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Biking

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bike Cape Cod and the Islands this Summer

Those of you who have followed my writing over the years know I love biking on Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. All three locales are blessed with a network of bike trails that line the coastline, snake through the kettle ponds, or roll atop the dunes of the Province Lands Bike Trail at the tip of Cape Cod (a favorite family outing). So I was delighted to see that Massachusetts-based Great Freedom Adventures will be offering a 6-day guided bike tour to the Cape and Islands this summer. They’ll visit Provincetown, ride along most of the Cape Cod National Seashore to the Rockwellesque village of Chatham, before ferrying over to Nantucket and the Vineyard to bike a good chunk of both islands. Dates are June   14-19, July 12-17, and September 13-18. Cost is $2,595 per person, including all lodging, most meals, guides, and ferry tickets. Also ask about their Maritime Bike and Beer Adventure Tour which visits many microbrews while biking the scenic Cape Ann region of Massachusetts. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/21/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

5 Favorite Travel Days in 2014, Biking Lake Geneva’s La Côte Region

Traveling to the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland this past September with Lisa, every day was a dream that could easily make this list. Seeing Dubuffet’s collection of art from the insane at Lausanne, strolling through the sculpted vineyards of the Lavaux, and taking a cruise over to the magical 12th-century castle on the rock, Chateau de Chillon, were all worthy of being chosen as my favorite days of the year. But the day that sticks out most in my memory was the most authentic experience, electric biking through the La Côte vineyards just outside the town of Nyon.
 
If you want to bike through vineyards with only locals on charming hillside towns reminiscent of Burgundy, follow in my footsteps. When we arrived at the Nyon train station to meet our guide, there were no more bikes to rent, only electric bikes. So off we went, zipping on a paved trail through the neighboring community of Prangins, staring in awe at 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, which rises from the French side of Lake Geneva. In the town of Gland, we filled up our water bottles in one of the many public fountains, where water comes from the same reservoir that supplies the nearby homes. 
 
Then we headed for the hills and were instantly enchanted by the town of Luins. We met Laurent Vigneron, the winemaker and owner of the picturesque Chateau de Luins, ready to start his fall harvest in less than a week. He took us into rooms holding immense oak barrels, some dating from as far back as 1922. We sampled his wines, a smooth pinot noir and a dry white created from the region’s favored grape, Chasselas, realizing instantly why the Swiss keep most of their wine for themselves. From Luins, we biked on a trail through the vineyards into the storybook town of Bursins, where a Medieval Cluny church still stands with requisite watchtower in the town center. A historic whitewashed chateau, now an upscale lodging called Chateau Le Rosey, peered down from the hillside. Across the street was a house straight out of a French countryside movie set with a wooden tile roof covered in moss. 
 
We had lunch at Café de L’Union, known for its deep-fried gruyere cheese puff they call the Malakoff. Another specialty was the blue trout caught at a nearby river, which did arrive on our plate the color blue. It was served with cornichons and French fries. Perfect. After lunch, we headed downhill through cornfields waiting to be reaped and apple trees bending over with the latest crop. We past a horseback rider and soon took Route 1 along the lake to the town of Rolle. Quickly changing into swimwear, we had a paddleboard lesson at the Paddle Center. Soon we were gliding out on the placid blue waters of Lake Geneva, again mesmerized by the mountain panorama. An image I won’t quickly forget. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/06/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seeing Toronto’s Neighborhoods by Bike

One of my favorite excursions lately is to get an overview of a city on a guided bike tour. In a short amount of time, you can see a good chunk of the city, learn about the history of the locale, visit intriguing buildings and public art only a local would know, ask for a list of recommended restaurants, and yes, get a decent workout. In the past two months, I had great rides in Reykjavik and Portland, Maine. So when I heard that Toronto Bicycle Tours was still offering their 4-hour, 10-mile “Heart of Downtown” ride in mid-October, I was in.

