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Monday, September 27, 2010

Favorite Fall Foliage Outings in Vermont

The last week in September is prime foliage colors in northern Vermont. Then the color change makes its way south through the state, peaking around Columbus Day. Having written more than 100 stories and close to a dozen book chapters on the state, these are a handful of my favorite outings: mountain biking the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, roaming (or biking) the Trapp Family Lodge grounds in Stowe, hiking Camel’s Hump, stopping at the Warren Country Store for a sandwich, paddling Lowell Lake near Stratton, road biking along the shores of Lake Champlain on Button Bay Road, going for a hawk walk at the Equinox, walking around the historic town of Grafton, biking along the Ottauquechee River in Taftsville, and as I mentioned last week, dining at the Simon Pearce restaurant in Quechee.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/27/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Ski the Alps

I had lunch yesterday with 12 ski resorts from the Swiss, French, Italian, German, and Austrian Alps. Travel to the Alps from America was up a whopping 50 percent this past summer and 30 percent last winter. Americans, especially from the East Coast, are finally realizing that you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to ski the region. On average, lift tickets are $50-$60 per day, far less than Stowe or Vail. Yes, you can splurge on some grand hotel at St. Moritz, but there are also many affordable pensions around town. And not all the ski areas are as challenging as Chamonix. Remember, you’re not skiing down the Matterhorn. You’re looking up at the Matterhorn as you ski the base area in Zermatt, a far less threatening proposition with a vast amount of intermediate and novice terrain. The trails are long, relaxed, and thankfully in the past decade, groomed with snowmaking capabilities. Best of all, you’re in Europe, dining on exceptional food and savoring the culture. One day you can be in Kitzbühel, downing large mugs of beer, the next day enjoying a glass of Bordeaux and exceptional French food in Megève. Cortina, in the Italian Dolomites, is only a two-hour drive from Venice, so you can combine Carnevale in February with several nights of skiing. Overseas flights are also much more reasonable in the winter months. So grab those skies and fondue forks and hit the Alps this winter.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Foliage Bike Rides Across America

Last autumn, I wrote a story for Body + Soul Magazine on great fall biking outside of New England. Here are my three picks:

Keuka Lake, New York
Vineyards paired with lakefront pedaling create a perfect day of biking in the Finger Lakes region of western New York. Rent bikes and grab a map from Wheels Unlimited in Bath and then head north to Hammondsport and the shores of Keuka Lake. On Route 54A, you’ll find the award-winning Rieslings created at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars. Have a sip, but save some energy to roll up and down the road, stopping atop bluffs to admire the glorious vistas of the water. 

Asheville, North Carolina
Come to Asheville in late October, early November and you’ll find the leaves on the dogwoods, sweetgums, and mountain ash all changing color. The reason why the famed Blue Ridge Parkway is so congested with leaf peepers.  The folks at Liberty Bicycles will provide bikes and steer you away from the traffic, leading you to nearby Burnsville for a favorite local ride. On this 37-mile loop, you’ll bike over suspension bridges past old tobacco farms and country stores.

Bend, Oregon
Autumn colors are not usually associated with the Northwest, the land of conifers. Yet, outside of Bend, aspen groves provide enough color to excite the local contingent of riders.  Rent bikes and grab a detailed map at Hutch’s Bicycle Shop in Bend for the start of a glorious 32-mile ride that takes advantage of central Oregon’s variety of terrain—sage-scented high desert, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, flower-filled meadows, and snowcapped North, Middle, and South Sister Mountains rising 10,000 feet above town. Spend your night at the six-room Lara House, conveniently located across from Drake Park in the center of town. Then grab a microbrew or homemade ginger ale at Deschutes Brewery, dutifully earned after the ride.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Favorite Restaurant in Vermont

