VBT Tour Consultants’ Spring Adventures

One of the great things about VBT Bicycling and Walking vacations is that each tour can be a little different for everyone. We recognize the fact that travel experiences can be subjective and so we invite VBT associates to travel with us, and to provide us with their impressions of their VBT vacations. Recently VBT Tour Consultants, Ashley, Amy and Stacey were treated to three different VBT vacations. How about that for a fringe benefit?

In early April, excited, and even a little anxious Ashley set out for Portugal. Of course, Ashley was thrilled to be traveling with VBT, but Portugal is a long way off from Vermont and this was Ashley’s first trip abroad. Upon arrival, however, Ashley’s nerves were set as ease. She was a member of a very welcoming and well-traveled group of VBT guests. This small group of travelers were eager to share their experiences with Ashley, and made her feel comfortable and at home as she explored a new land. “It was nerve-wracking at first, but I lived vicariously through their traveling. I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” says Ashley.

Making her exploration even more enjoyable was the fact that Portuguese locals were just as welcoming and inviting as Ashley’s travel companions. She recalls her visit to Paço de Calheiros, which occurred over the Easter Holiday. Count Calheiros invited all of his guests on a thorough tour of his property, noting its history while walking guests through his self-planted gardens and around his vineyards. After the tour, guests joined the Count for a dinner of soup, bacalhau (a traditional Portuguese dish) and chocolate mousse strawberries and port for dessert. Always a gracious host, the Count included his guests in all of the celebrations as Easter commemoration pressed-on throughout the weekend.

Ashley has returned from Walking Portugal’s Douro River Valley rewarded and ready to explore more of the world. Though she’s not certain where she’ll go next, Italy, Morocco and Egypt are all in contention. And each destination is even further from Vermont than Portugal!

Just about a month after Ashley’s walking vacation in Portugal, her Tour Consultant colleague, Stacey, enjoyed biking Charleston to Savannah: A Southern Reel​. Differing from Ashley’s experiences, Stacey joined a group that was almost entirely populated by former VBT travelers as she explored the U.S. However, the highlights of her Southern Coast bike tour were quite similar to Ashley’s standout experiences in Portugal.

When looking back on her time, Stacey quickly notes how great her leaders and fellow travelers were. “I had lots of fun with the group and we connected really quickly… You can really see how people make friends through VBT,” she noted after explaining that many of the members of her group were long-time friends.

In addition to the tranquil setting of Charleston, the beautiful ocean view she experienced as she rode to Isle of Palms and the area’s Spanish Moss, Stacey really enjoyed connecting with locals, leaders and her travel mates as she explored. The visit to Irvin House Vineyard and Firefly Distillery stands out as a particularly memorable experience.

Located in a rural, woodsy area, Stacey wasn’t quite sure what to make of the setting at first. But after a quick tour of the grounds and a spirits-tasting, everyone enjoyed a lively barbeque in the peaceful forest outside of Charleston. After lunch, the fun continued as the group set off for an old-fashioned Beaufort Social. Everyone got caught up in the spirit. In fact, one of Stacey’s travel mates who “didn’t even dance at his own wedding,” took a turn or two on the dance floor.

After her adventure down South, Stacey returned home to Vermont with a new appreciation for the local relationships VBT has developed in the regions that we visit. After all, it’s great Trip Leaders and other local affiliations that give our guests the opportunity for genuine, local interaction as they travel. And they make for a whole lot of fun!

Capping off our Tour Consultants Spring adventures abroad, Amy headed to Europe in late May to bike The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria. ​A little unsure of what to expect in this particular region, Amy found herself consistently amazed by the beauty of the cities, villages and countryside paths that she rode through. Though she usually joined members of her group for meals and cultural activities, Amy would often cycle by herself, just so that she could stop off the trail frequently to snap photo after photo. From the architecture in Prague to the terraced vineyards of Austria’s Wachau Valley wine region, our bike tour through Central Europe has no shortage in photo opportunities – and Amy has the pictures to prove it!

Amy particularly enjoyed Day 5 of her vacation where she dined in a Bavarian Tavern with the family-owners. The entire group enjoyed the opportunity to eat and chat with locals in their pub and Amy even took the opportunity to sample a regional specialty, fried carp. Despite the number of local dishes sampled throughout the tour, the overarching culinary highlight proved to Austria’s notable wheat beers. Apparently, the brews in Central Europe are widely celebrated for a reason.

