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Biking

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Biking the La Côte Region on the Outskirts of Nyon

With rows of grapes clinging to the steep mountainside overlooking Lake Geneva, the vineyards of the Lavaux Region certainly deserves its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet, with that distinction comes an increase in tourism. If you want to bike through vineyards with only locals on charming hillside towns reminiscent of Burgundy, follow in my footsteps and head to the La Côte vineyards just outside the town of Nyon. We rented bikes at the Nyon train station and biked on a paved trail through the neighboring community of Prangins, staring in awe at 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, rising mightily from the French side of Lake Geneva. In the town of Gland, we filled up our water bottles in one of the many public fountains, where water comes from the same reservoir that supplies the nearby homes. We passed the Toblerone Hiking Trail that leads from the lakeshore high into the mountains, named after the concrete structures that line the trail that are the exact same shape as Toblerone chocolate.

 
Then we headed for the hills and were instantly enchanted by the town of Luins. We met Laurent Vigneron, the winemaker and owner of the picturesque Chateau de Luins, ready to start his fall harvest in less than a week. He took us into rooms holding immense oak barrels, some dating from as far back as 1922. We sampled his wines, a smooth pinot noir and a dry white created from the region’s favored grape, Chasselas, realizing instantly why the Swiss keep most of their wine for themselves. From Luins, we biked on a trail through the vineyards into the storybook town of Bursins, where a Medieval Cluny church still stands with requisite watchtower in the town center. A historic whitewashed chateau, now an upscale lodging called Chateau Le Rosey, peered down from the hillside. Across the street was a house straight out of a French countryside movie set with a wooden tile roof covered in moss. 
 
We had lunch at Café de L’Union, known for its deep-fried gruyere cheese puff they call the Malakoff. Another specialty was the blue trout caught at a nearby river, which did arrive on our plate the colored blue. It was served with cornichons and French fries. Perfect. After lunch, we headed downhill through cornfields waiting to be reaped and apple trees bending over with the latest crop. We past a horseback rider and soon took Route 1 along the lake to the town of Rolle. Quickly changing into swimwear, we had a paddleboard lesson from Jason at the Paddle Center. Soon we were gliding out on the placid blue waters of the small harbor, again mesmerized by the mountain panorama. Another memorable day in the Lake Geneva Region!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/01/14 at 04:00 AM
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Biking Reykjavik

With its magical mix of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, rugged coastline, green meadows, and geothermal spas like the acclaimed Blue Lagoon, it’s no wonder that Iceland has become a popular destination for our clientele. It’s also an easy 5-hour flight from the East Coast and a free stopover on Icelandair to other European destinations like Stockholm, Copenhagen, or Barcelona. So there’s no excuse not to check it out. I just spent a week in the country and had a great time. My first outing was a morning bike ride with Reykjavik Bike Tours to get an overview of the city where two-thirds of the Iceland’s population of 330,000 resides. 

 
We biked past one of Reykjavik’s signature buildings, the recently built Harpa Concert Hall, a gleaming glass building that reflects both sky and water. Then we cruised into the heart of the city on cobblestone streets to one of the most historic neighborhoods, simply called 101. At the Parliament Building, we learned about Iceland’s 2008 bankruptcy and their historic vote not to pay off their debt to the UK. “Instead of cash, we gave them ash,” said our guide, referring to the volcanic ash disruption of international flights in 2010. We stopped at one of the 120 outdoor pools in the city, open year-round and heated by the abundant thermal energy. We also biked past Bjork’s modest home and pedaled through the University of Iceland’s campus, home to 17,000 students, 70% of whom are women (note to son: this is the school where you want to spend your semester abroad). 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Biking the Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island

Biking slightly uphill outside of Hunter’s River, horse farms replace dairy farms and the velvety green pasture flourishes. Purple lupines line the trail to add their color to the brilliant canvas. I was on my final ride of a three-day bike tour of Prince Edward Island one September, on assignment for Canadian Geographic magazine. Hunter’s River is less than a 15-minute drive from the fabled dunes and red cliffs of Cavendish, the PEI tourist hub made famous by that young girl in braids, Anne of Green Gables. Close to civilization yet far enough removed to relish the solitude (I’ve only greeted one other biker this day), I’m lost in a bucolic setting that has changed little since Lucy Maud Montgomery penned her timeless novel in 1908. 

 
Oh yes, there is one difference. The Canadian Pacific railroad that once connected the island’s small villages last roared through the interior in 1989, leaving in its wake hundreds of kilometers of track. By 2000, the tracks were pulled and the line replaced with a surface of finely crushed gravel, creating a biking and walking thoroughfare called the Confederation Trail. It starts in Tignish on the island’s western tip and rolls 279 kilometers to the eastern terminus in Elmira. 
 
The hum of trains long gone, I hopped on my bike and pedaled through a tunnel of dense pines that effectively blocked out the world. There was not a soul around and the chaos of modernity was replaced with the melody of birds chirping. I was biking into a bygone era, a serene spot where a girl named Anne could have easily grown up without too much duress. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/11/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Biking and Hiking Zion National Park

An hour’s drive northeast of Las Vegas, rows of creosote bushes and gnarly-looking Joshua trees lead to ridges of sandstone. Crossing into Utah, these walls of rock become far more dramatic, shaped into a phantasmagoric blend of towering cliff walls, slot canyons, lonely buttes, and organ-shaped mesas. It’s a harsh, rugged terrain, best suited for pioneers and as a backdrop for 1940s Westerns. You half expect John Wayne to pop out of the bush and mutter, “I’m hoping to round up a posse and you’re it.” 