 
It was crisp, sunny autumn day when I met my guide, Terrence Eta, got adjusted to my hybrid bike, and threw on my helmet. He started with an overview of the city’s British heritage at stately Osgoode Hall, one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in 1832. Then it was on to the urban plaza, Nathan Phillips Square to view the new and old city hall, and Eaton Center, the busiest mall in Canada. We cruised into Old Town, known for its distinctive yellow brick, to stop at the circa-1903 King Eddy hotel, now the Omni King Edward Hotel. Terrence mentioned that in 1964, the Beatles stayed here on their first trip to Toronto. It also caused another commotion that year when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton rented a suite together--while married to other spouses. 
 
A short pedal led to the Financial District and skyscrapers designed by starchitects I.M. Pei and Mies van der Rohe. Then we cruised past the St. Lawrence Market, named the number one food market in North America by National Geographic (try the classic peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery) and into the Distillery District. In the 1870s, this was the largest distillery of whisky in North America. Today it’s home to microbreweries like the local favorite, Mill Street, art galleries, restaurants, and the beloved chocolatier, Soma. Next stop was Sugar Beach on the Lake Ontario shoreline, named for its proximity to the massive Redpath sugar refinery. 
 
A quick stop below the CN Tower to peer up at the intrepid Edge Walkers, before we circled the Rogers Centre, home to the Toronto Blue Jays, and cruised along John Street to Grange Park. This is one of the special spots in the city, where you’ll find budding photographers snapping pictures of the backside of the Art Gallery of Ontario, with Frank Gehry’s signature staircase jutting out of the building, and the storied “Tabletop” building to the right. Then we checked off Chinatown at the corner of Spadina and Dundas, the vintage stores and coffee shops at Kensington Market, and the ethnic restaurants that line Baldwin Village. Few know the city better that Terrence who grew up here and went to the University of Toronto, and it showed. Highly recommended! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/22/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Biking the La Côte Region on the Outskirts of Nyon

With rows of grapes clinging to the steep mountainside overlooking Lake Geneva, the vineyards of the Lavaux Region certainly deserves its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet, with that distinction comes an increase in tourism. If you want to bike through vineyards with only locals on charming hillside towns reminiscent of Burgundy, follow in my footsteps and head to the La Côte vineyards just outside the town of Nyon. We rented bikes at the Nyon train station and biked on a paved trail through the neighboring community of Prangins, staring in awe at 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, rising mightily from the French side of Lake Geneva. In the town of Gland, we filled up our water bottles in one of the many public fountains, where water comes from the same reservoir that supplies the nearby homes. We passed the Toblerone Hiking Trail that leads from the lakeshore high into the mountains, named after the concrete structures that line the trail that are the exact same shape as Toblerone chocolate.

 
Then we headed for the hills and were instantly enchanted by the town of Luins. We met Laurent Vigneron, the winemaker and owner of the picturesque Chateau de Luins, ready to start his fall harvest in less than a week. He took us into rooms holding immense oak barrels, some dating from as far back as 1922. We sampled his wines, a smooth pinot noir and a dry white created from the region’s favored grape, Chasselas, realizing instantly why the Swiss keep most of their wine for themselves. From Luins, we biked on a trail through the vineyards into the storybook town of Bursins, where a Medieval Cluny church still stands with requisite watchtower in the town center. A historic whitewashed chateau, now an upscale lodging called Chateau Le Rosey, peered down from the hillside. Across the street was a house straight out of a French countryside movie set with a wooden tile roof covered in moss. 
 
