Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Last November in St. Lucia, I participated in BodyHoliday’s version of a triathlon by biking to Pigeon Island, running to the fortress atop the island, rappelling down to the sea, and sea kayaking back to the property. It gave me a firsthand glimpse how resorts are branching far beyond the token gym and spin class to offer memorable workouts in their often stunning surroundings. Now two young women from Sarasota, Florida, Holly Morris and Loren Mayo, are taking it a step further. Last November they launched luxeFit, weeklong fitness retreats to warm-weather destinations, arranging workout sessions and activities and nutritious cuisine prepared by a private chef in an upscale private beachfront estate setting. The first retreat is slated for April 30 to May 6 in Barbados. Activities will include yoga, paddleboarding, snorkeling, surfing, and waterskiing, with excursions to explore Harrison’s Caves, the Mt. Gay Rum Distillery, and the shops in Holetown. Beyond Barbados, the duo is exploring additional options in the Caribbean and Mexico. Cost is $3150 per person.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
On the rugged mountain slopes northwest of Cusco, the Sacred Valley is a beautiful stretch of small villages and ancient ruins spread across a broad plain. The Incas built several of the empire’s greatest estates, temples, and royal palaces between Cusco and Machu Picchu, positioned like great bookends at the south and north ends of the valley. Along with Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Valle Sagrado is one of the highlights of Peru and is really beginning to take off as a destination on its own, rather than just an add-on to Cusco or Machu Picchu. Now it’s home to the latest Explora hotel. I know this resort brand well, having stayed at the first Explora hotel in Torres del Paine, Chile, on assignment for Town & Country magazine. I remember staring out my bathroom window onto the majestic “Horns,” twisted rock formations that rise dramatically from the Patagonian steppe. Daily outdoor excursions are included in the price of a room, so you always have a guide by your side. It’s a worthy addition to the Peruvian landscape, on par with the luxury Inkaterra properties.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Last summer, I made the wise choice to sail on the Schooner Mary Day with my daughter, Melanie, before she left for her first year of college at Indiana University. We had a glorious trip dining on all the lobster we could stomach on a deserted island off the mid-Maine coast, spotting harbor porpoises, lonely lighthouses, and making new friends around the country as we hoisted sails and sucked in as much salty air as necessary. This comes on the heels of two memorable sails aboard the Grace Bailey with my dad and his wife Ginny.
A question I’m always asked is where does a travel writer go for downtime? For me, I’ll jump on one of these historic schooners any chance I get. The Maine Windjammer Association is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Do yourself a favor and book a sail. It’s the best way to see the rugged shoreline and tall timbers of the Maine coast. New themed cruises include Sail Boston Tall Ship Festival (American Eagle & Angelique), Yoga and Wellness (Victory Chimes & Angelique), Beers of the Maine Coast (Mary Day), and Acadia National Park Cruises (Isaac H. Evans & Heritage). Back by popular demand: Beer and Bluegrass (Ladona), Foodie Cruises (Ladona & Stephen Taber), Kayaking Tours (Lewis R. French), Wine Tasting (Stephen Taber, Ladona, Angelique), and Knitting (Isaac H. Evans).
Friday, March 24, 2017
Thanks to affordable direct flights and a favorable exchange rate, Portugal is quickly becoming a popular getaway this summer. Distances are relatively short between must-see cities and seaside villages, so it’s an ideal country to rent a car and explore. We’re happy to design an itinerary that includes lodging, driving routes, private guides, activities, and recommended restaurants. Or we can suggest a guided tour that best fits your dates. In the March ActiveTravels newsletter, we break down the best cities and towns to visit in Portugal. We also discuss our top hotel choices in Copenhagen, remind members of an exciting and affordable 5-day itinerary in the Maine woods with Northern Outdoors and Maine Huts & Trails, and talk about a quick escape to Delray Beach, Florida. Enjoy!
