Put a smile on their faces……

We’re kick-starting the new year with a fantastic special offer on 2 of our favourite family friendly holidays: Austrian Lakes & Mountains and Into the Valley of the Alps.

We are offering a discount of £50 per person, so a family of four could make a saving of £200! Just book before the end of February to take advantage of this great deal.

For full details of the offer, please click here.

Alternatively, ring our friendly reservations team on +44 (0)116 2558417 or email enquiries@freewheelholdiays.com

Sunday Times Recommends Freewheel Holidays

 Ambialet Aveyron

Yet again Freewheel Holidays have made it into the Sunday Times annual feature, “Top 100 Holidays.” This year the accolade goes to our cycling holiday in the Aveyron.

So where exactly is the Aveyron and why will you love it? Just 100 miles from the Med but in a wonderful, remote region redolent of the ‘old France’, Aveyron is a great choice for a cycling holiday. You are based in the village of Plaisance, close to the River Tarn, in a lovely, welcoming hotel which was once the home of French poet Paul Valéry. The hotel also owns a complex in a nearby forest with a swimming pool which you can use.

Apart from cycling on quiet by-roads along river banks, and through the distinctive limestone scenery of the causses, you can visit historic Albi, see the amazing Millau viaduct, and visit a Roquefort cheese cave. The holiday has a programme of suggested, self-guided rides averaging 25-30 miles, and the tour minibus is used so you don’t have to make the return trip every time!

Prices start at £749 per person in May, rising to £799 in July and August. Included are 6 nights’ accommodation, transfers from Rodez, Toulouse or Albi, four evening meals and one lunch, bike hire, maps and programme material. Departure dates are any day from 1st May to 31st October 2014.

 

Late Booking – Is This A Record?

Yesterday we were asked how late we could accept a booking. “How late?” was our response?  “Tomorrow,” came the answer, “we are already driving to France”. Before our customers had left the ferry at Calais, we had finalised their holiday to start the following day. So today, less than 24 hours after the initial phone call, our customers are cycling the beautiful route from Bordeaux to Arcachon.

This service is available to you – call Yvonne or Cathy in our Reservations Department on  +44 (0) 116 255 8417 or email info@freewheelholidays.com

 

 

Freewheel Holidays support Ronan Keating’s charity fundraiser

Freewheel Holidays joined forces with Ronan Keating and Sir Chris Hoy to support Cancer Research & the Marie Keating Foundation.

The spectacular Emeralds & Ivy ball was attended by a host of showbiz and sporting celebrities including: Alan Shearer, Christine Bleakley, Rebecca Adlington, Katie Melua, Amanda Lamb and Cerys Matthews. Of course, Ronan himself was there to host the event which raised over £600,000 for charity. Prizes included a fabulous cycling holiday donated by Freewheel and the jersey worn by Sir Chris Hoy when he achieved his 7th Olympic gold medal.

 

If you’re thinking about a cycling holiday, don’t. Just book it. If we can do it, anyone can.

That’s what journalist Adam Wakelin said after he experienced our tour “Fine Chateaux of the Loire”.

“I’d never booked a holiday before that brought my wife to her knees. This one did, before we had even left the house.

‘Stand still!’ Babita ordered, trying to thread the tape-measure up my thigh as I jiggled about like a small boy with a full bladder. ‘I can’t. You’re tickling me!’ I laughed. ‘What’s this for, anyway?’

‘The travel company need our inside-leg measurements so they can make sure our bicycles are the right size,’ she explained.

They also wanted to know we were fit enough for a 121-mile cycle ride through France. Fortunately, that didn’t require the divulging of any more vital statistics. If they had, the answer may well have been a hoot of derision. In my case, anyway.

This was to be our first biking holiday and it wasn’t booked without a little trepidation. The exploits of our Olympians had inspired us to saddle up for a tour of the Loire Valley’s fine chateaux. But my wife was no Victoria Pendleton and, aside from a fondness for Paul Weller and the fags, I was certainly no Bradley Wiggins.

We would begin in Blois, a lovely little place on the banks of the Loire, and finish four days later in the city of Tours. Our route was a medium-difficult Level 2 – suitable for those with ‘some cycling experience and a reasonable level of physical fitness’. That sounded like us, but you never know, do you? Maybe our definition of ‘reasonably fit’ wasn’t theirs.

France looked picture-postcard pretty as our Ryanair flight from Manchester descended into Tours. But I wasn’t bothered about that. I was too busy trying to spot potentially troublesome hills. We needn’t have worried. The Loire Valley’s not quite pancake-flat, but it doesn’t hold any horrors. The only thing that really took our breath away was the view.

A carefully thought out itinerary kept us mostly on gently winding cycle paths through vineyards, forests, villages and sunflower fields of loveliness. Our luggage went on ahead, courtesy of impeccably efficient travel reps who picked it up at 9am.

Our first day of cycling was a 34-mile loop around Blois that took in the Chateau de Chambord. King Francis I began Chambord as a hunting lodge in 1519. His successors extended, embellished, twiddled, teased, turreted, dormered and domed it into palatial magnificence. It is by common consent the most spectacular of the Loire’s many chateaux.

