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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Vermont Update

Ten days ago, Vermont was rocked by Hurricane Irene. As I wrote last week, several covered bridges were washed away, and, as of this morning, 18 bridges are still shut down. But Vermonters are resilient and they could especially use your help now more than ever. The Green Mountain State puts on its finest pastoral dress these next six weeks thanks to fall foliage. If you have a trip planned to the region, by all means go. If you don’t have a trip planned, you should still think about traveling to the area to support the numerous businesses in this state that rely heavily on tourism. The major interstates, I-89 and I-91 are open to all traffic without restrictions. Route 7 is open to all traffic, except in Clarendon, where there is a detour around a closed bridge. Route 4 is open from the New Hampshire border to Woodstock and the New York border to Rutland. There are still problems in the Bridgewater/Killington area, so check daily for updates. Route 100, one of my favorite roads for seeing the foliage, has a slew of closures, especially in the towns of Jamaica, Pittsfield, Ludlow, and Hancock. Hopefully, the route will be open shortly. Remember, peak foliage in northern Vermont is in late September, and around Columbus Day for the southern half of the state. So thankfully, Vermont still has time to dig out before the surge of people comes to the state. Hopefully, that includes you!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/07/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time to Relax at Lake George

Staring in late May, I’ve been to Miami, Bermuda, DC, the entirety of the New England coast, Chicago, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver, and Saltspring Island. All great trips that have led or will lead to travel articles. But I can’t say I was relaxed on those jaunts. I usually had a notebook in hand researching each destination. On the 16-day Canadian Rockies journey with the family, we had to transfer to 7 different hotels and traveled by car, train, ferry, and plane. Tomorrow I head to Lake George to see the whole Jermanok clan, including my dad, sister, brother, nieces, and nephews. This is a special retreat for me; a 30-mile long lake nestled in the Adirondacks that I learned to sail even before I learned to walk. Not having to worry about an assignment to write, I can pick up my Schenectady Gazette at the local grocery, grab a cup of Joe, and head back to the docks of our cottage to chill. If I’m a feeling a bit hungry in the morning, I’ll drive to Lone Bull for a huge stack of pancakes. Then it’s off to Goony Golf for a round of miniature golf, a sea kayak paddle around the Sagamore, or playing on the high ropes course of Adirondak Extreme. The finest vacation is often the one you return to each year, not having to worry about new sites to see or restaurants to try. Things rarely change on the shores of Lake George and that’s exactly the way I love it.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend! I’ll be back on September 7th.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/31/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One of My Favorite Covered Bridges in Vermont Washed Away Due to Hurricane Irene

I spent the morning with my family cleaning up my yard in suburban Boston after Hurricane Irene swept through the area on Sunday. There were more than 5 garbage cans filled with downed branches, including one massive limb that fell two feet from our car and could have caused extensive damage. All in all, we were fortunate as ole Irene was tired by the time she reached here. Vermont took the brunt of the storm in New England. I was saddened to hear that one of my favorite covered bridges in New England, the one that sits over the Ottauquechee River in Quechee, best seen while dining at the Simon Pearce restaurant, was swept away by surging water. In Rockingham, the 141-year-old Bartonsville Covered Bridge was washed away by the raging Williams River. Those bridges are irreplaceable.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/30/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Buy a Turkish Carpet

Numerous vendors, most who speak excellent English, will approach you in Turkey, and invite you into their shop for cay (tea). Some shop owners will even offer lunch and introduce you to their families. By all means, except and enjoy their hospitality. After tea, they will throw down carpet after carpet, explaining in detail the point of origin, age, materials, and processes of weaving, knot-tying, and wool-dying techniques. Undoubtedly you will feel indebted to your new friend. The owner knows this, because that’s when he hooks you.
    “Which one do you like?”
    “I love the one in the corner,” you say while lunging for the prized possession.
    “Yes, you have a good eye. It is very fine workmanship. Over a hundred years old…How much are you willing to spend?”
You name a price and the owner shakes his head and laughs. He then looks at you and acts insulted. “I have to earn a profit. I have a family to feed.” Pangs of guilt emerge and before you know it, you’re walking out of the shop with a carpet you paid three or four time the normal price. This is the typical scenario and mistakes are plentiful. Here are some tips to assure that this won’t happen to you:

Never purchase a carpet in the first store you enter. By going into several stores before buying your carpet, you become knowledgeable about pricing and gain bargaining experience.

Act indifferent. If a shop owner realizes you love a carpet, he will overcharge you.

Make the owner quote the first price. Shop owners want you to say a price first. Don’t do it.

Test the age and quality. An older rug is usually more expensive than a new one. A slightly worn look can add to its charm.

Be patient. Bartering is time consuming. You might have to walk out of the store a number of times.

