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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A New Five-Star Lodge Opens in Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest

No one needs to be reminded of the brutal atrocities committed in Rwanda in the 90s, where over a span of several months more than a million people were murdered. Thankfully, old wounds can heal. The small central African country that borders Uganda to the north and Tanzania to the east has transformed from “Hotel Rwanda” to Nyungwe Forest Lodge, a five-star resort set to open next week. Set in the mountainous southwestern part of the country in Nyungwe National Park, the region is known for its ancient rainforest canopy with more than 200 different types of trees from the giant lobelia to the African mahogany. Take a walk with naturalists and you’ll also find 13 species of primates ranging from chimpanzees to acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkeys to the baboon-like Grey-cheeked Mangabeys. The lodge is managed by the Mantis Group, who run luxury boutique hotels through the game preserves of South Africa.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/03/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Playgrounds for Seniors

One of my favorite books to read to my children when they were young was the poignant “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, about a relationship a boy has with a tree over the course of his life. In the final pages, an older man returns, cane in hand. As Silverstein writes:

And after years the boy came back, both of them were old.
“I'm nothing but an old stump now. I'm sorry but I've nothing more to give.”
“I do not need very much now, just a quiet place to rest,”
The boy, he whispered, with a weary smile
“Well,” said the tree, “An old stump is still good for that.”

Well, so much for resting. Seniors these days are returning to their youth. London just announced it was building a playground in Hyde Park that caters not to kids or their parents, but aging baby boomers. “Every park has a children’s playground, very few have playgrounds for adults, and none have playgrounds for the elderly,” said Madeline Elsdon, head of a local residents’ association, in a recent AP article. Catered to the over-60 crowd, the playground will feature exercise equipment to help seniors with balance, flexibility, and muscle toning. I just hope they swing and ask their grandchildren for a push!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/02/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 01, 2010

Free Travel Advice to All Military Personnel on Leave

Over the years, I’ve given travel advice to friends, family, neighbors, editors, strangers, you name it. Once people know you’re a travel writer, the questions quickly follow. And believe me, I’m happy to point folks in the right direction. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But I was stunned and delighted to get the following email:

Hello Steve, hope you don't mind me contacting you. I am a US Army soldier currently serving in Iraq, and hope to be home in 2 months after being gone for 8. I would love to take my very hard working wife (also active duty US Army) and 3 young daughters (7,4,2) on a warm beach vacation somewhat near our suburban Maryland home. I read your great review, and the only caveat is that my wife has a security clearance that makes it difficult to plan travel out of the US on short notice. I was thinking the US VI or possibly Puerto Rico and wondered what you thought. We have taken one cruise, Disney out of Canaveral and absolutely loved it. We all love water and beaches, so thought that something all-inclusive in a warm destination that didn't require passports would be ideal. We lived in Hawaii for 3 years before the children, and even though my wife thinks the 12 hour flight is doable, I think something in our local area w/ less flight time would be better. Thanks so much.

To which I responded:

Thanks for being in touch!  I'm happy to be of assistance. I would scratch Hawaii--too far a trek for the 2 and 4-year old. And let's be real. Do you really want to go to Hawaii with the kids? I love St. John in the USVI. See if you can a good rate at the Westin, http://www.westinresortstjohn.com. Do you know of any military discounts at hotels? That might help. Disney Cruises are always a safe bet for your kids. So is Royal Caribbean. But make sure your wife can get off at the Caribbean islands. Otherwise it's not worth it. Also, don't blow off Florida. If you're thinking about taking your vacation in April, Florida is warm that time of year. I love Sanibel Island, outside of Fort Myers. Another favorite trip when our kids were your age was San Diego. You can hit Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, maybe even cruise up to Anaheim to go to Disneyland, and hit the beaches in Coronado and Pacific Beach.

He liked my San Diego idea and I was happy to help. So much so that I’m offering free travel advice to any military personnel going on leave!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/01/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Disappointing America’s Cup

For those of you who caught that small short blurb in the middle of the sports section last week, smack dab between Winter Olympics, basketball, and spring training baseball coverage, the America’s Cup is finally returning to American soil for the first time in 15 years. Software billionaire Larry Ellison and his BMW Oracle Racing team easily crushed the Swiss in Valencia, Spain. But did you take a look at his boat, a space-age trimaran that’s all sail, little deck? This is what the greatest sailing race has been reduced to, creating the fastest object on the water? Call me a traditionalist but I yearn for my childhood where we would head to Newport and watch the likes of Ted Turner and Dennis Connor sail large mono-hulled sailboats that at least looked like sleek yachts, not something better suited for Star Wars. One of the greatest thrills I had was racing on the winning 1986 Stars and Stripes boat in St. Martin, now used as a tourist attraction, racing against other boats from that era. It’s a far better way to introduce people to the exhilaration of sailing races, at least compared to Ellison’s high-priced toy.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/26/10 at 01:59 PM
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Save Money on Rental Cars

