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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Much-Needed Therapeutic Waters of Temagami

As soon as I laid eyes on the waters of Lake Temagami, all I wanted to do was jump in and swim. And for 3 days, that’s primarily what I did. Dove in the heavenly waters of this vast lake and swam free crawl, backstroke, elementary backstroke, underwater, to a small island directly across from us, where our friend Bruce had his cabin (I’ll talk more about him tomorrow). It was a perfect cleansing of my body in these pristine waters, happily washing away the year’s stress with each stroke. 

I had no idea where we were, a place called Ojibway on an island 20 minutes by boat from the parking lot some 5 to 6 hours drive north of Toronto. Amy had found the place because her daughter, Sophie, was a counselor at Keewaydin Songadeewin summer camp in Vermont, sister camp to Keewaydin Temagami located on the same island as Ojibway. There were no campers during our stay, because the Temagami camp is primarily used as a base for long-distance canoe trips for paddlers, upwards of 6 weeks in summer. Ojibway felt like summer camp for adults in one of the most serene settings I’ve visited in Canada. The inviting waters entice you to grab a canoe and paddle to your heart’s content, following the loons. Meals are served family-style on the long tables and the food was surprisingly good. So was the company, many of whom had a long history with this island, including a woman from Mississippi, who told me that her grandfather had found this place in the early 1900s, not wanting to deal with the crowds in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Her family has been returning here for over a century. And who can blame them! 
 
It's hard to find a more peaceful and stress-free setting, one where your WiFi only works close to the dining area (and very slow at that). You’re free to discard the smart phone and read your stack of books, go for a paddle, have gin and tonics on the deck, and yes, swim. I want to hold on to that image of me diving off the dock at Ojibway to hopefully keep my blood pressure down the rest of the year. At least, until I return to this special spot and dive in again. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/21/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Following in Tom Thomson’s Footsteps at Algonquin Provincial Park

On our first day at Bartlett Lodge, we signed up for a Tom Thomson tour with our guide, Malcolm. Tom Thomson was arguably Canada’s first iconic painter, sketching lone birches and pines swaying in the wind on the shores of Algonquin’s many lakes. While not technically a member of Canada’s Group of Seven artists, he was good friends with many in the group and would have certainly been a member if he had not died under mysterious circumstances at Algonquin in 1917. Thomson would spend a good 5-year span at Algonquin before his untimely death and Malcolm did a thorough job showing us the many sites where his paintings were created. We started at Tea Lake Dam, where Thomson first camped in the area along a babbling brook. Thomson was also known as an accomplished angler and paddler and you can easily see him living happily on the water’s edge here. It helped that Malcolm brought along a laptop to show us the sketches that were created in this exact spot and many other locales we would visit that day. 

The bulk of our time was spent on Canoe Lake, the busiest part of Algonquin, and where they serve a Tom Thomson burger at the Visitor Center. We took “Winnie the Tinnie,” a motorized canoe around the entirety of the lake, passing celebrated Canadian overnight summer camps, like Camp Ahmek, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was both a camper and counselor. At Hayhurst Point, we docked and walked up a small hillside to see a plaque that Group of Seven artist, J.E.H. MacDonald, created in memory of his friend. No one is certain how Thomson died, but his canoe arrived back to the shores first, and soon his body was found in the waters. It was ruled an accident, but there were some unruly characters living in the park in those early years, and many still believe he was murdered. Malcolm showed us the sight where his body was found and the small cemetery where he is now buried (another controversy since some people think his body was taken), before we headed back under heavy rains. The heavyu drops splashed off the water of the lake, creating a pointillist canvas that Thomson would have appreciated. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/20/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Ontario Lakes Week: First Stop, Bartlett Lodge, Algonquin Provincial Park

As soon as you step foot in that large wooden boat and are whisked away a mere 5 minutes from the parking lot to Bartlett Lodge, tensions start to melt away with the calm Cache Lake waters. Traveling with Amy and Josh from their home in Toronto, it took us about 3 ½ hours to reach Algonquin Provincial Park in central Ontario. Amy had met the owners of Bartlett Lodge, Marilyn and Kim on an Adventure Canada cruise circumnavigating Newfoundland last fall, and she wanted to make this our first stop on a tour of classic Ontario cabins. She started with a winner, the circa-1907 Deil Ma Care cabin, created before the resort even opened by a doctor from Ottawa who would bring patients with TB and other respiratory ailments to Algonquin as a salubrious retreat. After 3 nights at Bartlett Lodge, I’m happy to report that the lodge is just as therapeutic today as it was a century ago! 