Thursday, March 23, 2017
With more than 700 islands (20 of them inhabited) scattered from Florida’s doorstep to the edge of the Caribbean, the balmy Bahamas offers every type of warm-weather lifestyle imaginable. For some, the Bahamas is an afternoon’s port of call in Nassau and Freeport. Others are lured by the massive Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, where the beach life includes large pools, water slides, and a walk-though aquarium. Yet, there’s another side of the Bahamas called the Out Islands that have yet to be discovered. My favorite is Harbour Island, a three-mile-long, half-mile-wide speck off the coast of Eleuthera. With 18th-century clapboard houses edged with picket fences, this tiny island looks as if someone shrank Nantucket and plopped it down in the tropics. Cars are all but forbidden, replaced by golf carts. Aptly named Pink Sands Beach runs the length of the island, speckled with the perfect blush of flamingo pink. Kids can ride horseback along the shores or don mask and snorkel to go eyeball-to-eyeball with the fishies. Stay at the Coral Sands Hotel, smack dab in the middle of that pink beach.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Need to get away? If you live on the East Coast corridor and just endured another snowstorm last week, I would say you’re due. Bermuda’s shoulder season is March to late May. The Fairmount Southampton is offering rooms at a 40% discount while rooms at my favorite lodging on-island, The Reefs, starts at $275 a night this time of year. I just checked the 10-day forecast and highs reach the upper 60s, heading to the mid-70s in April. Flights are direct and only 2 hours from New York, Boston, and DC. If you need suggestions on what to do while you’re there, check out my Boston Globe story.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Washington, DC, garners its fair share of travel press this time of year because of soon-to-bud cherry blossoms. But don’t forget about that other East Coast history hot spot, Philadelphia. Home to one of two U.S. Mint facilities open to the public (Denver is the other; http://www.usmint.gov/mint_tours), families can take an hour-long self-guided tour of this money manufacturing plant. Unfortunately, they don’t give out freebies. Diagonally across the street is the home of the Liberty Bell, set in a $12.9 million glass pavilion. This tour is also self-guided and free, but guides are on hand to answer all of the children’s questions about that crack. Stay at the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel and you can walk to other Old City attractions like Franklin Fountain, an early 20th-century soda shop that makes the best root beer float I ever had, and Shane Candies, the oldest continuously operating candy story in America. Save room for dinner at City Tavern. A reconstruction of an 18th-century tavern where Ben Franklin and other Founding Fathers dined, waiters dress up in Colonial garb and serve recipes from that period.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Working as adventure travel contributing editor for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine, I once wrote a story on eliminating the middleman. How big-name American tour operators were jacking the price by adding another layer of cost to the traveler. Simply go to the same small tour operator they’ve hired to design their trip and you’ve eliminated the excess cost. Uganda’s Shaka Tours would certainly make the cut if I were writing that article in 2017. They join a growing list of small African operators I’ve worked with over the past five years that clients have loved, including African Scenic Safaris in Arusha, Tanzania, and Ghana Tour Consult. I work with Okongo Joshua Fredrick, managing directing at Shaka Tours, designing a wondrous 5-day gorilla trek tour to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Longer trips included chimpanzee tracking at Kibale National Park, game drives at Muchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park, and cultural highlights of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Price of the 5-day gorilla trek starts as low as $950 per person, not including visas. That’s what I call a bargain.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Since its inception in 1984, the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation has handed out more than 2,100 awards and over $420,000 in recognition of outstanding travel journalism. Named the Lowell Thomas Travel Awards Competition after the renowned travel scribe, it has become the premier competition in North America in the field of travel journalism. Every year, the awards and prize money is handed out for outstanding print, online and multimedia works, travel photography, and audio and video broadcast. I’m proud to be on the board of the competition, now open until April 1st. Please send your best work and walk away with cash and the chance to call yourself an award-winning travel writer.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Members of ActiveTravels know we’re big fans of the Salt House Inn in Provincetown. I’ve written about the property for The Boston Globe and Conde Nast Traveller UK and they’ve graciously participated in our hotel giveaway raffle. The 15-room property, originally cottages for salt mine workers in the 1850s, is on a quiet road, a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Commercial Street. A rarity in Provincetown, the inn comes with parking lot and also offers a second floor sun terrace to relax in one of the rocking chairs. Breakfast is a high point, featuring scones, an egg dish like frittata or quiche, ham and cheese croissants, and a Vermont yogurt station with toppings like granola and jam. The inn is now offering a deal where you book two or more nights through May 25 and receive a 50% discount on your nightly room rate. Use promo code 2For1 when making your reservations online. Whale watching resumes in mid-April and the crowds don’t start pouring in until mid-June, so spring is a great time of year to walk the beaches or stroll the shops and art galleries.