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Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Last Chance to Read the September ActiveTravels Newsletter

It might be the second day of October, but I was gone so much in September that I never had the chance to discuss the September newsletter of ActiveTravels. In this issue, we divulge 5 Tried and True Winter Escapes for our clients, including Morocco and the Ocean Club in the Turks and Caicos. Other topics include a Quick Escape to Reykjavik and the need for a REAL ID on all domestic flights starting October 1, 2020. Our October issue of the ActiveTravels newsletter will be coming out on October 10th and will include my recent trip to Peru. Stay tuned! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/02/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 27, 2019

Peru Week with Abercrombie and Kent: A Healing Ceremony with a Local Shaman

Abercrombie and Kent has just launched Wellness-Inspired Luxury Small Group Journeys to Peru, India, Kenya, and Southeast Asia. On my last day in Cuzco, I received a small taste of what they offer on these itineraries when a shaman from a mountain village in the Sacred Valley met me at the outdoor courtyard of my hotel, the Belmond Monasterio, a former 400-year-old convent, and performed a healing ritual honoring both my family and the Mother Earth goddess Pachamama. The hourlong ceremony united Mother Earth with the mountains, signifying the union of female and male, as he created a circle of local spices like anise, candies, even a condor feather. Then the shaman wrapped it all up in a cloth to bring back to his village and burn as an offering. He learned to be a shaman from his grandmother and his last words to me were “to keep a pure heart.” I felt re-energized and purified after the meditative encounter. 
 
If interested in any of Abercrombie and Kent’s new Wellness Journeys, please let ActiveTravels know and we’ll check dates and availability. I want to thank Jean Fawcett, Media Relations Manager at Abercrombie and Kent for helping to arrange this memorable trip to Peru!
 
To all my Jewish friends and family, L’shanah Tovah! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/27/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Peru Week with Abercrombie and Kent: Our Day in Machu Picchu

Few sights I’ve seen are as majestic as Machu Picchu. After a 2-hour train ride from Ollantaytambo, you arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes and switch to a bus for a 20-minute drive on a series of switchbacks up to the base of Machu Picchu. When you arrive, you better have one of the coveted timed tickets to enter these late 15th-century Incan ruins that miraculously the Spaniards never found. Row after row of stone walls lead up the steep hillsides creating a far more vast archaeological wonder than one can imagine on that quintessential photograph from above Machu Picchu. We arrived a little after 2:30 pm, when the crowds were already thinning, to feel the smooth rocks of the temple, see the maze of aqueducts, and find the sun dial that was used to predict summer solstice. The tightly knit stone structures are impressive, but to be honest pale in comparison to the surrounding landscape, a panorama of jagged peaks that lead to the snow-capped Andes in the distance. This includes Huayna Picchu, the striking peak you see behind every photo of Machu Picchu. We had the opportunity hike this peak the next morning at 7 am, but I chose to hike part of the Inca Trail rising above Machu Picchu to the Sun Gate. Every step you took on the 3-hour round-trip trek was another mesmerizing view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains. Fantastic! 

Abercrombie and Kent really earn their money on this portion of the trip. We have all heard of the overcrowding at Machu Picchu and by the time I arrived back from my hike on the Inca Trail around 10:30 am, there were hundreds of people on the Machu Picchu grounds. But the past day, we really saw the site in relative quietude. We arrived mid-afternoon the day prior when the crowds were less (after having a memorable lunch aboard our train), stayed at the base of Machu Picchu at the only hotel on the grounds, the Belmond Sanctuary (only 31 rooms, booked a year in advance by Abercrombie and Kent), and then received one of the few tickets the following morning to enter the grounds at 6 am, when there were few if any people around. Walking above Machu Picchu as the sun rose and the clouds cleared was an unforgettable experience. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Peru Week with Abercrombie and Kent: Philanthropy Day

Philanthropy Day is always a highlight on any trip I’ve taken with Abercrombie and Kent. In the Masai Mara, I had the chance to talk about my life as a travel writer to the first group of women to ever attend school in the region. One of the girls who I met was continuing her education at Oxford! In Livingstone, Zambia, we visited a village, where wells were built so people didn’t have to walk five miles in the bush to get a pail of water. We also visited a health clinic and bike shop, all built thanks to Abercrombie and Kent and their generous clients. You can read it about it here. The company’s philanthropy is built into the fabric of the experience and it’s no voluntourism gimmick. On the contrary, it’s a meaningful and poignant day that often exceeds any other memory on the trip, including being on safari in Africa or seeing Machu Picchu in Peru. 
 
