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 Journeys
vacations I was sold --they offer biking and walking holidays around
the world. Tagging along after a guide is never my cup of tea. Thats
why their type of holiday is so cool. The trip includes bicycles,
detailed routes to each days destination, confirmed quaint
hotels, dinner and breakfast, daily transportation of your luggage
but no group and no guide. If you choose to be, youre on your
own. That's the way my girlfriend Beth and I chose to go.
out the hard way...
of choice was a week long bike tour in Frances 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
Day one was a long travel
day by train from Paris to Sauvigny de Beaune.
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.
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
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. We
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.
on the way to Semur en Auxois everything suddenly changed.
Beths 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. Dont even think of
leaving home without it.
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 days destination
by the local taxi that transports the bikers luggage.
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
(theres that word again), in the village of Vezelay,
we stayed at Hotel de la Poste et du Lion DOr.
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
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. 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.
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 Id 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, isnt a bit difficult at all!
not to forget ...
- padded bicycle shorts
- your own padded bike seat or gel seat
- biking gloves
- water bottle
- medical travel insurance
- French dictionary
Journeys Walking, hiking, bicycling and sea-kayaking
tours worldwide. Explore the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe,
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trails or kayak among the whales, we have the largest selection
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all the support, or join our small group holidays.
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Web site: www.activejourneys.com.