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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Northern Iraq, Anyone?

If your list of must-see locales in 2012 includes the archaeological sites and exquisite scenery of northern Iraq, you’re in luck. 5 new properties are set to open in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan in the next year, including two Marriott lodgings and a Hilton. Having broken ties with Saddam Hussein after the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, Erbil was spared the fighting of 2003 onward. Visit the Museum of Civilization to understand the city’s ancient past, then take a short taxi ride over to Shaklawa Road to see a recreation of Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque. Nearby is Bakery and More, a Lebanese-owned bakery known for their Arabic sweets. Any of the shwarma joints in town is a good place to meet the locals, which now total over a million. 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/20/11 at 03:00 PM
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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

33-Year Old British Woman Tries to Cross Antarctica

As you snuggle with your loved one near the fireplace this holiday season, think of Felicity Aston. The 33-year old British adventurer left last week on a 1,000-mile trek across Antarctica. Pulling a sled with supplies, she hopes to reach the Leverett Glacier first before completing the entire journey in 70 days. If Aston were successful, she’d set the longest solo polar expedition for a woman and also be the first person to cross Antarctica alone using her four limbs. You can follow her travels on Twitter @felicity_aston. Good luck, Felicity!


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/06/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quebec’s Winter Carnival

Just up the road from Montreal, 30 minutes outside of Quebec City, is North America’s first ice hotel, Hotel de Glace. 32 new rooms are created each year out of 12,000 tons of snow and 400 tons of ice, along with an Absolut ice bar, Jacuzzis, and a dance club. Bring those long johns. Temperature inside is a mere 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Quebec City is also home to one of the finest winter carnivals. For 16 days, January 27-February 12, the party never stops. More than one million people descend upon the fortified city to cheer on the competition in Le Grande Virée, a dogsled race that cruises through the heart of the historic Old City, or watch paddlers sprint across the turgid waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The French-flavored festivities continue with tours of the Ice Palace, a giant medieval castle constructed of pure crystalline water, parades, snow sculpture contests, inner tube sled rides, dancing to live music, and late night jaunts to heated tents to sample the potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup. One swig of this and you might be running naked through the snowfields.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/22/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Snow Village To Open In Montreal

It’s hard to think about snow right now, especially when I was walking barefoot through a bog yesterday in mid-60s Boston temperature. Yet, when I picture Quebec in January, how can I not think of snow? Once the temperature turns a wee bit frosty, Montreal will be home to a very special event this winter. On January 6, 2012, the city plans to unveil the continent’s first Snow Village at Parc Jean-Drapeau. This is no miniature dollhouse or a series of ice sculptures. No. Montreal’s Snow Village will include a 30-room ice hotel, an outdoor spa, ice bar, ice restaurant, ice chapel for marriages, a maze, slides, and much more. Indeed, you’ll find a replica of Montreal made entirely out of ice. The show’s promoters first encountered the Snow Village concept in Finland and wanted to recreate the idea in North America. The village will be open through March and rates at the hotel start at $175 per person for a limited time. While in the city, check out Le Bremner, the hot new restaurant from Iron Chef winner Chuck Hughes, owner of one of my favorite restaurants in town, Garde-Manger.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/21/11 at 04:00 PM
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Cruise the Great Lakes the Summer of 2012

Anyone who’s walked the steep sands of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the largest sand dunes west of the Sahara Desert, sea kayaked and camped on the secluded white sand beaches of the Apostle Islands, and hiked the trails of one of the least visited national parks in America, Isle Royale, can tell you firsthand the beauty of the Great Lakes. The problem has always been inaccessibility, especially to the northern fringes of these vast waters. Not anymore. Great Lakes Cruising has just announced that their spanking new 138-passenger vessel, the MV Yorktown, will sail Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan, along with sister ships Grande Mariner and Niagara Prince the summer of 2012. The eight to eleven-day itineraries include stops at Mackinac Island, Charlevoix, Sturgeon Bay, and Apostle Island. This comes on the heels of the opening of the new $21.5 million cruise pier in Detroit that opened last June, already expanding from 2 to 13 cruise ships in 2012.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/18/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The New Seven Wonders of Nature

