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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

San Antonio Is a Great Option for Spring Break

While we dig out of the foot of snow in Boston from yesterday’s nor’easter, my thoughts turn to the warmth of San Antonio, where temperatures reach the low 80s the next 10 days. Lisa and I were actually thinking of renting an apartment in San Antonio this February/March and wished we followed through on our actions. The city offers two world class art museums, San Antonio Museum of Art and the McNay, sublime dining which I’ve written about for The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, great neighborhoods to roam like King William and Pearl Brewery, and, of course, all the restaurants and bars that line the renowned River Walk.  But the reason I really love San Antonio is that it’s one of the best biking cities in America. Grab a bike from the B-cycle station (the city’s bike sharing program) at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and pedal on the 10-mile long bike trail called the Mission Reach. It's not uncommon to find herons, egrets, families of ducks, and turtles lounging in the waters, and colorful wildflowers in full bloom. When the trail ends at Mission Road, you can turn right to visit Mission Concepcion or left to visit Mission San Jose. These early 18th-century Spanish colonial missions are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of a national historic park. I always bring my camera to poke around these impressive buildings and get great shots of the light and shadows reflecting off the walls. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Save 20% at the New LIFE Hotel in New York’s NoMad Neighborhood

Opening its doors on April 10th, the LIFE Hotel is located in the historic building that once housed LIFE Magazine. If you like boutique hotels with great design, lots of amenities, a restaurant, and basement speakeasy serving classic cocktails, this is the place for you. Rates start at $249 if you book by April 25th. The circa-1893 hotel will echo the place where renowned writers and artists worked, lived, and played. When the new owners were researching the building, they discovered that the upper floors served as apartments for the celebrated writers and artists of the time. During prohibition, the building even housed a secret bar in the basement. All of these areas are being revitalized with plans to bring back the spirit of the 1920s with modern amenities and comfort.

The hotel offers 98 rooms and will place an emphasis on great service and affordability. Guestrooms will feature oversized beds, large flat screen TVs, vintage desks and contemplative poetry inscribed throughout. Pets are welcome. If interested, please contact ActiveTravels and we're happy to book the hotel and give you our NYC travel tips.
 
Guest Post by Lisa Leavitt 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/14/17 at 05:59 AM
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Excited to Add Amy Perry Basseches to the ActiveTravels Team

One of the true signs of any successful business venture are loyal customers. If our members return to us again and again to design their travels, then we know we’re doing something right. Amy Perry Basseches was already one of our closest friends in Boston when we started work on her travels 5 years ago. We have since planned trips for her family in one form or another (mother/daughter, father/son, father/daughter, mother/son, husband/wife, entire family) to Scandinavia, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Croatia, France, Estonia, the UK, Costa Rica, Colorado, Oregon, Louisiana, California, even a college trip that passed through my hometown of Schenectady, New York on the way to Rochester (though I couldn’t recommend my favorite local burger joint, Jumpin Jack’s, because her daughter is a vegetarian). Each time she returns home with another travel request and we value her repeat business. 

Her passion for travel and gregarious personality are ideally suited for the travel industry so it’s no surprise that we’ve been trying to woo her to ActiveTravels for several years now. Our persuasive tactics have finally paid off. Amy is officially part of the ActiveTravels team, assisting us with marketing, travel planning (especially to her beloved Azores), and creating content for our newsletters and blogs. We’re overjoyed to welcome Amy to ActiveTravels and know that the honesty we value in our friendship and the love we share for authentic travel can only enhance the ActiveTravels brand.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/13/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 10, 2017

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dripping Sap

Maria von Trapp, the woman who inspired The Sound of Music, is no longer with us, but Trapp Family Lodge continues to flourish thanks to one of the finest cross-country networks in the northeast, comfy lodging perched on a hillside in Stowe, Vermont, the launch of their new beer hall and microbrewery, and a restaurant that serves a tasty wiener schnitzel. Mid to late March, during the heart of the maple sugaring season, is my favorite time of year to visit Trapps. When it comes to sugaring, the family does it the old fashion way, picking up the sap in buckets with a horse-drawn sleigh and delivering it to the sugarhouse to boil off the water and create Vermont’s “liquid gold.” The 1200 taps produce 300 gallons of syrup annually and the season lasts from mid-March until mid-April. Join in on the fun each Saturday, when you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or grab that horse-drawn sleigh to the sugarhouse for a traditional Sugar-on-Snow party. The hot syrup is tossed on the white snow to create a chewy maple taffy, served with donuts and dill pickles. If you’re in the area tomorrow, March 11, Trapp Family Lodge will be offering a Maple Sugar Snowshoe Tour from 10:30 to 12 pm. Enjoy a 1.5-mile snowshoe through the woods, then learn about the process of making maple syrup at their sugarhouse.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/10/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Georgia on My Mind

In yesterday’s blog, I discussed meeting the preeminent sea kayaker, Olaf Malver, who now leads trips for Natural Habitat Adventures to Greenland, Antarctica, and the Galapagos Islands. When not paddling, Malver is back in his native Georgia (the country, not the state), producing award-winning wine from his vineyards. Straddling the border between Europe and Asia, the origins of winemaking can be traced back to this region of the world. Today, oenophiles flock to Kakheti province, the top winemaking region to sample the wares. A fine bottle of wine is just one of the reasons to visit Georgia, which has recently landed on Travel & Leisure and Vogue’s “top places to travel” lists. Olaf’s wife runs Wild Georgia, which leads weeklong guided trekking and horseback riding jaunts into the Caucasus, the striking mountain range that stands taller than the Alps. The capital, Tblisi, has quickly become an exciting center for art, food, and music amidst the art nouveau architecture. Stay at the recently opened Rooms Hotels, dine at a French Laundry alum’s bistro, Le Montrachet, and check out the electronic music scene at Bassiani. Big hoteliers like Le Meridian and Radisson Blu are already busy building new properties in the country, so the time to go is summer or fall 2017 before word spreads. 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/09/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Sea Kayak with Nat Hab Adventures in Greenland, Antarctica, and the Galapagos

When I was working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure and researching my first book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England, I would often go on multi-day sea kayaking trips along the Maine coast or around Prince Edward Island. The trend of long distance sea kayaking was becoming popular in the late 90s thanks in large part to one man, Olaf Malver, who was the director of development for Mountain Travel Sobek. While Richard Bangs put the sport of whitewater rafting virgin rivers on the map, Malver explored the world within the cozy confines of a sea kayak. 

