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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Northshire Bookstore, A Manchester, Vermont Gem

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches 

Whenever I head to Vermont, a must-stop is the Northshire Bookstore. Between Northshire and Manchester Hot Glass (which I wrote about in a previous blog), my gift-giving needs are often fulfilled right in downtown Manchester, Vermont. Founded in 1976, Northshire is still family-owned and is a true community gathering spot-at the Spiral Press Cafe, and for author speaking events, live music, and reading groups. I love that they still have a vibrant "staff picks" program, with index cards thumbtacked to the bookshelves, explaining why the staff enjoyed the chosen one. Grab one of those books and sit yourself down in the comfy chairs. 
Northshire sits on a prominent corner in Manchester, in an historic old building, where Routes 30 and 7A cross. Before becoming Northshire's home, the structure was Colburn House, a continuously operating inn for over a century. TripAdvisor ranks Northshire #1 for shopping in Manchester, and I agree. As the owners, the Morrow family, say: "We work hard to enrich our communities as we strive to thrive in the dynamic world of bookselling." Bravo. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/20/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2018

Come Away to Newfoundland with Amy

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches
The Broadway show Come From Away was nominated for seven Tony nominations in 2017; it won a Tony for best direction, and a Drama Desk Award for outstanding musical. If you haven't heard about it yet, Come From Away depicts the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland -- the remote village which saw its population double in size, as it provided refuge to 6,579 passengers and crew from 38 planes, diverted when U.S. air space was closed. The airport in Gander was at one time the largest in the world, serving as an important refueling stop for cross-Atlantic flights, thus it could handle the traffic. Newfoundlanders call visitors those who "come from away," and that's what happened. 
As I'm now living much of the time in Canada, eager to explore, and inspired by Come From Away, I'm going to Newfoundland in October 2018 with a wonderful group called Adventure Canada (a family-owned and operated expedition travel company since 1987). The trip is a circumnavigation of Newfoundland over the course of 10 days. Anyone interested in joining me gets 15% off, if you book by April 15. Adventure Canada trips are best suited for people with an adventurous spirit, who still want comfortable accommodations and good food. Sounds pretty good! 
Adventure Canada explains: Starting and ending in historic St. John's, we will experience Newfoundland's lively culture and dramatic scenery via daily expedition stops and community visits. Famed for its music and stories, Newfoundland is also incredibly picturesque, with a rugged coastline rendered spectacular by autumn foliage and light. We will visit Red Bay's Basque Whaling Station (Unesco World Heritage Site), explore and hike the landscapes of Gros Morne National Park, learn about Viking history in North America at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, enjoy a taste of the Mi'kmaq culture in Miawpukek First Nation (Conne River), and visit to the French island of Saint-Pierre. Experience legendary music, food, and hospitality in true Newfoundland fashion: by sea, on the 137 metre Ocean Endeavor (Capacity: 198), with a team of naturalists and artists.
I'm also excited because Adventure Canada is partnering with Slow Food USA on the journey. That's a topic for another day, but I am passionate about local food which is sustainably, humanely and fairly sourced. Seems like we'll have plenty of that on the trip as well. Slow Food seeks to "connect the pleasures of the table with a commitment to the communities, cultures, knowledge, and environment that make this pleasure possible."
Finally, a personal note: My father worked as a lawyer for Allied Maintenance back in the 1960s- 1970s, when Allied played a large role at the Gander Airport, providing all ground handling and passenger services, plus aircraft maintenance. Dad also spent time at the Newfoundland fishing camp Allied's CEO owned on the Gander River. I guess Gander and Newfoundland have re-entered my life in 2018.
Please contact ActiveTravels if you are interested in joining me in Newfoundland. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/19/18 at 07:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

World’s Best Family Travel Destinations

Yellowstone National Park, London, Paris, Switzerland, Kenya, Tanzania, and Costa Rica all receive a worthy mention in my latest story for Global Traveler on the World’s Best Family Destinations. Thanks to Austin Adventures, Abercrombie & Kent, Backroads, and FanilyVacationCritic for providing the inspiration and the quotes. 

Lisa and I are off to New Jersey tomorrow for a conference with other Virtuoso-affiliated travel agents. Then it’s on to Boca Raton to celebrate Ken Leavitt’s 85th birthday and to see family in Naples and Marco Island. We’ll be back on March 19th. In the meantime, be well and keep active! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/07/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

St. Lucia’s Sugar Beach Debuts Beachfront Collection

Smack dab between the dramatic conical-shaped Pitons on a glorious stretch of white sand, Sugar Beach deserves top billing in the Caribbean. But now the ultra-sybaritic escape just pushed the envelope a little farther with the opening of two of five planned Beachfront Collection Residences. The four-bedroom homes have private access to the white sands of Glenconner Beach and come with all of the amenities of this Viceroy property, such as personalized butler service and access to the Rainforest Spa. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors connect the living and dining rooms with the outdoor terrace and private pool. Rates start at $5,000 a night. Let ActiveTravels know if you want to check availability. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 05, 2018

New England Lodgings You Need to Book Well in Advance

There are three reasons why the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine, continues to sell out summer after summer: location, location, location. A small gate at the far end of the inn’s sprawling lawn opens onto to the famous mile-long cliff walk they call the Marginal Way. Turn left, and you can stroll downhill to the main beach, stores, and restaurants in Ogunquit. Turn right, and discover even more breathtaking vistas of the jagged coastline and vast Atlantic. Keep going, and soon you’re in the compact neighborhood of Perkins Cove, where you can shop for painted lobster buoys and grab that requisite lobster roll at Barnacle Billy’s.

