In Lake Gadda da Vida, Italy

Having just completed the Tour du Mont Blanc in late August, we were looking forward to spending a few days in Italy before heading off to warmer Southern Europe for the month of September, but we wanted to avoid a crowded spot (hard to do in August) and not get on a plane.  So we rented a car and headed to Lake Garda, one of the lesser known lakes in Italy about a one hour drive from Milan. Lake Garda is known for its biking, beaches and its proximity to Verona (Shakespeare put Verona on the map in Romeo and Juliet) and some of Italy’s wine country.  The wines of the Bardolino zone (red, rosé, and sparkling) and Lugana–a primarily white wine zone are just south of Lake Garda.

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We found an new agriturismo place, Agriturismo Miford ,in the town of Salò, a small town on the southern coast of Lake Garda and infamously known as the previous headquarters of the Fascist Government of the Italian Social Republic.

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We planned for a few days of hiking and biking (both mountain biking and road biking). The town is centered right on the water and has a wonderful boardwalk that follows the coast for about 3 kms.  It is a great place for a run, and there are a number of small beaches, if you want to take a dip.  The town itself is a mix of commercial and classic medieval architecture with the classic old town center.  The northwest part of the town is the most ascetic but any spot on the water is nice.  There are a lot of bad tourist restaurants, but many good ones, if you take the time to look a bit and ask some locals.  We were staying a kilometer outside the city up on the hillside which provided some fantastic views and easy access to a number of trails that wind through hilly farmland and ancient rural villages.  We went out for a short 6km hike that turned into 16km (the scenery was compelling and the signage was lacking).

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On another day, we headed north to the town of Riva Del Garda.  The drive can be a bit challenging with travel on very narrow roads that snakes along and above the coast, but it is well worth it.  Riva Del Garda is a nice spot on the water and a good spot to grab a drink or bite.

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We hiked the Old Ponale Road Path which is an old highway that was carved into the mountainside high above the lake. It is a relatively short and steep hike that provides some fantastic views.  It is very popular with mountain bikers, but we thought it was more interesting as a hike.

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We struck out with the biking.  We considered lapping the lake but after driving it for a day, we realized it was no location for bikes and we did not want to tangle with the Italian drivers who all seem to be late for an important appointment.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our stay here. It is a very popular with German tourists but does not seem to attract the amount of tourist that other spots in Italy do.

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Road Trip Sidenote: To get to Salò, we had a road trip from Chamonix, about 400km, which was also a lot of fun.  Traveling through the 11km Tunnel de Mont Blanc is an experience as well as the additional 30+ km of tunnels and suspended bridges thru the Italian Alps into Milan was also quite interesting. I always enjoy driving European cars, even the “econoboxes”.  The driving experience is always more fun. The cars are more responsive, and they are typically manuals. Our ride this week did not disappoint. We randomly ended up with a 6-speed Mazda 2 that was completely tricked out with all the latest tech – proximity sensors, lane warnings, auto stop-start, Apple Carplay. It has been a few years since we have driven a new car and with the way tech changes, a few years is an eternity.  We totally agree with Car & Driver that it is “hugely fun to drive” (especially on the winding roads around Lake Garda).

 

 

Another Round of Mont Blanc

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!” ― Dr. Seuss

We received some requests for some additional information on our Tour du Mont Blanc experience.  So here are more details and pictures (in addition to our blog post that we posted earlier).  Enjoy!

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Our Mont Blanc hike was counterclockwise starting and ending in the beautiful mountain village of Les Houches (just a few clicks down the road from Chamonix).

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This route with its Les Houches starting point gets going immediately with plenty of climbing, and some of the best views on the whole route are within the first 3 days but nearly all the views on the TMB are superb.

Les Houches to Les Contamines

15km, 700m up, 1300m down, 6 hrs with Bellevue cable car

We hiked from our hotel to a cable car at the base of Les Houches which took us up to Bellevue to begin our hike.  (We started hiking around 9 am from the hotel and there were plenty of other TMB hikers setting out as well as day hikers and rock climbers heading up in the cable car.

