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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Tiny House Resort Debuts in the Catskills

Bob Malkin, owner of the SoHo retail store, Think Big! is now thinking small. He has just created a resort in South Cairo, New York, that features 7 Tiny Houses, created by ESCAPE Home Design. Inspired by the Prairie-style cottages found at Canoe Bay in northwestern Wisconsin, each ESCAPE Home offers a panorama of windows, queen size bed, full-size appliances and luxury bathrooms, as well as a private patio complete with outdoor dining table and seating, Weber grill and fire pit. Think Big! Tiny House Resort is situated on 28 acres with over half a mile of water frontage and perched on a cliff overlooking the Catskill Creek, a year-round wonder of waterfalls and pristine swimming holes. Saturday morning yoga and kayaking are offered as well as the services of a personal raw food chef who can prepare meals for guests using produce from the resort garden. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

ActiveTravels Presents the Fran Golden Cruise to Alaska in 2019

After years of toying with the idea of designing our own group trips utilizing the talent that we know as guides, we've finally decided to take the plunge next year. We're delighted to announce that one of the most renowned cruise writers, Fran Golden, former travel editor of the Boston Herald and author of Frommer's EasyGuide to Alaskan Cruises and Ports of Call (2018), will be hosting an Alaskan cruise June 15-22, 2019. On the Inaugural Fran Golden Alaskan Cruise, we'll board the newly refurbished Eurodam (see the latest review in Travel & Leisure) in Seattle. Then make our way up the Pacific coast with stops in Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, before arriving back in Seattle. Fran will select her favorite shore excursions along the route and provide anecdotes from her other memorable cruises. For more information, please contact ActiveTravels

I'm off to San Francisco for a family reunion, back next Tuesday. Have a great week! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 25, 2018

ActiveTravels Partners with Vinodivino to Present Wine Cruise to Bordeaux in 2019

Bostonians know that Vinodivino, owners of 4 wine stores in the region, take great pride in choosing the finest wines for the discerning palate. Now they'd like to apply this same eye for quality to the world of travel and introduce you to a trip that will no doubt excite your senses. They have selected the highly reputable river cruise line AmaWaterways for their Vinodivino Wine Cruise to Bordeaux, November 7-14, 2019. AmaWaterways is a leader in the river cruise industry, known for its top-tier ships that offer comfortable berths, less than half the people on other river cruises, the best WiFi in the cruise world, and most importantly, the finest cuisine and wine. You'll board the newly refurbished AmaDolce in Bordeaux and travel to the Sauternes wine region. Then it's on to Pauillac, gateway to the famed Médoc region, renowned for producing some of the world's finest Bordeaux wines. You'll see some of the most beautiful and famous wine estates, including Château Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château Pichon Longueville. There's also an opportunity to add a 4-night pre-cruise guided jaunt to Bilbao, Spain, or a 3-day post-cruise add-on to the castles of the Loire Valley. 

 
Please let ActiveTravels know if you're interested!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 22, 2018

Not Your Father’s Holiday Inn

I visited two Holiday Inns in the Cartagena area and was impressed with both properties. At the Holiday Inn Express Cartagena Bocagrande, I met the representative from Colombia Tourism, who noted that the country has had a remarkable surge of travelers, a 28% increase between 2016 and 2017. It's not surprising when you consider that a room at this new hotel (not like any Holiday Inn I've seen in the US) is less than 100 dollars a night including a buffet breakfast, with rooftop pool, and only a 5-minute walk to the beach. Even more impressive was the Holiday Inn Cartagena Morros property just north of the airport. This is a contemporary resort on the beach with outdoor pool, large fitness center, and breakfast buffet. I just looked at the cost for tonight and it's only $103 US. A 15-minute drive from Old Town on a wide stretch of beach, this is an affordable find. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Day Trip to Rosario Islands from Cartagena

