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Friday, January 18, 2019

ActiveTravels January Newsletter, Best of The New Travel in 2019

We look forward to bringing you the ActiveTravels January Newsletter each year because it gives us a chance to discover what's new in the world of travel. If it wows us, then it passes the test and we're excited to share it with you. Please have a look to see our roundup of the latest and greatest hotels, resorts, cruises, adventures and restaurants to debut in 2019. 

We're off to Hong Kong and Bangkok tonight for the next two weeks. We had to leave two days early to avoid the winter storm and snow headed to Boston. We'll be back on February 4th with the highlights from Amy's recent trip to Thailand and Laos. Thanks, as always, for checking in! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/18/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Join Renowned Travel Writer Fran Golden on an Alaskan Cruise this June

Fran Golden, former travel editor of the Boston Herald and author of Frommer's EasyGuide to Alaskan Cruises and Ports of Call (2018), will be hosting a select group of passengers on an Alaskan cruise June 15-22, 2019. So far 20 people have signed up to join her, but there are still berths available if you're interested. You'll board Holland America's newly refurbished Eurodam (see the latest review in Travel & Leisure) in Seattle. Then make your way up the Pacific coast with stops in Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, before arriving back in Seattle. Fran will select her favorite shore excursions along the route and provide anecdotes from her other memorable cruises. For more information, please contact ActiveTravels

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/17/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Top Dream Days of 2018, Visiting the Small Town of Francois, Newfoundland

Guest post and photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Now that I live in Toronto, it makes sense that one of my dream travel days of 2018 took place in Canada! I'm on a devoted quest to explore all 13 Canadian Provinces and Territories -- and, in October, Newfoundland's time had come. Aboard Adventure Canada's vessel Ocean Endeavour, we spent one special day visiting both La Poile Bay and Francois, along Newfoundland's southern coast. La Poile Bay is isolated, without any road connecting it to the rest of the province. After hiking high above the cove, and walking on a deserted beach, I joined others in the crazy activity of plunging into the freezing cold water.
 
Not far away is the former fishing center of Francois (pronounced fran-SWAY), surrounded by steep mountains. Residents travel on small concrete paths between their homes and various buildings in town. There are no roads, and Francois can only be accessed by boat and helicopter (and by snowmobile in the winter). Today, 89 people live in Francois. Here I kayaked peacefully around the cove, then watched divers traveling with the group go deep into Francois Bay and emerge again and again with some 300 scallop shells. These were then shucked and cooked and eaten by anyone lucky enough to get in line early. After filling our bellies, we went ashore and were hosted by the locals at a "Kitchen Party" in the Community Hall. Much music, dancing, drinking, mingling, and eating ensued -- all good-natured and fun -- especially the tunes of the renowned Alan Doyle, a Member of the Order of Canada ("for his contributions to the musical traditions of his home province of Newfoundland") who was traveling with us.
 
If you loved the Broadway show, Come From Away, treat yourself to the genuine Newfoundland. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/16/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Top Dream Days of 2018, Checking Out Jasper

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Anyone who knows me knows I love the mountains. John Muir's famous quote, "The mountains are calling and I must go," a sticker found at Yosemite National Park, adorns my laptop. So it's not a stretch to say one of my dream travel days of 2018 was in Jasper, Alberta high in the Canadian Rockies. 
 
I drove with my husband Josh from Lake Louise to Jasper on the famous Icefields Parkway. It's 143 miles, with tremendous views (13 viewpoints). I can recommend stopping at the Peyto Lake Overlook, about ½ hour outside of Lake Louise. You are rewarded at the end with the view of the intensely colored lake. 
 
Once in Jasper, we checked into our terrific hotel, The Tekarra Lodge. We had a snack while sitting in Adirondack chairs, high above the confluence of the Athabasca and Miette Rivers, and watched the swirling blue water down below. Then off on a hike we went. 
 
It's hard to top the Bald Hills Trail from Maligne Lake (5 hours round-trip), recommended by a local we met. It really had it all -- forest, alpine meadows of wildflowers, mountains, and a sweeping view back to Maligne Lake. It was a "peak" experience, which we finished off with an excellent meal at Syrahs in downtown Jasper. Elk carpaccio, warm seafood salad, smoked Alberta bison brisket ragout, and port. Fantastic!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/15/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Top Dream Days of 2018, Horseback Riding at Dahana Ranch on the Big Island

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

One of my dream days of travel in 2018 was spent on the Big Island of Hawaii, in May. Although we needed to re-route in the week before our trip to avoid the small area in the southeast affected by the Kilauea volcano, we had a fantastic time!
 
