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Friday, August 12, 2016

August 2016 ActiveTravels Newsletter: Travels and Transitions

We have another fabulous newsletter to share with you this month. In our main feature, I break down travel to Australia, including sections on Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania, and Port Douglas. In the Quick Escape section, I discuss Cape Breton, where I revisited in early July. We also present favorite romantic hotels across America and give you an update on the latest travel apps. Lastly, we’d like to introduce you to one of our favorite outfitters, DuVine Cycling, celebrating their 20th anniversary and located in our backyard of Boston. The highlight, however, is Lisa’s Editor’s Letter, where she discusses the role of travel in our ever-changing lives. 

I’ll be out of the office next week, dropping off our daughter, Melanie, at Indiana University, and our son, Jake, at Cornell. I’ll be back on Wednesday, August 24th. In the meantime, keep active, and enjoy the summer! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/12/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bike Bermuda with Ciclismo Classico

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of getting in shape for a multi-day fall bike trip. One of the more intriguing itineraries to come across my desk recently is a new 4-day ride around Bermuda with Boston-based biking outfitter, Ciclismo Classico. The trip is slated for 11/3-11/6, a great time of year to ride around the island. High temps in early November are in the mid-70s. Newstead Belmont Hills will offer luxury accommodations, dining, and a relaxing island vibe after cycling roughly 30 miles per day on flat and rolling terrain. The trip is being led by chef and cyclist, Jean Claude Garzia, who owns the French restaurant, Beau Rivage, on the island. Born in the south of France, Garzia has been living and working in Bermuda for more than 30 years and is the author of two cookbooks, including the latest “Bon Appetit Bermuda.” Cost of the trip is $2395 per person, all-inclusive, and the group is limited to 14 riders. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/11/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Get in Shape for that Fall Biking Trip

On a bike tour with Bike Vermont years ago, my brother and I watched as a guy, distracted by cows, flipped his bike over and broke his tooth. He said he hadn’t been on a bike in five years. Don’t make the same mistake. With many bikers heading out on fall foliage biking trips in the next month or two, now’s the time to get ready. Even if it’s a “No Experience Necessary” excursion, you should try the sport beforehand and be in somewhat decent shape. Don’t wait until the last minute to condition. If you plan on taking a week-long biking or walking outing, begin aerobic activity four to six weeks in advance, two to three times a week. And make sure you’re on the right trip by asking what level of fitness is required? Is this hike an obstacle course better suited for Marines, a stroll in the park, or somewhere in between? How many hours a day are we on the bike? You want to find an adventure that ideally suits your ability and prior experience in the sport. Brochures are not always accurate so it’s imperative to speak to a human being. If you’re looking for a particular destination or recommended outfitter, ActiveTravels is here to help. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/10/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

A Perfect Example of Worthless Travel Writing

Good travel writing inspires. You rip the article out of the newspaper or magazine and start planning for that dream trip. In some rare instances, a great writer will pan a destination or type of travel, like David Foster Wallace critiquing his luxury cruise for Harpers Magazine. Then there are the articles that are just plain laughable and not because they intend to be funny. On Saturday, the Boston Globe published a real dud simply titled “Road Trip Time.” It’s such a wonderful example of uninspired dribble that I can’t wait to bring it to students this semester at Emerson College when I talk about the art of travel writing. Here are 3 examples on why this piece should have never been seen by the public:
There is no angle to this story—It seems as if the writer is just cruising, taking a hike here, stopping for a lobster roll or a microbrew there. But there’s very little description of any of these experiences, leaving us with a list of random places. In great road trip stories, the writer should introduce the reader to a scenic route, preferably one that most readers don’t know, which unfortunately is not the case with the Kancamagus Highway. He had more than ample chance to discuss the majestic peninsulas that dangle down from Route 1 in Maine that leave us at Popham Beach and the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, but instead chose arbitrary destinations. 
He assumes the reader knows nothing about these destinations—The Boston Globe chose to print this road trip story on the White Mountains, the Berkshires, and the Maine coast. That’s very risky because 99.9% of the readership knows these locales exceptionally well. So don’t start your White Mountains entry by stating, “Two and a half hours north of Boston is the unassuming hamlet of North Conway, N.H., the gateway to the White Mountains.” We’re from Boston, not Tuscaloosa. We know where the White Mountains are and we also know that North Conway is not an “unassuming hamlet” but a commercialized home to more outlet stores than any other spot in the state. Nearby Jackson and its serene village green might fit that bill. 
End a road trip story on a highlight—Lubec? Really? You chose to include the Maine coast, one of the classic road trips in America, and you ended the trip not in Acadia National Park, not in Camden, but Lubec. I happen to like Lubec and its historic sardine canneries, but if you’re creating a realistic itinerary for readers of the Boston Globe, the trip ends in Bar Harbor. If you want to add another 2 hours to that drive, then you might as well keep going to the far more charming town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea in New Brunswick. 
I spent a quarter-century writing about New England so it’s far easier for me to spot inexperience from a mile away. But the readers of the Globe are not stupid and they deserve genuine travel expertise, especially when you publish a story on New England. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/09/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 08, 2016

Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Trustees

It was wonderful to be at the Crane Estate Saturday night to hear Megan Hilty and the Boston Pops Orchestra perform at one of the most majestic spots in Massachusetts, the Grand Allée. The gala celebration commemorated the 125th anniversary of The Trustees of Reservation, the nonprofit conservation organization that maintains over 100 sites in Massachusetts and has a yearly membership of more than 125,000 people. The Crane Estate is one of the gems in the Trustees’ collection. Another one is Naumkeag, the recently renovated Stockbridge estate, which will be hosting a free open house this coming Friday, August 12th. The celebration continues throughout 2016. An exhibition, From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary, is currently on view at the Boston Public Library through August 28. Starting September 18th at World’s End, artist Jeppe Hein will install a reflective structure made of mirrored posts of differing heights whose form mimics the shape of the surrounding drumlin formations. On Columbus Day, October 10th, Massachusetts’ residents will gain access to all Trustees sites for free. So if you haven’t join in the festivities yet, you still have a chance. 
(Photo by Amy Basseches) 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/08/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, August 05, 2016

Book a Last-Minute Sail on a Maine Windjammer

Sad to be leaving the Schooner Mary Day and heading back to civilization. I tried to convince Captain Barry to sail straight through Election Day but he had other commitments. The good news for you is that the Maine windjammer season runs all the way to mid-October. This year’s Camden Windjammer Festival takes place in the harbor on September 2nd and 3rd. Festivities include a parade of sail, live music, dancing, and fireworks. On Tuesday, September 13, the fleet gathers in Brooklin for a day of live music and tours at the WoodenBoat Sail-In. Also don’t forget the full moon sail over August 18th and the fall foliage sails in late September/early October. The windjammer Angelique is featuring a 4-night Wine and Foliage sail October 2-6. The schooner Ladona has a 4-day wine cruise with wine expert and consultant Michael Green August 26-30. Stephen Taber has a 6-day Photo & Lighthouse Cruise with photographer John Shipman September 4-10. With a 9-ship fleet, you’re bound to find a sail on a Maine Windjammer that fits your schedule. Take it from an expert, you won’t regret it. 

I want to thank Meg Maiden at the Maine Windjammer Association for helping to arrange this week’s trip and special thanks to Captain Barry King for creating a memorable 3-night itinerary. Have a great weekend! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/05/16 at 05:30 AM
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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Another Relaxing Day on the Schooner Mary Day

We wake up to blinding sunshine at Buck’s Harbor in South Brooksville, best known as the spot where children’s book author and illustrator Robert McCloskey (“Make Way for Ducklings,” “Blueberries for Sal”) summered. FDR would also stop here on his way to Campobello Island for a short ice cream break. We found some of those famous wild Maine blueberries in our pancakes that morning before hoisting the sails and setting a course for that hump atop Big Spruce Island. Each one of these Penobscot Bay harbors and islands has a legacy and Big Spruce Island is no different. This is the place where artist Fairfield Porter and his brother, photographer Eliot Porter, would spend their summers and there’s still a working artists’ community on the island today.

