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Friday, February 10, 2017

Unsung Mexican Beach Destinations, Sedona, and Lisbon Hotels in ActiveTravels Feb 2017 Newsletter

We just booked a cruise for a couple headed to Antarctica in January of 2018. That comes on the heels of a safari booking for Botswana in September 2018. You might think that these folks are crazy to book so far in advance. In fact, they’re smart since they want to knock off destinations on their wish list and know that there’s only a limited supply of cruises headed to Antarctica, a small number of safari lodges in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. There’s been such a surge of traffic to well-known destinations of late that Barcelona and Rome are both considering limits this year to the amount of people entering the city each day. And I can’t tell you how many people we could not help last summer when they came calling to find lodging in Iceland at the last minute. The country was essentially sold out. Give us enough advance notice and we can make your dreams a reality, with far better flights and lodging options. 

Having missed connections in Miami, Heathrow, LAX and a slew of other cities, I’m always excited to see new direct flights like the Emirates flight from Newark to Athens that started this month. Delta is now flying direct from Boston to Montego Bay starting on February 25th. Direct flights have opened both coasts of Mexico to a number of new beachfront locales. That’s our main feature in the February newsletter. We also pick our favorite hotels in another popular locale, Lisbon, take a quick escape to Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, and describe how Flightfox can work magic with your airline miles. Have a look! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/10/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Time to Visit Weston Ski Track

Finally, some decent snowfall in the Boston area today. They’re predicting up to a foot to 14 inches. You know what that means? Time to visit the Weston Ski Track and their 15 kilometers of meticulously groomed trails. Ski rentals are available. Located on the banks of the Charles River, they also have snowshoe trails. Spend an hour or two here and you’ll no doubt feel invigorated from the workout and winter scenery. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/09/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Best New Hotels in New England

In the latest round of lodgings to open in New England, history plays an integral role. Boutique hotels have been created out of the former barracks of a 19th-century fort, a venerable captain’s estate, and within the confines of a Federal-style home dating from 1776. The Lark Hotel collection continues to expand in the region, adding inns on Plum Island and Newport. Add a large influx of cash to rehab a resort atop a cliff in Maine into a world-class property and you have our latest list of intriguing places to stay, all making their debut in the past year or two. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

February Vacation Deal at Boston’s Hotel Commonwealth

With February vacation week just around the corner, Boston's Hotel Commonwealth is offering a special staycation "Sale" in honor of the new Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale (#41). From 2/18 through 2/26, families staying at the hotel will receive the first night at a discounted rate of $199 and the second night (or second room) at an extra special "Sale" price of $41. It’s the perfect time to get out of the house and spend a few days exploring everything Boston has to offer, from the MFA’s new "Make Way for Ducklings" exhibition to ice skating at Frog Pond. Also included in the promotion is valet parking for one vehicle ($53 value), a special welcome gift for each child, and for those that stay 2/24 & 2/25, a double-feature movie night in the hotel’s new ballroom. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/07/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, February 06, 2017

Sandy Pines Campground to Debut This Summer in Kennebunkport

Kennebunkport hoteliers, Tim Harrington and Debra Lennon, the duo behind Hidden Pond, The Tides Beach Club, and The Grand Hotel, now have their sights set on a new campground. Sandy Pines will open this summer in a forest approximately ½-mile inland from Goose Rocks Beach. Each of the 320 sites will feature a picnic table, fire pit, electricity, cable, water and sewage. They’ll be offering different site options, ranging from basic tent sites to pull through sites with full utilities for larger RVs. All sites are a short walk to the spanking new bathhouses with restrooms, showers, and oversized sinks for dish washing. Yet, this being Maine, the best part could very well be a lobster pound and a snack bar serving lobster rolls. Also on premises will be a rustic general store, farm stand, ice cream cart, saltwater pool, kid’s craft tent, playground, laundry facilities, and WiFi. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/06/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, February 03, 2017

Head to Quebec’s Winter Carnival This Week

Now that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow, it’s time to savor those next 6 weeks of winter. To get the party started right, head to the best winter carnival in North America in Quebec City. Quebec’s Winter Carnival (which runs through February 12) is the largest in the world, attracting more than one million people. I was one of the lucky people to arrive in this fortified city on the first day of the 2015 Winter Carnival. I spent the morning sledding down an ice chute, viewing the impressive ice castle, made from 1600 blocks of ice, eating maple syrup on snow, and playing a human game of foosball. Top DJs from Montreal and Toronto played a mesmerizing mix of hip-hop and electronica, while locals carried cane-like red sticks filled with a potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup, adding to the dancing frenzy. When Bonhomme, the popular snowman and revered host of the festivities started to boogie, the crowd went wild. For those of us who choose to embrace winter in all its snowy charm, there’s no better event than a Winter Carnival.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Cape Town’s Rise to Culinary Prominence

