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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, Yachats, Oregon

If you’ve managed to book one of the six rooms at the Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast in Yachats, Oregon, you’re in for a visual and culinary treat. Just south of Cape Perpetua, where the 900-foot- high cliffs overlook the Pacific, this is arguably the most stunning locale on the entire Oregon coast. You’ll spend the night in a former assistant lightkeeper’s quarters, set on a grassy patch below the Heceta Head Lighthouse, a tall white edifice that stands atop a small spit of land. Below, breakers explode against the burgundy red cliffs that hem in a narrow beach filled with driftwood.  In the darkness, grab a flashlight from the inn and hike up to the lighthouse to watch it flash beacon after beacon across the rugged shoreline and then out to sea. Come morning, dine on a seven-course breakfast with the other guests. Afterwards, a stretch on the wraparound verandah is in order, where you might spot crab boats coming into the harbor from their night catch.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/30/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Royal Hotel in Levuka, Fiji

While there are more than 300 islands in Fiji, most visitors opt to stay on the main island of Viti Levu where the international airport and the country’s two largest cities, Nadi and Suva, are located. Knowing that intimate Fijian villages and remote islands are less than an hour boat ride away, it pains me to meet people who spend their entire trip on this one commercial isle. Stay a night or two on the Coral Coast, one hour south of Nadi, to relax after the 10-hour flight from Los Angeles. Then ferry over to the town of Levuka on the island of Ovalau. More than fifty stores and hotels built in the 1850s still stand in this former capital of Fiji. Walk past the ficus trees down Beach Street to the most prestigious establishment of all, The Royal Hotel. Continuously operating since Levuka’s heyday, this is the oldest hotel in the South Pacific. Walk around the lobby and you feel like you’re entering a novel by Somerset Maugham or Robert Louis Stevenson, who both spent at least a night here. Inside, you’ll find rattan chairs, ceiling fans, a large stained oak bar, and a 100-year-old snooker table. Thankfully, one doesn’t have to be an acclaimed man of letters to afford this lodging. Cost of a room starts at $32 a night, including toast and tea for breakfast. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/29/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Staying at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi

The death last week of 97-year-old blues great Pinetop Perkins reminded me of the night my brother and I spent at the Shack Up Inn, one of the most unique accommodations in the country. Set on the Hopson Plantation in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where the mechanical cotton picker made its debut in 1941, owner Bill Talbot converted six former sharecropper shacks into his own version of a B&B (bed and beer). Each rambling shack pays tribute to a blues legend (Clarksdale is the birthplace of the blues), like the one we stayed in dedicated to boogie-woogie pianist Perkins, who once worked at this same plantation. As you would expect, this is no luxurious retreat. Yet, what it lacks in comfort—thin mattresses in the two bedrooms and rusted sinks in the bathroom—it more than makes up with personality. There’s a large mural of Pinetop at the piano, blues playing on the TV, a fridge stocked with beer, and beaten sofas on the front porch that overlook the cotton gin. The place has a loyal following of blues aficionados from around the globe, as evidenced by this quote in the guest book, “Pinetop, thank you for keeping me company on our long drives together.  I love and admire you.”

This week I’m going to delve into my most memorable night stays.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/28/11 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Paddling and Pinot Noir in Oregon

I love the pinot noirs coming out of Oregon, especially my favorite, Cristom, which I raved about in The Boston Globe. I also love whitewater rafting. So when I heard that Rogue Wilderness Adventures was offering a new trip for nature-loving wine enthusiasts, I had to spread the word. Raft 34 miles through the Wild & Scenic Rogue River corridor, then spend the nights in historic lodges where, at dinner, you’ll be treated to a pairing of some of Oregon’s finest wines with gourmet, locally inspired cuisine. The 3 days/2 nights jaunt costs $989 per person and departs on September 5th, 2011.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/25/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rekindling My Love for Cross-Country Skiing

The Northeast has received more than its fair share of snow this winter. In fact, Boston is set to receive another 2-4 inches this evening. I’ve taken this opportunity to x-c ski at three of my favorite spots in New England. In January, I celebrated my wife’s birthday by skiing in the Berkshires at a Trustees of Reservations property called Notchview. While researching my first book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England, I skied at Notchview and remembered it being one of the premier spots for the sport. Upon my return trip, it was even more magical, with a healthy dumping of fresh snow creating a winter wonderland of bent pine branches. This past weekend, my family stayed at the historic Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. On Sunday, under clear blue skies, I took my daughter and nephew for a morning jaunt on the web of trails found at the Bretton Woods Nordic Center. Mount Washington and its broad-shouldered slopes and snowcapped peak could be seen in its entirety, not wrapped in any clouds, which is a rarity in these parts. It was another glorious outing smelling the pines while cruising along a stream. This coming weekend, we’re off to Stowe, Vermont, to cross-country ski at Trapp Family Lodge during the height of the maple sugar season (see the best trips of the month section to the right of this entry). I look forward to tackling the Parizo Trail once again and having my bowl of soup in the cozy cabin. For dessert, I’ll try the homemade maple taffy.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/24/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Watching the Spring Migration of Birds

