Reader mail: AirBnB, craft breweries, accordions, Bob Dylan

When asking for AirBnB stories earlier this winter, I expected tales about money saved and friendly connections made during domestic travel. Two of you took a chance on Airbnb.com during international trips, and I’m rewarding your willingness to engage personally with other cultures.

“Sitting on the veranda of The Tree House Lodge, overlooking Long Bay on The Big Corn Island, we realized it was only by chance that we found ourselves in this sweet little beach house on this tiny tropical island in the Caribbean surrounded by the kind of turquoise blue waters you only see in travel magazines and postcards,” writes Michael Kleinschmidt of Merrill.

“I say ‘by chance’ because when my wife and I were planning our next vacation to Central America we pulled up Google maps and pointed a finger at a little dot off the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. What we found was a beautiful piece of paradise, well off the beaten path of islands high on the list of most travelers to the Caribbean.

“With another click, little did we know that Airbnb would help us find ourselves captivated for eight days by our stay at the Tree House, the beaches and vibe of the island and those we encountered along the way. It was like a step back in time, to the Caribbean of 30 years ago, where the people are friendly and welcoming, a place yet unspoiled by high-rise resort-style hotels and kitschy tourist spots. A place where strains of old-time country music can be heard everywhere, almost in contradiction to the idyllic tropical backdrop of this little island. If friendly, genuine and off the beaten path is what you are looking for, then look no further The Tree House lodge on the Big Corn Island.”

That tantalizing description earns Michael two Chicago CityPASS booklets, worth up to $400. Each CityPASS sells for $98, but the value is closer to $200 because of admission to attractions that are covered. citypass.com, 888-330-5008

Runner-up is Vicki Zeihen of Pleasant Prairie, whose foursome visited her daughter during a two-month study for pharmacy work.

“My first experience with Airbnb was not in the United States, but rather Cape Town, South Africa,” she writes. “The timing was right for us to take this trip. I had done a lot of research on Cape Town, along with researching many hotels,” but most were booked by the time her daughter was notified of her study location.

“I was becoming rather stressed and my son suggested Airbnb. He had prior experience, but I did not. I was very skeptical, but gave him to go-ahead to book what he thought was a good fit for us. The price seemed within reason, especially given the amount of space we were getting.

“We could not have been more pleased. (The Airbnb lodging operator) was extremely nice and very attentive to every question that we had. He even went as far as to supply the proper adapters for our smart phones and computers. Airbnb helped in making our trip amazing!”

Vicki will receive a copy of “Last-Minute Travel Secrets: 121 Ingenious Tips to Endure Cramped Planes, Car Trouble, Awful Hotels and Other Trips From Hell” by Joey Green ($17, Chicago Review Press) for sharing that travel experience.

Airbnb.com describes itself as a “community marketplace” that began in 2008 and “provides access to millions of unique accommodations from apartments and villas to castles and treehouses in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries.”

That ranges from modest accommodations (translation: you might share a bedroom) to lavish, private, whole-house digs. The company recently acquired Luxury Retreats, a vacation rental company with at least 4,000 homes in 100 locations that span the globe. Luxury Retreats is based in Montreal. luxuryretreats.com, 877-395-9832

You know I love reader mail. Here are quick excerpts.

Titletown Brewing Company, Green Bay, should have been on the recent Take Ten list of Fox Valley breweries, says a new homebrewer who asked to remain anonymous because he teaches high school. “I really don’t want my name and beer out there in the same article,” he writes.

Titletown was the 2016 Best Brewpub in USA Today 10Best Reader’s Choice voting and is a finalist for the 2017 award. Voting ends March 13: 10best.com/awards/travel/best-brewpub-2017

The brewery opened in 1996 in a former railroad depot and expanded into a revamped canning company in 2016. Titletown’s Roof Tap bar includes an outdoor, rooftop patio with “an incredible view of the downtown Green Bay area.” titletownbrewing.com, 920-437-2337

Brewer David Knuth sends a note of appreciation for including his business, Knuth Brewing Company, Ripon, on the Take Ten list. “We also bake all of our own bread and pizzas in a wood-fired oven that we built ourselves,” he writes. “Many of our ingredients come from local suppliers, for both our food and beer.” knuthbrewingcompany.com, 920-748-5188

“I recently rescued an accordion from my deceased father’s basement,” writes Jacqueline Fairbairn of the Green Bay area. “It is in need of repair and a potential new home, as no remaining relatives are able to play it. I think it’s amazing and deserves to be reconditioned. If I can afford it. Can you give me any info?”

Her best match is Helmi Harrington of Superior, who operates A World of Accordions Museum, plus an accordion repair shop and technicians’ school. museum.accordionworld.org, 218-393-0245

Tom and Jan Drehmel, Chippewa Falls, are Bob Dylan fans who requested reassurance about 2017 Dylan Fest dates in Duluth, Minn. The festival is May 21-28. bobdylanway.com

Chris Storms, a native of the legendary musician’s hometown – Hibbing, Minn. – writes that Dylan is “a very quiet person who doesn’t sing or make music for awards.” (The article began by noting that the songster had yet to contact the Swedish Academy about his Nobel Prize for Literature.

A Take Ten installment about reasons to visit the Marshfield area mentioned Willard’s Amish population, which drew this response from Mary Ann (Celesnik) Holte, Lake Hallie:

“My parents were from Willard, and to me it will always represent its Slovenian roots – from the old Slovenian hall on the main drag, the Catholic church and the Slovenian last names in the cemetery there. Many of the original families may be gone, but to me Willard is not associated with the Amish.

“To me Willard is about visiting my aunt and uncle at what had been my grandparent’s farm – going by farms and my parents talking about who had lived there. To me Willard will always be Slovenian.”

Judy Samson of Black Creek asks for more information about Carnival’s new cruiseships. “We have been on over 10 cruises and are interested,” she writes.

Lots of information is at carnival.com, and carnival.com/ships/vista is the place to go for details about the newest and biggest ship. The snail-mail address for questions is Carnival Cruise Lines, 3655 NW 87th Ave., Miami, FL 33178.

Last, Kathy Hodkiewicz of Green Bay makes us aware of her poetry by sending her “Fall and Winter I” chapbook and encouraging us to reprint a little something. Here is a lovely reminder of the season we are about to leave behind.

Winter’s Embrace

I feel the cold
Of winter’s embrace,

A snowy gown of
Fine silk and lace.

Touched again
By winter’s kiss,

I reel around in
A snowy bliss.