Outdoor Adventures: 2008
A good European trip includes more than a series of castles and museums. Europeans are into outdoor adventure, and many American travelers are finding fun ways to get wet, windblown and out of breath too. Any tips on outdoor thrills for mild-mannered back door tourists not packing ice axes? Share your favorite outdoor activity.
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Horseback Riding in western Ireland; Galloping by the sea
Adventure of a lifetime for avid horseback riders: Horse Holiday Farm in Sligo county. My sister and I searched the internet for unguided horse tours in Ireland, and Horse Holiday Farm seemed like the best choice. We flew into Dublin last June and took the train clear across the beautiful countryside to Sligo, then stayed the night and took a taxi the next morning to the farm. Tillman and Collette, the owners, were extremely warm and inviting. For the next four days, my sister and I followed a marked trail WITHOUT A GUIDE around the county and the Ben Bulben area. I added the emphiasis because it was absolutely amazing to be able to ride at your own pace, to decide when and when not to stop, etc. Although the tour was unguided, we met up with and quickly befriended two women, one from Germany who was 23 and a woman from south Ireland who was 30. At the end of each day, we boarded the horses and spent the night at a different bed and breakfast along the trail. The trails took us along stone fences dotted with sheep, through thick forests that the light barely penetrated, and along many, many beaches. The beaches were the best part; the horses were extremely anxious to gallop at breakneck speed...it was an exhilerating experience.
The tour is wonderful for riders of all skill levels, but I would recommend some experience in basic horse handling first. The horses are gentle, but they are trail horses and therefore tend to be headstrong at times. Also, when you are being matched up with a horse, and Tillman asks you what size of a horse you want...beware! If you request a large one...well, ask and you shall recieve! I was afraid of getting a pony if I asked for 'small,' so when I asked for large I'm pretty sure he gave me the tallest horse of the lot! But he was well behaved... The tour is sort of pricy (by the time you convert pounds to dollars) and our four day trip was $800.00, which included all of the lodging, tack, horse, and transportation. You will also need travel insurance. The thing that really struck me about the farm was there incredible trust in people. I mean, this was an unguided tour...yet, we weren't asked to sign a liability waver, we weren't required to show proof of travel insurance, we weren't even asked to show them ID! I have to admit I greatly admitted this trust and I hope no one takes advantage of it in the future.
All in all, it is perfect for people who are looking for adventure travel but would rather stick closer to civilization. Also, it is excellent for people who want flexiblity on their tour. Awesome!
Fairfield, ND USA Sun 12/14/2008
Biking under the Tuscan Sun
I first heard about www.tuscany-biketours.com on this web site. We took one of their tours October 3rd and it was great. We had Mary and Erin as our tour guides and there were about 10 of us. You meet in Florence and are driven out to a castle where you take a tour and do some wine tasting. Then they fit you for your bike and your are off! The price includes a fabulous lunch at a local restaurant and a free water bottle you can take with you. It was my dream to ride in the tuscany area and doing it with a group was a lot of fun. Spending the day with everyone and getting to know our guides made for a memorable experience. I would recommend it to anyone. I personally think that you see and experience so much more from a bicycle than you do a car. The scenery was fantastic. It took a whole day, but it was worth every minute. (We left Florence about 10:30 and returned about 5:00) Check out their web site and consider joining them for an experience you can't have just anywhere. I had to talk my husband into it (spending the money-he loves to bike) but he thought it was worth every penny.
Everett, WA USA Sat 10/18/2008
I planned my European tour almost a year ago and contacted Aziz, Rick's recommendation for a tour guide in Tangier. He replied and said he would be our tour guide and told us he would meet us at our ship with a sign. Well, he didn't. He sent a substitute instead named Abdul. Luckily it worked out because he was very well informed and gave us a wonderful tour, but beware that you may not get Aziz, the guide that you book.
Port Orangeq, Florid USA Sat 09/13/2008
Hiking Mt. Rigi
I had a GREAT time hiking Rigi outside of Luzern this summer... It is VERY steep but the beautiful views more than make up for it! In the summer everyone wears shorts... Take lots of water!! Maps are available just about everywhere, and there are lots of different villages to hike from.
