Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Our Tour de France

As you may remember, last month Dr. H and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary by treating ourselves to a vacation in France (I'm a very lucky girl). Our trip was beyond wonderful and admittedly a bit unique, so I thought I'd share some pics, tips and inspiration for your own adventure in the Loire!

I first got the idea to go bike riding in France from an article I read (somewhere, I've had no luck re-finding that first inspiration!) and given our shared love of the outdoors, biking and wine, Dr. H was on board immediately. The Loire is also home to some of the worlds most gorgeous chateaux (castles) so this fairy tale loving lady was ready to go!

From my mystery article, I knew that there are tour companies which specialize in travel-by-bicycle itineraries.  I found Inntravel, a UK based company, through Google (how did we live without Google?!) and LOVED all of their location options, highly organized itineraries and price points (though not inexpensive, the pricing is, in my opinion, very fair for the level of services, accommodations and meals). After doing lots of research, reading a ton of reviews and being impressed by their email responsiveness, Dr. H and I took the plunge on Inntravel's "Chateaux of the Loire" 6-night holiday which we felt was the perfect length of time, distance traveled and site-seeing trip for us. And it was:

Fromage (mmm fromage)
Somewhere between Montsoreau & Fontevraud
This forest....
Just outside Azay
I could go on for days about the rich history and culture of each location that we visited, the deliciousness of the fresh cheeses and breads and the friendliness of the local people, but to be brief, I cannot recommend highly enough a visit this area of the world. It is the definition of charming, quaint, relaxing, rich and beautiful. And if you're brave enough, I cannot think of a better way to see it than by bicycle. 

Merry Meri & Dr. H adventure abroad tips:
* Don't be afraid to be different. 
Though we didn't know anyone who had taken a trip like this before, the online reviews were excellent and we really felt that the idea suited us. Don't be afraid to try something totally new!
* Know what you're looking for.
Dr. H and I love foreign cultures, being outdoors, eating well, and a combination of adventuring and relaxing. We hate crowded or overly toursity areas. This trip allowed us to be completely on our own, but with plenty of the frills (bag transports, detailed directions, pre-arranged accommodations) that made us comfortable and confident.
* Be realistic about what you can plan; if needed, work with a vendor you trust.
It was a leap to use InnTravel based purely on internet research, but we could not have executed our itinerary without professional experience and assistance. We didn't know the area intimately enough and even my OCD planning skills would have fallen short. Find an agent or company that makes you feel confident that no matter what, everything will be ok. (ps- we LOVED Inntravel and plan to use them again for other bike adventures in the future!)
* Just relax and enjoy.
We got lost. We missed meal times and had to improvise... our vacation was far from "perfect" but that's what made it PERFECT. Whatever trip you plan, roll with it and make the best of each day, even if it doesn't go exactly as planned.


  1. Just have to say again, this trip looked beyond awesome and your pictures are AMAZING! What camera(s)/setting(s)/editing program(s) did you use to get them? You should blow some up and frame them! And, a tip of the hat for pulling off biking that many miles - Very inspiring :)

  2. Thanks SO much Jodi - taking photos is a real passion of mine!! When I travel I shoot with 2 cameras, a Canon powershot point-and-shoot (I had it on my wrist while we rode!) as well as a Nikon D200 (a big guy hand-me-down from my Dad who also loves photography). The key to everything looking polished though I credit Adobe Photoshop. I don't post any photos (even to Facebook!) without running them through Adobe. Some cropping, levels/color balancing and adjusting of the "curves" (which sums up just about all of what I know how to do with Adobe) can make a huge difference in the quality of the final image. It takes more time than some of the iPhoto or other editing software, but I think it's worthwhile for images you really want to cherish (future post idea!? :) Thanks as always for the blog lovin!!!

  3. Oh boy, your trip sounds and looks so swoonworthy to me, darling. I love your tips and that cheese...Crikey, I love French cheese:) Happy Wednesday, love.