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Monday, July 09, 2018

Kicking Back, Costa Rica

High up in the mountains with views of the Pacific coast, the weather in Monteverde's Cloud Forest is surprisingly cool for a Central American locale. A perpetual dampness creates a slick layer of moss that covers the branches and trunks of trees. Thick vines drop down from towering ficus trees and clay-covered trails are laden with fallen passionfruit. We follow an impassioned naturalist named Mauricio Ramirez who truly loves his job. He gives us cilantro and cinnamon to smell, tells us what part of the palm tree to cut to find the meaty heart of palm, sticks a flashlight into a hole to see an orange and brown-colored tarantula, and has us swing from one of the vines a la Tarzan.

"This is impressive," Mauricio says as he sets up his telescope quickly. I peer in and my jaw instantly drops as I make out the bushy white eyebrows and wide eyes of a crested owl staring right back at me. "Holy cow!" I blurt out as Mauricio chimes in with "Beautiful, yes beautiful."
 
To find my entire story on Costa Rica, please see the latest issue of Global Traveler Magazine
 

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

Norway, ActiveTravels Group Trips, and More in our June/July Newsletter

With the low-cost carrier, Norwegian Air, expanding across North America, it should come as no surprise that Norway has experienced a surge in travelers these past two years. Who wouldn't want to be whisked away to this stunning land of fjords, colorful and charming UNESCO World Heritage cities like Bergen, and a history that dates back to the time of Vikings? We recently went to an all-day seminar in Boston with a dozen representatives from across Norway and describe the trips that sound the most exciting in our summer newsletter. We're also excited to announce a slate of group trips in 2019, including a cruise to Alaska with renowned travel writer, Fran Golden; a wine cruise to Bordeaux on AmaWaterways with Vinodivino, owners of 4 wine stores in the Boston region; and a Bike n' Brew Weekend at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, with one ride led by avid biker Sam von Trapp. Have a look and, if interested in any of these trips, please contact ActiveTravels
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Pearl Neighborhood Celebrates San Antonio’s 300th Birthday with OlĂ©, San Antonio

Home to the San Antonio branch of the Culinary Institute of America, James Beard award-winning restaurants, and a chic boutique hotel built from the remnants of the Pearl Brewery called Hotel Emma, the Pearl is my favorite neighborhood in the city. This summer, the Pearl will be home to Olé, San Antonio, a series of events highlighting music, dance, art, architecture, and food that will celebrate the city's tri-centennial and its Spanish Heritage. Hotel Emma is getting in on the action by hosting renowned chefs from Spain that will spotlight one particular product like tinned fish, Jamón (Spanish ham), and cheese. These so-called Monograph Sessions will conclude with dinner at the hotel's signature restaurant, Supper. Hotel Emma is also offering a special rate now through September 16. The special, 300 years, 300 dollars, features rates starting at $300, plus complimentary valet parking.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/05/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Tiny House Resort Debuts in the Catskills

Bob Malkin, owner of the SoHo retail store, Think Big! is now thinking small. He has just created a resort in South Cairo, New York, that features 7 Tiny Houses, created by ESCAPE Home Design. Inspired by the Prairie-style cottages found at Canoe Bay in northwestern Wisconsin, each ESCAPE Home offers a panorama of windows, queen size bed, full-size appliances and luxury bathrooms, as well as a private patio complete with outdoor dining table and seating, Weber grill and fire pit. Think Big! Tiny House Resort is situated on 28 acres with over half a mile of water frontage and perched on a cliff overlooking the Catskill Creek, a year-round wonder of waterfalls and pristine swimming holes. Saturday morning yoga and kayaking are offered as well as the services of a personal raw food chef who can prepare meals for guests using produce from the resort garden. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

ActiveTravels Presents the Fran Golden Cruise to Alaska in 2019

After years of toying with the idea of designing our own group trips utilizing the talent that we know as guides, we've finally decided to take the plunge next year. We're delighted to announce that one of the most renowned cruise writers, Fran Golden, former travel editor of the Boston Herald and author of Frommer's EasyGuide to Alaskan Cruises and Ports of Call (2018), will be hosting an Alaskan cruise June 15-22, 2019. On the Inaugural Fran Golden Alaskan Cruise, we'll board the newly refurbished Eurodam (see the latest review in Travel & Leisure) in Seattle. Then make our way up the Pacific coast with stops in Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, before arriving back in Seattle. Fran will select her favorite shore excursions along the route and provide anecdotes from her other memorable cruises. For more information, please contact ActiveTravels

I'm off to San Francisco for a family reunion, back next Tuesday. Have a great week! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 25, 2018

ActiveTravels Partners with Vinodivino to Present Wine Cruise to Bordeaux in 2019

