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Monday, October 16, 2017

Adventures in Las Cruces Week—Enjoying the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market

The best time to enter Las Cruces is on a Friday night like I did. The next morning when the sun arose atop those jagged peaks known as the Organ Mountains, I headed to Main Street for the Saturday Farmers Market. If you’re yearning for authenticity in the Southwest, all it takes is a 7-block stroll in Las Cruces on a Saturday morning to find it. It was the end of the green chile and tomato harvest and bins were filled with fresh produce from the Dona Ana Valley. Also found were pomegranates, Arkansas Black apples, jugs of horchata and limonata, locally farmed pecans and pistachios, and ristras (long strings) of red chiles hanging in front of many of the stalls. Yet, what really impressed me were the local artisans offering gemstone-laden jewelry, pottery, wooden crafts like adobe-style salt and pepper shaker holders, sculptures, watercolors of the local desert wildflowers, and photographs of the Organ Mountains splashed in red sunlight. All offered at a fraction of the cost one would find these wares 4 hours to the north in Santa Fe. 

After purchasing my bounty of souvenirs, I headed to the large Coas used bookstore on Main Street, then checked out more local art at a juried show at the free Las Cruces Museum of Art. On the way back to my car, I spoke to a jeweler who moved to Las Cruces 11 years ago after retiring as a broker in Montreal. “330 days of sunshine, no humidity, no traffic, this place is a hidden gem,” he told me. Bathed in sunlight and sucking down my horchata on a perfect day with mid-80s temps, it was easy to understand the appeal.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/16/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Chicago’s New 606

Like most rail trails, Chicago’s new 606 took years to develop. The last train to roll down the Bloomington Line was in the mid-1990s. That’s when the inkling of an idea to convert the trail to an urban park took root, connecting Logan Square with Bucktown and Wicker Park on 2.7 miles of elevated railway. We walked a good mile of the 606 on Sunday above the wide boulevards of this residential neighborhood. Already we saw the gentrification taking place, with new condos and apartments being built along the route, much like the High Line in New York. It also introduces people to neighborhoods they normally wouldn’t check out like Logan Square. After our stroll, we stopped at one of the picnic tables at the restaurant and bar Wyler Road and grabbed an Indiana Yum Yum beer on tap with a snack of cheese curds. A fun outing! 
 
Next week I’ll be reporting live from Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’m excited to return to southern New Mexico, my first trip back since the film my brother Jim and I wrote, Passionada, played at the White Sands Film Festival. I plan to hike in the White Sands National Monument and the Organ Mountains, check out the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market on Saturday morning, visit the historic town of Mesilla where Billy the Kids once stood trial for murder, and sample the wares on the Mesilla Valley Wine Trail, among many other activities. Please follow along on this blog, Twitter @ActiveTravels, Instagram, and Facebook. Enjoy the weekend and keep active!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/13/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Quick Visit to Colombia’s Caribbean Coast: Cartagena and Barranquilla

My son Jake has been in Colombia since early June, initially traveling all over, before heading to Barranquilla. Wanting to visit before his teaching contract ends in mid-November, my husband Josh and I are just back from a quick trip. While we loved our historic, formerly grand Barranquilla hotel (El Prado), seeing the school where Jake teaches, and meeting his friends there, I’m going to focus this post on Cartagena, which I know is of more interest to ActiveTravels members. Under Jake’s guidance, we took a bus from Barranquilla to Cartagena’s Old City, separated from the modern skyscraper city by a few miles. The bus ride itself was an experience, seeing lots of small villages along the way. 

 
In Cartagena we wandered for several hours through the outdoor plazas, Plaza de Bolívar and Plaza Santo Domingo, where you’ll find artwork by the great Colombian artist, Botero. We also visited the Museo de Arte Moderno and the Palacio de la Inquisición. We watched the sunset atop the walls of the Old City. A World Heritage Site founded in 1533, the colonial buildings are well protected by what are said to be the most complete set of fortifications in South America—las murallas, thick walls built to protect it against enemies. 
 
ActiveTravels would be happy to help you “wander” too, to Colombia, including a few days in Cartagena, and perhaps the nearby Rosario Islands. Also for your consideration, Jake loved Medellin (“vibrant, safe, and booming, blessed with year round spring weather and located scenically at the base of an impressive valley”), the towns of Guatape (“a beautiful lakeside town about 40 minutes outside of Medellín”), Bucaramanga, and more of Colombia's Caribbean coast (“Puerto Colombia, Santa Marta, Costeño Beach, Minco, and Palomino, each place more stunning than the last”). We work with a wonderful tour operator in Colombia who can package together lodging, transfers, activities, and all guides. Let ActiveTravels know if you are interested!
 
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/12/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Skate Girls of Kabul

One of the great benefits of living in Toronto, the 4th largest city in North America (after Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles) is its diversity. Over 180 languages and dialects are spoken here, and approximately half of Toronto's population was born outside of Canada. Everywhere I go locally, I learn something about another part of the world. A small but powerful outdoor show at the Aga Khan Museum is a perfect example. On a warm October afternoon, after visiting a pumpkin festival in Markham, Ontario, we stopped to see the amazing photos of the “Skate Girls of Kabul” installation. These young women are participants in an NGO called Skateistan whose mission is “empowering children and youth through skateboarding and education” in Afghanistan, as well as Cambodia and South Africa. In Kabul, sports are off-limits to most girls, but fortunately the skateboard was perceived as a toy, thus allowing them to participate. And, for both genders, many Skateistan programs require an equal amount of time in the classroom as on a skateboard: being taught to skateboard as a way to get students into full-time education. In 2016, Skateistan hit the 50% female milestone. Props to Skateistan founder, Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich, and to photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson. The exhibition is on display until October 29th. 
 
