At last we can talk about 2020 in the past tense! Sadly, more infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are certain, but in the coming months I cannot help but feel that real progress will be made in combatting this virus. With a new administration in the US and broader distribution of the coronavirus vaccine globally, I have a sense of hope and optimism that I haven’t felt in a long time. Which makes me start to think about…
…how much I am looking forward to returning to life as we knew it pre-COVID. Part of that includes entertaining thoughts about places Sergio and I might be able to go and explore later in 2021. Prior to our lockdown in 2020, work had sent me to Florida and Arizona, and Sergio and I were lucky enough to spend the end of 2019 in South America, but that seems like a lifetime ago now.
Destinations on my radar include potentially returning to Cayman, Puerto Rico, Puerto Vallarta, Punta del Este, or Lisbon. I assume that we will go back to Brazil for the Christmas holiday as well, but we will see. Will you travel once it is safe? If so, where are you planning to visit this year?
This week I’m featuring the Instagram account of a very talented Brazilian travel photographer. This year is nearly over and even though travel restrictions will remain in place, I’m hopeful that it will become safer to travel again in 2021.
Paulo’s beautiful photos can’t replace the enjoyment I get from traveling but it certainly is wonderful to see his posts pop up on my feed. If you love (and miss) traveling, check out this Instagrammer who posts beautiful images regularly.
Airline passenger traffic has dropped significantly due to the pandemic, but Jet Blue is betting that many of us in Boston will be looking to get away from the cold and will be adding new nonstop flights between Boston and Florida starting February 11, 2021.
Starting February 11th, Jet Blue will have up to four daily nonstop flights between Boston and Miami.
BOS – MIA Flight #1519
MIA – BOS Flight #1520
8:30 a.m. – 12:04 p.m.
7:20 a.m. – 10:28 a.m.
BOS – MIA Flight #1219
MIA – BOS Flight #1220
12:05 p.m. – 3:37 p.m.
12:00 p.m. – 3:08 p.m.
BOS – MIA Flight #1319
MIA – BOS Flight #1320
3:35 p.m. – 7:07 p.m.
4:25 p.m. – 7:35 p.m.
BOS – MIA Flight #1619
MIA – BOS Flight #1620
7:00 p.m. – 10:34 p.m.
7:55 p.m. – 11:03 p.m.
Starting February 11th, Jet Blue will have up to four weekly nonstop flights between Boston and Key West, flying on Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday. The flight times appear to be very convenient, allowing you to arrive early enough to enjoy a late lunch and getting you home to Boston at a decent hour.
JB Flight #2063 departs Boston at 8:27 a.m. and arrive in Key West at 12:14 p.m. JB Flight #2064 departs Key West at 1:02 p.m. and arrive in Boston at 4:26 p.m.
You can read the full media release issued last week here.
Once upon a time Eastern Air Lines was a major carrier. At its height, all of Terminal A at Boston’s Logan Airport was dedicated to Eastern Air Lines, but that all stopped when it went bankrupt in 1991. The airline had a brief and unsuccessful relaunch in 2017 but the failed brand didn’t dissuade Dynamic Airways from purchasing the rights to the brand in 2019 and flying again under the name in early 2020.
The fledgling airline has a total of 13 planes (Boeing 767s and 777s) at the moment and is based out of both JFK (NYC) and Miami International Airport. Earlier this year, the airline started flying from Boston to Miami and recently the airline which currently flies from Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Miami to 8 cities in the Caribbean, Latin and South America announced that it will be expanding service in 2021.
Starting in late March Eastern Air will begin flying from Boston, Miami and New York to Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In Boston, the airline will cut into LATAM Airlines monopoly on nonstop flights to Brazil and with most Brazilians in metro Boston hailing from Minas Gerais, flying to Belo Horizonte, could be quite profitable.
Eastern’s service from Boston will operate on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays. Miami service will operate on Mondays and Fridays and New York service will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Roundtrip tickets are currently available online for approximately $600.00 with taxes.
