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Travel Advice

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Travel Outside the Box, Fourth Stop, Tasmania

Having spent over 3 months in Australia, I know the country fairly well. Now I’m pleased to have the opportunity to design itineraries for clientele heading to Oz for often their first and more than likely last time. Sydney, Melbourne, and Port Douglas/Cairns are a must. If they’re feeling more ambitious, I’ll add Uluru, Alice Springs, Darwin/Kakadu National Park, Adelaide, and Perth. But rarely is Tasmania on their radar and that my friends is a major mistake. Tasmania is the Australia of yore, an island the size of Ireland that boasts a diverse landscape of lush forest, dramatic sea cliffs battered by Antarctic gales, craggy peaks, and alpine lakes. Combine it with Hobart, quickly becoming an international destination for art lovers thanks to the opening of MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, in a stunning new building, and you have an island that’s worthy of a week of your time. 
 
If you’re in the least bit active, you should book one of the 6-day Cycle, Kayak, and Walk Tasmania tours with Tasmanian Expeditions. Another excellent way to appreciate the vast Tasmanian wilderness is on the legendary Overland Track, a 40-mile trek that links 5,069-foot Cradle Mountain with the waters of Lake St. Clair. If you want to head to Tasmania simply for the art and food, stay at the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, check out the Farm Gate farmer’s market on Sunday morning, sample the whisky at the Lark distillery, and grab dinner on the waterfront at Frank. Just do yourself a favor and put Tasmania on your Aussie itinerary. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/09/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Travel Outside the Box, Third Stop, Ghana

From the sky, Ghana is a bundle of green on the west coast of Africa, bordered by golden beaches and the warm blue of the Atlantic. Then you reach the ground and one of the most welcoming people on the continent, the reason it’s often referred to as Africa for beginners. “Akwaaba!” (welcome) is the word you’ll hear most in the country, exemplifying the warmth and hospitality of the Ghanaian people. In a country the size of the UK, the variety of sights on a weeklong trip is remarkable. First see the lions and antelope at Mole National Park, the elephants and buffalo in the tropical rain forest of Kakum National Park. Then check out the 700 or so monkeys at Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary. Find out about Ghana’s place in the slave trade in the historic town of Elmina. Learn about West African drumming and music in lively Kumasi. Relax on the long stretch of beach near Keta, known for its exemplary snorkeling and dance parties on the beach. Then check out Accra, one of the fastest growing cities on the continent and highly regarded for its food and live music scene. In the Osu neighborhood, sushi bars and clubs belt out the latest Afrobeat sounds from Sarkodie and Guru. 
 
We work with one of the best in the travel business in Ghana, Emmanuel Baah-Fenning, CEO of Ghana Tour Consult. Tell us exactly what you want to do and Emmanuel will throw it together into a weeklong or 10-day package, including guides, transfers, and lodging. All it takes is a 10-hour flight from JFK to have a memorable vacation in Africa. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/08/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Travel Outside the Box, Second Stop, Sri Lanka

For decades, the pear-shaped island of Sri Lanka, which falls on a map just below India, was racked by violence. Then, in 2002, a negotiated cease-fire put an end to the festering civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated government and the Tamil insurgents. Today, Sri Lanka is one of the most popular destinations for Europeans but for some reason has yet to catch on with Americans. Suffice to say that it’s worth the effort to get here. Start your visit with a trip to the glorious white-sand beaches, completely deserted except for the resident blue whales, a few hundred yards away in the ocean. After relaxing, challenge yourself with the trek up the beautiful Sigiriya Rock, an ancient rock fortress, for spectacular views of the vast green countryside. Cool down in the cooler climate of Nuwara Eliya and experience the best tea you’ll ever drink at the many plantations. One should never visit Sri Lanka without heading to Pinnawela elephant orphanage, the landscape itself is enough to bring anyone to tears and the sight of the 60 or so elephants coming down to the water to drink is something you’ll never forget. Kandy is a wonderful city to stay I, home to the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth and the monkeys at Udawattakele. In Colombo, take tea at the Mount Lavinia. Conversation is muted by the roar of the surf, the air moist with spray. The 200-year-old hotel dominates a promontory overlooking the Indian Ocean. The ultra-sybaritic hotelier, Aman, has built two exquisite resorts in Sri Lanka. Amangalla is set inside Galle’s seventeenth-century fort, while Amanwella resides on the beach outside Tangalle. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/07/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 06, 2016