 
The unforgiving rock is also ripe for adventure. October 2012, three close friends and I signed on to a 4-day jaunt with the reputable West Coast outfitter, Bicycle Adventures. The itinerary took full advantage of jaw-dropping scenery, offering two days of riding through Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park, and then two days of hiking on classic Zion trails, within a narrow slot canyon and atop Angel’s Landing, a precipitous perch better suited for the condors we would spot. This was not some pansy-ass undertaking, but a thigh-burning workout with sustained climbs longer than 7 miles on two wheels and a steep ascent up Angel’s Landing on two legs. The best form of therapy.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/10/14 at 09:59 AM
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Friday, September 05, 2014

Bike the East Bay Bicycle Path, Providence to Bristol, Rhode Island

All it takes is a mere six miles on a paved path to leave a highly industrialized section of Providence and reach the sheltered coastline of Narragansett Bay. No wonder locals would rather bike to the beach than deal with car traffic. The 14.5-mile long East Bay Bicycle Path, originally part of the Providence/Worcester line, heads southeast from Providence along the scenic shores of the bay to the town of Bristol. Less than two miles into the ride, fishing trawlers and sailboats start to appear on the right and small inlets and wetlands can be seen on the left. Head there this weekend and you’re likely to see locals clamming for littlenecks in the shallow waters along the route. That’s quite a contrast from the view of the Providence skyline that lurks behind you. Soon you’ll reach Colt State Park and Bristol Town Beach, the finest spot for sunbathing along the route. The trail ends in Bristol at Independence Park, near a handful of restaurants that I wrote about in last Sunday’s Boston Globe travel section.

 
Next week I’ll be back with my 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America. Have a great weekend and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/05/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Biking to Five Lighthouses Outside Portland, Maine

I spent my 50th birthday on Saturday biking with my extended family of ten on a guided day ride on the outskirts of Portland. Led by Norman Patry, owner of Summer Feet Cycling, we biked along the scenic shoreline of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth to five lighthouses. They included such picturesque gems as Bug Light, the smallest lighthouse in operation in America, and Portland Head Light, painted by the likes of Edward Hopper. Near Portland Head Light, we bought lobster rolls from a food truck and dined overlooking Portland Harbor. The lobster rolls were excellent, chockful of fresh meat, and you could order them Maine-style (with mayo), Connecticut-style (lightly buttered), spiced with curry (loved it) or wasabi. Washed down with locally made Eli’s Blueberry Soda and topped off with ginger molasses cookies from Standard Bakery in town, it was a perfect Portland meal. The ride ends at Kettle Cove, a small beach, just past Two Lights State Park. Summer Feet offers a slew of other bike trips in Maine including a self-guided 3-day ride near Kennebunkport that sounds enticing. But if you only have a limited amount of time in the state, this 5-hour ride gives you a good taste of Maine and comes highly recommended. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/18/14 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Every year as I come close to celebrating another birthday (and this year is a big one), I try to partake in an activity that confronts my fear of heights. Ziplining upside down in Costa Rica or attempting a treetop obstacle course in the Berkshires are two of my most recent examples. Since I hate driving across long bridges, I thought this would be a good time to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. My family took the Powell-Hyde Cable Car to the biking outfitter, Blazing Saddles, located near Ghirardelli Square. At 10 am daily, they lead a guided tour along San Francisco Harbor though the Marina District, taking a brief stop at the Palace of Fine Arts. Striking views of the bridge open up as you head northwest past Crissy Field to Fort Point. We biked up a short hill and were soon starting our ride in a bike line across the bridge. I was nervous at first, but my passion for biking eased my anxiety. I even stopped several times to take in the view of Alcatraz and the rising bluffs of Marin County on the opposite shores. 

 
Soon, we were sweeping downhill into the coastal community of Sausalito. We grabbed lunch at an excellent Italian sandwich shop, Venice Gourmet, and sat outside on benches near the water. Then we took the ferry from Sausalito back to San Francisco. When we returned the bikes at Blazing Saddles, we walked over to the original Ghirardelli’s for root beer floats and sundaes. The perfect end to a glorious 10-mile ride. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/29/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Urban Adventures: Bike the Lakefront Path, Chicago

The finest way to savor Chicago’s stunning skyline is on two wheels. Rent bikes at Navy Pier and head south on a bike trail along the Lake Michigan shoreline. You’ll soon pass the flowing waters of Buckingham Fountain, the Shedd Aquarium, and Soldier’s Field, home to the Chicago Bears. Yet, it’s the jaw-dropping vista of the skyscrapers on the return trip that will have you reaching for the camera. You look up at a wall of spectacular buildings. If you want to continue past Navy Pier and head north, you’ll reach Oak Street Beach, the first of many beaches that are open to the public, a perfect place to lounge and get a much needed rest. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/11/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, June 02, 2014

AAA Roadside Assistance Now Covers Bicycles

Great news for AAA members. A new benefit covers bicycle service. If you or your child gets a flat or breaks a chain, you can now call AAA and they will take you and your bicycle anywhere within 10 miles. Mountain bikers need to get out of the woods and reach a normally travelled road where AAA can pick you up. You’re entitled to two bicycle calls per year. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/02/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

10 Best Bike Rides for Families

Wow, it might actually hit 70 degrees this weekend in Boston. You know what that means. Time to pump up the tires and go for a ride. If, like me, you have cabin fever after a long, grueling winter, check out my latest article for FamilyVacationCritic.com on the 10 Best Bike Vacations for Families. Cape Cod, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Vancouver, are just a few of the locales I touch on. The majestic scenery on these routes is seen primarily from bike trails, so families don’t have to worry about car traffic. Have a look. Hopefully, they will inspire you to go for a ride!

(Photo by Moreno Novullo)


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/10/14 at 10:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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