Never feel obligated to purchase a carpet. Since acting like a new friend is part of the shop owner’s sales tactic, this can be difficult. Never buy anything you don’t truly want.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/29/11 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Konya, Turkey, Still a Special Retreat

As you travel northeast form Kas to the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, a worthwhile stopover is the city of Konya. In the 1200s, Konya was the capital of the Seljuk Empire and home to the whirling dervishes. Many important sites from this period remain, including the Mevlana Monastery, where the dervish leader, the great poet, Rumi, is buried. Overlooking the Monastery is the Hotel Rumi, where the $84 room rate includes a buffet breakfast. In addition to the dervishes, Konya is known for its food. Firnin kebab is roasted lamb. Etli ekmek is Turkish pizza topped with ground lamb. Both are delicious and can be sampled at Sifa Lokantasi (Mevlana Cadessi 30).
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/26/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Hot Springs of Pamukkale

Several hours south of Istanbul is Pamukkale (cotton castle in Turkish), appropriately named for the pearl white cliffs that cover the mountainside like huge balls of cotton. Hot springs rich in calcium gush forth from Pamukkale’s highest point, forming milky pools below. Since ancient times, this has been Turkey’s most popular spa area. Try the thermal pools at the Richmond, the best resort in town.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/25/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Visiting Kas and Kalkan, Turkey

One of the last unspoiled regions of the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey boasts aquamarine waters relatively free of boat traffic and mountainous shores that contain few posh hotels or high-rise condominiums. The coastal community of Kas is the gateway to Kekova, a sunken city where you can still see homes submerged under the water. You’ll also spot numerous sarcophagi, ancient tombs sitting mysteriously in the Mediterranean. Back in town, you can visit the ancient stone stage of the Hellenistic theater and barter with carpet shop owners over the price of a colorful kilim. You should also take the time to visit Kalkan, a charming seaside village, where tables surrounding the picturesque harbor are abuzz with fishermen discussing the day’s catch. Beach lovers soak up the sun at nearby Patara Beach. Spend the night at the lovely Meldi Hotel, where the $82 room rate includes a breakfast buffet for two.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/24/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

To Truly Relax on a Greek Island, Head to Tilos

This time of year, late August, and my mind starts to wander to the southern Mediterranean. September and October is the ideal time to visit Greece and Turkey. Temperatures start to cool down a bit and the summer crowds have departed, returning the Mediterranean coast and islands back to their rightful owners. This week, I’m going to delve into some of my favorite Turkish and Greek locales. First stop, Tilos.

Tilos is an island where the locals, still unaccustomed to tourists, greet you as if you lived there your whole life. A place where one picks fresh figs off the tree and finds deserted medieval castles that request no admission fee. Tilos lies approximately 65 kilometers due east of Rhodes and 40 kilometers due south of Kos in the Dodecanese Islands. With a population of only 300 people, the island has a surprising number of readily available accommodations and restaurants, one of which makes some of the best Greek food I’ve ever tasted. Most of the tourist facilities line the sleepy port of Livadia, a town where the lone baker knows you on a first-name basis shortly after you arrive and a restaurateur gives you a free bottle of his favorite wine when you depart. Stay at the aptly named Dream Island on the beach at Livadia. Spacious rooms and patios overlook the sea. A family-run restaurant named Sofia’s is the gourmet dining choice in town. The restaurant is named after Sofia Economou, the matriarch and gracious hostess. Her husband does the cooking and his specialties include fried pumpkin with potato garlic dip, aubergine with tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, and the leanest and juiciest souvlaki we tasted in Greece.  Ferries leave from Rhodes to Tilos every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, returning Wednesday and Friday.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/23/11 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Still a Classic Retreat in the Canadian Rockies

Staying at the classic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was like being placed in an advertisement for Canada. The rustic log cabins, adorned with the latest comforts and technology including an indoor kit to make s’mores in the fireplace, overlooked Lake Beauvert and the jagged snowtopped ridge of Mount Edith Covell, which reflected off the clear as gin water. For the two days that we spent here, all of our adventures took place on the grounds. My wife and daughter went horseback riding while Jake and I mountain biked through a forest of lodgepole pines, white spruce, trembling aspens, and Douglas firs, spotting osprey atop their sprawling nest, the lone loon gliding over a pristine lake, and more than our fair share of elk. We walked around the shoreline, staring in awe at the towering peaks, before paddling on the chilled water. Having had our full of adventure after a week of rock climbing, rafting, hiking, biking, canoeing, and horseback riding, we spent the last day simply lounging in the heated pool. A perfect way to end our week of active travels in the Canadian Rockies.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/19/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hike from Moraine Lake to Consolation Lake, Banff National Park

It was no surprise that the parking lot at Moraine Lake was filled with buses, RVs, and cars stopping to take a look at one of the most majestic sights in the Canadian Rockies. The exquisite turquoise waters of this glacial lake are dwarfed by a crown of thorny peaks. The waters became bluer as the sun rose above the tall Engelmann spruce trees and bounced off the placid lake. What was astonishing is that once we took off on one of the trails from Moraine Lake, we passed few other hikers. According to park rangers, 90 percent of the people who visit Banff don’t go more than 2 kilometers off the main road. That’s exactly why we were going three kilometers to have a picnic at Consolation Lake. We walked atop a carpet of moss shaded by the tall trees. Soon, we made it to the quiet waters of Consolation Lake, backed by a hanging glacier that my son said looked like “a fluffernutter sandwich.” We jumped from boulder to boulder until we were at the edge of the lake and dug into our sandwiches. If this is called Consolation Lake, I’d like to know what the grand prize is!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/18/11 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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