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Lodging

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Rejuvenating Stay at the Riu Reggae

With our kids out of college early this semester, we decided to head to the Caribbean before Christmas. We made the wise decision to book two rooms at the Riu Reggae, an adults-only all-inclusive which made its debut 8 months ago. Located down the beach from the Riu Palace and the Riu Montego Bay, the Riu Reggae is only a 10-minute drive from the international airport. Compared to the other Riu properties we’ve stayed at in Ocho Rios, Aruba, and Costa Rica, it’s a smaller, more contemporary resort with 400 rooms and 5 restaurants. We thought the food was very good for an all-inclusive property, especially the breakfasts at the main buffet, the steak at the Italian restaurant, and our last night’s dinner at the gourmet restaurant, Kulinarium, which featured lobster, grouper, and oxtail ravioli. The highlight for us (and one of the reasons we keep returning to Jamaica) is the jerk hut, serving slightly charred barbecue chicken on the beach, topped with homemade spicy jerk sauce. We would stand in line every day to grab our lunch there. 
 
The beach connects to the other two properties so you can take long walks in the sand. But most of the time we read our books at the pool while being entertained by the excellent staff. Everyone at the resort seemed genuinely happy to welcome you to their country, from the wait staff to the front desk to the room service (there was no attitude at all). But the entertainers, including Kool Kid and Shampoo, went out of their way to make you laugh and stopped by your chaise lounge chair to converse. One morning, a wonderful band played live reggae music at the edge of the pool, including classic Bob Marley and Peter Tosh tunes. It’s no surprise that the occupancy rate is already 85 percent, with clientele coming in for a week’s stay from all over North America and Europe. If the price remains as reasonable as it is now, I’d happily return. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/26/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Hotel Openings in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Experts, the tour operator we adore for our clients’ trips to Costa Rica and Panama, has added a handful of new hotels to their list of available lodgings. Located just off the remote Nicoya Peninsula, Isla Chiquita offers the one and only glamping experience in Costa Rica. Arrive by boat to the small luxury site, where you will be lead to one of 15 premium tents. For an adults-only luxury getaway, check out the new Las Catalinas property by Casa Chameleon, which enjoys panoramic views of the Pacific from the comfort of the infinity pool. Holistic, healing, and rejuvenation are the primary focal points of The Retreat, an intimate 11-room boutique property that features yoga classes every morning and afternoon. Lagarta Lodge, a 26-room modern boutique hotel on the Nicoya Peninsula, is located between two rivers and a sandy beach within a private nature reserve, an ideal locale for hiking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’re thinking of visiting Costa Rica this winter, please let ActiveTravels know and we’ll package together the whole trip, including lodging, activities, and transfers.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/29/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Seventh Annual Hotel Week in Manhattan January 5-15, 2018

If you want to visit New York at a discount, then head to the city during their Seventh Annual Hotel Week in early January. Gansevoort Meatpacking, the Refinery Hotel, Library Hotel, James New York, Viceroy Central Park, and Archer New York are just a handful of top-tier properties that will cut their rates considerably during this time. For example, the Paul Hotel NYC will only be $100 a night, more than 50% off their usual rate. Hotel Week NYC™ was created by PR maven Nancy J. Friedman in 2010 to address the occupancy dip most hotels experience after the holiday season. It’s a perfect time to visit Manhattan without the crowds and see the new David Hockney show at the Met. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/28/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Aman New York to Open in 2020

Fans of the ultra-sybaritic Aman brand will be happy to know about its latest undertaking, the refurbishment of the iconic Crown Building overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. Set to debut in 2020, the property will feature 83 guest rooms and 20 residences in the circa-1921 Beaux-Arts building, once the original home of the Museum of Modern Art. This will be Aman’s third hotel in the US and only the second in a major city, after Tokyo. Located on 5th Avenue and 57th Street, Aman New York will feature an Aman Spa that will span 22,000 square feet on the 7th, 8th, and 9th floors and include an 80-foot indoor swimming pool surrounded by daybeds. The wraparound Garden Terrace, located on the 10th floor, will offer guests a panoramic view of Central Park, a restaurant, and a cigar bar. The hotel also plans to open a piano bar in the Sky Lobby, Wine Library for tastings and events, and a subterranean Jazz Club. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/01/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Emergence of Schenectady’s Mohawk Harbor

