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Monday, May 02, 2016

Bike Into the Maine Canvas

The rugged and raw beauty of Maine has been a lure to many of America’s foremost landscape artists. Man versus the chaotic forces of nature, particularly fishermen struggling against powerful nor’easters, kept Winslow Homer busy on the boulder-strewn shores of Prouts Neck for more than two decades. Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and Rockwell Kent all painted Monhegan Island’s 160-foot cliffs, meadows, and quaint fishing communities in their own distinctive styles like the bold black and white woodcuts by Kent. Monhegan is also a favorite subject of Jamie Wyeth, whose father Andrew Wyeth and grandfather N.C. Wyeth all summered on the Maine coast. Indeed, Andrew met his wife and her best friend Christina Olson in Maine. Olson is the woman lying down in the tall grass of Wyeth’s iconic painting, Christina’s World. 

Summer Feet Cycling is taking full advantage of Maine’s stunning scenery and rich art history to present two guided weeklong trips this summer. Not only will you visit Prouts Neck, Monhegan Island, and the Olson House, but you’ll stop at 7 art museums in the state, including two of my favorites, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. Cost is $2,595 per person and includes 6 nights lodging at iconic properties like The Black Point Inn in Prouts Neck, The Island Inn on Monhegan Island, and the Inns at Blackberry Common in Camden. Most meals, bike, and guides with van are all part of the package. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/02/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Biking with Wayne Curtis in New Orleans

Wayne Curtis is best known as author of “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails” (Crown, 2006) and as cocktail columnist for Atlantic Monthly. But my friendship with Wayne goes back at least a decade prior when we were both moaning about the egregious book contracts Frommer’s publisher forced upon us. Thankfully, the travel guidebook days are far behind us. I caught up with Wayne in 2008, when he had just moved to New Orleans. He brought my brother Jim and me to his favorite bars and bartenders and it resulted in this story for The Boston Globe. But I know that Wayne has a passion beyond cocktails, including architecture, urban renewal, jazz, and biking. All figured prominently in a 5-hour tour he designed for my family on our trip to Nola earlier this month.

We rented bikes at Michael’s on Frenchman Street and off we went to our first stop, Crescent Park, a brand new green space that hugs the Mississippi River for over a mile. Then we biked the streets of Bywater, one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city especially for young hipsters, where Wayne pointed out a massive church that will soon open as a hotel. We pedaled through Louis Armstrong Park in the Tremé neighborhood and soon we were on the latest bike trail in town, the 2.6-mile Lafitte Greenway. We stopped at Parkway for the requisite roast beef and shrimp poor boys before biking through the Tulane campus, glorious Audubon Park and its exquisite moss-covered Spainish oak trees, and past the homes of Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, and Archie Manning in the Garden District. A quick ride through the crowds in the French Quarter and we arrived back at our bike rental store 15 miles later. A perfect ride, especially since we ended with a set of live music and a beer across the street at The Spotted Cat
The ride was such a worthy introduction to Nola that I persuaded Wayne to offer the exact loop to clients of ActiveTravels. If you’re feeling a little less ambitious, he will also do the same nightly bar round-up as described in the Boston Globe piece and include his favorite jazz joints. Don’t miss out on seeing the authentic New Orleans on these jaunts with Wayne. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/29/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lexus Gran Fondo Coming to the Chatham Bars Inn

After months of preparation, the Chatham Bars Inn has just announced that it will be holding a 3-day weekend of biking and fine dining over Memorial Day Weekend. Partnering with Lexus, the three-day event includes the Lexus Gran Fondo, a 100-mile race along with professional cyclists George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde from Boston to Chatham, and 25-mile and 50-mile routes around Cape Cod for us mere mortals. Your biking efforts will be rewarded with a slew of culinary events like a barbecue hosted by one of my favorite chefs in Texas, Dean Fearing, paired with the latest releases of saison from the Blackberry Farm Brewery. A celebratory dinner Saturday night will feature the talents of Chatham Bars chefs Anthony Cole and Justin Urso, chef Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta’s and Blanca, NYC) and sommelier Carlton McCoy (The Little Nell, Aspen, CO). The event will end Sunday with a clambake on the shore at the Chatham Bars Beach House. Expect to dine on freshly shucked oysters, littlenecks, a whole Chatham lobster, shrimp, mussels and more. On Monday, Lexus will provide courtesy transportation for all cyclists and up to two guests back to Boston. Several packages are available for guests looking to stay at Chatham Bars Inn and participate in the festivities. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/20/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 18, 2016

Top 5 Wine Regions for Bicyclists, Bordeaux, France

Other biking outfitters can try to emulate Butterfield & Robinson, but none can approach George Butterfield’s innate sense of style. Trips can cost upwards of $1,000 a day but are worth every penny when you consider some of the amenities—nights at 14th century estates, seven-course feasts at private French vineyards, a van always by your side when you tire of biking. He’ll customize any Bordeaux trip you want or simply sign up for his 6-day jaunt from Bordeaux to Dordogne that runs from mid-May through early October. You’ll bike on relatively flat terrain through these two famous wine regions, but it won’t be easy when your lunch consists of a private wine tasting at such famous vineyards as Mouton-Rothschild. At night, you’ll be staying at a former 16th century monastery, now a Relais and Chateaux property, and a 17th century chartreuse perched atop a hill surrounded by vineyards, orchards, streams, and ponds. Dinner is a gluttonous feast, accompanied by, what else, more excellent wine.  

