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Routes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September is the Perfect Time to Visit the Finger Lakes

Known for its award-winning Rieslings, the Finger Lakes deserve its reputation as one of the best spots in America to go wine tasting. Yet, its mix of rolling hills and lakes also lends itself well to adventure, especially in September when the summer crowds are gone. At the southern end of Seneca Lake, we hiked alongside a handful of waterfalls in the famous gorge of Watkins Glen. The next morning, my wife and I kayaked through a cattail-laden marsh and saw countless herons, turtles, and a beaver. Talk about adventure—a 40-pound carp jumped out of the marsh and slammed against my arm as I shrieked. But my favorite part of the weeklong trip was a quiet bike ride along a peninsula that juts into Keuka Lake. Start your ride from Keuka College and follow East and West Bluff Roads as they pass the small waterfront cottages with cute names like Hide N’ Seek. There’s one killer hill on the 20-mile ride that takes you atop a bluff, before cruising downhill back to the college. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a lobster roll and glass of semi-dry Riesling at Heron Hill’s outdoor café. We were fortunate to book the next two nights at the Black Sheep Inn in Hammondsport, on the northern tip of Keuka Lake. Owners Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman spent over 6 years refurbishing the rare octagonal-shaped house, which celebrated its 150th birthday in 2009.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/19/12 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beaune, Burgundy, Oenophiles Take Note

While we’re on the subject of France, I met a wine distributor this weekend whose specialty is wines from Burgundy. He spends more than half his year in the region. I asked him what his favorite town in Burgundy was and without hesitation, he blurted, “Beaune, by far the best.” In the middle of the Côte d’Or, Beaune is the capital of the wine region. Wine, food, and boutique stores line the cobblestone streets. To sample the region’s best wine, visit the Marché aux Vins. The “dégustation des vins” takes place in a historic church, with its stone pillars and arches forming the perfect backdrop. For 10 Euros you can taste the famous wines of the region--18 in all, with the best reds coming at the end. While in town, also check out third-generation cheese maker, Alain Hess and the chocolates and cakes at Bouché. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/12/12 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Luberon, Provence at its Finest

Guest Post and Photo by Jessica Bloom Galen
 
The approach into the hilltop villages of the Luberon was unforgettable. The winding "two-way" streets barely held our Renault convertible - it's hard to imagine how two cars could pass simultaneously. We were rewarded for our faith in the GPS (highly recommended) and ambiguous road signs with a view of Gordes, an absolutely breathtaking village out of a picture book. It is one of the more touristy villages in the area so I recommend selecting accommodations in a more remote section of Luberon.
 
We stayed at Le Phebus and Spa, a rustic and charming inn on a street that had almost nothing else on it, in a town called Joucas. Our room was in a free-standing unit about 100 feet from the lobby, complete with a small balcony to look out on the grounds where we ate our breakfast of coffee, bread, meats, and cheese every day. Like many hotels in the area, Le Phebus' restaurant is graced with a locally renowned chef who creates over-the-top gastronomic experiences every day. The tasting menu we had our first night there was filled with unusual and challenging offerings, like the sheep sweetbread croquettes and smoked mackerel accompanied by thin strips of octopus. The meal was heightened with the truly exceptional wine pairings, which we requested from the sommelier.
 
Which brings us to one of the true delights of the Luberon trip: the wine. It was a completely different experience of wine than we ever had before. We drove around just looking for signs to vineyards and tastings, known locally as "degustation" (as soon as you find one, pick up a guide to find the rest) as the hotel had been unable to provide much guidance. Our favorite by far was the Domaine de Tara, where a hilariously snarky guide with surprisingly good English led us through his delicious selections.
 
Another favorite stop was the Maison de la Truffe (truffle house). It hosts a small museum with artistic renderings of truffles through the ages, as well as some unexpected history of the fungus and its role in global commerce. They also have a beautiful courtyard where they serve delightful dishes featuring truffles (prosciutto, brie, fois gras) which, when paired with a glass of local rosé, formed one of the trip's most iconic meals. On your way out through the gift shop, make sure to sample the truffle aperitif, a liqueur used locally in a sparkling wine cocktail, like an earthy kir royale. We also greatly enjoyed stumbling upon a few olive oil producers.
 
