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Art Finds

Friday, November 08, 2019

See the Authentic Australian Outback with Spirit Safaris

One of the most challenging, yet favorite itineraries I ever worked on for a client was a weeklong trip to the remote Aboriginal art colonies in the Australian Outback. Called the “Central Deserts Aboriginal Art Tour,” the trip started in Alice Springs and ended in Adelaide. My client loved the itinerary, traveling with the owner of the tour operator, Spirit Safaris, a 5th-generation Australian explorer, Richard O’Neill. If you’ve read Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines (probably the one book that most inspired me to become a travel writer), you quickly realize that to see the real Australia, you have to visit the center of the country. Yet, few outfitters actually go there. That’s why I was delighted to find Richard, who will go anywhere in the Outback, from Alice Springs to Darwin to Broome. Let ActiveTravels get you to the most authentic part of Oz. 

(Photo by Peggy Morrison)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/08/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 23, 2019

Peru Week with Abercrombie and Kent: First Stop, the Artsy Neighborhood of Barranco in Lima

I arrived on the red-eye from Dallas into Lima, excited to see some of the city before I met up with the A&K group the following day. After dropping my bags off at the Belmond Miraflores and taking in the ocean view, I went downstairs and spoke to an excellent concierge who designed a walking tour of neighboring Barranco, known for its art museums, artisanal stores, and top-tier restaurants. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo was a bit of a disappointment because they were between exhibitions, but I got lucky at my next stop, the Relais and Chateaux property, Hotel B. They were debuting their new outdoor bar that day and to celebrate, they invited in local art and fashion designers to show their wares. There was a wonderful selection of jewelry, cloaks, purses, even a llama purse which I had to purchase for my ActiveTravels colleague, Rachel. That just whet my appetite for the amazing store across the street, Dédalo, a former mansion whose many rooms are now devoted to Peruvian crafts, alpaca clothing, home goods, jewelry, and an elephant recycled from rubber that was ideally suited for my elephant-loving wife, Lisa. 

By far my favorite stop in this bohemian neighborhood was MATE, a museum devoted to the work of Peruvian fashion photographer, Mario Testino. Large scale photographs of his most famous works, including an entire room devoted to Princess Di, grace the walls. Just as impressive was a gallery of close-up photographs of Peruvian women dressed in traditional garb. That night I would return to Barranco to dine at a local favorite, Amoramar, known for its charred octopus, fresh tuna, and powerful pisco sours. A wonderful start to what would soon be a memorable week. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Following in Tom Thomson’s Footsteps at Algonquin Provincial Park

On our first day at Bartlett Lodge, we signed up for a Tom Thomson tour with our guide, Malcolm. Tom Thomson was arguably Canada’s first iconic painter, sketching lone birches and pines swaying in the wind on the shores of Algonquin’s many lakes. While not technically a member of Canada’s Group of Seven artists, he was good friends with many in the group and would have certainly been a member if he had not died under mysterious circumstances at Algonquin in 1917. Thomson would spend a good 5-year span at Algonquin before his untimely death and Malcolm did a thorough job showing us the many sites where his paintings were created. We started at Tea Lake Dam, where Thomson first camped in the area along a babbling brook. Thomson was also known as an accomplished angler and paddler and you can easily see him living happily on the water’s edge here. It helped that Malcolm brought along a laptop to show us the sketches that were created in this exact spot and many other locales we would visit that day. 

The bulk of our time was spent on Canoe Lake, the busiest part of Algonquin, and where they serve a Tom Thomson burger at the Visitor Center. We took “Winnie the Tinnie,” a motorized canoe around the entirety of the lake, passing celebrated Canadian overnight summer camps, like Camp Ahmek, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was both a camper and counselor. At Hayhurst Point, we docked and walked up a small hillside to see a plaque that Group of Seven artist, J.E.H. MacDonald, created in memory of his friend. No one is certain how Thomson died, but his canoe arrived back to the shores first, and soon his body was found in the waters. It was ruled an accident, but there were some unruly characters living in the park in those early years, and many still believe he was murdered. Malcolm showed us the sight where his body was found and the small cemetery where he is now buried (another controversy since some people think his body was taken), before we headed back under heavy rains. The heavyu drops splashed off the water of the lake, creating a pointillist canvas that Thomson would have appreciated. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/20/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Serene Two-Day Stop in Granada

