I’ve now been on several bike tours thorough France with 3 different tour companies.The first company is no longer in business but gave us a nice introduction to cycling in the south of France. The second is a large California based operation that does an excellent tour. We enjoyed a great week of cycling in the Provence region with that tour group. Les Baux, St. Remy, Gordes and Mazan/Sault at the base of Mt. Ventoux were hightlights of this beautiful area. It was well organized, with interesting side excursions, great meals, polished guide leaders and for the most part a great group of cyclists. We opted for the casual inns tour and were never disappointed with any of the accommodations.
While attending the Seattle Bike Expo, I met Padraic Doorey owner of Dublin, Ireland based, Fresh Eire Adventures.
I shared my recent Provence trip details with him and inquired about his company.
Padraic explained that his is a small boutique company that strives to provide a high level of customer satisfaction that the large operators cannot match. His rates are more than competitive. The tours offered vary from private to small groups less than 10. He ascertains the desires of the group and delivers a product that pleases. Perhaps the only downside is that not as many trip destinations are offered, fortunately for us, several 2015 trips were of interest to us.
Since we were interested in another cycling trip, this all intrigued me. But committing to a tour with a small company based in Dublin raised some doubts. I learned Padraic had been a lawyer in Ireland but after practicing law he realized he’d been unhappy in that profession. His love of travel, cycling, food and drink led him to cycling tours. Don’t we all wish to be able to do that? He worked for several other large tour operators before starting his own company.
I mentioned to Padraic that my wife and I had a trip to Ireland coming up, he graciously made trip recommendations and even offered to meet up with us and let us ride with his cycling tour in Connemara. His hotel and restaurant recommendations were spot on. He met us in Dublin and gave us a personalized city tour. Any doubts were erased.
Our group of four signed up for his early June Loire Valley Tour. We were pleased to learn Padraic would also lead this tour. The price was more than reasonable and as promised the level of service and attention to detail was amazing. Padraic even purchased our train tickets from Paris at the more reasonable European rates and mailed them to me in advance. He also helped plan our post bike trip leg of our vacation. You’ll never get that level of service from other tour operators.
We received a detailed itinerary and met in Blois to start our Loire Valley Tour. We were introduced to Lionel, who would be the second guide and support van driver. Lionel an ex-Parisian, is well traveled, a history buff and spoke perfect English. His insights to the area and French culture were fascinating. Our minimal French language skills were improved as he taught us correct pronunciations, useful phrases and vocabulary.
We were shuttled to Chambord, the first of many chateaux we would tour. While being fitted on our new Trek hybrid bikes we sampled some Cremant de Loire, the sparkling wine of the region. Incidentally, Fresh Eire Adventures covered all our admission tickets, tips, tastings, and, incredibly, all the beverages we enjoyed. No plonk, but carefully selected wines of the region. Our wine glasses were rarely empty.
Padraic determined our group had gastronomic interests. Padraic, we soon learned is a connoisseur of food and drink. Consequently, we had incredible meals the entire trip, from a local bistro serving regional cuisine to a Michelin starred restaurant; everything was delightful. We visited several different wineries, met the owners, sampled and learned about Loire Valley Wines. A behind the scenes tour of a boulangerie was also arranged. We watched baguettes being made and pastries decorated. Fresh Eire Adventure’s relationships with the locals made for a rich French cultural experience.
Accommodations included a comfortable detached guesthouse and a luxury hotel in Amboise. Our favorite however was a newly opened B&B in a historic building near the town center of Saint-Branchs. Our room, hosts, grounds and service were top notch.
Finally, the cycling was everything we had hoped for and more. Beautiful country roads, charming villages, vineyards, farms, rivers and chateaux were all there to take in. Terrain was relatively flat, the routes well chosen. There were a few gravel roads and trails which made the recommended hybrid bikes the sensible choice to ride. We watched a herd of cyclists with the large tour company parking their bikes and taking over a café. We were glad to be with our small group.
We would not hesitate to give Fresh Eire Adventures our highest recommendation. Their personalized service, attention to details, and desire to make every customer happy differentiates them from other tour companies. If you are looking for a boutique, bespoke bike tour, Fresh Eire Adventures is more than a good bet.
We now look forward to a 2017 Fresh Eire Adventures tour of Bordeaux!
Cycling Vacations Destinations
The trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Idaho offers over 72 miles of paved bike paths. We based in Silver Mountain, a winter ski resort. Rooms in the summer are very reasonable and there's a variety of places to stay and eat. One day we rode east to the trails end in the town of Mullen and back, about 40 miles. The next day we rode west to Harrison and back nearly 80 miles.
Eagles, elk, deer and some of the most beautiful landscapes are what you'll see. Historic Wallace, Idaho an early mining town is worth a day's visit and definitely a meal or two at one of the many restaurants in town. Lake Coeur d'Alene and the city are beautiful. The bike trail from Spokane to Coeur d'Alene is also a worthy ride.