The populated towns like Gordes and Apt are nice to walk around for a bit, but to be honest, the really special part of the trip was letting the roads and our whims dictate what we saw and experienced. 
In short, here are out tips for a trip to the hilltop villages of Luberon:
 
Select an adorable inn with a restaurant you won't mind eating at more than once.
Have a car, with a GPS.
Just drive around, and be ready to stop short whenever you see a sign for a degustation (tasting).
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/11/12 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Passionate People of Lamèque and Miscou Islands

All it takes is a one-minute conversation with Dr. Mathieu Duguay to understand how he persuaded the finest harpsichordists and cellists in Amsterdam, New York, and Berlin to come perform Bach in a 300-seat seat church on the island of Lamèque. A genuine lover of music, Duguay knows the most talented period performers of the day and has flown them over to New Brunswick to play in a church, acclaimed for its exceptional acoustics and vibrantly painted interior. Today, the Baroque Music Festival, now in its 37th season, is the best of its kind in North America. 
 
If you make the wise decision to venture off the Acadian Route and travel on Route 113 to Lamèque and Miscou Islands on the Acadian Peninsula, you’ll quickly realize that Duguay is just one of many colorful characters that light up this sylvan setting. Sandra LeCouteur grew up in the circa-1856 lighthouse on the edge of Miscou Island. Her father, the lighthouse keeper, is known for catching the largest tuna in the world, a whopping 1243 pounds. On select nights in summer, LeCouteur sings on a small stage inside the lighthouse and her deep voice resonates within these historic walls. 
 
Just beyond the Miscou Island Bridge, La Terrasse à Steve is named for the owner, a seafood lover who uses lobster 14 different ways. Sit down at one of the picnic tables overlooking the harbor and dine on lobster casserole, lobster paste sushi, or simply a lobster just out of the pot. Ask if you can see his 13-pound lobster, which is for photographs only. Then write your name on one of the wooden poles, right next to the guy from Alaska. Finally, there’s the seafood pizza at Au P’tit Mousse, written up in Michelin of all places. One bite of Patrick Noel’s sublime combination of lobster, clam, shrimp, and scallop topping and you’ll forgive him for being a Montreal Canadians fan. 
 
Climbing the Miscou Island Lighthouse and looking out over the water, feeling like you’re on the edge of the great abyss, or lounging on the sublime white beaches are the main reasons folks visit the Acadian Peninsula. But spend more than an afternoon here and you’ll realize it’s the people that make this place special. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/13/12 at 08:00 AM
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Monday, June 11, 2012

New Brunswick Week—Driving the Acadian Coast

Stretching 110 miles from Shediac to Caraquet, the northeastern coast of New Brunswick boasts the warmest waters north of Virginia, the sand dunes of Kouchibouguac National Park, lonely lighthouses on Miscou Island, and the largest lobster processing facility on the continent. Yet, the real reason folks go out of their way to venture to the Acadian Coast is to experience the French Canadian culture. Stop at any of the small towns and you’ll notice a distinctive joie de vivre, with foot-stomping fiddle music, down-home French cooking accentuating the local seafood catch, and festivals that celebrate the Acadians’ 400-year-old history in the Atlantic Maritimes. One step inside the local boulangerie or patisserie and you’ll realize that this part of New Brunswick is just as French as Quebec, the reason why New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that is officially bilingual. This week, I’ll be driving the Acadian Coast, on assignment for The Boston Globe. I plan to go lobstering, biking, sea kayaking, and more. I’ll fill you in on all the details, so you’ll know exactly what to do on your next trip to the Atlantic Maritimes! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/11/12 at 09:00 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Travel to Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries on the Upswing

