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Editor's Letter,
May 2018

Dear ActiveTravels Members,

Lilacs are blooming! Tulips everywhere. Flowering trees have popped up all over town. This is my favorite time of year. I love watching the trees explode with green leaves and I get all excited for the longer days and warmer temperatures. 

It's also our busiest time here at ActiveTravels headquarters. So, I tend to sit at my computer a lot more than traipsing through the woods and enjoying the season. 

Our members are heading off to destinations all over Europe, Australia, Costa Rica, Hawaii and more.  Please don't forget that it's not too early to plan your December getaway now. Places book up so quickly over Christmas and New Years! We have some great suggestions if you keep reading. Thankfully, the Caribbean is coming back after the hurricanes Irma and Maria and will be better than ever.

We're happy to present our favorite hotels in Ireland as well as a quick escape to Williamsburg,Virginia. Steve has become obsessed with American history of late, so this was a perfect choice for him to write about.  I discovered Museum Hack on my travels so I include that story here.

Just want to wish all the moms a very happy Mother's Day. Here's Van Gogh's painting of his mother. It looks to me like one of the happiest art works he ever created! 

H appy travels,

Steve & Lisa
Caribbean Comeback:
Return  Now to these Spectacular Locales
In a May 2nd travel story in the Boston Globewriter Christopher Muther noted that due to the battering of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Caribbean "lost nearly 1 million visitors and an estimated $900 million in tourism-related spending." He goes on to add that "the Caribbean could see losses totaling more than $3 billion during the next four years until visitor rates climb back." Thus the reason why it's imperative to support the region now more than ever or thousands of jobs will be lost. Thankfully, many of the top properties have spent the year rebuilding and have announced opening dates for the upcoming winter season. Please consider staying at one of these resorts when thinking about escaping the cold this coming winter:
When Lisa and I visited San Juan in early February, we were surprised at how fast San Juan had bounced back. The classic Condado Vanderbilt was open and the beach looked exquisite. Now the rest of the country is slowly starting to get online. We are really excited about the reopening of Dorado Beach, the exquisite property just 45 minutes west of the airport. Their doors open again on October 1st. Featuring three Robert Trent Jones-designed golf courses, a 5-acre spa (including treatments in pineapple fields and in treehouses-Wow!), a restaurant by famed Spanish chef José Andrés, and a water sports center, replete with lazy river, water slides await both couples and families. The 115 rooms overlook the beaches and offer indoor and outdoor rainforest showers. We'll be visiting the Dorado in early December to report firsthand on how the property is doing.

Four Seasons took over management of the Viceroy Anguilla, a perennial client favorite, in October 2016 after a $10 million upgrade. The only resort on the island that fronts two beaches, the upscale property is the second Four Seasons to debut in the Caribbean after Four Seasons Nevis. Expect the same level of service with cold towels, frozen cocktails and sunscreen delivered poolside and amenities that include spa, tennis courts, and 4 restaurants. The 181 suites run the gamut from ocean view studios with private plunge pools to freestanding four- and five-bedroom villas that come with infinity pools and kitchen. The resort has already reopened.

I remember it like yesterday. We were on our babymoon and it was only a short walk from our two-story whitewashed villa to Baie Longue, home to some of the finest pearly white sands in the Caribbean. But the ridiculous part was we didn't want to leave our room at La Sammana, located on the French side of St. Martin. We could sunbathe on the roof of our villa, then cool off in our private plunge pool. It was like being at a resort built for two. The finest romantic resorts in the Caribbean offer this unparalleled type of privacy, a chance to get away with your loved one with few, if any, distractions. St. Martin was devastated by Hurricane Irma, but Belmond hopes to be open on December 1st.

If you want to experience the fantastic beaches and top-shelf service of St. Barts, this might be the best time to find a room on this glamourous island at less exorbitant prices. Grab a villa suite at that gem of a Relais & Chateaux property, Hotel Le Toiny, where one of 14 pastel-colored bungalows set on a gentle slope overlook the Caribbean Sea. Also on property is a spa, beach club, gym, scenic trails, a coconut grove, and pineapple orchard. Set to reopen in October, if not sooner.

When we sailed the British Virgin Islands in early February, the place was still recovering with beached tankers and twisted docks on the coast and roofs ripped off many lodgings. That's why it's miraculous that Scrub Island Resort, just off Tortola, has already partially reopened. Fly into the International Airport in Road Town (EIS) and you'll be whisked by private over to this island paradise, known for its excellent snorkeling, boating, and fishing. Now part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, expect an assortment of 2-bedroom, 3-bedroom, and 4-bedroom villas and boats at your service to guide you to the glorious Baths on Virgin Gorda, an easy boat ride.

