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Drives

Friday, July 07, 2017

Best Summer Drives in New England

Yesterday, as I was taking a spin to the local coffee shop on a Vespa, I was thinking how great it is to cruise on any form of transport in weather this sublime, be it a moped, bike, skateboard, or car. On Sunday, I plan to bike along the Charles River to grab my chicken shawarma sandwich at Inna’s Kitchen at the Boston Public Market. This is the time of year to truly see the authentic seaside villages and rolling rural mountain roads of New England. If you need ideas on routes, be sure to check out my recent story for Yankee Magazine on 8 Great Summer Drives, including maps. Have a great weekend! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/07/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Driving from Clarksdale to Natchez, Mississippi

Since I already wrote about Asheville and Charleston this week, let’s continue south to Mississippi and a memorable drive my brother Jim and I once took. In the small Delta town of Clarksdale, learn about the birthplace of the Blues at the Delta Blues Museum, and then spend the night at one of the most intriguing properties in America, the Shack Up Inn. Set on the Hopson Plantation, where the mechanical cotton picker made its debut in 1941, owner Bill Talbot has converted six former sharecropper shacks into his own version of a B&B (bed and beer). The next morning head south on Highway 61 through the rolling green farmland that makes up the heart of the Delta. Eventually you’ll reach the trenches Union and Confederate troops dug during the Civil War’s bloody Siege of Vicksburg, now a National Military Park. Another hour of driving and you’ll find that gem of a town on the Mississippi River, Natchez. During its heyday prior to the Civil War, when cotton was king, Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country. They built palatial estates, like Monmouth Plantation, your final stop. Monmouth’s meticulously landscaped grounds, shaded by centuries-old oaks and their thick dress of Spanish moss, is bursting with colorful azaleas come spring. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/17/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 15, 2017

May is the Ideal Time of Year to Visit Asheville, North Carolina

It certainly was a privilege to be born a Vanderbilt in the latter part of the 19th century. While Cornelius Vanderbilt II erected his mega-mansion, the Italian-style villa The Breakers, in Newport, brother William and his wife Alva were designing the nearby Marble House. Then there was the youngest of Cornelius’s siblings, George Washington Vanderbilt II, who decided to shun the Atlantic coast and build his estate in the therapeutic mountain air of North Carolina. Built in the French chateau style by renowned Manhattan architect, Robert Morris Hunt, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville is still one of the largest private homes in America, close to 180,000 square feet. Each spring, Biltmore celebrates the legacy of American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the mastermind behind the Biltmore gardens. Olmsted’s influence is obvious throughout year, but especially in spring when a progression of blooms spreads like a flowery blanket across the estate. The gardens come to life with the tulip bloom followed by multi-colored azaleas, rhododendrons, and roses in the resplendent rose garden.

 
If you’re feeling active, horseback ride or bike the grounds of the Biltmore. The Biltmore Outdoor Adventure Center also features Segway tours, stand-up paddleboarding, rafting, and sea kayaking. Another joy in the spring is the 80-mile stretch of roadway between Asheville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are numerous opportunities to stretch your legs and stroll to lonely mountain streams and waterfalls. Back in town, check out the Asheville Art Museum and visit one of the many galleries like Woolworth Walk, a gallery in an old Woolworth’s department store. 
 
Asheville is gaining a reputation as a foodie destination. The tapas at Curate, especially the squid ink paella is worth the wait. Luella’s Bar-B-Que (just north of downtown) serves ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken wings, even barbecued tempeh. White Duck Taco in the River Arts District is known for their innovative tacos featuring jerk chicken and banh mi fillings. End with an artisanal hot chocolate at French Broad Chocolate or one of the Flemish beers at Thirsty Monk. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/15/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Time for that Iowa Road Trip

