Friday, May 17, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
Not so long ago, Walla Walla was known for its sweet tasting onion. Yet, as of late, this community of 40,000 has been transformed by the grapevine, now boasting more than 80 boutique vineyards. Talented chefs have also made the move to this fertile valley, happy to get their produce from the local farmer and to have their meals washed down with award-winning cabernets and syrahs. The relatively level terrain in the southeastern corner of Washington offers a web of backcountry roads through vineyards and fields of wheat, onions, and peas that are perfect for road bikers. Unlike Napa, with its close proximity to San Francisco, there are no limos or buses filled with wine tasters to blow exhaust your way. Indeed, the closest city is sleepy Spokane, 155 miles to the north. Ride south of town to view the 6,000-foot snowcapped peaks of the Blue Mountains, making sure to stop at Pepper Bridge, Northstar, and Zerba Wineries to try the complex, yet aromatic red wines, which, depending on the vintage, can hint at black cherry, pepper, even licorice.
Follow me live on location next week, when I bike through Niagara-on-the-Lake with Butterfield & Robinson!
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I can imagine what you’re thinking when I mention Manhattan as one of my favorite biking locales in America—suicidal bike messengers weaving in and out of the taxis and buses. But remember that Manhattan is an island ringed by rivers and an emerging bike trail that almost completely surrounds the city. This is especially true of the West Side where you can bike the entire length of the island on a trail along the Hudson River. Cruise under the vast span of the George Washington Bridge, past the USS Intrepid in Midtown, and then reach Battery Park City, where you can see the Statue Of Liberty. What an exhilarating feeling to see the skyscrapers and iconic sites of Manhattan on two wheels. This continues as you bike along the Lower East Side on the East River and pedal under the Brooklyn Bridge. Another fun ride is to simply bike the 6-mile loop around Central Park. There are numerous bike rental locales throughout the city, wherever you’re located.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Early Sunday morning and the only traffic on the 11-mile Crater Rim Trail was our little core of a dozen bikers. We rounded another bend and caught our first eye-widening view of Halema’uma’u Crater. Once home to a lake of lava in the 1920s, steam was now gushing forth over the large pit’s walls, permeating the air with the smell of sulfur. A trail of vapor shrouded the blackened basalt rock to give the lunarlike landscape an even more mysterious look. Halfway through our circular route, the harsh terrain was suddenly gone, replaced by a vivid green canopy of banana and tree ferns. A cool mist enveloped this tropical rain forest, polishing the long leaves with a layer of gloss and giving the chorus of birds something to sing about.
Home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world, one would expect Hawaii’s southernmost island to be an angry land of deadened rock and rivers of red. Yet, I would soon realize that this ever-expanding island has a myriad of moods—the gentle rolling hills of Waimea, the inviting sand of the Kohala Coast, the almost impenetrable jungle-like interior of the Hamakua Coast, the enormity of two mountains that are nearly 14,000 feet, and yes, even a rain forest on the backside of a volcano.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The 9 km ride around the Seawall of Stanley Park can be done in less than an hour. Yet, by the time you stop at the world-class aquarium, see the selection of totem poles, and dine on sablefish (a tender and rich Northwestern whitefish) at the classic Teahouse for lunch, the day is over. Riding under towering Douglas firs and along the rocky shoreline, you’ll also stop numerous times to take pictures of the bay. On our last ride around Stanley Park, my family spent a good chunk of time being entertained by the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Less than 15 minutes later, we were watching river otters in the wild dining on crabs along the Seawall. Another unexpected find in a city of unexpected finds, the reason why I return to Vancouver as often as I can.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Next week, I’ll be blogging live from Ontario’s wine country, Niagara-on-the-Lake, on a bike trip organized by Butterfield and Robinson. To get me in the mood, I’m going to devote this week to my favorite spring rides over the years. First up, biking to Giverny.
Those of you with a love of art history know Giverny as the home of Claude Monet. Less than an hour by train from Paris, you can make the pilgrimage to Monet’s home and his spectacular Japanese water garden inundated with day lilies, the inspiration for many of the works that hang on the walls of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and other impressive collections of Impressionism around the globe. Fat Tire Bike Tours escorts riders from Paris’ St. Lazare train station to the quaint village of Vernon. Once you arrive, you head to an outdoor market to stock up on picnic food--soft, creamy Reblochon cheese, slices of yummy Rosette de Lyon sausage, duck liver pate, warm baguettes from the neighborhood boulangerie, juicy strawberries and apricots, and a bottle of wine to wash it down.
After passing out bikes, our guide Andrew led us to the banks of the Seine River where we watched a family of swans swim as we dug into our goodies. Then we were off on an easy bike trail that connects Vernon with Giverny. We entered the picturesque hamlet and were soon walking over that Japanese bridge seen in many of Monet’s works. The whole trip took about 8 hours and cost 75 Euros per biker, a perfect day trip from Paris.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Driving along Route 6A in Brewster, it’s hard to miss Boston banker Samuel Nickerson’s turn-of-the-century mansion. Today, it’s the centerpiece of the sprawling Ocean Edge Resort. Nickerson’s beachfront estate is now home to over 400 guest rooms and townhouses. The latest addition is the Presidential Bay Collection, 31 two and three-bedroom villas with full kitchen and easy walking distance to the beach. Add six pools, the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus redesigned golf course, nine tennis courts, and bike paths that connect easily to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and you understand why Ocean Edge has been the perennial family favorite on the Cape for decades. I’m heading there today to review the new Presidential Bay Collection for The Boston Globe. I’ll be back on Monday. Have a great weekend and stay active!