Travel Outside the Box, First Stop, Oman

One of the joys of being in the travel industry for over a quarter century is meeting people from all over the globe who are passionate about their country. These outfitters love nothing more than the opportunity to show our clientele the destination they know best. We’re all part of the same travel family and I feel comfortable putting often apprehensive folks in their more than capable hands. In fact, nothing gets me more excited than sending people to exotic destinations well beyond their comfort zone. When someone returns from one of the locales I’m going to describe this week, they’re so excited to tell me the fascinating sights, culture, food, wildlife, and hospitality they encountered. 
 
Despite ongoing tensions in the Middle East, tourism in Oman is rising steadily due to its safety and authentic sights. You can still see the Arabia of 100 years ago. Called the Empty Quarter, it’s the world’s largest sand desert. The main city of Muscat is lively and modern but the sultan has kept a tight leash on development so don’t expect futuristic skyscrapers like Dubai. It’s not uncommon for a businessman to arrive at lunch via his camel. Fort Jabrin, built in the 1600s at the edge of the desert southwest of Muscat, is an Arabian Castle with whitewashed walls and elaborately painted ceilings. Another highlight is a visit to the exquisite Misfat al Abriyeen, a terraced village on the side of a mountain that hasn’t changed in centuries. It has date palms and pomegranate trees and a falaj system for channeling water down through the terraces. 
 
Our contact in Oman, Zahara Tours, has been in business since 1971 and will happily show you the most thrilling sites in the country on an itinerary custom-designed for you. Expect to stay at some of the latest hotel openings, like Anantara Salalah Resort, set to open this year in southern Oman between a natural lagoon and the beach. The resort is in close proximity to the Al Baleed UNESCO archaeological site, a former port from the frankincense trade that dates back to the 8th century. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/06/16 at 05:59 AM
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Take My Advice and Get to New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island This Summer

I’m not sure why I waited so long to visit Grand Manan Island. Perhaps because the ferry to the island runs from New Brunswick, though it’s much closer to the Maine shoreline. Thankfully, I finally made it to Grand Manan June 2014 and I could have easily stayed another week or two. I made the wise decision to stay at the Inn at Whale Cove Cottages, perched on a bluff overlooking a sheltered bay. The talented owner and chef of Whale Cove, Laura Buckley, whipped up a tasty meal when I arrived that included a creamy mushroom soup, almond crusted salmon, and an absurdly good sour cherry pie.

 
I sat next to a large group 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, and local old-timers were handing me Moosehead Light beers. My first night on Grand Manan and I understood the magical allure. 
 
The following morning, I drove along lupine-lined roads to the southern tip of the island, the start of a glorious hike atop a bluff that led from the Southwest Head Lighthouse to a distinctive coastal rock formation locals call Flock of Sheep. The narrow trail snaked over roots and moss though a forest of twisted krumholtz and dwarf pines that cling precariously close to the cliff’s edge. I spotted lobstermen in the distance, but it was the exquisite shoreline that grabbed my attention. Usually, I sprint to the finish of a hike. This time I sat on several benches made of makeshift wood to drink in the stunning view. What’s the rush? It’s that image that I remember so vividly this morning and why I decided to send readers a reminder to visit Grand Manan. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/28/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 11, 2016

Best Wildlife Viewing, Amalfi Hotels, Nola, and More in March Newsletter

As I write this, I can't help thinking of one client who is currently in the middle of the Australian Outback and another client in remote Khajuraho, India. They know nothing of presidential primary results and probably don't care. That's the beauty of travel; we can choose to escape current events or reality, living off the grid if we so desire far away from headlines. I'm in the midst of working on a Power Point presentation for a talk I'm doing in Maine this month on the subject of adventure travel. I discuss why I've devoted so much of my career to the outdoors and the reasons for its allure. For me, it's the rare chance to be in the present thinking of nothing other than climbing that mountain, finishing a long bike ride, or paddling to the next campsite or backcountry lodge. It's a gift, really, and I don't take it for granted during these often dizzying times. 