Only an hour by boat from Cartagena, the Rosario Islands are home to the only underwater national park in Colombia. We snorkeled for 45 minutes with a guide and spotted wonderful coral formations and large schools of neon-colored fish. You also have the option of scuba diving or sea kayaking in the mangroves. Then we had a glorious lunch of fried red snapper and an Aguila beer, before going for a dip in the warm waters and passing out on my chaise lounge chair. Several couples on our boat spent the night at Hotel San Pedro de Majagua, perfect for that romantic and very private retreat, especially when the daytrippers leave. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Allure of Cartagena

Cartagena is one of those Spanish Colonial cities that seems to be built with the traveler in mind. Behind the fortress walls are narrow streets, large plazas, 17th-century churches, and row after of charming restaurants, boutique shops, and salsa dance clubs. The fortress reminded me of Old San Juan while the streets of Old Town Cartagena felt similar to the French Quarter of New Orleans. I loved strolling and taking photos of the colorful adobe-like homes and the lush tropical foliage like bougainvillea flowing from the terraces. An added bonus to Cartagena is the long stretch of beach and warm waters to swim. You can choose to stay in the Old Town at the historic Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara or the smaller boutique property, Movich Cartagena, with its glorious views of the city at night from its rooftop bar and pool. But I wanted to be right on the beach, so instead chose to stay at the Intercontinental Cartagena de Indias in the newer Bocagrande section of the city. I loved waking up to their breakfast buffet (juicy mangoes were in season when I was there in early June) and going to the outdoor terrace to look out over the expanse of water. It was also a joy to return to the hotel after a day of sightseeing (the Old Town is only a 5-minute Uber or Taxi) and sip mojitos in the infinity pool, with those same breathtaking views. The temperatures were much hotter and more humid than Medellin since you're back at sea level, ideal for a winter or late fall getaway. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/20/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Strolling the Poblado Neighborhood in Medellin

The Intercontinental Medellin, where I stayed in town, is only a 5-minute taxi ride down the hillside to the upscale neighborhood of Poblado. I started the day at the Santa Fe Shopping Mall to find souvenirs, then headed south along the wide boulevard of Carrera 43A, stopping at one of the outdoor restaurants for hot out-of-the-oven arepas stuffed with cheese and corn. At Poblado Park, I turned right and headed slightly uphill to the narrow streets of Via Primavera. Carrera 35 is home to fashionable clothing shops, restaurants, breweries, and a charming bakery and café, Como Pez en el Agua, where I stopped for an almond croissant and cappuccino. That night I would return to the area for dinner at OCI.Mde, one of the city's finest restaurants. Earth, Wind & Fire was blaring on the radio (always a good sign) as I walked in and ordered the best caipirinha I ever tasted, paired with an appetizer of fresh tuna sashimi dipped in a tangy soy sauce. Dinner was braised short ribs, cooked 12 hours in a cashew sauce. When it arrived on the table, it was so tender it fell off the bone. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/19/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Value of a Top-Notch Guide on Vacation: Pablo Ospina in Medellin

Many clients are obsessed with finding the best lodging within their price range when traveling, as they should be. But equally, if not more important, is the unparalleled value of a good guide. Take Pablo Ospina, who was recommended to me by Latin Excursions, our go-to tour operator in Colombia and other countries in South America. Pablo chose to meet me my first day in Medellin, knowing that the city was on holiday and the traffic was far less than usual (wow, did I realize that the next day when the city was back in swing and it took forever to get downtown). Pablo's first stop was Comuna 13 to see the magnificent and ever-growing street art in this neighborhood, which not too long ago was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of South America. While we strolled, Pablo gave me the history of Medellin, this city of 4 million nestled in the valley close to a mile high. When Pablo was growing up, there were car bombs and constant fighting between the government and the guerilla forces of FARC, with the remnants of Escobar's drug ring thrown in for more chaos. Now the city has rose from the ashes and what a remarkable job it's doing. Not only is it safe, but it has one of the best climates in the world, 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Many people are retiring to the city to enjoy the weather and the only public transit system in Colombia, which includes cable cars and outdoor escalators.

