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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

San Antonio Missions Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

San Antonio might be best known for its River Walk, but one of my favorite outings in the city is the opportunity to bike to the Spanish colonial Missions. My personal favorite of the five is Concepción, built in 1731.  The crumbling lime stone exterior, which leads to a still operable church, is incredibly photogenic, especially with the early morning sunshine pouring down. Afterwards, I bike down Mission Road 3 miles to reach the largest mission, San José, known for its popular Mariachi Mass each Sunday. At its height, the missions would hold close to 300 people, working as a church, farm, and ranch. Franciscan friars gathered the native population, converted them to Catholicism, and taught them to live like Spaniards. At Mission San José, you can still see the small living quarters that surround the square layout. Inside the stone walls, overlooking the green and the church, the setting is serene. Now the world will get to know these majestic structures, thanks to the news on Sunday that the San Antonio missions were chosen as one of the latest UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s a perfect time to view the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in America.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/08/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Travel Writing Workshop on the Vineyard with Acclaimed Travel Writer Perry Garfinkel

In 1990, I left my job as a broker in Manhattan and booked an open-ended ticket to Sydney, stopping at numerous South Pacific isles along the way. The day before I left, I was at the 5th Avenue Book Fair, when I spotted a book titled Travel Writing, For Profit and Pleasure. More than 1500 stories and 9 travel books later, I can honestly say that the author of that book, Perry Garfinkel, changed my life. Now you have the rare chance to have Perry inspire your life. He’s teaching a 5-day workshop in that glorious travel locale, Martha’s Vineyard, from August 30-September 5. 

The 5-day workshop is for everyone from beginners to published writers in all literary niches who want to add travel writing to their portfolio. The workshop will cover: the nuts and bolts of writing style, developing personal voice and self editing; how and where to research story ideas that will sell; the art of the pitch; in-the-field do’s and don’ts; the essentials of interviewing; follow-up after publication; the finances, and more. It will include in-class writing drills, off-site “assignments,” mock editorial pitch sessions, and a chance for the Perry to review submissions individually. There’s also a good chance that I’ll be making a cameo to talk about one of the topics I always bring up when speaking at colleges: dealing with rejection. So come join us! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/07/15 at 05:50 AM
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hot Off the Press: ActiveTravel’s June/July Newsletter

This is our combined June/July issue. Like many of you, we’ll be traveling with the kids once school ends in late June. This summer, we’re off to Istanbul and Cappadocia. We’ll report back on our adventures in the August issue. As many of you know, I just returned from a memorable week of travel in Nova Scotia. To give you a little taste of what I experienced in this Atlantic Maritimes province, our “News from the Road” feature is devoted to Nova Scotia. In mid-July, Lisa and I will be hiking, biking, and paddling our way to the four huts of the Maine Huts & Trails system, as discussed in our Quick Escape. Also in this issue, Lisa talks about her favorite hotels in Hong Kong, an outfitter we use in Asia to book trips to Bali, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and luggage that has its own GPS system, so you know exactly where it is at all times. 

Next week I’ll be partnering with The Trustees of Reservations, the Massachusetts-based nonprofit conservation organization, to design Dream Day Itineraries for families based on their 112 locales in the state. So please stay tuned and also follow me on Twitter @ActiveTravels. Enjoy the weekend and stay active!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/18/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 15, 2015

Croatia, Western Dude Ranches, Pack for a Purpose, and More in Our May Newsletter

In the May ActiveTravels newsletter, Lisa reports on her latest trip to Croatia and delves into why the country has become such a European hot spot. We also list some of our clients’ favorite dude ranches, promote Pack with a Purpose, and talk about an outfitter who designs custom-made trips to America’s National Parks. With the National Park System turning 100 in 2016, this is a good time to think about a trip to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, or Acadia National Park. 
I’ll be in Ithaca, New York, next Monday and Tuesday, back Wednesday. Enjoy the weekend and keep active!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/15/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 13, 2015

ActiveTravels March Newsletter Now Available

Tuscany is a destination often found on people’s bucket lists. Dreams of the unspoiled, authentic Italy where medieval hill towns, vineyards, olive oil and truffles abound. We’ve paired up with a wonderful Italian tour operator who can offer accommodations in farm houses, villas, apartments, or B&Bs in the region with activities that range from taking cooking classes to guided bike rides on the rolling hills past vineyards, Medieval homesteads, and Etruscan tombs. Also in this month’s newsletter, we disclose our 5 favorite off-the-beaten-path National Parks, lodging clients have enjoyed in Jackson Hole, why you should download the app, Yonder, and a gem of a renovated inn that we came across on a recent trip to Stowe. Enjoy!

