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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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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kempinski to Launch First Caribbean Hotel on Dominica

Unlike the rest of the Caribbean, the attraction in Dominica is not the beach, but a lush mountainous interior ripe with every tropical fruit and vegetable imaginable and bathed with so much water that around every bend is another raging waterfall, a serene swimming hole nestled in the thick bush, or a hidden hot spring to rest your weary body after a day in the outdoors. Indeed, this island closest to Martinique has become an affordable haven for the active traveler who yearns to hike through a jungle-like forest (see my story for The Boston Globe). 

So it came a surprise that the upscale European hotelier, Kempinski, chose Dominica to launch their first Caribbean outpost. They’ll be partnering with Range Developments, who will debut their first property, the Park Hyatt St. Kitts in December 2015. The 101-room resort will be on one of the rare beaches on Dominica, Douglas Bay on the north shore of the island. Stay tuned for an opening date. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/19/14 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Four Seasons Ihilani to Debut at Oahu’s Ko Olina Resort

This past July, I had the pleasure of staying at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort with the family on Oahu’s blossoming leeward coast. Part of the umbrella Ko Olina Resort (which also includes Disney’s Aulani and Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club), this is the quiet side of the island. We snorkeled with wild dolphins straight from the Ko Olina marina, saw the ring of Saturn one night stargazing through a powerful telescope, listened to live Hawaiian ukulele music on the beach, and dined at some of the finest restaurants on the island including Roy Yamaguchi and Peter Merriman’s Ko Olina outposts. 

Last week I learned that the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort will close on Jan. 10 for an approximate 10-month, $500 million renovation and will reopen September 2015 as the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. The Four Seasons has a lot to work with including spacious rooms with oversized balconies that that offer expansive views of the ocean at night. We left the screen door open to hear the waves rolling ashore. The beachfront locale is also home to a stingray pool and a separate building that houses a large spa and tennis courts. I’m excited to see what the Four Seasons does with the property. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/17/14 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Toronto’s Emerging South Core Neighborhood

As soon as my Porter Airlines flight arrived at Toronto Island Airport and I took the 2-minute ferry ride over to the city, I noticed the numerous cranes tilting towards the sky. Toronto has a mind-boggling 180 high-rises currently under construction, more than the combined building efforts currently underway in New York and Mexico City, which along with LA are the three cities that have a larger population than Toronto in North America. A good chunk of that construction are office buildings and condos going up in the South Core neighborhood, where I’m spending the week at the Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square. This is the entertainment corridor, bookend on one side by the Air Canada Centre, home to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors; and on the other side by the Rogers Centre, originally known as the SkyDome, where the Toronto Blue Jays play their home games under the retractable roof.

 On my first day here, Jason Kucherawy, owner of Tour Guys and guide at Toronto Urban Adventures, took me on his “Teams, Trains, and Tower Tour,” a walking tour that’s offered to the public for free (simply tip the guide). His first stop was right behind the hotel at the sports bar ESPN called the best in all of Canada, Real Sports Bar and Grill. Hundreds of folks were inside watching college football games on the largest high-definition television in the country. Then we walked along Bremner Boulevard to see Toronto’s newest attraction, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada (which I’ll describe later this week), backed by the CN Tower. Across the street is the historic John Street Roundhouse, now home to the Toronto Railway Museum. Next door is Steam Whistle Brewing, known for their one beer, a crisp, cool pilsner. If you like your brew, you’ll want to know about Jason’s other tour, a pub crawl. Other favorites include tours geared to bacon lovers, graffiti aficionados, and this being the Halloween season, ghost tours. 
One of our clients highly recommended Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square after we put his family of four up there this summer. The location is excellent for seeing the Toronto sights, rooms are spacious, a continental breakfast is included in the price, and there’s a cozy lounge downstairs, Play, that features local microbrews and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches. What I especially love is that there’s no bottled water. You simply fill your pitcher up with filtered water in the hallway, next to the complimentary apples. Sustainable practices along with great service (the concierge Chris and Susan can answer any question) are the reasons why the Quebec-owned Germain brand is growing across Canada, with 10 properties in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, and Calgary and another 4 under construction. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/20/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Family Vacation Critic Names Top Hotels for Families