The interior, aside from its remarkable double-helix spiral staircase, is slightly more low-key than you might expect. The grounds, though, are beautiful. Apparently, Francis I spent only 72 days here. Lucky man, if he had somewhere better to be.  

It was a sweltering late summer day and we decided to eat the picnic, prepared for us by our hotel, in the chateau’s gardens. My wife’s herring salad had leaked out of its tupperware on to everything in my pannier. The smell must have got back to Blois a good hour before we did. We took a few wrong turns on the way. The scenery and maps always seemed slightly out of sync, like the words and action in a spaghetti Western.

Some of the instructions seemed to gain a layer of idiosyncrasy in translation. I should, perhaps, have paid closer attention to Chloe, the lovely travel company woman who visited our first hotel in Blois to deliver our bikes, panniers, puncture-repair kits and enough maps to fill the travel section in Waterstone’s.

‘You are sure you know where you are going?’ said Chloe, seeking a final reassurance as she climbed into her car. ‘Oh yes,’ I said, eager to get sightseeing. ‘Are you sure?’ whispered my wife. ‘Definitely,’ I lied.

Like Bonnie Tyler, we were often lost in France. Unlike her song, it didn’t make you want to weep. If anything, it added to the adventure. We were never too far off track, the locals were mercifully free of the disdainful shoulder-shrugging you get in Paris, and the Loire Valley is a smashing place to lose yourself in.

Day two, another scorcher, saw us ride through the Foret de Blois before following the river to the Chateau de Chaumont and then the town of Amboise. My wife, perhaps feeling the effects of the heat or the herring, was a little poorly, but I was in fine fettle. You can almost feel your cares falling away and your brain easing down a gear as you pedal through lethargic little villages, tranquil vineyards and cornfields with the sun on your back.

We didn’t go inside the chateau in Chaumont, preferring to spend a couple of hours marvelling at its Festival of International Gardens in the grounds. Billed as ‘Gardens of delight, gardens of delirium’, the pleasantly potty plots featured everything from a battalion of gilded gnomes, apparently inspired by the Arab Spring, to a pastry-themed dis-­ play with girl hiding inside a giant pie so she didn’t have to be a nun. It was wonderful.

Our next hotel, the Domaine de l’Arbrelle, was pleasantly situated at the edge of a forest on the outskirts of Amboise. It was also up a steepish hill. My still poorly wife pulled a stricken face. ‘It’s not up there, is it?’ she said, harbouring a forlorn hope I’d gone wrong again with the maps.

The hotel’s outdoor pool made the climb worth the effort. Being able to have a dip was heavenly after a long day in a hot saddle. On a similarly spiritual plane was the food. The Loire is rightly lauded for its cuisine, but our four courses at the hotel were extra special. All were washed down with a splendid bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. We ended the evening on the little patio outside our room drowsily looking up at the stars. I’ve had worse days.

Day three brought another loop, taking in the forest of Amboise, the lake Grand Etang de Jumeaux and the Chateau of Chenonceau. The chateau, elegantly perched on the River Cher, looked to Babita as if it had sprung straight from a book of fairy tales. It reminded me, sweeter in tooth than disposition, of the place where the Milk Tray Man delivered his chocolates.

On a more modest scale than the sprawling Chateau de Chambord, this romantic pleasure palace was easier to get a handle on and enjoy. Mary Queen of Scots, promised in marriage to the future Francis II, lived there for a while.

Her Scottish guards took it upon themselves to graffiti on the chapel’s walls. You can still read ‘Man’s anger does not accomplish God’s justice’ and ‘Do not let yourself be won over by evil’.

Louise of Lorraine’s bedroom, which she decorated entirely in black and adorned with symbols of death after her husband King Henri III was assassinated, is a teen-age goth girl’s delight. Louise hardly left that room. My Twilight Saga-­loving missus made a beeline for it. ‘Will you do this for me if I go first?’ she asked, all misty-eyed and mourn-ful. Not likely. ‘Of course I will, dear,’ I said.

Amboise, like Blois, was nice. We gravitated to the cobbled, higgledy piggledy, half-timbered olde-worlde bits, but our sightseeing was, to be honest, whistlestop. After a day on a bike, what you really want to do is park your derriere on a chair outside a cafe and have a beer or two and a meal.

The last leg of our journey, 19 miles along the River Loire to Tours, was a doddle. Tours, known as the ‘Garden of France’ thanks to its many parks, has all the elan you might expect from a French city.

After a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon cycling its grand, tree-lined boulevards and twisty-turny medieval district, we headed down to the banks of the Loire. The sun, as bright and smiley as a children’s TV presenter, was beginning to set on our holiday.

I sat sipping a beer as my wife played backgammon with a lovely old Syrian guy we’d got talking to. He let her win. ‘It’s great here, isn’t it?’ she said. Yes it is, and there’s no better way to see it than by bike.

