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Monday, October 30, 2017

Nova Scotia Ferry Numbers Up Summer 2017

Happy to hear that ridership was up on the Portland-Yarmouth Ferry this summer. According to the Portland Press Herald, The Cat transported some 41,000 people, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. My sister and I took the ferry over to Nova Scotia in 2016 and it was an easy to get to the Atlantic Maritimes from New England. Just 6 ½ hours one way, it’s the ideal way to start your loop of the Maritimes, continuing on to Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. You can visit Acadia National Park and the Maine coast on your drive back to Portland. Only a 30-minute drive from the ferry port in Yarmouth is one of my favorite stopovers, the Ye Olde Argyler Lodge. Start your tour of the Maritimes the right way with a guided sea kayaking tour of massive Lobster Bay and a lobster bake at sunset on the beach. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/30/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Caribbean Update, Kauai Resorts, and Maine’s Cliff House in October ActiveTravels Newsletter

In the October ActiveTravels Newsletter, we discuss the Caribbean locales that weren’t affected by the hurricanes, pick our favorite hotels in Kauai, talk about how Amazon can help you in a pinch, and introduce you to one of the finest new resorts in Maine, the Cliff House. Please have a look! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/27/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Emergence of Schenectady’s Mohawk Harbor

I was back in my boyhood stomping grounds this weekend for a high school reunion and was pleasantly surprised at how good the city looked. Much of the change is due to an influx of investment from the new Rivers Casino & Resort. We stayed at the casino’s Landing Hotel, boasting a stylish lounge bar, outdoor tables around fire pits, and a paved walking path along the Mohawk River. I’ve never seen so much action on the river. Peering out at the water from our hotel room, we spotted fishing boats, jet skis, and countless crew teams skimming the water’s surface. I learned at the reunion that the Niskayuna crew team is one of the best in New York, with many alums being awarded D-1 scholarships at some of the finest college crew teams in the country. 
 
Rivers Casino is building up the whole waterfront in a neighborhood called Mohawk Harbor. We strolled down the path to find a spanking new apartment building and Courtyard by Marriott. Soon to make its debut in retail space at the bottom of the apartment building is the Shaker & Vine wine bar. Also opening nearby is a restaurant and microbrewery, Druthers Brewing. Before meeting friends at two bars owned by former classmates, Katie O’Byrnes and Cappocia Wine Lounge, we had to stop at my favorite Italian restaurant in town, Cornells, to dine on a dreamy eggplant parmesan. There’s a scene in the movie, Ratatouille, where the food critic is immediately transported back to his youth thanks to the perfect rendering of the dish. That’s what eggplant parmesan at Cornells does to me. One bite and I'm 11 years old surrounded by my family, my mother in her thick Bronx accent asking if I need more fresh baked bread to swipe up the heavenly red sauce. 
 
Things are looking up in Schenectady. If you’re passing through on a college tour or hitting the track at Saratoga next summer, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend a night or two at Mohawk Harbor. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/26/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New Zealand Top Choice for North American Adventure Travelers

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) just completed a study with Outside Magazine on how adventure travel trends have changed in the last decade. The top 5 desired destinations for the intrepid today are New Zealand, Australia, South America, South Pacific, and Western Europe. North America and the Middle East, both in the top 5 in 2006, slipped down to number 7 and 16, respectively. Hiking, backpacking, and sea kayaking were the top activities in 2016, replacing more hardcore sports a decade ago like rock climbing. I was surprised that biking and mountain biking weren’t taken into consideration. I would think that the popularity of both sports would be near the top today, judging from the increasing number of our clients who want to join a biking trip. The multisport trip, where you sample a different activity every day, also remains strong, especially with families. But I didn’t see it mentioned in this report. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/25/17 at 05:59 AM
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New England Foliage Without the Crowds

 It’s still relatively warm in the region for the remainder of October and the foliage is peaking at least a week or two later than normal. So take advantage of the good weather to do one of these off-the-beaten-track activities in New England. My latest story for Yankee Magazine


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/24/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 23, 2017

Dining and Lodging in Las Cruces, New Mexico

For authentic Mexican fare at an affordable price, it’s hard to top the restaurants in Las Cruces. I loved the ambience and history of dining at La Posta de Mesilla while sipping a house margarita and soaking it all in. Tacos al pastor was the signature dish at nearby Andele, perfectly charred meat topped with homemade salsa from their salsa bar. The huevos rancheros were so good at the homey La Nueva Casita I went there twice. Other highlights include the overstuffed lava burger, washed down with a refreshing pecan ale at the Pecan Grill and Brewery; fish tacos at the spanking new Dragonfly on Main Street (perfectly located for the Saturday Farmers Market); a tasty Greek salad with grilled chicken at Tiffany’s; and the frozen custard hot fudge sundae, topped with local salted pecans, at Caliche’s. I stayed at the Hotel Encanto, an easy drive to all the restaurants and sights in Las Cruces. After a long day of sightseeing and writing, it was great to unwind at their long pool shaded by tall palms and overflowing with monarch butterflies. A little bit of paradise in the desert. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/23/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 20, 2017

Adventures in Las Cruces Week—Hiking at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