The first part of the day winds through the woods and over glacier rivers.  Then, begins the ascent up to Col de Tricot.  Going up and down is incredibly scenic (you may read that a lot in this post).

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After a short break at a refuge at the bottom of the ascent, it was up another steep but short climb to Col de Truc.

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And ultimately, the trail winds down a forest road to the hamlet of Les Contamines which is at the top of the same valley where Megeve and St. Gervais are located.  ( We fell in love with France all over again this summer.  Megeve and St. Gervais are another two absolutely stunning villages in France.)  We arrived in Les Contamines on a Sunday, and the shops in town were having a massive market sale that took over main street.  Les Contamines is yet another beautiful spot.  (You will hear that a lot in this post with the exception of Trient which we suggest hiking thru and no staying staying in Trient, if at all possible.)

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Les Contamines to Les Chapieux

18km, 1350 up, 90o down, 6-7 hrs

Today’s route started off on another steep forest road along a river, and then climbed up to an open valley that was just spectacular. We hiked along the valley for a couple hours all the time viewing the saddle where we were heading – the Col du Bonhome.

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This day was another dual Col day.  So after the initial climb, we climbed up to the Col du Croix du Bonhome which is one of the highest spots on the TMB.

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There was a refuge just below the summit to grab some food and cafe.  Then it was a long downhill to the tiny village of Chapieux.  There is not much in the tiny village of Chapieux but a couple spots to stay, a bar and a small store (that sells wonderful sausage and cheese).

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Les Chapieux to La Palud

20+ km, 1100m up, 500m down, 6 hrs, with lift down

Today, we hopped on a public bus and took it up the road about 7km.  Purists hike the whole way, but our bus was filled with about 30 folks looking to cut off the less interesting dirt road that starts the hike.  And then it is up up and away to the Col de La Seigne – today’s primary climb.  The peak is the border between France and Italy.

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Once over the top, you hike down and along a valley that reminded us of some of the hiking we have down in Alaska – open meadows, glacial rivers and towering mountains. Our destination was Courmayeur, Italy, and there are more than a few options to hike to Courmayeur. We chose to hike up to the Col de Checrouit which gives you access to a high route along the valley with astonishing views of a number of glaciers

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After descending from the high route, we found a couple lifts to shorten our descent down to Courmayeur, a classic Italian Alps town. It is large and jammed with tourists in August but we stayed a few kilometers above the city center in the smaller village of La Palud.

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La Palud to La Fouly

18km, 1200m up, 900m down, 5 hours

The start of today’s hike also included a bus start. We hopped on the Courmayeur public bus and rode it to the end of the road, about 10km or so past the city center.  The road followed another valley and a small river until we were at the base of the Grand Col Derret.  It was a bit cold and slightly wet at the top of this climb (the only day we pulled out our rain jackets), but the views and scenery did not disappoint. The peak is also another border – between Italy and Switzerland.

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The descent down eventually winds through woods and along another glacier stream that flows through the town of La Fouly, a very typical Swiss village in the Alps. The town is small – a few restaurants, a supermarket and a bunch of beautiful Swiss cabins.  It was pretty quiet when we were there, but it has two ski lifts and a bunch of Nordic tracks in the village so it is likely more popular in the winter.

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La Fouly to Champex-Lac and Rest Day

20+km, 400m up, 550m down, 4 hours

Today was a relatively easy day until the end.  The route was mostly downhill through a number of small Swiss villages. We passed a number well preserved historical farm buildings and neighborhoods and ended the descent in another classic Alp’s valley

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The last hour or so was a steep uphill through the woods to the alpine lake town of Champex-Lac.

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We had a rest day in Champex-Lac which worked out well as it was the only day on our route where it rained heavily for most of the day.  We took the opportunity for a couple short hikes around the lake and trails around the village, but mostly took the day off from hiking.

Champex-Lac to Trient

15km, 700m up, 1000m down, 5 hours

Today was another relatively easy day. The hike was still long and we had plenty of climbing – some of it very steep.  There was some leftover moisture from the previous day so it was a bit chilly and wet heading up the first Col. But there was a nice refuge up there to get a cafe and warm up a bit.

