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Friday, July 19, 2019

Heading Back to My Roots at Syracuse’s Hotel Skyler

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 
 
Last week, I was driving with my husband Josh from Toronto to Garrison, New York for the wedding of our niece, Sarah. Hesitant to drive all day on Friday and head right into wedding festivities Friday evening, we left Toronto on Thursday night bound for Syracuse, where my family has roots. Syracuse often pops up on college tour itineraries in Upstate New York. Within an hour of Syracuse lie not only Syracuse University but also Cornell University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, several SUNY Colleges, Colgate University, Hamilton College, Ithaca College, and many more. When I passed through on college visits in 2015, the place we stayed overnight was nondescript. 
 
However, this visit was different: Josh and I rested our weary heads in a hotel that used to be the orthodox synagogue of my great grandparents, Max and Eva Bragman, Congregation Adath Yeshurun, now the Hotel Skyler!
 
A steady arrival of Jewish immigrants arrived in Syracuse in the early 19th century and the earliest temple was founded in 1839. In 1870, young men who had immigrated from Poland began to worship together, and this transitioned into “Congregation Adas (later Adath) Yeshurun.”  The Congregation met in a South Crouse Avenue synagogue from 1921 until 1971, when a larger and more modern space for the growing community was deemed necessary. This South Crouse Avenue synagogue is now the Hotel Skyler.  The historic edifice of the original Temple is intact. In 2011, the hotel became the third in the United States and the first in Syracuse to be certified LEED Platinum. Hotel Skyler joined the Tapestry Collection by Hilton in 2017. 
 
After a good night’s sleep, we had excellent coffee and breakfast sandwiches at the Heritage Cafe, then we visited many other local sites steeped in family history for me. I’d recommend the Hotel Skyler if you pass through Syracuse. Contact ActiveTravels for more information, and we’d be glad to help. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/19/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 18, 2019

At Portland’s Drifters Wife, Believe the Hype

Located on the burgeoning Washington Avenue neighborhood in Portland, Drifters Wife has had a loyal following since its debut in 2016, two years prior to Bon Appetit Magazine naming it one of the country’s top 10 new restaurants. But now it’s so popular that food writer Alex Hall noted in yesterday’s Boston Globe “that in July, you’ve got a better shot at getting your kid into Harvard on a full scholarship than walking in and nabbing a table at Beard Award-decorated favorites like Fore Street or Drifters Wife.” You can reserve a table 30 days in advance, which is exactly what we did for a dinner this past Saturday, when we knew we were spending a night in Portland after our visit to Acadia National Park with friends. Those friends are from Laguna Beach, California, home to one of the best farmers markets on the West Coast. So they’re accustomed to getting a vast assortment of fresh vegetables year round. Maine, of course, has a much shorter growing season, but what Drifters Wife finds locally was more than enough to blow us all away. The choice of appetizers and entrees are limited, 4 or 5 appetizers and 3 entrees. But all were exceptional, from starters of grilled shishito peppers and a zesty arugula salad to entrees of a whole black bass and a tender chunk of hake with a clam sauce. Wash it down with one of their natural wines or a bottle of Peeper from Maine Beer Co. Then finish off the memorable meal with a dish of milk pudding topped with pistachio chunks called Malabi. Sublime. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/18/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Rejuvenating Stay at Bar Harbor’s Saltair Inn

One look at that long lawn that slopes down to the sea at the Saltair Inn and I knew we made a wise choice. It only got better when we realized that the location of the inn was located on the quiet side of West Street, within easy walking distance of the restaurants and shops of Bar Harbor, but far away from the crowds. Owners Matt and Kristi are the perfect team. Kristi serves up yummy breakfasts each morning like blueberry pancakes and stuffed french toast, while Matt divulges the insider information on Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park that only a local would know. He designed a great bike loop around the Carriage Path Trails which I described in yesterday’s blog, told us about a small trail near the restrooms at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse that led down the freshly cut stairs to a bed of rocks, where we not only had great views of the lighthouse, but spotted dolphins and seals in the sea. Matt also made my friend, Tim, very happy by sending us over to McKay’s Public House for a cask ale pour of Maine brewed Sebago ale. Tell the bartender, Chris, I said hello. He might be our captain when we sail the Grenadines and St. Vincent next February. It's hard to top a sailor who can make a mean drink. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/17/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Use the Bike Shuttle When Biking Acadia’s Carriage Path Trails

We brought our good friends from California to Acadia National Park for three activity-filled days last week. I didn’t want to bring the bikes, so we decided to rent bikes in town at Acadia Bike Rentals and ride a good chunk of the Carriage Path Trails, that glorious 45-mile network John D. Rockefeller created in the first half of the 20th century. We were happy to hear about a free bike shuttle in operation from late June through Columbus Day that runs from the village green to the parking lot at Eagle Lake. We waited less than 10 minutes before being brought over to the lake and biking the circumference, up and down the hard-packed roads always with water and mountains in sight. We biked under one of the many stone bridges to see an often-overlooked gem, Bubble Pond, nestled peacefully between the gently sloping mountains. Then we headed north to bike around Witch Hole Pond and to stop and see the stone steps that form gently flowing Duck Brook. We crossed the bridge here, took a left on the bike trail, and soon caught up with West Street, which led right back to the bike store on Cottage Street. A perfect way to spend the morning. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/16/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bike Puglia with DuVine Cycling this Fall

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. Last October, 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, 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. 
 
