October 2010 Newsletter
“What the heck is a bamboosero?” That is the question I asked as well when I first heard about this new bicycle initiative. In short, they are bikes with bamboo frames. However, these new bikes offer much more than just a means of transportation.
Craig Calfee knows a few things about building bikes. He has built them for Greg Lemond and other renowned professional racers. Calfee put his knowledge of bikes towards a more philanthropic use. His idea was simple: connect bike builders in developing countries with bike buyers around the world. This is a win-win for everyone because you not only get a bike, but it also helps working families support themselves, injects badly needed foreign currency into struggling economies, and creates the production capacity for an incredibly efficient local transport.
Why bikes? Well we all know this answer – bikes are reliable, efficient, eco-friendly and enjoyable. Why bamboo, though? It is sustainable, strong and long lasting. Bamboo is also flexible, so it absorbs road shocks. It is found in the countries where the bikes are being built so there is no transportation cost, and it does not need electric tools to be worked on.
Building these bikes creates lasting jobs for struggling families in third world countries. Ghana, Zambia, Philippines, Uganda, and New Zealand are currently making and selling these bikes. Many other countries are in the process setting up their operations. Check out their sight if you’re interested http://www.bamboosero.com/index.html.
This isn’t the only company taking part in this new initiative. Zambikes, in Zambia, was started by two California men and two Zambians. http://www.new.zambikes.org/ There is also The Bamboo Bike Studio in Brooklyn, NY with another opening in San Francisco at the end of the year. Here you can build your own bamboo bike. http://bamboobikestudio.com/index.html
Bikes – what a great invention!! With active and creative minds, these remarkable things are serving as more than just a way to get around.
5 Reasons to Cycle Burgundy
With its charming countryside, peaceful atmosphere and pure country air, the French region of Burgundy is the ideal destination for those seeking to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Particularly known for the plentiful wine and culinary delights, tourists come to Burgundy when they want to get away from it all. The friendly people and laid back atmosphere make for the perfect relaxation getaway, and the beautiful natural landscape is the perfect backdrop for leisurely bicycle rides. Here are five reasons why Burgundy is the place to cycle.
Wine and Gastronomy – Burgundy is home to France’s main wine producing areas, and its products are known and enjoyed worldwide. Names like Beaune, Nuits-St-Georges, Chablis, Meursault and Gevrey-Chambertin all hail from this region, where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are grown extensively. In addition to the famous wine selection, Burgundy offers visitors a taste of delectable local foods, from traditional to gourmet. Dishes such as coq au vin, beef bourguinon and Epoisses de Bourgogne cheese are rich, flavorful and offer an unforgettable culinary experience.
Town of Dijon – visitors to Burgundy would be remiss not to pass through its historical capital, Dijon (perhaps you’ve heard of its famous mustard). With its rich history dating back to Roman times, it has evolved into a friendly town that offers a wide variety of food, culture, shopping and nightlife – something for everyone.
Château de Ancy-le-Franc – this incredible work of architecture was once described by The Marquise de Sévigné as a French building ‘in Italian dress’. A must-see for any visitor to Burgundy, the château is perfectly symmetrical and surrounds a beautiful central courtyard. The interior boasts lofty carved ceilings, Italian tiled floors and endless decorative details. It is also home to the finest collection of mural paintings in all of France.
Beaune – a wine lover’s haven, the town of Beaune is the capital of the Burgundy wine region. It’s described as majestic, with its cobbled streets and copious boutiques. Beaune is known for its charitable institution once used to hospitalize the poor and needy. The Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu, houses countless decorative carvings and surrounds a beautiful courtyard. The present day museum is host to the annual charity wine auction. This area is the perfect atmosphere for leisurely bike rides, and visitors to Beaune will experience a brush with medieval history they won’t soon forget.
Musée du Châtillonnais – located in northeast Burgundy, this contemporary museum is home to some incredible ancient artifacts. One of the most popular pieces is a 5 foot tall bronze vase that was part of the Treasure of Vix. The largest piece ever located from the Celtic period, it is in flawless condition and is the center piece of the museum, which is presently located in the Abbaye de Notre Dame at Châtillon-sur-Seine.
France certainly has its share of beautiful places to visit, but perhaps none is as serene and inviting as Burgundy. If leisure and relaxation are what you are seeking, and you enjoy casually strolling or cycling through beautiful pastures while enjoying fine wine and delicious food, then Burgundy should be first on your travel itinerary.
We wanted to remind you the benefits of self-guided touring with this press release we once sent out. If you have already been on a self-guided tour it is kind of hard to forget the upsides of this kind of travel because odds are you had an amazing time. If you haven’t I suggest your try it out for your next trip and see what all the hype is about. I can honestly tell you you won’t be disappointed.
FRANCE—What inside travel secret have the Europeans known for so long that seems to have escaped North America travelers? It’s the understanding and utilization of self-guided touring.