2017 marks the 150th birthday of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. There’s no better way to celebrate his life than to head to Iowa, home to the only remaining hotel designed by the famed architect, Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, along with two other Wright-designed homes, the Stockman House in Mason City and Cedar Rock in Independence. The ultimate summer road trip through America’s heartland begins in the Hawkeye State. The Iowa Department of Transportation recently announced the designation of three new scenic byways to join Iowa’s growing list of iconic byways and historic trails. From standing atop a Mississippi River bluff to stepping into the world of American Gothic painter Grant Wood or retracing the footsteps of Lewis & Clark, each of Iowa’s byways highlights a unique feature of the state. Along the way, road trippers will not want to miss the state’s wacky roadside attractions, like the world’s largest bull, tallest corn stalk, and largest strawberry

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/10/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Driving Cape Town’s Wine Route

We could have rented a car to visit the vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, but the thought of driving on the left-hand-side of the road while downing glasses of wine did not thrill me. It was a wise move to hire a driver, especially when we realized that the drive is exquisitely beautiful with vineyards rolling to the base of jagged mountain peaks, dotted with the distinctive white Cape Dutch style architecture. Our driver, Malcolm Frye, picked us up in his comfy VW Van and off we went to Stellenbosch. Malcolm delved into the complex and often tragic history of South Africa while stopping at four very different wineries he had selected. He was a wonderful companion for the day, full of anecdotes from a very full life in southern Africa (ask him about his military stint in Angola and about his son, a pilot for Cathay Pacific). I’d highly recommend him for drives to the Wine Region, Cape Point, Hermanus, and the Garden Route.

Our first stop, Meerlust, is a sixth-generation Dutch farm estate known for its award-winning Rubicon wine. Next up was the more commercial Spier Wine Farm, where we tasted a very good chenin blanc. The opulent Delaire Graff Estate is owned by the diamond dealer, Laurence Graff, and is now a Relais and Chateau property housing mega-sized portraits and sculptures by South African artist Lionel Smit and a diamond store that will make you weep with envy. Thankfully, the vista of the breathtaking mountain pass was free. My favorite winery, Delheim, was where we had lunch. Lost in the vineyards at the base of a mountain, Delheim was the antithesis of Delaire Graff, simple, authentic, one of the first wineries to open in Stellenbosch over 50 years ago. We dined on wild mushroom lasagna and lamb shank, so tender it fell off the bone, washed down with a wild fermented chenin blanc. 
 
Malcolm dropped us off at our lodging for the night, La Residence, located in the hillside outside of Franschhoek. If I die and go to heaven, I want it to look exactly like La Residence. This is as close to a bucolic paradise as I’ve found. Our room overlooked a pond where a black swan swam. Peacocks were found on the branches of a tree nestled on the shore. Beyond the pond were springboks running, and surrounding our spacious suite was a valley of tightly woven vineyards ringed by mountains. The town of Franschhoek was also a gem, lined with restaurants and boutique artisanal shops. We were there on a Saturday morning, when the local Farmer’s Market was in full swing. We made the mistake of having Malcolm pick us up after only one night in Franschhoek. Next time, I’ll book La Residence for at least two, if not three nights, to relax and savor the scenery and wines. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/28/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 25, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Highway 29/Silverado Trail Loop, Napa Valley, California

Only an hour drive north of San Francisco, expect the vineyard-draped hillside of Napa Valley to be tinted with crimson and gold come autumn. But the real reason to head here this time of year is to participate in one of the harvest season’s crush parties, where you get to stomp on the grapes. Some of the biggest names in American wine, from Opus One to Stag’s Leap, line Highway 29 north of Napa and the Silverado Trail heading back south from Calistoga. Stock up on cheeses, bread, cupcakes, and other picnic fare at the 40,000-square foot Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Then hit Highway 29 to pick your selection of wine. Have the requisite mud bath in Calistoga at Golden Haven Hot Springs. Andaz Napa is a 141-room boutique hotel located in the center of Napa, a good place to unwind after your day or two of touring. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/25/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Highway 385, Rapid City, South Dakota