One year ago, Sergio and I were starting the second week of a five week adventure, traveling through Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. We flew out of Boston the Saturday after Thanksgiving and in retrospect, I’m so thankful that we took this amazing trip last year and didn’t defer it.
Initially, we flew to Brazil to drop off holiday gifts at Sergio’s Mom’s home then hopped on a plane the next day to fly to Mendoza, Argentina to explore wine country. I’ve only visited wine country in Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California and Hepburn Springs and Daylesford just outside of Melbourne, Australia. Mendoza struck me as more refined than Australia but less busy than Napa and Sonoma. The city of Mendoza is the jumping off point for wine enthusiasts and it is where we stayed, making daytrips to Ucco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo. It’s a cute and clean town but it isn’t until you get out of Mendoza that you can really appreciate the natural beauty of the Andes Mountain range and wine country.
After a decadent few days in Mendoza, we flew to Córdoba, Argentina which has the distinction of being Argentina’s second largest city and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jesuit Block. We stayed at the Azure Hotel near the Plaza de San Martin and explored the city as well as the surrounding area, making a day trip to La Cumbrecita and Belgrano. For those unfamiliar with Córdoba, it is depicted in the 2019 film, The Two Popes when they flash back to Pope Francis’ life as a Bishop in Argentina during the anti-Communist military dictatorship from 1976-1983 that cozied up with the Roman Catholic Church.
From there we flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina. This beautiful city is filled with great restaurants, beautiful architecture, gorgeous parks and a pulse that makes going out always fun. Sergio and I had visitied B.A. previously but not for many years so we used the week here to explore. For those unfamiliar with the city, it is the largest city in Argentina and of huge political, historical and cultural importance. A third of the entire country’s population lives in the metropolitan area. If you plan to travel to Buenos Aires and need tips, feel free to reach out. I can share what we did, where we stayed and places we enjoyed visiting.
After spending more than two weeks in Argentina, Sergio and I hopped a ferry to Uruguay, staying one night in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. The following day we rented a car and drove out to Undarius. Owned by Fran and Mario, this small property caters to gay travelers and is a 5 minute walk to the gay beach and a 15 minute drive to Punta del Este.
I had never heard of Punta del Este prior to planning this trip and think it caters more to affluent South Americans than Americans and Europeans, but this is a place you’ll hear of more in the future – mark my words. Despite my lack of familiarity, I did recognize the city’s most famous and photographed statue, “La Mano” or in English “The Hand”, which shows a large human hand emerging from the sand on Brava Beach.
Our final leg of this amazing adventure brought us back to Sergio’s hometown in Brazil, Belo Horizonte, spending 10 days with his Mom to celebrate the Christmas holiday. We spent our final three nights in to Sao Paulo, celebrating New Years Eve and starting 2020 poolside at the Renaissance Sao Paulo enjoying one last day of summer in South America before flying back to Boston.
This was an amazing trip, and I can’t help but reminisce. Thinking about what we were doing a year ago has been a healthy and happy distraction and is just one more reason I love to travel. Even if the trips must come to an end, the memories can last a lifetime.
One of my fondest and most memorable trips was backpacking through Europe after I graduated from college in the early 1990s. The trip was my first time traveling abroad, and I remember thinking of it as a grand adventure. I had no idea what to expect but the trip exceeded my wildest dreams and gave me the travel bug.
My parents took this photo of me at Boston’s Logan Airport just before I boarded my flight. When I look at this photo of 22 year old me, I can’t help but smile and think about how amazing that trip was and how much I learned. Although I absolutely fell in love with Europe and traveling, I wouldn’t travel abroad again until I met Sergio in my late 20s. Sergio’s love of travel was one of the reasons we initially connected. When I met him he worked for United Airlines which allowed us to travel frequently.