Many people will make their way to Vermont this next month to see the fall foliage. While there, stop at one of my favorite restaurants just outside Woodstock, the Simon Pearce restaurant in Quechee. Simon Pearce is best known for his glassware and you can visit his store and see glassblowers at work downstairs in this former mill. But it’s the restaurant, with spectacular views of water tumbling down the rocks in front of a covered bridge, that brings me back almost every time I’m in the state. Reserve one of the tables near the window and get here on the early side for dinner, before it gets too dark, and you’re in for a treat. The food is secondary to the view and the sturdy glassware you’ll use, created by Simon Pearce.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sharpen Your Photography Skills with Robert Kaufman in Boston

Robert Kaufman might not be a household name, but more than likely you’ve seen his photography gracing the walls of hotel lobbies around the globe or on that monthly calendar you look at every day. He’s spent the past 30 years traveling to every nook and cranny in Italy, not merely photographing iconic structures like the Tower of Pisa but more energetic street scenes ripe with spontaneity and whimsy. Also ripe are his collection of Edibles, fruit and vegetables so damn sensual, you want to lick the paper it’s printed on. Now the talented man behind the lens is appearing front and center in a 2-day workshop. On two consecutive Saturdays, October 2nd and October 9th, Kaufman will share the secrets of being a professional photographer these past 30 years. He’ll discuss the technical aspects of your camera before accompanying you on a field trip to get that special photo. Then you’ll analyze your work back in the group. Cost of the 2-day workshop is $199. Call 617-964-4080 to register or visit www.SilverVisions.com.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/21/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, September 20, 2010

100-Kilometer Horseback Ride for Women in Montana

Calling all cowgirls. Triple Creek Ranch, a Relais and Chateaux property nestled in the towering pines at the base of majestic 10,135-foot Trappers Peak, will feature its first “100 Klicks for Chicks” horseback ride. Held from Thursday, October 28th to November 1st, the event will feature 3 ½ days of riding, fireside roasts, and an awards presentation. But the best part for ladies is that after your day of being in the saddle, you can return to this stellar property for a soak in the hot tub, gourmet meals, and nights under the stars around a crackling fire. Husbands are invited as guests, though they can’t ride with the women. They can go out with a guide horseback riding and hiking or try their luck fly-fishing. Cost is $650 per night, per couple.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/20/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, September 17, 2010

How to Get the Top Ranking on TripAdvisor

I just sat down for lunch with Dan Donohue, General Manager at the Lenox Hotel and asked him how the Lenox Hotel earned the number one ranking of all hotels in Boston on TripAdvisor. I always believed these rankings, especially as hotels inch their way to the top, are totally random. But he disagrees. He told me there’s a simple reason the Lenox is the number one hotel in the city--service. When he first took the job at the Lenox, he visited many of the lobbies of other hotels in the city. He sat and watched and realized that hotel employees wouldn’t even say hi to each other, let alone give a gracious nod to their guests. Not at the Lenox. His workers always go up to guests to ask them how their day is going. But what I really like about the Lenox is there’s no extra charge for that water in the mini-bar. There’s no extra charge for Wi-Fi. Guests aren’t nickled and dimed to death. “If a child wants a candy bar,” says Donohue, “we’ll find him one.” I visited two hotels this summer, Wequassett on Cape Cod and The Athenaeum in London, where everything in the mini-bar is free except for that bottle of Moet Chandon and other alcohol. There’s a certain degree of respect between hotel and guest when you’re not charged silly fees for beverages and Wi-Fi. On the other hand, nothing pisses off your guest more than charging them for these basic services after they already paid a decent amount for a night’s stay.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/17/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

TripAdvisor’s Not So Trusted Travel Advice

TripAdvisor, which bills itself as the world’s most trusted travel advice, just came out with their listing of the Top 10 Beach & Sun Destinations in the World. Number one on the list is Providenciales, otherwise known as Provo, in the Turks & Caicos. What a joke! I last went to Provo to write a scuba diving story on this Caribbean locale for Islands Magazine. Except for a sublime stretch of beach that was crowded with many overpriced hotels, I found the place to be another one of those scruffy islands in the Caribbean with no mountains, no waterfalls, no tropical allure, no beauty. It’s a culturally void locale where you can pop into the local bar and watch Monday Night Football on TV and feel like you’re back in the States. In fact, my favorite part of the trip was actually leaving the island and going underwater on a far more enchanting dive.

