Thomas Jones III
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It's hard to believe that March is already half over. Do you find yourselves constantly asking, "Where did the time go?" I certainly do! My days, jam-packed with family, work, and all kinds of travel and events, are so full. When I finally seize some time to quietly reflect, I am shocked that another month has flown by.
Steve and I took some time to reflect recently on a short jaunt to Miami and Delray Beach. Amazingly, we realized that May marks ActiveTravels' 5th year birthday!
We are so thankful to be thriving in an age when many thought travel agents were dinosaurs. Not so! People constantly call us saying they can't spend one more hour going down the rabbit hole of the Internet searching for the right hotel for their needs or the best tour guide for their destination. We can help.
ActiveTravels continues to travel to get hands-on information on various places, we always receive feedback from our members who come back with their own recommendations, and we continually connect with travel agent colleagues and travel suppliers who keep us up to date about the latest news in the travel industry.
Don't forget that Steve has been writing travel articles and has traveled around the world extensively. Usually, he's been to the place on your bucket list.
We have an extensive archive of his articles as well as five years' worth of newsletter articles! If you need information, please get in touch with us at (617) 614-9877 or email me. Just call me Lisa the Librarian!
Enjoy reading the newsletter ahead. We have great information on Portugal, Copenhagen hotels, and fun getaways to Delray Beach and Northern Maine.
If you have thoughts on how we should celebrate our 5th birthday, please drop us a line!
Lisa & Steve
Break It Down:
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. Here are the stops we recommend for your journey:
Portugal's capital is one of Europe's loveliest cities, where Moorish architecture mixes with a contemporary flair as neighborhoods crowd the hillside above the wide Tagus estuary. Sophisticated Bairro Alto is where you find the city's chic boutiques and bars above the cosmopolitan bustle of the Baixa district, grandly rebuilt after the city's devastating 1755 earthquake. Alfama is a medieval melange of ramshackle cobbled streets enlivened by Fado bars and outdoor markets like Feria da Ladra (Tuesday and Saturdays), a Lisbon institution. Sintra, the UNESCO World Heritage Site full of fairytale 19th-century architecture is only a 30-minute drive from Lisbon. Also within an hour drive to the southwest of the city is the late 16th-century fort in Setubal, a city now known for its production of muscatel wine, orange groves, and exquisite nearby beaches.
Take the train or drive 3 hours north of Lisbon to reach Porto, home to a fascinating mix of Baroque and modern architecture. En route, stop to tour the whitewashed village of Obidos. Porto's multi-colored old quarter tumbles to the Douro riverfront where historic warehouses sell wine from the surrounding Minho region as well as the ever-present port. We usually put clients up at the stylish
or the service-oriented
Mercador Guest House
A 90-minute drive to the east of Porto and you arrive in Quinto do Vallado, the heart of Douro Valley's lush wine country. Sample the local wares on guided bike rides or on small boats traveling the Douro River. Terraced landscapes of classic wine estates line this section of the river.
Six Senses Douro Valley
is situated in a restored 19th-century manor house perched atop a hill overlooking the rolling hills of the Douro Valley.
Heading 4 hours south of Douro Valley or a 90 minute drive east of Lisbon is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Evora. Explore the narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses and see the ancient Roman ruins and Moorish architecture. 16th and 17th-century houses, most with tile patios, fill nearly every street. Cobblestone streets, squares with bubbling fountains, and displays of Moorish-inspired arches characterize the town. Spend the night at
Pousada Convento Evora
, a 15th-century convent transformed into an elegant hotel. Evora is also in the heart of the Alentejo region, known for its olive oil, wine, and cheese production. Just south of Evora, Beja was founded by Julius Caesar and is definitely worth a stop to visit the 5th-century Church of Santo Amaro and the massive tower, tallest in Portugal, found at the medieval Castelo de Beja.
Most people associate the Portuguese Algarve with Spain's Costa del Sol, an area with far too many high-rise hotels and far too many tour groups. This is certainly true in the popular British resort town of Albufeira. Yet, there's a simpler side to the Algarve, where small fishing communities like Carvoeiro and Vilamoura hide coveted crescent beaches ideally suited for travelers who want to leave behind the hectic pace of modernity. There are nine beaches in Carvoeiro, all backed by cliffs, and most of them are exquisite. Just ask my parents. After following my advice and heading to this quiet town, they didn't leave for a month. Choose
O Castelo Guesthouse
and kiss the world away.
Hotels We Love:
Overlooking the Baltic Sea, Copenhagen is both a progressive and tolerant city and one loaded with historical charm. Known as the "CIty of Beautiful Spires" due to its wonderful architecture, this relaxed place can be navigated on foot or on bike.
Highlights not to miss are:
- Amalienborg Palace, home of Denmark's royal family & the changing of the guards
- Tivoli Gardens: every evening 110,000 light bulbs turn it into a fairy-tale palace
- Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid statue, speaking of fairy tales
- Expansive views at Rundetaarn (Round Tower)
- The harbor area of Nyhaven
- Museums like Louisiana Museum of Art and outdoor sculpture park & the Nationalmuseet's Viking artifacts
- A meal of Nordic cuisine at Noma
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel
This is the world's first "design" hotel, created in the 1960s by Arne Jacobsen, the father of Danish Modernism. He designed the original building and all its furnishings (think furniture, porcelain, silverware, candlesticks, even the door handles!), including their iconic Egg chairs in the lobby.
