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Urban Adventure

Great activities in cities around the world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Austin Rocks!

Just back from the three-day music festival, Austin City Limits. Even with Sunday’s postponement of the show due to heavy rains and flooding, it was still worth the effort to fly into town. With six stages on the edge of an expansive lawn, it never felt too crowded and we could easily see Muse, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, the new sisters trio, Haim, and Kendrick Lamar. Lamar could have easily headlined the event, attracting a massive crowd that was lining up all day at his stage. We were bummed to miss The National and Atoms for Peace shows on Sunday, but then in the late afternoon, sitting around watching football at a sports bar, we heard that Atoms for Peace was going to play an impromptu show at a 2750-seat theater several blocks from our hotel. We stood on line for several hours to snag one of the coveted wristbands that let us gain access to the venue. Around 10:30, I was standing center balcony with two college buddies when Atoms of Peace frontman Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame came out with bassist Flea from Red Hot Chile Peppers, wearing skirts and colorful high top sneakers. For the next 90 minutes, the 5-piece band treated the fortunate few to a mesmerizing set of pulsating percussion and funky bass lines, layered with keyboardist Nigel Godrich’s hypnotic electronica and Yorke’s ethereal voice. It was electrifying. No one was sitting. We were all dancing, feeding off the world beats and the energy of Flea skipping around the stage like a wild man. A memorable show I won’t soon forget. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/16/13 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, August 05, 2013

Adventures in Ecuador: Quito’s La Ronda Street

From Quito’s new international airport, it’s over an hour drive to the heart of the city (a $28 taxi fee). The Andean metropolis stands at an elevation over 9300 feet, ringed by volcanic ridges. It’s a sprawling city that fills up the valley, but once you reach its core, you’ll find impressive colonial squares and Spanish churches dating from the 1500s. We stayed on the oldest street in the city, La Ronda, that dates from Incan times in the late 1400s. It’s a narrow winding street lined with restaurants, cafes, and music clubs that once attracted the city’s noteworthy writers, poets, and musicians. Today, locals fill up the street on weekends to dine and listen to music. We stayed at a wonderful property smack dab in the middle of the street called La Casona de La Ronda. Rooms were spacious, designed with contemporary Ecuadorean art, overlooking an inner courtyard. Outside, La Ronda Street was a festive scene while inside this tranquil retreat welcomed us every time we flew back into Quito on our travels. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/05/13 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Cleveland Rocks!

Last Saturday, my wife and I picked up our son, Jake, at Oberlin College after a weeklong electornic music workshop. Then we hightailed it to Cleveland for the weekend to check out the city. Must-see stops were the Cleveland Museum of Art, whose impressive collection includes noteworthy pieces by van Gogh, Monet, El Greco, and Bierstadt. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we viewed the famous jacket worn by John Lennon on the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover, Michael Jackson’s glove, and my personal favorite, Notorious BIG’s jersey. 
Then there were the pleasant surprises like the West Side Market, the historic food market that served a tasty bratwurst on a bun for 4 bucks and a Montrealer crepe that made Jake happy, created with brisket and Emmentaler cheese. West Side Market is located in Ohio City, a cool neighborhood of restaurants and bars like Crop Bistro, set inside the cavernous walls of a former bank. Nearby is Great Lake Brewing Company, a microbrewery that helped gentrify the neighborhood of derelict buildings when it arrived on the scene in the 90s. Also loved the milk shakes and falafels at Tommy’s in Coventry Village and the Italian fare at Mia Bella in Cleveland’s Little Italy. We stayed at a great locale, the Glidden House, a former estate across the street from the Frank Gehry-designed building on the Case Western University campus. We were within easy walking distance of Little Italy, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the resplendent Cleveland Botanical Gardens, in full bloom upon our arrival. The only thing we missed was a baseball game at Jacobs Field, now called Progressive Field. The Indians were out of town. There’s always next time!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/09/13 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Now’s the Time to Visit Boston

