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Friday, March 01, 2013

Stay at the Grafton Inn for $150 a Night in March

If you want to stay at a quintessential Vermont town, close to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill skiing, you might want to take advantage of the Grafton Inn’s latest deal. Pay just $150 for any room, any night at the inn, through the month of March. The price includes a full country breakfast and complimentary trail access to Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center. You must call the Grafton Inn to book this special: 800-843-1801. Online reservations will not apply. Never been to Grafton? Amble along Main Street past the Country Store, where I once spotted a sign posted outside asking if anyone’s seen a missing horse, and you swear you just stepped into a Currier and Ives painting. To the right is the red brick town hall, circa 1816, now home to the post office. Further up the road, past the white clapboard houses spewing smoke from their chimneys is the requisite white steeple. Across the street is the Old Tavern (now the Grafton Inn) , opened in 1801, and once the stagecoach stop on the ride from Boston to Montreal. Ulysses S. Grant spent a night here while campaigning for his presidency and Rudyard Kipling liked the locale so much he honeymooned at the hotel in 1892. For more information on Grafton, see the story I wrote for Preservation Magazine

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/01/13 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, February 11, 2013

A Visit to Quebec City’s Ice Hotel

On my last day in Quebec, I took a tour of the only ice hotel in North America. Now in its 13th incarnation, the Hotel de Glace features 44 rooms and suites, a chapel that hosts around 20 weddings each winter, and a bar with incredible acoustics that was blasting a Led Zeppelin tune when I strolled in. It took more than 50 people some 4 to 6 weeks to build the structure, which opened on January 5 and will close on March 24th. Rooms are unheated. You warm up in an outdoor Jacuzzi and then go straight under the blankets for the night. I blew off that option, choosing instead to have a drink of vodka and cider served in an ice flute. Then I took a taxi back to the warm confines of my Hilton room. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/11/13 at 12:00 PM
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Friday, February 08, 2013

Staying at Hotel La Ferme

Every day I receive press releases about the next glitzy resort opening, set to make its splashy debut in some corner of the globe. Many of these upscale properties charge in excess of $1,000 a night, your entrance fee to a world of exclusivity. Forget the local community. You’ll be hidden behind gates and fences, where maybe, if you’re lucky, your server that night comes from somewhere inside that country. Sustainability, the buzzword of the 90s and 00s, seems to have been replaced, as of late, by excessive opulence. Then I laid eyes on Hotel La Ferme in Quebec’s Charlevoix region and I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that someone gets it. They have finally built a resort worthy of the new millennium. 
When Daniel Gauthier’s wooden barn, the largest structure in Canada, burned to the ground accidentally during a Quebec holiday in 2007, he began to reimagine the property he wanted to create in Baie-Saint-Paul. He ended up housing the 145 rooms and lofts in five separate pavilions reminiscent of farm buildings from yesteryear. The simple wooden exterior of the buildings hides a whimsical and contemporary European décor, where rolling barn doors might open to the bathroom or the family suite might come with comfortable bunk beds for each child. Yet, Gauthier’s next move is what won me over. He added 12 rooms, each with four beds, as his own version of a hostel. Gauthier knows that the nearby ski area, Le Massif, attracts a large crowd of young skiers. He wanted to offer them a great place to stay for only $49 per bed. 
There is no separation between Hotel La Ferme and the community. In fact, Gauthier made a mandate that food and craftsmanship should be produced within a 50-kilometer radius of Baie-Saint-Paul, if possible. So that salmon and emu meat was raised locally, the cheeses and bread a Charlevoix specialty, the red beer was brewed just down the road. The wooden trays and “do not disturb” signs in the rooms are manufactured by a group of local artisans who had the misfortune of not graduating high school. On Sundays, from mid-June to mid-October, the hotel invites 20 local farmers to showcase their fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and breads in a market just outside the lobby. 
Yes, there’s a spa with six treatment rooms, a room for yoga, a bar and lounge around a fireplace in the main building, and a café that makes arguably the best café au lait I’ve had this side of the Atlantic. But again, Gauthier, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, chose to be innovative. He has returned to his performing roots by offering a banquet space that can double as a theater, screening room, or dance hall. Since Hotel La Ferme’s opening last June, they have featured many Quebecois performers, including cabaret singers, theater troupes, and DJs. 
I love it when a local son or daughter becomes successful and gives back to the community. But in the case of Daniel Gauthier, he did so with class, style, and forward thinking. I’m hoping his ideas catch on with other hoteliers. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/13 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Newly Renovated Ten Acres Lodge Offers Affordable Lodging in Stowe