Our day in Sacred Valley was no different. We started at a mountainous village some 12,000 feet in elevation, where the community is known for their exquisite weavings. They showed us their technique, cleaning the alpaca wool and using dyes, all from nature, like the beet red coloring they would find from squeezing a cactus beetle. The yarn is then used to create hats, tablecloths, purses, and dolls, and sold in the market in Cuzco. We then visited a school serving underprivileged and undernourished children in the region called Children of the Rainbow. It was started by a woman from the Netherlands who was backpacking on the Inca Trail and became enamored with the kids. She came back and adopted 18 children, all of whom went on to college, and have now unlocked the chains of poverty. She then went on to create this school, giving 170 kids ages 3 to 13 and their families hope for a better future. The children were adorable, eating lunch when we arrived. We were shown the new library and the new playground, all recently built thanks to the help of Abercrombie and Kent. Ask the 18 people in my group what their favorite day on the weeklong trip was and I guarantee the majority will say Philanthropy Day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/25/19 at 05:59 AM
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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Peru Week with Abercrombie and Kent: Two Magical Nights at Sol y Luna in Sacred Valley

After touring the historical core of Lima, including the impressive Museo Larco and its vast collection of pre-Colombian art, we flew to Cuzco and headed onward to Sacred Valley. Our lodging for the next two nights was Sol y Luna, where spacious casitas, all with fireplaces and some with hot tubs, dot the grounds of this majestic landscape, surrounded by the serrated ridges of the Andes. I loved it here. Everywhere you walk are flowering shrubs and tall cacti in bloom, another photo to be taken, especially when large hummingbirds would fly into the golden flowers of my back deck. Vases of yellow roses were also found inside the casitas, along with wonderful local painting and sculpture. At night, our group of 18 met in a ranch-style setting for cocktail hour and then a sublime dinner, worthy of the property’s Relais and Chateau rating. We started with pisco mojitos, created with the sweet local mint grown in these parts. Then we dined on trout carpaccio and beef tenderloin, finishing with a dessert of tres leches. This is one Virtuoso lodging that I will recommend highly to our clients. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 23, 2019

Peru Week with Abercrombie and Kent: First Stop, the Artsy Neighborhood of Barranco in Lima

I arrived on the red-eye from Dallas into Lima, excited to see some of the city before I met up with the A&K group the following day. After dropping my bags off at the Belmond Miraflores and taking in the ocean view, I went downstairs and spoke to an excellent concierge who designed a walking tour of neighboring Barranco, known for its art museums, artisanal stores, and top-tier restaurants. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo was a bit of a disappointment because they were between exhibitions, but I got lucky at my next stop, the Relais and Chateaux property, Hotel B. They were debuting their new outdoor bar that day and to celebrate, they invited in local art and fashion designers to show their wares. There was a wonderful selection of jewelry, cloaks, purses, even a llama purse which I had to purchase for my ActiveTravels colleague, Rachel. That just whet my appetite for the amazing store across the street, Dédalo, a former mansion whose many rooms are now devoted to Peruvian crafts, alpaca clothing, home goods, jewelry, and an elephant recycled from rubber that was ideally suited for my elephant-loving wife, Lisa. 

By far my favorite stop in this bohemian neighborhood was MATE, a museum devoted to the work of Peruvian fashion photographer, Mario Testino. Large scale photographs of his most famous works, including an entire room devoted to Princess Di, grace the walls. Just as impressive was a gallery of close-up photographs of Peruvian women dressed in traditional garb. That night I would return to Barranco to dine at a local favorite, Amoramar, known for its charred octopus, fresh tuna, and powerful pisco sours. A wonderful start to what would soon be a memorable week. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 26, 2019

Reserve Your Spot at Travel Writing Retreat in Simsbury, Connecticut on October 5th

For the past decade, I have been asked to speak once a semester about my life as a travel writer at an Emerson College magazine writing course. I always bring a thick of folder of more than 200 rejection letters. It includes my favorite rejection from Mad Magazine, simply a box checked next to the line, “It just didn’t tickle our funny bone.” Universities do a wonderful job of teaching the craft of writing, but rarely touch on the psychological aspects of rejection and the necessary business skills to market your wares. Close to half my time, especially in those early years, was spent peddling my writing to editors (and screenplays to production companies). Almost every day, I would return from my mailbox with a stack of rejection letters. It was an incredible struggle, the reason why many of the creative people I met in those early years in New York are no longer writing professionally. 
 