It’s easy to pen a story about being on safari in Kenya or driving Italy’s Amalfi Coast. But if I look back at the scope of my 23-year career as a travel writer, the articles I’m most proud of writing are the ones that occurred after tragedy. Writing about New York after 9/11, New Orleans after Katrina, Detroit bouncing back from the latest recession. I feel like I’m doing my part in the travel world to bring much needed revenue to a destination that genuinely needs your love and assistance. As I’ve often mentioned in this blog, the best way to support a country or city is to bring your hard earned money to that locale and spend it. So this week I turn my attention to my hometown of Boston. Last Monday, my wife and I went to the marathon to cheer on the lead runners and then returned home to watch the Red Sox win in the bottom of the 9th.  A perfect day, sunny and slightly cool, much like today, a great day to run a marathon. Then in a moment, everything was shattered. Adding insult to injury was that this was vacation week in the Boston area. So instead of heading over to the MFA or Newbury Street with the kids, we were stuck in lockdown, waiting for the captives to be arrested. Thankfully, May, my favorite month in Boston, is just around the corner. I love walking the Public Garden, where the hundreds of colorful tulips can’t help but boost spirits. If you want to support Boston, follow in my footsteps and dine in nearby Back Bay, the neighborhood that was hit the hardest from this week of terror. This week, I’ll be writing only about my favorite things to do in Boston as my heart and prayers go out to all the victims of this shocking tragedy. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/22/13 at 01:55 PM
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Launch of Boston Harbor Mini Speedboats

If you’re looking to explore Boston Harbor and the surrounding Boston landmarks in a whole new way, a new attraction offered by Boston Harbor Mini Speedboats might fit the bill. No boating experience is necessary to enjoy the fun. Guests get to drive their own two-person F13 mini-boat through Boston Harbor and surrounding inlets, following behind a knowledgeable staff member navigating the adventure in a piloted lead boat. Points of interest include the USS Constitution, Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, JFK Library, Nantucket Light Ship, and the Leonard Zakim Bridge. Boats depart daily from India Wharf, next to the Aquarium. The season starts on May 18th. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/27/13 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Salt Lake City’s Natural History Museum is a Gem

Salt Lake City reminds me a lot of Calgary, especially the way skiers scurry out of town upon arrival to hit Park City, Snowbasin, Alta, and Solitude, all within an hour drive. After spending three days solely in Salt Lake City, I would highly suggest making time to check out the city. There’s a lot happening in town, from the revitalization of Main Street thanks to the year-old shopping center, City Creek, to emergence of neighborhoods with an indie vibe, like 9th and 9th. The food was exceptional. Highlights include the crab and corn bisque at Bambara, kumamoto oysters at Naked Fish, turkey mole at the authentic Mexican joint, Red Iguana, sturgeon fish and chips at the Copper Onion, and the kale caesar salad at Pago. 

My favorite stop in town was the year old Natural History Museum of Utah next to Red Butte botanical garden in the foothills of the Wasatch Range. When you think of it, what better place than Utah to have a natural history museum? Rich in Native American culture, geological wonders like the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon and the stone arches at Arches, and still very active with dinosaur digs around the state, Salt Lake City should have one of the finest natural history museums in the country. Displaying vibrant Navajo baskets, intricate Paiute beadwork, dinosaurs, a working paleontologist on site, and stunning views of the valley below, this site alone would inspire me to return to Salt Lake. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/26/13 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Salt Lake City’s Emerging 9th and 9th Neighborhood

Gone are the days when you couldn’t get a drink in Salt Lake City and nothing was open on Sunday. Liquor laws were relaxed in 2009, attracting outdoor lovers and artists to the city. Many newcomers have congregated in a neighborhood known for its indie vibe, 9th and 9th. Near the intersection of 900 East and 900 South, pedestrian-friendly streets lead to one-of-a-kind shops housed in Victorian homes. They include Orchid Dynasty, a purveyor of orchids and bonsai trees, and the eclectic furniture store, Hip and Humble run by two sisters. Around the corner is one of the top restaurants in the city, Pago, where locally sourced grains, roots, and protein are elevated to new heights of haute cuisine. Nearby, Mazza offers traditional Middle Eastern cuisine from scratch. I’m headed to Salt Lake City tomorrow to pen stories on the 9th and 9th neighborhood for National Geographic Traveler and The Washington Post, along with articles on ethnic food for The Boston Globe and hotel reviews for I’ll be back on Monday. Have a great week and to all you March Madness enthusiasts, Go Blue!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/19/13 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, March 18, 2013

