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Friday, November 16, 2018

Learn Italian in Italy with Italianme

Guest Post and Photo by Dana Volman

Have you ever wanted to study abroad in college and never had the chance?  Or maybe you had this opportunity of a lifetime and you want to do it again? Well it's never too late and you don't have to be a junior in college to do so. I had the good fortune to enroll in an adult immersion program in Florence, Italy this Fall. I have been studying Italian at a slow pace, first at a Continuing Ed class that met weekly and eventually graduated to hiring a private teacher with 4 of my classmates that continued to meet on a weekly basis. We were ready for the next step to help accelerate our mastery of Italian - enroll in a language school in the heart of Florence geared for adults. This gem of a school is called Italianme. Their name stems from their belief in fostering a new you, a different you, an Italian you. Italianme is located in Via Tornabuoni, the high-end shopping district of Florence. The school is literally across the street from Ferragamo and only yards from the Gucci and Prada flagship stores.
 
The facility and staff at Italianme are some of the most dedicated teachers I have ever met.  My teacher was Francesca, one of the founders. Learning from her was so enjoyable, she is a true professional and passionate about her work. These same attributes can be used to describe the other teachers at the school. My friends were in Eduardo and Marina's classes. In fact, one of my friends was a returning student to Eduardo's class (she specifically requested him again, and boy has her proficiency in Italian improved).  Then there is Karina, the office manager. She was warm and friendly and extremely helpful when it came to restaurant recommendations. At Italianme there are quite a few classes offered based on your level and availability. Whether you enroll in an immersion class that is half day (9:30 am-1:00 pm) or full day or evening, there are plenty of options. In fact, I was fortunate enough to have a semi private class for the week since there was only 1 other student enrolled at my level. It had been many years since I've sat in a classroom for such a long period of time and not once did I look at my watch. The time flew.
 
In addition to a superb education, the school also runs some afternoon and evening activities. Whether it's a tour of Florence or a private cooking class, the staff is always at your disposal to give you the ultimate "local" experience. I know I will return to Italianme. It's just a matter of time before I book my next trip.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/16/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Great Deal on Captiva Island Condo in December

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

Since I was a teenager, I've been spending a week every December on Captiva Island, Florida, at South Seas Island Resort. It all started when my parents made a sailing stop for the night at the South Seas Marina, thereupon setting into motion an annual multi-generational week. This year, 15 family members (ranging in age from my 20-year-old daughter to my 90-year-old mother) will gather.  
 
Captiva and nearby Sanibel Islands have a lot to offer. They are easy to get to (from Fort Myers / RSW airport), and from the Islands' website: "Enjoy 15 miles of unspoiled beaches, 25 miles of bike paths, 50 types of fish, 230 types of birds, 250 kinds of shells and 0 stop lights." It's true. The miles of white sand beaches, and activities like beach yoga, biking, kayaking, water sports, and shelling lead to activity-filled days, gorgeous sunsets, and starry nights. 
 
South Seas features regular hotel rooms and condos with kitchens to stock with groceries from nearby Bailey's. Off property, you can venture to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge to see the alligators and egrets, visit a farmers' markets, buy lots of fresh seafood, and head to the Bubble Room or Sunshine Seafood Cafe for dinner. 
 
ActiveTravels has a lead on a low-cost condo rental at South Seas for December 7-14 (Friday morning-Friday morning). That's coming right up! Enjoy breathtaking views of Pine Island Sound in a remodeled 2 bedroom/2 bath unit (King bed, 2 twin beds, sofa bed in LR). There is a full kitchen and a screened porch, overlooking the pool and waterfront. If interested, let us know soon ($1600 for the week). As I write this, it's 42 degrees and overcast in Toronto. On Captiva, it's 81 degrees and sunny. Need I say more?
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/15/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My Grandfather’s Sketchbooks Still Inspire Me to Travel

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

My grandparents were inveterate world travelers -- and Grandpa, an architect, was always sketching and painting wherever they went. Framed examples of his watercolors have graced every place I've lived. In Boston, our home displayed Pisa (1955), Nara (1959), Crete (1960), and Florida (1977). Now, in Toronto, Josh and I have Venice's Rialto Bridge on the wall (1954). It was not only the sketchbooks, but gifts from afar that entertained me as a child. With Grandma and Grandpa's help, I gathered a large collection of dolls from other countries, learning early on that the world was a big, diverse place that I wanted to understand more. I suppose you could say my love of travel and exploration was instilled by them. 
 
