Posts Tagged ‘europe travel’

Ride & Seek Expeditions: Venture Like Hannibal and Napoleon

Ride & Seek

Ride & Seek

We just caught wind of a great tour company called, Ride and Seek, out of Australia offering two of the most amazing bike tours we’re ever seen.

The Hannibal Expedition is 29 days and 2,592 km of biking from Barcelona to Rome. The expedition takes riders over the Pyrenees, Alps and Apennines and challenges them on routes that feature regularly in the Vuelta a Espana, Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.

Cycling on some of Europe’s most iconic and picturesque bike touring routes through Spain, France and Italy; the Hannibal expedition has it all. A modern day tour gives riders the chance to take up Hannibal’s trail in Barcelona, Sommieres, Costiglione Saluzzo or Garfagnana and ride 1, 2, 3 or 4 stages of this epic expedition.

Because you need fuel

Because you need fuel

The trail passes through some of the most beautiful cycling areas in Europe – Catalonia, Languedoc, Provence, Piedmont, Tuscany and Umbria among others. It takes riders over the Pyrenees, Alps and Apennines as they challenge themselves on routes that feature regularly in the Vuelta, Tour and Giro. You’ll also sample the culinary delights on offer as you meander your way down the road less travelled by modern day tourists, but once travelled by the Carthaginian general Hannibal.

Conceptualized by Sam Wood, archaeologist and BBC documentary filmmaker – ‘On Hannibal’s Trail‘ – and Dylan Reynolds, a bike guide who has lived in all 3 of the countries we travel through, the Hannibal Expedition is one of the world’s great bike journeys.

The Inaugural Napoleon Expedition is 45-days and 3,852 km of cycling from Paris to Moscow! It is happening for the first time in July 2015.

The expedition takes riders from West to East on the trail of one of history’s most famous conquerers.

This ride is of historical proportions in the footsteps of Napoleon divided into 6 stages. The Napoleon tour is an exploratory epic ranging the length of Europe into the heart of Russia following in the footsteps of Napoleon’s near 700,000 strong Grande Armée.

Ride like a Warrior

Ride like a Warrior

You’ll ride across the Champagne region of France into the picturesque castle clad green hills of southern Germany. The route then takes riders through UNESCO protected medieval villages in Poland to the North Sea. From here, you strike east via the great lakes of Poland and The Baltics. You’ll arrive in St Petersburg, a city Napoleon never took, but a must on a Russian odyssey. Then south to Moscow on the all Russian final stage!

Experience total immersion into the landscape, history and culture of the places visited as you ride this inspirational trail.

The 2015 Expedition will also be joined in part by a film crew documenting the journey.

Provence Cooking School

Hotel Crillon de Brave - Provence

A lot of things are eco-friendly, but we think some of the best eco-friendly activities is grabbing some locally harvested, farm fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat and whipping them up into something special. What’s even better than that? Doing it in Provence, of course!

Nestled in the heart of Provence, the refined-rustic Hotel Crillon le Brave is offering an all-inclusive package of a five-day (six-night) cooking program, that combines the spectacular culture and cuisine of the region.

Led by new Head Chef, John Ellis, guests learn to cook authentic Provençal fare and embark on excursions through the local area, including meetings with local purveyors and wine tastings. After the chef hat comes off, guests can relax with a treatment at the hotel’s open-air spa, tour the historic village on complimentary bikes, or play on the tennis and boules courts.

Package Details

When:  October 9 – 15 and October 23 – 29


Organic Asparagus


  • Six nights of accommodations
  • All meals (including wine), as well as cocktails upon arrival
  • Four intensive half-day cooking classes, with recipes for four complete menus to take home
  • Local explorations including truffle hunting near Mont Ventoux, wine tasting at Chateau Pesquié, and cheese sampling with Madame Vigier, a maître fromager
  • Tour of Carpentras Market, which has been in existence since 1155 and is known for being one of the best in France
  • Transportation and entry fees for all excursions included


  • €2900 per person based on double occupancy; €700 single supplement fee
  • For “non-cooking” companion, the cost is €1900 if sharing a room with a “cook”. “Non-cooks” may participate in all events and meals outside of the cooking classes.

*Space is limited to eight participants per group.

To make a reservation, call +33 (0)4 90 65 61 61 or email

Next Up: Truffle & Wine weekends! Join a hunting excursion with an expert truffle hunter and see how dogs sniff for the black diamonds,sip local wines, and visit Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Provençe’s antique capital. Stay tuned for dates and details!

