From the Champs-Élysées to the Mountains of Corsicaby Bike tour guru
Catch me if you can!
From the halls of Le Royal Monceau to the shores of Corsica I've been traversing the countryside by air, on land, and by sea.
It all began in Paris. First stop: the newly opened Philippe Stark 5-star hotel, Le Royal Monceau, where I met up with our private YPO group for a whirlwind, albeit brief, adventure in Paris.
What's the best way to get from Paris to Versailles? By bike, bien sur! Our group headed out in grand style on a route that took us along the Champs Elysees, past Roland Garros, through the Bois de Boulogne, and right up to the gates of Versailles. I have to admit that this is perhaps one of the most elegant and unique ways to approach this royal chateau. Why board a crowded train and wait in line for entry into the chateau when you can pedal carefree through the streets, taking in the sights, and arrive through the gates and be ushered in with welcome arms?
Mind you, our preferential treatment didn't end there. We were treated to an exclusive behind the scenes walking tour of Versailles, a special lunch at the on-site restaurant, Angelina, as well as a Grand Cru tasting hosted by Catherine Hamilton, the president of the American Friends of Versailles, and a visit from the CEO of the House of Krug Champagne. What an afternoon! Only to be followed by a private dinner car transfer via TGV train to Provence.
And the excitement continued on in Les Baux. From our homebase at the Oustau de Beaumaniere/La Cabro d'Or, we managed to pack in another selection of privileged events throughout a spectacular Provence bike tour. These included a two Michelin star gastronomic feast, a visit to the La Coquillade (the BMC team hotel, for those of you 'in the know'), and an olive oil tasting at Chateau d'Estoublon, hosted by the owners Valerie and Remy.
Topping it all off, and perhaps my favorite moment of the tour, was picking up my deux chevaux in Menerbes and leading the caravan, or should I say entourage, of Citroen 2cvs through the streets of Provence. What a sight to behold! As you can imagine, we attracted plenty of attention on the road with our own impromptu DuVine parade.
A wonderful cycling trip in Provence had ended and I was ready to rally for my next adventure.
Next stop: Piedmont.
After a stunning drive along the coast through Monaco and Nice, I made my way to Piedmont, where another group of guests awaited. Again, like YPO, this was a group of exceptional individuals involved in a wonderful organization, the Pan-Mass Challenge. Here I met up with my friend and PMC founder Billy Starr as he hosted a benefit bike tour in Piedmont for fellow PMC riders.
Let's just call it a week of Barolo and biking, shall we? We logged plenty of quality miles in the saddle on the gorgeous Apennine roads, enjoyed the bounty of slow food cuisine, and, of course, imbibed in those intensely bold Barolos.
The highlight of the week, though, was not the wine, nor the food, nor the cycling. Rather, it was the serendipitous discovery of a stray kitten hiding in the engine of our DuVine van. We had just finished a picnic lunch and were about to head back on the road when the group heard the muffled meows emanating from the vehicle. The poor fellow must have decided to snuggle into the comforting warm engine after we had parked for the picnic. After a tedious search and rescue mission (removing parts of the van to gain access) we successfully found our party crasher, healthy, happy, and purring. Mission accomplished. Hence our day included an unexpected detour, as we took a side trip to deliver our new friend to the local animal shelter.
Saying my goodbyes to the PMC in Piedmont group, I headed off, yet again, this time toward Tuscany.
Along the way, I made another new friend: a charming older woman in a small Tuscan village, whom I absolutely had to capture on film to preserve the moment.
I then made my way to La Chiusa to join another group of DuVine guests for some more cycling, wine and revelry on their cycling vacation in Tuscany.
Interestingly enough, on this visit to La Chiusa, I was also presented with the gift of a Cortina truffle from Umberto, who urged me to take it back to Piedmont and initiate a truffle taste test - Tuscan vs Piedmontese.
I obliged and returned to Piedmont with said truffle in hand and asked chef Clara, Guido's mom, to prepare a special 'truffle-off' dinner for our guests. I will remain impartial, but the general consensus of our guests was that the Piedmont funghi was the resounding victor.
The end of another day, and the beginning of yet another new adventure.
Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Move along, move along. Perhaps that should be my new mantra?
Yes, I left Piedmont and flew off to meet another private group in Corsica for some serious cycling and some even more serious boating! Actually, yachting is more like it, as we were aboard a 150ft yacht complete with a crew of 10 jet skis, two tenders, paddle boards, and a massage therapist. Our first ride took us along the gorgeous Mediterranean coast, cruising the rollers on a 60 mile ride from Cap to St. Florent, undulating up and down the mountains, mimicking the undulation of the boat.
The next day's ride was a totally different experience, cycling from St. Florent, through desert and mountains, to Calvi. I'm happy to say that I'm feeling stronger on the bike every day and these long days in the saddle are far more inspiring than discouraging!
I am currently living the life in Corsica, enjoying great rides and post-cycling TLC aboard the ship. To be honest, I'm not sure if I'll come back!
Until next time...