Posted by: Jennifer Sage | February 24, 2008

What is self-guided cycling the Vélo Concierge way? Part III

(continued from previous post…) 

After bidding farewell to the Lubéron, we drove to the Vaucluse and our very special B&B. Our hosts, Monique and John let us store our bike cases in their garage and even offered to serve us a home-made dinner on their lovely patio underneath the plane trees. As we sat there enjoying her cooking, a large group of local hard-core cyclists decked out in their team kits rode by. John said they were no doubt headed to some of the big climbs to the east.

John helped us pour over maps as we planned out our next three days of rides. Unfortunately we couldn’t ride Mont Ventoux on this particular trip (we did climb it two years later though), as there were some new and exciting rides I wanted to map out for my own clients. 

The first day in the Vaucluse I took Jeff on one of my favorite rides of all time around the lacy ridges of the Dentelles de Montmirail, in the shadow of Ventoux. We selected (and recorded) the best and most scenic roads possible, including an incredible detour that climbed up to the tiny village of Suzette. Good thing I ride with a small carrying case on a rear rack (similar to the photo below) as my favorite olive oil comes from a special shop I know of in Beaumes de Venise, one I’ve been taking clients to since 1989! It’s great for carrying your picnic items, or a bottle of olive oil or wine you pick up along the ride.

Susie in the Pyrenees 

Day 2 of riding we did another load-the-bikes-in-the car route. The ride we did was so spectacular, it’s hard to describe. Thank goodness for the car, as we couldn’t have ridden out there AND enjoyed the entire loop of 35-50 miles.  A car allows you to access some of the most amazing rides, where most tour companies wouldn’t send you. We parked in Buis-les-Barronies and embarked on a hilly sojourn way off the beaten tourist path with only a few small hamlets. We were either riding through olive groves, lavender fields, or miles and miles of apricot, pear, cherry and plum trees. The fast straightaway back to the car was along a river for miles, and we found a great swimming spot to cool off. It was an obvious favorite of the locals on a hot summer day. [It’s special tips like these that I include with each ride in a Vélo Concierge package.]

Our final day of riding in Provence was probably the easiest of the week, right out our door to the mostly flat vineyards to the west, for 40 miles. It was a great way to end our trip.

Dinner those last two nights were recommendations of our hosts, in the lively town of Vaison-la-Romaine, 10km away. One was so great that I brought my Tour-de-France group here 2 years later! Again, I can’t reiterate enough the pleasures of having a car so you can explore unique dining options when you’re not riding!

Dave and Nancy with car 

So that’s a typical Vélo Concierge style of self-guided cycling. How is it different from the other companies out there?

Most companies choose your inns for you, most have you moving quickly from inn-to-inn, staying only one or two nights at each location. Because of this, you might miss some amazing options for rides, and most likely only do the ones that every single other bike tour company does. Yes, they transfer your luggage for you from inn to inn, but you don’t have a car for flexibility. You also don’t have much choice in your selection of rides – if it’s a transfer day, you have to ride no matter what – rain, shine, or fatigue (or take an expensive taxi).

They almost always include dinner at the hotel in a half-pension plan. I do this occasionally, when convenient, but you don’t have the option to explore the best restaurants of the region so I would never want it more than perhaps two nights. And, you should know that all half-pension dinners are set menus, with maybe two choices for your main course, and don’t offer full choice of their whole menu (without a supplement).  In my eyes, if you like to eat, and really like to explore and if you really like to sample some of the gastronomic specialties of the region, you want as much choice as you can get. It doesn’t have to be expensive either!

That’s what we offer – flexibility, freedom, and choices, choices, choices. Choices in your hotels, in your rides, in your meals, in how much or how little you want to ride, and in the way your vacation is laid out!

