When I first rode my bike across the border from Croatia into Montenegro, I had little idea of what to expect. The small country on the Adriatic Coast is just 18 miles south of the Backroads’ Trip Leader house in Močići, but as I descended towards the border city of Herceg Novi, something in the air changed.
Fall in Provence is a magical time. The weather is usually crisp and clear due to the mistral winds blowing hard from the northwest. The usually silver-green hills turn a vibrant reddish orange and the air smells of smoky olives as farmers burn the cuttings pruned from their crops.
As I pedaled along the riverside bike path on a clear and sunny day, I couldn’t let go of the feeling that something about this riding just felt different. I was leading our Rhine River Cruise biking trip last summer and the thought kept dancing in the corner of my mind, ever-present as the smile that wouldn’t leave my face. Finally, it dawned on me.
It isn’t just cool that we’re a group of chicks on bikes, it’s phenomenal that we’re a team of women riding vintage bicycles in a historically male-dominated Tuscan race. We’re five Backroads Trip Leaders who have each led trips in Tuscany, and we’ve been planning to partake in the famed L’Eroica vintage bicycling race together for almost a year. This is my second experience racing L’Eroica in Tuscany, and this time I feel like I belong.
Not a single complaint. Not even a sibling spat. Not while we're biking in sweltering 100-degree weather. And not while we're biking in a downpour. "I've never seen 30 people volunteer to bike in the rain, and smile about it," said my daughter, Reggie Foldes. Anyone who has traveled with kids knows it's rare--very rare--for such amiability on a family vacation. "We're usually arguing about everything, even where to eat," said Jenna Bronfman, 18. That's one reason why her parents and the other families had signed on for this Backroads trip for families with "Older Teens and 20-Somethings" in Europe. "Backroads takes all that stress away," explained Jenna's dad, Matt Bronfman, noting this is his family's fourth Backroads trip.
It’s often said that one of the best ways to explore a city is with your nose. Fortunately, Paris is no exception, as the city is burgeoning with intoxicating aromas wafting from bakeries, bistros and bars. From sweet to savory, creamy to crunchy, no matter what neighborhood you find yourself in, there’s a plethora of places to eat in Paris. And the best part is that many of the city’s tastiest meals are small, simple and inexpensive.
In May, my wife and I traveled to Tuscany & Umbria with Backroads. It was our 23rd trip with our favorite active travel company. A question often asked by fellow travelers is, what keeps you coming back? Simply put, Backroads is special. Backroads is family. Anyone can place you on a nice bike, take you to beautiful places and feed you good food. Backroads is an immersion experience in the sights, sounds, tastes, history and culture of a region. They do impeccable research for their cycling and hiking routes and their support is exceptional. Not only are Backroads leaders accomplished at their jobs, they are delightful, wonderful humans whom we have befriended on many occasions. Like minds are drawn to like experiences, so it’s not surprising that we have found some of our best friends on Backroads trips. Friends we still travel with, commune with, do life with.
At the end of a typical Backroads day, I find myself well fed, happily tired and awe-inspired by what I just experienced. I drafted this blog from a hotel balcony in Dinard, just across an estuary from St. Malo, reflecting on yet another one of those wonderful days. What particularly struck me about the day was how much my kids learned without even knowing the trip was actually educational. I’m sneaky that way.
I just returned from a biking trip through Brittany and Normandy and hiking trip in the Alps with extended family and was once again reminded of the ways a vacation like this brings families together.
Backroads has been offering family trips since before I had kids (and my oldest is now 22). Why did we start them? Well, Backroads is just such a naturally positive, amazing environment for families to have a great time together that it didn’t take us being rocket scientists to see their potential. Once my wife, Liz, and I had our own kids, the beauty of designated family trips became even more obvious.
In French, 'castles' translates to 'châteaux' and throughout the country there are many châteaux that embody the extravagance of French nobility from centuries past. The epicenter of this 16th to 18th-century lifestyle was the Loire Valley, located two hours southwest of Paris and the perfect setting for royal summer escapades.