Discovery and Gap… Adventures?!

Turkey, Istanbul - Blue Mosque

We’ll admit it. We’re a little obsessed with the Discovery Channel. We worked with them back in the day and always had the best things to say. Which is why, when we heard about Discovery Adventures (an adventure tour operator developed – get this – in partnership with Gap Adventures), we thought that sounded like a nice,sexy Safari-meets-sweet style combination.

They’ve also just announced brand spankin new trips to: Japan, Kenya, Greece, Italy, France, Turkey and Indochina for 2011, where they’ll take you to all the cool places you want to see in the world. And here’s the best part, you’ll get the same experiences as to what you’ve seen on Discovery Channel, gaining insider access into local culture around the globe.

On the Mekong River, Vietnam

Bottom line: two new tours for 2011 offer exclusive access only available through Discovery Adventures. On the Classic Japan tour, travelers get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a Geisha – featuring a personalized tour through the Geisha district by a real Geisha, and an invitation to a traditional Geisha gathering and sake ceremony. On the Kenya Wildlife Safari, travelers get the rare experience to interact up-close with Baraka, a rare Black Rhino.

For more pricing and itineraries,get on it:

Tour de France: Bike Like a Champ

Pavillon de la Reine

With Tour de France competitors recently whizzing through Provence and on to Paris, France is undoubtedly the European destination for cyclists.

Pedaling in the shoes of those wiry gods may seem daunting to us mere mortals, but we can’t deny that watching them slog up hill and down dale is a sight to behold!

Here are some options for those wishing to get up close and personal with the Tour de France, no training necessary.


A trip to the summit of Mount Ventoux is a must. Considered one of the toughest climbs of the Tour de France, it is only included in the route every two years. This year, the cyclists catch a break and bypass the mountain but fans won’t miss out as the route doesn’t deviate too much, with the Sisteron – Bourg-les-Valences leg passing nearby.

Where to stay:

Hotel Crillon Le Brave, Provence

Hotel Crillon Le Brave

Overlooking vineyards and olive groves, this refined-rustic hotel offers expansive views of Mount Ventoux and is only a 90 minute drive from the Start and Finish lines of the Sisteron – Bourg-les-Valences leg. The five star 32-bedroom property consists of seven beautifully restored stone houses, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, that are linked by bridges, cobblestone walkways and hidden courtyards.  A mini-spa, heated swimming pool, authentic cuisine and nearby tennis court round out the hotel’s amenities.

Ø  Cycling enthusiast bonus: Guests can embark on their own excursion through the historic village with the hotel’s complimentary bicycles. BYO yellow t-shirt.


The Champs Elysees is a world-class finish line in so many ways… Not only will Tour de Francers finally see the last of the checkered flags here, but it is of course the be-all and end-all when it comes to shopping and dining in the highest of style!

Where to stay:

Pavillon de la Reine

The recently renovated ivy-clad 54-room hotel was originally built in the 1600s as part of the Place Royal by King Henry IV. Discreetly luxurious, Pavillon de la Reine is the only hotel on the historic Place des Vosgesin the Marais district.  The interiors are a brilliant combination of antiques and sleek contemporary design – cozy but stylish; sophisticated but comfortable.

Ø  Cycling enthusiast bonus: The hotel’s unparelled concierge service can arrange cycling tours around Paris.

Pavillon des Lettres (website launching this month)

Opening this fall, the boutique luxury hotel combines arts, literature and fine design. Each of the 26 rooms represent a letter of the alphabet and an international writer corresponding to that letter. Think H for Hugo and B for Balzac. Text from the corresponding author’s book will be painted above the bed and a hard copy of the book can be found on the nightstand, next tot the Ipad which will be loaded with international bestsellers.

Ø  Cycling enthusiast bonus: Located in the 8th arrondissement, the hotel is only 10 minutes away from the Tour de France finish line.

St. Tropez

The mountain passes, the peloton crashes and yellow lycra galore… Oh la la! For those who had enough of the crowds, why not skip the hubbub of the Paris finish line and head south for some R&R instead.

Where to stay:

La Reserve Ramatuelle, St. Tropez

La Réserve Ramatuelle

The spa at La Réserve Ramatuelle – a hillside retreat outside of St. Tropez – offers the ultimate in relaxation. Sometimes the rigor of being a sports enthusiast can be almost as draining as the real thing, so rinse off under a divine jet shower and try a revitalizing La Réserve massage, or a soothing body wrap to recover from the sideline stress. After a day in the spa, watch the sun set over the sea while enjoying a plate of delicious, diet-friendly, Mediterranean cuisine.

