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If there ever was a "winter of our discontent," this was it. Political fighting with no compromise in sight, late winter storms that challenged all our best laid plans, and little hope that spring will ever show it's buoyant face. That groundhog knew what was in store for us but he (or she) didn't know that winter would last not just 6 weeks longer, but much, much more!
, we journey on! Steve and I took a snowy April walk in Stowe, Vermont, and enjoyed some divine craft cocktails in a new speakeasy bar with our 21 year old son, Jake. Our members enjoyed their trips to Park City, numerous Caribbean islands, Florida, Germany, Spain, Hawaii, Japan, the Australian Outback, Israel, Petra and beyond. We are so grateful to design our members' trips and look forward to hearing the report of your experiences upon your return.
As promised, we are offering another giveaway this month! The Appalachian Mountain Club has created these wonderful lodges throughout the Maine wilderness. They are ideal locations to base yourselves for hiking, mountain biking, paddling, fishing, and s'more making. When you stay at the lodges, you'll enjoy private cabins and a freshly cooked breakfast and dinner not to mention great guidance on where to go and what to see in this beautiful part of the country.
We are excited to announce that ActiveTravels is offering a 3 night stay at Medawisla (Abenaki word for loon) Lodge and Cabins.
Please read Steve's article below, Quick Escape: AMC's Maine Wilderness Lodges, for information on how to enter our giveaway.
Please also keep reading to learn about five of our favorite trips to take in Italy; our Deal of the Month; and why you should always book with a travel agent.
Stay positive and h
Steve & Lisa
Five Trips to Try In:
Not surprisingly, Italy is once again the top summer destination for our members, with Spain, Greece, Portugal, Scotland, and Iceland not far behind. Bike or drive through the rolling foothills of Tuscany along the Arno River and you quickly understand why Italy continues to seduce. You'll stop to taste wine from local vineyards, olive oil from orchards, and walk on the cobblestone streets of medieval villages like Cortona, where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed. Add requisite stops in Venice, Florence, and Rome, the dreamy landscapes of the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, and Capri, and the growing popularity of Sicily and Puglia and you begin to realize why Italy keeps us busy year-round.
We work with a number of wonderful Italy-based ground operators who will custom-design your private trip based on your interests, be it food and wine, biking and hiking, arts and culture, history, or all of the above. They will take care of all the logistics including lodging, transfers, and activities. We also book a number of guided trips, when our clients love to leave all the worries to someone else so they can sit back, relax, take in the sights, and make new friends. These are the guided trips we like to recommend:
On a memorable trip with Backroads last summer to the Swiss Alps, we met families who were longtime Backroads clients. Asked to pick one trip that was their favorite, they all chose Tuscany. Highlights include biking through colorful fields of sunflowers, corn, sugar beets and tomatoes; sailing across Umbria's Lake Trasimemo on small boats with the local sailing club; and sipping wine while the kids enjoy a night of pizza and biscotti-making at a local trattoria.
Another family tour, this one centers around history. Enjoy an exclusive after-hours visit to the Vatican Museums, walk amidst the ancient stone streets and excavated buildings of Pompeii, and ride a jet boat to Capri. Lodging includes 3 nights at the Parco dei Principe Grand Hotel, known for its glorious swimming pool, ideal for late afternoon dips after a long day of sightseeing.
Called Giardano d'Italia, the Garden of Italy, Puglia's rich soil is known for its bounty of fruits, vegetables, and wines. As the weather cools in southern Italy, it's the perfect place to bike in the fall. On Duvine's six-day trip, you can ride through olive groves, picnic on the Adriatic shores, visit the Greek ruins of Egnazia, and spend an afternoon hiking through the beehive-like buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello. Nights are spent in a restored trullo, the white conical stone dwellings unique to the region, at a hip new boutique hotel in the heart of the Valle d'Itria. You'll hear much more about this trip since Lisa and I just signed up for the October 7-12 jaunt. Excited!
