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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Backroads Rolls Out Custom-Designed Titanium Bikes This Summer

Backroads, the world's number one active travel company, has just announced that all trips this year will feature their custom-designed titanium bikes. The bikes are lighter than last year's bikes and offer electronic shifting. The company also offers e-bikes on all trips. New Bike Tours in 2018 include Chile's Lakes District, Croatia & Slovenia, Cuba, and Portugal. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Rooms Now For Next Summer’s FĂȘte des Vignerons in Vevey, Switzerland

I had the pleasure of having lunch last week with PR Maven, Gayle Conran, and Cindy Maghenzani, head of communications for Switzerland's Lake Geneva Region. They reminded me that next summer, from July 26 to August 11, 2019, the Fête des Vignerons or Winegrower's Festival returns to the glorious lakeside town of Vevey, located between Lausanne and Montreux. Why is this significant? Because the event only occurs once every 20 years! Join singers, dancers, wine experts, and loads of other performers for the extravaganza. It would be wise to book rooms now to ensure you have a place to stay. Grand Hotel du Lac, the property Lisa and I stayed on our last visit is a great choice, especially since it's celebrating its 150th birthday, as Everett Potter reports in his latest column for Forbes. While in Vevey, visit the relatively new Chaplin's World, where Charlie Chaplin spent his last years, and the majestic Chillon Castle, always a must-see sight when I'm in the area. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 18, 2018

Going on Safari in Kenya Will Get Easier Come October

Very excited that Kenya Airways will start daily non-stop service from New York's JFK Airport to Nairobi on October 28, 2018. A member of the SkyTeam Alliance, the only African carrier in the group, Kenya Airways will offer 30 Premier World lie-flat seats in each Dreamliner aircraft. The 7,360-mile journey is scheduled to take 14.5 hours from New York to Nairobi and 15 hours on the return flight. October is an ideal time to be in the Maasai Mara, when the summer crowds are long gone. Go on a circuit route with The Safari Collection and spend the first two nights at Nairobi's Giraffe Manor, which I visited when writing this story for The Boston Globe. Then head north for 3 nights to the cultural hub of Samburu and the luxury lodge, Sasaab, before spending the final 3 nights at Sala's Camp in the Mara. Contact ActiveTravels and we'll be happy to package together all lodging, guides, and flights with Kenya Airlines. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/18/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Rejuvenating Stay at Inn by the Sea

Lisa and I recently spent a night on the outskirts of Portland, Maine, at one of our favorite properties in New England, Inn by the Sea. We wanted to check out their new Cove and Beach Suites and were happy we made the effort. Both were very spacious 2-bedroom suites, ideal for families of 4, with full kitchen, fireplace, and large balcony. Even the Cove Suites, which overlook the lawn, had views of the Atlantic from the balcony. Inn by the Sea is located in a glorious spot on Cape Elizabeth, with a sloping lawn and outdoor pool that leads to a small path and the 3-mile stretch of Crescent Beach. It's become a popular retreat for dog lovers, many of whom adopted dogs from behind the front desk at the resort. The property runs a program with a local dog shelter and a remarkable 117 dogs have been adopted. The real surprise was the food and wine at the resort's Sea Glass restaurant. Chef Andrew Chadwick was recently asked to create a Maine dinner at the James Beard House in New York and now I understand why. The food was by far the best I've ever had at the restaurant. Chadwick, who ran the Chatham Bars restaurant on Cape Cod, knows his way around seafood, especially the sublime lobster tacos. He's joined by the knowledgeable sommelier Donald Linscott, who paired the dinner with exceptional Oregon pinot noir. A memorable stay!

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/17/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Quick Escape: Williamsburg, Virginia

Hop on a 2-hour direct flight from Boston to Richmond and drive less than an hour to reach historic Williamsburg. Best known as a Colonial outpost and neighbor to Jamestown, America's first permanent settlement, Williamsburg now attracts music lovers, foodies, and active travelers. Local Bruce Hornsby is bringing back Funhouse Fest, the 2-day music festival that gathers award-winning artists on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, June 22-23. Outdoor lovers can rent bikes and hit the Colonial Parkway. This two-lane road transports you back to an earlier time connecting Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown over 23 miles. Most of the ride is flat and offers vistas of water and woods, of marshes and herons. For an alternative, check out the Historic Jamestown Bike Trail, a 5-mile loop on Island Drive that features 11 interpretive stops including a panoramic view of the James River, archaeological excavation sites, and the nests of bald eagles. Bay County Kayaking offers a range of guided 2 to 3-hour kayak eco tours including trips to Queen's Creek, a tidal creek that empties into the York River, where you might see otter, muskrat, crabs, and deer. You'll hear from your guide about its rich history in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. 

Crabs, oysters, shrimp, clams, mussels and a variety of fish, all pulled from local waters, make Williamsburg a seafood hot spot. Waypoint Seafood and Grill celebrates the Chesapeake Bay, featuring York River Oysters, local jumbo lump crabmeat, a fried oyster salad, and market fish of the day. Take a short drive along a country road out of town to Café Provencal, on the grounds of The Williamsburg Winery. The French-inspired cooking features local ingredients in an elegant yet relaxed setting, like a raw plate with marinated amberjack, seared scallops, soft shell crabs in season and roasted black bass. Be sure to ask ActiveTravels about our hotel pick in the area, including the Williamsburg Inn and the Kingsmill Resort.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/16/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Must-Stop at Philly’s Magic Gardens