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The route took us up to the Col de Forclaz which is one of the popular road cycling climbs in the area and was featured in this year’s Tour de France. We took a side hike up to another refuge and a glacier vista which was quite nice.

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The trail up followed an ancient aqueduct so it was relatively flat and also positioned well to follow the valley to our final destination of the day, Trient. Trient is a tiny spot with nothing to offer. There are a couple auberges that are pretty worn and tattered but its location on the trail make it a very popular overnight stop. There were definitely more hikers than residents in town the evening we were there.  (Trient is the only village that we would suggest skipping if you plan to do the TMB.)

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Trient to Argentiere

20+ km, 1200m up, 1300m down, 5+ hours

We woke up early and exited our auberge as fast as we possibly could so we were on the trail at 7:15am. We could not get out of it fast enough (it was really the only spot on our hike where we were not thrilled with our accommodations but it did offer a clean bed, cold beer & wine as well as hot food).  Our first goal of the day was to hike up to the Col de Balme which was a 2 hour steep hike in the woods and then another hour of incredible walking up through an alpine meadow to a refuge at the top of the Col. We watched marmots playing and hawks hunting them as we followed the hairpins to the top.

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At the top (after throwing in an extra Col because of some poor navigation), you are greeted with stunning views down to the Chamonix Valley and can almost see to Les Houches  – still a few days of hiking away.

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There are many trails down that wind through ski areas, forests, and ridges to the towns of Tours and Argentiere – both villages north of Chamonix.  We chose the route along the Aiguilette des Posettes which was along a ridge line that provide views of two different valleys.

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We ended in Argentiere which could be our favorite village on the TMB. It is a short bus ride to Chamonix but not as crowded or developed.  It also has a train stop and a number of lifts that can get you high on the mountains fast for great skiing or some alpine hiking.

Argentiere to Chamonix

11+km, 1150m up, 400m down, 4.5 hrs

We took a trail right out of Argentiere to avoid any buses or lifts that many trails require in the area and headed up to Lac Blanc – which is a very popular day spot for hikers staying in Chamonix.  The trail up was steep but beautiful and very rocky at the top.

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The lake itself was beautiful but a bit busy.  We stopped at the refuge for some water and refueling and then headed down a steep and rocky trail to a lift that took us close to Chamonix where we were able to take nice wooded trail along the river right into the heart of Chamonix.

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Chamonix Rest Day

We had plenty of energy on this rest day. And having spent a few days this summer in Chamonix, we decided to hop on a bus back to Argentiere and climb up to the Argentiere glacier. This is a spot that I have skied in the past so I was looking forward to seeing it in the summer. It was good to see the glacier was still there.

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Chamonix to Les Houches

13+km, 800m up, 1700m down, 5 hrs

Today  was all downhill accept for the parts that were not. We took the PlanPraz lift up to the base of the Col de Brevant and then climbed for 90 minutes or so to the top.  The lift was quite crowded in the morning with paragliders who launch at the base of the climb and sightseers who take another lift up to the top of the Brevant. We really enjoyed the hike up to the Brevant as it was very quiet along the backside of the ridge and offered views of different valleys. The trail was steep with some ladders, rungs and chains to help keep you on the trail. Once at the top, the views were fantastic. It was then a long steep downhill back down to our starting point of Les Houches with epic views the whole way.

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We regrouped with our travel companions in Les Houches for some celebrating and a big meal and then it was off on the train in the morning to the St Gervais valley.

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One of the World’s Best Hikes?

The  Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) trail circumnavigates Western Europe’s highest mountain, the mighty Mont Blanc, up craggy passes, over pastoral saddles and through surreal valleys of France, Italy and Switzerland.  It offers fantastic hiking that is both scenic and challenging while providing the allure of great vino, a hot meal and a comfortable bed in a charming village at the end of the trail every evening. The route winds through famous mountain villages such as Chamonix and Courmayeur as well as smaller villages that will leave you contemplating dairy farming as a plausible profession.

