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Monday, January 15, 2018

Visit a National Park for Free on MLK Day

To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, all entrance fees to national parks in the US are waived today. And if you’re considering visiting Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches, the five national parks in southern Utah, you might want to head there in late April. This year’s National Park Week is April 21-29, when all national parks in the United States are free. September 22nd and November 11, Veteran’s Day, are the other dates in 2018 when you’ll find no entrance fees to the national parks. Take advantage of this opportunity to be active amidst the majestic beauty of America. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/15/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 12, 2018

Up for Breakfast in Manchester, Vermont

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches 

Breakfast and brunch are the only meals you can get at Up for Breakfast (UFB), and you better believe they do them well. Open since 1989 in their unique and tiny second floor location (which has never thought of expansion -- it’s just right this way), UFB is a casual and cozy spot with great food. Open 7am-12:30 pm (1:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays), don’t miss it, at 4935 Main Street. Consider getting there on the early side for a table, no wait. We literally go on every trip to Manchester. I favor the Eggs Vegetarian (complete with artichoke hearts and fresh Hollandaise); my husband Josh likes the Wild Turkey Hash, or sometimes one of the amazing daily specials (or a special homemade sausage like pheasant with hazelnut and cognac).
Every time we visit, we see the same servers. It’s a family-run place. Owner Bonnie Bruce is well known in town. On a personal note, there was a front page story in the Boston Globe in 2016 about her family (not about UFB). The next time I went for a meal, I pulled her aside to say I had read the article and wanted to share a quiet moment with her. We ended up sitting and talking in the storage room off the small kitchen for quite a while. 
If your travels take you to Southern Vermont, let us know. ActiveTravels would be more than happy to help with lodgings, restaurant, and (indoor and outdoor) activity recommendations.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/12/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Necessary Stop at Manchester Hot Glass in Southern Vermont

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 
Manchester, Vermont is a year-round destination for many people from the Northeastern U.S. Having grown up in the NYC area, followed by more than three decades in Boston, I’ve been visiting since the 1970s. Recently, for an ActiveTravels member who was here for several days in late December, I had cause to compile 40 years of travel advice for the area. That was a long list! Today, I’m writing about one of my favorite local businesses and travel activities, Manchester Hot Glass
Manchester Hot Glass is a glass blowing studio open daily to the public, founded in 2000. Owner/artist/teacher Andrew Weill is from New Jersey and started working with glass as a teenager. He says, “Right from the start, I learned a great lesson in humility. Glass is an amazing material – it can be hot and malleable and cold and delicate all at the same time. There is nothing like it. The surprises it can produce are equally as unique.”
Believe me, Andrew is a work of art himself. His welcoming nature and fun-loving spirit come through to all who take his classes. In my humble opinion, no trip to Southern Vermont is complete without Andrew. Classes in glassblowing are available any time of year; from $50 - $350, you can be tutored by the best and then take home a unique hand-crafted original (or two or three). 
“I blow glass simply because I love it. If I can afford to go to work each day and do what I love, I figure I’m better off than most.” What a great line!  I’ll leave you with this from Andrew: “Glass to me is a lifetime pursuit of knowledge and skill. There is always something new to learn and skills that can be improved upon. As a glass blower, I am primarily concerned with the issues of design, and it is my goal to create unique pieces that people will enjoy.” 
If your travels take you to Southern Vermont, let us know. ActiveTravels would be more than happy to help with lodgings, restaurant, and (indoor and outdoor) activity recommendations, as well as in the Berkshires area nearby. 
(Photo: Amy’s daughter Sophie and Steve/Lisa’s daughter Melanie at Manchester Hot Glass, August 2012)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/11/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Annual Retreat to the South Seas Resort, a Family Tradition

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

It all started 35 years ago when my parents made a sailing stop on Captiva Island, Florida for the night, thereupon setting into motion an annual multi-generational week at South Seas Resort. It is a property I know extremely well, over many decades, and am pleased to recommend to ActiveTravels members. An easy drive from the Ft. Myers airport (RSW), South Seas features regular hotel rooms and condos with kitchens to stock with groceries. The fun pools, miles of white sand beaches, and activities like beach yoga, which I described in yesterday’s blog, lead to activity filled days, gorgeous sunsets, and starry nights. Off property, we venture to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge to see the alligators and egrets, visit a farmers’ markets, buy lots of fresh seafood, and head to Captiva Cantina or Bubble Room restaurants for dinner. In December, 14 members of my family (aged 19 - 89) gathered for a week at South Seas. We experienced great weather and are already planning for next winter. Please contact ActiveTravels if Captiva, or nearby Sanibel Island appeals to you. We’d be pleased to make arrangements. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Beach Yoga on Captiva Island, Florida

