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Dear ActiveTravels Members,
I am writing this note to all of our wonderful members on this very special day, Election Day. By the time, this newsletter is published on Thursday, we'll know a bit better which direction our country is heading in. All I know is that I'm praying that more civility, kindness, fairness and justice is in our future. I think we're all tired of the political games and diatribes and fear-mongering. I truly hope we can start to focus on the important day-to-day issues that matter to us all.
We adored our time in Italy. It was inspiring (art, architecture, food, wine--delights at every corner!) and rejuvenating (yes, we biked over 150 miles in 5 days). We enjoyed our stays in the cities of Florence and Rome as well as time on Amalfi Coast and in the countryside of Puglia. We couldn't wait to tell you about some of our highlights, so read on below for more on our bike trip in Puglia and the hotels we visited on the Amalfi Coast. Another topic we write about is the awesomely helpful travel app called Hopper. And, drumroll please, we also announce the winner of our Fall Giveaway! So, start reading!
Lisa & Steve
News from the Road:
Biking Italy's Puglia Region
with DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.
As soon as we got off the train in Lecce, the starting point of our 6-day bike ride through Puglia with DuVine Cycling +Adventure Co., I knew this part of our Italian jaunt was going to be magical. Lisa and I arrived around 6 pm Saturday night with our good friends Debbie and Michael and walked from the train station to our hotel for the night, Patria Palace. The 20-minute stroll was an eye-opening experience as we passed exquisite baroque churches, plaza after large plaza, and Roman and Ottoman Empire ruins, like an old amphitheater down a side street. It only got better as the night continued and hundreds of locals swarmed the streets and walked arm and arm to dine and drink at the outdoor tables. Wow, this place was alive and the looks of the people were a striking mix of Persian, North African, and Italian. There were very few tourists. We went to a recommended seafood restaurant, Pescheria, where you see the fresh fish on ice and pick what looks enticing. We chose a grilled dorado, mussels, prawns, and a heavenly pasta dish with hazelnuts, topped off with a lemon tiramisu. Fantastic! Then we strolled through the large plazas and cobblestone streets looking around every bend at the next architectural wonder.
The next morning our guides Davide and Paolo picked us up and we met our group of 10, including a family of 4 with adult kids, and a couple from Istanbul. When I learned that the husband, Cuneyt, was the CEO of Mavi Jeans, my favorite jeans brand and the ones I was wearing on this trip, we hit it off instantly.
Day One was a washout as the rain drenched us on our first ride (see above picture for rainbow shot after the storm)
. But Day Two easily made up for it, one of the best coastal rides I've ever been on. We biked up and down sweeping hills with the blue expanse of the Adriatic Sea always by our side. The sweet smell of honeysuckle the best form of aromatherapy as we cruised past seaside villages, old stone walls, peering down in awe at the greenish/blue waters hundreds of feet below. We stopped in Santa Maria di Leuca to gaze at t
he lighthouse, church, and large plaza before making our way back to the port of Tricase where a fresh seafood feast was waiting for us.
According to my trusty Strava app, we had biked 43 miles with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet, so I was definitely ready for a break and the chance to dig into calamari, mussels, and grilled aubergines, tomatoes, and the creamy burrata cheese the region is known for.
The next day, we would bike the route we missed during the Day One washout, another coastal ride near beach towns that are popular during the summer months, including Uggiano la Chiesa, where our guide Davide lives.
Then it was off on a 90-minute drive northeast to the town of Locorotondo, where we would begin blissful days of riding through the heart of the countryside. I savored the riding here, rolling hillsides dotted with centuries-old gnarly olive trees, vineyards, and the distinctive mushroom-shaped houses called trullis. All on country roads with little or no traffic. We spent that night in restored 1800s trullis, now part of the boutique property, Borgo Canonica.
was off again the following morning on another serene ride past fig trees, which we had to sample its fresh figs, more farmland, and finally the town of over 1,000 whitewashed trullis, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello. After lunch cooked by a local inside one of those historic dwellings, we made our way back to the coastline, riding past thick-barked, olive trees that a landscape historian recently noted were over 2200 years old. The next two nights,
we would stay at an exquisitely restored farmhouse estate with a wonderful pool and sprawling grounds, Masseria San Domenico.