Ø  Cycling enthusiast bonus: Return home looking like you might have cycled the race yourself after completing La Réserve’s Six Day Program, which focuses on weightloss, sculpting, and revitalizing the body through spa treatments and light activity, such as yoga. Or, guests can choose from a menu of à la carte Crème de la Mer beauty treatments.

Provence’s Eco-Retreat

Eco House Provence - Aups, France

Off-the-grid and out-of-sight, this little eco-gem perched on a hillside above the medieval village of Aups in Provence, France is one we may not have uncovered had our buddy not been working with the owner!

With incredible views of the the Cote d’Azur, it’s a private retreat for the discrete, reached by an unpaved road and surrounded by 14 acres of forest and a terraced garden of lavender, rosemary, and olive trees.

When we say, “This is what we mean by unplugging and unwinding,” we mean it.

The home/villa/eco-paradise sleeps at least 6 people and consists of two separate buildings. The main house: an old farm that sleeps 4 people in 2 double bedrooms, and a third double bedroom – get this – within a 13th Century chapel (Chapelle St Marc, for all you Francophiles). There’s also a wooden cabin containing a single bed and blow-up mattresses, as well as surf boards, basic gym equipment, and other beach gear.

Another view of the Provence eco-retreat

The best part?

The property is off-grid with energy generated through solar panels and a wind turbine.

Energy is then stored in batteries which provide each of the buildings with a regular, uninterrupted electricity supply. Water is also from the property’s own well (pumped from the ground via a petrol generator).

But don’t let the rustic roots fool you. The house includes a fully equipped kitchen, hot water showers, open fireplaces, and modern amenities like: a DVD player with wide selection of films, an iPOD docking station, a CD player with a music selection, and Wi-Fi (because some of us still can’t be without Facebook for too long).

A bedroom

The Provencal village of Aups, full of fountains and squares shaded by huge palm trees, numerous cafes, restaurants, and shops, is only a 15-minute walk from the house.

Only 15 minutes’ drive north of Aups is the remarkable Gorges de Verdun, Europe’s Grand Canyon, and the stunning Lac St Croix with its countless beaches and clear water where you can swim, sail, kayak and windsurf. The owner also adds: “Kayaking down the gorge on a hot summer’s day is an unbeatable experience.” We believe him.  The beaches of the Mediterranean are just over an hour away (longer in the summer high season), with St. Tropez about 60km.

The village of Aups

Equidistant from 3 different airports- Nice, Marseille, and Toulon– where it takes about 90 minutes max to drive to the house, you can also take the TGV from Paris to Les Arcs which is only 30 minutes drive from the house.

Rates from £500-£700 per week, depending on month and availability.

To see more photos and to rent this eco-adventurer retreat click here.

For more information, contact James Greenshields:

To find out more about the village of Aups and the surrounding area click here.

Europe’s Best Oceanfront Camping

This week we came across some of the top European scenic camping picks from The UK’s Observer. After all, not everything has to be five star digs and a butler when you’re becoming one with nature. Extracted from Cool Camping Europe (£18.95) and Cool Camping France (£14.95), this book is a veritable wealth of information if gorgeous views and camping among exotic locales is your thing.

By Keith Didcock

Les Romarins, Cote d’Azur – France

This is as dramatic a campsite as you’ll find anywhere in France, and not one for those who don’t like heights. A few kilometres up from the village of Eze, you can pitch under olive and rosemary trees in a hillside setting on the French Riviera between Monaco and Nice. With fabulous views across the sea from the steeply raking site, Les Romarins is the perfect place to live the high life without breaking the bank.

• +33 4 9301 8164;; from €17 to €20 for two people, tent and car plus €5.50 to €7 for each extra person and €3 to €4 for under-fives.

Cala Llevado, Costa Brava – Spain

Set among ragged cliffs in Spain’s Costa Brava, four beaches run along the stunning coastline. With everything from hidden camps to coves, there’s large bay, but keep in mind, some campsites are removed while others are on top of one of the beaches, giving you a bird’s eye view.

• +34 9 7234 0314;; from €16.50 to €27 for a person, tent and car plus €5.50 to €9 for each extra person and €3 to €5 per child.