If you’re thinking about a cycling holiday, don’t. Just book it. If we can do it, anyone can.”

This article appeared in the Mail on Sunday 27th January 2013, you can read the full version here. 

Travel Facts : Freewheel Holidays (0116 255 8417, www.freewheelholidays.co.uk) offers a five-night self-guided holiday from Blois to Tours, including accommodation, bike hire, maps and airport transfers, from £699 pp. Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) offers flights to Tours from Stansted and Manchester. One-way fares start at £28. Rail Europe (0844 848 4070, www.raileurope.co.uk) offers return rail fares via Paris on Eurostar and TGV from £89.

 

 

New For 2013 – Single Centre Cycling In France

We recently asked for your comments and suggestions for the 2013 brochure and we had a fantastic response, thank you.

After listening to your feedback, we have decided to create a single centre cycling holiday in France.  This is a slight departure from our usual self-guided format. As always, we provide the bikes, transfers and well documented routes along with support from a knowledgeable local host.  On the new single centre option, you can relax and unwind without having to worry about packing your suitcase each morning.

Our new cycling holiday is in Aveyron, a quiet, peaceful region in the South of France as yet overlooked by mass tourism. Your base for the holiday is a charming family run hotel in Plaisance, ideally situated for a number of quiet rides through lush wooded valleys & pretty mediaeval villages. Although these are Level 2 routes we have allowed plenty of time to enjoy other activities such as canoeing, walking & swimming or picnicking alongside the River Tarn.

Terrain & Distances:
Mainly flat, but with some uphill stretches.

Cycling distances:
23-32 miles / 20-52 km

To view the full itinerary, please click here or ring 0116 2558417

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Daily Telegraph Top Tip – Freewheel Holidays

This article appeared in the travel section of the Telegraph on the 29th September. Another satisfied customer……

This week’s top tipITALIAN BIKING HOLIDAYS

Freewheeling days   

“Our favourite cycling holiday route is from the Riesa Pass, close to the Austrian border in the Dolomites, down to Verona via Bolzano and Lake Garda. The week-long journey is mostly along the banks of the River Adige, which has excellent cycle paths. We followed the river downstream from 5,000ft, so it was not too strenuous – quite a bit of freewheeling. The hardest day was the journey to Trento because we lingered too long at a wine bar for lunch and so rode against the afternoon wind that often blows towards the mountains in that area.

We made the trip in late September, which coincided with the brass band and beer festival that centres on Bolzano, but included some of the mountain villages where local bands played as we supped our drinks in the warm sunshine.

Reaching Lake Garda on day six, we took our bikes on the boat trip from Riva del Garda down the lake to Peschiera, which enabled us to relax and avoid cycling on the busy lakeside road.

We hired bikes, which included luggage transfers between hotels and bike transfer from Bolzano to Riesa Pass, and booked through Freewheel Holidays (0116 255 8417; freewheelholidays.co.uk).

Many locals use the excellent cycle track, especially on Sundays. The one thing we wished we had taken was a clip-on rear view mirror as some of them appear suddenly from behind and don’t use bells!”
Brian Harris, Devon

 

World Champions Have To Start Somewhere!

Family Freindly CyclingFollowing Team GB’s recent success, now is the ideal time to encourage the kids to turn off the TV, unplug the Wii and get in the saddle.

There is still time to take your aspiring atheletes on a family friendly cycling holiday in the Loire Valley or Austrian Lake District. Prices start from just £329*

Who knows, you may have a potential gold medallist in the family! 

 

 *£329 for one child aged 2yrs -12yrs sharing a room with two adults on our 4 Night Leisurely Loire Cycling Holiday. See the website for full details: Freewheel Holidays

Escape The Clouds & The Crowds!

Cycling in Spain

There is no doubt that a good dose of sunshine lifts your mood, and after our typically British summer, we could all do with a boost.

If you are craving glorious sunshine, the temperate climates of Spain, Sardinia, Sicily & Malta make them ideal destinations for cycling in September and October. Off peak prices also add to the appeal.

Sicily is a popular off season destination but not so popular that you are surrounded by hoardes of fellow tourists. This is a ride of contrasts, from the bustling, ancient cities of Noto and Siracusa with their splendid Baroque architecture; to the tranquility of the Vendicari nature reserve, home to a wide variety of flora and fauna and a temporary resting place for thousands of migrating birds.

Our holidays in sunny Sardinia include a stay in a traditional family run farmhouse where you can sample the home-cooked cuisine. Work off any excess calories with scenic rides through pinewoods, lagoons and beaches.

Our Green Coast of Spain Tour leads you away from the tourist traps, past verdant hillsides and through medieval towns, allowing you to truly experience Cantabrian culture.

Malta & Gozo are new destinations for Freewheel Holidays. The varied routes we have planned, combined with the opportunity to try diving, rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking or hiking mean that these are cycling holidays with a difference.

If you would like to discuss our late Summer and early Autumn cycling holidays, please contact us on 0116 2558417 or email us info@freewheelholidays.com