To find other New England properties where reservations are a must, please check out my latest story for Yankee Magazine, Reservations Necessary

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/05/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 02, 2018

Following in the Footsteps of Canada’s Group of Seven Artists

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches

While vacationing last summer in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario, a few hours north of Toronto, my husband Josh and I ventured to the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound. Many Americans are not familiar with the famous painters in the “Group of Seven,” but in Canada they are revered. Also known as the Algonquin School, these Canadian landscape artists worked from 1920 to 1933. The most famous name associated with the Group of Seven is likely Lawren Harris (1885 – 1970), who actor/comedian/art collector Steve Martin brought to the US via exhibits in Los Angeles and the MFA in Boston. One of Harris’ paintings sold for more than $3 million last November. Tom Thomson predated but seriously influenced the Group of Seven. He died before its official formation, mysteriously drowning in 1917 in Canoe Lake in Algonquin National Park, Ontario. Thomson grew up just outside of Owen Sound, an inlet on Georgian Bay, and the small museum there pays homage to his work and impact. I particularly enjoyed the early photography of the Group of Seven painters as they fished, swam, and camped, before setting up their easels “plein air.” If you are interested in seeing more paintings from the Group of Seven, visit the wonderful McMichael Canadian Art Collection, just outside of Toronto in the town of Kleinburg on your next trip to Ontario. 
Tom Thomson, sketch for The West Wind, Spring 1916, oil on wood. Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/02/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Must-Stop at the East Side Gallery in Berlin

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Another of my main areas of interest when I was in Berlin in January was to experience first-hand the “East divided from West” Years. The separation of Berlin began in 1945, and, in 1961, East Germany built the Berlin Wall, circling West Berlin, to prevent its residents from migrating. My husband Josh and I landed at Schoenefeld Airport (the airport in the former Soviet quarter of East Berlin and formerly the main airport of East Germany), and thus began this aspect of the adventure. 
In my two days of touring, we criss-crossed Berlin constantly, from what was West Berlin to what was East Berlin, without distinction. There are certainly many memorials to a city divided, and to understanding that history, but none as interesting to me as the East Side Gallery. Once it was the Berlin Wall. Now it’s the longest open-air gallery in the world. Almost a mile long, one section of the Berlin Wall was not demolished and instead became a living canvas for paintings about change, happiness, hope, and freedom Beginning in 1990, 118 artists from 21 countries painted pictures on the wall. They are vibrant, interesting, and, frankly genuine (this is all outside, not hidden from the weather). I would have loved to stop and photograph each one. In fact, I bought a book of Wall paintings to bring home. Of course “progress” is always a challenge: a section of the East Side Gallery was removed a few years ago to make room for luxury condos along the River Spree. 
There are many other areas of Berlin which I visited related to the “East divided from West” Years, including: the Berlin Wall Memorial (with tunnels underneath marked); the gigantic Soviet War Memorial for the 22,000 who died taking Berlin in WWII; the TV Tower (famously built VERY tall, tallest in Germany, by the East Germans, intended as a symbol of communist power); and Checkpoint Charlie, which was silly and not even in the right place (one of the actors playing a soldier was a Syrian refugee, and the other had a second job at Chippendale’s). 
If Berlin (or Germany in general) interests you, let ActiveTravels assist with your journey.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/01/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Visit to Berlin with Kensington Tours

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

In January, I joined by husband Josh on a business trip to Berlin. The CEOs of the 12 largest natural history museums in the world were gathering to discuss museum trends and approaches to some of the most pressing environmental problems today. We stayed near the Museum für Naturkunde, and I explored the City with my tour guide Nadav, supplied by our colleagues at Kensington Tours.
Nadav is an Israeli who moved to Berlin 17 years ago for his PhD studies. All of his grandparents were from Germany. His father’s family went to Palestine in 1928 from the Northeast “poor” district of Berlin, and his mother’s family went in the 1930s, from a “well to do” Southwest district of Berlin. By virtue of having a knowledgeable guide, I definitely saw parts of the city I would not have alone (i.e., not in the guidebooks). 
Berlin is not a particularly beautiful city, especially in the middle of winter, but it is a fascinating one. Of course, there is plenty of old German history to absorb, and plenty of modern diverse life, too. There are 12 boroughs or districts in Berlin, each with its own commercial center. During our two days of touring, we crossed these boroughs constantly going from the former West Berlin to East Berlin, without distinction. Our hotel and the Nature Museum are, for example, in the former East Berlin, and Mitte (the middle borough).
Most of the buildings you see in Berlin are either new or rebuilt after WWII. The photo above is of Charlottenburg Palace (present day, with “just after WWII” juxtaposed in front), where Obama was hosted for dinner in 2013. Another mix of old and new is The Victory Column (from the 1870s, now 220 feet tall, with several German military wins commemorated one above the other, in layers). Nadav said the column is used today as a symbol of the LGBTQ community in Berlin (on the annual St. Christopher Street Day, when covered by a giant condom). Of course, I also saw the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building (Parliament), the Ku’damm (Berlin’s answer to the Champs-Elysées), and The Jewish Museum (opened in 2001, reflecting on Jewish history and culture in Germany, designed by Daniel Liebskind, who also designed an expansion at the museum Josh leads in Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum). If Berlin (or Germany in general) interests you, let ActiveTravels and Kensington Tours assist with your journey.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/28/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Worthy Stop at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, California