Join 210 other passengers on the all-suites yacht, the Star Pride, on this dreamy 10-day itinerary that circumnavigates the island of Sicily. You'll start and end in Rome, ideal for a 3-day add-on, before heading south along the Amalfi Coast to Capri and Sorrento. Then it's on to Sicily to see Catania's ancient Syracuse, the Roman ruins of Taormina, and the amazing Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll also be making stops on the remote islands of Gozo and Lipari to take authentic cooking classes or picnic on deserted beaches.
The Rhode Island-based operator, Collette, features a number of tours throughout Italy, but it's hard to top their trip to the northern part of the country. The 9-day itinerary starts in Florence before heading north through the olive groves and vineyards to a castle for a wine tasting. You'll learn to make pasta in Bologna, discover the secrets of Parma's cheese making tradition and end your trip in legendary Lake Como, where you'll enjoy a private boat tour.
Consider what Erica Jong, American novelist, wrote about Italy: "What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago."
Hotels We Love:
If you haven't visited Greece, it needs to be on the top of your bucket list. If you visited from a Mediterranean cruise, that doesn't really count! It's necessary to spend more than a day trip here and there to experience the country's culture and beauty and to enjoy its people. Greece is much more vast than you might imagine. Countless islands comprise this glorious country and the fascinating mainland all have so much to offer and discover.
The Cyclades Islands are extremely popular featuring the quintessential whitewashed hilltop villages and sandy beaches of Santorini, Mykonos, Paros and one of our favorites we visited on our honeymoon: Folegandros.
The Dodecanese are located in the southeastern Aegean sea, closer to Turkey, and include Patmos, Rhodes and Kos, some of which have international airports.
Crete is a fantastic destination and has it all: beaches, ancient Minoan and Venetian ruins, the lovely port town of Chania and endless adventures to try from exploring caves, cliffs, valleys and gorges.
Most travelers begin their journeys in Greece in Athens. Here are some of our favorite hotels in this vibrant city:
This is the Grande Dame of Athens hotels, located right next to Syntagma Square, across from the Parliament Building (yes you can see the changing of the guard from your hotel room) and within view of the Acropolis from their rooftop dining room. This roof garden also contains a bar and swimming pool in the summertime. The basement features a lovely spa, indoor pool and gym. When we stayed there, we received luscious Godiva chocolates at turndown.
Contemporary in feel with a chic and sophisticated vibe, Electra Metropolis is well located near Syntagma Square and the Parliament as well. The highlight of this property is their roof garden. It offers spectacular views of the Parthenon, Lycabettus Hill and the entire city. You'll find a small pool and fine dining restaurant here as well. Breakfast is served here in the morning and cocktails in the evening. Ask for a room with a view of the Acropolis.
This boutique hotel is affordable and located in a residential neighborhood convenient to the Plaka and the Acropolis. With excellent service and attention to design and details, we highly recommend this property. Check out their Peacock Restaurant which offers views of the Acropolis and excellent food and great prices.
The Met34 is an apartment style hotel smack dab in the center of Athens near Syntagma Square. It offers space and a sense of style not often found in a traditional hotel room. Their suites offer two bedrooms, kitchen equipment and up to date technology making it an excellent choice for families.
Contact ActiveTravels and we can help you with your trip to Greece.
Deal of the Month:
Hudson Valley New York getaway
Have you checked out the Hudson Valley lately? If you love art, nature, good food, craft beers, wineries and cideries, check out this lovely quiet area between New York City and Albany.
Here's the Deal:
a converted 18th century mansion in Stone Ridge, New York, is offering half off on second
nights for midweek stays. The two night package costs $345. Offering twenty suites across four buildings, a farm to table restaurant and a seasonal burger shack and lots of green space to play. Please note that children under 12 and furry creatures are not allowed on property.
This deal is available to be booked through April 30th.
While in the area, here are some fun things to do:
- Hiking in the Mohonk Preserve
- Visit Sleepy Hollow cemetery where Washington Irving and Andrew Carnegie are buried
- Enjoy beer gardens, America's Oldest Winery, Brotherhood and Bad Seed Cidery
- Don't miss Storm King Art Center, Dia Beacon for eye-opening art exhibitions
- Dine at Culinary Institute of America
- Visit the Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- See Hudson River School's most famous artist, Thomas Cole's home and studio, Olana
- Check out the Rotating and Tilting House
- Visit the Rockefeller Estate, Kykuit, and its beautiful gardens, interiors and impressive collection of modern art.
