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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Northshire Bookstore, A Manchester, Vermont Gem

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches 

Whenever I head to Vermont, a must-stop is the Northshire Bookstore. Between Northshire and Manchester Hot Glass (which I wrote about in a previous blog), my gift-giving needs are often fulfilled right in downtown Manchester, Vermont. Founded in 1976, Northshire is still family-owned and is a true community gathering spot-at the Spiral Press Cafe, and for author speaking events, live music, and reading groups. I love that they still have a vibrant "staff picks" program, with index cards thumbtacked to the bookshelves, explaining why the staff enjoyed the chosen one. Grab one of those books and sit yourself down in the comfy chairs. 
Northshire sits on a prominent corner in Manchester, in an historic old building, where Routes 30 and 7A cross. Before becoming Northshire's home, the structure was Colburn House, a continuously operating inn for over a century. TripAdvisor ranks Northshire #1 for shopping in Manchester, and I agree. As the owners, the Morrow family, say: "We work hard to enrich our communities as we strive to thrive in the dynamic world of bookselling." Bravo. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/20/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 08, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, Sao Miguel, Azores

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

Steve asked me to write about my top travel Dream Day in 2017. That was a hard choice! I was lucky enough this past year to have had adventures in Colombia; all around the greater Toronto area; on Ontario’s Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and Lake Simcoe; in Seattle and on Bainbridge Island; in Portland OR and throughout the Columbia River Gorge; in three US National Parks -- Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP, and Yosemite NP; in Vermont; in Massachusetts; in New York; in Southern California and Sacramento; on Captiva Island, Florida; and at Niagara Falls.
But my top travel Dream Day of 2017 occurred in the Azores, on the island of Sao Miguel, the largest of the Azorean nine. For a week last February, I stayed with friends at Quinta Minuvida, a small eco-friendly, historic home turned hotel, run by the husband and wife pair Joao and Rimi. Quinta Minuvida grows and serves local food in the village of Rabo de Peixe, not far from the city of Ponta Delgada, which is a direct flight from Boston and Toronto. Within a five-minute walk are acres and acres of green grazing cows, cornfields, farmland, and old stone walls. 
On my Dream Day, we had a simple breakfast of local bread and cheese, with several types of jam made from Quinta Minuvida’s fruit trees, followed by a "community" dual language yoga class, in Portuguese and English. Some of the Azoreans spoke no English, but we all laughed, stretched, balanced, and meditated together. After yoga, my group headed out for a hike, armed with picnic lunches. But, before hiking, Rimi and Joao put a pot of meat and vegetables into the ground, a “cozido nas caldeiras,” where it would cook for six hours via volcano steam (a true geothermal stew) while we were hiking. From the trailhead at Pico do Ferro, we overlooked Lagoa das Furnas (the Furnas volcano crater, filled with water) and the town of Furnas. After a very steep decline, we found mud-bubbling holes in the ground, plus old abandoned houses (fortunes made and lost during Sao Miguel’s orange plantation boom and bust). The next adventure was to a public hot springs called Poca da Dona Beija, in Furnas, for a calming soak. Lastly, we retrieved the cozido from the ground, and proceeded back to Quinta Minuvida to dig in. It was deliciously full of chicken, sausage, pork, beef (like brisket), cabbage, kale, carrots, and taro root (like potato). Azorean and Portuguese wine flowed. 
ActiveTravels has sent three different groups to the Azores since my trip. If you are interested, please let us know. Rimi and Joao recommend avoiding July and the first few weeks of August due to the crowds, but, other than that, it’s truly a great destination to explore. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, November 10, 2017

Day in the Life: Kosrae, Micronesia

Guest Post and Photos by Claudia Danford 

Welcome to Kosrae, a small island in Micronesia where I’ve wisely decided to spend part of my gap year between high school and university. It was my cousin who initially came to Micronesia ten years ago for WorldTeach. In 2014, he founded the Green Banana Paper Company, an eco-factory making wallets from the fibers of banana tree trunks that would otherwise rot. Matt now has 25 employees and is one of the largest private employers on the island. While Kosrae itself is not a big travel destination, certainly not compared to the other islands in the Pacific region, I hope to give you a taste of “island life” through this blog post. 

