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Green Travel

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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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, June 11, 2019

Quick Escape: Provincetown, Massachusetts

June and September are our favorite months to visit P’town, before or after the summer crowds arrive. Stay with our friends at the Salt House Inn, smack dab in the center of Provincetown (with parking, no less). Then go whale watching, bike up and down the dunes on the unique Province Lands Bike Path, see the glorious pine warblers swoop from pine to pine just inland of the parking lot at the Province Lands Visitor Center, and, of course stroll the stretch of beach at Race Point surrounded by the sea. For dinner, head to that P’town classic, the Mews, to dine on lobster risotto, pan seared scallops, or almond crusted cod. Remember that you can take the 90-minute high-speed ferry from Boston’s Long Wharf to Provincetown and avoid an often congested drive. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/11/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Stargazing in Northern California

A 3-hour drive north of San Francisco past Santa Rosa and Healdsburg, you reach the Mendocino Coast, home to the fifth-generation owned Little River Inn. The oceanfront property perched on the hillside overlooking the Pacific, feels nestled in its own world, far away from the lights of a city. Indeed, it’s the perfect locale to see the stars on a crystal-clear night. Even better now that the property is offering the Stargazing Family Fun package. Spend 2 nights in an ocean view room with two queen beds and you’ll receive a Little River Inn travel blanket, loan of their custom stargazing kit with special binoculars, star map, star guide and flashlight, hot chocolate to enjoy while stargazing one night, and detailed information on stargazing in the area. Cost of the package for a family of 4 begins at $430 a night. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/04/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 09, 2019

Bermuda Beckons

Soft and cushiony, with a shade of pink to enhance the dramatic effect, the sand on the beaches of Bermuda is better than advertised. Hemmed in by jagged rock formations and backed by cliffs, the finest beaches are a mix of horseshoe-shaped coves filled with tanning bodies and small jewel-like pockets of sand with just enough space to contain a couple or two. This sublime stretch of coastline serves as the ideal welcome mat for the weary waves that have rolled some 600 miles from the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the closest landmass to the west. May and early June are the ideal months to visit this 23-mile speck of land in the Atlantic. The surge of travelers, many venturing here aboard cruises in the height of summer, have yet to arrive, so you can see the island in its natural relaxed state. Stay at the newly revamped rooms and suites at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and they’ll escort you by jitney to their private beach. Or try the resort that’s been receiving rave reviews since its debut the summer of 2017, The Loren. Flights are direct and only 2 hours from New York, Boston, and DC. If you need suggestions on what to do while you’re there, please see my Boston Globe story. ActiveTravels is here to help check lodging availability and pricing. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/09/19 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, 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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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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