Please let ActiveTravels know your plans this Holiday Season and we'll come up with suggestions.
Hotels We Love:
Whether you feel like royalty or you just want a cozy stay at a guest house, Ireland has it all when it comes to lodging choices. Accommodations range from deluxe castles to manor homes to quaint inns, hotels, guesthouses, farmhouse lodgings and countless bed and breakfast establishments.
Here are some of our favorites:

This amazing castle is an 1832 Gothic house owned by a couple from Florida! Set within formal gardens and sporting 52 chimneys, 75 fireplaces and 365 windows, this country home is over the top but amazingly unpretentious in atmosphere. Activities to do on property are golf, fishing for salmon and trout, shooting clay pigeons, and biking. There's an equestrian center nearby and a fun music and cultural festival each July.

Another manor house, a bit more down to earth, is Hayfield Manor Hotel in Cork. This is a gem of a place with only 88 rooms and fantastic meals thanks to it being a Relais & Chateaux property. This is right out of 
a fairytale with a well-stocked library, a grand dual staircase, a drawing room for afternoon tea and formal gardens just out back. Close enough to get downtown for sights, shops and restaurants, but the feel is quiet majesty during your stay.

Right in Dublin center, this hotel is modern and yet it also has that old-style attention to service that always impresses. It is very well located so you can walk to major sights like Temple Bar and Trinity College. If you want to stay here, we'll request a room in the newer wing with private terraces, whirlpool tubs, and the front facing rooms with views of St. Anne's church.

You've got to check out this lovely Irish home situated on a 400 acre farm in County Cork. It has been family
run for generations and they offer rooms in the grand Georgian home as well as one and two bedroom farm cottages complete with wood burning stoves, kitchens, washer dryer and more to welcome families. Their farm to table food cooked by Chef Jason Fahey is divine. The hotel runs a cooking school so budding chefs from across Europe learn the ropes here.

This Victorian Manor home with only 12 rooms is supposedly Ireland's oldest running guesthouse run by five generations of the Hodgson family. It sits on the shores of Lake Corrib, the second largest loch in Ireland. It's relaxing and calm here. Feel free to walk alongside the water, fish for lake trout, horseback ride, or take a boat out for rowing and motoring around.

Go Kiss the Blarney Stone! Call ActiveTravels if you'd like some help to find it.
Tried & True Travel Tips:

New York City, San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
What do these cities have in common? Excellent art museums and world class art works. If you are traveling to any of these cities and you want to know more about what you are seeing rather than walk by each art work with a blank stare, get on a Museum Hack tour.
Please take note. These are not your typical tour guides. Irreverent, "bad ass," funny and engaging, they take you to the famous and not so famous works so they can tell you the unknown stories behind the art.
They have a great blog too. Check out The Best Art Moms post with some of the greatest pictures of mothers from all time, just in time for Mother's Day.  I also liked their Ultimate Museum Road Trip post on great and quirky museums all around the country, except for the fact that they seem to have a huge blindspot when it comes to Boston. Come on, people!
All the tours are very small (no more than six people) and they offer Bachelorette party tours as well as the Marriage Proposal tours. They will actually create that perfect moment for you to propose. Now, I've heard it all.
Let ActiveTravels know if you try out a tour. If so, whisper in their ear about Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Hello! I know some awesome guides here, too!
Quick Escape:
Williamsburg, Virginia

Hop on a 2-hour direct flight from Boston to Richmond and drive less than an hour to reach historic Williamsburg. Best known as a Colonial outpost and neighbor to Jamestown, America's first permanent settlement, Williamsburg now attracts music lovers, foodies, and active travelers. 

Local Bruce Hornsby is bringing back Funhouse Fest, the 2-day music festival that gathers award-winning artists on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, June 22-23. Outdoor lovers can rent bikes and hit the Colonial Parkway. This two-lane road transports you back to an earlier time connecting Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown over 23 miles. Most of the ride is flat and offers vistas of water and woods, of marshes and herons. For an alternative, check out the Historic Jamestown Bike Trail, a 5-mile loop on Island Drive that features 11 interpretive stops including a panoramic view of the James River, archaeological excavation sites, and the nests of bald eagles. Bay County Kayaking offers a range of guided 2 to 3-hour kayak eco tours including trips to Queen's Creek, a tidal creek that empties into the York River, where you might see otter, muskrat, crabs, and deer. You'll hear from your guide about its rich history in the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

Crabs, oysters, shrimp, clams, mussels and a variety of fish, all pulled from local waters, make Williamsburg a seafood hot spot. Waypoint Seafood and Grill celebrates the Chesapeake Bay, featuring York River Oysters, local jumbo lump crabmeat, a fried oyster salad, and market fish of the day. Take a short drive along a country road out of town to Café Provencal, on the grounds of The Williamsburg Winery. The French-inspired cooking features local ingredients in an elegant yet relaxed setting, like a raw plate with marinated amberjack, seared scallops, soft shell crabs in season and roasted black bass. Be sure to ask ActiveTravels about our hotel pick in the area, including the Williamsburg Inn and the Kingsmill Resort.
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