We had lunch at Café de L’Union, known for its deep-fried gruyere cheese puff they call the Malakoff. Another specialty was the blue trout caught at a nearby river, which did arrive on our plate the colored blue. It was served with cornichons and French fries. Perfect. After lunch, we headed downhill through cornfields waiting to be reaped and apple trees bending over with the latest crop. We past a horseback rider and soon took Route 1 along the lake to the town of Rolle. Quickly changing into swimwear, we had a paddleboard lesson from Jason at the Paddle Center. Soon we were gliding out on the placid blue waters of the small harbor, again mesmerized by the mountain panorama. Another memorable day in the Lake Geneva Region!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/01/14 at 04:00 AM
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Biking Reykjavik

With its magical mix of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, rugged coastline, green meadows, and geothermal spas like the acclaimed Blue Lagoon, it’s no wonder that Iceland has become a popular destination for our clientele. It’s also an easy 5-hour flight from the East Coast and a free stopover on Icelandair to other European destinations like Stockholm, Copenhagen, or Barcelona. So there’s no excuse not to check it out. I just spent a week in the country and had a great time. My first outing was a morning bike ride with Reykjavik Bike Tours to get an overview of the city where two-thirds of the Iceland’s population of 330,000 resides. 

 
We biked past one of Reykjavik’s signature buildings, the recently built Harpa Concert Hall, a gleaming glass building that reflects both sky and water. Then we cruised into the heart of the city on cobblestone streets to one of the most historic neighborhoods, simply called 101. At the Parliament Building, we learned about Iceland’s 2008 bankruptcy and their historic vote not to pay off their debt to the UK. “Instead of cash, we gave them ash,” said our guide, referring to the volcanic ash disruption of international flights in 2010. We stopped at one of the 120 outdoor pools in the city, open year-round and heated by the abundant thermal energy. We also biked past Bjork’s modest home and pedaled through the University of Iceland’s campus, home to 17,000 students, 70% of whom are women (note to son: this is the school where you want to spend your semester abroad). 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Biking the Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island

Biking slightly uphill outside of Hunter’s River, horse farms replace dairy farms and the velvety green pasture flourishes. Purple lupines line the trail to add their color to the brilliant canvas. I was on my final ride of a three-day bike tour of Prince Edward Island one September, on assignment for Canadian Geographic magazine. Hunter’s River is less than a 15-minute drive from the fabled dunes and red cliffs of Cavendish, the PEI tourist hub made famous by that young girl in braids, Anne of Green Gables. Close to civilization yet far enough removed to relish the solitude (I’ve only greeted one other biker this day), I’m lost in a bucolic setting that has changed little since Lucy Maud Montgomery penned her timeless novel in 1908. 

 
Oh yes, there is one difference. The Canadian Pacific railroad that once connected the island’s small villages last roared through the interior in 1989, leaving in its wake hundreds of kilometers of track. By 2000, the tracks were pulled and the line replaced with a surface of finely crushed gravel, creating a biking and walking thoroughfare called the Confederation Trail. It starts in Tignish on the island’s western tip and rolls 279 kilometers to the eastern terminus in Elmira. 
 
The hum of trains long gone, I hopped on my bike and pedaled through a tunnel of dense pines that effectively blocked out the world. There was not a soul around and the chaos of modernity was replaced with the melody of birds chirping. I was biking into a bygone era, a serene spot where a girl named Anne could have easily grown up without too much duress. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/11/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Biking and Hiking Zion National Park

An hour’s drive northeast of Las Vegas, rows of creosote bushes and gnarly-looking Joshua trees lead to ridges of sandstone. Crossing into Utah, these walls of rock become far more dramatic, shaped into a phantasmagoric blend of towering cliff walls, slot canyons, lonely buttes, and organ-shaped mesas. It’s a harsh, rugged terrain, best suited for pioneers and as a backdrop for 1940s Westerns. You half expect John Wayne to pop out of the bush and mutter, “I’m hoping to round up a posse and you’re it.” 

