We have lots of news to tell you about! Not only are we announcing our winner for our hotel giveaway in our Quick Escape column on Provincetown, Cape Cod, below, but we report on my trip to stunning Croatia last month, our favorite dude ranches, and an outfitter who can custom design your trips to the National Parks. We are also excited to inform you about a wonderful organization called Pack With A Purpose, which organizes small-scale donations by travelers for impoverished communities across the globe.
More news? Yes. Some of you know my obsession with elephants. We are thrilled to announce that with a portion of all new and renewed memberships since November 2014, we are all now the proud foster custodians of two elephants who live at the David Sheldrake Wildlife Trust!
Moving forward, we've decided to donate a portion of each new and renewed ActiveTravels membership to Global Giving, an organization which is helping to meet immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products and shelter for the Nepalese people due to the recent earthquake.
Thank you for your support of ActiveTravels and our mission to not only create memorable travel but help the communities in the destinations we visit!
Steve and Lisa
News From the Road:
Being married to a travel writer has had its challenges. Whether Steve is journeying to far-flung places across the globe for weeks at a time or taking several small jaunts across his beloved New England, we juggle. The kids and I have adjusted to saying goodbye and reuniting with hugs and souvenirs from far and wide. If I get another African bracelet without actually having stepped on African soil, I will possibly burst!
So, when it came time for me to have my own journey, I was nervous! Usually, I have my travel expert at my side dealing with all the practicalities so I am relaxed. However, it was time for me to fly out of the nest on my own. My destination? Croatia!
Croatia is a spectacular place. It offers everything from beautiful coastal views and mountainous terrain, medieval fortresses and walled cities, history dating back from the time of Emperor Diocletian, a native of this region who ruled the Roman Empire, and national parks with scenery that will take your breath away.
We began in Split, where Emperor Diocletian built his palace in the 3rd century AD as a residence to retire alongside the Adriatic Sea. The palace walls, towers
and temples that he built are still standing. His palace eventually became the core of modern-day Split. Inside these ancient walls, a thriving city offers boutique hotels, charming squares to relax and sip coffee, shops, a cathedral and bell tower to climb, restaurants and more. The black marble sphinxes Diocletian shipped from Rome at huge expense to the Roman Empire, still guard his temples. Amazingly, people live in and among these ancient walls, hanging their laundry out to dry on lines, tending their vegetable gardens, and enjoying views of the Split harbor from their balconies.
Split is also the jumping off point for a boat ride to the nearby islands of Hvar, Korcula and many more. We to ok a day trip to Hvar on a ferry on placid green waters, arriving two hours later. Our guide, Lana, took us on a walking tour of the major town on this narrow 30-mile long island known as a yachting destination for the rich and famous. A little known fact is that Beyonce and Jay-Z visited the island in the summer of 2011, when she was pregnant. They filmed her in front of a tree covered with the native "blue ivy" and named their child after it! The mayor of Hvar has even named Blue Ivy an honorary citizen of Hvar. Stroll the windy streets, climb the steps to the fortress for marvelous views of the town and neighboring islands or just sit at a café near the water and enjoy island life. The fields of Hvar are a UNESCO sight, as they have been farmed since the 4th century BC. We went to a vineyard to taste wines, harvested from the grapes grown here.
Our coastal drive to Dubrovnik would usually only take us 3 hours, but we stopped for locally farmed oysters in the medieval town of Ston. Definitely worth the stop! The seafood all throughout Croatia is fresh, but you've got to try the oysters and grilled octopus in Ston!
Dubrovnik is as spectacular as I had imagined it to be. We began by taking a cable car up a mountain that offered spectacular views of Dubrovnik below. Next we entered the walled gate of the city and
wandered along its narrow walkways down
many ancient limestone
steps to a magnificent
square where churches, clock towers, shops and restaurants surrounded us. This pedestrian city offers the visitor endless places to meander. Our favorite activity here was walking the circumference of the city atop the city walls, all 1103 steps. Too bad I left my FitBit at home! From here you can see the ancient adjacent to the contemporary, the Venetian architecture next to the Game of Thrones souvenir shop.
The next day we traveled to the country of Montenegro, another few hours down the coast, to see the Bay of Kotor and its ancient walled city. We made a stop at a 3rd generation olive oil factory and had a divine lunch of local prosciutto, cheeses, salad, pomegranate juice and a cheese borek. Everything had been sourced from their own farm.
I made fast
friends with their donkey, Mischka, as well! Perhaps Bey and Jay will name their next child Mischka!
Hotels We Love:
Western US Dude Ranches
We get countless requests for dude ranches all year long. For families, it's a way to experience a bit of the Old West, some old-fashioned downtime with the kids, and to create memories for a lifetime. Square dancing, rodeos, and singing cowboys add to the appeal. Here are some dude ranches based in Montana, Wyoming and Arizona to check out.