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/11/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Time to Cruise Vermont’s Route 100

All it takes is one drive on Vermont’s Route 100 from Killington to Stowe to understand the fall foliage hype. Traveling along the ridgeline of the 4,000-foot Green Mountains as it radiates with its majestic robe of multi-hued maples in October and you can’t help but sing its praises. Be sure to stop in the farming community of Rochester for the requisite “cows and meadow” photo and the historic village of Stowe to find one of the numerous freshly painted white steeples. Along the route, you’ll want to visit the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for your jug of cider, out-of-the-oven doughnuts, and genuine maple syrup. Nearby is the Ben & Jerry’s factory where you can take a tour, sample the wares, and find out how the duo started their celebrated business. We’ve been putting clients up lately at Trapp Family Lodge to savor the vistas from atop the hillside and to sample the new beer hall

 We're off to Chicago for the week, back October 11th. Have a great Columbus Day Weekend and keep active! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/03/17 at 05:00 AM
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Monday, October 02, 2017

Northern Lights Viewing, Dogsledding, and Yoga Retreat in Finnish Lapland

Arctic travel and Northern Lights specialists Off the Map Travel have just announced a new winter wellness retreat in Finnish Lapland. The 4-day/3-night itinerary includes 2 nights at a glass-roofed igloo in Rovaniemi and one night in a snow room at the Arctic Snow Hotel. In the daytime, you’ll go dogsledding, take yoga classes, and experience rest and relaxation in the world’s first sauna made from snow. You’ll be enveloped by an instant cloud of steam, resulting from the contact between the sauna’s 1.5 meters-thick snow walls and the heat from the sauna’s stove. The result is a steam-room like effect with cleansing benefits for both mind and body. Then it’s off to the ice bar and your glass-roofed igloo with uninterrupted views of the Arctic night sky. Cost starts at $1606 per person based on double occupancy, and includes lodging, breakfast, activities, and airport transfers. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/02/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 29, 2017

Belize, Israel, Philly, and More in the September ActiveTravels Newsletter

As school has gone back into session and the cool nights remind us of what is to come, many of us begin to ponder where should we go to escape the bitter cold of winter. Now, after the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, we are watching tragic images on the television and trying to access which areas got hit the worst and which remained unscathed. Our hearts go out to the people of these regions who have lost so much and need to find the strength to rebuild amidst destruction and with little resources. One way we can provide support, besides monetary donations, of course, is to visit them and provide tourism dollars to sustain their rebuilding efforts. Please contact us as we have updated information on the progress of the hotels and lodgings in these affected areas.

In this month’s newsletter, we take a look at one of those countries that fortunately wasn’t affected with the latest round of hurricanes, Belize. We also discuss our favorite hotels in Jerusalem just in time to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday in 2018. Just back from Philadelphia, we describe the city’s thriving art and food scene. Lastly, we list the food and restaurant apps we rely on heavily to create those Dream Day Itineraries. Please have a look! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/29/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cruise Lines Help with Evacuations and Aid to Puerto Rico

Nearly a week after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, many residents are in critical need of supplies. Food, water, and medicine are dwindling and the island is expected to be without power for several months. The international airport in San Juan continues to operate on limited emergency power with fewer than ten commercial flights to the US each day. Instead, Puerto Rico is relying on cruise ships to bring resources to the devastated island. Royal Caribbean Cruises cancelled its Adventure of the Seas cruise to utilize the ship for evacuation and humanitarian efforts. The ship arrived in San Juan yesterday, before heading to St. Thomas and St. Croix to aid in the evacuation and donate critical supplies to each destination. Adventure of the Seas will bring evacuees to Fort Lauderdale before returning to San Juan on October 6. Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line, also has been helping with the aid effort. Carnival ships are currently traveling to destinations in the Caribbean that have been impacted by both Hurricane Irma and Maria. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/28/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Guild Makes its Debut in Austin

A good concierge is an invaluable resource that I’ve relied on heavily throughout the years for restaurant reccs, maps and city navigation, and sights that only a resident would know, like the Earth Room in Manhattan. That’s the reason why I’m often reluctant to book an AirBnB unless it’s a locale I know well. The Guild, a new concept making its debut in Austin, seems to be the best of both worlds. The Guild leases apartments in vibrant neighborhoods residents live, offering fully-furnished stylish spaces. The bonus: 24/7 concierge service and free coffee and beers at neighboring partner businesses where you just charge it to The Guild’s tab. The Guild currently has 100-plus units in Austin and is expanding into Dallas and Miami by early 2018.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/27/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

AmaWaterways Announces Chance to See the Gorillas of Rwanda

We’re already big fans of AmaWaterways’ cruises to Africa, like the Discover Africa itinerary that starts in Cape Town before boarding the 28-passenger Zambezi Queen on Botswana’s Chobe River, where you watch the elephants and crocs swim across the river while sipping sundowners on the pool deck. Then it’s off to Vic Falls for the grand finale. Now AmaWaterways is upping the ante, announcing a new 4-day post-cruise extension to Rwanda. Guests will experience Kigali and Volcanoes National Park, home to rare mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Cape Town, Botswana, Vic Falls, and now Rwanda. Quite the African combo! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/17 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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