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There are countless hiking options of varying lengths and difficulty as well as many options to leverage buses and lifts to navigate the hike around the massif.  And both directions of traveling the loop offer their benefits and challenges.  You can plan on about 10 days of actual hiking give or take your speed of walking, and it is worth considering an option that includes 1-3 “rest” days to check out some of the bigger villages and side trails along the way. Some travelers carry their own gear, but there are plenty of guide and transport companies that will transport bags so you only need to hike with a day bag. And with plenty of refuges, some of the best potable water supplies and villages along the way, day packs can be light.  Most stay in hotels, auberges or refuges so carrying a tent or even a sleeping bag is not required. Guided trips are available and may be the way to go for those less experienced with walking and hiking, but we found the navigation and hiking pretty straightforward and enjoyed the flexibility of a self-guided version where we walked at our own pace but met up with a group often on the trail as well as at the end of the day.

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The surreal scenery makes this hike one of the best that we have ever done, but that is not the only reason why this hike is consistently rated one of the best in the world.  Here are some more reasons to love it:

  • Hiking thru three stunning countries with different cultures, food and languages- France, Italy, Switzerland.

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  • Trekking 132 miles on well marked trails with about 32K of vertical (up and down) not only gives one a sense of accomplishment, but burns a lot of calories on the gorgeous trails and allows for guilt-free enjoyment of the wonderful food and wine every night.

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  • Days are filled with surreal natural beauty.

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  • The only sound you are likely to hear are the bucolic chimes of cow bells or the rush of running mountain water.

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  • Gorgeous wildflower strewn fields abound in alpine back country.

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  • No need to worry about grizzly bears. The only wildlife you should see on the trail are more benign- ibex, marmots, hawks

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  • A hot shower and comfortable bed awaits every night in charming hotels and villages.

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  • Eating is taken seriously in Europe.  (France takes two hour lunches and many places are closed from 12-3 pm.)  In the Alps, regardless of where you are whether at the top of a col or in a valley where there appears to be nothing for miles, refuges are plentiful on the TMB offering wonderful food, drinks and shelter.

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  • Plenty of vino, cheese and great food every night.

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Bakery in Les Houches where we picked up sandwiches for our first day on the TMB.
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This spread was in a small refuge quite far from anywhere

There are so many ways to do this hike- on your own, guided or self-guided.  We used Sherpa Expeditions, and they were fantastic.  Sherpa offers a self-guided model that involves transporting your luggage every day but one.  We also started the trek with 8 other people and stayed in the same hotels every night making for a social but flexible trek.  So for those that want to hike at different speeds, this is a great option.  

The TMB is definitely one of the best hikes in the world and one of our best experiences this year between the stunning views, fresh, clean mountain air, fabulous food and wine, charming villages in three of our favorite countries!  We loved it so much we will likely repeat this trek sometime in the future.  Stay tuned for more details on the TMB.

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Biking to Dreamy Piran, Slovenia and an Istrian Gem

You cannot be sad while riding.- Anonymous

Stages 5 and 6 of our cycling journey from Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia took us to dreamy Piran, Slovenia and the Istrian gem of Porec, Croatia.  The beginning of Stage 5 was mostly uphill from Trieste, Italy across the border to Slovenia. None of the hills we encountered on this ride were terribly high or long.  Our heavy hybird bikes slowed us down, but generally, the route is relatively easy.

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The bike path from Italy into Slovenia continued.  This is thanks to the EUs investment in cycling paths.  The path, today, was yet another stunning bike route which took us out of Trieste along a plateau with views of the Adriatic Sea. A large portion of it was dirt and snaked along an old rail line through an ancient forest.

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Trieste off in the distance as we cycled uphill and into Slovenia.

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Before exiting Italy, yet another stunning fishing village awaited.  Muggia, Italy is a small village southeast of Trieste lying on the border of Slovenia and is the last and only piece of Istria still in Italian territory.

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Our first town in Slovenia was the coastal town of Koper along the Adriatic Sea.  The town is officially bilingual with both Slovene and Italian as the official languages.

