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You have to admit it.
November is a pretty awesome month. And this November in particular is going to be quite extraordinary.
First and foremost, it's the month of Thanksgiving. We can certainly feel thankful for this upcoming non-partisan holiday that all of us can wrap our arms around. Friends, family, food...what could be better? We are definitely thankful for our thriving business and the opportunity to design travel dreams for our valued members.
We can also feel thankful that we are able to vote our conscience on Election Day. What an absolute privilege this is and one that none of us should take for granted.
There are other amazing events happening both literally and figuratively on the horizon: the Taurid Meteor shower on November 11th (check out the sky for shooting stars at 5am that morning), the Leonid Meteor shower during the early morning hours of November 17th, and the Super-Duper Moon on November 14th (this will be the largest and closest moon to Earth since 1948). As I said, it's a pretty awesome month!
While this is in no way interstellar, groundbreaking, or even momentous, November is also the month that ActiveTravels announces our Holiday Gift Offer! Gather round as we are excited to tell you what we have planned for anyone who buys the "Gift of Travel" for their loved ones for this month or next. If you purchase a membership to ActiveTravels whether for yourself or someone else, we will donate half of the proceeds to Ryan's Well Foundation. This charity brings clean water and supports sustainable water and sanitation projects to 16 countries around the globe. It was started by a first grader in 1997, named Ryan, who learned that people across the globe were getting sick or dying because they didn't have access to clean water. He and his parents decided to change that as best they could. As an added gift to the buyer of the membership, we will be sending a children's book called The Water Princess written by Susan Verde and illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Dedham's own Peter Reynolds, that tells the real-life story of an African girl's quest for clean drinking water.
Read on for a great newsletter ahead about our recent trip to Cape Town, South Africa, hotels in Martinique, and the winner of our November Giveaway to the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine!
Enjoy reading and, as always,
Lisa & Steve
News from the Road:
Cape Town, South Africa
As soon as you touch down in Cape Town and peer up at Table Mountain, more than likely shrouded in clouds, you know you're in for a treat. But it wasn't until we spent our first full day in the city that I truly felt fortunate to be in this thriving cultural mecca at the southernmost point of the African continent. Lisa and I took the sage advice of one of our clients, a South African art collector, and hired Stephen Long as our guide for the day. Stephen is well known in the Cape Town arts community (and to the shaman of the Eastern Cape) as one of the most renowned bead dealers in the region. He took us on a tour to see some of his favorite artisans in the city.
African Image, near the corner of Church and Burg Streets, is a gem of a small store selling colorfully beaded jewelry, sculpture, wall hangings, pillowcases, and more. It's hard not to purchase all
the whimsical beaded animals at Monkeybiz, created by impoverished women, most of whom are HIV-positive. It was wonderful to walk upstairs and see all these women now trained as artists sitting together and laughing while creating art. Just as alluring was the work at Streetwires, where sculpture of all sizes is created by wire and bead. Like Monkeybiz, you can walk upstairs to see the large group of artists at work. Carrying all our
bags of all the goods we
purchased, we visited the colorful houses and mosques found in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood still home to a large Cape Malay population.That evening, we were back in the center of town for First Thursday Art Walk, a great opportunity to see all the art galleries on Church Street with a glass of Stellenbosch pinotage in hand.
There were so many highlights to our weeklong stay in the region that it's hard to touch on everything. We loved the small plates at Pot Luck atop a former silo in the trendy neighborhood of Woodstock. Tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel is a must, taking you back to the Teddy Roosevelt era. Three locals all
suggested the best biltong in the city is at Continental Butchery on Kloof Street and who am I to disagree. I wish I were digging into a bag of this tender dried beef right now. The protea in bloom at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden were amazing as were the grounds. We also enjoyed visiting the century-old synagogue on the Company Gardens and the gift shop afterwards, which merges African beadwork with Judaica.
