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Lodging

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Villa La Massa, The Ideal First Stop in Italy

After the overnight flight to Rome and a 2-hour train to Florence, we took a taxi to our hotel for the first two nights, Villa La Massa. Only 7 km or a 20-minute drive from the crowds of Florence, this 16th-century former Medici family estate feels a world away. You're whisked away to a serene setting in the Tuscan hills along the Arno River. Rooms are spacious with tall ceilings and glorious panorama views. We took a short stroll under the tall cypress trees and past the herb and veggie gardens before wandering along the Arno shoreline watching men fish and families bike. Then we had our first negroni and aperol spritz of the trip on the patio next to the outdoor pool. Dinner was also perfection, beef tenderloin with porcini mushrooms, washed down with local wines and served by a highly professional staff. A relaxing start to our trip to Italy, the perfect place to unwind after a long flight before facing the mass of tourists that swarm Florence. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/18/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 21, 2018

Refurbished Hawks Cay Resort Begins a New Era on the Florida Keys

Almost a year after Hurricane Irma passed through the Florida Keys, Hawks Cay Resort, one of the region's most renowned properties, has reopened following a $50 million renovation. Owners of Hawks Cay, situated on Duck Key near Marathon, used the opportunity to enhance the resort's appeal to travelers. Expect completely renovated rooms, two new restaurants and a new oceanfront, adults-only relaxation area called Oasis Cay with pool, food and beverage facilities. With the reopening of Hawks Cay, the Keys lodging inventory is now over 90 percent operational following the Sept. 10, 2017, hurricane and nearly all resorts impacted by Irma are projected to be fully open before the end of 2018. An added bonus is the addition of many new resorts. The all-inclusive adults-only Bungalows Key Largo is to be unveiled later this year. Also in Key Largo, the new 200-room Baker's Cay Resort, a Curio Collection by Hilton, is scheduled to open by late fall. In Marathon at mile marker 47, the all-new 24-acre, 199-unit Isla Bella Beach Resort will offer a 4,000-square-foot spa, five pools, four food and beverage concepts and a marina when the property opens in early 2019. After last year's hard winter rebuilding, the Florida Keys is ready to welcome you back this year. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Four Seasons Astir Palace Athens to Open Early 2019

For those of you who want to see the Parthenon and then head out of the city to the nearby beaches, look no further than the new Four Seasons Astir Palace Athens, set to debut early next year. Only a 30-minute drive from downtown Athens, the 303-room property fronts two beaches and houses 3 pools. There will also be a spa and a choice of 8 restaurants and bars. It's the perfect venue for starting or ending your trip to Greece, only a 30-minute drive from the international airport. Also be on the lookout for the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley, slated to open the summer of 2019. Set on a serene vineyard in Napa, the property will feature 85 villas, each with a fireplace and private terrace. If either resort looks enticing, please send us your dates and ActiveTravels will be happy to check pricing and availability. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/12/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Maine Week-AMC’s Gorman Chairback Lodge Worth the Drive

After driving 45 minutes on rutted timber roads on the outskirts of Greenville, Maine, I was definitely tired of driving by the time I reached Gorman Chairback Lodge. Smack dab in the heart of Maine's 100-Mile Wilderness in the North Woods, this last great stand of wilderness in northeastern United States is not easily accessible. Then we walked into the main lodge and saw the long tables made of fresh white pine and met the friendly crew staff. They took us to our cabin perched on Long Pond, a serene almost 4-mile-long body of water surrounded by the ridges of the nearby Appalachian Trail. That's when we heard the first of many loon calls, that unmistakable yodel echoing across the lake. All was bliss from this point onward. Smelling the sweet pine, listening to the call of loons, peering at mountains with few, if any signs of civilization. It's no surprise that this locale has been hosting guests since 1867. The AMC has done a fine job of refurbishing and building new cabins and most of the people we met at dinner, have been returning year after year. Once you get a taste of this pristine beauty, it's hard not to return. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/04/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New Lodgings in New Hampshire

Just in time for fall foliage, two new properties are opening in two of the most spectacular locations in New Hampshire. The Glen House will be making its debut in mid-September at the base of Mt. Washington. The 68-room hotel has deep historic roots in New Hampshire, being the fifth iteration of The Glen House to be built since the first hotel was erected in 1852. Adjacent to the Mt. Washington Auto Road, the hotel is also steps away from the hiking, biking and cross-country trails at the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. Just open this month on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro is the 10-room Pickering House Inn, the first luxury inn of its kind in the state's Lakes Region. The historic building, built in 1813 and for many decades the residence of prominent businessman Daniel Pickering, was close to being torn down when Wolfeboro residents Peter and Patty Cooke purchased the property.  