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From Koper, we cycled to Portoroz, Slovenia, literally Port of Roses.  After Portoroz, the village of Piran, Slovenia was our destination. Here we experienced one of the steepest hills on one of the hottest days of the trip. But it was only a couple kilometers and Piran awaited us.

Piran is located in southwestern Slovenia on the Gulf of Piran on the Adriatic Sea and resembles a large-open air museum with medieval architecture.  Narrow streets and compact houses  and a small harbor gives the seaside village a special charm.  Stage 5 wrapped up with about 45 miles of biking.

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On our last day of cycling, we peddled from Piran, Slovenia to Porec, Croatia kicking off with a cycle through the salt gardens of Secovije.  Once past the salt gardens, we crossed the border of Croatia to the Istrian peninsula.  The Secovije international border crossing is one of the main crossings from Slovenia into Croatia. It is mostly designed for cars and trucks, but we jumped into the line with our bikes and no one seemed to be bothered. The crossing guard in both countries were very friendly.

The Isrian peninsula is the largest on the Adriatic Sea with some modest hills along an old railroad bed.  Cycling with our passports was a requirement for all on our trip even those of our fellow German and French biking buddies.  All passports were checked at the Croatian border as Croatia is slowly phasing into the EU and is not yet part of the Schengen unlike other EU countries.

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The last day mileage was about 55 miles and the destination was Porec, Croatia.  Biking through the Istria region gave us our first glimpses of the famous Croatian coast and started to get us excited about the few days we would be staying there. Along the way, we stopped in the beautiful city of Novigrad for lunch.

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Porec is a village on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula and has been a UNESCO site since 1997.  It is almost 2,000 years old and is set around a harbor protected by the sea. The village population is about 12,000 people.  Originally part of Italy, Porec and much of the Istrian peninsula became part of Croatia in 1947.

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All in all, this bike ride was in the top tier of cycle trips that we have completed.  The cycling routes were mostly (97%) either on country roads with little to no traffic or on bike paths.  The architecture and history along the route was beautiful as well as fascinating.  And the food, weather and sea coast exceeded expectations. Check out our other days cycling here.

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La Dolce Vita: Biking to L’Isola Del Sole and Trieste

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life. -Anna Akhmatova 

Our biking destinations for Stages 3 and 4 (of our cycling journey from Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia) was the beautiful Italian towns of Grado,  L’Isola Del Sole (the sunny island), and the historic city of Trieste.

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Lagoon to Grado.  Grado is off in the distance with an awesome bike path on a causeway to it.

 

 

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The approach to Trieste.  Hundreds of buoys for the yachts that fill the Med in July and August.  

Our biking mileage for Stage 3 was a modest 45 miles from Concordia Sagittarria to Grado and included a fun boat ride with our bikes across a lagoon.  From Concordia Sagitarria , we biked to the stunning fishing village of Marano Lagunare in time for lunch by the sea where a boat was waiting to ferry us and our fellow biking buddies (and all our bikes).  The boat took us from the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare across a lagoon to the surroundings of Aquileia.

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Our chariot awaits.  Our boat ride with the bikes from Marano Lagunare to Aquileia.

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Pedestrian area of the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare.

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Another view of the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare
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Our dock on the other side of the lagoon from Marano Lagunare and then more cycling to Aquileia and Grado.

Once we docked on the other side of the lagoon, our cycling adventure continued to Aquileia.  Aquileia  is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy at the head of the Adriatic and the edge of the lagoon.  Aquileia is believed to be the largest Roman city yet to be excavated.

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More fun with our new camera and the beautiful town of Aquileia.

From Aquileia, we biked over a stunning lagoon on a bike path to the gorgeous fishing village of Grado.  It is located in the Venetian lagoon in the northeastern region of Italy.  Once a fishing village, today it is a major boating and tourist destination with a lot of charm.   We loved Grado for the stunning blue seas that surround it, the pedestrian walking village, the stunning architecture and of course, fantastic food.  Our hotel for the night was located in the pedestrian only corner of the city and close to the sea.