I was back in my boyhood stomping grounds this weekend for a high school reunion and was pleasantly surprised at how good the city looked. Much of the change is due to an influx of investment from the new Rivers Casino & Resort. We stayed at the casino’s Landing Hotel, boasting a stylish lounge bar, outdoor tables around fire pits, and a paved walking path along the Mohawk River. I’ve never seen so much action on the river. Peering out at the water from our hotel room, we spotted fishing boats, jet skis, and countless crew teams skimming the water’s surface. I learned at the reunion that the Niskayuna crew team is one of the best in New York, with many alums being awarded D-1 scholarships at some of the finest college crew teams in the country. 
 
Rivers Casino is building up the whole waterfront in a neighborhood called Mohawk Harbor. We strolled down the path to find a spanking new apartment building and Courtyard by Marriott. Soon to make its debut in retail space at the bottom of the apartment building is the Shaker & Vine wine bar. Also opening nearby is a restaurant and microbrewery, Druthers Brewing. Before meeting friends at two bars owned by former classmates, Katie O’Byrnes and Cappocia Wine Lounge, we had to stop at my favorite Italian restaurant in town, Cornells, to dine on a dreamy eggplant parmesan. There’s a scene in the movie, Ratatouille, where the food critic is immediately transported back to his youth thanks to the perfect rendering of the dish. That’s what eggplant parmesan at Cornells does to me. One bite and I'm 11 years old surrounded by my family, my mother in her thick Bronx accent asking if I need more fresh baked bread to swipe up the heavenly red sauce. 
 
Things are looking up in Schenectady. If you’re passing through on a college tour or hitting the track at Saratoga next summer, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend a night or two at Mohawk Harbor. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/26/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Guild Makes its Debut in Austin

A good concierge is an invaluable resource that I’ve relied on heavily throughout the years for restaurant reccs, maps and city navigation, and sights that only a resident would know, like the Earth Room in Manhattan. That’s the reason why I’m often reluctant to book an AirBnB unless it’s a locale I know well. The Guild, a new concept making its debut in Austin, seems to be the best of both worlds. The Guild leases apartments in vibrant neighborhoods residents live, offering fully-furnished stylish spaces. The bonus: 24/7 concierge service and free coffee and beers at neighboring partner businesses where you just charge it to The Guild’s tab. The Guild currently has 100-plus units in Austin and is expanding into Dallas and Miami by early 2018.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/27/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Relaxing Stop in the Berkshires at the Red Lion Inn

After dropping our son off at Cornell last week, we stopped in the Berkshires to dine with good friends and spend a night at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. I haven’t stayed at this classic retreat in over a decade and it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. As soon as we dropped off our bags off in our spacious room in one of the houses on the lot next to the main inn, we went to straight to the pool and hot tub for a plunge. We then washed up just in time to join the sommelier on the Red Lion’s signature wraparound porch for a tasting of roses and white zinfandels. The next morning Lisa woke up early to use the fitness center, located in the O’Brien House, before a typical August in New England breakfast of wild blueberry pancakes and Mass maple syrup in the main dining room. Happy we made the stop instead of rushing home. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/31/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor Expands

Yes, the chance to kiss a giraffe as he sticks his head through the window of the estate should not be overlooked. Take it from someone who has done this personally, a giraffe’s tongue is almost as long as his neck. No, the reason we like to book Giraffe Manor in Nairobi for our clients before or after a safari is its great location in the city, close to Karen Blixen’s former home and near the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Unfortunately, the 10-room boutique property is often sold out. Thankfully, they just added two superior double rooms. Called Edd and Selma, they’re named after two of the Manor’s beloved giraffes. Go have a look and a lick! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/11/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 06, 2017