Puglia is known for producing more olive oil than any other region in the country and what many Italians consider the best. We would taste the local specialty at every meal, usually for dipping with warm baked bread. But on our last day, we had the pleasure of biking to Masseria Salmina known for making some of the finest olive oil in the region as well as a wonderful place to stay and take cooking classes. First we had to earn our meal by
making our own pasta, the ear-shaped orecchiette Puglia adores. Then we dined outdoors, our pasta and
grilled vegetables, washed down with the local primitivo red wine. The olive oil was so good that we brought back home two bottles and had to struggle to find room in our already densely packed carry-on luggage and check it for the return home.
Paolo and Davide were not only fantastic guides, but excellent traveling companions with larger-than-life personalities, often teasing each other and us. They were a well-oiled machine on the routes, one riding with us and one back in the shuttle if anything went wrong. Nothing did, of course, except for the rain on the first day that they couldn't avoid. What I loved about Duvine was
that their group size was only 10, and often less says Paolo. This is much smaller than most biking tours. We had an intimate group that we now consider good
friends. Also, the lodging and restaurant choices were top-notch during the entire itinerary. Not only would I recommend Puglia for moderate bikers, but I'd happily recommend DuVine for any of their trips.
Hotels We Love:
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Amalfi Coast is the kind of landscape that conjures up the best of Italy-the vast deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea, the towering cliffs that overlook said sea, and the homes that seem to teeter on one edge in their quest to have the best views up and down this glorious stretch of coastline. Just about 3 hours south of Rome, the Amalfi Coast peninsula juts out into the Mediterranean and is home to towns such as Sorrento, Ravello, Positano and more. A quick jaunt by boat will get you to its neighboring islands like Capri or Ischia, also worth a visit. This is a beach goer's paradise with lots of coves and sandy beaches to discover. Here's some places to lay your head:
After arriving to Ravello, you'll need to ascend a few dozen steps to get to this charming hotel. A porter with a golf cart will navigate the narrow cobblestone streets with all your bags for you so you can just focus on acquiring more and more steps for your day. The rooms are not fancy and the hotel's public spaces were also clean and comfortable. What stands out is the kind and authentic service, the breathtaking views of the coastline from the room's balcony and the restaurant. We loved Ravello as it was less crowded than the other towns and they are well-known for a wonderful open air music venue that offers classical music in a stunning setting.
Sorrento is one of the most popular towns that tourists stay due to its
central location. From Sorrento, one can reach Pompeii, Positano and Capri with relative ease. This hotel, great for families thanks to its pool and it's walking-distance proximity to town, offers you the perfect spot to base yourself to see the most of the area and to get a drink of Campari on the rocks at the Bar Ercolano just down the road.
Before it was converted to a hotel, this was a wealthy families' private home. The ornate hand-painted ceramic floor times, whitewashed walls, and "Positano Blue" piping is a delight for the eye. The staff and its service is impressive and sophisticated whirling your luggage away effortlessly and anticipating your every need. And, of course, the views! As a perk, the hotel organizes complimentary excursions on their yacht to nearby islands and coastal towns including olive oil and wine tastings and hiking.
This dreamy fantastic property is a spot that one might imagine heaven to look like. Perched on a promontory overlooking the water, its gardens filled with lemon and orange trees, rare and exotic flowering plants and a one kilometer meandering path that leads you to the hotel's beach at sea level. This boutique property is Relais &n Chateau, so it's no surprise that they have a Michelin star restaurant onsite. Much of it's fare is culled from the hotel's garden. Don't miss their signature Sunset cocktails on their terrace. Very cool is the elevator that drops 88 metres through solid rock to the beach club below, where a tiny private cove, bar and cafe shares space with a tennis court!