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Marina and channel right in the center of Grado.  Boating in northern Italy must be a outstanding going from one charming village to another.
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The promenade in Grado.
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Charming street where we ate dinner in Grado.  Awesome dinner at the Spaghetti House in Grado.  For some reason, the owner thought we German and started speaking to us in German.  Must be Chris’ glasses.

 

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Loved Grado.  Definitely a place to revisit.

After spending the night in Grado, Stage 4 took us cycling about another 45 miles to Trieste.  The biking approach to Trieste was stunning along a coastal road with beautiful views.  Think Highway 1 in California but Italian style.  Si bella!

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Some tunnels on the approach to Trieste.
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Stunning views everywhere on our approach to Trieste.

Trieste is a city and port in northeastern Italy close to the Slovenian border (where we will be heading in Stage 5).  Trieste has an interesting history and was actually part of Austria from 1382 until 1918.  The city was annexed to Italy after World War I. It is a border town with an interesting mix of Austrian architecture and blend of Italian, German and Slavic cultures.  Our hotel for the night is the super comfortable, Hotel Victoria, in downtown Trieste.

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James Joyce, an Irish writer, spent a lot of time in Trieste.

 

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Main square in Trieste

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We enjoyed our visit to Trieste. It is a large city and has many beaches, historical sites, and neighborhoods. Its multi-cultural past and its small suburban villages give it a unique feel.  It is strategically located near the Slovenian border where we are off to in Stage 5. Slovenia is a new country for us and looked forward to our visit – and it did not dissapoint.  It actually exceeded expectations. Stay tuned for our cycling experience in Slovenia and Croatia.

 

Back on the Bikes: Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia

We are back on the bikes this week. We have not put in any serious miles since our ride in Southern India back in February so we are excited to be back at it and especially in Europe – our favorite place to cycle in the world.  Europe has a fabulous network of bike paths, and European drivers embrace the term “sharing the road”.  There is such a biking culture here both in terms of recreation and daily transport. In virtually every European village and city, you will find bike paths as well as young, middle-aged and older folks alike cycling to work, riding from the supermercati with groceries and flowers in bike baskets or heading out an evening cycle with the family. On weekends and holidays, you do not have to go very far before encountering a local pelaton making laps out on a country road.

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Our summer in Europe kicks off with a six day cycle from Venice, Italy through Slovenia to the coastal town of Porec, Croatia.  Cycling mileage from Venice to Porec is only about 290 miles.  It was a relatively modest distance but some of the route was dirt, and we were on heavy hybrid bikes which elongated the time to cover the 70-85+kms each day. Our self-guided cycling trip was booked with a new cycling company we found, Rad & Reisen, and our experience with them was excellent.  There were a few key things that differentiate this biking company from other biking companies we have used which include but are not limited to REI, Backroads, Randonee:

  1. Rad & Reisen uses a local logistics company, FunActive, that places stickers along the route. Some days, we did not need our turn by turn directions because of the sticker placement which was really nice.
  2. Although the trip was self-guided, there were six others (a couple from Germany, another German with a Swiss, and two others from France) that started at the same time with us and stayed at most of the same hotels.  It is nice to meet new folks that share a common interest and catch up before and after the rides.
  3. One of our fellow bikers broke the brake on the bike.  While the other biking companies we have used have a contact number for situations like this, Rad & Reisen has a hard wired, local network for not just a person to assist but experienced bike shops.  Within thirty minutes, a person from a local shop was at the site and fixed the brake.

There were so many things to love about this biking trip.  Three out of the six days we cycled were mostly on flat surfaces until reaching Trieste, Italy (a great town) and then each day thereafter the amount of hills increased.  Only 3% of the biking was on busy roads and this was mainly when we entered larger towns.   27% of the biking was on cycle paths and 70% on very small country roads giving the feel that 97% was on a cycle path.  It is pure bliss cycling along gorgeous country roads with no traffic, stunning scenery and fabulous weather.