The 12 cottages and 4 tents sit on the shores of the inviting Cache Lake. Grab a canoe like we did one early morning before breakfast and you’ll be listening to the distinctive call of the loon echoing across the waters. But even more heavenly than a placid paddle is the chance to swim from the small deck in front of our cabin in the clean refreshing waters. As soon as we arrived, we went for the first of countless swims we would take on our 9-day foray into the lakes of central Ontario. 
 
All meals are included in the price, the highlight being the 4-course dinner, beloved just as much by locals as visitors to Bartlett Lodge. Start with hazelnut gnudi (gnocchi-like dumplings) or wild mushroom arancini before moving on to entrees of chinook salmon or beef tenderloin. But save room for dessert, especially Marilyn’s sublime signature pies, like wild blueberry or strawberry rhubarb. Marilyn is the quintessential host, walking over between courses to all the tables to discuss the history of the place and her love for the region. Not only did her husband Kim and her revive this dreamy waterfront property (they’ve been owners since 1997), but they run a nearby overnight girl’s camp. Off-season, they have a farm outside of Toronto known for its team of Clydesdales. 
 
Swim, paddle, take a Tom Thomson tour with Malcolm (which I’ll discuss tomorrow), hike through old growth forest or up the hillside for vistas of the shorelines, and then return to the Bartlett Lodge for gin and tonics in the Muskoka chairs (the Ontario version of Adirondack chairs) and another fantastic dinner (BYOB, so stop at the province-run liquor store, LCBO, on the way in). It’s a winning recipe for a 3-day add-on to Toronto or Ottawa. Share your dates with ActiveTravels and we’ll check on availability and pricing. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/19/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Introducing the Collapsible Water Bottle, HYDAWAY

I like to carry my trusty Hydro Flask water bottle when traveling, but it takes up a lot of space in my carry-on. That’s why I was excited to try a new collapsible water bottle called HYDAWAY. The foldable 17-ounce bottle is leakproof and made of BPA-free plastic. Plus it can go in the dishwasher. The best part is it only retails for $25 so it won’t break the bank. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/15/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Virgin Gorda’s Little Dix Bay to Reopen March 2020

When we last stepped foot on Virgin Gorda February 2018, the island was devastated in the wake of Hurricane Irma. We were sailing the BVIs and the locals were overjoyed to have any travelers to this region. But it was hard not to be saddened by the overwhelming state of destruction. Upon arrival in Tortola, boats were capsized in the harbor, roofs were ripped off houses, and locals were driving cars with broken windows. Classic resorts like Bitter End and Peter Island were in tatters, large tankers beached, homes destroyed wherever you looked. Thus the reason why we’re overjoyed to find out today that the Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda is now accepting reservations for March 2020 and beyond. Laurence Rockefeller found this wilderness outpost so appealing that he built Little Dix on a deserted beach. The allure comes from the almost primitive feel of this 10-mile long island. There is little shopping, few restaurants outside of the hotels, and the only major site is a snorkeling spot called The Baths, where rock grottos on the shoreline form natural pools. With few distractions, this is the place to book a room for a week, relax on the beach, and read a good thick Russian novel like Anna Karenina that you’ve always wanted to read and never found the time. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/14/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Backroads Launches New 20s & Beyond Trips for Families with Older Kids in 20s and 30s

Having taken a memorable Older Teens & 20s (17-23) trip with Backroads to Switzerland, I know firsthand what a pleasure it is to have your children travel with kids in their specific age group. Not to mention, it was also a joy to meet other active families who love being outdoors as much as we do. That’s why I’m delighted to see that Backroads has now expanded these trips to families with children in their 20s and 30s. God willing, I plan to be hiking and biking well into my 80s and there’s no better way to get my weary body up that mountain than with my children. Backroads options span the globe, but the ones that look most tantalizing to me are New Zealand Multi-Adventure, Greece Multi-Adventure, and Spain’s Mallorca and Menorca Bike Tour. Please have a look and, if interested, contact ActiveTravels to check if ages match up on a specific trip, and to help with flights and pre- and post-lodging. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/13/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 12, 2019

