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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, Checking Out the Street Art and Botero’s in Medellin

This past June I had the good fortune to travel with a wonderful guide, Pablo Ospina, through his hometown of Medellin, Colombia. Our first stop was Communa 13 to see the magnificent and ever-growing street art in this neighborhood, which not too long ago was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of South America. While we strolled, Pablo gave me the history of Medellin, this city of 4 million nestled in the valley close to a mile high. When he was growing up, there were car bombs and constant fighting between the government and the guerilla forces of FARC, with the remnants of Escobar's drug ring thrown in for more chaos. Now the city has rose from the ashes and what a remarkable job it's doing. Not only is it safe, but it has one of the best climates in the world, 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Many people are retiring to the city to enjoy the weather and the only public transit system in Colombia, which includes cable cars and outdoor escalators.

 
When we descended from Communa 13 on the escalators and spotted about 5 tour groups heading up to the street art (we had the place to ourselves since Pablo wisely headed here first), we took a cable car up into the hillside for glorious vistas of the city ringed by jagged peaks. Then it was on to the city center to see the Botero sculptures and his paintings in the nearby Museo de Antioquia. Botero not only donated his impressive sculptures, paintings, and watercolors to his boyhood museum, he bequeathed his collection of contemporary art by Stella, Frankenthaler, and Andy Katz, among others. For lunch, we headed to the large botanical garden in the center of the city and its signature restaurant, In Situ. One sip of the sublime coconut lemonade and that would be my drink of choice throughout the week. After lunch, we strolled the gardens and spotted large lizards amidst the orchids and bamboo trees. Seven hours after picking me up, Pablo dropped me back off at my hotel. It was indeed a Dream Day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/09/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, Sailing to Anegada in the BVIs

My barometer for an authentic travel experience is one that plants you squarely in the present where your mind can't drift to other thoughts and worries. This was certainly the case aboard the 41-foot Island Karma last February when we made the crossing from Virgin Gorda to the remote British Virgin Island of Anegada. Sailing at a speed over 8 knots, the boat was on its side, heeling over in the blustery tradewinds. But under the competent helm of my friend, Josh, and the watchful eye of our Captain, "Boss," I never panicked. With the occasional splash aboard to keep me alert and very much alive, I was relishing the adventure at hand. After 2 hours, we finally reached this sliver of land lined by sparkling white beaches and surrounded by the most spectacular turquoise waters I've seen since diving in French Polynesia. We pulled up to a mooring, motored the dinghy to land, and caught an open-air taxi to dreamy Cow Wreck Beach, passing rambling goats and cows along the way. We arrived at a long stretch of desolate sand and a small beachfront bar, planted our bums in Adirondack chairs, took out our books, and started to read. Ahh, sun, sand, sea, sky, serenity. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 07, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, Biking Italy’s Adriatic Coast with DuVine Cycling

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. 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, old stone walls, 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. But if I had to choose one dream day on that memorable trip with good friends in October, I would choose the first day's ride along the Adriatic. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/07/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 04, 2019

AMC to Expand Trail System in Maine’s New National Monument

One of the highlights of my travels in 2018 (which I very well might discuss in my upcoming 5 Dream Days of 2018 blogs) was the weekend we spent this summer at AMC's Gorman Chairback Lodge. Smack dab in the heart of Maine's 100-Mile Wilderness in the North Woods, this last great stand of wilderness in northeastern United States is not easily accessible. You have to drive 45 minutes on rutted timber roads from Greenville, Maine to access the lodge, but once you see the pristine waters of Long Pond and hear that unmistakable yodel of a loon echoing across the lake, you immediately realize it was worth the effort to get here. Now word comes that The National Park Service has contracted the AMC to build a series of hiking trails in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, giving visitors more access to this large swath of green space. As of now, development has been limited to the main Loop Road, a 16-mile dirt road. With the AMC trail addition, each trail will extend one to two miles from the Loop Road. AMC's trail crew started work in October 2018 and will continue work through fall 2019. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/04/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 03, 2019

Paint the Town Red in Kennebunkport This February

Celebrate Valentine's Day on the Maine coast, where Kennebunkport is painting the town red for romance. Throughout the month of February, all businesses at Dock Square in downtown Kennebunkport will be decked out in red lights. Hotels, restaurants, galleries, and shops will welcome travelers with savings, from Red Plate dining specials to Five Shades of Red hotel packages, and Red Tag sales from retailers. The Love KPT package starts at $479 and includes a two-night stay at The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, the Kennebunkport Inn, or the Grand Hotel, arrival goodies of red wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, a three-course dinner for two and late check-out. The package is available for travel through March 31, 2019. For those looking for an over-the-top engagement, Put a Ring on It puts the Cupid Concierge on speed dial to help curate that perfect romantic weekend. The package includes an original love poem, bottle of Dom Pérignon in Waterford crystal champagne flutes, a personal photographer to capture the "big ask," four dozen red roses and chocolate covered strawberries. Available through February 28, 2019, the package can be booked by phone at 1-800-573-7186. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 21, 2018