After an hour flight from Barcelona, we arrived in the peaceful mountainside city of Granada. We dropped our bags off at Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula, a Marriott Autograph Collection property. Nondescript from the outside, once we entered our superior room with a towering wooden ribbed ceiling and peered out onto the courtyard of this former 16th-century convent, you realize its charm. Breakfast was served in a spacious sunny room, and we also took advantage of the hamam, the resort’s steam room. The hotel is located in a great location for seeing Granada. We strolled the Romantic Road, Carrera del Darro, a narrow cobblestone street alongside the river, lined with tapas bars, boutique shops, and acoustic guitarists. Then we climbed the hillside past the blooming wisteria into the upscale neighborhood of Albaicín, where we had cervezas at El Huerto de Juan Ranas overlooking the buildings of the Alhambra and the snowcapped peaks in the distance. Such a magical spot that we returned to this outdoor patio the next day to watch the sunset. 

The following morning we took a 3-hour tour of the Alhambra with Antonio, a guide that works with one of our preferred tour operators in Spain, Madrid and Beyond. Not only did Antonio grow up playing at the Alhambra when there were few visitors, he has led more 1200 private tours of this magnificent Moorish palace the past 15 years. He knew every nook and cranny of the buildings, including graffiti from a 16th-century Friar found behind a column, to translating every Arabic saying. And, wow, is there a lot of Islamic calligraphy on the walls along with the famous symmetric tiles, the Moorish arches, and fascinating ceilings that looks like bird’s nests from a distance. Add gardens in early spring bloom with irises, pools of water reflecting the arches and you have a dazzling aesthetic well worth the effort to get here. We soaked up all the history, then soaked up the octopus and fried calamari with fresh bread at Los Diamantes at the bottom of the hill. Perfect! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/11/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Barcelona Modernism in All Its Glory

You can thank architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner for the fantastic Catalan Modernism movement that swept the city of Barcelona in the latter part of the 19th century. Utilizing colorful mosaics, stained glass, and ceramics, he allowed a congested and often polluted city to bathe in the beauty of his nature-based designs, a joy to behold to this day. We started with a 40-minute tour of the Palau de la Música Catalana, the concert hall Montaner started to build in 1905. One look at the stunning ceiling and its floral motif, dotted with roses, and you can’t help but be impressed. The building is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Hospital de Sant Pau, which would be the start of a 3-hour Context Tour on Modernism the following morning. Once a working hospital, the 8 buildings that surround a courtyard are now open to the public and are worth a stop to see the walls plastered in colorful tiles and glass. A 10-minute walk from Hospital de Sant Pau is the masterpiece of the Modernism movement, Gaudi’s Sagrada Família. Still under construction for over 100 years, there is hope that this sensational church will finally be complete in 2026 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. The interior is just as magical as the exterior, with twisting columns that climb to the arching ceiling and our guide, Mariana, gave us the perfect introduction to Barcelona’s rich history in architecture. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/09/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, April 08, 2019

A Must-Stop at the Miro Museum in Barcelona

While I found the Picasso Museum to be somewhat of a disappointment (it skips from 1901, the last of his formative years in Barcelona straight to 1917 with barely a word about his breakthrough early Cubism works), I found the Fundacio Joan Miro to be an utter delight. Inside the more than 20 galleries, you’ll find many of his whimsical large-scale paintings, sculptures, even a tapestry. Located in Parc de Montjuïc near the 1992 summer Olympics diving venue, we accessed the museum by first walking down to the beach to take a cable car up over Barcelona’s port. It was a wonderful way to view the sailboats and cruise ships plying the waters of the Mediterranean below. Once we arrived in the park, we walked 10 minutes to find the museum. Inside, you’ll find his colorful dots, lines, and familiar symbols, even some anguish-filled works during the time of the Spanish Civil War, all donated by his family and a top collector from Japan. Then venture outside, atop the museum, to see his works of sculpture and the city below. A real joy. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/08/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ecuador, So Much More Than the Galapagos! A Visit to Otavalo

