I’m a born and raised coastal Canadian, used to defining geographical borders by shorelines. I can point to ‘where I’m from’ with a clumsy finger on a satellite photo to Nova Scotia and the ocean frames the answer with the high tide line. So, when I first traveled to the Dordogne my question was: where are its borders? What makes it The Dordogne?
Water-biased as I am, ‘the banks of the Dordogne river’ was my tacit understanding. With boots on the ground in Tremolat, beginning my Freewheeling reconnaissance, it was time to build my mental map. Squinting at a satellite picture I had judged the place as verdant, fertile, and alluvial. All that was true in person, but those 2D images completely missed the utter delight that is the topography. The way one travels in the Dordogne is at the mercy of the cliffs and outcrops: meandering like a stream through this limestone labyrinth (where finding the way out is an afterthought). There’s just so much texture to the landscape. Smooth river courses rippled by canoe paddlers, craggy escarpments with colourful streaks of smoothed stone from eons of erosion. And if all this wasn’t enough of a sight, I was only looking at one side of the coin. Because exploring the Dordogne can (and definitely should!) take you underground. This is the region of cave paintings, but the natural formation of caves makes its own art one brush-stroke of mineral-rich water drop at a time.
I was fortunate to have enthusiastic
underground explorers join our Dordogne & Lot Bike trip on my subsequent
visits. We visited a grotto
used by nefarious highwaymen to hideout from the law. Tiny cliff
openings that lead to vast underground networks, and I was humbled by the 25,000
year-old paintings in Le Grotte de Peche
I have become less interested in knowing the
borders of the Dordogne now that I can see it in my minds eye. I hope you will
join Freewheeling to Walk or Bike and sketch your own mental map.
“The proper drinking of whisky is more than indulgence; it is a toast to a civilisation, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed.” ~David Daiches
If you fancy a wee dram, discover the plethora of distilleries along Scotland’s gorgeous North Coast 500 route. Launched in 2015, the 516 mile track links the best of the Highlands in one scenic route, providing spectacular cycling and photo opportunities, as well as over a dozen distilleries along the way.
After a week of visiting splendid gardens, haunted castles, and monumental munros, you will be sure of two things: Tolkien’s writing was indeed influenced by his visits to the area (sorry, New Zealand); and the Scots know their scotch! Don’t call it scotch when in Scotland, though, or you’ll reveal yourself as a tourist – it’s simply whisky (without the ‘e’!) to the locals. Just remember the rule of thumb that all scotch is whisky, but not all whisky is scotch.
To earn the designation of a “Scotch whisky”, stringent criteria must be followed; most notably, the whisky must be manufactured from malted barley, and aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. If you distill a whiskey in your kitchen that meets all of the standards, congratulations! You’ve made scotch. Except, of course, it doesn’t qualify as scotch unless your kitchen happens to be in Scotland. Also, you’ve broken the law, but that’s another matter altogether. To further muddy the water of life (or ‘uisge beatha’, the Scottish Gaelic phrase for scotch), there are two main types: single malt, which is simply the product of a single distillery (not a single batch or barrel as its name might imply); and blended scotch, a mix of both malt and grain whiskeys, sourced from several distilleries. Single malt scotch tends to be the most popular option in North America, while the blended varieties are favoured by the Scottish.
Partnering with distilleries and other businesses on the route, local tourism initiatives have created a fun way to promote the North Coast 500 experience. Visitors can carry a ‘NC500 passport’ to be stamped at recommended stopping points along the way, with photos to be captured at four historical sites. At the end of the route, participants present their photos and passports at the Glen Ord Visitor Centre to claim a well-earned, engraved North Coast 500 whisky glass. Don’t fret if visiting each of the 25 sites is not on your trip itinerary; an earnest effort is all it takes to bring home the sweet little keepsake, and toast to the memories of your love affair with Scotland.
Have you visited Scotland’s North Coast? We would love to hear about your adventures, with or without the scotch.
There is so much to do throughout Iceland that it can be difficult to narrow down your options. You could easily spend months here exploring the rugged landscape and historical landmarks. We recently spent a week and have a few southern-Iceland-specific destinations we think would be worth a slight detour to check out!
There are (what feels like) endless amounts of waterfalls, historical buildings, and picturesque vistas but some destinations are a bit more heavily trafficked than others. Here’s a list of some quick sideroad destinations that will allow you to take some photos without having to exercise your photoshop skills to edit out fellow travellers doing the same thing.