 
We're off to Maine for a week, checking out the refurbished Gorman Chairback Lodge in Maine's North Woods before heading to the mid-coast to unwind and sea kayak. I'll be back next Wednesday. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

New Resorts Openings in the Caribbean this Winter

After devastating hurricanes left Puerto Rico, the BVIs, St. Martin, St. Barts, and other Caribbean islands in tatters last winter, the good news is that many classic resorts like Le Toiny and La Samannah are back in business this coming winter. Adding to the excitement are a handful of upscale properties making their debut. The Silversands Grenada will be the first new resort on the famed Grande Anse beach in 25 years, when it opens in November. The all-suite resort (43 total) features an Olympic-sized, 100-meter outdoor infinity pool, and a spa with Turkish hammam. The Liming Bequia will also make its debut in November on that speck of an island in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the property has 13 villas, each with an infinity pool. The hotel's restaurant will serve ocean-to-table seafood and island-picked fruit and seasonal vegetables. Iberostar's latest property will be housed in a circa-1911 hotel set in the heart of Old Havana on Paseo del Prado. The Iberostar Grand Packard will offer 321 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, three bars and six restaurants, including tapas, when it opens later this year. ActiveTravels is happy to check availabilty and pricing if any of these resorts interest you. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/16/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, July 16, 2018

La Samanna to Reopen on St. Martin December 10

Great news out of the French side of St. Martin, where Belmond La Sammana has just announced that they are reopening on December 10th.  St. Martin was devastated by Hurricane Irma, so the reopening is something we can all celebrate. Lisa and I know La Samanna well, having stayed in one of their whitewashed villas, only a short stroll to the pearly white sands of Baie Longue. After long walks on the mile-long beach, we sunbathed on the roof of our villa and then cooled off in our private plunge pool. It was like being at a resort built for two. The resort's 83 rooms and public spaces have been given a refresh, awash in a sea of pastel blues, greens, pinks, and peaches, inspired by the natural tones of the Caribbean. Belmond La Samanna will also reopen its beachfront French restaurant, Trellis, and La Cave Wine Cellar, the largest private wine cellar in the Caribbean. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/16/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Tiny House Resort Debuts in the Catskills

Bob Malkin, owner of the SoHo retail store, Think Big! is now thinking small. He has just created a resort in South Cairo, New York, that features 7 Tiny Houses, created by ESCAPE Home Design. Inspired by the Prairie-style cottages found at Canoe Bay in northwestern Wisconsin, each ESCAPE Home offers a panorama of windows, queen size bed, full-size appliances and luxury bathrooms, as well as a private patio complete with outdoor dining table and seating, Weber grill and fire pit. Think Big! Tiny House Resort is situated on 28 acres with over half a mile of water frontage and perched on a cliff overlooking the Catskill Creek, a year-round wonder of waterfalls and pristine swimming holes. Saturday morning yoga and kayaking are offered as well as the services of a personal raw food chef who can prepare meals for guests using produce from the resort garden. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 22, 2018

Not Your Father’s Holiday Inn

I visited two Holiday Inns in the Cartagena area and was impressed with both properties. At the Holiday Inn Express Cartagena Bocagrande, I met the representative from Colombia Tourism, who noted that the country has had a remarkable surge of travelers, a 28% increase between 2016 and 2017. It's not surprising when you consider that a room at this new hotel (not like any Holiday Inn I've seen in the US) is less than 100 dollars a night including a buffet breakfast, with rooftop pool, and only a 5-minute walk to the beach. Even more impressive was the Holiday Inn Cartagena Morros property just north of the airport. This is a contemporary resort on the beach with outdoor pool, large fitness center, and breakfast buffet. I just looked at the cost for tonight and it's only $103 US. A 15-minute drive from Old Town on a wide stretch of beach, this is an affordable find. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Stay at the Windermere House in the Muskoka Region of Ontario

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

For our anniversary, my husband Josh and I decided to venture north of Toronto to check out "cottage country" in the Muskoka region of Ontario. Not quite as far as Algonquin Provincial Park (our next outing), and very popular with people in the City, Muskoka offers 1,600 lakes, just two hours from Toronto. 
 
We really enjoyed our stay at the Windermere House, known as "The Lady of the Lake," which has proudly stood over Lake Rosseau since 1870. It was early in the season, so the full fleet of watercraft to enjoy the lake was not ready (we wanted to goof off and paddle boat...no luck), and the lake water was chilly. However, the chairs on the lawn made for a great scenic reading spot, the pool was lovely, and the pub patio dining was excellent (especially our $24 anniversary banana split sundae; a mere $18.50 USD). We walked and walked in the area, enjoying the sunshine and the lake views. People with homes in Muskoka include Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Goldie Hawn. You can see why. Remote, yet accessible and beautiful.   
 
On our way back to Toronto, we stopped in Gravenhurst, one of the main towns in the region, nicknamed "Sawdust City" because of the long history of logging in Muskoka. Interestingly, from 1940 to 1946, Gravenhurst was the site of a Prisoners of War camp for Nazi officers (at its peak, it held 489 prisoners). After WWII, Irving Ungerman, well-known in Toronto's Jewish community, and the child of immigrant parents who ran a small butcher shop in Kensington Market, bought the POW camp and turned it into a kosher resort called "The Gateway" which was very successful from the mid-50s to 60s. Our detour to Gravenhurst was far more trivial -- a delicious stop at Sawdust City Brewing Company for some craft beer and smoked lake trout (Milford Bay Smoked Trout).   
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/14/18 at 06:00 AM
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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.

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