We sailed close to an 8-knot clip passing a gray seal who popped his head out of the water like a periscope, stocky razorbill auks, and more porpoises. Pulpit Harbor on North Haven was far too congested for Captain Barry so we continued on to Islesboro, the ridge of mountains on the mainland not far off. We anchored in a placid harbor where there were no other boats. 
       “What do you call this place?” I asked Captain Barry. 
       “Snug, beautiful harbor,” he said.
       “You’re not going to tell me the real name, are you?”
        “Nope,” Captain Barry said. Then he reached for his guitar and started to sing a Woody Guthrie tune as we watched another magical sunset. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/04/16 at 05:30 AM
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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Lobster Bake Aboard a Maine Windjammer

Aside from 11 year-old Mary Beth, who loved swimming and paddleboarding in the Atlantic, the highlight for most of us aboard the Schooner Mary Day was the first night lobster bake. Captain Barry anchored near a quiet beach with no other boats in sight and proceeded to row us over to the shore. The crew built a fire, then placed two massive pots brimming over with lobsters, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, and a healthy top layer of seaweed. We swam and drank wine as the pots boiled, anticipating the feast. When ready, Captain Barry threw off the layer of seaweed and grabbed his tongs to place all the lobsters and fixins in a circular design. We each grabbed our lobster and plopped it on a tray, next to hot butter, corn, potatoes, and found a spot on the beach to dine. 

The lobster opened easily without the need for crackers, as large pieces of tender claw meat was soon dipped into the butter, washed down with a nice, dry sauvignon blanc. Sublime. After polishing off the tail and leaving a puddle of water on my shirt and bathing suit, I could start all over again. See, the best part of a lobster bake aboard a Maine windjammer is that you can eat as many lobsters as you want. Captain Barry tells me that his record is a college student who devoured 13 lobsters in one sitting. Content with my big 2-pounder, I was happy to make the first of several s’mores over the hot wood. Quite sated, four of us decided to swim back to the schooner instead of rowing. A wise decision. The water was clean, cool, refreshing. The dinner far more memorable than all those James Beard-award winning restaurants I dined at this year. 
(Photo by Melanie Jermanok)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/03/16 at 05:50 AM
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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Sailing on the Schooner Mary Day

There’s a renewal of spirit as soon as we set sail on the Schooner Mary Day. The smell of wood mixes with the salty air as we glide out of that postcard-perfect Camden Harbor, gently crawling by the other historic schooners and yachts in the early morning fog. Goodbye mainland and the endless barrage of bad news, hello loons, anonymous pine-studded islands, and wide open water to bathe away all woes of modernity. I take deep gulps of the crisp air and breathe deeply.  

There’s 6 crew and 25 passengers from across America on our 3-night voyage, all under the more than capable helm of hirsute Captain Barry King. We’re asked to participate as much or as little as we like. My daughter and I jump at the opportunity to pull on the halyards of the main, joining many others in the group. The large sail rises, linked to a massive mast that still stands from the original 1962 design. With all sails up, the 90' Mary Day is a beauty, as evidenced by all the motorboats that come by our side during the trip to take photos. We sail by the first of many lighthouses as Captain Barry bellows, “Porpoises on the starboard side,” only to watch the fins of their small gracefully arched backs break the water’s surface. 
Maine’s vast shoreline is best appreciated from the water. The Camden Hills rise above the mainland, island upon island form a welcome mat to the sea, rimmed with granite and topped with pine. Often we pass islands where one fortunate soul owns the lone house, sailboat docked, ready for service whenever he or she pleases. But today, there are more porpoises, seals, and bald eagles flying overhead than boats on the water. I breathe in more of that heavenly air, lie down and look up at the sails. Life is good. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/02/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 01, 2016

Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Maine Windjammers

In 1936, an artist from rural Maine named Frank Swift had the wild and crazy idea of reinventing the American merchant sailing ship. Once essential in transporting lumber and granite along the Eastern Seaboard, fish from the Georges Banks, and fruit from the West Indies, these vessels were becoming obsolete by the 1930s. Swift knew full well that Maine’s 2500-mile stretch of jagged coastline, where long inlets form sheltered bays, was tailor-made for sailing. No other sport gives you the freedom to anchor in a pristine cove, hike on an untrammeled island, and sleep with a lighthouse beacon as your nightlight. So he went on a shopping spree, buying up old schooners with a vision offering travelers a new type of experience, windjamming. The business flourished and today there are now 9 ships in the Maine Windjammer Association fleet.

Writing about Maine this past quarter-century, the opportunity to hop on one of these vessels, smell the salty air, eat lobster to my stomach’s content, and spend precious time with loved ones is an unparalleled joy. One image in particular, my father taking the wheel of the Grace Bailey and sailing for at least an hour, is forever etched in my memory. Now I get the chance to sail with my daughter, Melanie, before she leaves for college. This week, I’ll be reporting from the Schooner Mary Day, the first windjammer built specifically to carry passengers. Please join me this week and come sail away. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/01/16 at 06:00 AM
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about us
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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