work the land as a farmer.  The rocky soil intrigued him, and he soon found his calling as a designer and builder of stone houses.

Peters’ homes can be found from Virginia to Maine — but most are in Connecticut.  Between 1924 and 1936 he designed and built over 36 stone houses Westport.  His designs are revered for their unique fieldstone wall construction method, as well as their spatial organization and sensitive placement in relation to the natural environment.

Susan Farewell wrote:

Were Frazier Peters to build houses today, he’d be receiving all sorts of accolades for being an architect on the leading edge of environmentally-conscious, energy-efficient, sustainable design and construction.

The thick fieldstone walls (as much as 16 inches) typical of a Peters stone house make them energy-efficient; the stones effectively hold the heat in winter and keep the interiors cools in summer….

He segregated rooms by giving each one a separate identity, and through the use of step-downs, varied building materials, and interesting transitions. He was also taken by how beautifully European stone structures aged and compared them to American-built frame houses that “droop and pout if they are not continually groomed and manicured.”

Another important component of Peters’ designs was the marriage of the house and its surroundings. He wrote a great deal about this and was especially enamored with the brooks, hillsides, and woods of Connecticut.

Adam Stolpen — who lives in a Frazier Peters house — adds:  “He was our first ‘green architect.  And he was completely self-taught.

“These are definitely not cookie-cutter McMansions.  They are homes meant to be lived in.  And each one has a bit of whimsy.”

A Frazier Forman Peters house on Charcoal Hill. (Photo by Alan Goldfinger/Westport News)

The exhibit includes photographs of his houses; artifacts, and a model of stone construction method and materials.

But it would not have come about had it not been for a modern Westporter with an affinity for history — and a connection to Frazier Peters homes.

A few years ago, longtime town volunteer Mollie Donovan wanted a plaque for her son’s family.  Dan and Nicole Donovan had just bought a Peters house near Charcoal Hill — one of Peters’ favorite areas.

Most homes with a historic plaque are at least 100 years old.  But Bob Weingarten — the WHS member in charge of authorizing plaques — realized that the style, beauty, and placement of the Donovans’ house warranted one.

His interest in Peters was piqued.  He searched for other houses.  Each time he found — and verified — one, he sent a note to the WHS (and Mollie).

After a dozen, she decided Peters should be honored too — with an exhibit.

Frazier Forman Peters died in 1963.  Mollie Donovan passed away last April.

But — thanks to both of them — an intriguing, informative exhibition lives on.

So do Frazier Peters’ houses.  According to Bob Weingarten, of the 36 houses he’s found that were designed and built by Peters, only 1 has been demolished.

In today’s Westport, that might be Frazier Peters’ most enduring legacy of all.

(The Westport Historical Society exhibition runs through December 31.  Click here for details.)

Another Frazier Forman Peters house view. (Photo by Alan Goldfinger/Westport News)

Frazier Peters’ Houses

Adam Stolpen has a thing for Frazier Forman Peters houses.

As a child he lived in a South Compo Road home designed by Peters, arguably Westport’s most famous architect.

Today he lives in another Peters house on Spring Hill Road.  Neighboring homes are also Peters-built.

Adam Stolpen's Frazier Peters house. (Photo by Douglas Healey/The New York Times)

This Saturday (April 24), Stolpen will host Laura Blau.  Peters’ granddaughter — and an architect in her own right — she and Stolpen will ride around Westport, looking at the handsome stone homes created in the 1920s and ’30s by her grandfather.

Her visit comes at a propitious time.  The Westport Historical Society is considering a 2011 exhibit devoted to Peters.  Under the direction of Bob Weingarten, the WHS is also identifying Westport homes designed and built by the legendary architect.

They’ve found 25 so far.  Ten more are being investigated.  They’re on the lookout for others.

Though Weingarten will be away when Blau visits, she’ll have a full itinerary.  And she’ll enjoy seeing — first hand — the mark her grandfather made on Westport.

Writer Susan Farewell wrote about Peters:

Were Frazier Peters to build houses today, he’d be receiving all sorts of accolades for being an architect on the leading edge of environmentally-conscious, energy-efficient, sustainable design and construction.

The thick fieldstone walls (as much as 16 inches) typical of a Peters stone house make them energy-efficient; the stones effectively hold the heat in winter and keep the interiors cools in summer….

