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Urban Adventure

Great activities in cities around the world.

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 FamilyVacationCritic.com. 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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Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Cheer in Toronto—First Up, Shopping

I’m back in one of my favorite cities in North America, Toronto. If I don’t get my yearly dose, I go through withdrawal. There’s so much energy in this city right now, it’s electric. As my taxi driver noted, he’s seen more construction in the Toronto in the past two years than he’s seen in the past 20 years. That’s due to the large influx of immigrants, close to 100,000 annually, helping to push the population of the region to over 6 million people. 
 
The result is a boom in noteworthy architecture, which I described in The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine on my last visit. Lately, the city has unveiled a slew of luxury properties which I’ll visit this week and innovative North American cuisine that rivals the best of any city in North America. I’m particularly stoked about visiting Keriwa Café, where the chef and owner, a descendant of the Siksika tribe, brings First Nation cooking to new heights. 
 
Yet, since my arrival yesterday coincided with the last day of all the Black Friday specials, my first order of business was to shop at one of Ontario’s largest malls, Square One in suburban Mississauga (which is not so suburban when you consider their population exceeds 800,000). If the long lines to the fitting rooms at H&M, the Gap, and Tommy Hilfiger were any indication, this is going to be a banner Holiday season for retailers. This morning, which I’m hoping is much more laid back since it’s a Monday, I’m visiting the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in downtown Toronto. This month, they just completed a $220 million expansion, debuting 40 new stores like Ted Baker London, Kate Spade, and North Face. If lines aren’t too long, I’m going to sit on Santa’s lap. Just kidding. But I do hope to put a dent into the Holiday shopping. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/26/12 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Connecticut in Autumn, The Mark Twain House in Hartford

Twain, aka Samuel Clemens would publish his greatest works, including The Prince and the Pauper, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn while living in a three-story red-brick home in Hartford from 1874 to 1891. Many scholars believe, however, that the bulk of his writing was done in a small cottage in Elmira, New York, since his wife, Livy, hated the smell of his cigars in the house. That didn’t stop Twain from having fun in his Hartford abode. If you watch the Ken Burns documentary on Twain before touring his home, you’ll learn that he would use the same props on the mantelpiece to tell a different story to his three young daughters every evening. Enter the house with a guide and you’ll see his billiard room on the third floor, where he would entertain guests long after his usual four-course dinner was finished. The interior was designed by none other than Louis Comfort Tiffany and many objects like Twain’s bedpost from Venice, where carved angels sit atop the headboard, are the writer’s original purchases.
 
Even if I was zipping through Hartford on my way to New York with no intention whatsoever of stopping at Twain’s House, three blocks away, I would get off I-84 at Exit 46 and make a beeline to Mo’s Midtown (25 Whitney Street, 860-236-7741). The Polish owners are known for their large, fluffy potato latkes and crispy hash browns, but I’ll order their buttermilk pancakes every time. Take a seat at the counter or one of the booths and dive into a short stack of blueberry pancakes. One bite of this heavenly creation, chockful of wild blueberries, and you’ll be stopping in Hartford far more often than you think.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/25/12 at 12:00 PM
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Friday, May 11, 2012

A Highly Recommended Private Guide In Barcelona

When I mentioned to a friend that my husband and I were going to Barcelona, she recommended a private guide company, Hi This Is Barcelona. I could tell right away from their personalized email reply to my inquiry that this was a classy boutique organization. My husband and I took two of their ½-day tours. Seeing Barcelona through their guide was like shopping for a novel at an independent bookstore versus going to a chain store. Our guide had so much knowledge and passion about his adopted city and he was genuinely committed to sharing as much as possible. 
 
He met us at our hotel the first morning and gave us an overview of the Gothic area, geographically, culturally and historically. That introduction, which he elaborated on during our walk, gave us a full perspective on what we’d be seeing. During the tour, we had time to hear stories and anecdotes that weren’t in any of the guidebooks or websites we’d checked out before our trip. 
 
My husband wanted to photograph the city from various perspectives. During the Modernist tour, our guide brought us to rooftop locations with aerial views, and we always got there at prime time for best lighting conditions. He navigated us to the least crowded areas with the most interesting mix of architectural styles and shared insight about the lives of the architects, their relationships which each other and what was going on around them that was influential at the time.
 
After our tours, our guide recommended restaurants, specific shops, and day trips outside the city that catered to our interests. Compared to the places our hotel concierge suggested, our guide’s picks were places where we felt like insiders instead of tourists. We chose Barcelona as a destination because we needed to feed our souls with culture, history and great food and Hi This Is Barcelona made it all happen for us in a uniquely relaxing and stimulating way. I highly recommend it!
 
Posted by Guest Blogger, Robin Regensburg, co-founder of RainCastle Communications, a web design and marketing firm in Boston
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/11/12 at 12:00 PM
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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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