The Hiawatha Trail is a 15 mile packed gravel trail near Wallace. A hybrid or MTB bike is needed as is a helmet and light
for the long tunnel which is part of the route. These routes/paths in Western Idaho are pretty much traffic free and flat. Highly recommended.
Our experience is limited here but one of the more enjoyable rides we've done is in the Monterey area of California. There are many great rides in this area but the route starting in Monterey to Carmel includes spectacular ocean views, the Pebble Beach Golf Course, forests and the famous/scenic 17 mile drive. There are bike paths along the way but some portions are roads shared with cars. There are rest stops along the way but only a few so bring snacks and water.
Cycling in Nape Valley was wonderful, but we were very concerned with some of the busy roads and winetasters.
If in downtown San Diego, rent a bike and take a leisurely ride along Harbor Ave and the waterfront.
Cedre et Charme
Washington State is a fantastic place to cycle. Here are a few suggestions of places to check out.
Seattle - Burke Gilman trail is a very popular city bike trail. Connects to other trails and a 60 mile ride around Lake Washington. STP the annual Cascade Bike Club ride from Seattle to Portland is a very popular event. The 200 mile ride attracts over 10,000 participants every July.
Bainbridge Island - a 30 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, hilly, scenic with nice stops along the way.
Lopez Island - was recently rated as one of the top riding places in the country by Bicycling Magazine. Part of the San Juan Islands.
Mt. Vernon / La Conner - aprox. 1 hour north of Seattle, scenic farmland, rivers and Skagit Bay. Especially popular during tulip season.
Centennial Trail - about 25 miles of paved bike trail connecting Snohomish and Arlington, WA.
Whidbey Island - offers fantastic scenery, bike paths or wide road shoulders and plentiful places to eat and sleep. Check out the Kettles and Rhododendron trails near Coupeville.
Yakima Valley - in eastern Washington State has rolling hills and hosts some of the finest vineyards and wineries to explore.
Walla Walla - in the SE part of the state is reknown for the many premier wineries and vineyards. There are also some great cycling routes, the terrain is flat and wine tasting stops.
Spokane - is bicycle friendly with some nice bike paths and trails. A pathway can take you all the way to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Mt. Vernon during tulip season
Bed and Breakfasts are many
Monterey CA Coastline "Lone Cypress"
Rattle Snake Hills Vineyard Columbia Valley
Early settlers blockhouse along WA coastline
The trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
Kapaa Trail on the island of Kauai has an 8 mile running/bike trail with beautiful ocean views.
Bike rentals available from multiple shops in Kapaa
After our cycling experience in the Loire Valley, we started thinking about another Fresh Eire Adventures bike tour. We decided the Bordeaux region would offer us a combination of scenic rides, chateaux, vineyards, great food, and of course amazing wines. We spread the word to a few friends. Padraic, Fresh Eire Adventure's fearless leader, was in Seattle for the bike expo, he organized a get-together for past and potential clients and spoke of Bordeaux. We soon filled the tour with 15 bons amis, excited about cycling in France.
Such a large group might have presented challenge for Padraic, who takes pride in delivering the best in customer service. If there were any issues they were not evident. The Fresh Eire Adventures team of 4 put on a fantastic, customized experience for us all. This was not a generic tour, the remarkable itinerary and route were developed for our group, all orchestrated by Padraic. Our tour leader, Jenn was an expert in the area, well versed in the culture, history and geography. She opened our Cremant de Bordeaux with a pedal wrench! Antoine is in studies for the hospitality industry in France, specializing as a sommelier. He brought insight to our winery visits and selected wines for our meals. Bronagh, professional hostess extraordinaire, ensured rooms, restaurants, ticketing and all the fine details were perfect.
Accommodations were outstanding, we stayed at a luxury chateau near Saint Emilion, inside the Citadel in Blaye and had our own private chateau in Saint Estephe. We dined at high level, Michelin starred restaurants to charming regional cafes, the meals were all excellent. And the wine, fabled Bordeaux is one of the best wine regions in the world, we were able to taste, learn about, visit left bank and right bank wineries, meet chateau owners, winemakers and growers.
The rides were beautiful, travelling through vineyards, villages and past iconic Bordeaux Chateaux. Along the way we saw a barrel making facility, learned how vine grafts are done, and even toured the private living quarters at one of the chateaux.
Oh and the bikes.... depending on preference, we rode comfortable hybrids, state of the art electric bikes or carbon fiber road machines.
Fresh Eire Adventures exceeded our entire group's expectations. Everyone left with complete satisfaction but with sadness to end such a wonderful week. "A good time was had by all"
Chateau Beychevelle Garagiste winery Bad Boy St. Emilion
Chateau Pomys Chateau Cos d'Estournel