 As I write this, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is happening nearby in South Boston and I’m already starting to feel thirsty. Well, it’s good to know my thirst for alcohol can be quenched through travels. Over the past year, visits to wineries, breweries, and distilleries across North America have seen a surge in traffic. We’re not simply talking about biking through Napa and Sonoma, which has been popular for some time. In 2011, more than 450,000 people visited the Maker’s Mark and the other five distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. In fact, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association reports an annual increase of 10 to 12 percent a year. The Finger Lakes region in New York has experienced an exponential growth in tourism thanks to its award-winning Riesling. Many visitors to Denver will make a side trip to Fort Collins to try the craft beer from five local microbreweries, including the exceptional brew made by Odell and New Belgium. Just thinking about Odell’s 90 Shilling, an incredibly smooth amber ale, and I’m ready to book my next trip to Colorado. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/19/12 at 02:39 PM
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Friday, October 07, 2011

Favorite American Drives, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, South Dakota

The Road Trip was designed with places like South Dakota in mind. Venture to Rapid City and you’ll have the chance to cruise with relatively little traffic, up and down the pine forests and granite passes of the Black Hills and through the awesome lunar-like landscape of Badlands National Park.  Add the most famous sculpture in the country, Mount Rushmore National Monument, and the herds of bison and bighorn sheep in Custer State Park, and you have a driving destination that’s hard to top. And all of these sights are in a state known for its affordability.  Whaddya waiting for?

No reason to rush out of Rapid City to Mount Rushmore. It’s only a 25 mile drive. Walk around and admire the retro Western architecture of the city, founded in 1876 by gold prospectors. On Main Street, Prairie Edge is a two-level 1886 building filled with South Dakota-made quilts and pottery and indigenous art. Buckin Pony Boutique will outfit you in proper Western attire for the trip. Just down Sixth Street, Tally’s is a local hangout, good for breakfast or a slice of pie. 

The faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln recently received a power wash, so they should be spanking clean for your visit.  Be sure to stay for the 9 pm nightly lighting ceremony, which includes a short film on the four presidents and the playing of the national anthem.

Grab some pancakes and a side of buffalo sausage at The Powder House, a log cabin in Keystone. Then head 17 miles southwest on Highway 16 to the Crazy Horse Memorial.  This vast sculpture, billed as the world’s largest, was started in 1948 and is still not complete! You can see the warrior on horseback and the outline of his outstretched hand pointing out towards this great land of the Sioux.

From Crazy Horse, take Highway 87 as it switchbacks through forest and squeezes through granite on one of the most exciting drives in the country, the so-called Needles Highway.  More buffalo await, in the form of burgers and stews, at the Lakota Dining Room in the Sylvan Lake Resort. The stone and timber hotel offers exquisite views of Harney Peak. Standing at 7,242 feet, it’s the highest peak east of the Rockies. 

Next morning, wake up and see big game on the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road through Custer State Park. Yellowstone might get all the hype, but Custer has its own herds of buffalo as well as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, colonies of prairie dogs, and wild donkeys just itching for a free handout.

The next day, rent bikes at Trailside Bikes in the nearby city of Custer. The George S. Mickelson Rail Trail follows the length of the former Burlington-Northern rail line from Deadwood all the way to Edgemont. In Custer, you can jump on the trail at Harbach City Park. 

Roughly sixty miles east of Rapid City on I-90, you reach the town of Wall. Back in the Depression, Wall Drug gave away free ice water. Now the megastore is a souvenir emporium, good for all those tacky gifts you want to bring back the neighbors. You can opt for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the 500-seat restaurant. Roast beef with all the fixins will set you back about $8.

Head south on Wall on Route 240 to reach the Pinnacles Entrance to Badlands. Soon after entering, you’ll be mesmerized by this phantasmagoric blend of topography—multi-hued rock steeples, massive canyons, and jagged peaks. The Loop Road (Route 240) is a 41-mile jaunt that leads to many of Badlands’ awe-inspiring overlooks like Conata Basin and Prairie Wind. 

