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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Biking Niagara on the Lake

A mere hour outside of Toronto, just past Hamilton on the QEW, you spot a sign that reads, “Entering the Greenbelt.” Vineyards pop up on either side of the road, and just beyond those vineyards on the left, is mighty Lake Ontario. Welcome to the Niagara on the Lake region. Yesterday, Butterfield & Robinson’s Kathy Stewart designed and led us on a wonderful 35-mile ride through this fertile breadbasket. We started in the small village of Jordan, grabbed our bikes and were soon riding up the 300-foot Niagara Escarpment that makes this place so special (I’ll delve into this further when discussing the distinctive Niagara wine and terroir later this week). Soon we were riding on relatively level backcountry roads past vineyard after vineyard, lilacs and azaleas in full bloom, peach trees, and signs for rhubarb and asparagus for sale. 

Smack dab between the escarpment and the lake, this area of the region is known as The Bench. Not nearly as flashy and well-known as the Niagara on the Lake wineries, these boutique wineries create a feeling of Sonoma to big brother Napa. We had tastings at Hidden Bench, Cave Spring Cellars, and Flat Rock Cellars, run by the passionate owner, Ed Madronich. The region is best known for their Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Many of the Rieslings had a pleasing lemon/lime or grapefruit aftertaste, stemming from the limestone in the escarpment. It had a nice dry finish, not cloying in the least. At lunch at Inn on the Twenty, where we’re spending the night, we tried the Cave Spring Cellars Estate Riesling, perfectly paired with a just-picked fiddlehead and asparagus salad, and a main dish of scallops. I learned quickly that this wine tastes best when coupled with excellent food. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/22/13 at 09:35 AM
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Biking Niagara-on-the-Lake with Butterfield and Robinson

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. Like Napa, the best way to tour the vineyards is on backcountry roads via a bike. At night, rest your weary legs while watching a play at the renowned Shaw Festival, specializing in the works of Bernard Shaw. I’m fortunate to be reporting live from Niagara-on-the-Lake this week while biking with the highly reputable outfitter, Butterfield and Robinson

Other biking outfitters can try to emulate Butterfield & Robinson, but none can approach George Butterfield’s innate sense of style. His Loire Valley trips are legendary—nights spent at 14th century castles, seven-course feasts at private French vineyards, a van always by your side when you tire of biking. He’ll tailor-design trips to your particular desires, with private tours for multi-generational families and corporate groups now a huge part of his business. They offer biking and walking vacations to all corners of the globe, so it seems almost ironic that they’re finally setting their sights on their own backyard. Toronto-based, B&R is entering the Ontario market with vacations this summer and fall to Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’m privileged to be a part of their inaugural jaunt. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/20/13 at 10:00 AM
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Walla Walla, Washington

Not so long ago, Walla Walla was known for its sweet tasting onion. Yet, as of late, this community of 40,000 has been transformed by the grapevine, now boasting more than 80 boutique vineyards. Talented chefs have also made the move to this fertile valley, happy to get their produce from the local farmer and to have their meals washed down with award-winning cabernets and syrahs. The relatively level terrain in the southeastern corner of Washington offers a web of backcountry roads through vineyards and fields of wheat, onions, and peas that are perfect for road bikers. Unlike Napa, with its close proximity to San Francisco, there are no limos or buses filled with wine tasters to blow exhaust your way. Indeed, the closest city is sleepy Spokane, 155 miles to the north.  Ride south of town to view the 6,000-foot snowcapped peaks of the Blue Mountains, making sure to stop at Pepper Bridge, Northstar, and Zerba Wineries to try the complex, yet aromatic red wines, which, depending on the vintage, can hint at black cherry, pepper, even licorice.  
Follow me live on location next week, when I bike through Niagara-on-the-Lake with Butterfield & Robinson!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/17/13 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Manhattan

I can imagine what you’re thinking when I mention Manhattan as one of my favorite biking locales in America—suicidal bike messengers weaving in and out of the taxis and buses. But remember that Manhattan is an island ringed by rivers and an emerging bike trail that almost completely surrounds the city. This is especially true of the West Side where you can bike the entire length of the island on a trail along the Hudson River. Cruise under the vast span of the George Washington Bridge, past the USS Intrepid in Midtown, and then reach Battery Park City, where you can see the Statue Of Liberty. What an exhilarating feeling to see the skyscrapers and iconic sites of Manhattan on two wheels. This continues as you bike along the Lower East Side on the East River and pedal under the Brooklyn Bridge. Another fun ride is to simply bike the 6-mile loop around Central Park. There are numerous bike rental locales throughout the city, wherever you’re located.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/16/13 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Early Sunday morning and the only traffic on the 11-mile Crater Rim Trail was our little core of a dozen bikers. We rounded another bend and caught our first eye-widening view of Halema’uma’u Crater. Once home to a lake of lava in the 1920s, steam was now gushing forth over the large pit’s walls, permeating the air with the smell of sulfur. A trail of vapor shrouded the blackened basalt rock to give the lunarlike landscape an even more mysterious look. Halfway through our circular route, the harsh terrain was suddenly gone, replaced by a vivid green canopy of banana and tree ferns. A cool mist enveloped this tropical rain forest, polishing the long leaves with a layer of gloss and giving the chorus of birds something to sing about.  
Home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world, one would expect Hawaii’s southernmost island to be an angry land of deadened rock and rivers of red. Yet, I would soon realize that this ever-expanding island has a myriad of moods—the gentle rolling hills of Waimea, the inviting sand of the Kohala Coast, the almost impenetrable jungle-like interior of the Hamakua Coast, the enormity of two mountains that are nearly 14,000 feet, and yes, even a rain forest on the backside of a volcano.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/15/13 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Vancouver’s Stanley Park