Bostonians know that Vinodivino, owners of 4 wine stores in the region, take great pride in choosing the finest wines for the discerning palate. Now they'd like to apply this same eye for quality to the world of travel and introduce you to a trip that will no doubt excite your senses. They have selected the highly reputable river cruise line AmaWaterways for their Vinodivino Wine Cruise to Bordeaux, November 7-14, 2019. AmaWaterways is a leader in the river cruise industry, known for its top-tier ships that offer comfortable berths, less than half the people on other river cruises, the best WiFi in the cruise world, and most importantly, the finest cuisine and wine. You'll board the newly refurbished AmaDolce in Bordeaux and travel to the Sauternes wine region. Then it's on to Pauillac, gateway to the famed Médoc region, renowned for producing some of the world's finest Bordeaux wines. You'll see some of the most beautiful and famous wine estates, including Château Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château Pichon Longueville. There's also an opportunity to add a 4-night pre-cruise guided jaunt to Bilbao, Spain, or a 3-day post-cruise add-on to the castles of the Loire Valley. 

 
Please let ActiveTravels know if you're interested!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 22, 2018

Not Your Father’s Holiday Inn

I visited two Holiday Inns in the Cartagena area and was impressed with both properties. At the Holiday Inn Express Cartagena Bocagrande, I met the representative from Colombia Tourism, who noted that the country has had a remarkable surge of travelers, a 28% increase between 2016 and 2017. It's not surprising when you consider that a room at this new hotel (not like any Holiday Inn I've seen in the US) is less than 100 dollars a night including a buffet breakfast, with rooftop pool, and only a 5-minute walk to the beach. Even more impressive was the Holiday Inn Cartagena Morros property just north of the airport. This is a contemporary resort on the beach with outdoor pool, large fitness center, and breakfast buffet. I just looked at the cost for tonight and it's only $103 US. A 15-minute drive from Old Town on a wide stretch of beach, this is an affordable find. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Day Trip to Rosario Islands from Cartagena

Only an hour by boat from Cartagena, the Rosario Islands are home to the only underwater national park in Colombia. We snorkeled for 45 minutes with a guide and spotted wonderful coral formations and large schools of neon-colored fish. You also have the option of scuba diving or sea kayaking in the mangroves. Then we had a glorious lunch of fried red snapper and an Aguila beer, before going for a dip in the warm waters and passing out on my chaise lounge chair. Several couples on our boat spent the night at Hotel San Pedro de Majagua, perfect for that romantic and very private retreat, especially when the daytrippers leave. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Allure of Cartagena

Cartagena is one of those Spanish Colonial cities that seems to be built with the traveler in mind. Behind the fortress walls are narrow streets, large plazas, 17th-century churches, and row after of charming restaurants, boutique shops, and salsa dance clubs. The fortress reminded me of Old San Juan while the streets of Old Town Cartagena felt similar to the French Quarter of New Orleans. I loved strolling and taking photos of the colorful adobe-like homes and the lush tropical foliage like bougainvillea flowing from the terraces. An added bonus to Cartagena is the long stretch of beach and warm waters to swim. You can choose to stay in the Old Town at the historic Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara or the smaller boutique property, Movich Cartagena, with its glorious views of the city at night from its rooftop bar and pool. But I wanted to be right on the beach, so instead chose to stay at the Intercontinental Cartagena de Indias in the newer Bocagrande section of the city. I loved waking up to their breakfast buffet (juicy mangoes were in season when I was there in early June) and going to the outdoor terrace to look out over the expanse of water. It was also a joy to return to the hotel after a day of sightseeing (the Old Town is only a 5-minute Uber or Taxi) and sip mojitos in the infinity pool, with those same breathtaking views. The temperatures were much hotter and more humid than Medellin since you're back at sea level, ideal for a winter or late fall getaway. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/20/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Strolling the Poblado Neighborhood in Medellin

The Intercontinental Medellin, where I stayed in town, is only a 5-minute taxi ride down the hillside to the upscale neighborhood of Poblado. I started the day at the Santa Fe Shopping Mall to find souvenirs, then headed south along the wide boulevard of Carrera 43A, stopping at one of the outdoor restaurants for hot out-of-the-oven arepas stuffed with cheese and corn. At Poblado Park, I turned right and headed slightly uphill to the narrow streets of Via Primavera. Carrera 35 is home to fashionable clothing shops, restaurants, breweries, and a charming bakery and café, Como Pez en el Agua, where I stopped for an almond croissant and cappuccino. That night I would return to the area for dinner at OCI.Mde, one of the city's finest restaurants. Earth, Wind & Fire was blaring on the radio (always a good sign) as I walked in and ordered the best caipirinha I ever tasted, paired with an appetizer of fresh tuna sashimi dipped in a tangy soy sauce. Dinner was braised short ribs, cooked 12 hours in a cashew sauce. When it arrived on the table, it was so tender it fell off the bone. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/19/18 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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