After peering up at the 9,000-foot high Organ Mountains all week, it was great to finally see it up close. Brenda Gallegos from the Friends of Organ Mountains was my guide for the morning as we first made our way to the trailhead for the 3-mile (round-trip) Bar Canyon trail that leads to the junction of two canyons, Bar and Soledad. Brenda just finished her master’s thesis on the southwestern quail, spending 3 years in west Texas doing research. We climbed a rocky path past numerous sotol plants—yucca-like with a large stem shooting out of the center almost as tall as a saguaro. A peaceful stillness enveloped us as we looked up at the jagged peaks. Soon we were inside a canyon passing prickly pear and cholla cacti. We stopped to see a waterfall trickle down the wall of rock next to level ground that was probably used for sacred ceremonies at one point in time. On our return trip, a red-tailed hawk flew overhead as we looked down at Las Cruces in the valley below. As an encore, Brenda took me on the Dripping Springs Trail to visit La Cuevo, a cave where a hermit once lived in the mid-1800s. About to leave the park, a covey of silver blue scaled quail flew overhead, much to the delight of Brenda. “That made my day,” she said. 

It’s been a wonderful week in Las Cruces, and to be perfectly honest, I hate to leave. I want to thank Chris Faivre at Visit Las Cruces and Peggy Bendel for designing the perfect itinerary. I’ll be back on Monday with my favorite restaurant picks in Las Cruces. In the meantime, I have a high school reunion to attend in Schenectady, New York. Have a great weekend! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/20/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Adventures in Las Cruces Week—A Must-Stop at White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument opens daily at 7 am and it’s best to get there early before the blinding white sand radiates under the hot midday desert sun. Smack dab in the middle of the Tularosa Basin, these wave-like dunes of gypsum sand span some 275 square miles and are truly a wonder to behold. Once here, you’ll understand why it became one of America’s first National Monuments, created in 1933. Even the 45 mile drive from Las Cruces on I-70 is a joy, with the sun rising over the mountains and vistas of the wide open horizon as far as the eye can see. 
 
I paid the $5 entry fee and then cruised along Dunes Drive. What I love about White Sands is that you can park at any number of lots along the road and simply walk atop the hard-packed grooved sand creating your own set of footprints. At first, you’ll pass a limited amount of growth like yucca plants and their distinctive, almost prehistoric-looking flower. As you drive further in, you leave the scrub behind and all you see is an otherworldly terrain of rolling dunes. Locals like to bring their sleds to slide down the sand. Others will happily walk into this blanket of serenity for as long as necessary. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/19/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Adventures in Las Cruces Week—Exploring the Mesilla Valley Wine Trail

Head south from the historic town of Mesilla on Route 28 and you enter the Mesilla Valley, a short section of the historic El Camino Real route. At the end of the 16th-century, Spain created a 1500-mile route from Mexico City to Santa Fe that would bring settlers, horses, and goods to these lands. Old mission churches still remain, sharing the road with large tracts of pecan trees, orchards, and vineyards. Las Cruces has an ideal climate for vines with warm days, cool nights, and mild winters. Thanks to Franciscan monks, New Mexico started creating wine about 150 years before California. Today, New Mexico is home to over 60 wineries and ten of those wineries in the southern part of the state form the Mesilla Valley Wine Trail.
 
My first stop was Rio Grande Vineyards, started in 2009, and now creating 15,000 bottles a year. We tried their signature wine, Queue Tendre, a semi-sweet white wine aged in Hungarian oak barrels, before moving on to my favorites, the dry red zinfandel and the sangiovese. Tastings are done in a classic ranch-style tasting room or outside on the back deck offering glorious views of the Organ Mountains. Back on Route 28, I passed over the Rio Grande River and under an umbrageous tunnel of mature pecan trees, courtesy of Stahmann Farms, the world’s largest family owned pecan orchard. Not surprisingly, the shaded roadway is cherished by road bikers. 
 
Soon I arrived at La Vina Winery, just in time for their annual Harvest Wine Festival. Bands were playing live rock, bluegrass, and country tunes and booths were selling local crafts, and, of course, spiced pecans. But most folks were here to taste the excellent wine. I really enjoyed the sauvignon blanc and the smooth syrah. Glass in hand, I walked over to a tent to listen to the music, looked up at the clear blue sky, and enjoyed the slight breeze. Life is good on the ole El Camino Real. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/18/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Adventures in Las Cruces Week—A Stop or Two in Mesilla

Once a major stopover on the San Antonio to San Diego Butterfield Stagecoach route, Mesilla is now a valued historic district in Las Cruces. Go there in the daytime under the hot desert sun and the dusty streets around the plaza feel exactly like it did in the 1850s when Billy the Kid stood trial for murder in the town’s courtroom. Today, many of the classic adobes from yesteryear still stand and are now home to gift shops, bars, and the some of the finest dining in New Mexico. On weekends, you can often find live music at the bandstand in the plaza. Or start your night listening to the jukebox at a favorite local watering hole, El Patio, situated in one of those historic adobes. Once you build up an appetite, amble over to Andele for authentic Mexican fare. A hostess will escort you over to your table with a bowlful of homemade chips. Then make your way to the salsa bar to sample the tantalizing selections. The traditional salsa was so tasty that I bought a bottle for my son to try when I get home. Tacos al pastor is their specialty, with a heaping plate of charred pork, beef, or chicken, paired with spicy Mexican cole slaw and grilled onions to place in the piping hot corn or flour tortillas. La Posta de Mesilla is another Mexican restaurant locals rave about, set in the La Posta Compound, once home to the Corn Exchange Hotel on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line. If you’re looking for authentic Mexican food in a sleepy town from the Wild West, Mesilla is the place. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/17/17 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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