The 9 km ride around the Seawall of Stanley Park can be done in less than an hour. Yet, by the time you stop at the world-class aquarium, see the selection of totem poles, and dine on sablefish (a tender and rich Northwestern whitefish) at the classic Teahouse for lunch, the day is over. Riding under towering Douglas firs and along the rocky shoreline, you’ll also stop numerous times to take pictures of the bay. On our last ride around Stanley Park, my family spent a good chunk of time being entertained by the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Less than 15 minutes later, we were watching river otters in the wild dining on crabs along the Seawall. Another unexpected find in a city of unexpected finds, the reason why I return to Vancouver as often as I can. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/14/13 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Biking to Giverny

Next week, I’ll be blogging live from Ontario’s wine country, Niagara-on-the-Lake, on a bike trip organized by Butterfield and Robinson. To get me in the mood, I’m going to devote this week to my favorite spring rides over the years. First up, biking to Giverny.

Those of you with a love of art history know Giverny as the home of Claude Monet. Less than an hour by train from Paris, you can make the pilgrimage to Monet’s home and his spectacular Japanese water garden inundated with day lilies, the inspiration for many of the works that hang on the walls of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and other impressive collections of Impressionism around the globe. Fat Tire Bike Tours escorts riders from Paris’ St. Lazare train station to the quaint village of Vernon. Once you arrive, you head to an outdoor market to stock up on picnic food--soft, creamy Reblochon cheese, slices of yummy Rosette de Lyon sausage, duck liver pate, warm baguettes from the neighborhood boulangerie, juicy strawberries and apricots, and a bottle of wine to wash it down. 
After passing out bikes, our guide Andrew led us to the banks of the Seine River where we watched a family of swans swim as we dug into our goodies. Then we were off on an easy bike trail that connects Vernon with Giverny. We entered the picturesque hamlet and were soon walking over that Japanese bridge seen in many of Monet’s works. The whole trip took about 8 hours and cost 75 Euros per biker, a perfect day trip from Paris. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/13/13 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bike the Charles River Bike Path

Boston takes its biking very seriously. When I lived in Cambridge, there were four bike shops within a three-block radius of my apartment. Just on Mass Avenue, I saw bikers with suits going to work, bikers with backpacks heading to school, and crazed riders who just seemed to enjoy weaving in and out of the car traffic. Needless to say, road biking is more than just a sport in this town, it’s a mode of travel. The 17.1-mile Charles River Bike Path runs from the Museum of Science along the Boston side of the Charles through the Esplanade to Watertown Square. The trail then crosses the river to the Cambridge side on its way back to the Museum of Science. Be on the lookout for Harvard, MIT, and BU crew teams that make their way up and down the Charles. Yet, it’s that iconic image of a single sculler slicing through the water, backed by the red-brick bridges and white steeples rising from the Harvard campus that locals and out-of-towners alike find so alluring. It’s like a waterbug skimming the placid surface of a pond, a tranquil setting in the midst of the urban buzz. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/25/13 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Bike to Madaket Beach, Nantucket, Massachusetts

Bike trails on Nantucket branch off in every direction, like the spokes on a wheel. My favorite ride, especially in the spring, is the 6-mile jaunt from town to Madaket Beach. Head out on Cliff Road. You’ll quickly meet up with the Cliff Trail as you pass the rolling meadows and red-winged blackbirds at Tupancy Links conservation land. Merge with the Madaket Trail and you might be greeted by flittering goldfinches and osprey peering out from their oversized nests. When the trail becomes sandy and you can hear the pounding surf, you know you’re getting close. On the westernmost part of the island, the beach slopes down to the crashing waves. All around you is water, as if you’re stepping off land into the great abyss. If you don’t have the energy to do the return trip, the Wave bus runs until 11:20 pm and has a front rack for two bikes. 

Spend the night at the Century House on Cliff Road and general manager, Otilia, will have a bike from Nantucket Bike Shop waiting for you. An avid biker, Otilia will also direct you on other routes to Brant Point and Sankaty Head lighthouses. Rooms, including full breakfast, start at $175. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/03/13 at 12:00 PM
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Portland’s 5 Lighthouse Bike Tour

Known for their weekend and weeklong bike trips throughout Maine, Summer Feet Cycling is now offering a half-day bike tour that will visit five lighthouses in the Portland region. Running daily from Memorial Day to October 31st, the 5-hour jaunt will start on a bike path alongside Willard Beach to Bug Light, which marks the entrance to the Portland Breakwater. From here, you’ll cycle on to Spring Point Lighthouse, the Portland Harbor Museum, and Fort Preble, a 19th century stone fort, before ending at the iconic Portland Head Light. Built in 1791 and sitting on a bluff perched out to sea, this exquisite white edifice has been painted by the likes of Edward Hopper. You’ll dine on lobster rolls, peering at the large oil tankers that make their way in and out of Portland Harbor. Lobster, salty air, biking. Sounds like a winner. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/13 at 11:59 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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