Sadly, we’ve not been back to Europe since 2016 when we visited Portugal but hopefully we can rectify that soon after this pandemic.
Earlier this week, Boston was named among the three best large cities in America by Conde Nast Traveler readers. The publication’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards ranked Boston No. 3 with Washington, D.C. taking second and Chicago ranked as the best.
More than 750,000 of their readers participated in the online survey between April 1 and June 30, 2020. The publication was very complimentary about my hometown writing, “For one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston sure has aged with style. To get a quick refresher on our nation’s history, walk the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile route along a string of historic sites that takes you through the country’s founding. Other activities worth adding to your itinerary include slurping up oysters at Neptune, visiting the eclectic salon-style art display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and catching a ball game at Fenway Park. Just be sure to learn the words to ‘Sweet Caroline’ before you go.”
Rounding out the Top 10 list of best large cities are:
4. New Orleans, LA
5. San Antonio, TX
6. New York, NY
7. San Diego, CA
8. Nashville, TN
9. Tucson, AZ
10. St. Petersburg, FL
While I can understand how a few of these cities made the list, I’m left wondering how is New Orleans still considered a large city with a population of less than 400,000 people, and how could cities like Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle be omitted?
Conde Nast Traveler readers also ranked their favorite small cities (places with populations less than 250,000), which you can check out here.
The summer may officially be over but the weather in New England will remain beautiful for several more weeks but even as the days get shorter and the temperatures cool, there is plenty to do in the fall. With many of us not traveling, day trips may prove to be a boon for local tourism.
According to USA Today readers two New England locations were included in their Reader’s Choice list of 10 best destinations for fall foliage. New Hampshire’s White Mountains ranked No. 4 and Stowe, Vermont, ranked No. 6. If getting out of the house for a weekend roadtrip sounds appealing, check out the NH scenic foliage drives or VT scenic foliage drives websites. Although it failed to make the Reader’s Choice top 10 list, I also want to give a shout out for Berkshire Scenic Drives which typically sees peak foliate a week or two after Vermont and New Hampshire.
The best part about these drives is they are easy day trips so make plans to get out and enjoy the fall weather when it arrives next month.
As expected, The European Union (EU), which represents 14 countries, voted to restrict visitors from countries that have failed to take steps to curtail their rapidly rising caseloads of the coronavirus. I cannot blame the EU for taking these precautionary measures but it still stings. Everyone is painfully aware of the impact the coronavirus has had here and around the world. Who could forget the New York Times front page in May when they published some of the 100,000 names of Americans who had died from the coronavirus?
Even those who ignore the science and disregard the safety precautions laid out by the CDC admit that the economic toll the virus has had is unprecedented. While most of the impact was initially felt in the Northeast, in recent weeks rising numbers in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas have forced many Republican Governors who were eager to reopen to rethink their policies. It is precisely these rising numbers that led the EU to include the US in its travel ban.
This decision could not have been easy for the EU to make. Like the US, their economy is teetering on the brink of recession. I would imagine the money US business travelers and tourists spend is significant. Barring visitors from the US will likely impact many small businesses and in particular the hospitality and service industries. It is (however) a testament to how serious the EU is when it comes to protecting their people. I hope the actions of the EU serves as a wake-up call for the White House and those in power in Congress who (to date) have preferred to politicize public health and the guidance from our medical leaders rather than show leadership and take public health more seriously.
Last month, after spending two weeks visiting Argentina, we hopped on a 90-minute ferry from Buenos Aires, Argentina headed for Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Situated in the southwest corner of Uruguay, this pristine town is best known for its historic quarter which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Since 1828 Colonia del Sacramento has been a part of Uruguay but it was hotly contested by the monarchs of Spain and Portugal, exchanging hands more than a half dozen times since the 1600s. The city was even briefly a part of Brazil. Colonia del Sacramento makes for a great day trip from Buenos Aires, but if you’re going to spend a night, I’d recommend where we stayed, Hotel Charco, which is situated in the middle of old town with views of the water.