After a worldwide vote and expert judging, the New Seven Wonders of Nature were announced on 11/11/11. The vote was hosted by the New 7 Wonders Foundation based in Zurich, Switzerland. I was pulling for the Bay of Fundy, but it was beat out by some other excellent choices like the Amazon Rainforest, Halong Bay in Vietnam, and Table Mountain in Capetown. Then there were some questionable choices like Komodo Island in Indonesia. It’s a cool island, home to the komodo dragon, but one of the 7 natural wonders of the world? Why? It’s not nearly as majestic as other islands in the Pacific like Taveuni, Fatu Hiva, or Kauai. Anyway, it’s a popular vote, so the Indonesia lovers were heard in the end. Here are the seven picks: Amazon Rainforest, Iguazu Falls, Halong Bay, Table Mountain, Komodo Island, South Korea’s Jeju Island, and Puerto Princesa River in the Philippines.

 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/15/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Catch Trentemøller on His North American Tour

I have a good friend in Boston who’s a music critic and he often invites me out to catch bands I’ve never heard of. Last night, he invited me to see the Danish king of electronic music, Trentemøller, playing with a full band. As soon as we walked into this small danceclub, we knew we were in for one of those special and rare musical moments. Man, it was rocking with a funky bass, fast-playing electric guitar and drums, and Trentemøller’s hypnotic and very unique grooves on the synthesizer. Every now and then, a woman would sing high above the music to produce an ethereal quality. People were dancing their asses off as the music blared through the venue. You couldn’t help but shake in your shoes the groove was that good. I agreed with the guy behind me who was screaming, "Sign Me Up!" Boston was the start of their tour in North America and if you live any where near any of these cities, I would definitely check it out. It was that much fun!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/14/11 at 03:00 PM
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Friday, September 30, 2011

Thanks for Your Continued Support!

Today is my 500th blog and it couldn’t have come on a better day in Boston. Clear blue skies with temperatures in the low 70s, ideal for taking a long bike ride past the horse farms of neighboring Dover and Sherborn. Autumn for New Englanders is a time to reflect on the past year and consider goals for the upcoming year as the leaves change color and soon fall. There’s no better way to process those thoughts than by taking a long bike ride or hike. Hopefully, one of those goals during the upcoming year is to remain active, both in body and mind. Thanks again for checking in and have a great weekend!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/30/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Legoland Opens in Orlando on October 15th

I’m not a big fan of theme parks. I find them overwhelming, with far too many humans waiting at hour-long lines for a 2-minute ride. But I’ve always enjoyed visiting Legoland, just north of San Diego when my kids were younger. It’s a much mellower version of a theme park, catered to the 2 to 8-year-old crowd, even fascinating parents with all the items made out of Legos, from amusement park rides to cities around the world. Now a new Legoland is being unveiled in Orlando on October 15th, making it easier for East Coast families to sample the Legoland experience. The 150-acre park features more than 50 rides, shows, and attractions.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/28/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Vermont Update

Ten days ago, Vermont was rocked by Hurricane Irene. As I wrote last week, several covered bridges were washed away, and, as of this morning, 18 bridges are still shut down. But Vermonters are resilient and they could especially use your help now more than ever. The Green Mountain State puts on its finest pastoral dress these next six weeks thanks to fall foliage. If you have a trip planned to the region, by all means go. If you don’t have a trip planned, you should still think about traveling to the area to support the numerous businesses in this state that rely heavily on tourism. The major interstates, I-89 and I-91 are open to all traffic without restrictions. Route 7 is open to all traffic, except in Clarendon, where there is a detour around a closed bridge. Route 4 is open from the New Hampshire border to Woodstock and the New York border to Rutland. There are still problems in the Bridgewater/Killington area, so check daily for updates. Route 100, one of my favorite roads for seeing the foliage, has a slew of closures, especially in the towns of Jamaica, Pittsfield, Ludlow, and Hancock. Hopefully, the route will be open shortly. Remember, peak foliage in northern Vermont is in late September, and around Columbus Day for the southern half of the state. So thankfully, Vermont still has time to dig out before the surge of people comes to the state. Hopefully, that includes you!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/07/11 at 01:00 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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