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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Exploring Prince Edward County, Ontario

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

For many years, New England was my playground to explore, and, in much the same way, I am now discovering the province of Ontario. Recently, I was off to Prince Edward County, about 2 ½ hours northeast of Toronto, "an island on the northern shore of Lake Ontario where you go to fall in love with food, nature, art and community all over again," says the official tourism site. I stayed with an artist friend in Demorestville, and visited Picton, Wellington, Lake on the Mountain, and Bloomfield. I loved the small towns, field upon field of agricultural use, numerous options for water activity, wineries (there are 30!), artists' studios, antique stores, old stone buildings, and excellent farm-to-table food. 
 
For wineries, I can recommend Karlo Estates, with its wonderful tasting room inside an historic barn, and Waupoos Estates Winery, overlooking the waters of Prince Edward Bay. I thoroughly enjoyed the local food at the Drake Devonshire Hotel sitting outside on the beach. Also good was The Miller House Cafe, located in a 1796 former residence in Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park, 62 meters above Lake Ontario, with views of the Bay of Quinte below. I found antiquing success at the humorously-named Dead People's Stuff, where I purchased a set of lovely highball glasses and a set of deep blue snifter glasses for my son (who recently moved into his first apartment in Boston). Lastly, it was off to Sandbanks Provincial Park, with "the world's largest baymouth barrier dune formation," and long sandy beaches. I wish I had had more time to walk on the trails and swim in the surf. 
 
Also in Prince Edward County: theater, music, birding, as well as a renowned "Great Canadian Cheese Festival" every June, and a famous August Jazz Festival. The Globe and Mail ran an article recently entitled "Ten new things to see, do, eat and drink in Prince Edward County." It's definitely a weekend destination I'll return to. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/11/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 07, 2018

My Life as Travel Writer is Woven into the Landscape of Maine

Heading back to Maine last week with the family, it's hard not to think of all the stories I crafted on the adventures in this state. The vast wilderness of the interior and rambling ocean shoreline has provided the inspiration for at least 100 stories and many chapters of travel guidebooks. Paddling on Long Pond and listening to loons in Maine's North Woods, it was hard not to think of the time I paddled with the Conovers on the Allagash River or Kevin Slater on the West Branch of the Penobscot, still one of my favorite stories for Sierra Magazine. Slipping into the waters of Boothbay Harbor, I was reminded of the time I wrote a piece for Men's Journal on inn-to-inn sea kayaking along the Sheepscot River with Jeff Cooper, a flawless paddler and the so-called Director of Fun. Maine has been my playground for the past quarter century, and if last week's roster of activities is any indication, bagging a peak, paddling a lonely waterway, and sea kayaking along the rugged coast, I know it will spur my sense of adventure the next 25 years. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/07/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Maine Week-A Must Stop at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

I was so impressed with my first visit to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, back when I was penning a story on Linekin Bay Resort for The Boston Globe, that I knew I'd be back some day. I'm happy I made that wise decision. In my opinion, it's the finest botanical garden in the northeast after the Bronx and Montreal. We first strolled through the Butterfly House to see the intriguing caterpillars (one looked like an aboriginal art painting) and butterflies. Then wandered around the Garden of the Five Senses, a real highlight. We smelled the sweet lemon verbena, touched the soft, velvety lamb's ear, even took off our shoes to walk on the smooth stones of the reflexology spiral. Just as magical is the Children's Garden, where the stone paths lead to fish-filled ponds, oversized cabbages, hungry chickens, and small huts filled with hand-made puppet-sized fairies. Adults seem to have just as much fun here as the children. Oh, did I mention all the flowers in bloom last week, including rows of white hydrangea and sweet-smelling roses? Give yourself at least 3 hours to be nurtured by all this beauty. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Maine Week-The Advantage of Using an AMC Guide

On the first morning after breakfast at Gorman Chairback, we met up with our guide, Katie. Katie leads day trips for the AMC's guests at the three lodges in Maine's North Woods, Gorman Chairback, Little Lyford, and the recently reopened Medawisla. Not only is she an AMC guide, but she's a Registered Maine Guide who can take people out in the summer to bag a peak, paddle, or fly-fish, and in winter to cross-country ski and snowshoe. We chose to canoe across 4-mile Long Pond with Katie and it was a wise choice. She shared the Old Town with Lisa, while my son, Jake, and I grabbed the second canoe. We had hopes of seeing a moose but that never panned out. Instead we followed a family of loons, mergansers, and even spotted a bald eagle atop a dead hemlock tree. The waters of Long Pond were like glass that morning, reflecting the surrounding mountains atop the surface. All you could hear was that mesmerizing call of the loon as there no other traffic on the pond. No boats, no canoes, nothing.

Katie was a wealth of information regarding Maine's North Woods, telling us about the timber industry, people she lives with in nearby Greenville, and the surrounding mountains and lakes which she pointed out on a great map. We stopped for lunch on a deserted beach as she planned the following day for us, a hike to the peak of Third Mountain. The next day we were having lunch atop Third Mountain all by our lonesome looking out at that same body of water we had just paddled. The AMC offers custom-guided adventures in the White Mountains and Maine's North Woods and it's a wonderful way to learn far more about these two regions of the Northeast. AMC guides can take groups out for a half day or a full day tour, providing natural history insights and points of interest along the way. The itinerary is based on the ability and desire of the group. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/05/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Maine Week-AMC’s Gorman Chairback Lodge Worth the Drive

