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Editor's Letter,
May 2020
Dear ActiveTravels Members,

Steve and I on one of our many Zoom calls
I have a feeling that  when all this is said and done, and we've conquered this evil virus, we will have experienced a renaissance of sorts. Not exactly as we had pictured a renaissance would come about, but nonetheless, this inward time has forced people to reach deep within themselves and find their reservoirs of strength we never thought we had. And, it's allowed us to come up with entirely new ways to communicate with each other, to work from home, to celebrate milestones, try new recipes, and take on projects that we would have never tackled if it weren't for these endless days in our homes. I truly believe that despite the hardships, the terrible grief and the fear, we are also tapping into our creativity in ways we wouldn't have expected just a few short months ago.

We have been busy at ActiveTravels being creative! I baked an Italian bread, which was out of this world and, fresh out of the oven and dipped into olive oil, might have been the best thing I've tasted for a long time! And, Steve, well, he's been creative too. He's putting the finishing touches on his book, New England in a Nutshell, and we are researching ways to self-publish it now (any recommendations, let us know!). 

And, we are super excited to announce we've just launched our updated website: www.activetravels.com. Have a look!  Most importantly, we've streamlined Steve's blog into our website so it's easily accessible. Feel free to subscribe to it. He'll be back to writing a short blog daily starting next week. We've also updated our Explore New England page to include the specific types of customized itineraries we offer. We've added a Resource page as well where you can go to sign up for Day Tours, purchase Travel Insurance, organize your luggage to be shipped rather than lug it on the plane, and order Visas and Passports and more. Other pages we've updated are our FAQ page, our Travel Questionnaire and our About Us page.

Another new development is that our friend and colleague, Amy Perry Basseches, will be moving on to new ventures and starting a small-group thematic tour company. We wish her all the best and thank her for all her hard work for ActiveTravels these past three years. 

Rachel is busy at home with her energetic boys and her new doggie waiting for the day she can come back to our office and do what she loves, research and book travel dreams. She and her husband will be traveling to Norway in November. 

Please read our feature on where to travel safely this summer and fall. Steve has done a fabulous job of personally reaching out to our favorite outfitters to find out what they are doing during Covid-19 times. Some of this is fresh off the press and can just recently be found on their websites, so this is insider information we're sharing with you!

Last but not least, we are happy to announce the name of the winner of Spring Raffle at the end of this newsletter! 

Stay safe and be well.

H appy Travels,
Lisa & Steve
Where to Travel Safely this Summer and Fall
As this May 2020 newsletter is released, we in Massachusetts are still in a stay-at-home advisory until May 18th. Thankfully, coronavirus cases and deaths have plateaued and are hopefully now on the downslope in the state. Obviously, our health and safety are still the No. 1 priority, but slowly, we're starting to see an interest in possible travels this summer and fall. 

Lisa and I, and are our son, Jake, have been holed up in our house like the rest of you for a good two months now. So we understand your need to dream about a new locale that's anywhere but the backyard. But having gotten a number of you home safely from abroad in late February in early March, we want to be damn sure that the places we send you in 2020 have a good degree of social distancing, are regional, and, if not regional, can be found after one relatively quick flight. This is not a good time to be connecting in an airport. We also have to be concerned with individual state regulations. For example, Maine wants to quarantine all out-of-state visitors for 14 days upon arrival. This is currently on the books through August, which would restrict all their hotel stays.

That said, we decided to reach out to some of our favorite outfitters and properties to see what's happening this summer and fall:

If you had the chance to join Andy Levine, owner of the Cambridge-based DuVine Cycling, on the ride he created for ActiveTravels members in the fall of 2017 from Wellesley to Concord, you know they're a top-notch biking outfitter. Lisa and I had the good fortune to bike with DuVine in Puglia in the fall of 2019 on one of our most memorable trips. You can read about it here, https://www.duvine.com/blog/puglia-activetravels-agents/
There's been a demand this summer for private regional bike trips for this summer and fall. Here's what Duvine has created for these unprecedented times. Pricing is based on a minimum of 6 guests, so 3 couples, or 1-2 families.

  • Enjoy all three nights at Troutbeck, a stylish and historic country retreat in the heart of farm country on the New York-Connecticut border
  • Bike over covered bridges, through sleepy towns, and into fertile farmland in a pastoral paradise that's surprisingly close to New York City
  • At private visits and meals, sample farm-fresh produce with local producers and meet the chefs spearheading the region's farm-to-table renaissance
  • Taste artisanal whiskey and bourbon made from grains grown on the grounds of a boutique distillery
  • Ride to lunch at Connecticut's award-winning Arethusa al Tavolo restaurant

Vermont Bike Tour, 6 Days

  • Cross the Green Mountain State on Vermont's extensive network of unpaved roads, a traffic-free paradise of packed-dirt gravel
  • Spend a day cycling to local farms in the Mad River Valley, culminating in a totally locally sourced picnic in a mountain pasture
  • Enjoy insider access to local chefs and innovative farmers during private meals and visits
  • Cool off after a challenging day of cycling with a dip in the local lake or swimming hole
  • Stay at three of Vermont's most luxurious and historic hotel properties
Vermont Bike Tour, 4 Days

  • Cycle beside the Ottauquechee River and past historic Taftsville Covered Bridge to a cheese tasting at Thistle Hill Farm
  • Visit Vermont's most well-known microbrewery, Long Trail, for a tour and tasting
  • Go leaf-peeping from the seat of a bicycle, feeling the warmth of the fall sun
  • Watch a glassblowing demonstration and dine at the riverfront flagship location of glassmaker Simon Pearce

As owner of this Arlington-based biking outfitter, Lauren Hefferon has been featured in a number of my stories, including this article for The Boston Globe on how to get fit before a bike trip.

