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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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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Following in Tom Thomson’s Footsteps at Algonquin Provincial Park

On our first day at Bartlett Lodge, we signed up for a Tom Thomson tour with our guide, Malcolm. Tom Thomson was arguably Canada’s first iconic painter, sketching lone birches and pines swaying in the wind on the shores of Algonquin’s many lakes. While not technically a member of Canada’s Group of Seven artists, he was good friends with many in the group and would have certainly been a member if he had not died under mysterious circumstances at Algonquin in 1917. Thomson would spend a good 5-year span at Algonquin before his untimely death and Malcolm did a thorough job showing us the many sites where his paintings were created. We started at Tea Lake Dam, where Thomson first camped in the area along a babbling brook. Thomson was also known as an accomplished angler and paddler and you can easily see him living happily on the water’s edge here. It helped that Malcolm brought along a laptop to show us the sketches that were created in this exact spot and many other locales we would visit that day. 

The bulk of our time was spent on Canoe Lake, the busiest part of Algonquin, and where they serve a Tom Thomson burger at the Visitor Center. We took “Winnie the Tinnie,” a motorized canoe around the entirety of the lake, passing celebrated Canadian overnight summer camps, like Camp Ahmek, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was both a camper and counselor. At Hayhurst Point, we docked and walked up a small hillside to see a plaque that Group of Seven artist, J.E.H. MacDonald, created in memory of his friend. No one is certain how Thomson died, but his canoe arrived back to the shores first, and soon his body was found in the waters. It was ruled an accident, but there were some unruly characters living in the park in those early years, and many still believe he was murdered. Malcolm showed us the sight where his body was found and the small cemetery where he is now buried (another controversy since some people think his body was taken), before we headed back under heavy rains. The heavyu drops splashed off the water of the lake, creating a pointillist canvas that Thomson would have appreciated. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/20/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Ontario Lakes Week: First Stop, Bartlett Lodge, Algonquin Provincial Park

As soon as you step foot in that large wooden boat and are whisked away a mere 5 minutes from the parking lot to Bartlett Lodge, tensions start to melt away with the calm Cache Lake waters. Traveling with Amy and Josh from their home in Toronto, it took us about 3 ½ hours to reach Algonquin Provincial Park in central Ontario. Amy had met the owners of Bartlett Lodge, Marilyn and Kim on an Adventure Canada cruise circumnavigating Newfoundland last fall, and she wanted to make this our first stop on a tour of classic Ontario cabins. She started with a winner, the circa-1907 Deil Ma Care cabin, created before the resort even opened by a doctor from Ottawa who would bring patients with TB and other respiratory ailments to Algonquin as a salubrious retreat. After 3 nights at Bartlett Lodge, I’m happy to report that the lodge is just as therapeutic today as it was a century ago! 

The 12 cottages and 4 tents sit on the shores of the inviting Cache Lake. Grab a canoe like we did one early morning before breakfast and you’ll be listening to the distinctive call of the loon echoing across the waters. But even more heavenly than a placid paddle is the chance to swim from the small deck in front of our cabin in the clean refreshing waters. As soon as we arrived, we went for the first of countless swims we would take on our 9-day foray into the lakes of central Ontario. 
All meals are included in the price, the highlight being the 4-course dinner, beloved just as much by locals as visitors to Bartlett Lodge. Start with hazelnut gnudi (gnocchi-like dumplings) or wild mushroom arancini before moving on to entrees of chinook salmon or beef tenderloin. But save room for dessert, especially Marilyn’s sublime signature pies, like wild blueberry or strawberry rhubarb. Marilyn is the quintessential host, walking over between courses to all the tables to discuss the history of the place and her love for the region. Not only did her husband Kim and her revive this dreamy waterfront property (they’ve been owners since 1997), but they run a nearby overnight girl’s camp. Off-season, they have a farm outside of Toronto known for its team of Clydesdales. 
Swim, paddle, take a Tom Thomson tour with Malcolm (which I’ll discuss tomorrow), hike through old growth forest or up the hillside for vistas of the shorelines, and then return to the Bartlett Lodge for gin and tonics in the Muskoka chairs (the Ontario version of Adirondack chairs) and another fantastic dinner (BYOB, so stop at the province-run liquor store, LCBO, on the way in). It’s a winning recipe for a 3-day add-on to Toronto or Ottawa. Share your dates with ActiveTravels and we’ll check on availability and pricing. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/19/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Introducing the Collapsible Water Bottle, HYDAWAY

I like to carry my trusty Hydro Flask water bottle when traveling, but it takes up a lot of space in my carry-on. That’s why I was excited to try a new collapsible water bottle called HYDAWAY. The foldable 17-ounce bottle is leakproof and made of BPA-free plastic. Plus it can go in the dishwasher. The best part is it only retails for $25 so it won’t break the bank. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/15/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Virgin Gorda’s Little Dix Bay to Reopen March 2020

When we last stepped foot on Virgin Gorda February 2018, the island was devastated in the wake of Hurricane Irma. We were sailing the BVIs and the locals were overjoyed to have any travelers to this region. But it was hard not to be saddened by the overwhelming state of destruction. Upon arrival in Tortola, boats were capsized in the harbor, roofs were ripped off houses, and locals were driving cars with broken windows. Classic resorts like Bitter End and Peter Island were in tatters, large tankers beached, homes destroyed wherever you looked. Thus the reason why we’re overjoyed to find out today that the Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda is now accepting reservations for March 2020 and beyond. Laurence Rockefeller found this wilderness outpost so appealing that he built Little Dix on a deserted beach. The allure comes from the almost primitive feel of this 10-mile long island. There is little shopping, few restaurants outside of the hotels, and the only major site is a snorkeling spot called The Baths, where rock grottos on the shoreline form natural pools. With few distractions, this is the place to book a room for a week, relax on the beach, and read a good thick Russian novel like Anna Karenina that you’ve always wanted to read and never found the time. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/14/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Backroads Launches New 20s & Beyond Trips for Families with Older Kids in 20s and 30s

Having taken a memorable Older Teens & 20s (17-23) trip with Backroads to Switzerland, I know firsthand what a pleasure it is to have your children travel with kids in their specific age group. Not to mention, it was also a joy to meet other active families who love being outdoors as much as we do. That’s why I’m delighted to see that Backroads has now expanded these trips to families with children in their 20s and 30s. God willing, I plan to be hiking and biking well into my 80s and there’s no better way to get my weary body up that mountain than with my children. Backroads options span the globe, but the ones that look most tantalizing to me are New Zealand Multi-Adventure, Greece Multi-Adventure, and Spain’s Mallorca and Menorca Bike Tour. Please have a look and, if interested, contact ActiveTravels to check if ages match up on a specific trip, and to help with flights and pre- and post-lodging. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/13/19 at 06:00 AM
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about us
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. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

Adventure Travel Trade Association