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

A favorite activity of mine while in warm climates is the wonderful adventure of “beach yoga.” You do not need to be a yoga aficionado to enjoy it. All you need to like is the feeling of morning sun on your face, the sound of waves crashing in the background, the sight of birds flying overhead, and sharing a good laugh with others about how hard it is to balance on one leg in the sand, using only a small towel as a mat.
Ambu Yoga on Captiva Island is a great example. Founded by Yali Zawady several years ago, Ambu now has a studio at South Seas Resort, open to the public as well as to guests of South Seas, offering 2 to 4 classes a day, 7 days a week. But beach yoga is taught only on Saturday and Sunday mornings (as of now). 
According to Yali, “ambu” means water in Sanskrit, and represents the connection “between the flow of energy in our surrounding waters and the mind-body-spirit experience of yoga.” You live this fully on the beach.  In December, I brought my daughter, 2 nieces, a nephew, and my son’s girlfriend to class. At one point, Yali had participants  (around 30 people of all ages) stand in a circle and lean on one another for support during balance poses; that was a great time. We all wished there was more than one beach yoga class during our stay, but, alas, next year awaits. 
An important side note, Yali is from Santa Marta, Colombia. She says she first found yoga and self-inquiry at a very young age through meditation practices with her father in Colombia. Every year I look forward to connecting with her on Captiva. Her welcoming nature and calming voice are a respite from the hurly burly up North. She’s also been very helpful to me as I learn more about Colombia (my son lived there for 5 months; my daughter, my husband, and I all visited, at different times; and we’ve sent quite a number of ActiveTravels members on trips). 
Let ActiveTravels know if you’d like us to find a beach yoga class for you somewhere in your travels, whether on Captiva or elsewhere (for example, Martinique in late February or Panama in late April, with our friend Checka. Also know that Yali has offered advice to our clients headed to Colombia as well. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/09/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 08, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, Sao Miguel, Azores

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

Steve asked me to write about my top travel Dream Day in 2017. That was a hard choice! I was lucky enough this past year to have had adventures in Colombia; all around the greater Toronto area; on Ontario’s Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and Lake Simcoe; in Seattle and on Bainbridge Island; in Portland OR and throughout the Columbia River Gorge; in three US National Parks -- Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP, and Yosemite NP; in Vermont; in Massachusetts; in New York; in Southern California and Sacramento; on Captiva Island, Florida; and at Niagara Falls.
But my top travel Dream Day of 2017 occurred in the Azores, on the island of Sao Miguel, the largest of the Azorean nine. For a week last February, I stayed with friends at Quinta Minuvida, a small eco-friendly, historic home turned hotel, run by the husband and wife pair Joao and Rimi. Quinta Minuvida grows and serves local food in the village of Rabo de Peixe, not far from the city of Ponta Delgada, which is a direct flight from Boston and Toronto. Within a five-minute walk are acres and acres of green grazing cows, cornfields, farmland, and old stone walls. 
On my Dream Day, we had a simple breakfast of local bread and cheese, with several types of jam made from Quinta Minuvida’s fruit trees, followed by a "community" dual language yoga class, in Portuguese and English. Some of the Azoreans spoke no English, but we all laughed, stretched, balanced, and meditated together. After yoga, my group headed out for a hike, armed with picnic lunches. But, before hiking, Rimi and Joao put a pot of meat and vegetables into the ground, a “cozido nas caldeiras,” where it would cook for six hours via volcano steam (a true geothermal stew) while we were hiking. From the trailhead at Pico do Ferro, we overlooked Lagoa das Furnas (the Furnas volcano crater, filled with water) and the town of Furnas. After a very steep decline, we found mud-bubbling holes in the ground, plus old abandoned houses (fortunes made and lost during Sao Miguel’s orange plantation boom and bust). The next adventure was to a public hot springs called Poca da Dona Beija, in Furnas, for a calming soak. Lastly, we retrieved the cozido from the ground, and proceeded back to Quinta Minuvida to dig in. It was deliciously full of chicken, sausage, pork, beef (like brisket), cabbage, kale, carrots, and taro root (like potato). Azorean and Portuguese wine flowed. 
ActiveTravels has sent three different groups to the Azores since my trip. If you are interested, please let us know. Rimi and Joao recommend avoiding July and the first few weeks of August due to the crowds, but, other than that, it’s truly a great destination to explore. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 05, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, Silky Oaks Lodge, Australia