Ciclismo Classico's  specialty is biking in Italy, including fantastic trips to Sardinia, Sicily, and Tuscany. But, due to the nature of current events, Lauren is focusing on North American options this summer, with scheduled group trips to the Finger Lakes, North Carolina, and Colonial Williamsburg, among others.  https://ciclismoclassico.com/destinations/north-america-bike-tours/

We also love her 29-mile day trip from Arlington called the Battle Road Bike Tour that she'll be offering on select dates throughout June, July, and August. You'll pedal along the path of battle taken on April 19, 1775 in Lexington, Bedford and Concord.  In addition to this Battle Road Bike Tour, Lauren will also be developing several local 3-4 hour bicycle tours for small groups (10-15) with expert local bicycle guides that will immerse people of all ages and abilities in the rich cultural offerings of our own backyard. Each will follow a robust historic and culinary theme and a behind the scenes view of the cultural significance of places like:
  • The Ports and Harbors of the North Shore
  • The Mill Towns and Hamlets of Middlesex County
  • The Grand Tour of Boston By Bike
Additionally, she will be offering cycling instruction and ensure that every cyclist is COVID safe as well as improving their cycling skills to be safe and confident cyclists.

Having taken the family on an Austin Adventures trip to the Canadian Rockies with the family (as seen in this Boston Globe story ), we know firsthand that Dan Austin is the King of Social Distancing. He's been creating adventures in the outdoors away from the masses for decades. Dan tells us that 60 percent of his bookings are still moving forward this summer. Popular in both 2020 and 2021 are what he calls "single stays:" trips out West with just one base camp hotel. Examples include the private suites and cabins at the Rustic Inn in Jackson Hole and Chilko Lake Lodge in British Columbia.

Due to the popularity of private family trips, Austin Adventures has just partnered with the Lodges at Eagles Nest, an executive mountain community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Together, they've launched Eagle's Nest Home Stays, a first-class base camp that includes guided group tours and outdoor recreational programming. Perched at 5,000 feet with 360-degree views, the Eagles Nest community is five miles from Banner Elk, in the heart of the adventure capital of North Carolina. Activities within the secluded community include hiking, cycling, horseback riding, disc golf, a ropes course, ATV and motorcycle trails, private fishing, a wine and cigar bar, and more. Off-site, travelers can raft Tennessee's famous Watuga River, or explore nearby Banner Elk. 
Guests interested in booking a stay at the Lodges at Eagles Nest through Austin Adventures have a variety of options, ranging from renting an executive mountain retreat with no additional services to experiencing a customized, all-inclusive stay with activity and service add-ons. "We can get you a full-time adventure guide, a personal chef, a private driver, you name it," Austin said.  https://www.austinadventures.com/austin-collection/the-lodges-at-eagles-nest/

Lastly, Austin Adventures has also partnered with Collective Retreats to offer all-inclusive Glamping Based Adventures. For late summer and fall of 2020, Austin is working with properties in Colorado, Texas, and the Governors Island property just outside of New York City. In 2021, Collective Retreats will be adding Montana (just outside Yellowstone) and Napa Valley, CA.

One more thing! If you have kids at home to entertain, check out Austin Adventures' Virtual Adventures for Kids!

This past January, Abercrombie & Kent, best known for their African safaris, launched services in North America. Led by Marty Behr, who owned an outfitter called National Parks Revealed that focused on tailor-made itineraries to the West and Alaska, A&K is now offering great American Road Trips directly from your driveway (self-drive or private driver). Some of the National Parks have already reopened, including Denali, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Great Smoky, and Everglades National Park in Florida. Others will follow suit shortly. A&K has identified many boutique and private properties to work with that pass today's new safety measures. You also have a chance to book a private yacht in Alaska or take private jets between National Parks in the West. Here's a link to some of their recommended itineraries.

Known for their upscale private homes around the world, we like to use Villas of Distinction in the winter months for families headed to the Turks & Caicos and Jamaica, especially their luxurious Noble House outside Montego Bay that can sleep 10.

But due to the demand of private homes this summer, the company is expanding their profile. All homes have been vetted, and unlike VRBO or Airbnb, all deposits are placed into escrow, so if you cancel during the allotted time period, you don't have to worry about fighting for your money with a private homeowner. 

Villas of Distinction also offers a concierge at each location to arrange all activities and dining, including a private chef if you prefer not to cook and clean during your vacation. New destinations this summer include Village Beach Retreat in Westhampton, New York (the former home of composer Marvin Hamlisch), and High Rigger, a 6- bedroom property on the beach in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Check out their Peace of Mind section of their website to find the properties ready to host you at this time. 