Number five on that same list is Myrtle Beach. This is one of the top beach destinations in the world?! Are you freaken kidding me?! Then there are two locales in Mexico, one in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, San Diego. Sure, they threw in the Cook Islands, Boracay, Philippines, and Byron Bay, Australia, but these are also bizarre choices. The first article I ever sold was on the Cook Islands, so it remains a nostalgic place for me. There’s a nice island trek across Rarotonga, but the landscape is not even in the same league as other South Pacific locales, like the mind-blowing verdant volcanic landscape of Bora Bora or any island in the Marquesas, French Polynesia. As for Byron Bay, it’s a popular place to hang for celebrities, but it can’t compete with the beaches north of Brisbane, like Coolangatta, or the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island.

This list wasn’t made by any one who can remotely call themselves the most trusted voice in travel.  Judging from the list of locales, many of which are easy flights from the Northeast, I think it was written by some editor in the corporate offices of TripAdvisor in Boston, who has rarely traveled farther than Fenway Park. TripAdvisor is best used as a reference for hotels once you know exactly where you are going. I would never use them as expert opinion to find a stunning beach locale. Instead toss this list in the garbage and take my trusted expert advice, culled from over 20 years of being a professional travel writer. If you want one of the top beach and sun destinations in the world, start with Capetown, Folegandros, Greece, Kas, Turkey, the Gold Coast north of Brisbane, the Big Island of Hawaii, Savusavu, Fiji, Bahia, Brazil, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, the Seychelles, and yes, Bora Bora!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/16/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saturday, September 18, is Maine Lighthouse Day

This coming Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm, 25 lighthouses around Maine that are usually closed to the public will open their doors for the second annual Lighthouse Day. The list includes my personal favorite, Portland Head Light, made famous by Edward Hopper, Curtis Island Lighthouse overlooking Camden Harbor, and a lighthouse I saw close up earlier in the summer, the red and white West Quoddy Head in Lubec. Lighthouse historians Bill Thomson and Jeremy D’Entremont will do a presentation at Portland Head Light at 10 am. 

Illustration created by Alan Claude


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/15/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not So Memorable All-Inclusive Resorts for Families

If you ask my kids, ages 14 and 12, what their favorite vacations were, they’d no doubt say Alaska, British Colombia, Israel, Paris, Bryce,  Zion, and Acadia National Parks, and, of course, New York. Even though we’ve been to over a dozen all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico over the years, all except our last one at the Riu Ocho Rios in Jamaica are quickly forgettable. They all featured wonderful beaches and decent food until the 3rd day, when you become tired of seeing the same entrees. But the reason they quickly forget this type of vacation is that it never really gets to the depth necessary to touch them. There were no adventures, no immersion into the local culture, be it food, music or history, no mishaps to look back and laugh about. It was all very pleasant, a warm retreat from the cold winter temps in Boston. How can staying at one hotel all week possibly compare to being surrounded by whales, otters, bald eagles, and sea lions on a zodiac off Sitka? Or listening to music late at night at one of the jazz joints in Paris? Or grabbing plates of hummus and foul with locals in Jaffa? Or seeing where King Henry VIII married his sixth wife at Hampton Court Palace?  Or hiking with those odd-shaped hoodoos or an exhilarating cliff walk in Bryce and Zion? Or grabbing a hot pastrami on rye at Katz’s Deli and then going outside to see Shepard Fairey paint his most recent mural on Houston Street? These things my kids remember. All those all-inclusive beaches blur into one big warm embrace, nothing more. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/14/10 at 01:00 PM
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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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