Passion Points: Family
One of our Connoisseur members recently used a high-end biking outfitter for a custom family bike trip through Provence. She raved about the experience so much that Indagare decided to chat with the company’s charismatic founder. Below, he discusses his biking excursions through France (although his company has tours throughout Europe, California, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile as well) and why you shouldn’t think of them as fitness camps.
Out of all your French bike tours, are there any standouts in terms of scenery?
Well, that really depends on what you want. They all have pretty spectacular, though very different, scenery. Provence has a special atmosphere with its lavender, its cyprus trees and its markets; Burgundy is all about cobblestone villages, Pinot Noir and really great cuisine (which can be heavy at times); Bordeaux, of course, has some of the world’s finest vineyards, while the Loire is known for its castles. There’s also a very different vibe to each region. Provence as a Mediterranean region is a bit more sleek and chic while Burgundy is more old school, with lots of little old ladies in flowered dresses. Wherever you decide to travel, the air will be fresh; the cafés will have perfect croissants, and you won’t see a Wal-Mart anywhere.
What types of special experiences make your bike tours so exceptional?
In every region, we try to have a lot of interaction with locals, with the people who really make a trip authentic. For instance, in Ireland we arrange private whiskey tastings; in Switzerland we visit local farmers markets and interact with the sellers and in France we do a lot of wine tasting with prominent winemakers. Specifically, in Burgundy we tour the cellar of a ninety-year-old countess who happens to be one of the region’s first female winemakers, while in Provence we visit a privately-owned olive oil domain and do a tasting there, pairing the oils with really fantastic wines.
Before a trip even begins though, we put our bikers in touch with a personal travel coordinator—someone to answer, but more specifically to ask, the right questions. We can then construct a more ideal vacation, arranging meals and activities such as hot air balloons or private cooking classes based upon one’s personal interests and expectations. We also take into consideration whether or not people are celebrating anything—romantic, private dining experiences are always nice for honeymooners or people on their anniversary.
What trips are best for families? Do you arrange any special activities for children?
We have a lot of set departures for Switzerland, Ireland, Tuscany and Provence, that are geared specifically for families but we also arrange custom trips that mesh with a child’s specific interests and needs. More often than not though, we find that the kids just want to bike and the adults just really want to travel with their kids. When you’re surrounded by, say, Loire Valley castles, there’s really no need to go to an amusement park. A lot of the adults like to have their children accompany them to the wineries to learn about wine.
Still there is a little bit of tweaking involved: we make sure that our guides for these trips are very entertaining; we provide a few more dining options (foie gras doesn’t go over well with kids) and we can arrange special “cooler” activities, like painting classes, hiking that involves chair lifts (in Switzerland) and, as was the case with one of your members, kayaking under the Ponte Grad (an old Roman aqueduct).
What trips would be best for a novice biker? What about an advanced one?
All of our trips have the same mileage (averaging about thirty to forty-five miles/day) but there is always an option to do more or less depending on how you feel. Provence and Tuscany tend to be harder trips simply because they’re hillier destinations but as on all our trips, there is always a van which can pick you up should you grow weary.
What can people expect in terms of dining? What are some of your favorite spots?
We try to mix it up between high cuisine and authentic, family-style dining. In terms of the bigger (and Michelin-starred) restaurants I really like Le Charlemagne (Le Route des Vereglesses, Pernand-Verglesses; 011-38-021-5145) which is located in the Cote Beaune Vineyards of Burgundy while in Provence, my picks would be Chez Bru (Rue de la République; Eygalières; 011-33-490-906-034) and Le Vieux Castillon (Rue Turion-Sabatier, Castillon-do-Gard; 011-33-466-376-161), which is also a hotel.
What are some of your favorite vineyards?
In Burgundy I like Santenots and Puligny-Montrachet. In Bordeaux, St. Emilion Cheval Blanc (www.chateau-cheval-blanc.com).
Out of all the hotels and chateaux you use on your trips, do you have any favorites?
Hameau des Baux (www.hameaudesbaux.com) is definitely a winner. Another one is Le Mas de la Rose (www.mas-rose.com), located near the village of Eygalières. Both are just really beautiful, really country-chic places that capture what Provence is all about.
What are your yoga bike tours?
They are just like our regular bike tours, only one of the guides is a yoga instructor and there is the option to do yoga in both the mornings and afternoons. These trips essentially blend everything in life that you should be experiencing/doing—i.e.) meditating, exercising, staying in nice hotels, eating good food, and drinking good wine. As a general rule of thumb though, there tends to be a bit more meditation and a little less of the wine stuff on these trips.
Do people tend to lose weight on your trips?
Our concept (and motto if we were to have one) is all about eating, drinking, sleeping and biking. We want people to eat (and there are some really fantastic chocolates and cheeses to eat in France) and experience. So while some people might lose weight, we’re not a fitness camp or some sort of Tour de France vacation. . .we’re more of a Tour de Life.
All trips are 6 days in length.
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