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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Find Peak Colors on the Drive from Asheville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The 80-mile stretch of roadway between Asheville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a joy anytime of year, but it’s hard to top this coming week when the leaves on red maples, dogwoods, and sassafras trees are at the height of their fall foliage. Spend your first night in the heart of downtown at the Renaissance Asheville. Then it’s time to hit the High Country, where the drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway reaches its highest elevation at 6,047 feet, surrounded by row after row of ridges like the flanks of Mount Pisgah and Cold Mountain, the setting for the best-selling novel. There are numerous opportunities to stretch your legs and stroll to lonely mountain streams and waterfalls amongst the 120 species of trees, the greatest variety in the US. A good place to start is the self-guided Harwood Cove Nature Trail that begins at the Chimneys Picnic Area.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/16/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Favoite Fall Foliage Drive—Keuka Lake, New York

Autumn in the Finger Lakes of western New York State is the time of year when leaves on the maples turn a tad crimson and the grapes on the vines are ready to be harvested for their award-winning Rieslings. Start on the northern tip of Keuka Lake in the town of Penn Yan. Head south on Route 54A and just outside of town, you’ll see signs for Apple Barrel Orchards, a third-generation U-pick apple orchard that makes homemade cider on the premises. Continue south along the shores of the 20-mile long lake to reach Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars. Founded in 1962 and now run by Dr. Frank’s grandson, Fred, Dr. Frank put the Finger Lakes on the wine lovers’ map with his award-winning dry and semi-dry Rieslings. Have lunch on an outdoor deck overlooking the narrow northern part of the lake at Heron Hill Winery. The Blue Heron café takes full advantage of its locale nestled amidst the farmland to offer local seasonal fruit over field greens and a caprese salad with large fresh tomatoes. A perfect place to stay in Hammondsport is the octagonal-shaped Black Sheep Inn, where the owner, a former caterer in Cleveland, creates innovative and tasty breakfasts. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/15/14 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 29, 2014

A Perfect Day in Lausanne

From the shores of Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman as the Swiss call it, to the forest and duck pond of Lac de Sauvabelin, the city of Lausanne climbs an impressive 800 feet. You climb uphill or downhill on an Escher-like maze of stairwells, narrow cobblestone streets, bridges, even elevators and escalators. Last night, I took an elevator close to my hotel, the Lausanne Palace, down to the former warehouse district of Flon, now a Tribeca-like neighborhood of hip restaurants like Le Nomade and popular dance clubs like Mars. It’s quite strange to take an elevator down to another neighborhood, but Lausanne is full of surprises, from the massive Gothic cathedral consecrated in 1275 to Jean Dubuffet’s fascinating Art Brut collection, created for the most part by people who are ingenious or simply insane (I’ll delve into this further tomorrow). 

The next day we started with a tower climb at Lac de Sauvabelin for magnificent views of the lake, snow-capped peaks of the Alps, and the Vallée de Joux, known for its communities of watchmakers. Then we walked downhill past century-old beech trees on the grounds of Fondation de l’Hermitage. Soon we were in the oldest part of the city, staring up in awe at the 15th-century Château Saint-Maire and the 13th-centutry Lausanne Cathedral. Definitely enter the cathedral to see the stained windows, including the Rose, where more than half the glass is original. Under a bridge in the charming Escaliers du Marché neighborhood, we found Le Barbare, known for its pudding-like hot chocolate. 
Saturday is the best day to visit Lausanne in the summer and fall, because its home to a thriving public market. We made it to the bustling center of town, packed with locals on a warm day picking at bins that overflowed with ripe tomatoes, plums, sunflowers, and a slew of other merchandise. One section was devoted to local butchers and cheesemakers. Another street, we tried chocolate truffles and a delectable wild mushroom dip. Near the market, we had lunch at Café du Grütli to sample a Swiss specialty this time of year, saucisse aux choux, sausage marinated with cabbage. Then we entered Globus, Lausanne’s version of Harrods, to purchase a raclette set for our son. Our last stop was Blondel, a beloved chocolate shop in town, where we purchased more souvenirs for the family. Geneva, a 45-minute train ride away might be the better-known city on Lake Geneva, but Lausanne easily entices. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/29/14 at 03:30 AM
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Drive the Golden Circle, Iceland