Since 2008, I’ve written over 120 hotel and destination reviews for Family Vacation Critic, TripAdvisor’s family travel site. Many of the properties I personally visited have just been chosen in Family Vacation Critic’s Listing of Top Hotels for Families. To achieve award status, travel writers had to first visit and vet the resort, giving the property at least a 4-star rating. In addition, the hotel had to be recommended by at least 75% of families commenting on TripAdvisor. The elite group of hotels selected represents the top 12% of hotels listed on the Family Vacation Critic site. I’m happy to play a small role in this inaugural listing, hopefully steering families to a memorable resort and a special vacation. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/08/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Two Premiere Properties on the Swiss Riviera

The Lake Geneva region is often referred to as the Swiss Riviera, trying to match the tres chic atmosphere of Antibes and the French Riviera. Walking the esplanade of Vevey, lined with cafes and patisseries on one side and the stupendous vista of the Alps across the Lake Geneva waters, it’s easy to understand the comparison. This is especially true if you stay at two of the most upscale properties in the region, Lausanne Palace and Spa and Vevey’s Grand Hotel du Lac

Centrally located, within easy walking distance of the 12th-century Gothic church and the numerous bins selling local cheese, fruits, and flowers at the Saturday market, Lausanne Palace offers spacious rooms and opulent bathrooms, some with patios overlooking the lake. Breakfast every morning was a treat, with a large buffet featuring eggs, lox, herring, saucisson, cheese, and sublime croissants and pain au chocolat. The spa is also heavenly, with lap pool and spacious Turkish hamam, the perfect place to unwind after a day of walking. 
Grand Hotel du Lac boasts a prime waterfront setting overlooking a narrow portion of the lake in Vevey. A fresh plate of chocolate and muffins arrives daily in your room and the best way to devour the offerings is on the patio staring at the massive mountain motif. Dinner was excellent, offering top-notch French food like venison with wild mushrooms paired with a Swiss pinot noir. Both resorts feature exceptional concierge service, going out of their way to answer any and all questions. Choose either of these two properties and you certainly will feel like you’re on the Riviera. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/07/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Consider the Briarcliff on Your Next Visit to the Berkshires

I’ve always loved the location of the Briarcliff Motel, even when it was called the Briarcliff Motor Lodge and I was reviewing the property for the Lonely Planet Guide to New England back in 1999. The motel sits on a quiet stretch of Route 7 directly across from historic Monument Mountain (the hike Herman Melville once took with Nathaniel Hawthorne) and within an easy five-minute drive of the restaurants and shops in Great Barrington. Now under the more than capable watch of Londoners Clare and Richard, the lodging is much more stylish, comfortable, and homey. Breakfast, included in the price, features freshly made scones and muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, and a tasty homemade granola (no, Richard, won’t give you the recipe). At night, there’s a fire pit to share stories with other travelers about your day at the Clark, Tanglewood, Norman Rockwell Museum, Naumkeag and many other sites in the Berkshires. But don’t miss the opportunity to climb Monument, only a 90-minute round-trip trek that rewards you with a glorious vista of the valley below. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/04/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Stylish New Hotel Zetta in San Francisco

The final two nights of our trip to San Francisco, we stayed in a new boutique hotel called Hotel Zetta. The location was great, within easy walking distance of the restaurants and shops at Union Square and the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable car lines down to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. Hotel Zetta had a real sense of whimsy and originality like painting the stairwell walls with graffiti. We loved returning to the Playroom, located on the 2nd floor of the hotel, a lounge area that offers pool, ping pong, giant Jenga and multiple game consoles. The cozy bar, off the lobby, is popular with locals who come to listen to live music. Fortunately, the hipster vibe of the place did not affect the service. The front desk and doorman were excellent, even finding us a spacious town car to head back to the airport, only $5 more than a taxi. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/31/14 at 10:00 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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