The guest rooms have since been redecorated but if you want to experience the original room style, ask for room 606 which has been preserved for all retro-design fans. Their 20th floor rooftop restaurant serves breakfast and dinner and is the best vantage point to view the fireworks at Tivoli.
Originally a department store, this seven-story building is one of Copenhagen's best and most stylish boutique properties. Located in the Latin Quarter, home to the 12th century university and the 15th century Sankt Petri Church (hence the hotel's quirky name), it's just a short stroll from the Stroeget, Copenhagen's famous pedestrian shopping street. Their onsite restaurant, Central Kitchen, offers farm to table cuisine, and their Cafe Petri is the place to be seen come Happy Hour when small plates and drinks are served.
If you've ever fantasized about staying in a Moorish castle, this historic hotel is the place for you! Housing 17 guest rooms, 3 dining options and a great bar, the building was built in 1909 by the Nimb Family on the foundation of two small Taj Mahals. From the glamorous porch, guests can view the passersby at Tivoli gardens. Afternoon tea in their Nimb Bar is a delight. Don't book room 14 however, as it's the only room that doesn't offer a view of Tivoli!
Located right on the waterfront in the picturesque harbor area of Nyhaven, this hotel occupies a gigantic former granary built in the 18th century. It's character has been preserved retaining its original brick walls and wooden beams, but it's been modernized and newly renovated. Near the Stroeget shopping area and across the canal from the Opera House and Actor's House and within minutes from the Royal Theatre, it's a great place for culture lovers and nautical types. Dine at their dock-level restaurant and enjoy the breeze in the summer months.
Located in the trendy Vesterbro district,
a burgeoning neighborhood filled with galleries and cozy pubs and cafes, this boutique hotel has an exotic flair. Furnishings custom-made in Bali mingle with contemporary art from Milan and Persian rugs. All food at this hotel is organic, fresh and healthy. Breakfast is served daily (champagne is served on weekends) and a dinner buffet is served Monday to Thursday. Ask us about their economical family suite and their fifth floor suites with access to a private rooftop deck and whirlpool.
Deal of the Month:
Visit Maine's North Woods this Summer
All it takes is a 4 hour drive from Boston and you're lost in a land of seemingly endless forest filled with mile-high mountains, immense lakes and too many ponds to count. This large swath of wilderness feels like a chunk of Alaska remarkably placed in our congested Northeast.
We have designed two itineraries, one for families, one for a guys or girls getaway to a sampling of the most stunning spots in Maine's interior. Price starts at an affordable $403 per person for a 5-day, 4-night stay. Trips include canoeing on the Dead River to the breathtaking Great Falls, whitewater rafting down the thrilling Kenneb
hiking to Stratton Brook Hut on the remote shores of Stratton Pond, and biking on the Narrow Gauge Pathway, a rail trail that hugs the Carrabassett River.
Do yourself a favor this summer and sample this special slice of affordable adventure in your own backyard! ActiveTravels is happy to send along the detailed itinerary and pricing for your dates.
Tried & True Travel Tips:
Visas for American Travelers to Europe
We've already received many emails wondering whether visas will be necessary for Americans to travel to Europe this year. As of right now, we don't foresee the EU requesting visas until 2018 at the earliest. Responding to the Trump administration's refusal to lift visa restrictions for five EU member countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania), the EU has voted to start requiring American citizens to get visas for visits to any European country. Luckily for Americans, this vote was a non-binding one. It gives the European Commission, the entity that controls visas, two months to change its rules. Many in the commission are pushing back, citing the damage this move could wreak on the tourism industry in Europe.
The bottom line: nothing will be decided before the end of May and if it is finalized, the process will take several months, or even up to a year, to implement. We'll continue to watch this play out and update you along the way.
Delray Beach, Florida
Whenever we head to the Delray Beach/Boca Raton section of Florida to visit my dad and his wife, we always stay at the
. Last month, we stopped there again for the first two nights of our trip. Smack dab in the heart of Delray Beach on Atlantic Avenue, within easy walking distance to many restaurants, live music clubs, and shops in town, the
was built in 1926 and exudes a feeling of Florida from a bygone era. I love walking into the open-air lounge and its pleasing color palette of reds and oranges. Rooms are spacious and affordable, and include a hot breakfast, free parking, and complimentary WiFi. An added bonus is the Colony's own beach club, 2 miles down the road, which includes chaise lounge chairs and cabanas on a secluded stretch of beach, a saltwater lap pool, and a shaded place for salads and sandwiches at lunch. In fact, one of our the best meals of the trip was a blackened shrimp salad, where the shrimp was incredibly fresh and packed a spicy punch. Afterwards, we head back to the hotel, grab a mojito at the bar, and relax at an outdoor table on the patio. One of our favorite places to dine in Delray is the Mexican restaurant, El Camino, just off Atlantic Avenue. We enjoyed the homemade guacamole, chorizo tacos, achiote chicken burrito, and avocado salad.
a shout if you want to plan a fun-filled trip to Delray Beach, Florida.