He segregated rooms by giving each one a separate identity, and through the use of step-downs, varied building materials, and interesting transitions. He was also taken by how beautifully European stone structures aged and compared them to American-built frame houses that “droop and pout if they are not continually groomed and manicured.”

Another important component of Peters’ designs was the marriage of the house and its surroundings. He wrote a great deal about this and was especially enamored with the brooks, hillsides, and woods of Connecticut.

Stolpen has a copy of Peters’ final — and unpublished — book.  Decades ago, the architect wrote about urban planning.  “He was our first ‘green architect,’” Stolpen says.  “And he was completely self-taught.

“These are definitely not cookie-cutter McMansions.  They are homes meant to be lived in.  And each one has a bit of whimsy.”

The rear of Adam Stolpen's house. (Photo by Douglas Healey/The New York Times)

Blau — who co-founded BluPath Design, a Philadelphia firm specializing in environmentally sensitive spaces — has been to Westport before.  Stolpen drove her around.

“We just looked at the homes,” she recalls.  “One or two people were in their yards.  We introduced ourselves, and chatted.”  For the 1st time she understood the depth, breadth and impact of her grandfather’s work.

This weekend, she hopes to get inside more properties.  She also plans to meet WHS volunteers who are considering next year’s Peter’s exhibit.

Blau, her husband and son will stay in Stolpen’s guest house.  Of course it’s a Frazier Peters structure — built elegantly to house masons, as they worked on other Peters homes that still stand proudly, all around town.

(If you think you live in a Frazier Peters house — and the WHS does not know about it — email Bob Weingarten: rwmailbox@aol.com.  If you’d like Blau and Stolpen to see your house when she is in town, call Stolpen at 203-227-8758.)

Farewell Travels

Farewell Travels seems like an odd name for a website.  Perhaps it is filled with tips on trips to take if you are dumping a partner?  Terminally ill?  Or even your final destination, after you’re gone?

The name becomes easier to understand once you learn its founder and editor is Westport’s Susan Farewell.

Susan Farewell

Farewell — a former travel editor at Condé Nast Publications; freelance writer and editor for “Travel + Leisure,” the New York Times, and in-flight and regional magazines; and travel correspondent for radio and TV programs (among much more) — has launched a “boutique online travel magazine for the discriminating traveler.”  The 3rd edition has just gone live.

The lead story asks “Where is travel going?”  (The answer:  Despite earthquakes, economic woes, security lines and flight delays — pretty well, for reasons ranging from adventure and food to romance.)

There are sections on family travel, health and fitness travel — even “travel fashion tips” by “Queer Eye” star Carson Kressley.  Farewell covers the waterfront — and mountains, deserts and cities — around the globe.

FarewellTravels takes the world as its stage, but many of the stars are from right here in Westport.

Susan’s husband, Tom Seligson, oversees the multimedia productions for the site — animated maps and the like.  The films are edited by Compo Beach resident Charles Gelber.  Even Tom and Susan’s Bedford Middle School daughter, Justine Seligson, gets into the act, writing a teens travel column.

The site — designed by Westporter Miggs Burroughs — includes artwork by Elaine Clayton, who also lives in the Compo Beach neighborhood. Even this month’s video focuses on a local travel adventurer, Richard Wiese.

But the success of the magazine reaches far beyond Westport.  Readership continues to grow, with subscribers in 46 states and 41 countries.

“06880″‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.”  FarewellTravels is doing the same.

Strategic Films At Home

After a career spent traveling the globe, Tom Seligson says “it’s a lot more fun to work in Westport.”

The former CBS News film producer has teamed up with his wife — digital, print and broadcast journalist Susan Farewell — and other Westport media types to form Strategic Filmworks. The full-service production company specializes in cinematic-quality films for websites and broadcast media. It targets travel, sports and fitness, medical, architectural and non-profit clients.

One of Strategic Filmworks’ first efforts is “Keeping America’s History Alive.”  Produced for the Westport Historical Society, it weaves together interviews, archival images and jaunty music.  The video’s prominence on the WHS website may lead to heightened interest, new members and– who knows? – a donation or three.

The company’s client roster is broad.  “They’re not all local — although that would be nice,” Seligson notes. “There is definitely a market for this here, and we’re glad to help.”

The WHS video highlights the impact of creative men and women on Westport’s history.  In the digital age, Strategic Frameworks proves a worthy successor to that heritage.

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