I grew up in a small town in western Massachusetts, far from the ocean and jungle. Now I’m smack dab in the middle of the Pacific with 6,600 people and a bunch of tropical fruit. I am outside the realm of any past experiences. My days consist of surfing, scuba diving, consuming lots of coconuts and bananas (many varieties of bananas!), learning to speak Kosraean, and hiking in the jungle to waterfalls. Living in this land of piercing sun and luscious green, soaking up local culture, working in the eco-commerce world at Green Banana Paper, and writing for its website have been wonderful learning experiences. 

Kosrae is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, comprised of Kosrae, Yap, Pohnpei, and Chuuk. The USA gives FSM money for education and government, and, in return, America gets land, air bases, and water for military use. Big ships deliver goods every few weeks, and there are four flights a week: two towards Hawaii and two towards Guam.

Most mornings, I amble out of bed to the colorful, expansive Pacific Ocean and let the waves and sun awaken me. I have also loved scuba diving since being introduced to it here. On one of my first boat rides to a scuba diving site, dolphins swam in front of the boat for a while, just another friendly reminder of all of the beautiful and vibrant life that surrounds this little gem of an island. I later went diving in Lelu Harbor to find two shipwrecks. Apparently there are four ships and two or three planes from World War II in the Harbor. The visibility was very poor because the bottom is murky, but swimming around was wild and somewhat eerie. Above the water are the beautiful lush green mountains and picturesque views, but underneath the remnants of war. Quite a contrast. 

One Saturday afternoon, I was reading in my hammock, hung between coconut trees at the beach, when I noticed a little girl of around 5 years old curiously looking at me. She giggled and came closer, and started drawing in the sand. We ended up playing together for a while, drawing in the sand and swinging in the hammock. She fanned through the book I was reading, looking at the pages and excitedly pointing out pictures. She also climbed a little ways up a coconut tree and jumped into my arms, then ran back to the base of the tree to climb again, and again, and again. She constantly chatted in Kosraean and I only understood a small fraction of what she said. I am now very motivated to improving my skills with the local language. We mostly laughed together; I used Kosraean when I could.

All in all, I encourage you to consider being “active travelers” and explore the Western Pacific and the greater Pacific region if you have the chance. Kosrae is known as the Island of the Sleeping Lady because its collection of mountain peaks resembles a sleeping lady. The beauty of this region is breathtaking, and embracing the island culture is fulfilling my goal of experiencing a vastly different way of life.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/10/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On the Road to Tobermory

While ActiveTravels members are cavorting all over the world this month (locations include Colombia, Yellowstone, Alaska, California, Oregon, Colorado, Chicago, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Austria, Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Vancouver, the Canadian Rockies, Quebec, and all over New England), I spent last week two hours north of Toronto, in and around Georgian Bay. It’s not a well-known tourist destination unless you are from the Toronto area. But we were rewarded with many treats including a spectacularly beautiful day in Tobermory, at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, jutting into Georgian Bay (and, to the west, Lake Huron). 
The shores and waterways of Georgian Bay are the traditional domain of the Anishinaabeg. Due to high interest in a current Anishinaabeg exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum (where my husband Josh is Director), this journey was of particular interest. On a purely “personal enjoyment” level, Mermaid’s Cove, just a few miles away from Little Tub Harbour, was another highlight. Josh and I climbed on the rocky shore, swam in crystal clear fresh water, and enjoyed the view. Maybe next time, we’ll take one of the glass bottom boats to see the shipwrecks in Fathom Five National Marine Park for which Tobermory is famous (22 shipwrecks and several historic lighthouses), or ride the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry to Manitoulin Island. It was easy to see why Tobermory has become an inspirational destination for naturalists, photographers, divers, hikers, and kayakers.
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/16/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Zealand In Depth To Debut New Conservation-Focused Trip

New Zealanders are serious about protecting their country and its native birds from introduced predators, with a goal to be predator-free by 2050. New Zealand In Depth, a team of trusted local travel experts, is doing their part. November 2017 through April 2018, they will debut a 25-day itinerary with many of the trip’s proceeds contributing to the purchase and placement of new traps and creation of local initiatives. View New Zealand’s rarest birds and experience the country’s conservation efforts while enjoying “natural” luxury accommodations in B&Bs, hotels and lodges; some meals; rental car use; and domestic flight from Dunedin to Auckland. Cost starts at $8,800 per person and highlights include a full-day guided trip with Elm Wildlife on the Otago Peninsula to see albatross and yellow-eyed penguins, and a night walk on Stewart Island in search of the brown kiwi. 