The fall foliage road trip was designed with places like South Dakota in mind. Venture to Rapid City and you’ll have the chance to cruise with relatively little traffic up and down the pine forests and granite passes of the Black Hills. Highway 385 will lead you to Vanocker Canyon and Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway, home to waterfalls and golden aspens. Also in the Black Hills is the 68-mile Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway (a 4-hour drive) that winds through six rock tunnels, past towering pinnacles and over pine-clad peaks, only to arrive at the most famous sculpture in the country, Mount Rushmore. As if that wasn’t enough incentive, the annual fall round-up of bison takes place tomorrow, September 25th at nearby Custer State Park. Watch the cowboys and cowgirls drive the herd of some 1,300 buffalo, some of whom will be sold at auction in November. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Route 54A, Keuka Lake, New York

Autumn in the Finger Lakes of western New York State is the time of year when leaves on the maples turn a tad crimson and the grapes on the vines are ready to be harvested for their award-winning Rieslings. Start on the northern tip of Keuka Lake in the town of Penn Yan. Head south on Route 54A and just outside of town, you’ll see signs for Apple Barrel Orchards, a third-generation U-pick apple orchard that makes homemade cider on the premises. Continue south along the shores of the 20-mile long lake to reach Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellar. Founded in 1962 and now run by Dr. Frank’s grandson, Fred, Dr. Frank put the Finger Lakes on the wine lovers’ map with his award-winning dry and semi-dry Rieslings. Have lunch on an outdoor deck overlooking the narrow northern part of the lake at Heron Hill Winery. The Blue Heron café takes full advantage of its locale nestled amidst the farmland to offer local seasonal fruit over field greens and a caprese salad with large fresh tomatoes. A perfect place to stay in Hammondsport is the octagonal-shaped Black Sheep Inn, where the owner, a former caterer in Cleveland, creates innovative and tasty breakfasts. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, The Fruit Loop, Hood River, Oregon

Autumn colors are not usually associated with the Northwest, the land of conifers. Yet, outside of Hood River, the 35-mile Fruit Loop feels like a quintessential fall drive back east. That is, until you look up and see the lofty snowcapped peak of Mount Hood towering above 11,000 feet. The route is lined with pear orchards, fields of lavender, alpaca farms, farm stands, wineries, and an emerging hard cider scene. Sample the wares at Hood River Cider Works, Fox-Tail Cider, or Hood Valley Hard Cider, and you’ll be surprised to find that the drink is crisp, refreshing, and can easily be paired with the Chinook salmon and steelhead trout the region is known for. Quaff down a cider at the picnic tables behind Solera Brewery in Parkdale and you’ll be mesmerized by the spectacular view of Mount Hood. Make the wise choice of spending the evening at the Columbia Cliff Villas in Hood River and you’ll wake up to a sunrise over the Columbia River Gorge. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 21, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Route 100, Vermont

Mid-September to mid-October, when the summer crowds are gone and the snow has yet to drop, is my favorite time of year to cruise around America. This week, I’m going to delve into some of those blessed routes. First up, a fall foliage drive on Route 100 in Vermont. 
 
Don’t believe the Vermont fall foliage hype? All it takes is one drive on Route 100 from Killington to Stowe to understand the allure. Traveling along the ridgeline of the 4,000-foot Green Mountains radiating with its verdant robe of multi-hued maples, you can’t help but sing its praises. Be sure to stop in the farming community of Rochester for the requisite “cows and meadow” photo and the historic village of Stowe to find one of the numerous freshly painted white steeples. Along the route, you’ll want to visit the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for your jug of cider, out-of-the-oven doughnuts, and genuine maple syrup. Nearby is the Ben & Jerry’s factory, where you can take a tour, sample the wares, and find out how the duo started their celebrated business. Spend the night at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, at the base of Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, and you’ll have the opportunity to take in the fall foliage while playing a round of golf
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/21/15 at 06:00 AM
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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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