On this particular dream day, my daughter Sophie and I began in Holualoa, an artist and coffee community in the hills above Kailua-Kona. Mamalohoa Highway winds through the heart of the town, past the wonderful Holuakoa Gardens and Café where we had brunch. Then we headed to Hawi, on the northwestern coast. Located on the slopes of the Kohala mountain, Hawi has become a popular tourist destination in recent years due to its artists' shops, delicious restaurants, and beautiful scenery. After checking into our accommodation on a small lush farm just outside of town, we drove the Kohala Mountain Road from Hawi to Waimea, for horseback riding on the Dahana Ranch and hiking in the Pololu Valley. 
 
As you drive north to Hawi from Kailua-Kona, you see mostly black lava fields along the road, then you enter an incredibly green area, full of ranches which date back to 1840s, older than the oldest ranches in the continental United States by more than 30 years! Kohala Mountain Road is stunning. At Dahana Ranch, we grew to understand the paniolo (cowboy) world better: there they breed, raise, and train a variety of horses and ponies, and also manage a 140 head cow/calf operation for beef and rodeo bucking stock. 
 
After riding, we wanted to stretch our own legs. From Waimea to Honokaa, our destination was the Pololu Valley, on the way back to Hawi. Down a steep trail for about ½ hour, we soaked in the dramatic northeastern Big Island coastline. At the bottom, we were rewarded by a fairly isolated black sand beach, a lone woman practicing yoga, and a few brave souls camping overnight. Spectacular!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/14/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, A Rejuvenating Stay at Gorman Chairback Lodge

My cabin at AMC's Gorman Chairback Lodge overlooked Long Pond, a serene 4-mile-long body of water surrounded by the ridges of the nearby Appalachian Trail. As soon as we plopped down our luggage, we heard the first of many loon calls, that unmistakable yodel echoing across the lake. All was bliss from this point onward. Smelling the sweet pine and peering at mountains with few, if any signs of civilization. It's no surprise that this locale in Maine's North Woods has been hosting guests since 1867. We jumped in an Old Town canoe and followed families of loons and mergansers, before spotting a bald eagle atop a dead hemlock tree. The waters of Long Pond were like glass, reflecting the surrounding mountains atop the surface. All you could hear was that mesmerizing call of the loon and there was no other traffic on the pond. No boats, no canoes, nothing. Nothing but serenity. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/11/19 at 05:59 AM
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, On the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

In November, I visited the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with my friend, Dan, a great admirer and collector of bourbon. We toured 5 distilleries during our time in Kentucky Bourbon Country. We really enjoyed the tasting at Heaven Hill (where we purchased coveted Old Fitzgerald 14-year-old bottles to bring home) and doing the hard hat tour at the 1930s industrial complex still in use at Buffalo Trace. Yet, it was hard to top our visit to Wild Turkey in serene bluegrass country outside Lawrenceburg. One look at those rickhouses blackened on the outside from evaporation and you can sense the history. In fact, a distillery has been operating at this same site since 1869. We had a wonderful guide, Edwina, who showed us the whole process of making bourbon, from seeing the mash bills and fermentation tanks to walking inside one of those old rickhouses and eyeing all those barrels stacked to the ceiling. Outside, the rolling hills led to a bridge over the Kentucky River and the countryside was aflame in late fall foliage. 

 
Then we were back at the newly revamped Visitors Center tasting the wares and meeting the Buddha of Bourbon, 84-year-old Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, who's been working at Wild Turkey the past 64 years. "When I started here, bourbon was a southern gentlemen's drink. Now just as many women are buying a bottle as men," says Jimmy. He also notes that Wild Turkey is the top selling bourbon in Japan and Australia. We talked for another 15 minutes before getting Jimmy to sign a bottle of Russell's Reserve 10 year. Definitely a highlight of our trip. 
 