AMC’s New Medawisla Lodge and Cabins Open This Week

If you’re yearning for a genuine wilderness experience in the northeast, one where you can breathe in the pine-scented air and stare in awe at a moose while throwing out your fly for brookies and landlocked salmon, then it’s hard to top the locale of the Medawisla Lodge. Located on the shores of Second Roach Pond in Maine’s legendary 100-Mile Wilderness Region, Medawisla has been attracting outdoor lovers to this pristine spot since 1953. But never has it looked so good. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) just reopened Medawisla Lodge and Cabins following a multi-year, multi-million dollar construction project. Medawisla offers a range of overnight options, including deluxe cabins with private bath, traditional cabins with shared bath, and bunkhouses. Dinner, breakfast, and trail lunches are included in most cabin rates, and linens and hot showers are available. The site features a waterfront pavilion, a new central lodge with water views, and nine new private cabins in waterfront and hilltop locations. Cabins feature Maine-made woodstoves, screened porches, and gas lamps. Meals are served in the central lodge. You’ll need your energy to paddle Second Roach Pond, hike and mountain bike on the trails as you peer up at mighty Mount Katahdin, and simply take time to savor the serenity.  

 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/06/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 16, 2017

One Visit to the Wilburton Inn and You’ll Be Back

My family loves to tease me about the many ways I describe Vermont’s rural beauty in my stories. Phrases such as “so darn fertile you want to plunge your hands into the soil like Johnny Appleseed,” “green as billiard felt,” “a bucolic slice of pie,” and “like a Currier and Ives painting” have all made it into print. That’s in addition to the slew of adjectives that best sum up the rolling mix of farmland found in this state—sylvan, verdant, pastoral, and fecund come to mind. But as I gaze out the window from my room at the Wilburton Inn, I wanted to add that being nestled in this countryside was like being wrapped in a cozy blanket of serenity. 

Much has been written about the unparalleled hospitality of the Levis family (and all of it is true), including a recent front page story in the travel section of the Boston Globe. It was 30 years ago this summer when Dr. Albert Levis brought his wife, Georgette, to dinner at this circa-1902 estate adjacent to Hildene, the former home of Robert Todd Lincoln on the outskirts of Manchester, Vermont. The good doctor, a psychologist with an expertise in the history of human conflict, convinced his wife, a Wasserstein and the inspiration behind the Madeline Kahn character, Gorgeous Teitelbaum, in sister Wendy’s play, “The Sisters Rosensweig,” to purchase the inn. They would raise their four children in this sublime setting and all four still play a significant role in running the inn. 
 
I wish the sisters Wasserstein were still with us today because the Levis family deserves their own quintessentially Vermont tale. The loving dad, who as a young boy in Greece watched his family ripped apart by the Holocaust, only to devote his life to studying conflict and adversity in all relationships and discussing the steps needed for resolution in his many published writings. His wife, who I unfortunately never had the chance to meet, but obviously a buoyant personality if Madeline Kahn is playing her on Broadway. And the immensely talented children, all entrepreneurs that could only emerge from a childhood in Vermont. Melissa, a children’s songwriter with an infectious personality, ready to break out her guitar at any moment for a sing-along. Her sister, Tajlei, a playwright who helps run the 25-room Wilburton estate in addition to the handful of homes they own in the area, ideally suited for multi-generation getaways. Young brother Max, a Harvard-educated psychologist who will continue to advance his father’s research. And older brother, Oliver, who runs a breadmaking company, Earth Sky Time Farm, in the actual house the family grew up in.  
 
To celebrate their 30th anniversary this summer, the Levis are offering a midweek Farm-to-Table Package. Every Wednesday, you’re invited to Oliver’s homestead for a dinner party, replete with organic food picked fresh from the fields, live music, dancing and dining al fresco. Thursday morning, enjoy a tour of their farm, fields, greenhouses and bakery. You’ll also be introduced to artisans and farmers at the Manchester Farmers Market. Better yet, come celebrate Dr. Albert Levis’ 80th birthday July 12-14, when they’ll be a musical tribute to this wonderful man including Greek dancing. Just go and spend some time with the Levis. You’ll be treated like their extended family, the reason why folks return year after year. 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/16/17 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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