There are two types of travelers to Iceland, ones like me who spend the bulk of their time in Reykjavik taking day trips to see the countryside and others who simply stay in small guesthouses in the more remote areas of the island. Obviously, if you can do the latter, you’ll be treated to a far more authentic experience with majestic vistas of glaciers, volcanoes, and the coastline around every bend. I needed to be in Reykjavik for a travel writers’ conference, but even I had the chance to check out three incredible sites thanks to the daylong Golden Circle tour with Reykjavik Excursions. First stop was Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the tectonic plates of Europe and North America meet. You walk on a narrow trail dwarfed by the rocky walls. Next stop was the surging waters of the Gulfoss Waterfalls, cascading down the tiers of rock. You take a short hike to the lip of waterfalls, sprayed by the cool water. Last stop was Geysir, Iceland’s version of Yellowstone where hot pools churn and bubble and the Strokkur geyser erupts every 4 to 5 minutes. Coupled with a trip to the Blue Lagoon, a whalewatching/puffin tour, even the opportunity to hike on a glacier, you can get a good taste of Iceland while spending your nights in Reykjavik. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

College Tip Sheet from Boston Globe Magazine

Dropping Jake off at Cornell University this past weekend reminded me of the story I co-wrote for Boston Globe Sunday Magazine on 20 college campuses in the northeast. It’s a pretty good tip sheet on where to stay and eat and what to do when you’re in each one of these college towns, including Boston. If you plan to drop your son or daughter off this week or are going on the college tour this fall, have a look. 
Also, Lisa and I have designed routes in New England, the Midwest, and Southern California for clientele heading out on the road to visit colleges with their high school sophomore, junior or senior. Our detailed Dream Day Itineraries include highlighted routes, recommended lodging, favorite restaurants, and sights not to be missed along the way that are definitely worth the slight detour. Having authored Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and Outside Magazine travel guides to New England, and at least 800 travel stories on the northeast (including my boyhood stomping grounds of upstate New York), few know the region’s most picturesque routes better than me. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/27/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Brunswick Week—Bathed in Tranquility on the Bay of Fundy

Some of my favorite articles have been written on ferries. I remember writing “Eating My Way through Vancouver” on a ferry to BC’s Salt Spring Island. So I took advantage of the 90-minute ferry from Blacks Harbour to Grand Manan to sit upstairs on the outdoor deck, peer at the large wake, and look back at the mainland with computer in hand. Surrounded by the calm waters of the Bay of Fundy, all my daily stresses just seemed to melt away with the hot midday sun. Every now and then we would pass another anonymous island, a rocky outcropping rimmed with a crown of firs. Far too quickly, we reached Grand Manan and I was driving up to my home for the next two nights, the Inn at Whale Cove Cottages
I dined on a creamy mushroom soup, almond crusted salmon, and an absurdly good sour cherry pie all created by the talented chef and owner of Whale Cove, Laura Buckley. I was lucky to sit next to a large group, mostly New Yorkers, who return to Grand Manan year after year for the past 30 years. They recommended I climb back in my car after dinner and drive to the end of Whistle Road past the lighthouse to a spot locals simply call “The Whistle.” Wow, what a tip! Perched on a bluff overlooking the rocky shoreline, I spotted kids scouring the boulders for that nutritious New Brunswick seaweed treat, dulse. To my left, cliffs plummeted to the shores below, and directly in front of me was the great expanse of sea leading to FDR’s former summer home, Campobello Island, and the Maine towns of Lubec and Eastport. Within moments of arriving, I spotted seals in the water and shortly thereafter, the graceful arc and fin of the minke whale. The sun was setting, the whales were slicing the water, local old-timers were handing me Moose Light beers. My first night on Grand Manan and I understand the magical allure. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/17/14 at 09:30 AM
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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Far From Perfect Honeymoon

“Goreme? You stop in Goreme?” I asked the bus driver as I pointed to our ticket. 

