GoNOMAD Travel Writers Share their 2018 Travels

2018 Travelers. Top left: GoNOMAD Editor Max Hartshorne, clockwise from top, Paul Shoul, Sonja Stark, Stephen Hartshorne, Cathie Arquilla, Kurt Jacobson, Christopher Ludgate, Donnie Sexton.
Top left: GoNOMAD Editor Max Hartshorne, clockwise from top, Paul Shoul, Sonja Stark, Stephen Hartshorne, Cathie Arquilla, Kurt Jacobson, Christopher Ludgate, Donnie Sexton.

Max Hartshorne,
GoNOMAD Editor and 2018 Traveler

My 2018 travels began with a March adventure to the Tualatin Valley, outside Portland, Oregon, where I traveled with my old pal Bruce Northam. We rode through the fields that held both silicon wafer factories and wineries and enjoyed some time at one of my all-time favorite hotel chains: McMenamins.

They have unique painted walls in all sorts of colors, they have concert posters from classic rock concerts especially the Grateful Dead, they include wonderful things in almost every property like movie theaters, concert halls and hot pools.

E-biking. 2018 Travelers
E-biking on “The Balcony of Austria,” Montafon, Vorarlsberg.

In April I flew out to Cali and enjoyed some time in San Mateo County, or Silicon Valley. As usual, I came away impressed with how many fun and wonderful things you can find to do in California.

When the weather warmed up, I visited Vorarlsberg Austria, for e-mountain biking, touring a fantastic opera center on Lake Constance in the lively city of Bregenz.

July brought us to Prince Edward Island, which was a remarkably wonderful summer destination, with great seafood, epic cliffs and honestly some of the most friendly locals you could ever meet.

The windy beaches on the Fort George side of Guernsey, located off the coast of France. Max Hartshorne photos.
The windy beaches on the Fort George side of Guernsey, located off the coast of France. Max Hartshorne photos.

I finished the year at World Travel Market in London and then to the tiny Island of Guernsey, an English-speaking Bailiwick of the UK right next to France. Guernsey is famous for being occupied in WWII and is full of history and they make great gin on the 5-mile wide island.

Sonya Stark
Travel Writer and Videographer

In February, we launched Dad’s Mako four-stroke into the mouth of Tampa Bay Florida for a choppy ride to the barrier island of Egmont Key.  The former military base turned endangered wildlife preserve had a working lighthouse and crumbling battery station.  Sandy trails and historic interpretive markers allowed us miles of wandering around this slice of paradise.  

What a thrill to find myself back in the town of my old alma mater during the month of March.  Plattsburgh, NY resembled very little from the early nineties when I graduated.  The town is all grown up!  I was surprised to see once-rowdy, unruly college bars matured into community-owned natural food markets, organic eateries and busy coffeehouses. Independent bookstores and family-owned boutiques had me wanting to re-enroll and live on Margaret Street.  

In June, I horsed around with my friend on the Salt River in Phoenix, Arizona.  Kirsty and I glided past hundreds of wild feral horses in a natural landscape of native willows and jagged bluffs.  This trip was the highlight of a weeks worth of southwest charm staying at a wellness resort called The Wigwam (Litchfield Park) and an industrial hotspot in downtown Phoenix called Found:Re. /p

Beautiful blue skies, perfect evening for the first summer Art Walk in downtown Saranac Lake past the Harriettstown Town Hall on Main. Left-Dad, Right-Author
Beautiful blue skies, perfect evening for the first summer Art Walk in downtown Saranac Lake past the Harriettstown Town Hall on Main.

In July, I treated the family to an overnight stay at a venerable 1927 property, recently restored to its former glory, affectionately called “Hot Sara,” or Hotel Saranac. 

I wrote about the iconic base camp as well as the TB history of the Adirondack “cure town.”  Saranac Lake was hopping over the summer!  

No cell phones allowed at Upper Canada Village in August. The popular family destination depicted life before electricity when traditional farming and handiwork practices reigned supreme.  This was really fun! 

I chased pigs, rode a slow scow towed by a horse down a canal and visited 40 historical buildings many with interpreters in period costume.