Úlfljótsvatn church on lake Þingvallavatn
So have fun and get your feet wet. If you need help planning your next trip to Iceland to see all the things you couldn’t fit in the first time around – give us a call!
Ouch. It’s been a day since my first ride of the spring and my sitting bones are reminding me that it’s been a few months since they’ve been in touch with my saddle. A small price to pay, I say, because there’s no better way to get reacquainted with your bike and your body after a winter. Especially in preparation for another season of Nova Scotia bike tours.
Sure, I’ve got a little road salt on my frame. The potholes
haven’t been filled, and my tune up was hasty at best, but this ride was more
ceremonial. You probably know as I do that a bicycle gives you a real sense of
place; the sights and smells of spring are more apparent on 2-wheels than 4
could hope to match.
But ouch. Because for me, that day after the first ride is always pelvically-painful. This is just a friendly reminder to go through that mild discomfort now, as opposed to Day 2 of your Freewheeling Adventure.
(Admittedly, this may all be a consequence of that old-school saddle)
P.S. – If you’re interested in discovering Nova Scotia on two wheels, you will want to check out our trips for the coming season! We offer both guided, and self-guided trips throughout the province, and have dates posted on each tour page. Our focus is on smaller groups and we are always looking to accommodate the needs of our guests.
Follow the link below to see our Nova Scotia Bike Tours.
Every year we sell off some of our fleet to make way for the new bikes for the upcoming season. It’s a great chance to grab yourself a bargain. This means that you might have a few scratches and wear and tear, but the bikes are regularly serviced and maintained up-to our high standards.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (1) 902-857-3600 for pricing and size availability.
New E-bike with battery and charger. Evo Bushwick, with Promovec drive and battery. Promovec has made wheelchair motors and batteries in Denmark for many years, and is known for reliability. This bike is M-L, suitable for about 5’6″ to 6’3″. Price is firm.
Daily commutes, weekend tours through the countryside or brisk workouts, the Bushwick is the perfect blend of upright comfort mixed with lively handling. Driven by a Pro-Movec rear-drive system, designed and tested in Denmark, the Bushwick features a downtube integrated smart battery that tucks nicely out of sight. Its 9-speeds flattens hills, while its 25mm suspension fork smooths out the bumps.
Pro-Movec 350W rear hub drive system
Downtube integrated 7.8Ah smart battery
Bar mounted controller
Shimano Altus 9-speed shifting
Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes
25mm front “headtube” shock
Hey – did you know that we’re now offering a fat bike adventure in Western Mongolia? Explore the Tavan Bogd National Park by fatbike, off-road vehicle, and foot. Visit archaeological sites, beautifully raw landscapes, and traditional nomadic camps. Very limited space available! Full details at https://freewheeling.ca/adventures/MongoliaWesternBike.html
A cod-killer is a good thing, while a smatchy brine is not. Newfoundland’s rural fishing villages are long-abandoned, but the stories are not lost. A fisherman born in Kerley’s Harbour, Captain Bruce educates and entertains us with tales of everyday life in the enchanting coastal communities near Trinity, one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s best preserved historic towns.
Learning about Newfoundland’s rich maritime history is a bonus, because hiking is the main focus of this one-week trip.
We sample nine different hikes on the East Coast Trail and the well-mannered footpaths near Trinity. Icebergs are not in season, and the puffins are flying away to northern seas, but for berry-picking, our late-August timing is perfect.
Blueberries without bears
Where are the bears? Wild blueberries galore! Back home, we would be sharing these ripe berries with grazing black bears, but here on the East Coast Trail it’s just us, our guide Pascal, and thousands of squawking seabirds.
The Cape Spear Path follows the sea edge for eleven kilometres, weaving through woods, heath, and meadows. It’s a misty, moisty day, but we brighten up when Pascal pulls a thermos of coffee and three cute little cups from his day-pack. Mid-afternoon we reach the Cape Spear Lighthouse, Newfoundland’s oldest surviving lighthouse, built in 1836. Another distinction: Cape Spear is now the most easterly point on the Great Trail (formerly called the Trans-Canada Trail), the longest recreational trail in the world.
Wringing rainwater from our socks gives us a second wind, so we head to picturesque Quidi Vidi village (pronounced Kiddy Viddy), a small harbour with fishing stations, a brewery, and flocks of seagulls at the base of a cliff.
Bogs without boardwalks
It might be a good idea, but we will never know. On a travel blog Cathy notices a 1.5-km inland cart track that, in theory, makes the Brigus Head Path a loop. Loops are so appealing! Pascal proposes a one-way hike (6.5 km) with a taxi shuttle, but being an agreeable young man, he consents to trying the loop.