Cyclists in Tuscany

Another way the Vélo Concierge differs is how the tour is priced. Other self-guided bike tours  have a stated price (let’s look at a typical example of $1,895/pp for 6 nights, 7 days). In that price is the cost of the 3 star hotels (their selection, not yours), usually with breakfast, maybe some dinners, and then all of their time and expenses and overhead (which you do not see). The hotel costs might make up only $400-500/pp of that price.

The Vélo Concierge charges a fee per person, usually $800/pp for up to 8 days. Then we give YOU a list of hotels to select from. Your choice (charming B&Bs, 3 star, or luxury 4 star hotels, or mix and match if you want) can make the final cost of the tour more or less, so you have control over the cost. We still make all arrangements, and we will customize the tour around any particular needs you have. Some clients want to spend 4 days in 3 different hubs, some want to even do two different regions (like Provence and the Alpes) – we can customize it any way you want!

In that Vélo Concierge fee is included all arrangements, driving directions and tips, and a very complete handbook of information, with all your route notes and highlighted maps and much, much more. (For a complete list, please see what’s included). And we add the hotel costs on top of that. But it’s transparent – you see exactly what the hotels cost, you can have an affect on the final cost by your hotel selection, and you can decide if you want to add half pension meals or not. It’s not hidden costs as in the sample tour above.

For example, a 7-day tour using two quality B&Bs for 6 nights, 7 days at about 100€

per night would be about $1,235 per person (including the VC fee). Add to that the cost of your dinners and your vehicle, and you are still less than the self-guided tour with the other company (in the example above) that gives you few, if any, options! You can see how their non-transparent “fee” (their overhead) is most likely even greater than our Vélo Concierge fee!

Can you see how this method of self-guided cycling is better suited for the independent-minded cyclist who wants to ride a lot, stay in great places, eat very well and experience the best that each region has to offer?

I also specialize in very special B&Bs and inns. Some of the ones we recommend are very difficult to find (even online) unless you really knew the area (and travel agents won’t recommend them because they don’t offer commissions). Following are photos from two very special chambre d’Hotes (B&Bs) I’ve personally stayed, the first in Provence and the second in the Pyrenees. They are centrally located, charming, clean, and impeccably furnished, with very congenial hosts who take excellent care of their clients. And they weren’t very expensive, either!

Chambre d’<p>Hote in Malaucene

chambre d’<p>Hote in the Pyrenees 

We are also putting together a couple of tours that are the most common and that won’t be customized (although, we’ll always give you choices on inns), that will cost several hundred dollars less. So you’ll be able to save even more money while still enjoying the benefits of the Vélo Concierge freedom and flexibity!

For me personally, as an avid cyclist who loves to explore, there is no other option. And I’m banking that many of you feel the same way!

Why don’t you let me help you set up a customized tour to France or Italy? Contact me with any inquiries!

Ride on, 

 

Jennifer Sage

jennie Les Deux Alpes

check out our website: www.vivatravels.com   

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Responses

  1. Hi
    Interesting to read your website. Do you have any recomandations for B&B, Hotal, farmhouses or Pensions were we can stay for two nights at Baeumes de Venice or close to there?
    Thank you
    Nora Bello.

  2. Hi Nora,
    In Beaumes de Venise is an absolutely fantastic B&B called Le Clos de Saint Saourde http://www.avignon-et-provence.com/maison-hotes-provence/clos-st-saourde/index.html. A bit pricey for a B&B but a fabulous renovated farmhouse with a pool and HUGE charming rooms. I’ve not stayed there, and only recently found it. One I’ve stayed at and really enjoyed is La Villa Noria, about 10km away in Modene, prices are slightly lower. The owner has done a beautiful job with decorating the rooms. http://www.villa-noria.com/anglais/la_villa_noria_an.htm Tell her Jennifer from Viva Travels sent you! I have more, just email me at jennifer@vivatravels.com.
    Have a great stay, it’s lovely there! There’s an awesome shop in the center of BdV for Provencial specialties, and I always bring home their olive oil. Jennifer


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