After meeting Jimmy, we drove on backcountry roads past the rolling hills of bluegrass and horse farms of rural Kentucky to reach The Stave, a new stylish roadhouse restaurant and bar recommended to me by a friend in nearby Lexington. The owner, Rebecca, has designed many restaurants in the region. One step inside the cozy interior and it's hard not be charmed by both the look and the folks working here. The Stave made its debut in September just down the road from the Woodford Reserve distillery, a National Historic Landmark, and the impressive circa-1887 Castle & Key distillery that just reopened this year making vodka, gin, and eventually bourbon. Start with warm black-eyed pea fritters with tangy sweet onion relish and cucumber salad, or the deviled eggs dusted with paprika and served on pickled greens. Then get ready for their version of the Louisville Hot Brown, this time served on corn bread instead of the typical white bread. Delicious!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, Checking Out the Street Art and Botero’s in Medellin

This past June I had the good fortune to travel with a wonderful guide, Pablo Ospina, through his hometown of Medellin, Colombia. Our first stop was Communa 13 to see the magnificent and ever-growing street art in this neighborhood, which not too long ago was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of South America. While we strolled, Pablo gave me the history of Medellin, this city of 4 million nestled in the valley close to a mile high. When he was growing up, there were car bombs and constant fighting between the government and the guerilla forces of FARC, with the remnants of Escobar's drug ring thrown in for more chaos. Now the city has rose from the ashes and what a remarkable job it's doing. Not only is it safe, but it has one of the best climates in the world, 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Many people are retiring to the city to enjoy the weather and the only public transit system in Colombia, which includes cable cars and outdoor escalators.

 
When we descended from Communa 13 on the escalators and spotted about 5 tour groups heading up to the street art (we had the place to ourselves since Pablo wisely headed here first), we took a cable car up into the hillside for glorious vistas of the city ringed by jagged peaks. Then it was on to the city center to see the Botero sculptures and his paintings in the nearby Museo de Antioquia. Botero not only donated his impressive sculptures, paintings, and watercolors to his boyhood museum, he bequeathed his collection of contemporary art by Stella, Frankenthaler, and Andy Katz, among others. For lunch, we headed to the large botanical garden in the center of the city and its signature restaurant, In Situ. One sip of the sublime coconut lemonade and that would be my drink of choice throughout the week. After lunch, we strolled the gardens and spotted large lizards amidst the orchids and bamboo trees. Seven hours after picking me up, Pablo dropped me back off at my hotel. It was indeed a Dream Day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/09/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, Sailing to Anegada in the BVIs

My barometer for an authentic travel experience is one that plants you squarely in the present where your mind can't drift to other thoughts and worries. This was certainly the case aboard the 41-foot Island Karma last February when we made the crossing from Virgin Gorda to the remote British Virgin Island of Anegada. Sailing at a speed over 8 knots, the boat was on its side, heeling over in the blustery tradewinds. But under the competent helm of my friend, Josh, and the watchful eye of our Captain, "Boss," I never panicked. With the occasional splash aboard to keep me alert and very much alive, I was relishing the adventure at hand. After 2 hours, we finally reached this sliver of land lined by sparkling white beaches and surrounded by the most spectacular turquoise waters I've seen since diving in French Polynesia. We pulled up to a mooring, motored the dinghy to land, and caught an open-air taxi to dreamy Cow Wreck Beach, passing rambling goats and cows along the way. We arrived at a long stretch of desolate sand and a small beachfront bar, planted our bums in Adirondack chairs, took out our books, and started to read. Ahh, sun, sand, sea, sky, serenity. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 07, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, Biking Italy’s Adriatic Coast with DuVine Cycling

All it takes is one ride along the Adriatic Sea to appreciate the splendor of Puglia, the region of southern Italy close to the heel of the boot. We biked up and down sweeping hills with the blue expanse of water always by our side. The sweet smell of honeysuckle the best form of aromatherapy as we cruised past seaside villages, old stone walls, peering down in awe at the greenish/blue waters hundreds of feet below. We stopped in Santa Maria di Leuca to gaze at the lighthouse, church, and large plaza before making our way back to the port of Tricase where a fresh seafood feast was waiting for us. According to my trusty Strava app, we had biked 43 miles with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet, so I was definitely ready for a break and the chance to dig into fresh calamari, mussels, grilled aubergines, tomatoes, and the creamy burrata cheese the region is known for. 
We were on Day Two of a 6-day bike ride through Puglia with DuVine Cycling. The trip would continue northeast to the town of Locorotondo, where we would begin blissful days of riding through the heart of the countryside. I savored the riding here, rolling hillsides dotted with centuries-old gnarly olive trees, vineyards, and the distinctive mushroom-shaped houses called trullis. All on country roads with little or no traffic. But if I had to choose one dream day on that memorable trip with good friends in October, I would choose the first day's ride along the Adriatic. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/07/19 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.

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