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Monday, September 25, 2017

Traveling the World While Staying Put in Toronto

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

I traveled all over the world and through time this month without ever leaving Toronto. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is an annual public event in September where nearly 300 top-flight movies are shown during a 10-day period. TIFF is one of the world’s most well-attended film festivals (almost 500,000 people), and it is also among the most prestigious, moving newer filmmakers onto the big stage. Many directors, screenwriters, and actors/actresses speak to audiences immediately after their films are shown, which is an added treat. I saw 17 films this year, a huge increase from the two last year, once I understood what all the fuss was about. 

Toronto itself is an amazing city, an easy journey from both eastern and midwestern US, and full of fascinating indoor and outside activities: over 180 languages and dialects are spoken here; half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada; it is now the 4th largest city in North America (behind only Mexico City, NYC and LA); and the varied neighborhoods, shores of Lake Ontario, and wooded ravines of the city beckon. Walking and biking are very popular, as are a tremendous choice of cultural experiences.
 
But, back to TIFF: this month, I’ve been to India, Kenya, England, France, Sweden, Colombia, and across the US (by, for example, old-style RV, horse and wagon, classic convertible, bed of a pickup truck, and decidedly unglamorous team bus). I’ve immersed myself in wonderful stories (many of them based on fact). To me, this is similar to real travel in a small way -- learning about and absorbing different ways of life, imagining different time periods, hearing different stories, and seeing different vistas (literal and metaphorical).
 
Consider a trip to Toronto anytime, and ActiveTravels can help you with a wonderful itinerary. Or plan ahead: TIFF 2018 will be held September 6-16, 2018. If you determine what movies you want to see (the list is published each August), ActiveTravels can get your desired tickets during the exclusive “pre-sale” period, held the week before the Festival. 
 
Photo: The Cast and Crew of I, Tonya, My Favorite Film of This Year's TIFF
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/25/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Traverse City, Michigan

Head to the Traverse City area, a four-hour drive northwest of Detroit (or 1-hour flight from DTW), and you’ll be treated to far more than a fun frolic on a Great Lake. The autumn colors will be out in all their glory. Slow down and explore the region at a relaxed pace on bike or on two feet and you’ll find diverse terrain, from the shaded wetlands of the Grass River Natural Area to the rolling countryside of the Leelanau Peninsula to the steep dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the largest sand dunes west of the Sahara Desert. The towering slopes of sand, some as high as 440 feet, slide steeply to the shores of Lake Michigan. Stroll on the 1.5-mile Cottonwood Trail and the dunes look like bowls of sand that only a giant could drink from. The Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau has put together money-saving Fab Fall specials, combining low room rates with lots of discounts on dining, entertainment and attractions. Have a look

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Canoeing the Allagash, Maine

In 1998, I had an assignment from Men’s Journal magazine to paddle the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway in the northern tier of Maine. It was late September, when the summer infestation of mosquitoes and black flies were gone, along with most paddlers. Instead, I found a river ablaze in fall color. An added bonus was that moose were in heat. One night while I was sleeping near the shores, several moose were going at it and I thought I was going to be trampled to death. Besides that little adventure, I had a glorious time venturing down this magical waterway. I went with classic Maine guides, Alexandra and Garrett Conover, who are semi-retired and no longer take folks down the river. Instead, go with a trusted guide like Mahoosuc Guide Service who led me down the West Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine for this Sierra Magazine story.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/21/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Cannon Beach, Oregon

Only a 90-minute drive from Portland, Cannon Beach is where the mighty timber of the Pacific Northwest meets the long stretch of beach from California, offering the best of both worlds. First stop is towering Haystack Rock, which stands tall in the shallow waters, inspiring awe from all who stroll hand-in-hand on the hard-packed sand. Be on the lookout for the resident pod of grey whales off the Oregon coast which number around 200. Then drive over to nearby Ecola State Park and take a hike in this Emerald Forest, where massive 300 year-old Sitka spruce trees have trunks as wide as a redwood. The woods soon recede, replaced by sandstone bluffs, pink colored beaches and the great expanse of the Pacific. Make your way south, stopping in the fishing community of Bay City for small, tender Kumamoto oysters on the half shell at Pacific Oyster. Dessert is creamy blackberry ice cream at Tillamook Cheese Factory. Spend the night in affordable Manzanita, where rooms at the Spindrift Inn are as low as $109 a night in the months of September and October. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/20/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Biking the Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island