Corpus Christi, TX USA Wed 08/27/2008
The Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, north of Torino is beautiful! We rented a car to drive up there from Lucca (about 4.5 hours), and camped near the village of Ceresole Reale. There are hiking trails up mountains, wind-surfing on the lakes, beautiful views of the southern Alps, and no American tourists (but many German and French ones). It was a wonderful weekend, and we all would have liked to stay longer if we didn't have rehearsals on Monday. Just be aware that it gets cold. It may be 90 F in Tuscany, but the warmest it was during the day was 75 F, and was COLD at night. Be prepared with blankets and jackets.
Cincinnati, OH USA Fri 07/18/2008
Hadrian's Wall Trail.
In late-May and early-June of this year I hiked the 84-mile Hadrian's Wall Trail. It was a great adventure and I have compiled my travel journal into a website.
Seattle, WA USA Fri 07/18/2008
Night Sledding in the Alps
There are night sledding tours available in Interlaken which offer a fun filled night of sledding, fondue & hot drinks. Beware that if the weather is bad they may "call it" and not tell you. We were fortunate, they refunded our money. We found them at www.interlaken.ch. Happy sledding!
Ft. Walton Beach, FL USA Fri 07/11/2008
Sea Adventure in Cinque Terre
A group of 3 families with kids ranging from 15 to 23 were looking for something fun to do in Monterosso. We had a group of 14 that had a wonderful day on the Mediterranean along the coast of the villages of Cinque Terre. We were taken on a tour of the coastline by Angelo's Tours. Angelo and his wife Paula (who is from San Francisco) gave us an amazing day of sightseeing, history, snorkeling in a beautiful cove, exploring caves, and swimming followed by an incredible culinary masterpiece of a feast all prepared from scratch by Paula. There was a wide variety of Italian delicacies and courses including mussels, olives, marinated anchovies and other sea foods followed by a barbecue of perfectly prepared hamburgers and fresh fish caught by local fishermen. We had more than enough water and sodas to keep us hydrated and plenty of beer and proseco to toast the beautiful weather and the pristine water. The whole experience was definitely worth the money and every one of us had a terrific time. Paula also gave us recommendations for restaurants that all turned out to be perfect! I would highly recommend spending a day with Angelo and Paula!! You can find them next to the tourist information booth near the docks on the main town side of the tunnel. Ask anyone in town about them and they'll give you directions!!
BERKELEY, CA USA Fri 07/04/2008
Breaking away bike tours
Breaking Away bike tours Although this is not a bus tour, I think this is the apropriate section. My husband and I just returned from three weeks in Italy. We were on our own until the last week of the trip, which we spent on a bicycle tour in Tuscany. This trip was incredible to say the least. There were 15 people plus the crew and it was the ideal size for this event. The routes were incredible and the accommodations were in great locations. This type of tour gave us a perspective of Tuscany that can only be experienced from a bike. Fresh smells of the countryside, riding over village cobblestone roads, interacting with local Italian cyclists. And at the end of a long, hard ride there is someone to take your bike for you so that all you have to do is eat. Then you can either ride more, or ride back to the hotel in vans. Every detail is considered here and the service was unmatched. If you are very active and enjoy cycling I highly recommend this tour. Be warned though, this is not the beginner's bike tour. It is intense and worth every penny. Check them out at http://www.breakingaway.com They also offer tours elsewhere in Italy, France and the US. We are considering the tour of Napa in April. :)
vancouver, wa USA Mon 06/30/2008
I Bike Tuscany (www.ibiketuscany.com) is a top notch, customized bike tour company operating out of Florence. The warm and witty (and English-proficient) Marco, an ex-pro cyclist, runs this highly personalized operation, providing a variety of single day and multi-day bicycle tours throughout Italy and Europe. My wife and daughter and I capped off our recent Italy trip with Marco's all-day Wine Tour of the Chianti region. Marco provided everything--bikes, helmets, water bottles (he even lent my daughter his sunglasses!) and most important, his amiable hosting abilities--as we explored an ancient hill town, then boarded bikes for a tour of three vineyards, up and down the breathtaking hills of the Chianti region of Tuscany. We ended with a quick look at the small town of Greve in Chiant. Marco followed in an SUV and never once did we feel our novice (compared to Marco!) biking skills were a shortcoming--and frankly, after the third vineyard, loaded with Chianti Classico, we were more than ready to hop in the van and enjoy the rest of the day motorized! A thoroughly enchanting day, capping a terrific week in Italia. I absolutely recommend Marco and I Bike Tuscany for single or multi-day bike tours in and around Florence.
Potomac, MD USA Sat 04/19/2008