According to van Dijk, nearly everything has changed one way or another over the years with the exception of “the landscape, the gentle Loire River, the beautiful stone villages and towns, and the authenticity of the French cuisine.”
According to van Dijk, today’s adventure embraces some of the same villages, castles and chateaux of the original tour, but the quality of lodging and dining is “significantly enhanced.” Yesterday’
“All in all, everything got only better, if you overlook the fact that the 1979 tour was for 15 days/14 nights and cost only $648 per person. Then our group consisted of about 40 guests, serviced by three guides. On today’s adult trips we now cap it at 12 guests, accompanied by two guides, so you can imagine that the level of service has greatly improved and trips have become much more personalized.”
Van Dijk noted that most locals can now speak/understand English, making it easier to ask questions and be understood when traveling. Bicycles are more comfortable with straight handlebars that are better for sightseeing. The infrastructure (bike paths) has greatly improved. Participants stay at four (instead of two) star hotels, enjoy gourmet meals and drink fine wines.
A few tour highlights of the Loire Valley anniversary tour that begins in Versailles and ends in Tours include pedaling to King François I’s Château de Chambord and counting the staircases in the magnificent 440-room estate, practicing French with a farmer at an open-air market in Loches, riding to Le Clos Lucé in Amboise, the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci and home to his many inventions, sipping award-winning wine at the world-famous Chinon and Cravant wineries and dining like royalty at the Château de Pray.
Joining van Dijk on the tour will be two guests who pedaled the same trip with him 35 years ago. Chuck and Judy Silberstein are two alumni travelers who have done more than 50 bike trips with Ron and ALA.
ALA is also offering other dates for this trip, guided by professionals trained by van Dijk; June 1-8, June 22-26, July 20-27 and Sept. 14-21. A family version geared for age seven and up is scheduled June 22-29 and Aug. 3-10. Youth rates begin at just $2,798 per person in a shared room. See: http://www.austinlehman.com/
When asked about the future of cycle touring in Europe and what might be the craze 35 years from now, van Dijk predicts that “bicycle vacations will grow in popularity and become a way of life for many. I foresee that three decades from now the electric bike will be the standard and even more popular and affordable than they are today. They will have become lighter, with longer-lasting batteries, making it the ultimate way to travel from town to town, from site to site, regardless of the hills and mountain passes along the way.”
About Austin-Lehman Adventures
With a 40-year legacy, ALA provides adventure vacations on six continents building an international reputation for small group active travel to destinations in The Americas, Europe, Africa and (new for 2013) Antarctica. The company specializes in adult and family multi-sport, hiking, and biking vacations that emphasize history, culture and nature’s gifts. Small group trips feature exceptional regional dining, distinctive accommodations and all-inclusive rates and services. In addition to scheduled group departures, ALA offers customized trip planning and a money-back satisfaction guarantee.
In the September 2012 issue of Travel + Leisure, ALA was ranked the #1 Family Tour Operator in the World; in March 2012 the magazine awarded ALA the 2012 World’s Best Values Award for Tour Operators. ALA has also received Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operator Award (a Top 3 finisher) for four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012. In 2011 the company was honored with the Global Vision Award (http://www.wocinternational.org/
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