In September 2004, I was fortunate to receive an assignment from Canadian Geographic to head to Prince Edward Island and write about their relatively new Confederation Trail. The Canadian Pacific railroad that once connected Prince Edward Island’s small villages last roared through the interior in 1989, leaving in its wake hundreds of kilometers of track. By 2000, the tracks were pulled and the line replaced with a surface of finely crushed gravel, creating a biking and walking thoroughfare called the Confederation Trail. Crossing the entire island, the trail starts in Tignish in the west and rolls 279 kilometers to the eastern terminus in Elmira. One of the most scenic stretches starts in Mt. Stewart in King’s County along the sinuous Hillsborough River. You’ll soon reach St. Peter’s Bay, a large inlet dotted with mussel farms and lobster traps. After crossing a bridge that rewards you with glimpses of the island’s fabled red cliffs, you’ll arrive at the rolling Greenwich Dunes. If you were wise, you grabbed a room at the nearby Inn at St. Peter’s to spend the night. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/19/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Latest Boston Story in Alaska Airlines Inflight Publication

Over the years, I think more friends have found my stories in inflight pubs than any other outlet, including the hundreds of articles I wrote for Boston Globe, Yankee, and Men’s Journal. Yesterday, I received a text from a college buddy flying to Seattle on Alaska Airlines who spotted my feature on Boston (the piece starts on page 90). If you’re planning to head to New England this fall to see the foliage, the story is a good primer on the city. It includes many of my favorite sites, restaurants, and hotels including a must-stop at the MFA, dining at Shojo, and spending the night at Kenmore Square’s Hotel Commonwealth. Downstairs from Hotel Commonwealth you’ll find Eastern Standard, the restaurant our family came to celebrate after my son’s high school graduation. So rest assured that I’m giving you all my insider picks. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/18/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 15, 2017

Still Time to Hit the Beach in New England

Next week, I’ll be discussing my favorite fall foliage activities in the region. Yet, I love September just as much as October in New England. The summer crowds are gone leaving the beaches deserted. It’s been unseasonably warm all week, in the low to mid-80s. With cousins in town from Arizona and my brother in from New York, we took advantage of the warm weather on Tuesday to drive up to a family favorite, Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester. A mere 45-minute drive from my home and I was sifting my feet in the soft white flour-like sand looking at the gorgeous lighthouse at the point. It was low tide and we walked on a long sandbar almost out to that lighthouse. There were few people on the beach and best yet, there was no charge to enter. When we had our fill of sun, sand, and ocean, we headed to nearby Woodman’s for the requisite lobster roll, steamers, and onion rings. This place always has a long line in summer, but we marched right up to the counter to make our order. The weather is supposed to be warm and sunny the rest of the month so hit the coastline and dip your feet in the ocean one last time. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/15/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hurricane Irma’s Impact on the Caribbean

Yesterday, United Airlines issued a waiver to change all flights for free to St. Thomas, St. Martin, and Providenciales, Turks & Caicos through December 31, 2017. Word is starting to trickle in from the islands and it’s not good. Most resorts on St. Barts, St. Martin, and St. John have structural damage. Anguilla, St. Thomas, the British Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, and Cuba were also hit hard. Forbes just issued an extensive run-down on specific properties if you already have reservations this upcoming winter. Many other islands were thankfully unscathed like Jamaica, Aruba, St. Lucia, Barbados, and the Caymans. So if you’re thinking of visiting the Caribbean this winter, contact ActiveTravels and we’ll give you all the information we have.  
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/14/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Waltham Named One of the Top Food Towns in the Country

We head over to nearby Waltham all the time for the authentic Mexican fare at Amuleto, the best pastrami in town at Moody’s Provisions, and to dine at the award-winning Italian restaurant, La Campania. So it came as no surprise that Waltham made the cut in RewardExpert’s ranking of 2017’s Best American Foodie Towns. RewardExpert analyzed 100 cities and towns with populations less than 100,000 and evaluated them on nine key metrics. I also like their other picks such as Portland, Maine, Traverse City, Michigan, and Healdsburg, California. Have a look. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/13/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New U by Uniworld Cruises Catered to Younger Clientele

It’s no surprise that a river cruise appeals to all ages. Just ask active travels tour operator, Backroads, who teamed with AmaWaterways to bring families to the Danube River. Ever since they started these cruises in 2016, the demand has far exceeded number of available berths. The chance to ride along the river on bike paths during the day though small European villages and then catch up with the cruise for cocktails, dinner, and your room for the week (no packing and unpacking) is ideally suited for all age groups. The problem, especially if you’re a Gen-Xer or Millennial, is the average age on many of these river cruises is 68. That’s why we’re happy to introduce U by Uniworld, tailored to ages 21 to 45. Making its debut on April 14 with shiny black exteriors, the two vessels are slated to sail the Danube, Rhine, and France’s Seine River. Not surprisingly, these smaller ships are already starting to book up. If interested, give ActiveTravels a call to check availability. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/12/17 at 06:00 AM
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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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