After spending a night we were ready to hop in our rental car to get to our real destination and fun in the sun at Uruguay’s famous Punta del Este. The drive from Colonia to Punta was easy but further than I realized (approximately 3.5 hours). It gave us a glimpse of Uruguay, which seemed to be mostly farm land with an occasional vineyard. Note that the drive from Puna del Este to the capital, Montevideo is much shorter (about 90-minutes).
Punta attracts travelers the world over but it is mostly a summer playground for well-to-do Argentinians and Brazilians. If you’ve seen photos of Punta del Este it was most likely of the giant beach sculpture La Mano or Casapueblo, the onetime home of Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, which is now a museum, restaurant and hotel.
We opted to stay about 20 minutes outside of town in Maldonado, after a friend recommended a gay-owned hotel called Undarius. The owners, Fran and Mario a Spanish / Uruguayan couple are friendly and fantastic hosts. The tiny hotel has beautiful grounds with a pool and jacuzzi and the gay beach is about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. One big surprise was the ocean temperature. I had no idea the South Atlantic could rival the temperatures of Cape Cod. Having said that, it was still sad to leave this little beach haven, but I’d really like to return.
Last month Sergio and I traveled through parts of Argentina and spent 5 nights in beautiful Buenos Aires at the Park Tower Hotel in the Retiro neighborhood; near Puerto Madero and adjacent to Recoleta. This was our second visit to the city; our first visit to B.A. was back in the early 2000s.
Above you can see some photos of Sergio posing in front of a Pride flag in a public park, Obelisco de Buenos Aires and the Casa Rosada which translates into the Pink House and is where the President of Argentina resides.
There were some things we wanted to revisit like the Recoleta Cemetary (shown above) where prominent families from B.A. are buried – Eva Peron among them; going back to the Floralis Genérica or the Tulip as I kept referring to it (shown below) and we wanted to spend more time in the Palermo neighborhood.
To make the most of the beautiful weather, we made a conscious decision to spend as much time as we could outside spending time in favorite neighborhoods and visiting many gorgeous parks.
Below are some of the many photos taken on our visit. I could probably write an entire post on the parks and green spaces throughout Buenos Aires.
Knowing that spring is still many, many weeks away in Boston, made walking through these parks and being outside everyday an extra special treat.
If you enjoy art and are looking to do something a little different I’d recommend checking out the guided walking tours of Buenos Aires graffiti art. We signed up for a 3 hour walking tour through different neighborhoods in BA and it was really fascinating. The tour guides tell you about the individual artists, their backgrounds, trademark techniques that have helped distinguish them.
If you’re interested in learning more you can check out the tour guides website and the various tours they offer at graffitimundo.com.
While there are many fantastic restaurants in Buenos Aires, Sergio and I did not indulge in any gourmet experiences. However we did return to B.A.’s famous Cafe Tortoni to indulge in an afternoon coffee and dessert. We really enjoyed the Four Seasons Buenos Aires lounge, Pony Line. Thanks to a tip from a bartender there we were directed to a subterranean bar about 3 blocks away in a Flower & Wine shop called Floreria Atlantico where you enter the basement bar through a fake refrigerator door (see Sergio in photo above).
Despite being disappointed that we didn’t see everything I had hoped, I know I’ll be back to Buenos Aires. It is an amazing city and one to add to your bucket list.
This past December I had the opportunity to visit Mendoza, Argentina, which is best known for its proximity to the Andes Mountains and wine country. Prior to my visit I knew very little about Argentinian wines but much thanks to Nick Dadonna, Beverage Director for Boston Urban Hospitality Group (Boston Chops, Deuxave, dbar) for helping me, that is no longer the case.
When I started planning this trip, I had initially wanted to stay at a vineyard but that became impractical so we ended up staying in Mendoza at the Sheraton, which turned out to be a great property with access to interesting areas of town.