Something smelled fishy in October so it was off to coastal Maine to enjoy seafood dinners among piles of pumpkins.   The Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay, Maine is typically a vacationer’s summer playground but we got in before the resort shuttered for winter.  We found peace and seclusion relaxing poolside, meandering the property trails and visiting the state’s biggest botanical garden (CMBG).  

Adirondack stream.
Adirondack stream. Sonya Stark photo.

The city of “doggone” Portland, Maine turned out to be the best city in the world for dog tourism.  With our little toy poodle in tow — cute as ever in her yellow raincoat — we strolled past salty merchants and pet-friendly pubs.  

George and I gassed up in December with a busy trip to see all things Henry Ford at car museums in Detroit, Michigan.  My car-ophile boyfriend was in his glory! We stayed at the beautiful Foundation Hotel, once home to the Detroit Fire Department Headquarters and dined on tuna casserole at the famous Vinsetta’s Garage.  

Paul Shoul
Travel Writer

This past year was a time to repair my body after 30 years of carrying my ridiculously heavy cameras around the world. A surgery to fix my shoulder has taken over six months to recover from, sidelining me from my usual travel schedule. I was only able to make three trips, but all were fantastic.

First up was a trip to NYC and the New York Times Travel Show where Max Hartshorne and I have held court for the past five years. I love the show and the opportunity to share what I have learned about travel photography. While in the city I stayed at and reviewed the fabulous Jane Hotel.

Down on the corner of Jane Street, on the west side of lower Manhattan by the Hudson River, is the unassuming entrance to The Jane Hotel. Up the stairs, through the double doors and 100 years back in time, a doorman greets you.” The Jane is definitely one of my favorite hotels anywhere on the planet.

Next up was a trip to  Damariscotta Maine where oyster growers, foodies, chefs, travelers, and locals gathered in June for three days of total oyster culture immersion at the first ever Damariscotta Oyster Celebration. Damariscotta is ground zero for a burgeoning commercial oyster/ aquaculture movement that is expanding along the coast of Maine.

Mook Oyster Farm on the Damariscotta River, Maine.
Mook Oyster Farm on the Damariscotta River, Maine.

A tour of oyster farms by boat along the river, fantastic local food and of course, endless oysters cumulated in the Can-Am shuck star competition and oyster party.

My final trip of the year was to Cancun Mexico to stay at the brand new Iberostar Cancun Star Prestige.

This adults-only all-inclusive resort is right on the beach and surprised me with just how good it is. The rooms are large and comfortable, with a balcony and a hot tub overlooking the ocean.

The food was spectacular.

Let’s just say that when I saw that the chef was carving a leg of my favorite Spanish Iberico ham for breakfast, I knew that I had landed well. Grilled lobster tails and shrimp for lunch, top-shelf liquors, and even room service is all included.

Stephen Hartshorne
Travel Writer

Drummers at the Foyle Maritime Festival
Drummers at the Foyle Maritime Festival

Stephen Hartshorne visited the walled city of Derry, also known as Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, where he joined thousands of revelers at the Foyle Maritime Festival.

He took a canoe ride on the River Foyle, walked the city walls, and learned about the storied history of Derry, which was founded in 546.
He reports that the sectarian conflicts of “the troubles” are history now, and the city has been given over to merrymaking.

Kurt Jacobson
Travel Writer

To start off the travel year right, my wife and I bailed out on Baltimore’s cold weather. Sedona, Arizona had been on our minds for years, and we finally saw what all the fuss is about.

Blue skies, red rocks, and green coniferous forest provided a state of bliss hard to find in Maryland in January. Dining at Mariposa was a highlight of the trip as was hiking Bell Rock.

I traveled solo to Omaha in February to get a taste of mid-western hospitality. Staying at the Magnolia Hotel, Aquila Court Building circa 1923, put me in easy reach of the Old Market, Orpheum Theater, and arts district. A visit to the Omaha Zoo was a perfect ending to my two-day stay.

Deluxe Airstream camp trailer Metro Hotel, Petaluma, California.
Deluxe Airstream camp trailer Metro Hotel, Petaluma, California.

In 2016 I had a one night stay in Petaluma to write about the Petaluma Hotel in California.

I had gone to cooking school in nearby Two Rock in the 1970s, but much had changed for the better.

After covering the hotel story, I vowed to return and dive deep into Petaluma properly.