Just south of the Badlands is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the large Lakota population. You can visit the site of Wounded Knee or better yet, head 18 miles south to the Red Cloud Indian School in the town of Pine Ridge. They feature a wonderful collection of Native American arts in the Heritage Center. An adjacent gift shop, selling handmade Lakota items, plays an important part in the local economy. From here, it’s an easy 90-minute cruise back to Rapid City.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/07/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Favorite American Drives, Oregon Coast

In 2005, I was hired to pen a story about whale watching along the Oregon coast during spring, when the gray whales migrate north. I brought along my brother Jim, who worked as photographer, starting our trip in Portland. That first night, we had an exceptional meal at Paley’s Place and had our first taste of the beverage we’d happily be drinking the rest of the weeklong trip, Oregon pinot noir.

From Portland, it’s only 75 miles on Route 26 West to the shores of Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. First stop was towering Haystack Rock, which stands tall in the shallow waters, inspiring awe from all who stroll on the hard-packed sand. After dropping our bags off at the upscale Stephanie Inn, we drove over to nearby Ecola State Park and took a hike in this emerald forest, where massive 300 year-old Sitka spruce trees have trunks as wide as a redwood. The woods soon recede, replaced by sandstone bluffs, pink colored beaches and the great expanse of the Pacific. 

We headed south on Route 101, stopping in the fishing community of Bay City for small, tender Kumamoto oysters on the half shell at Pacific Oyster. Dessert was creamy blackberry ice cream at Tillamook Cheese Factory. As we grew closer to Depoe Bay, the traffic and commercialism increased. Yet, south of Newport, the coastline is its wild self once again.

In the small arts community of Yachats, houses cling to the high cliffs, nestled in a forest of spruce and leafless alder trees. The hills reach their highest point, 900 feet above the beach, at Cape Perpetua. We drove to the top and jumped out of the car to take in the exquisite vistas. At the start of the Giant Spruce Trail, a man yelled joyously, “A whale.  I just saw a whale.” My brother and I ran over, but didn’t see diddlysquat. 

Our final night was spent at arguably the most perfect spot on the entire Oregon coast, a former assistant lightkeeper’s quarters set on a grassy patch below the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Below, breakers explode against the burgundy red cliffs that hem in a narrow beach filled with driftwood. In the darkness, we grabbed a flashlight from the inn and hiked up to the lighthouse to watch it flash beacon after beacon across the rugged land and then out to sea.

The next morning, we tried again to find one whale, any whale, but saw no fluke or spout the entire trip. Didn’t matter. We still had an awesome time. We topped it off with a visit to Willamette Valley, the heart of Oregon wine country. From Yachats, it was about a 2 ½-hour drive to the outskirts of Salem, home to our favorite wine of the week, Cristom. Vines cling to the slopes of their 60-acre lot and are named after the owner’s four daughters.  We also stopped at the Tasting Room in Carlton to try his selection of little-known gems that never make it out of the state. Then it was an hour drive back to Portland and our flight home. An exceptional drive that I can’t wait to do again!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/06/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Favorite American Drives, Las Vegas to Zion and Bryce National Parks, Utah

A mere ninety minute drive from the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip and you’re in the arid desert of southwestern Utah. It’s a geologist’s dream of twisting red rock walls, craggy peaks, monoliths, buttes, and further east, when you reach Bryce National Park, the colorful standing pinnacles they call hoodoos.

First stop across the state line is Snow Canyon State Park, just outside the growing spa and retirement hub of St. George. Canyon walls looked like they’re clumped together from a playdough kit, curving like a snake around each bend. It’s a perfect place for a hideout. At least, that’s what the producers of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid thought when they filmed part of the movie here. Take a nature walk, a worthy introduction to such desert flora as the white cliff rose flower, the ancient creosote bush, juniper trees, prickly pear cacti, and the silvery leaves of old-man sagebrush. 

