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Thursday, November 03, 2016

Montreal Celebrates 375th Anniversary With 175 Events in 2017

Canada will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Confederation in 2017 so I’m sure to post many more blogs on the yearlong festivities. First up is Montreal, which is also celebrating its 375th anniversary next year. To commemorate the occasion, they are hosting over 175 events, including a nightly multi-media show set on the St. Lawrence this summer. If it’s anything like the multi-media event I witnessed in Quebec City to celebrate their 400th birthday, it will be one of the best events you’ll see in 2017. Other highlights include the mesmerizing “Walk of the Giants” from France’s Royal de Luxe street theater company, the premiere of a new opera based on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and an exhibition at Montreal’s Museum of Contemporary Art inspired by the songwriting of Leonard Cohen. If you need a place to hang your hat, consider Hotel William Gray, a new luxury hotel that opened in July overlooking the Place Jacques-Cartier. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/03/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 28, 2016

Botswana, Villas in Europe, and Family Trips to New York in October ActiveTravels Newsletter

There was a moment on our second day of safari in Botswana where our guide, Kebby, spotted a leopard. We drove up to a leafless tree where this exquisite animal was perched on a branch, looking intently at the impalas nibbling on grass in the distance. We all grabbed our cameras and binoculars to take in the spectacular sight. After 15 minutes, I was ready to move on, but our guide stayed put. Giraffes passed by, an elephant came close to the land cruiser, startled to find us there, and the leopard moved to another branch. At last, the leopard jumped off the tree and sauntered away in the tall grass.

 
We must have looked at him for at least an hour, a ridiculous amount of time for some one as impatient as me, always thinking of my next activity, deadline, or goal to achieve. But to truly be in the present, clearing your mind of all extraneous thought and worries and simply stare at a leopard, that is really a moment to savor. In fact, it's the essence of authentic travel. A chance to share a precious moment with loved ones far away from the seemingly endless responsibilities of modern-day lives. Afterwards, I thanked Kebby for staying with the leopard. He noted that it's often the time he’ll see a kill, when he stays with one predator like a leopard or lion for a long period of time.
 
Take time to pause in your travels this upcoming year, whether it's over a glass of wine at a vineyard, at the beach with a good thick book, in front of a wonderful work of art, or staring at a leopard in the bush. Be sure to build downtime into your itinerary and not just check off sight after sight. Travel is not a contest but necessary time to nurture an often weary body and soul. The vast wilderness of Botswana's Okavango Delta, our main feature in this month’s ActiveTravels newsletter, is the perfect place to replenish the well. We also discuss some alternatives to hotels in US and European cities as well as the Caribbean; an outfitter who specializes in grandparent's trips to New York; a Quick Escape to the home of Halloween, Salem; and a reminder to always check in before your next flight.
 
Enjoy reading and, as always, happy travels!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/28/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ActiveTravels Featured in Sunday’s Boston Globe

Sunday was already a celebratory day for my family as we gathered in New York for our niece, Sarah Schechter’s first art opening. The exhibition is on view at the Greenpoint Reformed Church in Brooklyn, 136 Milton Street, through December. So if you’re in New York, please have a look at these skillfully rendered, vibrant and often whimsical sketches and paintings from her life. Adding to the excitement on Sunday was a Boston Globe story about the rise of the travel agent that included quotes from Lisa and me. We were interviewed for the story several months ago, before our trip to southern Africa, and forgot about it until seeing it on Sunday. It was a nice surprise. Paired with the wonderful story from Moira McCarthy on ActiveTravels in the Boston Herald earlier this summer, we feel incredibly fortunate to be recognized. It only helps to legitimize the company when people search for a travel agent in that great big space called Google. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/25/16 at 06:00 AM
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Sunday, June 12, 2016

ActiveTravels Joins Forces with Northern Outdoors and Maine Huts & Trails

Those of you who have followed my travel writing career know that I return to Maine's North Woods as often as possible. All it takes is a 4-hour drive from Boston and I'm lost in a land of seemingly endless forest filled with mile-high mountains, immense lakes and too many ponds to count. The large swath of wilderness feels like a chunk of Alaska remarkably placed in our congested Northeast. I have paddled down the Allagash River, my tent almost trampled by moose in heat; white water rafted down the Class V rapid known as Cribworks on the Penboscot River; watched as a bear swam across remote Chesuncook Lake; relaxed under a waterfall on that signature canyon hike along the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail, Gulf Hagas; and mountain biked with Lisa last summer to all four newly built huts on the spectacular Maine Huts & Trails circuit. It has led to some of my favorite articles like this one for Sierra Magazine
 
Now I’m happy to report that ActiveTravels has joined forces with Northern Outdoors and Maine Huts & Trails to spread the word and encourage more people to follow in Thoreau’s footsteps. We have designed two itineraries, one for families, one for a guys or girls getaway to a sampling of the most stunning spots in Maine's North Woods. Price starts at an affordable $403 per person for a 4-night stay. Do yourself a favor this summer and sample this special slice of adventure in your own backyard!
 
Also in our June/July newsletter is a tour to savor the wines and food of Portugal, excellent resorts of St John in the US Virgin Islands, and great new inns to check out in Martha’s Vineyard. I’m currently on vacation in Jamaica to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from high school, then off to Indiana University for orientation. I’ll be back on June 27th, live on location from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In the meantime, happy travels and stay active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/12/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 03, 2016

Shameless Self-Promotion

If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, I apologize in advance for tooting our horn yet again. Last week, the Boston Herald published a 2-page spread on the work we do at ActiveTravels. Yesterday, the interview I had with Onward Nation on the joys and struggles of owning a travel business went live on a podcast. Of course, I talked about shameless self-promotion. Please have a look and listen and tell us what you think. 
 