DuVine still has availability on their September/October trips. Let ActiveTravels know your dates and we’ll check pricing. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/27/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

When in Bern, You’d Be Wise to Stay at the Bellevue Palace

One of our favorite summer family trips was to Switzerland two summers ago. Before starting our weeklong multi-sport trip with Backroads, we spent three wonderful days in Bern. We went behind the scenes to see how the circa-1530 Clock Tower works, spent a day on an electronic bike in neighboring Emmental Valley (where we tried our first fondue), visited the apartment Albert Einstein lived when proving his Theory of Relativity, and seeing the sinuous building Renzo Piano built to house the work of local talent Paul Klee. Best of all was swimming in the Aare River. Every afternoon, we would walk down the hillside from our grand hotel, the Bellevue Palace, to a green park where hundreds of people lined the river catching rays. Then we would stroll on a paved path upriver with a long line of folks who dragged their tubes, rafts, and dry bags. Pick a spot to jump in the cool water and off you go with the strong current. The hard part was finding a place on the shores that you could stop and pull yourself out. Then we would head back to the Bellevue Palace and have cocktails on the deck. 

 
The 5-star property is now offering a 3 for 2 Summer Special, where you stay 3 nights and pay for 2. It’s the ideal amount of time to be in Bern. Even better, spend 10 days to 2 weeks in Switzerland and ActiveTravels will be happy to design the itinerary. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/26/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Use the ActiveTravels Blog as a Resource for Your Travels

It’s been a decade since I began blogging at ActiveTravels. In 2008, I lost more than half my editors as magazines closed down and newspapers cut back severely on their travel pages. But a writer needs to write. Instead of begging for crumbs from editors, I started posting blogs the next year and haven’t stopped since. A decade of content is a lot of material to play with and I always steer clients toward the blog when researching an upcoming trip. Simply type in “Vermont” in the advanced search column to the right of the blog and then type in “Vermont” a second time in Search by Keyword, and you’ll have 155 blog entries on Vermont to choose from. That should keep you busy. Interested in going on a safari? I’ve written 68 blogs that relate to safaris. How about heading to my beloved Nova Scotia on a last-minute summer driving trip? You’ll find 40 entries on Nova Scotia. If you have trouble accessing the content, please let me know and I’ll help you find it. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Encore Boston Harbor Makes an Impressive Debut

I’m not a fan of casinos and especially Steve Wynn, so I begrudgingly went to the press preview in Everett on Friday, expecting the property to be a Vegas-sized behemoth plopped down on the industrial shores of the Mystic River. And yes, from the exterior, the Encore Boston Harbor hotel looks like it belongs on the Vegas strip. Then you enter this $2.6 billion resort and you’re immediately transported to Monte Carlo and a world of opulence. The design is over-the-top and I loved it, from the red Murano glass used to create their signature chandeliers to the white marble in the 671 rooms and suites, to Jeff Koons’ stainless steel sculpture, Popeye (which Wynn paid the handsome figure of $28 million at Sotheby’s to purchase in 2014), to a carousel of horses and unicorns created from 83,000 flowers. The rooms and suites are incredibly spacious, and all offer fantastic vistas of the Zakim Bridge and Boston skyline. You can also reach the resort via their snazzy 35 passenger customized boats designed by Boston BoatWorks, from either the Seaport or Long Wharf, much better than dealing with car traffic. 

But the reason I really love the resort is the restaurant and bar scene. They wisely used local talent, like Ed Kane, owner of the Big Night Entertainment Group (Tosca, Empire) to create the gorgeously designed Asian-fusion restaurant, Mystique; North End restauranteurs Frank DePasquale (Bricco) and Nick Varano (Strega) to open the Italian restaurant, Fratelli; and Neptune Oyster chef John Ross to run the Oyster Bar, where they’ll serve Duxbury’s own Island Creek Oysters. The neighboring Waterfront Bar serves Mass microbrews like Nightshift, Lord Hobo, and Down the Road. But here’s what I like the most about this resort. It’s employing over 5,000 local workers and the state will be getting 25% of the revenue from the casinos. That’s something I happily support! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/24/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 21, 2019

Savoring the Great Outdoors in the June ActiveTravels Newsletter

It’s the beginning of the big family travel season. If you want to keep your kids happy with as much activity as possible, in some of the most spectacular settings in the world, then try one of the tried and true trips in the latest ActiveTravels newsletter. They all received rave reviews from members or from our own firsthand experience. Also in this month’s issue, we offer you a Quick Escape to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and a wonderful deal in Napa Valley. Please check it out! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/21/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Still Possible to Visit Cuba

While cruise ships can no longer visit Cuba and the People to People Educational travel category is being eliminated, we still have clients traveling to Cuba over the next year. Our friend Megumi, who runs the tour operator HabanaLive in Cuba, tells us that clients can either join a People to People trip that has been grandfathered in (they have grandfathered FIT bookings available on multiple dates throughout fall/winter/spring) or travel under a different approved travel category. They have fantastic programing options under the Support for the Cuban People, Professional Research & Meetings, and Religious travel categories. So if you want to visit Cuba, ActiveTravels will get you there! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/20/19 at 06:00 AM
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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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