Sunday, June 18, 2006

Burgundy & Paris Multisport

Pinot noir, chocolate crepes, and escargot. Notre dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Musée d'Orsay. Biking through vineyards, skating on canal tow paths, and hiking to a hillside church. There is so much happening on our Burgundy and Paris Multisport Adventure it is hard to know where to start my blog.

Burgundy, a province in the eastern part of France about five hours drive from Paris, is known for its food and wine. We have been visiting Burgundy for four years now, however, primarily because of two long, paved, and beautiful paths in the heart of the area.

We start our tour skating along the Canal du Centre in the town of Chalon-sur-Saone. The path running along the canal is just perfect for skating. Because a number of participants on this trip were not experienced skaters, I took about 1/3 of the group to one end of the trail for a short braking clinic. The rest of the group started skating from the end of the path near our Chalon hotel and one of my two co-guides on this trip provided advanced skating instruction while on the trail. It was gratifying to hear how much people liked the path but more so to hear one skater tell me he had learned more about skating in one day than in all his previous lessons.

The activity continued in Burgundy with successive days of biking, hiking, skating, and hiking. On this trip, I ended up supporting the route in our Zephyr van on both skating days and so was able to bike the long route on our biking day and hike both days we were on foot. Since I love getting off the trails into the Burgundy countryside, that was fine with me.

However, it was during one of my driving days that I had my best day in Burgundy. While the group skated from our hotel in the small town of Buxy to our hotel in the slightly larger but more famous (for its ancient abbey) town of Cluny, two of us drove the support van and transferred the group’s luggage. We then went to the local grocery store to purchase ingredients for a surprise picnic lunch.

The menu? Freshly prepared salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and potato; French bread straight from the bakery; four kinds of cheeses and five kinds of sandwich meats; cashews, almonds, and pistachio nuts; fresh fruit including melon, oranges, and kiwi; cake, cookies, and French chocolates for dessert; water with a flavor of mint to wash it all down; and freshly picked wildflowers for the table.

It was a feast and when our group rolled up to the picnic area, situated alongside the trail in a wooded park, they were happy to see us! Naturally, on a normal basis I much prefer hiking, skating, or biking to driving the van. However, this day was special because I felt like I belonged in France as I shopped and prepared a very European picnic. The compliments from our participants didn’t hurt!

After five days in Burgundy, we boarded a chartered bus for the ride back to Paris. That evening, we had a quick dinner before heading to the Friday Night Skate. With thousands of skaters participating (the skate runs every week and averages 10,000) we quickly separated and enjoyed the amazing experience of skating through the streets of the city – at night – in a huge crowd. We met again at the break and were so pumped up by the experience that at midnight we skated up to a sidewalk café for a post-skate drink.

The next two days we toured the major sights of Paris on skates. Many in the group were nervous about skating in Paris and, granted, it is more difficult than skating on a nicely paved path. However, with a little encouragement and some pointers on how to navigate the city, our group headed down side streets toward the Eiffel Tower. Two days, dozens of kilometers, and an entire city later our group of nervous skaters were quite impressed – and justifiably so – with their successes skating in Paris.

I can relate the details but it is hard to relate how emotionally satisfying the last week has been for me. I absolutely love Europe and France is one of my favorite countries on the continent. I have been to Burgundy half a dozen times and it now feels as if this little corner of the world is a second home. Because of this feeling, it is that much more rewarding to be able to show off my “home” to our tour participants.


Pat Knauss said...

Mike read your posting last night and told me we might have to reconsider going on the France tour. Today I read your article and agree!

Pat K

Sascha said...

Sounds like a boatload of fun! Almost makes me sorry I'm not skating anymore--except for the part where I fell down all the time! The world is just a better place with me on two wheels instead of four :)

Roberta Perry said...

This tour was truly one of the highlights of my traveling experiences, and definitely my favorite (so far) of the 3 Zephyr tours I have taken. Everything was either delicious, peaceful, gorgeous, interesting or just plain fun! I will be back on this tour again!