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Lodging

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where to Stay in New England

If you’re planning to spend a weekend in New England this summer or fall, check out the New England Inns and Resorts Association (NEIRA) website. The group is comprised of 250 inns and hotels in the region. They recently came out with a bucket list, where the price of a room includes a nearby activity. For example at Inn by the Sea, one of my favorite hotels in Maine, you can haul in lobster with a working Maine fisherman and dine on your catch that evening. Another favorite, Liberty Hill Farm, in bucolic Rochester, Vermont, will let you milk the cows, stack the hay and ride a tractor like a real farmer. Rabbit Hill Inn is offering zipline tours, White Mountain Hotel features rock climbing with the International Mountain Climbing School, and Glynn House Inn is giving you the chance to go hot air ballooning in the morning, complete with champagne. That’s the only way to fly.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/14/11 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, April 01, 2011

Gamirasu Cave Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey

    “Urgup?  You stop in Urgup?” I asked the bus driver slowly in English as I pointed to our ticket.
    “Yes, Urgup.  Coming.  Coming,” the man replied as he continued driving like a maniac. Something was seriously wrong. We had passed Goreme about an hour ago and, according to my trusty guidebook, Goreme is only five miles from Urgup in the heart of Turkey’s intriguing Cappadocia region. 
    “Urgup, we’re going to Urgup!” my wife repeated loudly, approaching the point of hysteria. The driver nodded in agreement and grinned.
    We eventually arrived in Urgup seven hours later, in the middle of the night. A pack of wild dogs howled as they followed us to our inn. There was nothing wrong with my guidebook. In a rush, the driver had sped past Urgup to the next city. He didn’t speak our language, we didn’t speak his. Insanely frustrated, we arrived at the bus station, only to learn that the bus back to Urgup didn’t leave for another five hours.
    When we awoke the following morning in our Urgup hotel room, the strange scenery surrounding us seemed more bizarre than the previous evening’s events. We were inside a 1,000-year-old Byzantine monastic retreat carved out of a cave, now an 18-room hotel called Gamirasu. When Mount Erciyes poured lava over this region thousands of years ago, the volcanic ash formed a surreal, lunar-like landscape consisting of cone-shaped monoliths and layers of soft volcanic rock called “tufa.” Early Christians found the pervious terrain ideal for escaping persecution by Romans and Arabs. When wet, the tufa could be easily carved like soap to make caves out of the pinnacles as well as underground cities descending hundreds of feet below the surface.
    The first Christians came to the valleys of Cappadocia in the 4th century, led by St. Basil. They formed communities within the caves building living areas, bakeries, and workshops. The people of Cappadocia continue to live in these caves. The rooms are cooled by volcanic rock, which helps protect the 8th-century frescoes seen on the hotel walls.

I'm off to New York on Monday, back on April 11th. Have a great week!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/01/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hotel Explora, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile is a twisted mass of monoliths and hoodoos that rise sharply from the dry Patagonian steppe, a stunning glacial landscape where guanacos (orange and white-colored members of the llama family), rheas (ostriches), and flamingos congregate near watering holes. This is where Town & Country Magazine sent me to check out the luxurious, yet intimate Hotel Explora. Its superior location is apparent upon entering the lobby. The resort has vistas of the park’s most dramatic formation, The Horns, a block of sweeping granite that pierces the clouds.  Almost all of the hotel’s thirty rooms, even the whirlpool-adorned bathrooms, afford the same mind-blowing view.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/31/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, Yachats, Oregon

If you’ve managed to book one of the six rooms at the Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast in Yachats, Oregon, you’re in for a visual and culinary treat. Just south of Cape Perpetua, where the 900-foot- high cliffs overlook the Pacific, this is arguably the most stunning locale on the entire Oregon coast. You’ll spend the night in a former assistant lightkeeper’s quarters, set on a grassy patch below the Heceta Head Lighthouse, a tall white edifice that stands atop a small spit of land. Below, breakers explode against the burgundy red cliffs that hem in a narrow beach filled with driftwood.  In the darkness, grab a flashlight from the inn and hike up to the lighthouse to watch it flash beacon after beacon across the rugged shoreline and then out to sea. Come morning, dine on a seven-course breakfast with the other guests. Afterwards, a stretch on the wraparound verandah is in order, where you might spot crab boats coming into the harbor from their night catch.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/30/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Royal Hotel in Levuka, Fiji