I'm off to the Adirondacks to see my high school buddies. Back on Monday. Enjoy the weekend and keep active! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/13/17 at 09:30 AM
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Stocking Stuffer No. 3: Lather’s Road Warrior

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for years know I’m a big fan of Lather products. I came across their goods in LA, but now I’m starting to see their olive oil based soaps and mint thyme hair wash in the northeast, recently at several Lark Hotels. Lather is owned by Pasadena-based Emilie Davidson Hoyt, who grew up sensitive to synthetic fragrances found in most cosmetics. She started using natural ingredients and now she’s celebrating her 16th year in business. The trial sized shaving cream and face lotion are always with me when I travel with my carry-on luggage; the sea kelp body wash and shampoo are with me when I hit the gym. Now you can get all these products and more in a nifty dopp kit holiday package called the Road Warrior. Priced at $48, it’s perfect for that special man in your life. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/14/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Abercrombie and Kent Week—Living with Elephants and Other Philanthropic Projects

On the second day of our safari, I woke up at sunrise to the cacophony of high-pitched bird calls. French-press coffee arrived at my lodge at Stanley’s Camp and I drank a cup overlooking the high grasses of the Okavango Delta. After breakfast, our group of six was driven to a clearing where we soon stared in awe at a massive 11 ½-foot high, 5 to 6 ton elephant named Jabu. A gentle giant, Jabu was joined by two other elephants, the playful Thembi, and the oldest of the trio, 40 year-old Morula. The elephants were led by American Doug Groves and his South African-born wife, Sandi, two zoologists who adopted the threesome when culling operations in South Africa and Zimbabwe left them as orphans more than 25 years ago. 

Doug first came to the continent in 1987 to help with a feature film about the early days of South Africa. He met Sandi, adopted their elephants, and never returned. In 1999, they founded the charity, Living with Elephants, dedicated to creating a harmonious relationship between people and elephants. That morning, I had the opportunity to touch the ears and tusks of Jabu, walk Morula by the trunk, even get a slimy kiss from Jabu before we had lunch. But this is no hokey tourist trap. The primary goal of Living with Elephants is to help Botswanian schoolchildren overcome their fear of elephants and other large mammals that could very well have killed members of their family in the past. An estimated 30,000 elephants are now killed every year in Africa due to poaching. That leaves some 350,000 elephants on the continent with more than a third of these amazing animals in the small country of Botswana. If the Groves can show locals how compassionate elephants really are, this can only help stem the mass killings. 
On our last day of the trip, we visited the community of Nakatindi, not far from where we stayed at Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma in Livingstone, Zambia. When the government promised this village a medical clinic, fresh water, and a primary school and never came through on that promise, Abercrombie and Kent came to the forefront. They built a clinic that now serves 10,000 people annually. They were also instrumental in educating the community about Malaria and AIDS, the two killers that have left many children in this village as orphans. When the villagers had to walk through a national park to get their water from the Zambezi River, they were frequently attacked by wildlife. So Abercrombie and Kent created a water pump to get fresh water piped to their village directly. They also opened a bike shop, shipped old bicycles directly from America to Zambia and Botswana, trained locals to become bike mechanics, and then bought those refurbished bikes back. They are now used by schoolchildren who need to bike 7 kilometers each day to get to school and by farmers who need to get their goods to market.
I was once skeptical of these philanthropic projects in Africa. Saw it as a drop in the bucket, especially when you consider that the cost of one day on safari is comparable to the yearly earnings to someone in the village of Nakatindi. Then I visited a school in the Maasai Mara that was built largely due to the donation of one safari client on vacation. I met a young woman there who was continuing her studies at Oxford. She told me that before the school was built, no girls were allowed at the local public school. In one of the largest slums in Nairobi, I saw how a Johnson and Johnson executive on safari returned to donate a factory that created tampons. That way, girls would not miss 2 to 3 days of school when they had their period. Another executive, this one from Warner Brothers, created a computer room where locals could not only play video games but learn about the risk of AIDS. Then, of course, there’s Bill and Melinda Gates, who also went to Africa on safari. Eradicating malaria is now their top priority. I often say to clients that you visit Africa the first time to see the wildlife, but you return often to be with the people. Those people need a helping hand. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 08, 2016

Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Trustees

It was wonderful to be at the Crane Estate Saturday night to hear Megan Hilty and the Boston Pops Orchestra perform at one of the most majestic spots in Massachusetts, the Grand Allée. The gala celebration commemorated the 125th anniversary of The Trustees of Reservation, the nonprofit conservation organization that maintains over 100 sites in Massachusetts and has a yearly membership of more than 125,000 people. The Crane Estate is one of the gems in the Trustees’ collection. Another one is Naumkeag, the recently renovated Stockbridge estate, which will be hosting a free open house this coming Friday, August 12th. The celebration continues throughout 2016. An exhibition, From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary, is currently on view at the Boston Public Library through August 28. Starting September 18th at World’s End, artist Jeppe Hein will install a reflective structure made of mirrored posts of differing heights whose form mimics the shape of the surrounding drumlin formations. On Columbus Day, October 10th, Massachusetts’ residents will gain access to all Trustees sites for free. So if you haven’t join in the festivities yet, you still have a chance. 
(Photo by Amy Basseches) 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/08/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 09, 2015

Top 5 Caribbean Adventures, Dive Bonaire

As leaves blanket my backyard in suburban Boston, my mind turns to the warm weather locales of the Caribbean. Next week, I’m excited to be blogging live from that lush paradise known as St. Lucia. To get you in the mood, I’m going to devote this week to my Top 5 Adventures in the Caribbean, always a favorite at ActiveTravels. 

A mere decade ago, Bonaire was known only to scuba enthusiasts—a coveted gem discussed in hushed conversations with other serious ocean lovers (types who come out of the water with seaweed in their hair). Now that the secret is out, travelers are learning that nature thrives here both above and below the water. The reef’s proximity to shore is ideal for divers and snorkelers who want to swim with blue and yellow queen angelfish and orange trumpetfish in waters with visibility of 100 feet or more. Bonaire’s semi-arid landscape is home to some 200 types of birds, including one of the world’s largest colonies of pink flamingoes, numbering some 15,000. Overlooking one of the island’s loveliest beaches is the Harbour Village Beach Club. Heinekens and gouda are the sustenance of choice on this Dutch colony, but if you prefer gourmet, go with the resort’s La Balandra Beach Bar and Grill.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/09/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Trustees of Reservations Week, Exploring the Berkshires