 
There's no doubt that the opportunity to see wildlife is one of the best reasons to get on a plane and travel. In March's ActiveTravels newsletter, we pinpoint five of our favorite places to see wildlife and the best form of outdoor recreation to get you there. All of these adventures come from firsthand experience. Lisa divulges her favorite lodgings on the glorious Amalfi Coast and talks about our best tips for getting oriented upon your arrival in a new locale. We also introduce you to a Tanzanian safari outfitter who can work with more moderate budgets, and discuss why March is a great time to visit New Orleans. We plan on doing exactly that with the kids later this month. 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/11/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

An Update on London

London received close to 19 million international visitors in 2015, once again topping the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index, an in-depth ranking of the most traveled cities across the globe. It seems that there’s no better introduction to the history, culture, and distinct charm of Europe than to take a trip to London. After all, who can resist the chance to view the morning Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, take a ride on the London Eye, cruise down the Thames under the famous Tower Bridge, stroll one of London’s glorious parks, visit the Tower of London’s jewels, and check out the theater scene in the West End, which easily rivals Broadway as one of the finest in the world?

Actually, a good chunk of travelers visiting London forego quite a few of these enticements, focusing first on their business trip. The city is thriving thanks to tourism and two other pillars of their economy, technology and the life sciences. A recent study by the programmer community website, Stack Overflow, found that London is home to more tech talent than any other major city in the world. Estimated at 70,000 professional developers, the city is projecting the tech workforce to grow by 22% over the next decade.
 
To read more of my recent cover story on London in Global Traveler magazine, including an interview with 4th-genration hotelier, Jeremy Goring, please click here. All my stories for Global Traveler, including write-ups of Nairobi, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Krakow, and Costa Rica, can be found here
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/02/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Warm Weather Getaways with a New England Connection

For the first time in its 80-year history, Yankee Magazine has ventured outside the borders of New England to focus on warm weather destinations this winter. Yet, to be fair, my story is only online and my editor insisted that the line-up of locales had to have some connection to New England. Whether it’s the youngest Vanderbilt brother escaping his siblings in Newport, Red Sox fans flocking to spring training, or New Englanders of yore forming new communities in the south and west, we’ve come up with a list that will hopefully inspire New Englanders to “keep it local.” Please tell me what you think. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/01/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Fall and Rise of the Travel Agent

If you still can’t understand why travel agents are becoming increasingly popular in this do-it-yourself world, let me try and explain. In the past 72 hours, Lisa and I rescheduled numerous flights long before our clients arrived at the airport to find out they were cancelled due to Winter Storm Jonas. Thanks to our friends at Cox & Kings, we rushed an Indian visa to a client just in time for her flight. When a pipe broke at a high-end beachfront villa in the Turks & Caicos and our client received a measly fruit basket for his woes, we called the director of sales at the property and got his room comped. We upped a travel insurance policy to cover all costs when a client who booked a 5-week trip to Australia we designed suddenly blew out his knee. Lastly, we cancelled an upcoming trip to Colombia when a client read a story in The New York Times on how the Zika virus was not only causing birth defects, but was linked to the dreadful Guillain-Barre syndrome. 

We live in a world rocked with climate change, terrorism, a massive refugee crisis, and mosquito-borne illnesses. The question shouldn’t be why you need a travel agent, but why wouldn’t you need a travel agent who always has your back when you leave home in this volatile world? If you’re still not convinced, please read my story in the Boston University School of Hospitality Magazine. Then do yourself a favor and join ActiveTravels

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/25/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

What’s New In the World of Travel in 2016

We receive, on average, 500-plus press releases a day telling us about all the new hotel openings, adventures, tours, cruise ships, art exhibitions, and much, much more in the world of travel. That’s in addition to all the travel publications that arrive via snail mail. Believe it or not, we actually skim every one of those emails and magazines to see if anything excites us. If it meets our discerning eye, we pass it on to you. Every January, we highlight what’s new in the world of the travel in our newsletter. Obviously, this is the tip of the iceberg. Simply tell us where you’re headed and we’ll give you the scoop on what’s new. One slight addendum. We received word that the Ritz Paris had a fire in the building this week. This will no doubt push the reopening back once again. 

 
I’m off to Ithaca, New York, back on Monday. Have a great weekend and keep active!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/21/16 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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