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Travel Advice

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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Monday, January 04, 2016

Top 5 Travel Days of 2015, On Safari at Singita Grumeti

With trips to Tanzania, Turkey, Nova Scotia, the Colorado Rockies, Acadia National Park, and much more, 2015 was another banner year for travel. It’s hard to distill it all down to five days, but these are the memories I cherish most. In March, I traveled all around northern Tanzania with Rob Barbour, director of African travel at Epic Private Journeys. We would make stops in Arusha National Park, the southern Amboseli plains, Mwiba Wildlife Reserve, Ngorongoro Crater, Kusini Camp in the southern Serengeti, the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve, and the Lamai section of the northern Serengeti, where the legendary wildebeest migration takes place across the Mara River. Watching 50 elephants coming to a watering hole outside my room at Mwiba was an experience I’ll never forget. But my favorite part of the trip was the two nights we spent at Singita in the 140,000 hectare Grumeti Game Reserves. The place feels exactly like the Serengeti with its swaying grasses and low-lying ridges, but without the traffic. We passed, on average, 2 other land rovers on each 3-hour game drive. It felt incredibly exclusive. The wildlife was phenomenal, even in March before the big rains, watching lions on a wildebeest kill or giraffes nibbling on the acacias at sunset. 

 
We spent one night in the very contemporary rooms of Singita Faru Faru, perfect for families because of its two pools to unwind after lunch. The spacious rooms overlook a watering hole with good wildlife viewing from the outdoor shower (opt for Room 2 or 3). The next night we moved to Singita Explore, 6 mobile tents that move around the property, depending on the season. This was glamping at its best, with sundowners around the campfire and S. African braai for dinner. You could easily spend 3 nights at Explore and 3 nights at Faru Faru or Singita’s private 4-bedroom house, the Serengeti House, and be extremely happy. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/04/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 11, 2015

St. Lucia, NYC Hotels, and Anna Maria Island in our December Newsletter

With the Holidays soon upon us, December is the perfect time of year to give yourself a gift and create a wish list of destinations for the next 1 to 3 years. Take it from a travel writer who’s spent the past 25 years flying around the world. I still haven’t been to China, Russia, Denmark, Malaysia, or Uganda. It’s simply impossible to see the entire world, so please don’t make the mistake of leaving all your travels to that day you retire. Try to knock one or two dream destinations off each year. 

You can add Saint Lucia to the list of countries I finally made it to, having just returned. I write about my experience in this month’s “On the Road” feature story. If you’re looking for a warm weather destination a little closer to home, consider Anna Maria Island and the Bradenton section of Florida, easily accessible with direct flights to Sarasota. Lisa and I love visiting New York this festive time of year. In fact, we head to the city later this month to see my family and the hit Broadway smash, “Hamilton.” So we thought it would be a good time to discuss some of our clients’ favorite lodgings in New York. We’d also like to introduce you to an outfitter we like using for the increasingly popular destination of Colombia, and compare the amount of legroom available in airlines. When you travel with ActiveTravels, we want to make sure you do it in comfort! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/11/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 04, 2015

Live Each Day As If You Might Not Be Here Tomorrow

With two mass murders of innocent civilians just this past week in America, you would think the country is hiding behind closed doors watching endless hours of CNN. Perhaps that’s true to some extent but here at our small travel agency on the outskirts of Boston, the phone has been ringing off the hook. In the past 48 hours, I have spoken to a grandmother who wants to bring her entire family of 15 to Belize, two friends headed to the beaches of Bahia, a family going to Kangaroo Island, Australia, a Cuba-bound couple, a group of 10 friends celebrating a 50th birthday by hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, and a number of requests for all-inclusive resorts or boutique properties in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Many people mentioned how they just want to turn off. No television, no newspaper, no constant barrage of violent imagery, or having to hear the next moronic comment uttered by Trump. They want to be on a remote beach with their loved ones reading a good thick novel or, on the contrary, being incredibly active. But one client simply summed it up by stating, “I understand the fragility of life and while I’m still breathing, I want to live.” These are volatile times and nothing good can come out of these abhorrent crimes. But, at the very least, it’s a slap on the face telling us not to take anything for granted, most importantly today. Have a memorable weekend! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/04/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Isiolo International Airport Set to Open Soon in Samburu Region of Kenya

On the northern frontier of Kenya, the parched desert landscape is home to one of the most cherished stops on an African safari tour, the Samburu National Reserve. Mention Samburu to any avid African traveler, like I recently did at dinner with Rob Barbour, Director of East African Travels for Epic Private Journeys, and their eyes light up. Here, the wilderness experience is savored by a select few, enhanced by the chance to meet the indigenous cattle-herding Nilotes and Turkana clans. It’s also home to one of our favorite properties in the country, Sasaab, owned by the same group who run the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi. The problem with Samburu was accessibility, a good 4-hour drive from the Lewa Wilderness or prohibitively expensive flights to a nearby airport. That will change when the new Isiolo International Airport opens by the end of the year. I’m hoping the new airport doesn’t make it too easy to visit Samburu, but I would get here sooner rather than later. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/03/15 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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