Recently, in September, I was looking through a pile of Grandpa's sketchbooks which I hold for all relatives as part of the family archives. Believe it or not, I found pencil drawings and watercolors of places to which I would travel a month later: Grandpa's "Newfoundland, 1977." Indeed, in early October, I saw the Bonavista Lighthouse he depicted. Further, I found a notebook entitled "Japan, 1959," and, after pausing to wonder what led my grandparents to Japan at that particular time, I decided to ask my niece whether she had been to any of the named sites. She and her partner were on a 2-week trip to Japan last summer when they became engaged. All seven of the great-grandchildren should have Grandpa's artwork on their walls, I thought, to inspire even more generations to experience the larger world.
 
Grandma and Grandpa were first generation Americans (born to immigrants from Russia and Lithuania as the 1800s turned to the 1900s), and raised in New York City. Grandpa was the youngest of eight. Amazingly, both went on to college and graduate school. 100 years later, their curiosity, pluck, and sense of adventure still motivates me, and lives on through Grandpa's sketches and watercolors. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/14/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Astrotourism, Anyone?

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Shortly before I left for Newfoundland in October, my 90-year old mother, an avidly curious New York Times reader, mailed me a clipping (as she has been doing for decades). She noted, "This is a trip I could take!" Given that she doesn't travel that much anymore, I was intrigued. What the heck is astrotourism? I learned that the term astrotourism has evolved to describe intentional travel to places with dark skies and more visible stars. Sounds great! 
 
ActiveTravels sends many members each year to Hawaii, Mexico, and Grand Cayman; nicely, these locations have developed avenues for visitors to explore the night sky. The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa has three high-powered telescopes on its roof capable of spotting 80 constellations, and there's also an observatory atop Mauna Kea (a dormant volcano on the Big Island), 13,796 feet above sea level. In Mexico, the Four Seasons Punta Mita has begun offering guided stargazing on its driving range and beach. At the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort, oceanfront beach cabanas with private fire pits, dinners, and s'more fixings, come with telescopes and night sky maps.
 
Back to my mother. The closest "Dark Sky" site to where she lives in New York would be on Long Island, in Southold at the Custer Institute. Open to the public every Saturday evening from dusk until midnight, volunteers assist with the powerful telescopes. For more information on sites around the country, please visit the International Dark Sky Association website.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/13/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 12, 2018

A Stop at Saint-Pierre with Adventure Canada

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Six thousand French citizens on an island 2,600 miles from the coast of France? And only 12 miles from the coast of Canada? Yes, that's right. I was recently in Saint-Pierre (often discussed with its less-populated neighbor, Miquelon), all that still belongs to France from "New France," the colonies in North America starting with Jacques Cartier in 1536. The French have retained Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and associated fishing rights, since 1816. 

When travelling to Saint-Pierre, you'll go through customs (don't forget your passport), you'll use the Euro, and you'll experience French food, wine, and, of course, the language. It was a fun stop on my Adventure Canada expedition. I opted for a hike in the morning on the Anse à Henry trail, then a short bus tour to make sure I could see as much as possible. This put my time in the charming town center right around midday, exactly the time of day when all the shops close (between 12 and 2 pm). Les Delices de Josephine cafe opened for us and the quiche was great, which I washed down with one of the only products made in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, beer from the new micro-brewery Miqu'ale (Brasserie Artisanale de l'Anse). 

If I ever get there again, I'd make sure to walk around town more in the morning or late afternoon, exploring the windy roads and small shops, and then spend the time in between hiking or exploring the now uninhabited L'Île-aux-Marins, just a stone's throw from Saint-Pierre (several unique buildings still stand even though no one lives there year-round). Au revoir!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/12/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Highlights of My Trip to Newfoundland with Adventure Canada

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches

I'm almost done regaling you with tales from my 11 days with Adventure Canada, a trip I truly loved. I will never forget:
 
Jumping into freezing cold water in La Poile Bay, off the south coast of Newfoundland, after a day spent hiking high above the cove, and walking on a deserted beach there.
 
Tasting fresh partridgeberries and partridgeberry jam in the Community Hall in Elliston, on the east coast of Newfoundland, while studying the town's Dart League team standings (15% of the local population plays). 
 
Watching divers on board jump into Francois Bay (south coast) and emerge again and again with 300+ scallop shells, which were then shucked and cooked, and eaten by anyone lucky enough to get in line early. 
 
Sharing many a beer and song with Newfoundland natives Alan Doyle, Tony Oxford, Gerry Strong, Paul Dean, Jeff Anderson, Latonia Hartery, Barbara Doran, Steve Evans, Dennis Minty, and others, most notably in our Nautilus Lounge (and in some local cafes on shore as well).
 
Putting my feet up and reading a book, while sipping coffee on deck during the sunny mornings, before getting into a Zodiac for another expedition (kayaking, hiking, a small town, a UNESCO site, you name it).
 