Last week, I took the family to Miami Beach and Marco Island for Presidents Week vacation. Flying into Fort Lauderdale Airport, rental car prices were averaging a ridiculous $750 a week for a mid-sized vehicle. But if you picked up that same car down the road from my hotel in Miami Beach, the price was significantly reduced to a more affordable $300 a week. With a cost of taxi from Fort Lauderdale Airport to Miami Beach being a mere $35, I saved myself over $400 simply by not booking the rental car at the airport. It seems that rental car companies are intentionally jacking the prices at airports, assuming that travelers don’t want to hassle with picking up the car at a downtown location. But if you do the search like I did on the Dollar website, you’ll be happy with the savings of dollars!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/25/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bike the Indian Continent from Agra to Kanyakumari

Tour d’Afrique, the socially responsible bike touring company out of Toronto, doesn’t fool around when they create their dream bike trips. In 2003, they traversed the entire African continent in four months, from Cairo to Capetown. Then came the 50-day jaunt on the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul, the 2752-mile Silk Route ramble from Istanbul to Samarkand, and 7500-mile Vuelta Sudamericana that traveled from Rio to Quito. Starting in January 2011, they will set their sites on India, cycling from the Taj Mahal to the southern tip of the country, passing though the desert cities of Rajasthan, the city of Mumbai, and the beaches of Goa. You can take the trip in its entirety (2050 miles) from January 29 to March 15, 2011 or split it up into sections. The $5200 cost includes guides, van support, and lodging. A much needed masseuse for those tired calves is extra.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/24/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Year of Saving the Tiger

Last week, celebrations across the globe brought in the Chinese New Year. 2010 marks the Year of the Tiger, and to commemorate the occasion, the Chinese government has teamed with the World Bank and conservation groups to help save its dwindling wild tiger population in the country. The South China tiger, not seen for years, is believed to be extinct. The latest effort is to help save the Amur tiger in northern China, which now numbers in the teens and could very well be extinct by the end of this decade. The latest building boom has encroached on the tigers’ migration route and poaching always remains a problem. But the government hopes to offset the loss through habitat management, education, and more powerful law enforcement. Let’s hope this leads to a much needed increase in the wild tiger population.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/23/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Go Straight to the Source in Vietnam

One of the reasons I started ActiveTravels was for people across the globe to tell me about their favorite spots to enjoy the outdoors. It’s simply impossible for one travel writer to know all the active hotspots around the world. I also wanted local outfitters who specialize in one region of the world to check in and tell me what they’re doing. A decade ago, I wrote an article for Budget Travel magazine telling reader to go straight to the source. Instead of spending gobs of money to hire an American outfitter to take you to Vietnam, where they simply hire local guides to show you around, go straight to those guides! No one knows their country better than locals and their trips are usually far cheaper. Thankfully, indigenous outfitters are starting to find me and I’m happy to plug them. Just last week, I received an email from Dung Van Nguyen from Green Trail Tours, an outfitter based in Hanoi who has spent the past nine years bringing people around Vietnam. They have trips for bikers, kayakers, trekkers, rafters, you name it, practically any activity you want to do in the country. The cost is as low as $990 US dollars for a 9-day guided bike tour, including lodging and meals.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/22/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Go Galavanting

There was a time when Kim Mance was behind the scenes, working as a travel columnist for Marie Claire magazine. But ever since she launched her Galavanting travel show on the web in 2008, she’s been front and center, bringing us around the world as host.  Together with her fashion-conscious cohort Maren Hogan, they venture everywhere from Roatan, Honduras, to Hokkaido Island in Japan, trying the food, sampling the clubs, and, most enjoyable, experiencing the adventure. In Costa Rica, they go rappelling down a waterfall and in an upcoming webisode on Colorado, you can find Kim ice climbing. “I thought I was going to hit myself in the head with the ice pick. But thankfully those crampons are more stable than you think they’ll be,” Manse says with a chuckle. The show has been a surprise hit on the web, with Manse currently in talks to bring Galavanting to one of the networks. Take a glance at Manse hiking deep in the rainforest of Costa Rica and you quickly understand why viewers find the active lifestyle so appealing.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/19/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Win a Trip to One of America’s National Parks

In celebration of the latest Ken Burns documentary, “America’s Best Idea: The National Parks,” the National Parks Foundation and ARAMARK Parks and Destinations are offering a free three night trip for two, including airfare and lodging, to one of their properties. They include Skyland Resort in Shenandoah National Park, Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park, and Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Park. All you have to do is visit http://thisisyourland.nationalparks.org during the month of February and share at least one memory at any of America’s National Parks and you could be on your way back. Winners are announced in March.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/18/10 at 02:00 PM
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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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