 
The unforgiving rock is also ripe for adventure. October 2012, three close friends and I signed on to a 4-day jaunt with the reputable West Coast outfitter, Bicycle Adventures. The itinerary took full advantage of jaw-dropping scenery, offering two days of riding through Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park, and then two days of hiking on classic Zion trails, within a narrow slot canyon and atop Angel’s Landing, a precipitous perch better suited for the condors we would spot. This was not some pansy-ass undertaking, but a thigh-burning workout with sustained climbs longer than 7 miles on two wheels and a steep ascent up Angel’s Landing on two legs. The best form of therapy.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/10/14 at 09:59 AM
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Friday, September 05, 2014

Bike the East Bay Bicycle Path, Providence to Bristol, Rhode Island

All it takes is a mere six miles on a paved path to leave a highly industrialized section of Providence and reach the sheltered coastline of Narragansett Bay. No wonder locals would rather bike to the beach than deal with car traffic. The 14.5-mile long East Bay Bicycle Path, originally part of the Providence/Worcester line, heads southeast from Providence along the scenic shores of the bay to the town of Bristol. Less than two miles into the ride, fishing trawlers and sailboats start to appear on the right and small inlets and wetlands can be seen on the left. Head there this weekend and you’re likely to see locals clamming for littlenecks in the shallow waters along the route. That’s quite a contrast from the view of the Providence skyline that lurks behind you. Soon you’ll reach Colt State Park and Bristol Town Beach, the finest spot for sunbathing along the route. The trail ends in Bristol at Independence Park, near a handful of restaurants that I wrote about in last Sunday’s Boston Globe travel section.

 
Next week I’ll be back with my 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America. Have a great weekend and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/05/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Biking to Five Lighthouses Outside Portland, Maine

I spent my 50th birthday on Saturday biking with my extended family of ten on a guided day ride on the outskirts of Portland. Led by Norman Patry, owner of Summer Feet Cycling, we biked along the scenic shoreline of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth to five lighthouses. They included such picturesque gems as Bug Light, the smallest lighthouse in operation in America, and Portland Head Light, painted by the likes of Edward Hopper. Near Portland Head Light, we bought lobster rolls from a food truck and dined overlooking Portland Harbor. The lobster rolls were excellent, chockful of fresh meat, and you could order them Maine-style (with mayo), Connecticut-style (lightly buttered), spiced with curry (loved it) or wasabi. Washed down with locally made Eli’s Blueberry Soda and topped off with ginger molasses cookies from Standard Bakery in town, it was a perfect Portland meal. The ride ends at Kettle Cove, a small beach, just past Two Lights State Park. Summer Feet offers a slew of other bike trips in Maine including a self-guided 3-day ride near Kennebunkport that sounds enticing. But if you only have a limited amount of time in the state, this 5-hour ride gives you a good taste of Maine and comes highly recommended. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/18/14 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Every year as I come close to celebrating another birthday (and this year is a big one), I try to partake in an activity that confronts my fear of heights. Ziplining upside down in Costa Rica or attempting a treetop obstacle course in the Berkshires are two of my most recent examples. Since I hate driving across long bridges, I thought this would be a good time to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. My family took the Powell-Hyde Cable Car to the biking outfitter, Blazing Saddles, located near Ghirardelli Square. At 10 am daily, they lead a guided tour along San Francisco Harbor though the Marina District, taking a brief stop at the Palace of Fine Arts. Striking views of the bridge open up as you head northwest past Crissy Field to Fort Point. We biked up a short hill and were soon starting our ride in a bike line across the bridge. I was nervous at first, but my passion for biking eased my anxiety. I even stopped several times to take in the view of Alcatraz and the rising bluffs of Marin County on the opposite shores. 

 
Soon, we were sweeping downhill into the coastal community of Sausalito. We grabbed lunch at an excellent Italian sandwich shop, Venice Gourmet, and sat outside on benches near the water. Then we took the ferry from Sausalito back to San Francisco. When we returned the bikes at Blazing Saddles, we walked over to the original Ghirardelli’s for root beer floats and sundaes. The perfect end to a glorious 10-mile ride. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/29/14 at 10:00 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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