Adventure Canada says their trips bring a destination to life. I can assure you that this was done in a top-notch way. Consider joining me aboard the same vessel, the comfortable Ocean Endeavour, for the "Heart of the Arctic" Expedition Cruise in the summer of 2020. We'll see the province of Nunavut, Baffin Island (Cape Dorset is very important to the Inuit art market), Nunavik (the Inuit homeland in Northern Quebec), Ungava Bay, and Greenland (including Nuuk, the capital). Let ActiveTravels know if you are interested. 
 
Steve's off to Kentucky to tour the Bourbon Trail with a friend, before visiting his daughter at Indiana University for another fun Dad's Sorority Weekend. We'll be back next Monday with my description of the French islands off on Newfoundland, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. To all my American friends, please remember to vote today! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 05, 2018

A Pleasure to Meet Chief Mi’Sel Joe on the Way to Miawpukek

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Early on in the Adventure Canada circumnavigation of Newfoundland, I found myself sitting next to Chief Mi'Sel Joe, the Saquamaw and Administrative Chief of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council, First Nations community of Miawpukek (Conne River). In preparation for our visit to Miawpukek along the southern coast of Newfoundland, he was spending a few days on board, consistent with his public role in presenting a better understanding of the Mi'kmaq people.

Mi'Sel Joe was born in Miawpukek into a strong Mi'kmaq family; both his grandfather and uncle held the office of hereditary Saqamaw. Since 1973, he has been involved in First Nation Politics, first as a Councilor, and, after the death of his uncle, Chief William Joe, in 1982, he became Traditional Saqamaw and the Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi'kmaq Grand Council. Mi'Sel Joe is committed to preserving the language, culture and traditions of his people, and also to Miawpukek's economically self-sufficient mandate. Around 800 people live on the reserve, with over 2,000 people living away, and businesses (together with a commercial fishery) lead to zero unemployment. A brand-new school for grades K4-12 opened in September 2017.
 
Last year, Mi'Sel Joe was appointed a member of the Order of Canada "for his leadership in developing and enhancing the well-being and financial vitality of the Miawpukek First Nation." It was an honor to meet him, to visit Miawpukek, and to learn more about how this vibrant First Nations community can be a model. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/05/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, November 02, 2018

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Newfoundland

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches

Here's an interesting idea: check the UNESCO World Heritage Site List before you travel. As of today, there are 1092 sites noted, and you never know what you will find. To be included on the UNESCO List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of ten selection criteria, which range from exhibiting human creative genius, or unique cultural tradition, or outstanding architecture, or exceptional natural beauty, and more. Certainly, the locations I've visited, including three recently in Newfoundland, when traveling with Adventure Canada, provide great insights into history, culture and the environment. 

First, near the northern tip of Newfoundland, I saw L'Anse aux Meadows, the remains of an 11th Century Viking settlement, evidence of the first European presence in North America. The archaeological remains found in 1960 date to approximately 1000 AD. Amazingly, the location was first established by a close reading of the Viking sagas. Adventure Canada travelers learned from Parks Canada interpreters about Norse expansion and how L'Anse aux Meadows' excavations informed the world about Norse travels, trade, and encampments. 

Second, just over the Strait of Belle Isle from northern Newfoundland lies the town of Red Bay, Labrador, home to the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station. Beginning in the 1500s, Basque whalers operated out of Red Bay harbor, at one time the largest whaling station in the world, and the best-preserved testimony of early European whaling tradition. In the mid-1970s, research uncovered this chapter in Canadian history, and thus helped to explain why some 7,000 Canadians claim Basque ancestry. Here, we hiked around the whaling grounds on Saddle Island, but my favorite memories of Red Bay are eating delicious fresh fish chowder at the local Whalers Restaurant (cod, halibut, salmon, scallops!), while Alan Doyle sang to the waitstaff.

Lastly, situated on the west coast of Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park provides proof of continental drift and plate tectonics. "The rocks of Gros Morne National Park collectively present an internationally significant illustration of the process of continental drift along the eastern coast of North America and contribute greatly to the body of knowledge and understanding of plate tectonics and the geological evolution of ancient mountain belts," according to UNESCO. The former Parks Canada superintendent of Gros Morne traveled onboard with us, and we hiked in the park with him and other guides. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 01, 2018

Visiting Newfoundland’s Small, Remote Villages with Adventure Canada

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches

One of the best parts of my Expedition Cruise with Adventure Canada around Newfoundland was the opportunity to visit many small, remote villages and interact with local residents. In 1992, the Canadian government declared a necessary moratorium on the Northern Cod fishery which had shaped Newfoundland's way of life for 500 years. It was devastating for many communities and impacted Newfoundland profoundly. 35,000 fishermen and plant workers from over 400 coastal communities became unemployed, and thus the province experienced a dramatic restructuring, including considerable emigration. But there are the folks who wanted to stay, no matter what, and who adore their home. 

