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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hotel Commonwealth’s $50 Million Makeover

When Hotel Commonwealth first made its debut a dozen years ago, it transformed Kenmore Square into a culinary destination, anchored by Eastern Standard, the restaurant I brought my son after his high school graduation. Just as beloved is the hotel’s second restaurant, Island Creek, which includes oyster farmer, Skip Bennett, as one of its owners. Sandwiched by these two heavyweights, it’s no surprise that Hotel Commonwealth slipped under the radar. That will change during the course of this year. A $50 million renovation has already doubled the lobby size, making it far more spacious and contemporary. The hotel has also added three signature suites. The Terrier Suite caters to alums or parents of nearby Boston University. The Rathskeller Suite includes pianos, guitars, and photos from Boston’s version of CBGB’s, the Rathskeller, which once stood on this plot of land. The Loft, with its tall ceilings and contemporary art provided by BU MFA students is my favorite of three. Next up is a Fenway Park Suite that will overlook the Green Monster at Fenway Park, a 5-minute walk from the hotel. This is part of a major expansion set to be complete in November that will add 96 rooms in an adjoining building. Not surprising when you consider Hotel Commonwealth's locale, within easy walking distance to Fenway Park, the MFA, and Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, and some of Boston's finest restaurants right outside your door. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/14/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Baccarat Makes a Splashy Introduction In Manhattan

Blink and you might miss the entrance to Baccarat’s new flagship hotel in midtown Manhattan, across from the Museum of Modern Art. But then take the elevator up to the second floor and get ready to be bedazzled by all that glorious Baccarat crystal. The French company takes full advantage of its pedigree to create shimmering chandeliers in the petit and grand salon, their posh version of the lounge area. Feel free to have a highball here or walk into the bar, straight out of Paris with its arched roof and black-and-white checkered floors. In a little over a month, it’s already known as the perfect place to grab a French 75 in Baccarat crystal glassware around the long bar or outside on the small patio. The same glassware can be found in your room’s mini-bar, along with sweets from one of my favorite Parisian patisseries, Fauchon. Another nice touch in the room is the hand painted shower door, found in all 114 guest rooms. There’s an indoor pool for doing laps and the Spa de La Mer hidden below the hotel entrance. Chef Shea Gallante, who earned a Michelin star for his work at New York’s Cru, is at the helm of the hotel’s Parisian brasserie, Chevalier. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/13/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 10, 2015

My 5 Favorite Tanzanian Properties: Singita Grumeti

The best part of my recent trip to Tanzania was the two nights we spent at Singita in the 140,000 hectare Grumeti Game Reserves that borders the north-central part of the Serengeti. The place feels exactly like the Serengeti with its swaying grasses and low-lying ridges, but without the traffic. We passed, on average, 2 other land rovers on each 3-hour game drive. It felt incredibly exclusive. The wildlife was phenomenal even in March, but the general manager noted that his favorite time of year is September. 

We spent one night in the very contemporary rooms of Singita Faru Faru, perfect for families because of its two pools to unwind after lunch. The spacious rooms overlook a watering hole with good wildlife viewing from the outdoor shower (opt for Room 2 or 3). The next night we moved to Singita Explore, 6 mobile tents that move around the property, depending on the season. This was glamping at its best, with sundowners around the campfire and S. African braai for dinner. You could easily spend 3 nights at Explore and 3 nights at Faru Faru or Singita’s private 4-bedroom house, the Serengeti House, and call it a safari. Better yet, go on a horseback riding safari between the Singita properties, arguably the best place in Africa to ride. 
Going on safari is one of the most magical and memorable trips you can take. Yet, we realize the complexity of travel and the often exorbitant cost involved. ActiveTravels is here to answer all questions to ensure that your African escapades are authentic and special. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/10/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, April 09, 2015

My 5 Favorite Tanzanian Properties: Alex Walker’s Serian Kusini Camp

There’s something magical about being lost in the African bush for at least 3 nights in a mobile tent. You’re surrounded by wildlife, drink sundowners at sunset around a raging campfire, view the twinkling stars of the incredible African night sky, and then sleep peacefully with a breeze. One of the best mobile tent locales in the winter months is Kusini just past Ndutu Safari Lodge (where Mary Leakey stayed, along with numerous BBC documentarians) in the southern Serengeti. Alex Walker’s Serian is a master of glamping, offering six spacious tents with bucket showers and flush toilets that move close to the Mara River in the summer months for prime wildebeest crossing viewings. Not surprisingly, these camps are often booked well in advance, with the same clientele returning year after year. So plan accordingly. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/09/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

My 5 Favorite Tanzanian Properties: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