Unfortunately Sergio wasn’t feeling great so I ended up touring a handful of gorgeous wineries on my own. I did have the good sense to hire a driver ahead of time so I could indulge without worrying about driving. Should you find yourself booking a trip to Mendoza I would recommend doing the same. Even though parts of wine country are very close to downtown, having a driver makes a huge difference and provided me with a lot of flexibility. Below are some of the highlights from my two days touring wineries.
A twenty minute drive south of Mendoza brought me to Bodega Catena Zapata one of Argentina’s oldest wineries located in Lujan de Cuyo. This award winning family-owned winery dates back to 1902 when it was founded by Italian immigrant, Nicola Catena.
In a nod to their new world status, the winery built a pyramid-like design based on Mayan architecture for their beautiful bodega and logo. The winery is very proud of their history and Argentina’s role in saving the Malbec grape, which had been Eleanor of Aquitaine’s preferred wine of choice, but was essentially wiped out in Europe due to a disease in the 19th century that attacked European vineyards. The lovely tour, learning about the history of the Malbec and this illustrious Argentinian family was interesting but it was the tasting (see the wines above) I’ll remember best. My favorite from the tasting proved to be Luca Old Vine Malbec 2017.
Following a 2+ hour tour and tasting I was more than satisfied but later that day I needed to rally for a private luncheon at Casa Rena’s gorgeous restaurant. I’ve included photos from the 2+ hour luncheon, 7-course meal (the sorbet not shown) accompanied by six wines (click the image below to enlarge).Sitting outside with views of the vineyard and beautiful landscaping, I gorged on this gourmet lunch. Unfortunately, I was running so late I couldn’t stay for the tour of the winery but the lunch and wines were fantastic. After lunch I could barely move but I somehow managed to power through the rest of the day.
On my final day of tastings, we drove to Uco Valley (a 90-minute drive from Mendoza). This would turn out to be my favorite winery. Nestled in Uco Valley with the massive Andes Mountain Range off to the west, Zuccardi winery was founded in the early 1960s by an Engineer who was trying to modernize irrigation in the region.
Three generations have been involved in making wines here. The family made a decision to use local, sustainable materials wherever possible to build this bodega so it would blend into the landscape. And local artisans and builders were hired to help construct this gorgeous winery, which also applies that same sustainable approach to making wine by using concrete vats to turn their grapes into wine (see below).
However, what I shall remember best from my time at the winery is the amazing lunch that was prepared for me in their restaurant. The photo at the very top of the post was the main plate but it was preceded by two other dishes and followed by dessert. Just like the previous day at Casa Rena, Zuccardi’s lunch proved to be a gourmet marathon with four courses and eight wines served (OMG). It’s no wonder that after I rolled out of Uco Valley I told Sergio I needed to take a break otherwise I might die from overindulgence.
I loved my time in Mendoza and learning more about Argentinian wines. If you’re a wine lover, you really need to check out Argentina’s wine country.
Each January I write about the various ski weeks and weekends that are organized here in New England and North America.
With the holidays now a thing of the past and many weeks of winter weather still ahead of us, I try to take the attitude of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” by sharing a handful of gay ski celebrations as the circuit moves from the beaches to the slopes. I also like to use this post to give a shout out to OutRyders – New England’s largest gay ski club.
For the past week we have been in Sergio’s hometown, Belo Horizonte, Brazil to celebrate Christmas with Sergio’s family. Yesterday, we flew to Sao Paulo. We will celebrate the New Year with friends and a few bottles of Champagne then fly to chilly Boston. I know that many people struggle with geography so I pulled together this homemade map below to show you on a map where we traveled.
I can’t stress how amazing having a month to travel has been and if anyone plans to travel to any of these destinations reach out to me for suggestions. I’m only too happy to share what we did and to make recommendations.
Once I am back in Boston and all caught up, I will resume my regular Monday morning posts which share what is happening in Boston for the week.