Here are some of the special places I visited:
 
Elliston: Population 308 in 2016. On the eastern coast of Newfoundland, Elliston is the "Root Cellar Capital of the World," due to having more than 130 documented root cellars. Up until the mid-1900s, it was hard to purchase vegetables here, so most families had a vegetable garden from which they ate all winter, thanks to root cellar storage. 
 
Bonavista: Near Elliston. Built in 1843, the lighthouse at Cape Bonavista is one of the few in the world where you can still climb the stone tower and see the same oil- fueled light that was used in the 1800s.  
 
Little Bay Islands: Population 71 in 2016. On the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, Little Bay Islands was the birthplace of two of Adventure Canada's on-board Resource Staff, so we got extra inside information about what the town looked like in the 1960s and 1970s when cod still thrived. Now in the process of government resettlement, because the remote location is difficult to provide with services, Little Bay Islands once had 11 stores, three dockyards, three churches, a doctor and a school. 
 
Trout River: Population 552 in 2016. Another small, rural fishing village, Trout River is on the western coast of Newfoundland. It was of great interest to me because a rare blue whale carcass washed ashore there in 2014, which was then preserved by researchers at the museum my husband Josh directs, Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. The Trout River blue whale measured 76.5 feet in length and weighed 150 tons. The ROM worked closely with local townspeople to remove and salvage the whale; later, a huge exhibit at the ROM was created. In the harbor at Trout River today, a community display tells the fascinating story of this blue whale. 
 
Francois: Population 89 in 2016. Pronounced Fran-SWAY, located on the southern coast of Newfoundland, this town has no roads, and thus can only be accessed by boat and helicopter. It considered and rejected resettlement in 2013. However, Adventure Canada has a special relationship here: every year, when the ship comes into Francois Bay, the locals cook and bake up a storm, and host Adventure Canada passengers at a "Kitchen Party" in the Community Hall. Much music, dancing, drinking, mingling, and eating ensued -- all good-natured and fun. Local Darren Durnford plays the accordion, guitar, and fiddle, all by ear! 
 
My personal advice: get off the beaten path when traveling, and you will be rewarded. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/01/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Circumnavigating Newfoundland with Adventure Canada

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

I've taken three journeys on Expedition Cruises-aboard smaller ships where passengers spend loads of time in zodiacs going ashore to hike, kayak, observe flora/fauna, and visit towns. These trips all have been fantastic opportunities to see places one could never glimpse if traveling only by land. Often, experts from the region join these Expedition Cruises as short-term "staff" to add a special insider touch. This week, I'm sharing with ActiveTravels readers my most recent voyage, on Adventure Canada's Newfoundland Circumnavigation

Adventure Canada's staff for the trip included a dozen Newfoundland natives: musicians, singers, artists, authors, whale experts, historians, archaeologists, geologists, photographers, park rangers, and chefs. I can't say enough about how much their presence enhanced the experience. For example, the renowned Alan Doyle, a Member of the Order of Canada ("for his contributions to the musical traditions of his home province") toured with us, and what a treat! His music every day and night kept us smiling (see him in the US this November). 
 
We started and ended in the historic harbor of St. John's, Newfoundland. During the 9 days in between, I had a great time experiencing a lively culture with breathtaking scenery, and lots of time outdoors to explore. Upcoming blogs will discuss the UNESCO sites and communities we visited along the way, highlighting extremely special and authentic experiences.
 
Before boarding Adventure Canada's vessel in St. John's, one of North America's oldest European settlements, I walked to The Rooms, Newfoundland's largest public cultural space "where the province's most extensive collection of artifacts, art and historical records come together." There I learned an important fact that would emerge often during the trip: immigration from Ireland started early, in the late 1600s, and a large percentage of the province's current population has Irish roots. Newfoundland even has a Gaelic name, Talamh an Éisc. 
 
If expedition cruising sounds appealing to you, let ActiveTravels know. I am strongly considering roaming the "Heart of the Arctic" in the summer of 2020. Want to join me, along with local scientists, historians, Inuit artists, and culturalists? We'll see the province of Nunavut, Baffin Island, Nunavik (the Inuit homeland in Northern Quebec), Ungava Bay, and Greenland (including Nuuk, the capital). If it's similar to my journey around Newfoundland, I know it will inspire and create lasting memories. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/31/18 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.

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