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
At the southernmost coast of that ecotourism hub, Costa Rica, a 1040-acre rainforest called the Lapa Rios preserve perches over the Pacific Ocean, offering the best of both worlds. You can spend the morning hiking along the Carbonera River to a pristine waterfall, accompanied by four types of monkeys, macaws, and those rainbow-colored toucans. In the afternoon, sea kayak in the ocean around Matapalo Point or surf the Golfo Dulce. The 16 open-air bungalows and main lodge of the Lapa Rios Ecolodge are no tent-in-the-woods accommodation. Hardwood floors, bamboo walls, and a vaulted thatched roof ceiling provide plenty of space and privacy. Other luxuries include soft mosquito netting over the queen-sized bed and a secluded garden shower.
Former Peace Corp volunteers Karen and John Lewis built the retreat in 1990 as a way to save hundreds of acres of rainforest from farming. The owners have just signed a conservation easement that protects over 900 acres of land surrounding Lapa Rios in perpetuity. It prohibits all extractive activities, such as mining, forestry and hunting, as well as further building expansion, even putting a cap on trail construction. At the same time the easement encourages both scientific and educational activities on the reserve. All those monkeys and birds that wake you up in the morning are a tribute to their brilliant success.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
There’s something about spring that makes many of us want to grab our car keys. Maybe it’s that the season’s longer days mean there’s more sunlight to get out and enjoy; maybe it’s that the drab winter landscapes are newly ablaze with color. Maybe it’s just good old-fashioned spring fever, pushing us to get outside, to get out on the road for a new adventure. Executive Travel has just published my favorite spring drives in America, including cruising the Mississippi Delta from Clarksdale to Natchez, driving from Portland to Cannon Beach and the Oregon Coast, and hitting the Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where fragrant mountain laurel and colorful rhododendrons line the drive this time of year. Enjoy, and as always, if you have any questions about any of these trips, feel free to ask!
Friday, May 03, 2013
Nine miles off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland lies Fogo Island, a barren land of marsh and lichen-covered rock where salt houses cling to the shoreline. In early summer, herds of caribou graze while icebergs and whales float by. When cod was king, the island was bursting with activity. But after the moratorium on fishing cod in the 1990s, the population dwindled to 2700, seemingly lost to the world. Then something remarkable, almost Dr. Seuss-like, happened. A woman who grew up on the island, Zita Cobb, created a philanthropy called The Shorefast Foundation with her brother, Tony. Not only would they offer microloans to small local businesses, they were intent on revitalizing the island through the arts. Cobb founded the Fogo Island Arts Corporation in 2008, hiring another former native, architect Todd Saunders, a rising star on the Norwegian architectural scene. Saunders would create ultramodern, angular art studios that would garner attention from numerous publications, including The New York Times. Now the philanthropist and architect have teamed up again to debut a 29-room inn that will open in June. Drive one hour from Gander, Newfoundland, to Farewell and board the 45-minute Fogo Island ferry. Cost is $415 to $720 per room, including breakfast, dinner, afternoon tea, supper, snacks, and all beverages, including premium wines and spirits.
Thursday, May 02, 2013
Aboard an historic schooner sailing the Penobscot Bay islands of Maine’s mid-coast, modernity slows to a more languid pace. Cruising amidst the anonymous pine-topped islands, stopping at the occasional seaside village, you can’t help but relax aboard these yachts of yesteryear. Dolphins, seals, bald eagles, lighthouses and lobstermen at work are all part of the scenery. Help hoist the sails, read a good thick book, or partake in your hobby of choice. Last summer, I wrote about the popular knitting cruises aboard the circa-1927 J. & E. Riggin for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. Now I’d like to tell you about the Camden schooner Mary Day and its inaugural six-day Maine Craft Beers and Home Brewing Cruise set for June 16-22. Passengers will have complimentary samples of Maine beers, and local brews will be paired with each evening meal (baked haddock, ham dinner, chili, chowder, roast turkey etc.). The Mary Day will make a stop at Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. in Belfast for a tour and tasting. Captain Barry King will brew and bottle a batch of his own nut brown ale during the trip, and passengers will go home with a few bottles.
This will be the first craft beer themed cruise in the 76-year history of windjammer vacations on the Maine coast. The all-inclusive trip includes three galley-cooked meals from the wood-fired stove and snacks daily, an island lobster bake, and cozy accommodations with a skylight, window, heat and running water. The 90-foot Mary Day is a wooden two-masted schooner with berths for 28 passengers. She was launched in 1962 as the first coasting schooner ever designed specifically for windjammer vacations. Cost is $955 per person.