Perched on a quiet hillside just down the road from Trapp Family Lodge, Ten Acres Lodge always had a fabulous spot in Stowe. Now they have a passionate owner to match their stellar locale. Linda Hunter has quickly made a name for herself in town, opening a bistro that’s winning kudos from locals like Vermont PR maven, Emily Bradbury. Now Hunter has her sites set on the rooms, renovating tired interiors into stylish and comfortable getaways. She’s having a soft opening right now. Tell her I sent you.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/31/13 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Family Adventure at AMC Lodges Over February Vacation Week

Hey New Englanders and New Yorkers! Still need something affordable to do with the kids over February Week. The AMC still has openings at two of their lodges, Highland Center at scenic Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, and the Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, at the base of New England’s tallest peak. The activities during this 3-day getaway include snowshoeing, winter hiking, cross-country skiing, snow shelter building, animal tracking, and more. Kids games and kid-friendly meals will be offered each day, as well as social hour for the adults. Rates start at $267 for adult members, $107 for child members and include lodging, meals, guided activities, and a trail pass to Bretton Woods and Great Glen for cross-country skiing. Add an extra two nights in nearby Portland and Freeport, Maine, for art, shopping, and dining and you have yourself a budget-oriented break. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/17/13 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Hotel Openings in New England

Two press releases that came across my desk this past week caught my eye. Opening in May in the heart of P’town is the 15-room Salt House Inn. The guestrooms evoke a Cape Cod beach-cottage appeal and the gourmet breakfast is served at a communal table in the garden. The inn is co-owned by David Bowd, who knows how to create a stylish getaway, working as managing director of the Ian Schrager Company and currently chief operating officer at Andre Balazs Properties. Also opening in May in Burlington, Vermont, is a 125-room property called Hotel Vermont. The hotel will feature a Vermont favorite, the second Hen of the Wood restaurant, nominated for a James Beard award in 2011.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/16/13 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Riu Palace Peninsula Week—The Dining

Each morning at the Riu Palace Peninsula, I strolled over to the large breakfast buffet at Las Olas restaurant, which included an omelet station, French toast, bacon, sausage, yogurt, cereals, and fresh fruit including small sweet bananas and papayas. Food in hand, I walked over to one of the outdoor tables to enjoy breakfast with a sea breeze and a pot of strong Mexican coffee. For lunch, I would head to the Italian restaurant, Venecia, just off the lobby. They offer a salad bar, pizza, grilled fish, and pasta choices. No reservations are necessary. I also enjoyed my mid-afternoon latte at the stylish coffee bar, Capuchino. 
Reserve in advance to dine at one of the four specialty restaurants. My favorite dishes included the tender Chilean sea bass at the fusion restaurant, Krystal; the large cut of rib eye at the steakhouse, Isla Mujeres; the wok pan-fried grouper with shitake mushrooms at Kabuki Japanese restaurant; and the tequila-flambéed prawns at Tamales, the Mexican restaurant. 
It’s been a fun week in Cancun, but it’s back to the frigid temperatures for me, with stops in Chicago, New York, and Presque Isle, Maine. I’ll return on January 7th with my Top 5 Travel Experiences of 2012. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/21/12 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Riu Palace Peninsula Week—The Activities

Follow my cue and wake up with a morning snorkel to the reef just beyond the beach of the Riu Palace Peninsula. Simply grab a mask, snorkel, and fins from the watersports hut and off you go to see the neon-colored fish. This being Cancun, the ocean beckons and the Riu takes full advantage of its waterfront location with a slew of activity. Certified scuba divers can head via boat 20 minutes to the east to find a live coral reef and two shipwrecks from World War II. Those who want to sail or paddle can easily grab a Hobie catamaran and open kayak from the beach. Yet, this being Cancun, the gateway to the ocean and the Yucatan peninsula, there’s so much more. The Riu can arrange daytrips to snorkel the natural aquarium, Xel-Ha, or the marine park of nearby Isla Mujeros. There’s the opportunity to deep-sea fish on private charters to hook marlin, sailfish, and tuna. You can even rent a small speedboat and cruise the mangroves in the Cancun lagoon. 
Then, of course, there are the Mayan ruins on the beach of Tulum, which will be particularly enticing this week as thousands gather to commemorate the Mayan Day of Destruction on December 21st. The well-preserved Tulum ruins, 60 gray-black buildings in all, are perched on a cliff directly above a palm-fringed beach. Archaeologists place the beginnings of Tulum somewhere between 700-1000 A.D., a period when the Mayan civilization had already passed its peak. Don’t miss Tulum’s tallest building, a watchtower fortress overlooking the Caribbean that the Spanish called El Castillo. The staircase to the summit’s temple offers good views of the seas. Then take a refreshing dip in the ocean before the drive back to the Riu Palace Peninsula