We finally made it to the 3,562-foot shelf atop Table Mountain on our last day in the city, when the clouds around the peak finally lifted. Ascending by cable car, we saw the entirety of the city and the ocean below us, bathed in a landscape that can easily match Sydney, San Francisco, and Rio for its sheer beauty. Realize that Cape Town is just the entrance point to a spectacular region. A short drive away is the exquisite beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay, the drive along the precipitous cliffs of Chapman's Peak, and, of course, the Cape of Good Hope. An hour to the north of the city is the award-winning wines in Stellenbosch and other Winelands' towns like charming Franschhoek.
We could have rented a car to visit the vineyards, but the thought of driving on the left-hand-side of the road while downing glasses of wine did not thrill me. It was a good move to hire a driver, especially when we realized that the drive is exquisitely beautiful with vineyards rolling to the base of jagged mountain peaks dotted with the distinctive white Cape Dutch style architecture. Our driver, Malcolm, picked us up in his comfy VW Van and off we went.
r first stop, Meerlust, is a sixth-generation Dutch farm estate known for its award-winning Rubicon wine. Next up was the more commercial Spier Wine Farm, where we tasted a sublime chenin blanc. The opulent Delaire Graff Estate is owned by the diamond dealer, Laurence Graff, and is now a Relais and Chateau property housing mega-sized portraits and sculptures by South African artist Lionel Smit and a diamond store that will make you weep with envy.
Thankfully, the vista of the breathtaking mountainous pass was free. My favorite winery, Delheim, was where we had lunch. Lost in the vineyards at the base of a mountain, Delheim was the antithesis of Delaire Graff, simple, authentic, one of the first wineries to open in Stellenbosch over 50 years ago. We dined on wild mushroom lasagna and lamb shank, so juicy it fell off the bone, washed down with a wild fermented chenin blanc.
Malcolm dropped us off at our lodging for the night, La Residence, located in the hillside outside of Franschhoek. Our room in this bucolic paradise
overlooked a pond where a black swan swam. Peacocks were found on the branches of a tree nestled on the shores. Beyond the pond were springboks running, and surrounding our spacious suite was a valley of tightly woven vineyards ringed by mountains. The town of Franschhoek was also
lovely, lined with restaurants and boutique artisanal shops. We were there on a Saturday morning, when the local Farmer's Market was in full swing. We made the mistake of having Malcolm pick us up after only one night in Franschhoek. Next time, I'll book La Residence for at least two nights to relax and savor the scenery.
To slow down and really see the Cape of Good Hope, we went on a guided bike tour with Mark Lawson, owner of Cycle the Cape. The sun was out and it was about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a perfect day for biking in September. For the next 5 hours and 44 kilometers later, we would bike the entirety of the park. We biked past zebra, ostriches, and large antelopes called elands. We would pedal along the pounding waves of the Atlantic to take the requisite photo at the Cape of Good Hope sign. Then we proceeded uphill to the Cape Point Lighthouse,
where the magnificent vista of high peaks and sandy beaches reached all the way to Table Mountain. After an exhilarating downhill run where the ocean waters were a blur to the left and the right, we had lunch at a relatively new surfer and biker hangout in Scarborough, The Village Hub. It was the perfect day ride for us, but Mark can custom-design the itinerary to fit your biking ability and he provides road bikes, helmets, and lodging for overnight rides.
We've already designed itineraries similar to our trip for clients headed to Cape Town in December and are happy to help design a trip for you to southern Africa. Top it off in style with a 3 or 4-night safari at a lodge in Kruger National Park or combine with a weeklong safari in Botswana, ending in Victoria Falls. The combination of food, art, scenery, and wildlife is hard to top.
Hotels We Love!
If you're looking for a different and affordable place to go to get away from the winter cold, check out the Caribbean island of Martinique. Tucked away in the Lesser Antilles between Dominica and St. Lucia, Martinique is about 50 miles long and 22 miles wide. Its topography is diverse from mountains and lush greenery in the north to wide-open plains in the center of the island to rocky hills framing beautiful beach coves in the south. The Martinicans speak French, Creole and English and use the Euro as their currency.
How to get there? This is the best part! Norwegian Air has affordable nonstop service from Boston, New York, Baltimore and Miami. Once there, you can rent a car (driving is on the "right" side of the road).