A 90-minute drive from Lake Manyara Airport or a morning drive from Arusha through the sylvan farmland around Lake Manyara is the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. This over the top “Out of Africa” style resort is perched on the rim of the crater. It’s a spectacular spot and the perfect place to rest after an afternoon game drive in the crater or before the next morning’s game drive. Ngorongoro Crater is best done in the beginning of your trip since the caldera floor is crowded with land rovers, yet the animals, familiar with traffic, reward visitors with fabulous close-ups. Realize, however, that this popular locale might feel too commercial after visiting the vast Serengeti or the exclusive Grumeti.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/08/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

My 5 Favorite Tanzanian Properties: Mwiba Lodge

Fly 40 minutes from the domestic airport in Arusha over the Ngorongoro Crater and you reach Mwiba Lodge, the latest upscale property from Legendary Expeditions. All 9 rooms and main lodge are filled with modern African art to give it a contemporary flair. There’s a small infinity pool, wine cellar filled with South African selections, two dining areas, and a small library, all looking over a watering hole where I spotted more than 20 elephants strolling leisurely down to the spot. Rooms are spacious and a bath filled with warm water, bubbles and salts is waiting after your afternoon game drive. Mwiba is located in a vast game reserve, not a national park, so you have the option to take night drives and veer off-road straight to the wildlife. Ideal for honeymooners or couples celebrating an anniversary, I would probably recommend staying at Mwiba after first staying at a mobile tent in the Serengeti bush. It offers a great dose of comfort before leaving Africa.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/07/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, April 06, 2015

My 5 Favorite Tanzanian Properties: Hatari Lodge, Arusha National Park

Less than a 45-minute drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport, you reach Hatari Lodge on the northern edge of Arusha National Park. While other properties, like Legendary Lodge, nestled in the coffee plantations of Arusha, might be more luxurious, Hatari is the perfect welcome mat to Tanzania because it immediately gives you the feel of being in the African bush. Rooms are spacious and you wake up to monkeys jumping on your roof, families of warthogs running across the property and magnificent views of the sun rising above Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. At breakfast on the outdoor patio, you’ll spot your first giraffes and buffalos, then go on a game drive into the park to get close-up shots of elephants, hippos, and countless flamingoes. The lodge gives you the opportunity to canoe past the hippos, but a better option is to drive up the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro for a day hike and picnic. Hatari offers 9 rooms and is adding 3 new family suites this summer. It’s the ideal spot to start your tour of Tanzania, rest after the long flight, be immersed in the wildlife, and see mighty Kilimanjaro.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/06/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa Makes its Debut

And now some good news from Paris. Opening this week in the 8th arrondissement, off the Champs-Elysées and close to Place de la Concorde, is the boutique La Réserve Paris Hotel. Housed in a former mansion once owned by the designer, Pierre Cardin, the hotel features 26 spacious suites and 14 rooms. Suites include personal butler service and an in-room wine cooler. The hotel’s French restaurant, Le Gabriel, will be run by chef Jérôme Banctel, previously at the helm of the two-star Michelin restaurant, Senderens. A spa will offer three treatment rooms, gym, sauna, and a 52-foot indoor pool. Ooh la la! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/22/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Lark Hotels to Manage Camden, Maine’s Historic Whitehall

Last January, we spent my wife’s birthday at one of my favorite places to stay in the Portland area, the Pomegranate Inn. The 8-room B&B is run by Lark Hotels, who manage seven boutique properties in New England, with an 8th on the horizon. The newly renovated Whitehall, which originally opened its doors to vacationers in 1901, will drop the “inn” from its name and welcome guests back to its rambling front porch in May 2015. Similar to the Pomegranate, art will play a vital role in the interior design, with a revolving collection of works by local Maine artists found in the 36 rooms. Anchoring the property will be Pig + Poet, a restaurant whose menu will be crafted by acclaimed chef Sam Talbot. Focusing on Maine’s farmland, fisheries and game, the restaurant will feature a raw bar and Talbot’s fresh take on lobster rolls, chowder and blueberry-sweet corn cobbler just to name a few items. A charcuterie bar will also offer sausages and cheese selections.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/12/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, December 01, 2014

Delta Toronto Opens in City’s South Core Neighborhood

When I visited Toronto in October, I took a hardhat tour of the new Delta Toronto, which made its debut this past Friday, November 27th. Smack dab in the heart of the emerging South Core neighborhood, the spacious rooms overlook Ripley’s Aquarium of Toronto and the CN Tower. I especially like the corner suites, which reward guests with exceptional views of the city. This is a great locale for families. Along with the aquarium, CN Tower, and the Toronto Railway Museum, Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre are all within easy walking distance. So it’s easy to take in a Maple Leafs, Raptors, or Blue Jays game while in town. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/01/14 at 06:00 AM
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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

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