We lose the trail, or else it is overgrown. After an hour of bushwhacking through thickets and slogging through sock-soaking bogs, we close the loop. “This could be the highlight of the week,” says Doug, proud that his GPS has come in handy. And aren’t we lucky? Our heritage inn apartment has a full kitchen, so we can toast our soggy shoes in the oven.
Talking about cod
When you say fish in Newfoundland, you are talking about cod. As Captain Bruce talks about his childhood, we are transported back to a time when fishing was a process that involved the whole family.
A child’s first contact was at the flake (an outdoor platform on which fish were dried), where they were given a fish to play with. Next, youngsters went to the stage (a platform where fish were landed and processed for salting and drying), where they pronged fish into a box which holds ungutted fish. Men caught and gutted the fish. Women split the fish, a lost art, says Bruce. Often, a woman was the stage boss, standing up to the big men sent by the merchants to grade – or downgrade – the catch.
During our three-hour Rugged Beauty Boat Tour, Bruce helps us explore the now-quiet harbours once occupied by the bustling communities of Kerley’s Harbour, Ireland’s Eye, and British Harbour. Confederation and resettlement destroyed these small communities, which are now only evident from the ruins of abandoned churches, stages, and sheds. Bruce sure knows the local history – and the politics!
Our shoes remain dry on several well-maintained trails. The award-winning Skerwink Trail is a stunning five-km coastal loop lined with stairs in the steep places and walkways to cover the boggy sections.
The Klondike Trail is short (3 km), but there is a lot to see as we walk from forest to sea: pitcher plants, a lichen-covered rock garden, and two moose in a swamp. The Lighthouse Trail boasts rocks arranged like cake layers.
Gun Hill Trail is short, too, but it leads straight up for a 360-degree view of the Trinity area. Another spot with a stunning panoramic view of Trinity? Yes, indeed: the Sweet Rock Homemade Ice Cream stand on High Street.
Jellybeans and big dogs
Our hiking tour starts and ends in lively St. John’s, known for its jellybean-coloured rows of houses, raucous nightlife on George Street, and striking statues of a Newfoundland dog and a Labrador Retriever. We visit The Rooms, an impressive cultural space. We marvel at the artifacts and art, and we learn a new word: teuthologist, a person who studies squid and other cephalopods.
The North Head is the most popular hiking trail at Signal Hill, site of the first transatlantic communication. This trail is rated Difficult. It isn’t particularly difficult, but hang onto your hat; Signal Hill is a windy place.
Travelling with thirteen bicycles
Self-drive tours are popular in Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, each and every couple we meet at breakfast tables is driving a rental car. Bucking this trend, we are taking a guided St. John’s and Trinity Hike tour with Freewheeling Adventures.
We two are the only customers on the hiking tour. Pascal is our guide and driver, and we attract attention by travelling in a van topped with thirteen bicycles (for cycling tours the week before and after our hiking tour). Serendipity! Pascal is a recent graduate of Queen’s University. Every day Pascal patiently answers our questions about campus life, and we relay his advice to our grandson Nick, who is packing for Queen’s Frosh Week.
Now, we are flying on to Prince Edward Island for our next adventure. This time, bicycles will be involved!
Freewheeling was conceived in 1987, and the adventure has now grown from ten new bicycles in a garage to a wonderfully-staffed office and well-maintained bike fleets, and from six adventures in Eastern Canada to more than 90 tours around the world. Today, your experience is enhanced both by all we have learned in 30 years, and by the technology we can use to plan all the details of your active holiday. Your joy is our joy; and that is our purpose. We acknowledge that we are different from other tour planning companies.
We are based in rural Nova Scotia, and we choose to stay small. We do not “do” travel shows; we do not succumb to the financial temptation to put 16 or 30 people on a small group trip; and we work together in an atmosphere of fun and team spirit. There are only six of us year-round, working in a small office in a beautiful setting. We are friends and family; we care about the experience with which you have entrusted us; and when you join us for a week of active exploring, we encourage you to find your inner child as you drop the concerns of the workaday world. Laughter and sharing are our intentions and rewards. Please join us as soon as you have a chance. We will show you good food, quiet routes, comfy sleeps, unobtrusive service, and genuine care. The trips proposed herein are blank canvases of organization upon which, with the help of our guides, partners, and friends, you can paint rich tapestries of colourful experience. As a partnership between your exploratory desires and our experience and capabilities, your holiday can unfold in the true spirit of adventure.