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches

My daughter Sophie and I have done many road trips together, and she is quite used to stopping in unusual places along the way (often with the assistance of ActiveTravels resources). On a sunny Friday in Southern California, we shared another such adventure. Visiting her for Parents’ Weekend at the Claremont Colleges, but this year wanting to spend time away from the crowds, we set out for Acton, California, with the explicit goal of visiting Farm Sanctuary.
Sophie has been an ardent vegetarian since the age of 7, and spent many hours in her youth as a member of the Sunnyrock 4H Sheep Club in Sharon, Massachusetts. She’s just always loved animals, and a wide range of them too. So, when I heard about Farm Sanctuary from an ActiveTravels member last fall, I knew I had to visit with her.
Farm Sanctuary is a national non-profit whose goal is to end farm animal abuse. They have 3 locations where they rescue, rehabilitate, and provide long-term care to farm animals who have previously been in factory farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses. Of course, the staff at Farm Sanctuary also educates the public and advocates for policy reform. The 26-acre Acton Shelter is located on a hacienda ranch northeast of Los Angeles, in the Sierra Pelona Mountains. The town has a rural western theme, which can be seen in its homes, commercial buildings, and historical buildings, some of which date back to the late 1800s.
A little early for our 1 pm tour, we had lunch at Wences Bistro, a small restaurant in town serving “Italian, Chinese, American, & Mexican” cuisine. Then we met our group for the tour. Let’s just say that Sophie had to cover her eyes for the short video which depicted various terrible conditions at factory farms. But then we met Jumper the 700-pound pig, various cows, goats, sheep, chickens, roosters, and horses…and we were smitten.
A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but there is no doubt that factory farming is problematic on a number of levels (even if you aren’t too concerned about animal care, they are usually polluters of the surrounding environment). We appreciated the work that Farm Sanctuary does and the chance to learn more. If you ever find yourself on a road trip from point A to point B, please ask ActiveTravels if there is anything interesting to do on your route. We’d be glad to help!
(Photo by Sophie Basseches) 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/27/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, February 26, 2018

An Update on Santa Barbara, the American Riviera

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Thanks to the generosity of a long-time friend, I recently spent a weekend at his lovely home, dating back to the 1920s, high in the hills above Santa Barbara. At ActiveTravels, we often get asked about the impact of recent fires and mudslides on Southern California travel plans, so I was grateful for the chance to check things out first-hand.
The Santa Barbara area is called the American Riviera, and, as far as I could tell, the joint was jumping. We were graced with glorious sunshine and warm (but not hot) temperatures. We journeyed into the waters off Santa Barbara aboard the Sunset Kidd, looking for migrating whales, but instead were treated to dozens of dolphins swimming and jumping right alongside us. We ate wonderful meals at Opal and at Blackbird. The latter is part of the newly opened Hotel Californian, very near the beach in the “Funk Zone” neighborhood (more on that later). The hotel features Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and modern Moorish themed interior décor, and incorporates the façade of the original 1925 Hotel Californian. To relax at the rooftop pool, or in the Turkish-inspired spa, would be amazing. After having a tour around with the Catering Manager Inga Winkler, I would not hesitate to reserve rooms there for ActiveTravels members (note: the chef at Blackbird whipped up an original vegetarian dish for my daughter, which was much appreciated). 
The “Funk Zone” near the hotel has enjoyed a renaissance. Formerly “the railroad track neighborhood,” it is now full of boutique tasting rooms, cafes, galleries, and shops that cater to Santa Barbara’s contemporary side. Converted warehouses and buildings decorated with graffiti murals and art pieces set the tone. 
We wine tasted at Skyenna, a stone’s throw from the famous Stearns Wharf, which we had visited on a prior trip. There was also an outdoor art fair in Shoreline Park, shops to check out on State Street, the Old Mission to admire, burritos at the original Freebird in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara, sushi at Arigato, and authentic Mexican food at Super-Rica Taqueria. One place my friend had recommended we visit for fine dining was closed due to the mudslides, the San Ysidro Ranch, so it’s definitely still an issue for some businesses. But, if Santa Barbara interests you, ActiveTravels would be happy to help you enjoy the hills, beach, water, food, and wine.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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