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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lapland’s Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, A Winter Wonderland

It’s not everyday that I get to sit down at my local coffee shop and meet a Laplander of Sami descent. But there I was yesterday with my wife, travel agent Lisa Leavitt, and Ari Siivikko, Marketing Manager of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. I receive a slew of media requests to meet people from around the globe when they make their way to Boston, and I usually decline the majority of those requests. I just don’t have the time. But after checking out this unique resort online, I had to meet Ari. The property lies 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. After an 80-minute flight from Helsinki, you’re picked up by snow shuttle or snowmobile and escorted to the resort. Here, you’ll find upscale log cabins with requisite sauna, snow igloos, and the main reason I took this meeting, glass igloos. See, Kakslautannen is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. And if you read my story in the Boston Globe on seeing the Northern Lights in northern Maine, you’ll realize that the winter of 2013/2104 is supposed to be a stellar year for solar activity. Within the glass igloo, you simply lie down, preferably with a glass of chilled Finnish vodka, and wait for the kaleidoscopic light show to happen. 

Daytime activities are just as enticing. Choose from a wide variety of winter offerings, from cross-country skiing on 150 miles of groomed trails, dogsledding, snowmobiling, horseback riding, ice fishing Sami-style, or taking a reindeer-led snow ride. Snowmobilers and dogsledders also have the opportunity to spend an overnight at a wilderness hut, way out in the forest. Ari mentioned that a typical stay is 3 to 5 nights, with many clientele spending a night or two in Helsinki and then taking a 3-hour train to St. Petersburg to see the Hermitage without the summer cruise crowds. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/13 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, August 19, 2013

A Wonderful Week at The Basin Harbor Club

To celebrate my mother-in-law's 80th birthday, my wife's family headed to the Basin Harbor Club last week. And what a spectacular week it was! 127 years after Ardelia Beach started taking in summer boarders at her 225-acre working farm on the shores of Lake Champlain, the club's fourth-generation hosts, siblings Bob and Pennie Beach, are proving that a family business can prosper over time. It helps that they have one of the premier locales on the lake, 740 acres overlooking one of the narrowest parts of Champlain. We did it all—golf, tennis, sail, sea kayak, stand-up paddleboard, swim to the trampoline, and my favorite activity of all, biking. Basin Harbor Club is based in Addison Valley, one of the most fertile parts of the state, where around every bend is a dairy farm, rolled hay, a carpet of emerald green, views of the lake, and the Adirondack and Green Mountains forming a ridge of peaks on either side of you. 

Basin Harbor Club is perfect for multi-generation family reunions, because everyone can do what they want during the day and meet for dinner that evening. The food was surprisingly good for a property that offers all-inclusive rates. A highlight was the lobster clambake on the shores of the lake while the sun was setting. Magical! The following day, we danced to a live band playing Nat King Cole favorites as we celebrated my 16th birthday (at least that’s what it said in the daily newsletter). Not surprisingly, many families book the same cottage for the same week the following year before they leave. No doubt, we’ll be joining them. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/19/13 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Good Budget Choice for Toronto

I was in Toronto this May on my way to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a little biking, vino, and theater at the Shaw Festival, I was roaming around the city and found an intimate 6-room B&B called the Baldwin Village Inn. Located on Baldwin Street, a block known for its variety of good ethnic restaurants, and only a 2-block walk to the AGO, you’re in a great locale to check out the city. Rates start at $90 CDN a night, including continental breakfast, and reviews on TripAdvisor are excellent. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/11/13 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Idaho’s Often Overlooked Sawtooth Mountains

Near the Oregon border, the Sawtooth Mountains are 10,000 foot peaks that are just as majestic as the Tetons, but with 1/10th the traffic. Fly into Sun Valley (1-hour drive) or Boise (3-hour drive) and make your way to the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, a vacation retreat for close to eight decades. Then get ready to play. Immerse yourself in the stunning surroundings by climbing 1700 feet to shimmering Sawtooth Lake, the “crown jewel” of the Valley. In July, the wildflowers are at their peak, and you can find lupine, sego lilies, Indian paintbrush, shooting stars, blue penstemon and many others. The region is also known for epic mountain biking, hooking brookies, rainbow, and cutthroat trout, rafting on the nearby Salmon River, and this being a ranch, guided half-day and full-day horseback riding adventure. Afterwards, you can soak yourself in the hot spring-fed pool, before dinners of elk, salmon, and Dungeness crab from the Washington coast. At night, people gather on the outdoor patio to gaze at the sparkling sky and listen to foot-stomping live music. This is mountain living at its best. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/06/13 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Ocean Edge Resort Unveils New Presidential Bay Collection

Driving along Route 6A in Brewster, it’s hard to miss Boston banker Samuel Nickerson’s turn-of-the-century mansion. Today, it’s the centerpiece of the sprawling Ocean Edge Resort. Nickerson’s beachfront estate is now home to over 400 guest rooms and townhouses. The latest addition is the Presidential Bay Collection, 31 two and three-bedroom villas with full kitchen and easy walking distance to the beach. Add six pools, the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus redesigned golf course, nine tennis courts, and bike paths that connect easily to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and you understand why Ocean Edge has been the perennial family favorite on the Cape for decades. I’m heading there today to review the new Presidential Bay Collection for The Boston Globe. I’ll be back on Monday. Have a great weekend and stay active!


