Meet VBT Featured Traveler: Marjorie D.

peru hiking
Marjorie D. embodies all that we love about our travelers. Her passion for meeting new people, exploring new destinations and sharing her travel experiences with those closest to her make us feel so fortunate that she is one of our most prolific travelers. She has been all over the world with VBT to amazing destinations like Italy, South Africa, Poland, Slovakia, Vietnam, France, Czech Republic, Peru and more. While Marjorie keeps vacationing with VBT because she loves the way we facilitate her travel experience, she has also recruited friends and family to join her over the years. “I had traveled with other companies by bike to places like Costa Rica, Ireland and New Zealand before VBT had similar trips but now I am sold on VBT,” she told us. “The pre- and post-trip options, and the focus on the history and the culture of destinations can’t be beat!” We asked Marjorie to tell us about some of her VBT experiences and she wrote us back a novella! As you can tell, this multi-time traveler has made a lifetime of memories while traveling the world with VBT.

My long history with VBT began in the early 1990s when my sister and I took your Swiss Lakes trip. I fell in love with that way of traveling: athletic activity (cycling and hiking), first-rate hotels, wonderful food, excellent bi-lingual leaders, planned cultural and historical events for our group, and (very importantly) mixing with the locals to learn about how they really lived. We weren’t just staring out the window of a van for hours upon end in extremely large groups; i.e. “If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium”.

grandkids amsterdamMy late husband Alan and I then began traveling more extensively with your company ; at first a domestic trip to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, followed by a few more—still in the ’90s—in France and Italy. It was especially terrific to have the option of inclusive airfare, something I appreciate to this day. Sadly, my husband passed away in 2000 but I knew he would want me to continue active travel with family and/or friends…and so I did. Although I had an active practice of psychotherapy and the youngest of our 4 children was still in college, I carved out the time for VBT trips, some of them with my kids, and many of them with a wonderful group of friends and colleagues that we call, “Team Virginia”.

“Team Virginia” was the name our leaders on the Tuscan Coast biking tour we took in 2001 gave our group of 6 women and the name stuck. Team Virginia is now about 24 strong and consists of both men and Marjorie and JOhnwomen. Over the years we have traveled in all sizes of groups together with VBT, from as little as 2, to as many as eight.  In 2005 I met John B.—who is also widowed—in an aerobics class and we found that we had many common interests however biking was not one of them, at first. But he was motivated to take it up and I convinced him join me on VBT’s tour in Sicily. It was pretty hilly, but he persevered and we have since gone on many more biking and walking trips together, including the Machu Picchu walking vacation last year.  We also took my older two grandchildren on the Holland and Belgium Bike and Barge in 2012; and I was so happy to see that everyone in our group graciously welcomed and included them. Not only are they great kids but superb cyclists! What we loved about the bike and barge experience was not only the quality of the food, staff and leaders (as always) but NOT having to pack and unpack frequently. I’m sure we’ll do another barge tour one day.

I’d have to say that of all the vacations I have taken with VBT both South Africa and Vietnam were especially meaningful, with a great deal of spiritual depth involved. I especially value the opportunity to have spent time at a township near Capetown (post-Apartheid) where we witnessed those lovely people re-furbishing bicycles as a business and building homes and schools for their children; and as a contrast, being guests of a Capetown chef at her upscale home where we helped prepare a lovely meal. That’s where I learned of Bobote, a great dish with ground lamb that I often make here at home.

Hiking peruIn Vietnam all the included historical and cultural visits (Cu Chi tunnels etc) were amazing, and I don’t know where else you have to share the road with elephants, motor scooters, goats, cows, and people riding vintage bicycles with boxes of chickens strapped to the back! And since I am an animal lover, I loved trekking with llamas on some of the Peruvian walks; fortunately not on the Inca Trail itself. Doing the Inca Trail, incidentally, had been on my bucket list; and although challenging, it was also exhilarating and an absolute highlight of my travels.

I also really enjoyed my trip to Poland in the fall of 2012, which was a President’s Tour. I have Eastern European grandparents, so being in Warsaw and Krakow was particularly meaningful. We were also fortunate to have Gregg and Caroline Marston with us and I was so impressed with their generosity and charm.

Finally, I’m excited for my upcoming walking tour to Basque country, which will be my 20th trip—and certainly not my last! The Spain walking trip sounds wonderful: a terrific mix of culture and art and outdoor activity. I’m particularly excited about walking part of the Way of St James pilgrimage which will add just enough of a spiritual twist to the adventure.

We just wanted to thank Marjorie for telling us all about her travels. We wish her the best of luck on her upcoming tour to Spain and can’t wait to see where she is off to after that!

5 Things You May Not Know About Lake Constance

Central Europe’s third largest lake is a wonderful confluence of the three distinct countries that share its borders.  Travelers on VBT’s new Lake Constance: Germany, Austria & Switzerland biking vacation will spend a week practically circumnavigating this expansive body of water on its vast network of bike paths, as well as enjoying a variety of culturally enriching activities off their bikes. Guests will love sampling delicious local cuisine, organic fruit brandy and German beer; exploring Romanesque churches in Reichenau, absorbing sprawling views on a ferry crossing, and relaxing in 4-star hotels in lakeside towns. To get you more acquainted with this oft-overlooked alpine gem, here are some fun facts that you may not know about Lake Constance.

Three in One
What we call Lake Constance (and the locals call the Swabian Sea) is actually comprised of 3 bodies of water. The largest part of the lake is the eastern section known as the Obersee and is connected to the smaller part of the lake—the Untersee—by a 4 km stretch of the Rhine known as the Seerhein.

The Flower Island
Of the Lake’s three main islands, Mainau, is perhaps the most fascinating. Known as the “Flower Island,” this Mainaupedestrian-only private island is a lavish display of hundreds of thousands of plants in manicured gardens that blossom with the changing seasons. Tulips, orchids and rhododendrons burst in a riot of color in May while dahlias and roses arrive in September. Whenever you visit, you’ll be treated to a colorful landscape that will enchant even the most novice gardener.

Waters without Borders
The middle of Lake Constance is the only area in Europe where technically no borders exist because once your boat is far enough from the shoreline you are in international waters. While Switzerland argues their border extends to the middle of the lake, Austria contends that international law governs any part of the lake with more than 25 meters depth. It appears Germany doesn’t have any official view stance on its border other than its actual shoreline.

Ages Ago

Long before the Romans discovered the lake in 43 AD, Lake Constance was home to a variety of societies during the Bronze Age. While on tour we’ll visit Unteruhldingen—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—to visit replications of ancient dwellings from the Stone and Bronze Age (4000 to 850 BC). During our stay we’ll learn about the Celtic people that lived a sophisticated lifestyle in harmony with nature on the lake.

At a Glaciers Pace
Lake Constance was formed over time by the Rhine Glacier during the last ice age and is a type of lake known as a “Zungenbecken”—which translates as “tongue basin” in German. Even today the Rhine deposits sediment from the Swiss and Austrian Alps that continually change both the shoreline and clarity of the lake. Depending on the time of year the discrepancy of the inflow and outflow of the lake causes as much as a 4 meter difference in water level. 

To learn more about this new biking vacation including daily itinerary and all available 2014 departure dates, please click here. If you would like to reserve a vacation or speak with one of our Tour Consultants, please call 800-245-3868. They are available Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 6:30pm EST and Saturdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm EST.