With the New Year comes the promise of new things, new resolutions, and aspirations of grand adventures. Inevitably, a marathon makes its way onto a majority of those indomitable lists. If a marathon is on your list of resolutions this year, why not pack your bags (and your running shoes) and head to Italy to grace the streets of Rome or Florence with your sweat and tears? At least you know your pre-race carb-loading meal of pasta will be authentic and your post-race reward will be a multitude of gelato flavors. Can’t decide between spumoni and tiramisu? No problem. After running 26.2 miles, you won’t have to guilt-trip yourself into only choosing one. In fact, go ahead and order the entire dessert menu. Twice. Now all you have to decide on is which marathon to run. Here are some of the best Italy has to offer.
The only thing better than going on a ski vacation in France is getting stuck while on a skiing vacation in France. Who wouldn’t want to prolong beautiful powder, fresh croissants, cozy Alpine huts, fondue, and lots of French wine? Frankly, I can’t think of anywhere in France I wouldn’t want to be snowed in for an extended ski vacation, but there are a few places that I would go great lengths to get stuck in. The first time I visited the Queyras, I had the uncanny feeling that I’d just stepped onto the set for a photo shoot of the French Alps. With miles of perfect powder, pure blue skies, steely grey mountains, and charming wooden huts, I was in heaven.
After a week of settling easily into a routine of spectacular skiing and overindulgent eating, my friends had to drag me kicking and screaming from our rented chalet. I prayed for a freak snowstorm, a broken down car, or some other godsend that would provide me with an excuse to prolong my vacation for a few days or, you know, forever. There are dozens upon dozens of places I would absolutely love to be stranded in while skiing in France, but here are my favorites.
Surfing is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when imagining a vacation in France. As a native Californian, I can certainly relate to that. I imagine Australia, Mexico, and the Hawaiian Islands in the U.S. before any European surf destinations. With that said, the West Coast of France has some pretty amazing surf with a good nightlife and fabulous food to boot.
With great summer weather and consistent surf, France has plenty to offer those looking for a surfing vacation. Whether you’re an experienced surfer looking for a new place to catch some waves or a beginner just wanting to try something new, France’s coastline offers plenty of opportunities for all levels. From the beach breaks of Hossegor to the mellow waves of Cote de Basques in Biarritz, France delivers beautiful beaches, great surf, and a captivating culture.
It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted to explore a country, the fastest and easiest option was on the back of a horse. Though it’s no longer the most efficient method of travel, it still remains one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the rich countryside and culture of Spain.
The Andalusian horse with its elegance and striking figure is a Spanish national treasure and is believed to be the most ancient riding horse in the world. Its docile temper, athleticism, and incredible beauty makes it a favorite for both dressage and bull fighting. Whether you take a day trip along the Spanish coast or sign up for a week of dressage lessons, exploring Spain on an Andalusian horse is an experience you won’t soon forget. In addition to Spain’s gourmet food and wine, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the volcanic landscapes, stunning beaches, and beautiful valleys across the country.
If you’ve been hiking for hours in the mountains, chances are you’re tired, sweaty, and ready for a hot meal, a cold beer and a nap. If you’re in Europe, you’re in luck because that’s exactly what you’ll get.
In North America the only beer you’ll find in the backcountry is the one you bring with you. In Europe, you can hike for hours, stumbling along rugged terrain and narrow footpaths carved into the side of the rock and then suddenly turn a bend and find a mountain hut cozily nestled into the folds of the peaks rising above you. Leave it to the Europeans to add a touch of civilization to even the most extreme wilderness adventures. Known as a refuge in French, these secure mountain huts exist in many forms. The most basic of them simply offer mountaineers emergency shelter whereas the more equipped mountain huts are staffed and well maintained, providing hikers a bed and a home-cooked meal.
It’s hard to imagine a more romantic and exotic way of exploring Corsica than by sailboat. With its untouched coastline, secluded bays and hidden coves, Corsica is one of the world’s premiere sailing destinations. Located southeast of the French coastline, the “Ile de Beauté,” is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean and its stunning coastline is best appreciated from the deck of a yacht.
If you’ve ever wanted to hang off the side of a cliff while clipped into a steel cable bolted to the side of the mountain, then look no further. Via ferrata, popular in many European countries, refers to a fixed protection climbing path and is an exceptional way to visit the mountains of northeastern Italy, which have become famous for the intricate and accessible routes traversing their slopes. The name via ferrata (plural vie ferrate) originates from an Italian word via attrezzata, meaning fully equipped route. In English it’s commonly translated as iron path. Equipped with fixed cables, ladders and bridges, these mountain routes are accessible to people with a wide range of climbing experience and offer a perspective not every traveler has the opportunity to see.
Running while traveling generally involves a missed train, a connecting flight or a whole lot of angry bulls charging through the streets of Spain. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Signing up for a race while traveling can add a new dimension to your trip and offer a unique way to explore a new place. It’s also a great way to meet locals and see parts of a city or village that you never would have stumbled across otherwise.
France, with its glamorous cities, culinary delights and stunning natural landscape, offers a plethora of opportunities to combine sport and travel. If you’re looking to see a new side of the city of lights and meet some of its grungier locals, sign up for a marathon in Paris. If you’re hoping to explore the French Alps, sign up for a mountain marathon and prepare for hours of quiet solitude as you run from village to village.
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,” wrote Ernest Hemingway. This is how I have come to know France. My bike has been the conduit of a love affair that has nothing to do with Paris. It’s an intimacy developed after hundreds upon hundreds of kilometers of pushing my bike steadily up the country’s more formidable mountain passes, negotiating my tires over the uneven cobblestone roads of small mountain villages, and stopping occasionally (OK, frequently) to indulge in a café crème or purchase locally made goat’s cheese.
The gentle clanging of cowbells and the high-pitched calls of marmots whistling across the valley are the only sounds that interrupt the cadence of your pedals dragging the bike chain forward across the housing. Occasionally other cyclists pass by with a quick “Bonjour” or “Bon Courage,” as you wobble up some of France’s most notorious cycling routes.
Many of these famous routes are found in the Rhônes-Alpes region, which offers big climbs and long descents through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. From Spring to Fall, locals and tourists frequent the towns happily situated along some of the most popular cycling routes. So whether you’re a casual cycling tourist or a committed racer, here are five climbs in the French Alps that are sure to provide exceptional views as you power (or wobble) up to the top.