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/09/13 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Lapa Rios Signs 900-Acre Conservation Easement

At the southernmost coast of that ecotourism hub, Costa Rica, a 1040-acre rainforest called the Lapa Rios preserve perches over the Pacific Ocean, offering the best of both worlds. You can spend the morning hiking along the Carbonera River to a pristine waterfall, accompanied by four types of monkeys, macaws, and those rainbow-colored toucans. In the afternoon, sea kayak in the ocean around Matapalo Point or surf the Golfo Dulce. The 16 open-air bungalows and main lodge of the Lapa Rios Ecolodge are no tent-in-the-woods accommodation. Hardwood floors, bamboo walls, and a vaulted thatched roof ceiling provide plenty of space and privacy. Other luxuries include soft mosquito netting over the queen-sized bed and a secluded garden shower.  
Former Peace Corp volunteers Karen and John Lewis built the retreat in 1990 as a way to save hundreds of acres of rainforest from farming. The owners have just signed a conservation easement that protects over 900 acres of land surrounding Lapa Rios in perpetuity. It prohibits all extractive activities, such as mining, forestry and hunting, as well as further building expansion, even putting a cap on trail construction. At the same time the easement encourages both scientific and educational activities on the reserve. All those monkeys and birds that wake you up in the morning are a tribute to their brilliant success. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/08/13 at 12:00 PM
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Friday, May 03, 2013

Fogo Island Inn Set to Open in June

Nine miles off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland lies Fogo Island, a barren land of marsh and lichen-covered rock where salt houses cling to the shoreline. In early summer, herds of caribou graze while icebergs and whales float by. When cod was king, the island was bursting with activity. But after the moratorium on fishing cod in the 1990s, the population dwindled to 2700, seemingly lost to the world. Then something remarkable, almost Dr. Seuss-like, happened. A woman who grew up on the island, Zita Cobb, created a philanthropy called The Shorefast Foundation with her brother, Tony. Not only would they offer microloans to small local businesses, they were intent on revitalizing the island through the arts. Cobb founded the Fogo Island Arts Corporation in 2008, hiring another former native, architect Todd Saunders, a rising star on the Norwegian architectural scene. Saunders would create ultramodern, angular art studios that would garner attention from numerous publications, including The New York Times. Now the philanthropist and architect have teamed up again to debut a 29-room inn that will open in June. Drive one hour from Gander, Newfoundland, to Farewell and board the 45-minute Fogo Island ferry. Cost is $415 to $720 per room, including breakfast, dinner, afternoon tea, supper, snacks, and all beverages, including premium wines and spirits.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/03/13 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Maine Island Getaway

Impeccably restored in 2004, Chebeague Island Inn, perched above the shores of Casco Bay’s largest island, never seemed to catch on with mainlanders. That was until the summer of 2010 when Mainer Casey Prentice and his family purchased the circa-1920 estate and instilled the property with a much-needed dose of youthful enthusiasm. Word spread quickly about Chef Justin Rowe, who trained at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, and knows how to create tasty dishes from local catch. Now Portlanders think nothing of taking the 15-minute water taxi or ferry to Chebeague for cocktails on the wraparound porch, dinner, even an overnight stay in one of the 21 rooms found in the three-story home. New this summer is s the Inn’s Farm-to-Table Package where guests can taste the island’s local agriculture. Foodies will also enjoy the Lobster Experience Package that allows guests to join a Maine lobsterman for a two-hour, educational excursion around Casco Bay. Afterwards, the inn will purchase the freshly caught crustaceans and prepare a classic lobster dinner with all the fixings. Rooms start at $180 a night.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/30/13 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Plaza Athenee Turns 100

Sleep deprived after our overseas flight into Paris, my family stepped under the signature red awning into the lobby of the Plaza Athenee and exhaustion was immediately replaced with a deep sense of comfort and relaxation. It wasn't only the doorman who carried in your luggage.  No, it was the man behind the reception desk stating that our room was already available at this early hour, and the nearby concierge, standing at a desk twice as large as the reception area, already helping us with dinner reservations and museum passes. Then a woman escorted us upstairs to our room, a stately suite, where the antique rugs and furniture blended with the latest technology like flatscreen televisions. We opened up the French country windows to see a garden box planted with flowers. To our right was the Eiffel Tower standing in all its glory. Everything was bliss.

When the Plaza Athenee opened its doors on April 20, 1913, it quickly became the place to be for the Parisian personalities of the day. Maurice Chevalier, Josephine Baker and Rudolph Valentino made the crimson-trimmed palace their Parisian hot spot of choice. So did the fashion icon Christian Dior, who became so infatuated with the hotel, he opened his new boutique on the same street. Luminaries kept coming: Grace Kelly, Gary Cooper, Jackie Kennedy, the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, and more. As it celebrates its 100th birthday, the hotel just gets better with age. You can read my full review of the property at FamilyVactionCritic

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/04/13 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Connecticut’s Water’s Edge Resort & Spa Unveils 20 New Villas

Smack dab between New York and Boston on the Connecticut coast, the Water’s Edge Resort first made its debut in 1946. Over the years, the beachfront property has earned a reputation for excellent service and top-notch entertainment, attracting such performers as Barbara Streisand and Woody Allen. Entertainment is still at the forefront of this Long Island Sound getaway, but now you can add spacious comfort to the resume. Twenty two-bedroom villas, ranging in size from 1,100 to 1,300 square feet, have just made their debut. Each of the villas features a fully equipped kitchen with Viking appliances, two full baths, elevator access, gas fireplaces, flat panel LCD televisions, spacious balconies, and private beach access, ideally suited for families or two couples. To celebrate the new villas, Water’s Edge Resort & Spa is offering two deals. Snag a villa between now and May 19, 2013 for two nights and you’ll receive a third night free. In the next offer, guests who reserve a villa for a weeklong summer vacation by March 15, 2013 get 10% off the weekly rental price. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/07/13 at 01:00 PM
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about us
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. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

Adventure Travel Trade Association