Cycle Touring in Germany and France: The 10 Things I Enjoyed Most

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Sampling the wine along the way

Mike and I just returned from a cycling trip in Germany’s Rhine, Mosel, Saar and Pfalz regions and in neighbouring Alsace, France. We dub the experience The Tour du Vin und Kuchen. My odometer says that we pedalled 1100 km (684miles). Please save the oohs and ahhs. It works out to an average of about 50 km (31 miles) per day, cycling 21 out of our 29 days. We had a planned route, but our itinerary was fluid and we booked on the fly, giving us lots of flexibility to take part in wine festivals, eat kucken (cake) and explore the fairy-tale towns and castles. Over the next months, I’ll be writing posts about each of the regions we visited.  For now, here’s a summary of what I most enjoyed. Continue reading

Categories: France, Germany | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Feeling the Passion in La Boca, Buenos Aires

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El Caminito, La Boca

Es la catedral (It’s the cathedral), exclaims a portly middle-aged man. He’s reverently pointing to the stadium owned by the Boca Juniors, one of Argentina’s top football clubs.  The team is much loved by fans throughout Argentina and adoration tops out here in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of La Boca. But football is not the only thing that defines this port-side barrio. La Boca is the birthplace of tango; it’s home to the most colourful street in all of Buenos Aires; and its rich history has shaped arts, culture and politics. Even on this cold blustery day, La Boca’s passion is palpable. Continue reading

Categories: Argentina | Tags: , , , , | 24 Comments

Tales from the Graveyard: Buenos Aires’ Recoleta Cemetery

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Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetery is no ordinary cemetery. Consistently ranked as one of the top three attractions in Buenos Aires, it houses 4700 mausoleums and 30,000 souls. The cemetery was established in 1822 and its labyrinth of narrow passageways contain a treasure trove of elaborate marble crypts and stunning sculptures. Recoleta is the final resting place of many of Argentina’s who’s who, including the country’s most famous first lady Eva Perón. And, it’s loaded with stories—tragic, bizarre, disturbing, heartwarming tales of the dead. Dominique, our guide from Free Walking Tours Buenos Aires had me enthralled. I bring you a few choice tales from the graveyard… Continue reading

Categories: Argentina | Tags: , , , , | 31 Comments

Cycling Weekend on San Juan Island, Washington: The Island that Could’ve Been Canadian!

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Wonderful cycling on San Juan Island, Washington

Back in June, I had one of my best weekends of the summer—a two day cycling trip on Washington’s San Juan Island. Just days before our departure I was perusing  John Crouch’s Cycling the Islands. I was looking for an island within reasonable distance of Vancouver, with great cycling and scenery that wasn’t too large, too small, too mountainous, too flat, too busy, too quiet, too beholden to too many ferries…Bingo! With its stunning coastal vistas, pleasantly rolling terrain, good roads and courteous easy-going drivers, San Juan is a total pleasure for cyclists. Damn! To think that this island could have been ours (Canada’s). Continue reading

Categories: Biking, United States | Tags: , , , , , | 22 Comments

High on Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni: The World’s Largest Salt Flat

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The impressive mirror effect at Salar de Uyuni—C.Helbig

“One, two, three… jump,” yells Elvis our guide. Easier said than done at 3656 m (11,995 ft) but I muster the energy for the requisite crazy photos on the world’s largest salt flat. We are on a 4-day Salar de Uyuni tour, traveling from Tupiza, Bolivia to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile with La Torre Tours.  Our off-road journey takes us across the giant salt flat and through volcano-studded landscapes dotted with outrageous rock formations, flamingo-filled lakes and steaming geothermal fields. Continue reading

Categories: Bolivia, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Road Trip Part 2: Argentina’s Quebrada de Humahuaca

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Llamas on the road to Salinas Grande

After a one night pit stop in Salta, our road trip through Argentina’s northwest continues. On this excursion, we travel north through Jujuy Province and the enchanting Quebrada de Humahuaca all the way to the Bolivian border. We enlist the service of Poncho Tours, an excellent operator who runs private, customized tours. Over the next two and a half  days, we visit indigenous Andean villages, giant salt flats and multicoloured mountains that would make a perfect album cover for a psychedelic rock band. And, I might add, we eat the best empanadas ever. Continue reading

Categories: Argentina, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Road Trip Part 1: Argentina’s Valles Calchaquíes, Salta-Molinos-Cafayate Loop

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Piattelli Winery in Cafayate, Argentina

As Mike and I were digging into the fourth course of our wine pairing lunch in Cafayate’s elegant Piattelli Winery our heads were swimming (and not only from the good wine). Just two hours ago, we had been driving along a gravel road through a tortured landscape of razor-edged hills. That morning, we’d woken up in Molinos, a tiny, sun-baked adobe village. The day before, we had started our 3-day road trip in sophisticated Salta, traveled through farmland that morphed into jungle that gave way to high desert. Our loop through Valles Calchaquíes, in northwestern Argentina, was less than 500 km (310 miles) and packed with so much variety it felt surreal.  Cheers! Continue reading

Categories: Argentina, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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