Our driver for the day brought us here because he was so amazed at what the hotelier created out of a rundown monastery that had gone into disrepair. Now, the property located at the top of a cliff near the town of Amalfi in Conca Dei Marini, is absolutely exquisite! The rooms are still on the smaller side after all monks used to live in them! Now, they've updated them so they're cozy and comfortable and the rest of the hotel's spaces from the garden to the infinity pool to the terraces, patios and Michelin star restaurant are just stunning.
a call if you want to know more about these great properties on the Amalfi Coast.
Tried & True Travel Tips:
When I tell people that I'm a travel advisor, inevitably I get the question, when is the best time to buy airline tickets??? I wish I knew! This is not an easy question to answer, so I'm just not able to shed light on this mystery of mysteries. It really comes down to inventory, popular travel dates, and demand. That's a vague answer and it just won't help you get the best fares for your flights, will it? Nope.
might! Hopper is a travel app that just may be able to finally answer that question. And, that's why they're earning millions of dollars in venture cap money because they're on to something in the airline fare prediction game.
How do you use it? First download the app on your smartphone and plug in where you want to go. The next screen shows you a few months at a time and you can tell right away which dates are best for travel with their color-coordinated dates (green for least expensive, yellow for a bit more expensive and orange and red for the higher fares). You can see immediately what the price is for your dates and the app instructs you as to whether you should wait for the price to go down or if you should buy it now as it likely won't get any less expensive. You can see the exact flights they recommend for you or you can choose to "Watch This Trip" and it will send you notifications when the airfares go up or down. You can purchase the flights directly on the app, if you like, so that's quite handy as well.
According to the CEO of the company, the earlier people start watching their flights, say 3 months in advance of their departure date, the more savings they'll enjoy. Check it out!
North Conway, New Hampshire, &
The Glen House
Look past the outlet shopping in North Conway and you'll find a welcoming community for families that offers every type of winter recreation. Step into the circa-1874 North Conway train station and take an old-fashioned Conway Scenic Railroad jaunt over the holidays, including one to Santa's Workshop. Or walk across the street to Zeb's General Store to grab your bag full of candy and a soda from an original Coca Cola fountain. Rising above town are the 57 trails at Cranmore, which in recent years has added a handful of other winter adventures to attract non-skiers. Get giddy on the Eagle zipline course, the Giant Swing, and check out the ten lanes of tubing, most enjoyable under the night lights. Or grab your skates and head to the outdoor rink at Schouler Park. Then check out the après-ski scene at Moat Mountain Smokehouse, known for their tasty wings, ribs, and microbrews on tap.
A 25-minute drive north of North Conway, past the cross-country skiing mecca of Jackson, The Glen House recently made its debut at the base of mighty Mount Washington.
Spend your days outdoors on 40 km of groomed cross-country ski trails, or go snowshoeing on a handful of routes, skiing at nearby Wildcat, snow tubing, fat biking, even winter mou
ntaineering up the slopes of Mount Washington, all part of the Great Glen Trails system. Then head back to the cozy 68-room resort to take a dip in the large indoor saltwater swimming pool. Or simply warm up next to the large stone fireplace in the lobby, with requisite views of the Presidential Range out the windows.
The Glen House has generously offered one member of ActiveTravels a 2-night stay at their property. Thanks again to everyone who participated in our raffle!
Our dentist members drilled down and received gold crowns for getting the answer correct-must have been in their dental school curriculum on what NOT to use for false teeth!
Here's the answer you've all been waiting for to our question: What were George Washington's false teeth made of?
And, the answer is, hippopotamus, elephant and walrus bone and ivory and human teeth. We've come a long way in the dental arts! Here's an interesting link on the subject to learn more!
And the winner of our raffle is:
Enjoy your Stay at The Glen House!
Thanks to all of you who entered our contest and showed such enthusiasm for this esoteric subject.