When we descended from Communa 13 on the escalators and spotted about 5 tour groups heading up to the street art (we had the place to ourselves since Pablo wisely headed here first), we took a cable car up into the hillside for glorious vistas of the city ringed by jagged peaks. Then it was on to the city center to see the Botero sculptures and his paintings in the nearby Museo de Antioquia. Botero not only donated his impressive sculptures, paintings, and watercolors to his boyhood museum, he bequeathed his collection of contemporary art by Stella, Frankenthaler, and Andy Katz, among others. For lunch, we headed to the large botanical garden in the center of the city and its signature restaurant, In Situ. One sip of the sublime coconut lemonade and that would be my drink of choice throughout the week. After lunch, we strolled the gardens and spotted large lizards amidst the orchids and bamboo trees. Seven hours after picking me up, Pablo dropped me back off at my hotel, the Intercontinental Medellin. But not before outlining what I should do the following day on my own. That's what you call an excellent guide, one that I will happily recommend for all clients headed to Medellin! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/18/18 at 05:59 AM
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Friday, June 15, 2018

Happy Father’s Day from ActiveTravels

I often joke with my kids that they grew up in the pages of The Boston Globe (the photos on the left are Melanie from a story on mid-coast Maine and Jake from a story on Costa Rica). Lately, I've been writing about our family trips for Virtuoso Traveler, like the stellar time we had in Switzerland with Backroads last summer. This is what I live for, creating Dream Day experiences with my family. And it's probably the number one reason we started ActiveTravels, to hopefully form lasting memories for other families. Thankfully, you don't have to always travel the world to savor a moment with your children. On Monday, we threw the bikes on the back of the car and drove to Arlington, Massachusetts, to bike along the Minuteman Bike Trail to Davis Square and the latest trail extension into Somerville. It was a leisurely spin, stopping for cold brews, and watching a family of newborn swans, and it was glorious. On Father's Day, we're heading to Chinatown for dim sum and then strolling to SoWa Open Market to listen to music, see the art, and grab a beer. Have a Fantastic Father's Day and get out there with the kids to create an unforgettable experience! 

I want to thank Amy for her wonderful job showing us around the Big Island of Hawaii and the Muskoka Lakes region of Ontario. I'll be back next with blogs on my recent trip to Medellin and Cartagena. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/15/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Stay at the Windermere House in the Muskoka Region of Ontario

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

For our anniversary, my husband Josh and I decided to venture north of Toronto to check out "cottage country" in the Muskoka region of Ontario. Not quite as far as Algonquin Provincial Park (our next outing), and very popular with people in the City, Muskoka offers 1,600 lakes, just two hours from Toronto. 
 
We really enjoyed our stay at the Windermere House, known as "The Lady of the Lake," which has proudly stood over Lake Rosseau since 1870. It was early in the season, so the full fleet of watercraft to enjoy the lake was not ready (we wanted to goof off and paddle boat...no luck), and the lake water was chilly. However, the chairs on the lawn made for a great scenic reading spot, the pool was lovely, and the pub patio dining was excellent (especially our $24 anniversary banana split sundae; a mere $18.50 USD). We walked and walked in the area, enjoying the sunshine and the lake views. People with homes in Muskoka include Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Goldie Hawn. You can see why. Remote, yet accessible and beautiful.   
 
On our way back to Toronto, we stopped in Gravenhurst, one of the main towns in the region, nicknamed "Sawdust City" because of the long history of logging in Muskoka. Interestingly, from 1940 to 1946, Gravenhurst was the site of a Prisoners of War camp for Nazi officers (at its peak, it held 489 prisoners). After WWII, Irving Ungerman, well-known in Toronto's Jewish community, and the child of immigrant parents who ran a small butcher shop in Kensington Market, bought the POW camp and turned it into a kosher resort called "The Gateway" which was very successful from the mid-50s to 60s. Our detour to Gravenhurst was far more trivial -- a delicious stop at Sawdust City Brewing Company for some craft beer and smoked lake trout (Milford Bay Smoked Trout).   
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/14/18 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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