Think boutique hotel or yurt, your choice, meets the rugged wilderness. Brush Creek is set on a 15,000-acre working cattle ranch just outside of Saratoga, Wyoming in the North Platte River Valley. Their all-inclusive package includes meals, premium beverages and outdoor ranch activities. Huge lodge, a luxury spa and a bunch of new and renovated cabins dot the property as well as the Lodge's Great Room where you can have a family style feast and the Chuck Wagon for outdoor BBQs, music and cocktails with an amazing view. Activities include: fly-fishing, thanks to Orvis, and 10 miles of private waters; hunting, hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. You can try skeet shooting, archery, range shooting and more. Spa, yoga and teepee massages as well as a full fitness center. Children's programs are available. Enjoy log cabin accommodations with free wifi, but no TV.
Located in Big Sky country of Montana, this working ranch is surrounded by exquisitely beautiful mountains. This remote property has 6,000 acres and offers a spa, movie theatre, bowling alley, stables, heated outdoor pool, swimming hole, fishing ponds and a rushing creek. They feature an onsite restaurant and a "Silver Dollar Saloon," where you can bowl, shoot billiards, and tie one on. Activities include: fly-fishing, horseback riding, archery, paint ball, clay-pigeon shooting, hiking, mountain biking, yoga, ropes course. Night-time entertainment includes stagecoach rides, rodeos, BBQs and bonfires. They'll arrange a tour of nearby old mining town of Philipsburg and a local ghost town.
Nestled in Montana's Blackfoot Valley, 35 miles from Missoula, along a 10-mile stretch of the Blackfoot River (remember, A River Runs Through It?). On property, they offer 28 luxurious vacation homes and 30 luxury tents or glamping (glamour camping), complete with a "Camping Butler" who takes care of you by preparing a 5 course meal or staging the fire pit each night for s'mores and stories. Activities include horseback riding, fly-fishing, guided rafting, hot air ballooning, or ATV excursions, yoga, pony rides, hiking on their extensive trail system, geocaching, and spa. Two restaurants are on site, one fancier called Pomp, and the other more casual fare, Trough. Don't miss their chuck wagon dinner where you ride on a horse-drawn wagon to a spot near the river and enjoy a delicious feast prepared by the fire and play horseshoes, and listen to banjo and a cowboy poet.
This dude ranch, which has been operating since 1868 with 60,000 acres to play with, is located near Tucson, Arizona. It's rustic yet has top-notch resort amenities so you will not feel deprived on vacation! They even have a large pool to cool off in after being out on the range all day. Culinary activities include breakfast rides, an outdoor cowboy breakfast under the trees, ranch BBQs with singing cowboys and Mexican fiesta nights. Other amenities beside their large stable of horses and rides for all experience levels, nature tours and bird-watching, are their 5 tennis courts and on-site pro, 3 pools, and fitness center. No TVs, but wifi is available.
Tour Operators We Recommend:
National Parks Revealed
Marty Behr is well-known in the travel industry for opening four nature-based travel companies in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, including American Safari Cruises, small yacht cruises on the Alaskan seaboard. His latest venture, opened in 2010, is National Parks Revealed. Behr hires private guides, some of whom worked as former park rangers, to lead you on a custom-design trip based on your interests. Whether you love to hike, bike, or paddle, National Parks Revealed will take you away from the masses on a trip specifically designed for your family or friends. They also have the uncanny ability to find rooms in national park lodges that are usually sold out as soon as they become available, like the hard to get Crater Park Lodge in Oregon. For those who want to check off Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon in one clean sweep, National Parks Revealed will fly you via private charter. We love Backroads and Austin Adventures for their family multi-sport trips in national parks, but this is a great alternative if you want your own customized tour.
Contact ActiveTravels if you are interested!
Tried & True Travel Tips:
Pack For A Purpose
On every trip to Africa, including my visit to Tanzania in March, I always bring school supplies-pencils, pens, coloring books, writing pads, and smiley face stickers for one school that could desperately use it. On my latest visit, my small gesture went to a school for the Massai in the Lanai, the northern part of the Serengeti. While in Tanzania, I learned about an important organization called Pack for a Purpose that has taken travelers' generosity to a much more organized level, providing necessary medical supplies, clothing, and school supplies for communities around the globe.
Started in Africa, but now coordinating donations around the world, the non-profit simply asks travelers to pack 5 pounds of supplies in their luggage with much-needed contributions. These simple global gestures have a profound impact, a mission that ActiveTravels wholeheartedly supports.
Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
The spring giveaway this week is a 2-night stay at one of my favorite properties on Cape Cod, Salt House Inn, smack dab in the center of Provincetown. The correct answer to our question, "Name the national marine sanctuary that is the favorite feeding ground for whales in Massachusetts" is indeed Stellwagen Bank. Thanks to everyone who participated! And the lucky winners are (drumroll, please)...Ann Abrams and Deb Filler!! Congratulations, Ann & Deb!!
Take full advantage of P'town before the crowds congregate on the Cape to go eyeball-to-eyeball with whales, bike up and down the dunes on the unique Province Lands Bike Path, see the glorious pine warblers swoop from pine to pine just inland of the parking lot at the Province Lands Visitor Center, and, of course stroll the stretch of beach at Race Point.
Then dine on lobster risotto, pan seared scallops, or almond crusted cod that night at that P'town tradition, the Mews.