I finally made it to Isaiah Zagar's monumental mosaic masterpiece, the Magic Gardens, on my latest visit to Philadelphia two weeks ago. Spanning half a block on South Street (between 10th and 11th Streets), Zagar started working on these vacant lots in 1994. Using folk art, found objects like bicycle tires, colorful glass bottles, and thousands of handmade tiles and glittering mirrors, Zagar created one of the most unique public artworks in America. Stroll in and out of the stairwells looking at the dramatic colors, reflections, and figurative works. You'll be thankful that the neighborhood stood up for Zagar and his work once the landlord of the property found out what he had done and wanted to dismantle the massive sculpture in 2002. The nonprofit is now used for mosaic workshops, community outreach, and talks with the 79-year-old artist. Magic Gardens is open to the public Wednesdays through Mondays 11 am to 6 pm; cost is $10 for adults, $8 for students. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/15/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 14, 2018

The Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Is Once Again a Victorian Gem

For my recent road trip article for Chevrolet's New Roads Magazine on Revolutionary War sites, I spent a night in Saratoga and was fortunate to stay at the recently renovated Adelphi Hotel. Growing up in upstate New York, I spent many weekends in Saratoga dancing at the Rafters, seeing concerts at SPAC, and going to the track. It's a wonderful spot for a weekend retreat, especially now that the Adelphi Hotel has returned to its circa-1877 roots after a 5-year renovation. Walk into the lobby and you can't help but be impressed with the Victorian era grandeur. The lobby bar, Morrissey's, was busy, even on a Monday night and the restaurant, Blue Hen, is housed under a glass conservatory. But it's the spacious rooms that are really impressive, replete with freestanding tubs, heated floor tiles and towel racks, and sumptuous beds. After a good night's sleep, wake up in the morning and stroll to Sweet Mimi's, owned by friends. You can't go wrong with the lemon ricotta or toasted coconut pancakes.  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/14/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 11, 2018

ActiveTravels Ranks No. 278 of World’s Top Travel Blogs 2018

Found out this week that ActiveTravels made the list of top travel blogs in the world, according to Gary Arndt's Everything Everywhere. The extensive list was based on SEO metrics, but it's obviously skewered toward his liking since Everything Everywhere is ranked number 4. Regardless, I appreciate the effort Gary took to finally have a list of travel bloggers all over the world. He mistakenly notes that I started blogging 19 years ago. I actually purchased the ActiveTravels URL 19 years ago but didn't start blogging until 2009. It's nice to be recognized for my work on the blog. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to check in now and then to find out what's new in the world of travel. Keep it up so I can crack the Top 100 listing by 2020! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/11/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Stay at Fort Langley, British Columbia

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches 
During my mid-April trip to Vancouver, I was mostly based in the small town of Fort Langley (1 hour east of downtown), the so-called "birthplace of British Columbia." It's a little bit off the beaten track, but a lovely destination. Lying on the Fraser River, the actual Fort of Fort Langley was built in 1827 to secure British claims to both sides of the Fraser, a former trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company. Inside the walls of the Fort, we toured the historic timber buildings, talked to re-enactors, pretended to pan for gold, and pictured we were in the early 1800s mingling with Hudson's Bay Company fur traders and their First Nations trading partners. 
 
In the village of Fort Langley, a short walk from the Fort, many of the old buildings have been restored. These restorations, combined with its rural setting and access to the river and mountain vistas, make the town a thriving tourist center. Where new buildings were constructed in the past few decades, they had to follow strict style guidelines to match the heritage appearance. We stopped for unbelievable coffee at Blacksmith Bakery, an artisan bakeshop built on the original site of a 1910 blacksmith shop. 
 
Back to the main point of my trip, having a reunion with two of my dearest friends, women I've known since I was 21. An activity we always enjoy is cooking together, and that we did. Tamara had recently been to Spain, visiting her "studying abroad" college son, and she brought back with her a paella recipe from Madrid. Top notch ingredients were purchased at 1 Fish 2 Fish Fresh Seafood Market, and it was grand. Good friends, good food, good adventure exploring a new area -- thanks Fort Langley!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/10/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

A Perfect Day in Vancouver with Good Friends

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

In mid-April, I flew to Vancouver, British Columbia for a reunion with two of my dearest friends, women I've known since I was 21. Living in Toronto, people are often telling me, "when our kids go out to Vancouver, we never get them back," akin to what my peers in the US say about California. Now I know why. 
 
To explore the city, with the sun reflecting off snow-capped peaks, we set off on the efficient Vancouver SkyTrain system, transporting us from our accommodation in historic Fort Langley, an hour east of Downtown, to the Yaletown area. Yaletown was once the Western terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway, but the area's more recent reinvention dates to when it hosted many of the venues of the 1986 World's Fair. We were hungry -- we googled best food in Yaletown -- and we ended up at Manousheh, sampling three delicious varieties of the "national pie of Lebanon." I can definitely recommend all, especially zaatar, the original manousheh. 
 
From there, we walked to False Creek, hopped on one of Vancouver's ever-present small ferry tugboats, and jumped off at Granville Island. What a fun destination! In the early 1900s, Granville Island was home to factories, plants, and sawmills. Technically a sandspit and not an island, there's a Public Market (see Steve's story for The Boston Globe), as well as a cultural district with theatres, artisan workshops and craft studios. Among our purchases: a small handcrafted broom woven using Shaker methods, from the Granville Island Broom Co. 
 
Leaving the Island, we ferried and then walked along the seawall into Stanley Park -- our vista filled the whole way with mountains and container ships, coming and going. The day started to wind down as we entered Coal Harbour, a former shipyard neighborhood now bursting with seaplanes, marinas, docks, and parks. Thirsty, you guessed it, we googled best pubs in Coal Harbour and found The Blind Sparrow, where we enjoyed craft beer, live music, and amazing fresh oysters. Ah, Vancouver, I'll definitely return. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/09/18 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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