Guest Post and Photos By Lisa Leavitt

A major perk of being a Virtuoso travel agent is the fam trip. Fam is short for familiarization and these trips are usually low cost to travel advisors to appealing destinations around the globe. Nevertheless, once you arrive, you are fair game to any tourism professional or hotelier in the region. Each one wants to show you their property, activity and special corner of the universe. When I went to Queensland, Australia, in March of 2017, I expected countless hotel viewings and long-drawn out meetings with crocodile park owners.
Instead I was pleasantly surprised to experience one of my dream days of 2017. I woke up in Silky Oaks Lodge in Mossman Gorge, in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest living rainforest on earth. After a breakfast overlooking the flowing river, we boarded helicopters to view the dense forest from above. The pilots surprised us by landing on rocks next to a waterfall so we could experience feeling completely surrounded by this wet tropical landscape. Whisked away moments later, we were brought back to the lodge for a luscious swim down a cool river.
The best part was yet to come! We boarded a van to go into Port Douglas the largest town in northern Queensland and home to many boutique shops, great restaurants and a harbor where Quicksilver Cruises is based. We boarded Wavedancer, a large catamaran that soon was cruising out to sea toward the setting sun. With drink in hand, I toasted with my new friends and watched a spectacular sunset. Back on land, we ate a delicious dinner involving Moreton Bay “Bugs,” which look and taste a lot like our Maine lobster. On the way home, we stopped on the side of the road, got out and took a moment to take in the magnificent Southern Hemisphere stars together. It was certainly a day I will always remember.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/05/18 at 05:59 AM
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Thursday, January 04, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, A Sunrise Hike and Sunset Cruise in Santorini

We covered a lot of ground in our weeklong jaunt with Heritage Tours to Greece in April. Stops included Athens, Nafplion, Spetses, Mykonos, Delos, Paros, and our last stop, magical Santorini. It had been 25 years since Lisa and I were on the island for our honeymoon and it felt just as enticing. Especially the day we woke up with the sunrise to hike atop the ridge and then watched the sun set that evening aboard a yacht in the Aegean waters. Santorini exceeds all expectations, with stunning vistas of the caldera and its volcanic islands. We wandered off at 7 am from our room at Mystique, striding atop a bluff above the whitewashed buildings. To the right was the caldera, to the left more majestic islands that make up the Cyclades. The entire walk from Oia to Fira is 9.5 kilometers, approximately 3 hours, but we got sidetracked by donkeys and a snack bar selling damn good lattes and never made it past Imerovigli. Later that same day, we bordered a private yacht for a sunset cruise. Now nestled within the caldera, the scenery was a mesmerizing mix of aquamarine waters, jagged volcanic islands, and the whitewashed houses on the island clinging precariously to the cliffs. Add the reddish/orange/pink orb of a sun melting into the sea, shading this scene with the full spectrum of color, paired with a glass of crisp Santorini wine, and you have a fitting ending to a memorable trip. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/04/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, Hiking the Eiger Trail, Switzerland

To be honest, every day of our Backroads family trip to the Swiss Alps was a dream, from biking the shoreline of glorious Lake Brienz to hiking 6 miles of the Bachalpsee Route high above Grindelwald, then taking the Trotti bike back to town. Yet, if I had to choose one day above the rest, it would be the day we hiked on the Eiger Trail. We took a short train ride from Grindelwald to Alpiglen to start our long uphill climb, over 3,000 feet. Lofty Eiger Peak, standing 13,020 feet, was socked in with clouds, until we were practically beside the North Face. Then the clouds started to part and we were treated to magical views of Eiger and Jungfrau and the hanging glaciers that snaked down the hillside in between. For the next hour, we walked alongside these craggy snow-topped peaks before reaching the village of Kleine Scheidegg, home to the highest major train station in Switzerland. After lunch, we left the crowds behind as we made our way on relatively level ground to the Männlichen Gondola. The only obstacle was a herd of cows we met up with on the narrow path. One cow came straight toward me and I wisely ran into the grass above the trail to avoid being trampled. My legs weren’t working too well at that point but I’m happy to see my brain was. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, E-Biking Emmental Valley, Switzerland

We spent a glorious week in Switzerland in July before the start of our Backroads hiking and biking trip in the Swiss Alps. We loved our stay in Bern to see the inner workings of the famous Medieval Clock Tower, visiting the apartment Albert Einstein lived when he proved his Theory of Relativity, and stopping at the wave-like building Renzo Piano built to house the works of local talent Paul Klee. But my favorite day was getting on electric bikes to roam the narrow and mountainous country roads of neighboring Emmental Valley. Our guide, who looked like Roger Federer, led us through the farmland and small villages to a restaurant known for creating fondue from the local emmental cheese. We returned to Bern on the train with more than enough time to swim in the Aare River. An easy walk down the hillside from our wonderful hotel, the Bellevue Palace, led to a park where hundreds of people lined the river catching rays. We strolled down a path with a long line of folks who dragged their tubes, rafts, and dry bags. Then jump in the cool water anywhere and off you go with the strong current. The hardest part was finding a place on the shores to stop and pull yourself out. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/02/18 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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