While there are more than 300 islands in Fiji, most visitors opt to stay on the main island of Viti Levu where the international airport and the country’s two largest cities, Nadi and Suva, are located. Knowing that intimate Fijian villages and remote islands are less than an hour boat ride away, it pains me to meet people who spend their entire trip on this one commercial isle. Stay a night or two on the Coral Coast, one hour south of Nadi, to relax after the 10-hour flight from Los Angeles. Then ferry over to the town of Levuka on the island of Ovalau. More than fifty stores and hotels built in the 1850s still stand in this former capital of Fiji. Walk past the ficus trees down Beach Street to the most prestigious establishment of all, The Royal Hotel. Continuously operating since Levuka’s heyday, this is the oldest hotel in the South Pacific. Walk around the lobby and you feel like you’re entering a novel by Somerset Maugham or Robert Louis Stevenson, who both spent at least a night here. Inside, you’ll find rattan chairs, ceiling fans, a large stained oak bar, and a 100-year-old snooker table. Thankfully, one doesn’t have to be an acclaimed man of letters to afford this lodging. Cost of a room starts at $32 a night, including toast and tea for breakfast. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/29/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Staying at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi

The death last week of 97-year-old blues great Pinetop Perkins reminded me of the night my brother and I spent at the Shack Up Inn, one of the most unique accommodations in the country. Set on the Hopson Plantation in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where the mechanical cotton picker made its debut in 1941, owner Bill Talbot converted six former sharecropper shacks into his own version of a B&B (bed and beer). Each rambling shack pays tribute to a blues legend (Clarksdale is the birthplace of the blues), like the one we stayed in dedicated to boogie-woogie pianist Perkins, who once worked at this same plantation. As you would expect, this is no luxurious retreat. Yet, what it lacks in comfort—thin mattresses in the two bedrooms and rusted sinks in the bathroom—it more than makes up with personality. There’s a large mural of Pinetop at the piano, blues playing on the TV, a fridge stocked with beer, and beaten sofas on the front porch that overlook the cotton gin. The place has a loyal following of blues aficionados from around the globe, as evidenced by this quote in the guest book, “Pinetop, thank you for keeping me company on our long drives together.  I love and admire you.”

This week I’m going to delve into my most memorable night stays.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/28/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Giants Fans Should Head to the Hotel Valley Ho this Spring Training

Similar to the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc in Miami Beach, Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona was a favorite hideaway to Hollywood stars like Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood when it opened in the 50s. Then, like those Miami Beach icons, it fell on rough times until reopening in 2005 after an $80 million refurbishment. Now the seven-story stylish hotel, home to the legendary Trader Vic’s, is back to its former self and is ready to host baseball lovers for spring training. Hotel Valley Ho is less than a mile from Scottsdale Stadium, the venue for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. The property is also close to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the spring training home to the Oakland A’s. For a great overview of spring training facilities, see my story in FamilyVacationCritic.com.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/14/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

At the southernmost tip of Costa Rica, Lapa Rios is a 1000-acre private rain forest perched above the Pacific Ocean. 16 spacious bungalows feature hardwood floors, bamboo walls, and vaulted thatched roof ceilings created from local palm trees. Yes, those outdoor showers are solar-powered and more than 70 percent of the materials used are renewable, but take a look at the big picture. Nearly 1000 acres of valuable rainforest have been saved from deforestation and the wildlife within those borders are free from poaching, pollution, and real estate development. More than 45 local families are employed on the property and the resort has been instrumental in providing primary education for children in the area. Rise and shine on a three-hour morning hike with a naturalist through the rainforest to a waterfall and swimming hole, stopping to view spider and howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, toucans, parrots, and many other native birds. In the afternoon, sea kayak in the ocean around Matapalo Point, surf the Golfo Dulce, or saddle up on a horse. Rates start at $245 per person, including all meals and guides into the rainforest.  
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/10/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Chaa Creek, Belize

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011, Chaa Creek led the eco-friendly movement in Central America, promoting conservation and low-impact sustainable development long before green was the magic word. They also employ local artists to create the furniture in each bungalow and buy produce from local farms to ensure fresh food on the table. The 365-acre nature preserve sits on a hillside of tall mahogany and cedar trees overlooking the Macal River. The property offers two dozen deluxe bungalows, including a treetop suite with whirlpool, new spa, and a restaurant that thrives on local fare. Yet, Chaa Creek’s real forte is guiding folks deep into the jungle. Set up trips to go horseback riding through the Mountain Pine Ridge, paddle the Macal River to see the resident colony of toucans, swim under waterfalls, and visit the Mayan ruins at Caracol.  Bungalows start at $270 a night, including breakfast. 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/09/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiaK), Mexico

Close to the Mayan ruins of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area on the Mexican Caribbean. Grab one of the raised cottages on site and you’ll be immersed in the 1.3 million-acre mix of beach and wetlands. CESiaK runs completely on sun and wind energy, using rainwater for water needs, and utilizing a wetland waste treatment system. Grab a sea kayak to go bird watching, fish, go with a naturalist on a hike, or simply relax with a thick book in the hammock. All proceeds fund education and conservation programs at Sian Ka’an, including dune restoration and native plant propogation. Cabins start at an affordable $70 a night. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/11 at 03:00 PM
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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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