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Feewheeling Adventures

 

Biking in France Isn’t a Bit Difficult...

 

Canadian television personality Erica Ehm owns her own communications company. Although she loves what she's doing, she also enjoys getting away on a regular basis. One of her more interesting holidays was a spur-of-the-moment decision when Erica got more than she bargained for. She writes...


My idea of a perfect holiday is a healthy combination of beautiful scenery, great food, great wine, unique culture and exercise. After hearing about Active Journey’s vacations I was sold --they offer biking and walking holidays around the world. Tagging along after a guide is never my cup of tea. That’s why their type of holiday is so cool. The trip includes bicycles, detailed routes to each day’s destination, confirmed quaint hotels, dinner and breakfast, daily transportation of your luggage but no group and no guide. If you choose to be, you’re on your own. That's the way my girlfriend Beth and I chose to go.


Finding out the hard way...

Our destination of choice was a week long bike tour in France’s Loire valley, but we were too late. All the hotels were already booked. So, instead, we settled quickly on the Burgundy region. However, while both these picturesque areas are famous for their wines -- there is a very important difference -- the landscape. Had we read the Burgundy trip itinerary more closely, we would have picked up on some key reoccurring phrases like “fairly stiff climb,” “vast panorama,” and “rocky promontory.” Since on this trip we were expected to bike approximately 55 kilometers per day, we were going to find out the hard way that maybe this was too much for us.

Day one was a long travel day by train from Paris to Sauvigny de Beaune.

TrainAt our first hotel we were supplied with sturdy 21 gear hybrid bikes, detailed itinerary and maps, bike bags, locks and repair kits. The next morning, with a wink and an ‘au revoir’ from the concierge, we were on the road.


Not as good as we thought we were...

Although the directions we received were really quite specific, Beth and I had difficulty reading the signage and deciphering the ways of the road in the French countryside. And, within an hour our leg muscles were burning. Then, when we were exactly in the middle of nowhere, I realized with a sinking sensation that my rear tire was flat. Luckily Beth really knows her stuff and was able to replace the innertube that had been punctured by a nail.

The day ended 40 kilometers later high in the medieval village of Chateauneuf. As we crawled up the final incline of the day to this 12th century town, we began to understand just exactly how hilly the Burgundy region was, and that we may have bitten off more than we could chew.

Day two began with a lovely breakfast at the Hostellerie du Chateau. Beth and I rhapsodized over our freshly baked bread, pain au chocolat, fruit, yoghurt, cheese and coffee. breakfastWe ate very well keeping in mind the 55 kilometers ahead that day. This time, we biked almost nonstop for about five hours -- through beautiful farmland, vineyards, medieval villages and rolling hills. We began to figure out how to use the gears and navigate the hills more efficiently. The many locals we asked for directions were more than happy to show us the way. Yet, we noticed that they often looked at us with pity as they pointed up to a tiny steep road. Their parting words were, “Bon Courage.”

 


Oh, oh...

But then, on the way to Semur en Auxois everything suddenly changed. Beth’s knee gave out. She was in deep pain and could go no further. With the help of passers-by, we tracked down a local doctor. From there an ambulance took us to the hospital for x-rays which told the whole story.

Beth would be fine but there would be no more biking this trip. All I can say is -- thank god for travel insurance. Don’t even think of leaving home without it.

AmbulanceWe contacted Sherpa Expeditions, the local affiliate for Active Journeys, and new arrangements were quickly made for us. We could proceed with our original itinerary, but we would be driven to the next day’s destination by the local taxi that transports the biker’s luggage.


The tone of the trip changes...

What began as an adventure and test of strength and endurance, now became a gentle stroll through medieval villages with a lot of food and “beaucoup de vins.” We appreciated the variety of scenery and the hotels selected for us. One night, nestled high on a hill (there’s that word again), in the village of Vezelay, we stayed at Hotel de la Poste et du Lion D’Or. Our room had a beautiful view of the ancient stone streets and the Basilica St. Madelaine. We slept with our windows open that night, listening to the lull of voices from the patio below.

Next day was a total change of pace. Beth and I spent the day reading by a lovely lake at Les Settons, a vacation spot for local families where camping, pedal boats, swimming and a fishing school are the main attractions. Hot Times!Our accommodations at La Vielle Diligence -- an old rustic farmhouse -- matched the surroundings. Dinner here was not like eating at a hotel. The hearty home-cooked meal was served family style around a large table and we enjoyed unique conversations with our hosts and the other guests. In fact, we met a true adventurer who was travelling on horseback, on his own, from his home in Germany all the way to Spain.


Twelve handsome chefs...

chefEach day promised new pleasures. Once again in the luxury of our taxi, we arrived at Arney Le Duc, yet another beautiful little town. The day was spent slowly exploring the nooks and crannies of this little gem. Our hotel room was clean and simple with shower and toilet but here at Chez Camille Hotel, we experienced the type of French cuisine and service that I’d only ever read about before. The dining room was a lovely annexed area filled with overgrown benjamin ficcus trees that pressed against the glass ceiling. We were seated at a table which faced a glass wall behind which a dozen handsome chefs (yummy!) were preparing our meal. By the end of the meal we had eaten nine courses, five of which were a series of delicate desserts.

And suddenly it was over. The next morning we were driven over mountains, hills, dips and bends, back to our first hotel in Savigny de Beaune. When the proprietor saw us coming out of the taxi, he asked, “Ou sont les velos?” (“Where are the bikes?”) “Oh,” we said with a smile, “Beth had a bit of an accident but we had a great time in spite of it.” And then we sat down and enjoyed yet another fine bottle of wine from the Burgundy region. Sometimes things turn out for the best. We learned that biking in France, no matter how many hills, isn’t a bit difficult at all!


Be sure not to forget ...Boxer Shorts

  • padded bicycle shorts
  • your own padded bike seat or gel seat
  • biking gloves
  • water bottle
  • snacks
  • medical travel insurance
  • French dictionary

BicycleActive Journeys Walking, hiking, bicycling and sea-kayaking tours worldwide. Explore the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, Canada, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Discover quiet, country trails or kayak among the whales, we have the largest selection of active holidays worldwide. Many of the tours can be organized on a independent basis, giving you maximum flexibility with all the support, or join our small group holidays.
Toll free: 1-800-597-5594
Tel: 416.236.5011
Email: info@activejourneys.com
Web site: www.activejourneys.com.

 

 

 

 


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