All Eyes on Amsterdam This Spring

Last year, all the talk was about London. They were still basking in the glow of the royal wedding of Will and Kate, celebrated the Queen's Jubilee with more pomp and circumstance, and, of course, was the backdrop for all the drama and excitement of the Olympics. In 2013, Amsterdam is the European city celebrating a banner year. Some of the major events happening there this spring:
On April 14, after years of renovations, Amsterdam's famous art museum, the Rijksmuseum, will reopen its doors to the public. They will return Rembrandt's renowned painting, The Night Watch, to its newly renovated gallery space and you will be able to enjoy the redesigned landscaped gardens.
On April 30, Queen Beatrix, who has spent 33 years on the Dutch throne, will be succeeded by her son, the Prince of Orange. Prince Willem-Alexander will be inaugurated and his three daughters, ages 9, 7 and 5, will become princesses.
In May, the Van Gogh Museum will also reopen to fanfare to celebrate its 40th birthday. The Museum has been closed since September and has been undergoing all kinds of renovations for this big event.
Designated a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2010, Amsterdam's Canals are having a big birthday this year. 400 years ago, the city started the construction of the ring of canals, and provided 
better transportation throughout the city, more than doubling its size. See the stylish canalside houses and check out various activities on and around the canals this year.
Guest Post by Lisa Leavitt 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/18/13 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, December 03, 2012

Toronto, Lasting Impressions

Back in snowy Boston, but here’s a short list of things I enjoyed most about Toronto last week. Favorite dishes were the smoke trout at Keriwa Café, roasted Caesar salad at Strada 241, the duck egg at Café Boulud, gambas al ajillo (grilled shrimp, garlic, parsley, and lemon) at Patria, the classic peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery in the St. Lawrence Market, the perfectly rendered Georgian Banks whitefish at Ursa, and David Chow’s chocolate bar at Stock. AGO is always a treat, especially seeing the Diego and Frida show. But don’t miss the new Ryerson Image Centre, a gem of a museum on the Ryerson University campus. Terminus, only playing for one more week at the Royal Alexandra, was riveting theater. I can’t wait to return to Cabaret and the downstairs Kingpin to find more vintage wear. Lastly, it was so pleasant to fly in and out of the city on Porter Airlines. With leather seats, lots of legroom, free treats and newspapers at Toronto’s city airport, it made flying a treat. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/03/12 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Cheer in Toronto—Vintage Shopping

As an undergrad at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I would often make the 4-hour drive to Toronto for the sole purpose of finding vintage winter coats and dress clothes. Toronto has an astounding number of vintage shops, more than 50 just in the city center. It might seem like an unlikely shopping destination, but it’s as important to fashion insiders as London, Paris, and Milan. The city is a major hub on the used-clothing circuit, both because of the number of warehouses for space and its location as a shipping access point. Prices can range from $20 for a blouse to $1500 for a 1920s art deco dress. 

What sets these Toronto vintage shops apart is their boutique atmosphere. Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out with Wendy Woods, an image consultant (something we all need) who specializes in vintage shopping. We started at The Cat’s Meow in Yorkville, known for their designer wear, and then headed to Kensington Market and their bargain-basement priced shops like the longtime hub, Courage My Love. But it wasn’t until we hit Cabaret on Queen Street West that I struck gold. I was looking for a black blazer, but Wendy was having better luck finding a red turn-of-last-century hunting jacket. Then I headed downstairs to the Men’s section, Kingpin, which has the look of a speakeasy, and found a black dinner jacket, Italian-made and hand-stitched that originally sold at Barney’s. I tried on the coat and it fit like a glove. 
Thank you, Toronto, for a helluva week and a helluva souvenir. I can’t wait to come back with the family next summer to see the pandas at the Toronto Zoo and visit the new aquarium.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/30/12 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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