From the outside, the Guest House at Field Farm in Williamstown is nondescript if not downright ugly. Then you enter the Bauhaus-era home, now a 5-bedroom inn run by the Trustees of Reservations, and you understand the beauty of American modernism. All those rectilinear lines created the perfect opportunity to place large glass windows around the exterior and take in the stunning views of Mount Greylock. Walking into the living room is like walking into a post-modern early 60s museum set where Don Draper is your host. Unlike the architecture, all furniture seems to have curves from the Isamu Noguchi glass coffee table to the swan-backed couch by Vladimir Kagan. For visitors hoping to take in the art at the Clark Art Museum, reopening on July 4th after a major renovation, there’s no better setting.
I started my final day sampling the TTOR properties with breakfast at the Field Farm. Then it was on to another architectural wonder, Naumkeag in Stockbridge. Formerly owned by the Choate Family of New York before it was bequeathed to The Trustees of Reservations in 1958, Naumkeag is a 44-room Berkshires “Cottage” from the Gilded Age, designed by the prestigious architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, and filled with arts, antiques, and collections around from around the world. But it’s the outdoor gardens that truly inspire, a masterpiece of 28 years of collaborative work by former owner, Mabel Choate, and her dear friend, Fletcher Steele, one of America’s first modern landscape architects. 
Described by the Library of American Landscape History as a “playground for the imagination,” The Trustees recently completed Phase 1 of an extensive 5-phase, 3-year, $3.3 million garden and landscape restoration project designed to rejuvenate the gardens and bring them back to Choate and Steele’s original vision. I was fortunate to visit Naumkeag prior to Saturday's opening with Mark Wilson, Curator of Collections. The place hasn’t looked this good since Mabel lived here. The transformation includes the renovation of Fletcher Steele’s iconic Blue Steps, one of the most photographed features in 20th-century American landscape design, lined with budding birches planted last summer. Wilson is almost finished with phase two of the restoration, the Afternoon Garden, where each stone was removed and then meticulously reinserted at the exact same location Steele originally intended. Talk about putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, this is stone masonry at its finest. Mending the retaining wall and fixing the fountains of the Chinese Garden is still on hold, but Wilson plans to complete the entire project by the summer of 2016. In the meantime, grab food in the café provided by Red Lion Inn and take in the glorious vista of Monument Mountain. 
It was August 5, 1850, when 46-year old Nathaniel Hawthorne met fellow author Herman Melville, 32, on a hike up Monument Mountain.  Along with Oliver Wendell Holmes and several others, they brought a wagon loaded with picnic food and champagne to keep the conversation lively.  Perched on a ridge, they began to read William Cullen Bryant’s “Monument Mountain,” the story of a young Indian maiden who plunged to her death from the rocky pinnacle when she was forbidden by her Mohican tribe to marry her beloved. When it started to rain, the literary party took to shelter and drink in a recess on the west side of the mountain. 
After leaving Naumkeag, I drove 15 minutes south on Route 7 to follow in Hawthorne and Melville’s footsteps and climb the 1,735-foot peak. The hike up, less than 45 minutes, is one of the easiest in the Berkshires—a gradual climb on a well-trodden path through mixed woods of hemlocks, oaks, beech, white pines, red maples, and birches. At a fork, look for a large boulder which commemorates the donation of the park to the Trustees of Reservation in 1899. Here, the trail crawls over rocky ledges to the summit. On this cloudless day, I had vistas of Mt. Everett to the south and the Taconic Range of New York to the west. 
Berkshires Regional Director of the Trustees, Joanna Ballantine, who joined me on the hike, shared the news that the Trustees is working out a deal to expand the Monument Mountain property all the way west to the village of Housatonic. This will double the size of the reservation and will include trails that will lead to the summit of Flag Rock. Look for an announcement shortly. 
Further south, near the Connecticut border, I made my final stop of the trip at Bartholomew’s Cobble. Walking on the Ledges Trail, the Housatonic River snakes through dairy farms on the left while eroding limestone and quartzite rocks formed the cobble to our right. I took a slight detour at Corbin's Neck to get a closer view of the river and the cows resting on its banks. Continuing on the Tulip Tree Trail, I strolled uphill through a forest of tall hemlocks before reaching a clearing. At a short summit, there was a bench to sit on and take in the views of Mount Everett and Mount Race.
Then I veered left on the Hal Borland Trail to visit the Ashley House. Built by Colonel John Ashley in 1735, this is the oldest dwelling in Berkshire County. Colonel Ashley was a pioneer, lawyer, judge and patriot who furnished iron and other supplies for the Revolutionary War effort. He would craft the Massachusetts constitution upstairs with his friend Ethan Allan. On tours on weekend days in the summer, you’ll hear the story of Mumbet, a slave of the Ashleys who sued her way to freedom. Both the Ashley House and Naumkeag are part of the free Home Sweet Home Open House Day on Saturday, May 31st. 
I want to thank The Trustees of Reservations for setting up my week, especially Kristi Perry for sharing her favorite properties. I want to thank Mother Nature for supplying five perfect days of sunshine. Be on the lookout for my story in the Boston Globe featuring many of the sites I visited this week. As always, thanks for checking in. Enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/23/14 at 10:00 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. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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