Paddle Maine’s Allagash River this September

Mention the Allagash River to a canoeist and his eyes suddenly become moist and dreamy as he inevitably responds, “Yeah, I’d like to go there someday.” The river has somehow attained legendary stature. Perhaps it’s the way the blue streak of water slips off the map of America’s northern fringes, remote and isolated, hundreds of miles from the nearest metropolis. Or maybe it’s the legacy of writer, philosopher, and inveterate traveler Henry David Thoreau, who ventured down the waterway a mere 155 years ago, waxing lyrically about the last great frontier in the East in his book, The Maine Woods. Whatever the reason, the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway continues to lure 10,000-plus paddlers to its shores every summer, turning farfetched dreams into reality. Paddle the Allagash in September like I did and you’ll be treated to moose in heat, fall foliage colors, and no bugs. Go with a trusted guide like Mahoosuc Guide Service, who led me down the West Branch of the Penobscot River for this Sierra Magazine story. They still have openings on their September 24-29 trip, $1250 per person all-inclusive. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/12/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, July 26, 2019

Multi-Generational Family Retreats Featured in July/August ActiveTravels Newsletter

The kids are stand-up paddle boarding near the middle of the lake. Lisa is sea kayaking with her siblings and their spouses closer to the shoreline. Steady wind blowing through my hair, I’m at the tiller of an 18-foot sailboat accompanied by my mother-in-law, Fran. I grew up sailing on the large lake to the south, Lake George, where there's far more boat traffic and large passenger steamboats like The Mohican, which I always seemed to be on a direct line to hit. But here on the southern tier of mighty Lake Champlain, there is little traffic on this July weekday and I don’t feel a worry in the world. Vermont’s Basin Harbor Club is one of a handful of resorts that we like to send clients in summer who are looking for a large family get-together. One that’s suitable for all ages, from toddlers to octogenarians. Please see the latest ActiveTravels newsletter to find other recommended resorts. We also discuss the Canary Islands, a popular getaway for the Brits, but not yet on the American radar. 

 
Lisa and I will be traveling to three outstanding lodges in northern Ontario next week with our ActiveTravels colleague, Amy, and her husband, Josh. We’ll be back on August 7th. In the meantime, enjoy the summer weather and stay active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/26/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Beat the Heat at New Castle’s Wentworth by the Sea

To celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, 15 members of the Leavitt family headed to the outskirts of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and spent this past weekend at the historic Wentworth by the Sea. Considering it hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit both days in Boston, it was a good time to be on the Atlantic coast. First opened in 1874, Wentworth by the Sea is now operated by Marriott and all rooms have recently been renovated. Built as a summer resort popular with East Coast socialites, wealthy patrons, and former presidents, the hotel retains its grand feel. Our room had a scenic view overlooking a snaking river and marsh, where we were treated to a magnificent sunset on Friday night, the sky streaking orange, red, and pink. 
 
After a buffet breakfast on Saturday at the hotel, we spent most of the day in or by the resort’s pool, taking full advantage of the waiter service. But no need to dine solely at the hotel. Both New Castle and nearby Portsmouth (10-minute drive) are known for their top-notch dining. Within a 2-minute drive of the property are the Ice House and BG’s Boathouse, both known for their excellent lobster-in-the-rough options, like lobster rolls, steamed or fried clams, and scallops. On Friday night, we dined at the American tapas restaurant, Moxy, nominated year after year by the James Beard Awards for New England’s best restaurant. The small plate options included cod, fried clams, roasted beets, and a table favorite, chicken meatballs. On Saturday, we took a 1-hour harbor boat ride before beers at Row 34 (one of the best beer lists in town) and more lobster on an outside deck at Old Ferry Landing. Yes, we saved just enough room for the heavenly black raspberry ice cream down the block at Annabelle’s. Kudos to Lisa for planning a wonderful weekend getaway! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/23/19 at 06:00 AM
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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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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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