Give ActiveTravels a shout, if you want to plan a fun trip to the Hudson River Valley.
Tried & True Travel Tips:
Why You Should Book with A Travel Agent
Yes, you can book most everything online these days. At the click of a few buttons on your keyboard, you can book plane tickets, train rides, car rentals and hotel room nights. No problem.
However, when it comes down to it, these clicks are purely transactions. When you book with a travel agent, who has connections with hoteliers, and relationships with airlines, and a history of booking special guides, you are not just a credit card number and a transaction. Your travel agent is your personal introduction to people and experiences and upgrades and perks that you won't get when pressing BOOK NOW on your computer.
When we book hotels, we have spoken to or written a letter to the General Manager of that hotel in advance of your arrival and we've alerted them to your arrival time so they expect you and the various needs you may have. We will request an upgrade or an early check in and we may be able to set up some welcome amenities as well.
Perhaps you may find a less expensive rate online than when you work with a travel agent. However, when you consider the value added upgrades and amenities and VIP service, you will likely enjoy the perks of working with a travel agent rather than going solo and booking on your own. Remember, certain hotels will offer our clients complimentary daily breakfasts, $100 food and beverage credits or spa credits, early check ins and/or late check outs, subject to availability, just for booking with us. These perks can not be found online and the value will be more than any discounts you find online.
Many wonder how travel agents make their money. Here's the answer: most hotels, tour companies, resorts, and cruise lines will pay the agent's 10% of whatever they sell. You will not pay anymore than you pay online and the agent who books your trip will act on your behalf before, during and after your trip.
When do we charge extra fees? We charge for creating our Dream Day Itineraries as they take hours of work to design customized itineraries for each client. When we book airline tickets, we ask for a $40 ticketing fee per person as the airlines no longer offer agent commissions.
Most importantly, we are your advocates. If and when the unexpected happens on your travels, we are there to help you find solutions and fix things as quickly as possible. So think about that the next time you see that button that says, BOOK NOW, and
AMC's Maine Wilderness Lodges
Mention the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail to a hiker and they're certain to get a bit misty-eyed, dreaming about this last 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Slicing through the legendary North Woods, this is a land of seemingly endless forest filled with mile-high mountains, immense lakes, and far too many moose to count. The large swath of wilderness feels like a chunk of Alaska remarkably placed in our congested Northeast. Lured by the opportunity to hunt, fish, and take large gulps of pine-scented air, "sports" have been making the long trek north from Boston and New York for close to 150 years, following in the footsteps of that highly opinionated naturalist Henry David Thoreau.
Over the past two decades, many of these historic sporting camps, with their communal dining lodge and rustic cabins, have fallen into private hands. When the opportunity arose in 2003 to purchase the Little Lyford Pond Camps, nestled in a grove near the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail, the Appalachian Mountain Club decided to buy the lodging. Then they made the bold move to acquire 37,000 acres of surrounding land and two additional sporting camps, Chairback and Medawisla, the latter having just been refurbished. A decade later, the AMC purchased an additional 29,500 acres from the Plum Creek Timber Company for $11.5 million and are now partnering with a fourth sporting camp, West Branch Pond Camps.
I cherish the rare wilderness experience found in Maine's northern woods. That's why I'm excited that one lucky ActiveTravels member will have that chance this summer.
The AMC has generously donated a
Located in a glorious spot, on the shores of Second Roach Pond, Medawisla offers ample hiking, paddling, fly-fishing, wildlife watching, as well as new options for mountain biking and canoe camping. Guests will find a newly built waterfront pavilion, central lodge with water views for dining and programs, as well as nine new private cabins. Four-course dinner, breakfast, and trail lunch are included, along with linens and hot showers available.
All you have do is tell us the name of the legendary huts master who ran the New Hampshire AMC Huts from 1928 to 1959?
Give us the correct name and we'll put you in the raffle for our April giveaway!
Do yourself a favor and get lost in the Maine woods this summer.
with your answer and we'll enter you to win the 3-night stay in the Maine Woods!