Enjoy the weekend! I’ll be back on Monday with Travel Outside the Box Week, 5 blogs on destinations you should put on your wish list. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/03/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 27, 2016

Celebrating Our 4th Anniversary at ActiveTravels Thanks to You!

In 1990, I left my job as an insurance broker in Manhattan, booked an open-ended ticket to the South Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia, and wrote my first travel story, “Dining with the Descendants of Cannibals on a Fijian Island” for the Miami Herald. It would prove to be start of a career where I would write more than 1500 stories (over 300 articles for the Boston Globe alone) and visit over 90 countries. Then the recession hit. I lost more than half my editors in 2008-2009 as magazines folded and newspapers either eliminated or greatly reduced their travel sections. Wanting to utilize my travel expertise, I convinced Lisa to join me in a business venture and become an accredited travel agent. 

 
Close family and friends scoffed at the idea, as if I just announced that I was becoming a blacksmith. After all, wasn’t it President Obama who suggested in a town hall meeting that travel agents were becoming obsolete? How could they possibly prosper against big-pocket online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, and Orbitz? There was just no need for them anymore, or was there? Since we opened ActiveTravels 4 years ago this month, without benefit of advertising dollars or a marketing department, there has been a steady stream of traffic. In fact, we just hired another assistant, Jainy, so you might be hearing from her. 
 
We want to sincerely thank you for trusting us with your travels! Enjoy the long weekend! While relaxing on your chaise lounge chair, please check out our latest newsletter. We cover Alaskan cruises, divulge our favorite resorts in the Turks & Caicos, and introduce you to one of our beloved Italian outfitters. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/27/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Trustees Turns 125

In 1891, Boston landscape architect Charles Eliot received the go-ahead from the Legislature to establish The Trustees of Reservations “for the purposes of acquiring, holding, maintaining and opening to the public . . . beautiful and historic places . . . within the Commonwealth.” Today, the nonprofit conservation organization maintains over 100 sites in Massachusetts and has a yearly membership of more than 125,000 people. Crane Beach and Naumkeag, the recently renovated Stockbridge estate, are two of the crown jewels in the Trustees’ collection. But there are many more unheralded gems. The week of May 16th I’m going to divulge my 5 favorite Trustees sites not to be missed. This will lead up to the statewide anniversary launch on May 21st and “Home Sweet Home” Historic Open House Day. The Great House on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, the Old Manse in Concord, and seven other historic homes will be open to the public for free. An exhibition, From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary, recently reviewed in The Boston Globe, will be at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (NBLMC) at the Boston Public Library through August 28, 2016. Naumkeag will host a garden party on Saturday, July 23rd. And you’ll catch us at the Crane Estate on August 6th to catch Megan Hilty and the Boston Pops Orchestra perform at one of the most majestic spots in the state, the Grand Allée, overlooking the Atlantic. Do yourself a favor and check out at least one new Trustees site this summer. You’ll thank me! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/04/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 15, 2016

April 2016 ActiveTravels Newsletter: Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

We have a wonderful newsletter to share with you this month. I hope you're hungry! Our main feature is all about culinary travel, a wave of new offerings by tour companies due to a strong interest in farm-to-table meals, cooking classes, slow food happenings, and learning about cultures through the universal medium of a love of food. We also present our favorite hotels in Bermuda, discuss what’s new in Washington, DC, and introduce you to the only tour operator the World Wildlife Fund has teamed with, Natural Habitat Adventures. Lastly, don’t miss our travel tip on how to stay safe abroad. We hope you enjoy and we’re happy to help plan your summer travels. Please note that I’ll be out of the office Monday to cheer on the Boston Marathon runners. I’ll be back next week with my favorite adventures in New England during springtime. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/15/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, April 11, 2016

Airlines Continue to Squeeze Passengers and Profits Thanks to US Senate

Not widely reported was a vote brought to the senate floor this past Thursday by New York Senator Chuck Schumer. The amendment would have blocked airlines from further reducing the “size, width, padding, and pitch” of seats, passengers’ legroom, and the width of aisles. If you’re feeling more and more cramped on airlines, realize that it’s not from all the food you devoured on vacation. Economy-class airline seats have shrunk these past several years on average from a width of 18 inches down to 16.5 inches. Also the pitch, the space between your seat and the one in front of you, has gone from 35 inches to around 31 inches. This is the thanks we get after airlines recorded a record-breaking year in 2015 thanks to the dramatic drop in fuel prices, an item I discussed in a recent interview with Fox News. Of course, the dysfunctional Senate voted against the proposal simply because Schumer is a Democrat, voting for the most part along party lines. But make no mistake that it’s the public that’s getting squeezed out of the equation. It’s the reason why business and leisure travelers always rate US airlines amongst the worst in the world on any recent survey. Sad. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/11/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis to Headline Festival International de Jazz

Called the world’s largest jazz festival by the Guinness Book of World Records, the 37th annual Festival International de Jazz returns to Montreal June 29th to July 9th. Concerts are scheduled from noon to midnight for 10 days and nights at 15 concert halls and eight outdoor stages. This year’s line-up, just announced, will certainly keep the crowds happy. The Chick Corea Trio, Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Orchestra, Rufus Wainwright, Lauryn Hill, the Avishai Cohen Trio, Melody Gardot, Gregory Porter, and Noel Gallagher are just a few of the many impressive performers that will appear. Participating hotels like Square Phillips Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Montreal are offering packages that include lodging, breakfast, and tickets to the venue. 

 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/06/16 at 06:00 AM
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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.

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