The good, the bad and the bizarre from the world of travel
Today, the 2010 Tour de France bicycle race makes its traditional triumphant finish in Paris. Millions will watch, not just on television screens around the world, but on the streets of Paris itself.
If you’d like to get your own taste of this great event, you haves two basic options, one of which is to do your own non-racing bike tour of France that either precedes or follows the Tour de France race course. The route changes somewhat every year and often winds through more countries than just France.
There are several bike tour companies on either side of the Atlantic that can hook you up. They organize your overnight stays, provide ride leaders who double as bike mechanics. They also may provide van to carry your luggage — and if you run out of gas, carry both you and your bike. They may even rent you a bike and other gear for the trip.
You can go for a few days, a week, longer. It’s up to you.
For a trip this epic, you might feel more comfortable bringing your own bike. I certainly would. But traveling with your own wheels comes with some pretty annoying, and expensive, tradeoffs:
1) You have to box up your bike for shipment
2) To box it up, you have to partly dismantle it
3) You have to pay what could be a pretty steep cargo fee to the airline — and then trust your bike to the less-than-tender mercies of baggage handlers.
What’s more, about the only way to guarantee that your precious machine won’t arrive in pieces is to buy a bike case. That, plus the shipping cost, could match or even exceed what you paid for your ticket — or your bike.
Still, how maybe times in your life will you get the chance to say “I rode the Tour de France course?” For cyclists, even out-of-shape old amateurs like me, that’s about as close to a Holy Grail as you’ll ever get.
If you’re not feeling that athletically ambitious, you could simply fly to Paris and be there for the day of the final.
Even here, you have options.
You could join the million or so Parisians and others lining the Champs Elysees as the racers sprint to the finish. You could position yourself within sight of the podium for an up-close glimpse of the awards ceremonies.
You could book yourself a hotel room overlooking the Champs Elysees and watch as the racers take several laps of the grand boulevard below you.
Or you could find a cool cafe with a wide-screen TV and take it all in over a nice French wine or a glass of kir — and then spend the next few days enjoying Paris.
Whichever option you select, there are travel agents who can help set it up for you.
I can think of worse ways — and worse places — to spend a Sunday afternoon.
And now, here’s this week’s Digest:
ST’s Ed Perkins takes a look at the fine print in cruise contracts. From the standpoint of you, the traveler, there’s not much “fine” about it.
It’s one of the most crucial questions of this or any summer: Who has America’s best ice cream shops? The ST folks take a whack — or a lick — at the answer. PHOTO GALLERY
from The Observer (London, UK)
You know those luxurious safaris you hear about in places like Botswana? These are the other guys. Short on luxury, but long on breathtaking experience.
from the New York Times
The Europeans don’t have a monopoly on houseboats. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a haven for recreational boaters who like their aquatic fun slow and easy.
from Budget Travel
According to a survey of BT readers, these are the ten coolest small towns in America. See if you agree.
from the Observer (London, UK)
Ever wonder what it might be like to travel around Korea…North Korea? The British have package tours. What was that again about mad dogs and Englishmen…
from the New York Times
Always world-renowned for its tapas, the cuisine of Spain is undergoing a transformation under the influence of its immigrants. The results, says the Times’ Andrew Ferren, are as diverse as they are delicious.
And finally, there was this. I couldn’t bring myself to list it anywhere other than last:
According to a poll conducted by these guys, the “perfect summer vacation buddy” is…wait for it…Paris Hilton. Something called Tila Tequila was second, followed by Kim Kardashian and Diddy — or whatever he’s calling himself this week.
I can’t imagine many things that could get me to voluntarily give up travel for life, but this comes pretty close Okay, see you next week!