“Self guided travel is a growing trend due to the flexibility it presents and the extraordinary price that accompanies it,” states Discover France founder Loren Siekman. “It applies primarily to bicycling as well as walking tours, but certainly to many other activities as well. Because it offers support as well as independence, guests don’t have to put forth any effort in order to generate a relaxing and memorable vacation.”
The differences between group travel and self-guided travel are quite vast. With the most obvious being that with group travel there is a fixed date that vacationers must fit into their schedule, as opposed to being able to choose departure dates and trip duration with a self-guided trip. In addition group travel tosses guests into a pool of fellow travelers that will not be known in advance, and of course there is a colossal difference in price.
Self guided biking and walking can be characterized by the following benefits:
Flexibility – Durations can be modified to meet a client’s needs, hotels are available for many budgets and there is no minimum participation, eliminating the threat of cancellation by the operator.
Affordability – Prices are amazing by comparison to the group guided option, yet worth the extra it might cost over doing it all yourself in a self-contained concept.
Support – Most operators offering the self-guided programs also provide baggage transfers, emergency support, orientations, transfers, and add on services. Often, these support services are extremely beneficial because they are founded on expert knowledge of the region, and therefore a very reliable source for finding and offering unique properties, routes, and visits.
Individuality – Many of the tours follow themes, and are created with a unique vacation experience in mind. Off the beaten path routes are well chosen and naturally provide for a lot of interaction with the locals and their culture.
As with all other types of travel, there are a number of questions guests need to ask themselves before deciding if self-guided travel is right for them. It’s an individual case each time, and the team at Discover France will be glad to help travelers make a decision.
Guests should first ask themselves if they are fit enough to accomplish the requirements of the trip they are contemplating. Cycling or walking tours always require some minimum level of fitness; however, on a self-guided trip local support contacts would have to be notified in the event that a participant can’t finish the stage.
Secondly, travelers need to know if they can get by in a vernacular that is not their primary language. This doesn’t mean they have to speak a second language, just simply get by. For example, will phrasebook pronunciations and charades be enough? If this causes panic to the traveler, it may not be an ideal fit. On the other hand, many good experiences result from these types of cultural encounters.
Finally, guests will need to be able to read a map and follow road signs. This is generally an easy task, but if travelers are not comfortable with the interpretations, it again may not be an ideal vacation plan. Nearly all self-guided trips will have this little “adventure” built into it, so guests should count on it with any tour.
The routes, the organization and logistics, as well as the services that accompany self-guided travel have been in place and operating in Europe for many years. The team at Discover France is hopeful that North American travelers will now make an informed decision to join the many who have gone before, and continue to go self-guided touring year after year.
What the hell is the Ile de France? Well, it is a funny name, translated as the Island of France. Unless you’re a Francophile, you wouldn’t know that this is the official geopolitical region that encompasses Paris. By virtue of its containment of Paris, the region is the most visited region in France. Problem is, very few of those visitors leave Paris and its famous suburbs such as Versailles.
So, if you are into some hiking and cycling while visiting Paris you will definitely want to know that this region outside the city is fantastic for both! First, you can get outside of Paris very easy by RER train or SNCF Banlieu trains from any station serving the other provinces of France. Here are some of my suggestions based on personal experience:
Foret de Saint Germain en Laye – can be reached by RER or SNCF train. RER is easier, and there is a stop right at the edge of this huge park. It may be called a forest, and it is, but it is a carefully managed with straight rows of trees. No matter, the point is that there are many many trails great for hiking, running, or mountain biking. Now, you can take a bike on the RER train, just avoid the rush hours in Paris. Where can you get a bike in Paris – many places. Try “Paris a Velo”, or Roue Libre.
Road cycling in the region around Cergy-Pointoise: you can ride to places like Auvers dur Oise – famous Van Gogh painting and hangout – as well as Isle l’Adam and many, many more villages in the department. Here, I suggest you contact the tourist office for Ile de France for some free brochures and suggested cycling routes. Try Ile de France
Hiking/walking: numerous options. Of course, walking in Paris is about as good as it gets anywhere for urban walking scenery! If you have anything left and want to walk around; check out the castle of Chantilly and the medieval village of Senlis. There are some walking paths between the two which can both be reached by SNCF trains from Gare du Nord. Again, see free maps and brochures from Ile de France or even Paris tourist office.
Some closer options within the city include: Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne. Check with the office of tourism for suggestions as these parks are huge and also, you should confine your walking in these large parks to daylight hours.
Other very charming places to see: I suggest for you independent types for cycling to find your way around this area: Marne area between Meaux, Disney, all the way down to Provins. Wonderful green rolling countryside with lots of small little farm roads that are great for cycling. Go down to FNAC and get yourself a good IGN map of the Marne area east of Paris and pick your way around – its beautiful here!