I’m off to Tanzania tonight for an epic trip with Epic Private Journeys to check out Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. We’ll also be visiting more remote parts of the country like the Grumeti Reserves, home to two lavish lodges, a tented camp, and a mobile camp under the design and management of South Africa’s pioneering Singita tourism group. Another private wildlife reserve, Mwiba, is where you’ll find the latest upscale lodging in the country, the Mwiba Lodge, which opened last June and is already gaining acclaim for its 8 canvas-sided suites. I’ll be checking it all out and sending photos on my Twitter account @ActiveTravels. When I’ll return on March 23rd, you’ll be hearing all about it on this page. So stay tuned and stay active! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/13/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

AMC Buys Baker Mountain in Landmark Conservation Deal

If you’ve ever had the chance to stay at the circa-1873 Little Lyford Lodge in Maine’s North Woods, a gem of a property now run by the Appalachian Mountain Club, you’ve no doubt walked to the shores of Little Lyford Pond to paddle, fish, and spot moose slurping the water. Then you peer back and spot one of the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail’s signature peaks, 3,521-foot Baker Mountain. In a wonderful conservation deal announced last week, the AMC has acquired Baker Mountain and an additional 4,311 acres abutting the Katahdin Iron Works property.

“Baker Mountain was surrounded by conservation lands, but the Baker Mountain tract itself was not protected. It was ‘the hole in the doughnut,’ and with this purchase, AMC and its conservation partner, The Nature Conservancy, have ensured that this ecologically significant land will be protected,” said AMC Senior Vice President Walter Graff. The AMC will be providing pedestrian access to the Baker Mountain tract and will also be involved in habitat protection and sustainable forestry. The transactions now bring AMC’s land holdings in the 100-Mile Wilderness region to some 70,000 acres. To read about AMC’s Maine Woods Initiative, please see my story in The Boston Globe. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/10/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 19, 2014

A Big Thank You for Your Continued Support of ActiveTravels!

Every year, ActiveTravels evaluates our goals as a company as we strive to be the best at what we do: customizing authentic vacations to locations across the globe for our diverse group of members. In 2014, our goal was to have 100 members. We crossed that threshold in September and we are extremely grateful! So many of our members have spread the word about what we do making advertising unnecessary and enabling us to help create memorable travel experiences for our wonderful clients. Even if you are not a member, but subscribe to this blog, thank you for your time! 

We’re headed off to Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine to ski next week, then visiting my family in New York over New Year’s. I’ll be back the week of January 5th with my 5 Favorite Travel Days in 2014. In the meantime, check out our December Newsletter to find out about an exciting new photography trip in Argentina in March, new hotel offerings in Tel Aviv, our favorite ski destinations in the West, a quick trip to Newport, Rhode Island, and new apps to help you conquer jet lag.
Wishing You a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2015!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/19/14 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—Myanmar

Myanmar (Burma) will have a landmark year in 2015, when it holds its first national elections since 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is favored to win a sweeping majority of seats, but foreign diplomats are already worried that the military will rear its ugly head once again, rigging the election in favor of its de facto party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The reforms of late 2012, early 2013 brought much needed democratic changes, optimism, and a surge of international travelers, many of whom were waiting for the release of Suu Kyi, the Burmese activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. These last two years have also brought a surge of capital primarily from China to build up the cities. Chinese investments have already changed the look of Vientiane, the historic capital of Laos on the Mekong River. Now the cranes and condos could very well change the look of Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Myanmar’s major city. If you want to visit the golden pagodas, colonial-era buildings, traditional shops, and 40s-era mansions, go now before the city is dotted with sleek new skyscrapers. Then take a river cruise to Mandalay, stopping at small villages along the way to get a real taste of Southeast Asia. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/12/14 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—Argentina

This tip comes from my buddy Richard, a photographer whose work accompanied my first travel stories on New York for the Washington Post and Toronto Globe and Mail. He now loves in Buenos Aires. “In case you don't know, we have two rates for exchanging dollars. The official/legal rate is around 8.5 pesos to the dollar, versus the "blue rate" which changes everyday but was around 14.20 pesos per dollar a few days ago. So to make the most of your money you want to bring a lot of US $100 bills and change them in the blue rate places. If you purchase restaurants and lodging on a credit card, you get the 8.5 rate plus fees and such.” Translation: Argentina is about a 40% discount if you use American dollars when you travel there. Flights are expensive, especially this time of year, but if you can somehow use miles, you’ll have an affordable vacation in one of the dreamiest destinations on the globe. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/11/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—India

India recently reported a 17% increase in international travelers this summer compared to last. This despite a steady trickle of Indian rape stories that appear in the newspaper. With a population of 1.2 billion people, there’s no way to avoid crime. But these egregious acts are few and far between, certainly not enough to miss out on this magical and memorable mix of locales that will no doubt overwhelm all 5 senses. The country features some of the most sybaritic resorts in the world, perfect after a day of wandering the often chaotic streets or taking in majestic sights. India also offers a top-notch tourism infrastructure that can help you navigate through the swarming population. For example, we work with an excellent travel firm in New Delhi that provides transport and guides to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur, among other routes. We recently had them escort one of our clients to the Great Stupa at Sanchi, north of Bhopal, and the city of Lucknow, well off-the-beaten-track. So if there’s a will, there’s a way. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/10/14 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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