“Yes, Goreme. Coming,” he replied as he continued to drive like a maniac. Something was wrong. We had passed Nevsehir about an hour before, and, according to my guidebook, Nevsehir is only five miles from Goreme, the heart of Turkey’s intriguing Cappadocia region.
“Goreme, we’re going to Goreme!” my wife repeated, nearing hysteria. The driver nodded and grinned.
There was nothing wrong with the guidebook. The driver had indeed sped past Goreme to the next city. Frustrated, we arrived at the bus station there, only to learn that the bus to Goreme didn’t leave for five hours. We got there eventually - seven hours later in the middle of the night.
So much for the perfect honeymoon, the one advertised in glossy bridal magazines with couples strolling hand-in-hand in some European capital, locals having been conveniently blotted out.
All we wanted now was a bed on which to lay our weary heads. Surrounded by barking dogs, we walked up a hill and miraculously found our hotel. Rooms were carved out of the soft tufa rock Cappadocia is known for. But, of course, there was nobody at the front desk. Thoroughly exhausted and borderline delirious, we saw that a door to one of the rooms was ajar. We peeked in . . . the bed was empty. Good night!
Originally published in The Boston Globe, “Writers' tales of 12 trips gone wrong.”

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/03/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Seastreak Ferry Announces New Bus/Ferry Service from Boston in 2014

I just received word that Seastreak, the company that offers ferry service from New Bedford to Martha’s Vineyard, will bus clientele from Boston’s South Station to the ferry in New Bedford starting next April. This is wonderful news for people traveling into the Boston area who don’t want to rent a car, only to leave it at the ferry terminal parking lot. It’s also much cheaper than flying into the Vineyard. You’re shuttled one hour by bus from Boston’s South Station to the ferry terminal in New Bedford, where you board the high-speed ferry for the short crossing on Buzzards Bay to the Vineyard. Cost is $68 round-trip for adults including both bus and ferry. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/20/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Best Road Trips for Fall Foliage

Of America’s four seasons, fall might have the most star power. There are 24-hour toll-free hotlines to keep you informed of nature’s progress, and even webcams pointed at maples and aspens to report daily changes in leaf color. Then there are the traffic jams—fall-crazed paparazzi pouring out of cities like New York and Boston to snap forest-themed Instagrams. You don’t have to spend hours behind the wheel, though, to enjoy the season’s kaleidoscopic splendor. Avoid the crowds by sticking to one of my slower, off-the-grid routes, just posted on the Executive Travel website. Better yet, leave your ride behind and walk to a scenic vista or hidden waterfall, where autumn’s vivid colors reflect off the water. Enjoy! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/02/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Driving Avenue of the Giants

It’s been called the finest forest drive in the world, a 32-mile stretch of road that winds through 17,000 acres of old-growth redwood forest. The Avenue of the Giants is the primary reason people from all over the globe visit California’s Humboldt County. After experiencing the route yesterday, I can easily say that you should put it on your travel wish list, without hesitation! As soon as you veer off Highway 101 onto Avenue of the Giants (Exit 674 from the north) and stop to pick up a map, get out of the car and lost on a trail surrounded by these gargantuan patriarchs of the forest. Covered in shaggy bark with trunks the size of a Dodge Ram, you look up and it’s impossible to see the tops of these trees piercing the blue skies. At the next stop, the Drury-Chaney Grove, my brother, Jim, and I climbed atop a fallen redwood, some 15 feet above the ground, and walked a good 50 meters on that same tree. Mind-blowing. It’s hard not to feel Lilliputian dwarfed by these mega-sized giants rising from a carpet of ferns. The tall redwoods hug the road, allowing only a splinter of sunlight into the dark forest as you drive along the route. In Myers Flat, you get to take that iconic shot of driving a car through the roots of a redwood at the Drive-Thru Tree. With an opening only 7-foot wide, it was ideally suited for our Toyota Corolla rental, inches to spare on either side. 
Ten miles south of the southern end of the Avenue of the Giants, right off Highway 101, is one of California’s classic retreats, the Benbow Inn. Open in the summer of 1926, the Tudor estate on the shores of the Eel River soon attracted such Hollywood elite as Clark Gable and Joan Fontaine, and other luminaries like Eleanor Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. Today, it’s still the premier address in the region, ideally suited for folks who made the 4-hour drive from San Francisco. Ask for Room 109 and you’ll get a private patio with two redwoods sprouting up from the deck, and a view of the arched stone bridge, built in 1932. Owner John Porter is a wine aficionado, so expect your dinner of nearby Shelter Cove salmon or locally sourced rack of lamb to be washed down with some of the finest wines coming out of Napa, Sonoma, even Humboldt County. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/18/13 at 10:00 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

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