Costiolu, Sardinia – Italy

This is a working organic farm – un’azienda biologica- in the island’s hilly heart. There aren’t beaches right on your doorstep, but the gorgeous waters of the Costa Smeralda are within striking distance. Run by the colourful Giovanni, the farm is a proper retreat from the trappings of modern life. Sardinia’s cultural capital, Nuoro, is visible from the azienda but the land around is mainly olive groves, fields of cereal and grazing land full of goats. To top it all, Giovanni does the cooking, too.

• +39 0784 260088; email:; from €15 a night for two people, tent and car. Dinner €25 a head.

Mala Milna, Hvar – Croatia

Hvar is Croatia’s answer to the French Riviera, with exclusive beaches, designer hotels, cafes, bars and boutiques, so if you’ve brought your glad-rags you can always rub shoulders with the moneyed glamour on this island for an evening or two. Thankfully, you won’t be disturbed by Dalmatian WAGs and their designer poodles at Mala Milna, though, as it’s the budget option. There are two pebble beaches (the Croatian coast is notoriously rocky) on either side of the site and the coast is dotted with paths and ancient villages alike, so there’s everything you need.

• +38 521 643531;; about 140kn (£16) for two people, tent and car

Nicolas, Peleponnese – Greece

This southern region is the epitome of ancient Greece, a fancy mix of ruins, myths and classic tales. Nicolas campsite is a 10-minute stroll from the town of Tiryns, which hosts an annual classic Greek theatre festival, staged in its two ancient amphitheatres. So you might be sharing the site with actors rehearsing their lines between mouthfuls of moussaka. The camp is set in a former orange and mulberry grove with pitches in the hollows and under the canopy of the flowering trees and it’s all just a ripe orange’s throw from the waters of the bay.

• +30 275 304 1218;; from €16 to €20 for a tent and two people.

Botanical Flower Painting Classes

For all of you established and aspiring artistes… this just in!

Orient-Express Hotels has announced two new 2010 programs for its popular Botanical and Flower Painting Classes at Reid’s Palace, on the island of Madeira, Portugal, and The Inn at Perry Cabin on Maryland’s eastern shore, both well-known for their lush gardens and beautiful surrounding scenery.

The Botanical and Flower Painting Class at Reid’s Palace (April 27 – May 1, 2010), will be taught by Siriol Sherlock, who has mastered the skill of watercolor to perfection, creating superb plant portraits that are both fluid and accurate.

Reid’s Palace has also launched a Designing with Plants Master Class (April 21-24, 2010) where guests can learn how to create imaginative garden borders by combining plants for structure, form and color.  The aim of the four-day master class is to help participants create and draw an individual planting plan with memorable, lasting groupings suited to personal preferences and location.

Epitomizing the spirit of travel, from the heyday of luxury, style and adventure, Reid’s Palace first opened in 1891 by William and Alfred Reid to accommodate passengers of the great ocean liners. Now, it stands for contemporary luxury and elegance perched on a cliff-top amid 10 acres of semi-tropical gardens on the exotic, temperate island of Madeira.

The price is €560 (approx. USD$843.00*) per person (excluding accommodations), and includes painting classes for five days, airport transfers, breakfast and lunch daily, a farewell dinner, a visit to the Arcos St. Jorge Rose Garden, a levada walk and a morning tour to Monte Gardens with cable car ride.

Accommodations start from €240 (approx. USD$361.00*)/per room per night.

The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Maryland, will also be hosting a Botanical & Flower Painting Class (May 9-15, 2010), which will be led by Carol Woodin, one of the most renowned botanical artists working in the United States. Carol specializes in painting orchids and has won major awards both in the U.S. and the UK.

The Inn at Perry Cabin is an elegant circa 1816 waterfront property located on 25 acres overlooking the Miles River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.  The hotel is a short stroll from the history-steeped town of St. Michaels, Maryland and an easy one hour drive from either Baltimore or Washington, DC.  It has 80 guest rooms, each individually decorated in either a traditional style indicative of the historic section of the Inn, or in a style that evokes the contemporary Maryland seaside with a mixture of modern and period furniture and a palate of taupes, soft blues and ivories.

The price of the Inn’s Botanical & Flower Painting Class starts from USD$3,622.00, which includes six night’s accommodation, painting classes, a welcome cocktail and dinner with Carol Woodin, breakfast and lunch daily, one Botanical Complex Facial in the Linden Spa, afternoon tea, a ticket to Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, an evening sunset cruise and a farewell dinner.

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