I found a well-preserved town full of brewpubs, excellent bakeries, shopping, live music, and two wineries. Staying in the unique Metro Hotel was a blast. This French-themed refuge features quirky lodging and even has Airstream camp trailers on their land to rent.

A travel writer’s conference took me to Yakima in April. During three days of exploring the area, I booked another trip for May to come back for more.

The Yakima Valley has top-quality wines, hops, hiking, biking, and legal marijuana too. We had a blast touring wineries in a vintage model T Ford convertible.

June brought the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and our return after missing the last 14 years. Four days of bluegrass music, high-altitude fun with Telluride Outdoors jeep tour, dining at Tacos Del Gnar, staying at the Hotel Telluride and Mountain Lodge put this trip in the EPIC category. I’d go every year if I could figure out a way to make that happen. Many of those in attendance do come every year and can’t stand the thought of missing this Rocky Mountain bluegrass festival.

Short trips in and around the Mid-Atlantic brought a better understanding of the famed Eastern Shore of Maryland. Chestertown, Rock Hall, Denton, Rehoboth Beach, and Doverwere all worthy expenditures of precious time. A road trip in September took dog and I to Colorado and back, spanning two weeks. My wife flew out to Denver to join us for a week hitting Fort Collins, Aspen, Buena Vista, and Denver.

The big trip of the year was to Japan. We dove into two new onsen high up in the mountains and re-visited Kyoto. It’s easy to want to go back every year, but time and money make that difficult. We loved tiny Kusatsu with its relatively undiscovered hot springs resort life. What a great way to finish a year of travel!

Christopher Ludgate
GoNomad Senior Writer

Christopher Ludgate in Mexico.
Christopher Ludgate in Mexico.

The gloomy chill in the air over the U.S. early in the year had my spirit yearning for some sunshine and nature. And soon after New Year’s Day, I found myself jetting to Florida’s Gold Coast, waking up to the sound of cerulean waves and views of sun-soaked sands in Pompano Beach and Singer Island.

Ever ready for more adventure of the Italian kind, I found myself on a pilgrimage to the new FICO Eataly World in Bologna, Italy for a gastronomic celebration.

Something about being completely emerged riding Bianchi bikes around 2.5 acres of Italian gastronomy was irresistible. It is an exploration, an education- a celebration of regional biodiversity, tradition, agriculture, wine, and food – where it was a dream come true taking a cooking class in Italy!

In addition, I explored the future of food and the progressive directions some are taking with inclusive and green attitudes of sustainability.

Exploring Bologna a little more in-depth, I visited newly uncovered ancient Roman crossroads and found contrasts and juxtapositions of this historic and contemporary all over the cultural hub. I learned that the sophisticated and proud central city was the original metropolis of Italy in the middle ages.

I toured the busy labs of world-renowned Cineteca di Bologna where technicians were intensely focused on their admirable work preserving and restoring thousands of films.

The newly restored Fountain of Neptune is not shy about its grandeur.
The newly restored Fountain of Neptune is not shy about its grandeur.

Not at a loss for travel highlights at all this year>, exploring Mayan civilization and rituals along with Mexican traditions in Xcaret is up there on the list.

Waking in the twilight of the tropical jungle to begin our stroll on the torch-lit paths filled with thebeat of drums to greet the Maya and witness their ceremonial rituals before they embarked on their ancient Sacred Journey to Goddess Ix-Chel was an unforgettable experience. Going rogue off-road in Cozumel was a top thrill I’d implore anyone to do.

North East Coastal Diversions

So much fun and intrigue along the Atlantic corridor this year as well from exploring historic, bustling, and quintessentially quaint >Beacon, New York and nearby beer trails and Bannerman Island, the Scottish castle in the Hudson River, to exploring Cape May’s hidden tracks and its role in the underground railroad.

Perfect for a rainy day, or a roasting one, New York City’s SPYSCAPE, the first of its kind spy-themed museum, intrigue was in the air in anticipation of impressively high-tech interaction and immersion into the real world of espionage.

The islands of Casco Bay next to >Portland, Maine offered stunning views and a great fresh fish and lobster market. This foodie-favorite destination is a great biking town, but that ferry route is one of the most satisfying and budget-minded delights in the area, for sure.