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/20/12 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Riu Palace Peninsula Week—The Spa and Gym

What’s the best remedy for weary legs that sprinted through a terminal to catch a connecting flight? A deep tissue massage. Yesterday afternoon, I popped into the Renova Spa at Cancun’s Riu Palace Peninsula to de-stress and rejuvenate this travel-worn body of mine. Within moments of facing down on the massage table, I knew I had the right masseur, Alberto. A massage is like speed dating to me. I can tell instantly whether this is going to be a good massage or bad depending on the masseuse’s first movements. The ones that hone in on pressure points are usually bad. The good ones are like scientists searching for the sorest of muscles. Alberto instantly found that knot in my back that I’ve had since biking uphill for an hour at Utah’s Zion National Park in October. And man, did he work it with strong hands and elbows. I walked out of there as loose as a jellyfish. 
Next door to the Renova Spa is the gym. The Riu Palace Peninsula is one of the first Riu resorts in the Americas to feature Riu Fit, trainers that lead guests in daily pilates, yoga, and water aerobics workouts. Not readily known is that you can have a personal training session at the gym for free. The complimentary workout is included in the all-inclusive price. While waiting for my massage, I saw several people take advantage of this opportunity and judging from the amount of sweat that poured from their bodies, they were getting their money’s worth. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/19/12 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Riu Palace Peninsula Week—The Rooms

When I tell people that I work as a travel writer, their usual response is “wow, what a dream job.” 99% of the time, they’re right. Yesterday, I had one of those 1% days where it was dreadful. I awoke at 4:30 am to catch a 6:30 plane out of Boston’s Logan Airport, which was supposed to connect in Miami and reach my final destination of Cancun. Usually an easy morning of travel. We board the flight and are about to fly away when the pilot discovers an electrical problem. We head back to the gate where my flight is now delayed two hours…Then delayed another three hours…Then cancelled. I’m lucky that my wife is a travel agent who booked me on a 2:30 flight to Miami. All the other flights to Miami were already overbooked for the Holidays. 

I grab lunch and do some work, when I hear over the loud speaker that all passengers on the cancelled must go downstairs to baggage claim, grab their luggage, and rebook it again at the departure counter. The self-service counters at American Airlines are now a chaotic mess, with countless people waiting on line after using the computer to get their boarding passes. I wait and I wait once again on the long security line. The flight to Miami was a breeze. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Miami, there was no gate to pull into, so we’re delayed. By the time I get off the plane, I only have 20 minutes before my flight to Cancun leaves. As I depart, I hear “this is the final call for American Airlines, Flight 2139 to Cancun, Mexico.” With at least 20 pounds of computer equipment in my backpack, I sprint like a Marine to my gate, which feels like it’s a mile away (those elliptical machine workouts at the gym finally paying off). I’m covered in sweat when I reach the next flight, but remarkably the gate is still open. I beg the flight attendant for a glass of water and he looks at me like it’s a major inconvenience. I finally make it to Cancun, 8 hours later than I was supposed to arrive, only to find out that my luggage is still back in Miami.
Then I reach the stylish lobby of the new Riu Palace Peninsula, all lit up for the Holiday festivities, and I can finally breathe again. When I drop my trusty backpack off in the room, I was delighted to spot the king-sized bed, the sunken Jacuzzi tub, the pleasant blue and white décor. A fruit plate was waiting, along with all the rum, vodka, and cervezas I needed to take the edge off. The liquor was certainly appealing, but another reason I love an all-inclusive property is that the restaurants stay open late. So I went downstairs to have dinner, my first fish tacos, guacamole, and refried beans of the week. Ambled over to the theater to watch the scantily-clad dance troupe work their way around a couple Bob Fosse tunes. Then took the elevator to the 17th floor and that king-sized bed. I slept wonderfully and awoke to the morning sun lighting up the Cancun sands and the shimmering Atlantic waters. Ah yes, back to my dream job. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/18/12 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