In addition to a taste for Bavarian potables, Amy came home amazed at the sheer beauty of The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria. She was impressed with the baroque structures in the cities and river villages, and she was completely taken with the vistas that her biking vacation allowed her.

Get going on your own adventure; call Ashley, Stacey or Amy to plan your vacation with VBT.

3 Ways to Travel Italy

Italy is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Throughout history, varying Italian provinces have developed and responded to their own, unique location, resulting in vast regional subtleties from one location to the next. As travelers, we’re driven to explore the scenery, indulge in the food and immerse ourselves in the warm, exciting cultures of Italy. Below we’ve outlined three of our favorite regions to discover, again and again.

Tuscany

Tuscan vacation, Travel Tuscany, Toscana, Tuscany Bike Tours

This is the Italy that you’ve read about, that you’ve seen in magazines, that you’ve longed to visit since you began traveling. With vineyards perched atop billowing hills, cypress lined country lanes, fortified Etruscan ruins and just about all the mouthwatering cuisine you can eat, Tuscany rewards its visitors well. Tuscany is also our most popular destination, and with three distinct vacations in the region, we’ve got a Tuscan Vacation that’s perfect for you. Explore the islands of Toscana on our Tuscany by the Sea biking​ vacation. Make your way from Florence to Rome on our Tuscan Coast tour. Or, gear up for a challenge on our Tuscan Hill Towns by Bike vacation.

“Riding along the Tuscan coast has long been a “Bucket List” item for me. It wouldn’t have been possible without VBT, which set up one of the most well-run tours I’ve ever done. I appreciate the attention to quality, the various outside activities offered and I can’t say enough about our tour guides. I left Italy smiling from the experience and sad that I was saying good-bye to new friends. I will return to VBT without a doubt!”

-Jose M., Tuscany by the Sea

Northern Italy

Italian Alps, Travel Italy, Northern Italy, Italy Bike tours

Drawing on the influences of its Austrian and Swiss neighbors, Northern Italy features a variety of breathtaking landscapes as well as a unique blend of heritages. High above sea level, Italy’s Dolomite Mountain region offers up a Nordic twist on typical Italian culture, featuring a heartier culinary tradition, crisp green meadows and unforgettable mountain vistas. On our Italy: Cycling the Dolomite Valleys​ vacation, we ride along easy pathways exploring this northerly gem.

Virtually spanning the length of Italy’s crest, the Po River Valley may rest at a lower altitude, but its ethereal beauty rivals that of any European refuge and the Lakes region of Northern Italy has been a popular holiday destination since the Roman era. VBT’s Italy: Po River Valley and Lake Garda biking tour makes its way across the North from Portovenere and Cinque Terre to Verona, taking in the stunning Lake Garda along the way.

“I was able to practice my Italian with the locals, ride through numerous towns and watch their daily routines unfold. It was so much more experiential to travel this way. I felt more connected to the memories I made.”

-Jennifer S., Italy: Cycling the Dolomite Valleys​

Italy’s Splendid South

Italian food, Italian cuisine, Puglia, Southern Italy, Travel Italy, Italy Bike tours

Slow down and explore the under-traveled South of Italy. Take some time to taste authentic Neapolitan pizza, sample exotic seafood and unwind over a robust glass of Primitivo. The region’s charm is thoroughly evident in its delectable cuisine and its rich vintner’s tradition. With an incredible view of the Mediterranean at almost every corner, our Amalfi Coast & Capri vacation rewards travelers with some of the best walking trails in Europe. Extending to the southernmost tip of the country, Puglia is perhaps Italy’s remaining unturned stone. And its landscape, dotted with fortified villages and medieval abodes, is sure to captivate your imagination and spirit.

If you care to venture a bit further south, the island of Sicily offers an entirely different Italian experience. Just off Italy’s southwest coast, the Mediterranean island boasts vestiges left behind from ancient Greek, Roman and Arab civilizations. On VBT’s all-new Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages we’ll our way along the coast, exploring the distinct culture that Sicily treats its visitors to.

“While I have lived in Italy and traveled quite extensively, Puglia was unknown to me. It is a gem, and all the more wonderful to discover it at a slow pace.”

-Mary D., Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast ​

Travel Sicily, Italy vacation, Italian vacation, Sicily bike tour

With its varied terrain and exuberant people, Italy is a nation filled with contrast and brimming with discovery. With all that in mind, however, it seems as though one feature of Italian culture shines through every part of the country – the warmth of its people. Join VBT in Italy this year for fascinating cultural encounters in one of the most exciting countries in Europe.