Biking in the Loire Valley of France. Tripsite.com photo.

Biking in the Loire Valley of France. Tripsite.com photo.

To some Americans, biking in Europe is a daunting idea. They are used to only getting on their bikes for a few hours on a weekend, pedaling slowly with their toddlers on training wheels, or a leisurely ride up a safe and secure bike path on a Sunday morning.

But to Europeans, bikes are something they use every day. They use bikes like we use cars–and the culture is overwhelmingly more bike friendly, and more used to seeing travelers taking bikes on long trips.

They take bikes much more seriously than we do, and that’s why Europe is the perfect place for you to expand your bicycle horizon beyond the Sunday pedal. How about a week’s worth of biking in the beautiful Loire Valley of France, or across beach resorts in Croatia?  How about challenging yourself with a ride through the Alps?

One thing that most travel experts like Rick Steves agree on, is that there is almost no better way to get to know the landscape and to get close to the locals than by the un-intimidating status of a bike rider.

As Rick has written, though, all of Europe’s cities haven’t reached the same level of bike friendliness as the best ones like Copenhagen and Florence. In these cities, bikes have the same status as cars, so there are traffic lights, designated bike lanes, and best of all, a culture that sympathizes with the size and vulnerability of bike riders compared with cars and trucks. Sadly, cities like Rome and Athens are far behind and today, nobody would consider extensive bike riding in either of those two cities–yet.

Rick also recommends finding a reputable bike tour operator and setting up a bike tour before you get to Europe. You could bring your own bike but you’d probably pay around $300-400 to the airline to fly your bike over, and then you’d have to worry about tools and keeping the bike in repair should something break.

It’s overall a better idea to let a company that has a good reputation take care of getting your luggage to the next stop, deal with all of the bike maintenance, and most of all, showing you the sites in each city that the guides have seen for themselves. Overall, if you can combine a tour with the pleasure of bike riding, you’re gonna have a blast!

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 Ascot racecourse in the UK

Ascot racecourse in the UK.

In the small village of Ascot, Berkshire, is the one of the leading thoroughbred horse racing racecourses in the United Kingdom, the Ascot Racecourse. Next month racing fans will be holding their breath waiting for the the Royal Meeting, where the prestigious Gold Cup will be awarded. After this, in July, the even more important King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes will be run over the same course.

The racecourse is a fabled not only for horseracing fans, but to movie fans too.Ascot was used in two James Bond movies, “A View to a Kill” in 1985, where Bond (Roger Moore) was beginning his mission to defeat the villainous Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), whose horses were competing in a race there. Then, the big overhead grandstand, which does look like an airport, filled in for Shanghai Pudong International Airport in “Skyfall” with Daniel Craig.

If you’ve ever wanted to get a taste of what real English horseracing and wagering is all about, then get yourself over to Ascot and find a nice little B&B or a grand hotel in the town to stay in during the race week. Here are some suggestions from people who have stayed in hotels in Ascot recently.

Many people like the Coworth Park, Dorchester Collection hotel, a spa and resort on a lovely 240-acre estate. But many of them also didn’t have good things to say about the hotel restaurant. One reviewer called the food ‘bizarre’ and another said it was a disappointment because of the high price.

Perhaps it would be best to sleep here but dine elsewhere. The staff here gets high marks for their professionalism, and the manicured grounds were called ‘beautiful, and ‘technically impeccable.’ There is also a chance to take a horseback riding excursion on the vast hotel grounds, for GBP 40 an hour. There are bikes to rent and a beautiful lake to stroll around. Windsor Castle and Legoland are both about 20-30 minutes away, so a car is definitely recommended.

William Hill's Ascot racing results & oddsOr for something completely different, how about staying at a vacation rental in Ascot. TripAdvisor lists a 2 bedroom, 2 bath ‘home away from home,’ for just $181 per night. From their listing, “It is in a lovely location next to Blackmoor stream and pond and has a south-west facing garden with patio and 70 foot lawn. Ascot racecourse is in walking distance and Windsor town centre and Windsor Castle is only 15 minutes drive away through Windsor Great Park.” It sleeps four so if you’re in a budget renting a whole house like this is a great option.

Or how about really living LARGE and renting a gigantic manor home in Ascot?  There is one listing that is pretty over the top, but hey, gathering together eight mates and their wives, and you might just be able to swing the $2358 per night cost of Mayfields, a spectacular mansion with a heated outdoor pool, satellite TV and a host of other top shelf amenities, that sleeps 16 people in utmost comfort.  A visitor, Matt from Nottingham had nothing but praise when he gathered up his own big group to get to the racecourse and enjoyed a stay there.

“Stunning house, grand location and superb hosts. I searched high and low for a property to house myself, partner and 14 close friends for my 30th birthday weekend near Ascot racecourse. The house itself is stunning and immaculately maintained. The host Bev is a wonderful host and couldn’t have done more to make us feel welcome, providing a guidance tour and champagne on arrival (what better way to start a special weekend).”

 

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Senior Citizens Rock Miami

May 15, 2015

MIAMI — This sleepy seaside town was rocked to the core this week by the arrival of 15,000 senior citizens in town for the Life@50+ Expo held each year by the American Association of Retired Persons. Police were out in force around the Miami Beach Conference Center in response to reports of rowdy senior citizens, […]

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Living Large with the AARP Set

May 14, 2015

Flew to Miami yesterday and got met with a guy holding a sign with my name on it. That’s a first for me! It’s all part of the VIP treatment for bloggers of a certain age here at the AARP Life@50+ Blogger Expo. I’m here to learn all about the great discounts you can get […]

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Budget Friendly Trips to Singapore

May 13, 2015

Singapore is an exciting city with a lot going on throughout the year. It’s famous for its luxury hotels and casinos, but also provides budget hotels and activities to attract every kind of visitor. You can find cheap hotels in Singapore that will leave you enough in your travel budget to have some fun in […]

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USTA’s Roger Dow on Tourism this week:

May 8, 2015

Our industry is concluding a most successful National Travel and Tourism Week. This year, NTTW attracted record levels of engagement by more than 400 destinations, businesses and other supporters. And, no surprise, online social engagement skyrocketed, amplifying our voice under the banner theme “Travel is ______.” Thank you all for engaging with lawmakers and touting […]

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