What to do? Try the French-Creole food, taste their 12 brands of rum, scuba dive on their west coast to see historic shipwrecks, lounge on their long sandy beaches, hike in their mountains, kayak, play golf, and more.
Where to stay? Try one of these lodgings:
Located in Trois-Ilets, this is a boutique hotel with 9 private villas and 6 suites. Overlooking Trois-Ilets bay, it is well located and offers excellent service and fantastic dining experience in their onsite French restaurant.
Offering gorgeous views of the Fort-de-France bay, this hotel has all the amenities of a great resort: lush garden setting, beautiful beach, pool, tennis courts, water sport facilities and two onsite restaurants and a cocktail bar.
Located in a small fishing village on a stunning peninsula on the east coast, this new hotel features only 17 suites (most of which have their own private plunge pools) and a gourmet restaurant.
This hotel is steps away from the beach and the marina and within walking distance of many restaurants & shops in town. Built around a lush garden and large swimming pool, the resort offers 96 rooms, spa and nightly entertainment.
if you'd like us to send you to Martinique or any other Caribbean destination this winter.
Here's the Deal:
Austin Adventures: 2nd child free
Austin Adventures is offering a great deal that we had to tell you about. We initiated a new column in our newsletter, Here's the Deal, to do just that!
is a full service tour operator featuring active trips all around the world. If you want to show your kids the world but also want to save a bit of money doing so, here's the deal for you. Just show up and Austin Adventures and their awesome guides will provide the backdrop and structure for wonderful family togetherness and fun. Ask us about the day on our Austin Adventures tour of the Canadian Rockies when it was our son's birthday. Our guides provided an impromptu birthday cake with candles and a huge Mr. Incredible balloon that was transferred to his bike for the day! They go the extra mile to make families happy.
Here's the Deal:
Second child in a family of four will travel for free on their 2017 family adventures when booked by November 15th. This is a savings of up to $2,958 on a European family vacation or up to $2,798 on a domestic vacation. Restrictions apply: Must be a family of 4 sharing one room. Children must be 12 years old or younger.
Where can I go?
Canadian Rockies, Montana, Yellowstone, South Dakota, Utah, Grand Tetons, Yosemite, Austria, Croatia, Loire Valley or Normandy in France, Mosel Valley in Germany, Holland or Peru on their Family Travel Incentive eligible adventures.
How do I grab this deal?
Tried & True Travel Tips:
What to do with your extra foreign currency?
We at ActiveTravels have never personally tried this but we've heard from colleagues about this nifty trick for converting your extra currency before departing a foreign country. Head to the local Starbucks and load up your Starbucks card with all your left over foreign currency. When you arrive back in the States, that money is converted to US funds without any bank fees. Give it a try and tell us if it works for you!
For our first bleary-eyed escape from the kids, ages 3 and 1 at the time, we begged my sister-in-law to come over and babysit. It was in the middle of winter and where did we go? North to Kennebunkport. Over the course of one day, we quickly learned to cherish Maine in the off-season, walking the beach with the local dog walkers, shopping for (who else?) the kids, and having a magical dinner at the White Barn Inn. It wasn't just the serenity and sublime food inside that restaurant far away from the shrieks and demands of toddlers. There had just been a heavy snowfall and the pines outside the window were leaning over with the weight, creating that perfect Currier & Ives image. And, we got 24 hours of each other, uninterrupted. Now we're delighted to share that rejuvenating getaway with one lucky raffle winner.
The White Barn Inn, has generously donated 2 nights and one dinner. This is the perfect time to stay at the White Barn Inn since all 11 rooms have been recently refurbished and chef Derek Bissonnette is now at the helm of a more relaxed dining room. Also new to the property this fall is the addition of two outdoor areas, the Landing and Starling Gardens.
Drumroll, please...and the winner is
Congratulations Matt!! Thank you to all that contributed answers to our silly raffle question. We will be offering another giveaway next spring!
And, of course, congratulations to The Cubs!! Yahoo!