Less than an hour away is the towering cliff walls of Zion and the canyon walls that slice through the jagged rock. Another ninety minute drive and you reach the spires of Bryce. While you spend most of your time in Zion looking up in awe at the canyon walls, at Bryce, you peer down at the hundreds of hoodoos that line the amphitheater. Inspiration Point is an apt name for the peach, apricot, tan, white, red, and orange rocks that stand at attention like congregants at church. On the Queen’s Garden Trail, stroll down a dusty stone path for a closer look. Behind every hoodoo is another fantastic wall, arch, grotto or cliff to gape at. “It would be a helluva place to lose a cow,” Ebenezer Bryce supposedly said on first sight. 

Pack plenty of sunscreen, hats, and water. While Bryce is at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, Zion is half that elevation and thus significantly warmer. Try to do most of your walks before or after the hot part of the day, noon to 3 pm. We found the shuttle service in Zion to be excellent, but we opted for our car in Bryce because the bus followed a more circuitous route. Best Western is truly the best out west. The pool at the Best Western Zion Park Inn overlooked the majesty of Zion. Best Western Ruby’s Inn was the first hotel built in Bryce and sits right outside the park boundary.

From Bryce, you can continue on to rarely visited Capitol Reef National Park or head south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (about a 4-hour drive). Or rent a Cadillac like we did and cruise on dirt roads through the Bureau of Land Management to the canyon walls of Lake Powell. That was one wild off-road ride through desolate country.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/05/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Favorite American Drives, Cruising Around Mississippi

One of the best road trips I’ve ever taken in North America was with my brother Jim in Mississippi. Starting in Jackson, we headed to Tupelo to visit the small birthplace shack of Elvis Presley. Follow Route 278 west and an hour later, you arrive at the home of writer William Faulkner and the attractive University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

Continue to follow Route 278 west for a little more than an hour to reach the birthplace of the Blues, Clarksdale. The amount of musical talent that began their careers in this small town of 21,000 is remarkable. Muddy Waters was raised on the Stovall Plantation outside of town. Soul man Sam Cooke was born here, along with electric blues master John Lee Hooker, W.C. Handy, and Ike Turner, whose green house still stands on Washington Street. At the crossroads of Highway 61 and 49, early 20th-centruy bluesman Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a guitar. Muddy Water’s cabin is one of the highlights of the Delta Blues Museum, housed in a renovated freight depot.

Jim and I spent two nights at one of the most unique accommodations in the country, the Shack Up Inn. Set on the Hopson Plantation, where the mechanical cotton picker made its debut in 1941, owner Bill Talbot has converted six former sharecropper shacks into his own version of a B&B (bed and beer). Each rambling shack pays tribute to a blues legend, like the one we stayed in dedicated to boogie-woogie pianist Pinetop Perkins, who once worked at this same plantation.

Head south on Highway 61 through the heart of the Delta and you’ll find the zig-zag shaped trenches Union and Confederate troops dug during the Civil War’s bloody Siege of Vicksburg, now a National Military Park. Another hour of driving and you’ll reach that gem on the Mississippi River, Natchez. During its heyday prior to the Civil War, when cotton was king, Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country. They built palatial estates that were largely spared during the Civil War due to its proximity to Vicksburg. The Union soldiers that survived that battle and made it to Natchez burned the cotton fields but left the homes intact. More than 150 of these structures still stand, including many that are still in private hands.

That includes the Monmouth Plantation, where mint juleps are served in a frosty silver cup promptly at 6:30 in the Quitman Study. Then everyone retires to the dining room, an ornate parlor adorned with long chandeliers and portraits of General John Quitman, who called Monmouth home in the 1820s. The highlight of this comfortable retreat, however, is the meticulously landscaped grounds, shaded by centuries-old oaks and their thick dress of Spanish moss.

From Natchez, it’s a two-hour drive back to Jackson, where we checked out the relatively new Mississippi Museum of Art in the emerging cultural district. Then we dropped off our convertible PT Cruiser and flew home. For the perfect 4-5 night drive through the Deep South, this can’t be beat.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/04/11 at 01:00 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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