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Stage 1 included biking from Venice (mainland) to Jesolo.  We had two options for this stage (and most stages):

  1. Bike the whole way about 75 kilometers
  2. Or, bike and take a ferry to Jesolo

We are in training to attend and bike some of the Tour de France so we opted for biking the whole way.  Once we got out of Venice, we were on some beautiful country roads and cycled through some lovely smaller villages- including Zuccarello, San Liberale, Ca’ Tron, Caposile. Our final destination for the day was the beach town of Jesolo on the Adriatic located in the province of Venice and on the coast the north of Venice.  Jesolo is a beach town with little Venetian architecture but a beautiful beach.  For us, it was a little too touristy and a bit kitschy but the sound of the ocean and the view of the beach was lovely.  We had a great hotel, Hotel Bali, right on the beach and centrally located in Jesolo.

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Stage 2 was more impressive.  It included visits to the stunning villages of Caorle, Portogruaro and Concordia Sagittaria.  The villages have an interesting history and gorgeous architecture.    On Stage 2, we logged about 85 kilometers.

Caorle is another coastal town in the province of Venice situated between two estuaries- Livenza and Lemene rivers.  It was founded in the 1st century BC by the Romans and was one of the strategic cities of the Republic of Venice.

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In Caorle, like other village centers, stands the typical bell town.  This one dates back to 1048.  It is a typical Romanesque style but has a cylindrical structure which is unique.

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From Caorle, we cycled to Concordia Sagittaria, another beautiful little town in the province of Venice that was founded in 42 BC by the Romans.

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We stayed in this lovely, family-run hotel and restaurant in Concordia Sagittaria, Hotel Iulia.

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Portogruaro was located roughly 1 mile from Concordia Sagittaria on a bike path beside a river.  Portogruaro was an important river-port for the Republic of Venice and is a beautiful city with Venetian elements.

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Our butts were sore at the end of Stages 1 and 2.  We have been hiking not biking.  We are not used to sitting in the saddle for about 6 hours and were both fighting a bit of a head cold that we have had since leaving the tropical Central America for Scotland a week ago. But it felt great to be back on the bike again.

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Stay tuned for Stages 3-6 where we bike to some gorgeous towns of Grado, Italy, Piran Slovenia and then onto Croatia along the stunning Istrian coast.

 

Mozzafiato Venice!

We left the cold and damp climate of Scotland and headed to Venice, Italy. Where else in the world can you arrive at the airport and be whisked away to a major city on a water taxi. At the  airport, there is a pier where hotel taxis, private boats and public water taxis wait to greet new arrivals.

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LaGare on Beautiful Murano

From the moment you arrive at the Venice airport pier, the beauty of the Venetian lagoon, the gorgeous boats and Venice off in the distance consumes your attention.

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Approximately 20 million tourists visit Venice every year but surprisingly this number does not put Venice in the top 10 or even top 20 most visited cities in the world.  However, when you visit, it doesn’t feel that way.  The number of tourists can be overwhelming, and you begin to understand why locals have expressed concern about the number of vistors causing detriment to this stunning city.

Venice is an outside museum, if you will, and a place where it is treat to stroll and check out the gorgeous architecture, canals and gondolas.  And it is an easy city in which to get lost given the maze of narrow streets and alley ways, but this is part of the charm of Venice.  Forget the gondola ride, strolling around the city is the best way to check out the sights.  Taking photos alone is great fun for both amateur and professional photographers alike, and with every corner, it seems there is another fabulous photo opportunity.  And yet, somehow, the photos do not seem to reveal the true beauty of the city.  🙂

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Venice is the most romantic place in the world but it’s even better when there is no one around.”- Woody Allen.   Given the amount of tourists even in May and June, it can be a challenge finding a spots without a sea of tourists.  But for our 19th wedding anniversary, we found a “Venice” with no else around.  Murano is a lovely island located in the Venetian lagoon with Venetian architecture but without the tourists. We stayed at a wonderful hotel, LaGare, on Murano which is a short vaporetti ride to Venice.

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Little to no tourists (especially in the evening) and a short, fabulous vaporetti ride to Venice, Murano is a special place.

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Glass Museum on Murano

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Trying out the filters on our new camera.

After strolling around Venice and Murano for a few days, we are biking from Venice to Porec, Croatia thru Slovenia.  Watch this space for updates on our biking experience.