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches

Approximately two hours north of Quito lies Otavalo, world-famous for its indigenous population, and for the Mercado Artesanal, where locals sell their handicrafts. It's South America's largest outdoor market, and you will find a wide range of weavings, jewelry, clothes, wood and stone carvings, paintings, and more. Although Saturday is the main market day, and the whole town is filled with stalls, there is plenty open at Plaza de Ponchos on any given day. I went on a Wednesday, and, believe me, there was A LOT to see (and buy). Ecuador uses the US dollar as the official currency, but small bills are what's taken (nothing larger than $20). 
After visiting the market, we went to lunch at Hacienda Pinsaqui, built in 1790. Lunch is the major meal of the day in Ecuador--usually soup, a full main plate of meat, vegetables, bread, rice, and dessert. Most restaurants close by 7 pm and dinner is not a big deal. At Pinsaqui, we enjoyed a lovely meal in an historic setting. The Hacienda contains more than three centuries of history. At one point, it was the largest in the area, essentially enslaving 1000 indigenous workers who created products for export to the US. Another time, it sheltered Simón Bolívar who prepared here for the Battle of Ibarra (1823) against the Spanish. 
Our Otavalo day also included two more highlights:
  • A visit to the traditional weaving studio of Miguel Andrago. If you are looking for handmade, traditional weaving, go directly to this home and workshop just 10 minutes outside of Otavalo. The Andrago family (four generations working together) is preserving backstrap weaving without the use of electricity or chemicals (all natural dyes), trying to save "this vanishing art." They do not sell their beautiful items at the Otavalo market, only at their studio. My daughter was so intrigued that she asked if she could come back and learn their techniques: Of course! For only $35 US, she can spend a day there. 
  • Peguche Waterfall is situated in a small park close to Otavalo. It is considered a sacred place in Kichwa religion, where purification is held before the Inti Raymi celebrations each June. We enjoyed the short hike to the Falls, and getting as close as possible, feeling the mist. 
Thanks to Brandi at Kensington Tours for the introduction to Hacienda Pinsaqui and Miguel Andrago. Tomorrow, onto the mountains, and the famous active volcano, Cotopaxi.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/13/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, Checking Out the Street Art and Botero’s in Medellin

This past June I had the good fortune to travel with a wonderful guide, Pablo Ospina, through his hometown of Medellin, Colombia. Our first stop was Communa 13 to see the magnificent and ever-growing street art in this neighborhood, which not too long ago was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of South America. While we strolled, Pablo gave me the history of Medellin, this city of 4 million nestled in the valley close to a mile high. When he was growing up, there were car bombs and constant fighting between the government and the guerilla forces of FARC, with the remnants of Escobar's drug ring thrown in for more chaos. Now the city has rose from the ashes and what a remarkable job it's doing. Not only is it safe, but it has one of the best climates in the world, 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Many people are retiring to the city to enjoy the weather and the only public transit system in Colombia, which includes cable cars and outdoor escalators.

When we descended from Communa 13 on the escalators and spotted about 5 tour groups heading up to the street art (we had the place to ourselves since Pablo wisely headed here first), we took a cable car up into the hillside for glorious vistas of the city ringed by jagged peaks. Then it was on to the city center to see the Botero sculptures and his paintings in the nearby Museo de Antioquia. Botero not only donated his impressive sculptures, paintings, and watercolors to his boyhood museum, he bequeathed his collection of contemporary art by Stella, Frankenthaler, and Andy Katz, among others. For lunch, we headed to the large botanical garden in the center of the city and its signature restaurant, In Situ. One sip of the sublime coconut lemonade and that would be my drink of choice throughout the week. After lunch, we strolled the gardens and spotted large lizards amidst the orchids and bamboo trees. Seven hours after picking me up, Pablo dropped me back off at my hotel. It was indeed a Dream Day. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/09/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Paul Cyr’s Latest Coffee Table Book Now Available

I met Paul Cyr while on assignment from The Boston Globe in Presque Isle, Maine, in search of the elusive Northern Lights. Cyr's colorfully charged photos of the Northern Lights have gone viral. His shots of Maine wildlife, including moose, bear, and this snowy owl are quite spectacular as well. In typical Maine fashion, he humbly insists he's an amateur photographer. Yeah, and Jimi Hendrix is an amateur guitarist. Check out his magnificent work in his latest book, Northern Maine with Paul Cyr, perfect for a Holiday gift. 

(Photo by Paul Cyr)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/14/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

If you love Christmas lights, then you'll be dazzled by Gardens Aglow held at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor. Not that you need any excuse to visit CMBG, one of my favorite stops on the Maine coast. More than 650,000 LED lights are woven through 14 acres, illuminating the trails and creating winter-themed exhibits. Visitors begin their journey by passing through an ethereal corridor of dancing lights evoking the aurora borealis before immersing themselves in the festive wonderland. Gardens Aglow runs through Dec. 31 on Thursday through Sunday evenings from 4-9 p.m. (closed on Christmas Eve). Tickets are timed for three separate arrivals each night at 4 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7:30 pm. 

I'm off to Nashville and Kansas City to see friends, hear live music, and catch 2 NFL games. I'll be back next Wednesday. Have a great week! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/05/18 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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