5 Winter Escapes, Group Travel, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in ActiveTravels December Newsletter

These next two weeks, we have clients traveling to all corners of the globe from South Africa to Argentina to Australia. But if you're looking for something a bit closer, where you can relax on a beach with a good thick book and soak up that sunshine, consider our 5 choices for a quick winter escape in the December ActiveTravels newsletter. Please also read about my recent trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and how, more and more, we're booking families and groups of friends on private trips with active travel outfitters like Backroads and DuVine. 

 
We'll be back on January 3rd. Wishing you all a very Happy, Healthy, and Active New Year! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Enjoy Fondue on the Rooftop Bar of Yotel Boston

Celebrate Winter Solstice by dining on fondue in the Seaport at Yotel Boston's rooftop Sky Lounge. It's supposed to hit a balmy 60 degrees in Boston tomorrow, but even if it does get a bit nippy, you'll be under overhead heaters and sharing big thick blankets. The Quattro Formaggio Cheese Fondue combines Gruyere, Blue, Swiss, and Cheddar Cheeses with cherry brandy, white wine, and secret spices. Order a cocktail and then watch the sun set…at 4 pm. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/20/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

New Direct Flight Routes Across America

I wrote earlier this year about the exciting new direct flight from New York's JFK Airport to Nairobi, Kenya on Kenya Airways, opening up East Africa to safari lovers. As of Monday, you can now fly LAX direct to the African continent and the country of Togo on Ethiopian Airlines. Southwest will soon launch direct flights from the West Coast cities of San Diego, San Jose, Oakland, and Sacramento to Hawaii. Boston's new direct flight to Hawaii on Hawaiian Air will debut April 4, 2019. Boston will also be debuting direct flights to Lisbon and Edinburgh on Delta next May, along with a new Norwegian Air flight to Madrid and direct flight to Seoul on Korean Air. If you're flying out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport, expect new service to Athens, Lisbon, and Quebec City next summer. Out of JFK starting July 27, 2019, the low-cost carrier, LEVEL, will be flying direct to Barcelona. Newark already has a new direct flight to Singapore on Singapore Airlines and will be unveiling flights to Naples and Prague on United, and Nice on La Compagnie next May and June. Wherever you want to fly in 2019, ActiveTravels will find the easiest route possible. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/19/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Don’t Forget About Beaufort

Yesterday, I discussed Montage Palmetto Bluff, the upscale resort brand's only East Coast property. A mere 45-minute drive north of the Montage on Route 170 is another gem of the South Carolina Lowcountry, the charming town of Beaufort. The state's second oldest city, founded in 1711, is best known for its well-preserved antebellum architecture. Grab a room at the Anchorage 1770 and then wander upstairs to the rooftop, cocktail in hand, to take in the views of boats passing on the Beaufort River and the many oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. For dinner, visit The Ribaut Social Club, once the playground for Admiral Lester Beardslee's gentlemen's social club in the 1800s and, a century later, the spot where novelist Pat Conroy would sip his libations. In the daytime, take a walk on The Spanish Moss Trail or at Hunting Island Beach. Or take a horse and carriage ride through the historic district and marvel at the homes on The Point, a hub of Southern antebellum architecture. You'll be happy you didn't overlook Beaufort on your next trip to the Charleston/Savannah region. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/18/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, December 17, 2018

Escape to Montage Palmetto Bluff

Best known for their properties in Laguna Beach and Deer Valley, the hotel brand Montage also runs the vast Palmetto Bluff property on the South Carolina coast, about a half-hour drive from Savannah. The 20,000-acre resort offers more than 30 miles of riverfront, more than enough space to play on the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, even go clay shooting. Expect Southern hospitality like the local May River Oysters served during Happy Hour and a wealth of lodging options to choose from. Montage opened the 74-room Inn at Palmetto Bluff in late 2016. But we love the resort for its stand-alone cottages, 35 privately owned vacation homes that are up for rental when the owners are not around. This is ideally suited for families, especially during February, March, and April school break. Average highs in mid-February are in the mid-60s and it only gets warmer throughout the spring. It makes for a great add-on for trips to Savannah or Charleston. Please contact ActiveTravels if you'd like us to design an itinerary and suggest other hotels, restaurants, and activities in the region. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/17/18 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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