Dealing with rejection and building a strong support group to help attain your creative aspirations is just one of the topics I will discuss on October 5th in Simsbury, Connecticut at an all-day Travel Writing Retreat at the Storyteller’s Cottage. I will be joined by some of the finest travel writers in the business, including Kim Knox Beckius, Bob Curley, Karen Berger, and Mike Urban. If you like to write and love to travel, then this will be the best $125 you’ve ever spent. I guarantee you’ll learn everything you want to know about the travel writing profession. Hope to see you there! 
 
I'm off to see friends in Saratoga and the Berkshires, then leave for Peru on September 5th, back the week of September 16th. Enjoy the rest of the summer! 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/26/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, August 23, 2019

Ontario Lakes Week: Final Stop, Killarney Mountain Lodge, Killarney Provincial Park

After spending 3 days on an island in a remote Ontario lake with very few people, it was an adjustment to get back to civilization. This was clearly evident when we arrived at Killarney Mountain Lodge, a busy Georgian Bay summer outpost, especially during the 3-day August Holiday Ontario celebrates. The front desk seemed ill-equipped to handle the many demands of the multi-generational families staying here and gave us bracelets to wear and a stack of cards to hand out every meal (neither were necessary during the stay). It felt far too touristy at the time. But I have to say that after spending 2 nights here, the place really grew on us and I’m glad Amy added it to the itinerary. I really enjoyed the food, especially the blueberry pancakes with regional maple syrup each morning, and the waitstaff were far superior to the front desk. I loved having our cocktail hour behind a beautiful new building they designed, made from massive logs. The patio overlooked a scenic inlet to Georgian Bay and we could spot otters gathering reeds from the water. From the resort, you can take an easy walk over a bridge to the town of Killarney, which will be commemorating its bicentennial in 2020. For lunch, we stopped at Herbert Fisheries for its award-winning fish and chips, made from local whitefish. We also took a sunset sail our last night into the many coves and anchorages in this section of the immense Georgian Bay.

The highlight of our time here were the two walks we took in Killarney Provincial Park. We started in the morning on the Granite Ridge Trail, a short climb that rewarded us with vistas of the water and the surrounding hillside. Near the top, we stopped to pick sweet wild blueberries. The Chikanishing Trail was dreamy, along the rocky shoreline to inlets and pools of the water on the bay. We slid from the rocks into the coolest water of our trip, then lied down in the sun on a perfect slab of rock under a cloudless sky. It would be our last dip of the vacation.
 
 
I want to thank Amy for designing a fantastic 8-day itinerary to the Ontario Cabin Country, visiting Algonquin and Killarney Provincial Parks and Lake Temagami. If you would like a similar rejuvenating jaunt in the region, please contact ActiveTravels and we’ll help with all the planning. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/23/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Kudos to Bruce at Lake Temagami’s Ojibway Family Lodge

We met Bruce at our first family-style dinner at Ojibway and instantly took a liking to his many stories about the lodge and the region. He had been coming to this exact spot since 1951 when he was a 10-year-old overnight camper from outside Detroit. Now living in Virginia Beach, he spends a little over a month each summer in his cabin on an island across from Ojibway to listen to waves lapping ashore, smell the sweet pine, watch the night sky, and explore the lake via canoe or motorboat. While Tanya and Louise are the consummate hosts who run Ojibway, Bruce is the unofficial guide. He said he’d take us on his boat to see some of this immense lake that first night and we thought he was just being friendly. But then he did just that on our last day, as we went out with him to one of his favorite spots in the northern part of the lake. We brought lunch made by the kitchen, drinks, and headed off. 

Bruce couldn’t have picked a more picturesque spot, where large slabs of rock spill off an island into a small inlet that was ideal for swimming. But before we landed, Bruce stopped, turned off the motor, and said, “this is where we stop to breathe, not say a word, and relax for the next 10 minutes or so.” And that’s what we did, listened to the wind whistle through the tall trees, and meditated. Then we went and had lunch, swam in those refreshing waters, and enjoyed a lovely afternoon. I wish every property I visited had a Bruce, someone who knows the land like the back of his hand and is genuinely passionate about sharing his joy of being there. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/22/19 at 06:00 AM
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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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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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