After driving 45 minutes on rutted timber roads on the outskirts of Greenville, Maine, I was definitely tired of driving by the time I reached 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. Then we walked into the main lodge and saw the long tables made of fresh white pine and met the friendly crew staff. They took us to our cabin perched on Long Pond, a serene almost 4-mile-long body of water surrounded by the ridges of the nearby Appalachian Trail. That's when we heard the first of many loon calls, that unmistakable yodel echoing across the lake. All was bliss from this point onward. Smelling the sweet pine, listening to the call of loons, peering at mountains with few, if any signs of civilization. It's no surprise that this locale has been hosting guests since 1867. The AMC has done a fine job of refurbishing and building new cabins and most of the people we met at dinner, have been returning year after year. Once you get a taste of this pristine beauty, it's hard not to return. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/04/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 03, 2018

Maine Week-Portland Deserves the Foodie Acclaim

It's no surprise that Portland was recently recognized by Bon Appetit magazine as the Restaurant City of the Year. Lisa and I have been heading up to Portland for memorable meals since the James Beard-award winning Fore Street opened over two decades ago. Another long-time love is Duckfat, always our first stop for those heavenly fries, innovative salads and grilled panini sandwiches, all washed down with an extra-thick milkshakes or Maine craft brew. Duckfat was once again our first stop in town last week, before checking in at the brand new AC Hotel Portland Downtown on the waterfront, a short stroll from the restaurant . Our 24 hours of gluttony continued with IPAs on the picnic tables at Rising Tide, dumplings at Bao Bao, and the best bagel and lox I had all year (including a stop at my old stomping grounds, Manhattan's Upper West Side at Barney Greengrass) at the deli, Rose Foods. Thankfully, we were headed the next day to Maine's North Woods to paddle and hike off all those luscious calories. 

 Photo by Jake Jermanok

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, August 31, 2018

For All the SuperShe’s Out There

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches

My daughter Sophie, recently sent me a link to SuperShe Island, and said, "You should go to this, Mom." I laughed and said, "Sure, I'm a SuperShe." Well, it turns out to be a real thing. "Have you ever wanted to run away to a deserted island, breathe fresh air, swim naked in the sea, and sleep under the stars?" That's what SuperShe founder Kristina Roth had in mind when she bought a private island, hidden-away in the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Finland, one hour from Helsinki. The 8.4-acre island is home to four newly renovated cabins equipped with fireplaces, and it also has spa amenities, Finnish saunas, and facilities for women-only retreats. Vacations here include daily wellness activities such as yoga, kayaking, hiking, swimming, meditation, cooking and fitness classes, plus farm-to-table dining. Finnish beauticians are boated over for facials and massages. Not too shabby, although caffeine and alcohol are banned…A mere 4000 Euro for a week, at latest report. 
 
If you are interested in a health and wellness vacation anywhere in the world, let ActiveTravels know. We are currently assisting a member with one in Costa Rica!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/31/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Kripalu Offers a Slate of Fall Retreats in the Berkshires

With fall foliage just around the corner, you really don't need any excuse to visit the largest yoga retreat in the northeast, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Located in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts, Kripalu is the ideal spot to relax and replenish in the midst of fall color. You decide how to spend your days to create the best experience for you. Choose from a variety of workshops, outdoor activities, and yoga and movement classes. Or jump-start your fitness routine and go hiking, learn nutrition tips, or savor a soothing massage. The retreat center is also offering a variety of themed events. "Hiking and Yoga" will be offered October 14-19 and November 25-30. Wannabe foodies seeking simple dining solutions should register for "Five Ingredients, No Time," September 28-30, and learn to whip up nutritious last-minute meals. For those who love to laugh, head to Kripalu September 14-16 for "Life Is a Playground." New York Times best-selling author, Kyle Cease, uses his 25 years of performing, creating, and letting go of what other people think to help his audience move past their old stories and into a new vision of what is possible in their lives.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/30/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival Returns to Fredericton in September

Fredericton, New Brunswick has garnered a reputation as the Festival Capital of the Atlantic Maritimes. Last time I was in town, I caught up with David Seabrook, one of the founders of the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, over a tasty Picaroons Yippee IPA at King Street Ale House, as he explained to me how he gets some of the bigger names in the music industry to play the festival every year. The line-up for the 28th annual festival (September 11-16) is one of the best yet, with Steve Earle, Mavis Staples, Sturgill Simpson, and The Blind Boys of Alabama among the 150 performers on hand for the 6-day event. When not listening to music, be sure to see the impressive collection of art at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, including works by Turner, Dali and Lucian Freud. Also try to plan your trip to Fredericton around the Fredericton Farmers Market, voted one of the "Top 10 Farmers Markets in the Country" by Canadian Geographic. The Market is open every Saturday from 6am to 1pm with over 200 vendors selling produce, home baked goods, meat, maple syrup, flowers, handcrafts, jewelry and much more.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/29/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New Lodgings in New Hampshire

Just in time for fall foliage, two new properties are opening in two of the most spectacular locations in New Hampshire. The Glen House will be making its debut in mid-September at the base of Mt. Washington. The 68-room hotel has deep historic roots in New Hampshire, being the fifth iteration of The Glen House to be built since the first hotel was erected in 1852. Adjacent to the Mt. Washington Auto Road, the hotel is also steps away from the hiking, biking and cross-country trails at the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. Just open this month on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro is the 10-room Pickering House Inn, the first luxury inn of its kind in the state's Lakes Region. The historic building, built in 1813 and for many decades the residence of prominent businessman Daniel Pickering, was close to being torn down when Wolfeboro residents Peter and Patty Cooke purchased the property.  

 
We're off to Maine for a week, checking out the refurbished Gorman Chairback Lodge in Maine's North Woods before heading to the mid-coast to unwind and sea kayak. I'll be back next Wednesday. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/22/18 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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