It wasn’t so long ago that the signature dinner in Cape Town was a traditional braai, a barbecue featuring copious amounts of meat like boerewors sausages. If that didn’t satiate your carnivorous cravings, you could always stop at the local butcher for a bag of biltong, the popular South African snack of air-dried beef jerky. Then the Apartheid regime ended and the city started to embrace its diversity of cultures, especially when it came to expanding the palate at your nightly meal. The fusion of Dutch, French, Malaysian, Indian, and African cooking has melded to create an exciting new cuisine. 

The latest batch of talented chefs take full advantage of Cape Town’s melting pot and its envied locale, straddling the Atlantic and Indian Oceans as the largest city on the southernmost point of the continent. Everywhere you look is water and thankfully the fresh bounty of the sea now appears on the menu alongside the many types of meat, all washed down with South Africa’s world-class pinotage and sauvignon blanc vintages. You don’t have to step far from your hotel room to find a restaurant that scintillates the taste buds. Fine dining is sprouting up in all parts of the city like the blooming of king proteas, the national flower, at the city’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. So pick a neighborhood, any neighborhood. 

My entire story on the Cape Town dining scene can be found in the February/March 2017 issue of Virtuoso Traveler

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

AMC Reopens Medawisla Lodge After 2-Year Renovation

If you’ve been following this blog over the years, you know I cherish the rare wilderness experience found in Maine’s northern woods. To get lost in this vast land of tall pines, 4,000-foot peaks, and far too many waterways to count, where moose tend to outnumber humans, is an unparalleled experience in the northeast. As part of the Maine Woods Initiative, which I first wrote about for Boston Globe Magazine, the Appalachian Mountain Club has certainly done their part to permanently conserve more than 75,000 acres of land and keep open three historic sporting camps. One of those camps, Medawisla Lodge and Cabins will reopen on July 1st following a major two-year reconstruction project. 

Located in a glorious spot on the shores of Second Roach Pond, Medawisla offers ample hiking, paddling, fly-fishing, wildlife watching, as well as new options for mountain biking and canoe camping. Guests will find a newly built waterfront pavilion, central lodge with water views for dining and programs, as well as nine new private cabins. Medawisla will connect to AMC’s two other Maine Wilderness Lodges, Little Lyford and Gorman Chairback, and the family-run West Branch Pond Camps, through a 130-mile trail network built and maintained by AMC. These trails are open to guests and the general public, and offer a range of lodge-to-lodge hiking and biking adventures. Reservations for AMC’s Medawisla Lodge is now open. Four-course dinner, breakfast, and trail lunch are included in most cabin rates, with linens and hot showers available. Do yourself a favor and get lost in the Maine woods this summer. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/01/17 at 05:59 AM
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gurney’s Opens Second Resort in Newport, Rhode Island

Great news out of Newport last week as Gurney’s, the iconic Montauk hotelier, has announced they have taken over the Hyatt Regency property on Goat Island. The sprawling 10-acre waterfront locale is one of the best in town, a short walk from the restaurants and shops, yet far away from the crowds to feel like a seaside resort. Gurney’s Montauk knows how to please families and I expect the same dynamic in Newport, where they plan to expand the pool deck, start a Kids’ Club, and offer daily activities for families. Gurney’s Newport will also be home to a full-service spa, state-of-the-art fitness facility, and indoor pool, good for a dip any time of year. They also plan to add the brand’s signature restaurant Scarpetta, set to make its debut in May. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/31/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 30, 2017

Bald Eagles Return to Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

This is the time of year when bald eagles make their annual pilgrimage to the Shepaug Dam on the Housatonic River in Southbury, Connecticut. When their fishing grounds freeze over further north, these majestic birds head to the dam, where the turbulent waters prevent freezing and push fish to the surface for easy pickings. Everyone is invited to view these graceful creatures whose wingspans often reach 7 feet at the Eagle Observation Area near the Shepaug Housatonic Hydroelectric Station. An organized eagle watch takes place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm through March 12. Admission is free but space is limited and reservations are required. In addition to eagle viewing, Connecticut Audubon will host a birds of prey show on Saturdays throughout the viewing season. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/30/17 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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