I’m headed to Dallas, Maine, and New Orleans over the next two weeks. I’ll be back with stories about my travels on March 31st. In the meantime, stay active! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/18/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Top 5 Wine Regions for Bicyclists, Napa and Sonoma Valley, California

Based in San Francisco since the company started in 1979, Backroads has reaped the benefits of being so close to Napa and Sonoma Valley. Their bike tours to the region are still the industry standard. Ride through the vineyards and soaring redwood forests in the company of new friends, have numerous opportunities for wine tastings at the dozens of wineries that line the cycling routes, get those tired legs worked on at award-winning spas, and then indulge in gourmet meals inspired by local vintages and fresh California ingredients. I call that a recipe for success, the reason why Backroads has become an active travel industry leader. They now offer trips all over the globe, but it’s hard to top the ones in their backyard to California Wine Country


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/17/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Top 5 Wine Regions for Bicyclists, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Oregon Wine Country is less than an hour drive southeast of Portland off Route 99W. Download a winery map and off you go on rural roads to sample a handful of the 200 wineries. Pedal Bike Tours in Portland offers a guided day ride to Willamette if you want to go on a group tour. If you find yourself in Salem, do yourself a favor and stop at a personal favorite, Cristom Vineyards. Many of the Oregon pinots are bright, redolent of fruit, have a fine nose, but on his small plot, winemaker Steve Doerner has managed to bring layers of complexity to his wine. The Jessie, for example, named for the owner’s grandmother, has hints of black cherries, tangy plum, and cinnamon, with a smooth finish that will have you reaching for your credit card to order a case, the exact move my brother and I made. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/16/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Top 5 Wine Regions for Bicyclists, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Sitting at the southernmost tip of South Africa, Capetown can certainly match Sydney and San Francisco as the most beautiful city in the world. Table Mountain, often draped in its tablecloth of clouds, forms a spectacular backdrop. A nice little warm up ride will bring you from the city to the exquisite beach of Camps Bay and the mountains rising behind Hout Bay. Serious bikers can then continue on to the Cape Peninsula and the Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Just be on the lookout for baboons that often cross the road. Once you’ve properly explored Capetown, drive one hour to the west and start your tour of Stellenbosch and its award-winning wineries. Bikes N’ Wines offers a 2-day guided bike ride through the region, where you learn about the rich heritage of the area and most importantly, taste the wares. The two day tour includes breakfast, a light braai lunch on one of the days and accommodation at on one of the wine estates. Cost of the 2-day jaunt is $1950 Rand or $127 US. By all means, continue your tour of the region on the famous Garden Route, a drive amidst forest, lagoons, and coastal towns, including the surfing mecca of Plettenberg Bay, another stunning locale to bike along the Western Cape or mountain bike the forests of Knysna. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Top 5 Wine Regions for Bicyclists, Niagara-on-the-Lake

There’s nothing quite like the combination of biking through wine country. It’s not merely the lonely backcountry roads that lead to the wineries, but the chance to dine on a sublime meal at a winery after a day of biking. This week I plan to focus on some of my favorite regions to bike and visit wineries. Yes, I’ll include the obvious choices like Napa and Sonoma, along with the Stellenbosch region in South Africa, the Bordeaux Valley of France, and the exceptional pinot noirs of Oregon wine country, But I’ll start with a destination that may come as a bit of a surprise, Canada. 

Only a half-hour drive from the thunderous roar of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake is the antithesis of its commercialized neighbor. This charming Victorian town rests in the heart of Ontario wine country, where close to 100 vineyards produce the sweet icewine, Riesling, and Pinot Noir. At night, rest your weary legs while watching a play at the renowned Shaw Festival, specializing in the works of Bernard Shaw. I was fortunate to tour the region with the highly reputable outfitter, Butterfield and Robinson, and it resulted in this story for The Boston Globe

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/14/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, February 08, 2016

5 Adventures on a Shoestring, Biking in Brittany

There’s no longer a need to deplete your life savings when selecting a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. You simply have to look beyond the convenience of contacting big name American outfitters who charge exorbitant prices for their worldwide trips (often in excess of $1,000 per day, excluding airfare). Instead, book your journey with highly reputable local outfitters whose sole specialty is their native country.  This way, you eliminate the middleman and pocket the huge savings. All five of the outfitters I’ll blog about this week will give you a far more in-depth look at their homeland than any American guide could possibly do, at a fraction of the cost. First stop, Brittany.

Kate and Geoff Husband were two British teachers who spent most of their holidays biking in northern France. Eventually, their vacations became their profession when they opened Breton Bikes Cycling Holidays in 1989 in the small town of Pontivy. Based smack in the middle of Brittany, the northwestern section of France that juts out into the Atlantic, Breton Bikes offer one and two-week self-guided tours to some of the Husband’s favorite haunts. With small rural towns, exquisite coastline views, and very few tough climbs (the highest point in Brittany is just over 1,000 feet), this region of France is ideal for biking. Price of one-week tours including rooms at small B&Bs, breakfast, routes, bikes, and full backup in case you get a flat starts at a mere 685 Euros. If you prefer to camp, the cost plummets to 285 Euros (excluding food). The Husbands supply all equipment necessary. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 18, 2015

Top 5 Adventures in Florida, Bike Ding Darling National Refuge

The best way to see the alligators and amazing birdlife at “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is on two wheels. This way you can slow down and see birds hidden in trees that you would miss if you zipped by in a car. Get here early before it gets too hot to catch the wildlife at its most active. Then make your way over to the beaches at low tide. Sanibel is one of the finest spots on the Florida coast to find pristine seashells, especially during the months of 
February, March, and April. You might return back to your hotel room with sand dollars, whelks, even a conch shell, but realize that taking live shells is strictly prohibited. 
I’m off the next two weeks on a much needed break. I’ll be back the week of January 4th with my 5 Favorite Travel Days of 2015.
Have a Happy, Healthy, and Active New Year!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/18/15 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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