Never a shortage on activities, >Delaware’s coast enthralled with its nautical history and ecotourism. From kayaking to see the heron’s in Rehoboth Bay to talking up the extremely friendly locals at the new Beach Club, what a refreshing sense of community and perennial delight.

Donnie Sexton
Travel Writer

Chefchauen woman. Donnie Sexton photo.
Chefchouen woman. Donnie Sexton photo.

It has been an extraordinary year of travel, starting with a visit to Morocco in January which included camping in the Sahara Desert and exploring the “blue” city of Chefchouen. Added to that adventure was a two-day stopover in soggy Paris, thanks to some of the worst flooding on record. So much for capturing great images!

I was fortunate to join a small group of photographers for a visit to Peru in April. Many years back I had been to Machu Picchu when I was shooting slide film, so I was excited to get back in the age of digital cameras. We devoted two days to Machu Picchu, along with of a day exploring Lake Titicaca. Local markets, Inca ruins, and walking the streets of Cusco and Lima rounded out this South American adventure.

For travelers with a sweet tooth and a craving for chocolate or gelato, Chocolaterie Cynthia in Baie-St-Paul is a must stop. (photo courtesy Chocolaterie Cynthia)
For travelers with a sweet tooth and a craving for chocolate or gelato, Chocolaterie Cynthia in Baie-St-Paul is a must stop. (photo courtesy Chocolaterie Cynthia)

The Western chapter meeting of the Society of American Travel Writers took place in Brno, Czech Republic, so it only made sense if I was going that far to take a few days to explore Cesky Krumlov and the magnificent city of Prague.

My second visit to Wisconsin, this time to peaceful Elkhart Lake , had me falling in love with this state, its people, landscapes and of course, the cheese.

An invite to sail with Holland America to Norway saw me bend all my rules of ever stepping on a cruise ship. I’m no longer a “cruise virgin,” and I’ll admit the experience was pretty darn sweet.

A trip to French-speaking Charlevoix in Quebec turned into an epic foodie feast, along with my first ever whale-watching expedition. My year of travel ended with a November trip to Chongqing, China, that included a three-night cruise on the Yangtze River.

Cathie Arquilla
Travel Writer

In this hemisphere, the New Year begins in winter and what better way to celebrate dark and chilly days than on the ski slopes. My first trip of the year was to a little ski resort

Isabella Bricker and Cathie Arquilla.
Isabella Bricker and Cathie Arquilla.

in the Berkshires call Jiminy Peak. That trip was a warm-up to a spring skiing trip to the best snow on earth in Utah.I was making tracks at Alta, Solitude, and Canyons. Read this story on how to pack skiing and Salt Lake City fun into one day, written by my daughter Isabella Bricker. In just a week we’ll be posting my story on 7 ways to maximize fun at the singular Solitude ski resort.I

In April boarded a Princess Cruise to Mexico. We docked at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán and Cabo San Lucas. While we were wary of the overly helpful volunteer ex-pats we encountered on disembarkation in Mazatlán, their advice proved golden. Do take a four-seater golf cart tour! It’s a quick and informative ride about this colonial city of plazas, cathedrals and… cliff divers!

My fashion stylist career awarded me a sales incentive trip to Grand Cayman in June. Days before this trip a twisted my ankle, and it was the color and size of an eggplant, but that didn’t matter! I was staying at the Ritz Carlton and was delightfully pampered by pool attendees who supplied me with ample bags of ice and strawberry daiquiris.

At Tivoli Évora Ecoresort in Portugal's Algarve.
At Tivoli Évora Ecoresort in Portugal’s Algarve. Cathie Arquilla photo.

I practiced self-care daily at the spa, a glamour Hollywoodesque escape with facilities galore. I also highly recommend Éric Ripert’s Blue restaurant. We celebrated our 25th anniversary over a five-course tasting meal that cost $500. I still say it was worth it–does my husband? You have to ask him.

Trips to my native California for family affairs happened in July and again in October. San Clemente was the destination for my nephew’s wedding, and this throw-back Cali town is something to write about. I’ll be pitching GoNOMAD that story soon!

In December I found myself in Lisbon, and I don’t mean that as a cliché. As I was strolling down Avenida Liberdade, marveling at the mosaics under my feet and the alluring stores dotting this grand avenue, I literally said hello to that part of me who passionately loves to travel.

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