I've been writing for Frommers.com for more than two years now, recounting deals and secrets, discovering new destinations and uncovering tips. Some of my past columns came out of great trips, so I decided to see how those destinations were doing. It looks like it might be time to go back to Iceland, Rochester NY and Canada.
Hot Times in Iceland
Researching Frommer's Iceland guide last may, I walked through a work in progress -- a northern counterpart to the famed Blue Lagoon spa, up in the Myvatn national park. The Myvatn Nature Baths (www.jardbodin.is/indexen.php) is now up and running with a wide range of pools bubbling with geothermally-heated water, thanks to a nearby geothermal power plant. The mineral mix is different from the Blue Lagoon, but it sounds just as healthy for respiratory and skin ailments.
The Nature Baths are walking distance from the Reykjahlid settlement on Lake Myvatn; they're open from 9 am until midnight in the summer (because up there in the summer, the sun never goes down.) They're open more limited hours during the winter. Adult tickets cost $17.
If you plan to visit the baths, we recommend staying at the unpretentious, family-run Hotel Reykjahlid (www.reykjahlid.is) nearby in the settlement. Summer single rooms start at $175/night; doubles are $205. Less expensive rooms are available at local guesthouses; see www.jardbodin.is/pjonusta.php?lang=en for a list.
In Reykjavik, I spent a raucous night in the company of the Icelandic Nightlife Friend, Jon Kari Hilmarsson, who shows tourists where the best Icelandic parties are in a city famous for its intimate nightlife. He's still going strong and says he's busy every weekend, though his prices went up to $400/night for a group of 4-5 people because of the weakness of the US dollar. He's in the process of opening a branch office in Copenhagen, where he's going to get a friend of his to try to do the same thing; check out his service at www.nightlifefriend.is.
Back on the Boat in Rochester
Update to: www.frommers.com/articles/2151.html
Alas, poor Rochester. The city by the Erie Canal has a lot going for it -- canal boats, great photography and children's museums, nearby wine country -- but last year it lost its new high-speed ferry to Toronto when the company running it went under, so to speak.
But Rochester is resilient: the city bought the ferry and found another, more financially stable firm to run it. Meanwhile, on the Toronto side of the harbor, the pathetic Quonset huts that once passed for a ferry terminal have been replaced by a real customs-and-immigration building.
The result: the Rochester-Toronto ferry is back, as of the end of this month. The terminals are better: on the Rochester side, the terminal now has restaurants and shops as well. The boat, amenities, and transit connections are the same as I reported on last year. A one-way, adult fare for the 2 1/2 hour trip costs $29, and boats leave once or twice a day. See the full schedule here: www.nfl-bay.com/english/fast/schedule.html.
Last year when I stayed in Rochester, I stayed at the Del Monte Lodge, a classy hotel in the canalside town of Pittsford. Since then, they've completed a $3 million spa (www.delmontespa.com) with a wide range of facial and massage treatments, and a salon, making the Del Monte and the canal an even better option for a weekend getaway from New York City (round-trip fares on JetBlue start at $98, plus tax.)
Last year, I flew JetBlue from New York to Rochester and JetsGo back from Toronto. JetsGo has unfortunately gone out of business. CanJet (www.canjet.com) has joined the New York-Toronto route, but at $132 each way including tax, their fares aren't any better than you'd get from Air Canada.
Making It, The Canadian Way
Update to: www.frommers.com/articles/1185.html
Way back in 2003 I visited the Canadian economuseums (www.economusees.com), traditional craft businesses which let tourists visit and get a peek into how candles, cheese, or guitars are made. The network has expanded since then, with 43 economuseums now spanning Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The Choco-Musee Erico in Quebec City (www.chocomusee.com), the non-economuseum economuseum, is also still serving and educating customers seven days a week.
The newest economuseums, which joined the system in late 2004, are two woolens manufacturers (www.chevreangora.com/chevrierdunord in Quebec; www.thewoolworks.com in New Brunswick), a butter-churner (www.fermegroleau.com), an apple farm (www.fermebourgeoisfarms.ca), a porcelain manufacturer, a baker and a jewelry designer. If you're heading up to eastern Canada, stop by a few of these museums; often they let you touch, buy or taste the produce of their effort. There are five economuseums in Montreal alone.