It’s hard to focus on writing this morning, grabbing my binoculars every five minutes to view the red-tailed hawks flying by my window. They love to rest on the branches of the tall oak trees outside my third floor office. I love this time of year, when my feathered friends start to return north and their cacophony of voices wake me up at sunrise. It’s too early to spot my beloved warblers as they cruise the Atlantic Flyway to their summer retreats. I’ll be heading to Mount Auburn Cemetery, a favorite haunt of Boston birders in mid-April, to spot those beauties. Last spring, I pointed out a website, Westport Osprey, that was tracking the flight of ospreys as they were making their way north. So far in 2011, Hudson left his winter home of Venezuela and is already back in his nest on the Westport River in southeastern Massachusetts. As of March 15, Sanford was still hanging out in the Bahamas ordering another rum punch at the swim-up bar. Stay tuned to Westport Osprey to track his flight.  And make a plan to visit Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Mass Audubon, to find the nesting Westport osprey, bald eagles, piping plovers and other shore birds.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trekking in New Zealand

In the wake of the devastating February 22nd earthquake in the South Island of New Zealand, travel writers around the world are blogging about the country this week in hopes of convincing folks that, outside of Christchurch, the vast majority of New Zealand is intact and ready to welcome visitors. In fact, I’ll be heading there later this year for the annual Society of American Travel Writers Conference. To do my share, I’m going to reprint this list of pointers I wrote for Backpacker Magazine on trekking in New Zealand.

Plan: Book as early as July for the most renowned of all hikes, the 4-day Milford Track in South Island’s Fjordland National Park. Number of hikers are limited to 10,000. 

Inspiration: A rite of passage for Kiwis, the 33-mile trek weaves through rainforest and alpine meadows, passing the country’s tallest waterfall in the (Sutherland), and dumping you off at the striking fjords of Milford Sound. 

Season: The hiking season is late October to late April. Avoid the rush of Christmas school holidays from the last week of December through January.

Pack: With huts built along many of these trails, like Milford, tents and mats are often unnecessary, lightening packs. 

Clothes: The uniform of choice is usually a layer of polypro under shorts. This deters bugs, especially the nasty sand fly, and keeps you cozy in mist and fog.

Weather: Expect a mix of clouds and sun, with frequent changes in weather. Average daytime temps are in the high 50s to mid-60s, Fahrenheit, but often dip to just above freezing at night. 

Food: Granola, fresh bread and cheese, dried fruit, even freeze-dried meals are easy to find once you get to New Zealand.

Extras: Kiwis love their tea, so have extra bags on hand and you’ll win friends easily.

Caveat:
Serious backpackers who might find the Milford Track overly regulated (you’re required to overnight at the Clinton Hut, a mere hour’s hike from the trailhead) should opt for Fjordland’s less visited and far more rigorous Dusty Track. It has much of the same scenery Milford features, without the foot traffic.

Wildlife: Watch for the luminous glowworm, hidden under ferns at night, and listen for the call of the elusive Kiwi bird. 

Guides:
Kiwi Wilderness Walks in Queenstown is a respected authority on South Island tracks.

Book:
Tramping in New Zealand (published by Australian-based Lonely Planet), by Jim DuFresne.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/22/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, March 21, 2011

New York City Unveils $3.3 Billion Plan to Improve Waterfront

On a bike trip around Manhattan last summer, I was delighted to witness the improvements New York was making along its shoreline. Like many American cities, New York has reconnected with its waterfront setting over the past decade, converting dilapidated docks and toxic marsh along the rivers into manicured parkland. Biking near 170th Street under the steel arch High Bridge, we spotted recent additions to the Harlem River shoreline, most noticeably a new boathouse at Swindler Cove Park and an adjoining children’s garden. Now Mayor Bloomberg has announced a $3.3 billion plan for new parks and environmental improvements to its 578 miles of shoreline to help boost recreation and real estate. I look forward to experiencing the new parks and shoreline walks in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/21/11 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Sea Kayaking Saguenay Fjord with H2Outfitters

Writer Walt Whitman described the waters of Quebec’s Saguenay Fjord as “dark as ink, exquisitely polished and sheeny under the August sun.”  That’s exactly the time of year you’ll be headed to Saguenay on a weeklong camping trip with the highly reputable sea kayaking outfitter, H2Outfitters. From August 13-20, you'll kayak the length of the fjord as you slice through this St. Lawrence estuary, a Marine Park in Canada, alongside walls of ash colored rock that rise some 1,150 feet.  An added bonus is that this sheltered cove is a rich feeding ground for whales. Humpbacks, smaller minkes, and the cuddly white belugas have all been spotted on past trips. The put-in is located 2 ½ hours northeast of Quebec City and cost is $975 per person, including camping fees, guides, kayaks, and all meals.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/18/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walking Through Venice and Veneto with the Wayfarers

Named by National Geographic Adventure as one of the “Best Hiking Companies,” The Wayfarers offers an eco-sensitive “walking” holiday that merges fitness with culture in 15 countries across the globe.  Now in its 28th year, founder Michael West is particularly excited about the upcoming Venice and The Veneto trip. Averaging 7 to 10 miles a day of walking, the weeklong journey will take you to Asiago to sample the famous cow’s milk cheese, visit the birthplace of grappa in Bassano del Grappa, and view two of Palladio’s magnificent villas, including the Renaissance architect’s masterwork, La Rotonda. “The highlight,” says West, “is when we arrive in Venice at the finale of the trip on a private launch directly from the mainland. I have never experienced (in almost fifty years in the business) a thrill like arriving at the steps of our hotel having cruised in celebrity style through one of the most famous skylines in the world!” The farewell dinner is in a restaurant known only by locals on the quayside watching the sun set over the city. “Magic!” says West.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/17/11 at 01:00 PM
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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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