I had the good fortune to catch up with Malver over dinner last week in Boston, where he was introducing the wine he produces in the Republic of Georgia to distributors (we’ll talk more about Georgia tomorrow). Olaf mentioned to me that 80% of adventure travelers only visit 20% of the world, leaving behind such gems as the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific or eastern Greenland, one of the most breathtaking landscapes he has ever witnessed. Now working with Natural Habitat as Chief Exploratory Officer, Olaf brings groups of passionate travelers to remote Greenland each summer. He also organizes trips to the Galapagos Islands, where he promises to get kayakers in secluded coves far away from the cruise ships. He even sea kayaks in Antarctica, where guests have the option to camp on the shores with the penguins before returning to their 60-foot sloop. If any of these trips interest you, please contact ActiveTravels.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/08/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Member’s Video Wins Second Prize from Backroads Photo/Video Contest

We love it when members post photos from their recent trips on the ActiveTravels Facebook page. Even better when it’s an award-winning video. We sent Sara Jones and her family of five on a Backroads trip to Glacier National Park last August. Upon her return she created a video of the many memories from the adventures shared in that exquisite part of the country. She then submitted the video to Backroads for their annual photo and video contest and learned recently that she won Second Prize! That’s a $4,000 credit towards her next trip with Backroads. Congratulations Sara! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/07/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 06, 2017

Time to Put the Azores on Your Bucket List

As a long-time ActiveTravels client, I’d strongly recommend the Azores for an easy retreat: just a four-hour direct flight from Boston. On the island of São Miguel, stay at the historic villa of Quinta Minuvida, with orchards, gardens, pool, and yoga studio, surrounded by acres of green pastures, and framed by old stone walls and beaches. Hosts Rimi and João lead “curated” adventures and know local drivers and guides. 

Eat fresh fish, cheese, bread, fruit and jam. Don’t miss the geothermal stew (cozido nas caldeiras), chouriço (smoked sausage) and bacalhau (salted cod). Soak at Caldeira Velha and Poça da Dona Beija volcanic hot springs. Hike in Furnas, or all over the island. Ascend winding roads to Sete Cidades crater lakes. Explore lava tunnels in Ponta Delgada. Learn about unique-to-the-Azores pineapple production at Arruda plantation. Walk the black sand beaches of Santa Bárbara and Santana. Don’t miss Quinta dos Sabores, a farm-to-table restaurant. Enjoy Minuvida’s firepit. Also kayak, go canyoning or birding, bike, ride horses, see whales, learn about local ceramic and tea production, and more. 
 
July and August are busy, but the island is enjoyable year-round. I loved February! High season runs May – September, “shoulder” season is recommended (March/April, and October/November). Enjoy! 
 
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/06/17 at 05:59 AM
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Horseback Riding in Puerto Vallarta

This day trip started with a fast zodiac boat ride with the family across glorious Banderas Bay. Led by the outfitter Vallarta Adventures, we landed on the docks of the seaside village of Quimixto. We walked on cobblestone streets past the sleeping chihuahas and soon made our way to a pack of horses that were waiting to take us up the mountainous hillside. We got out of the saddle, only to find a hidden waterfall where we swam in the cool waters. After horseback riding, we snorkeled with a slew of angelfish and then had a delicious lunch on a quiet beach farther south in Pizotita. Our guide, Poncho, made a helluva margarita for the adults, while the kids were served coconut juice. Life was bliss and we laughed when Poncho said “Where are all the bandits in their big sombreros and guns blazing?” It was so peaceful here that my daughter wandered over to hammock and took a nap. 

 
I’ll be in Miami all next week, back the week of March 6 with fresh content. Stay active, my friend. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/24/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

On the boat ride over to Floreana, dolphins were jumping in the wake. Our lodging for the next two nights was the Floreana Lava Lodge, simple wooden cabins on the beach with the sound of pounding waves to lull you to sleep. The owners, a brother and sister team of Claudio and Aura, were two of 12 siblings that were brought up on the island. Their father and mother moved to Floreana in 1939 and today there are only 150 full-time residents. 

 
The following day was my favorite of the entire Ecuador trip. Claudio and our guide Carlos drove us high into the hills to first see giant tortoises, many over 100 years old. We walked through caves that housed early German settlers, picked juicy oranges from a tree, took a short hike to an overlook with exquisite views of the island, and then had a glorious lunch of grilled beef and chicken with a delicious chimichurri sauce, salads, and fresh fruit juice at the former estate of Claudio and Aura’s parents. We felt privileged to see where their father was buried on the grounds under the 12 fruit trees he planted for the birth of each of his children.
 
In the afternoon, we snorkeled by ourselves with huge sea turtles. Afterwards, a sea lion swam up to our beach, rolled in the sand in front of us and went to sleep. When the night sky grew dark, we could see all the glittering stars of the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross. That’s what I call a special day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/23/17 at 06:00 AM
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about us
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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