Mark and Gwenn Snider are some of our oldest friends in the travel world. We were fortunate to visit their property on the Vineyard, The Winnetu, on a handful of occasions when the kids were young, even joining them in Edgartown's classic Fourth of July parade on their antique firetruck. We had the privilege to design Mark's trip with his son down to Brazil's Pantanal region to spot jaguars. 

Mark also owns The Nantucket Hotel and will soon debut a third property on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands, called The Lovango Resort & Beach Club . But it's the Winnetu we love the most during these trying times, especially their private residences, within easy walking distance of South Beach. Here's what I wrote about the property for my forthcoming book, New England in a Nutshell:
When Gwenn and Mark Snider took the shell of an old motel and built this stylish Victorian resort of yesteryear, the island of Martha's Vineyard finally had the premier family resort it so desperately needed. The Winnetu is located four miles south of Edgartown, a short walk to that glorious stretch of sand known as South Beach. Every one of the thirty-six suites, ranging from 1 to 4 bedrooms, features ocean views and a full kitchen, but the Sniders have done everything possible to keep the kids outdoors. Pee-wee tennis clinics start at 8 am. An hour later, children are whisked over to the clubhouse for morning activities like beach scavenger hunts or walks to Katama Airfield to watch the circa 1940 planes take flight. Afternoons are free for families to roam the island on a web of bike trails. You can pedal to the Vineyard's oldest settlement, Edgartown, and take the one-minute ferry ride over to Chappaquiddick. There you'll find miles of untrammeled beach at Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge. Or venture another 6 miles past Edgartown to Oak Bluffs to ride the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest operating carousel in the country, built in 1876.   https://www.winnetu.com/marthas-vineyard-accommodation-rates/marthas-vineyard-vacation-rentals/

Fly to Denver and drive 3 ½ hours through exquisite countryside they call the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and you reach Brush Creek Ranch, 30,000 acres of prime real estate in southern Wyoming. The property not only offers a quintessential ranch experience, but being a Relais and Chateaux property, also expect the dining to be sublime. There are 11 cabins, offering both 2 and 3 bedrooms residences, that are ideal for social distancing, replete with full kitchen and living room. You might choose to dine inside your cabin or outside at one of their two restaurants, but don't expect to use the oven much.

Brush Creek offers an all-inclusive experience, including all meals, 
wines/sprits, horseback riding for all levels, a Wrangler's Camp for children aged 4-9 including art and crafts and geology, fly-fishing, yoga and meditation, and more than 70 miles of trails to hike or bike. There's also cooking classes and wine tastings. A typical stay is 5-7 nights and during the month of June, they'll give you a night free and throw in cowboy boots. Yee-haw!  

Natural Habitat Adventures first made its mark with trips to see the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. This trip still remains one of their most popular options and the one destination they're most keen on promoting this coming October and November.  Each fall, the world's largest concentration of polar bears convenes on the western edge of Hudson Bay, waiting for the ice to form and their winter seal-hunting season to begin. Guided by expert naturalist Expedition Leaders, you'll view the bears from custom-built Polar Rovers.  

ActiveTravels is here to help you getaway during these difficult times. If you're itching to leave the house, please let us know and we'll toss around some travel ideas and find you a safe place to vacation!
ActiveTravels Featured in Forbes
We were delighted to hear that the sailing trip we took to the Grenadines in February was featured as one of Forbes Magazine's Top 30 Bucket Trips last week. The writer, Larry Olmsted, interviewed Steve and used much of the content about the trip Steve wrote for the March ActiveTravels newsletter. He also touched on the long-term travel planning platform called Wanderlist that the travel consortium we're affiliated with, Virtuoso, created last year. Lisa recently completed her training and we'll present this exciting concept of long-term travel planning, not unlike long-term financial planning, in the June newsletter.

In other publications, I describe my visit to Machias Seal Island on the Maine/New Brunswick border to see those adorable puffins in the May issue of Yankee Magazine

I'm currently working on the second draft of my latest book/e-book, New England in a Nutshell, which will hopefully be ready for publication by mid-June. I did a deep dive into the hundreds of stories I've written on the region this past quarter-century for The Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine, Boston Magazine, and many other publications. Then distilled those stories down to their essence, eliminating fat, while updating and revising the copy. The result is what I believe is a definitive guide to the region. We hope you agree!
Our Spring Raffle Winner is...
Margie Labarre!! 

Here's her correct answers:

Bitong: Durban
Poutine:  Montreal
Vegemite:  Sydney
B'stilla: Marrakesh
Tom Yum Goong: Phuket
Macarons:  Paris
Moules Frites:  Brussels
Fuul:  Cairo
Muhammara:  Damascus
Goi Cuon:  Hanoi
Arepas:  Caracas

We'll be in touch with you, Margie, to find out your favorite local restaurant you'd like to support and we'll purchase a $150 gift card for you to enjoy their food!

Thank you all for participating!
©2020 Active Travels