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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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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Samoset Unveils New Renovated Rooms and Suites

The crown jewel of Maine’s mid-coast, the 230-acre Samoset Resort in Rockland, has undergone extensive room renovations this winter. All 178 rooms and suites now have a contemporary coastal flair, thanks to the blue and white palette that livens up the décor. Samoset will also debut six new “Family Suites” this month. Each Family Suite will feature a kid’s bunkbed room, separate from the main bedroom, ideally suited for families with tweens and teens. The bunk room features amenities like board and video games and fun, educational books about Maine. The resort also features an 18-hole golf course, outdoor and indoor heated pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, health club, spa, basketball courts, and fire pits. Also nearby is my favorite breakwater to walk in the state and the James Beard-award winning restaurant, Primo

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/19/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Arenal’s Nayara Tented Camp to Debut in December

If you have plans to visit Costa Rica this winter and want a luxurious retreat, consider staying in the Arenal region at the new Nayara Tented Camp. Sister property to the Nayara Hotel and Nayara Springs (16 private villas), Nayara Tented Camp is the brainchild of owner Leo Ghitis who was inspired by the luxury canvas lodges of Africa and Asia. The 29 air-conditioned accommodations, each spacious at 1,496 square feet, have been built at a higher altitude on the hillside to provide unobstructed views of the Arenal volcano. The property is surrounded by creeks and natural hot springs, approximately a 2 ½-hour drive from San Jose Int’l Airport. Transfers are available for an additional cost. Or contact ActiveTravels and we’ll put together a package with another region on the beach, like Manuel Antonio, Osa Peninsula, or Guanacaste. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/18/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Road Trip to The Atlantic Maritimes

For me, Canada’s Atlantic Maritimes are an extension of New England, a place I visit yearly, if not two or three times a year to pen stories on whalewatching and sea kayaking New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy, walking the dunes and biking the island-long bike trail of verdant Prince Edward Island, and listening to the live Celtic music of Cape Breton. Far less congested than parts of New England, the region is a joy to drive, the reason why it’s become a requisite road trip for many Northeasterners. For members who come to us with last minute summer requests, we always suggest this road trip. ActiveTravels will design our patented Dream Day Itinerary, which includes our favorite lodging, activities, driving routes, and restaurants. Also remember that the current rate of exchange is very advantageous to Americans, $1 US is currently $1.34 Canadian! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/17/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 14, 2019

Spend an Active Weekend in the Finger Lakes

Known for its award-winning Rieslings, New York’s Finger Lakes deserve its reputation as one of the best spots in America to go wine tasting. Yet, its majestic scenery also lends itself well to adventure. At the southern end of Seneca Lake, we hiked alongside a handful of waterfalls in the famous gorge of Watkins Glen. The next morning, Lisa and I kayaked through a cattail-laden marsh and saw countless herons, turtles, and a beaver. Talk about adventure—a 40-pound carp jumped out of the marsh and slammed against my arm as I shrieked. But my favorite part of the weekend was a quiet bike ride along a peninsula that juts into Keuka Lake. Start your ride from Keuka College and follow East and West Bluff Roads as they pass the small waterfront cottages with cute names like Hide N’ Seek. There’s one killer hill on the 20-mile ride that takes you atop a bluff, before cruising downhill back to the college. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a lobster roll and glass of semi-dry Riesling at Heron Hill’s Blue Heron Cafe. We were fortunate to book a room at the Black Sheep Inn in Hammondsport, on the northern tip of Keuka Lake. Owners Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman spent over 6 years refurbishing the rare octagonal-shaped house. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/14/19 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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