If this is not the best 18-day fully guided adventure you have ever had we may just have to eat our running hats!
Eat and drink you way around the Marathon du Medoc (Bordeaux) in ridiculous fancy dress, recover with provincial French cooking classes and an overnight kayaking adventure down the Ardeche River in the centre of France, visit Avignon and vineyards of Cote du Rhone, explore the French Riviera through Nice and onto the luxury of Monaco and Mote Carlo, run along the cliffs of Cinque Terre staying in Riomaggiore tasting fresh bruschetta, seafood and local white wines, trace the steps of Romeo in search of Juliet through the cobbled street of Verona, take a cycling or boating trip around Lake Garde, take a Giro di baccari with the locals in Venice and finish in the famous Dolomite Mountains running, eating and drinking our way round the Delicious Dolomite Trail (19km).
This is not just a sport-billy trip (although we add in a few gentle trail runs including the famous cliff top towns of Cinque Terra), there will be loads of historic stuff, long lunches and endless exquisite wine tastings.
Lunch on the Run - Bordeaux to Cortina Itinerary
1: Meet in Bordeaux - 7th September 2017
This evening we meet up as a group in Bordeaux for a dinner and a group 'get together'. Those arriving today by train or plane into Toulouse are picked up by your Siamo Local Host and transferred to Bordeaux.
2: Saint Emilion
Building up to the Marathon du Medoc we keep things very low key. Today we make our way to our base for the next 3 nights in the heart of Saint Emilion, the most famous wine region in the France. We'll have an opportunity to stretch our legs with a short run around local vineyards, while sneaking in a few tastes of regional specialities. In the afternoon we must register, get last minute adjustments to our ridiculous costumes and pasta load for the big day.
3: Marathon du Medoc - 9th September 2017
It's race day - well sort of! The Marathon du Medoc is known as the world's longest and booziest race in fancy dress! Completing the full marathon not only entails a 42km route through the famous vines of the region but more importantly, 23 wine stops and gastronomic sustenance such as oysters, chateaubriand steak, fois gras, and handmade ice-cream. As the kilometres tick by the food and wine becomes more exquisite.
You are not going to get a personal best on this run nor lose weight. You must finish the marathon in 8 hours and most competitors stumble in between 7 and 8 hours regardless of fitness and determination. And if eating and drinking your way round a marathon course is not hard-enough already this years ridiculous fancy dress theme is "Music in 33rpm records"
4: The Marathon du Medoc Walk and Lunch
If yesterday was race day today is party day while we stretch our legs and forget any hint of hangover with the traditional 10km gander though the vineyards of Saint Germain d'Esteuil with fellow runners and their supporters, ending in an atmospheric pasta lunch at Chateau Livran. An experience shared and one not to be missed!
5 - 8: Vallon Pont d'Arc, Ardeche
For some of us it is a sad farewell to the indulgence of Bordeaux while for others it is a relief to give our liver and kidney a rest while make our way to the centre of France and the village of Vallon Pont d'Arc in the Ardeche Gorge. The Ardeche is well known as one of Europe’s most famous outdoor destinations for those who appreciate a unique mixture of nature, culture, history, art and culinary delights. Our base for the next few nights is Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, situated at the threshold of one of the most beautiful tourist sites of France: "les gorges de l'Ardèche" (the Ardèche canyon) highlighted by the immense Pont d'Arc - a natural arch more than 30 metres high, carved out by the Ardèche river. One of the best ways to recover the legs is to stand in the river and let the fresh water run over them.
Today is relaxing but highly entertaining day. We start with a leisurely visit to the local markets, vineyards and farms with our expert local chef in search of the freshest daily ingredients and produce with which you learn traditional French cooking skills & techniques to prepare a stunning provincial meal using regional produce such as Tricastin Truffles and lots of sips of the local Ardeche Wines. We pass the afternoon by reaping what we sowed - i.e. a long table lunch enjoying the mornings efforts. For those that need to work off all that food we have a lovely optional 10km trail run up into the rocky hills.
Day 7 is action day again as we head out for an overnight white-water kayaking experience down the Ardeche River and into the Ardeche National Park. Will you make it all the way down the grade 2 rapids without taking a swim in the refreshing Ardeche River. Don't worry - our guides are on hand to give you all the tips you need. It is not all wine and luxury hotels on this trip - in fact, tonight we bivouac under the stars around an open fire enjoying a camp meal prepared by our local chef. There will also be the option to enjoy an additional activity such as Climbing, Caving, via Ferrata or Canyoning as part of your trip.
We paddle out the next morning at our leisure, taking morning tea on the riverside before arriving back in Vallon mid afternoon where you are free to simply rest up or wander the quaint village on your own.
9: Avignon - Nice 15th September 2017
We're up early today in order to make our way to Nice via the heart of Provence and the Cote du Rhone – the medieval walled city of Avignon. We love Avignon for the expensive boutique shopping and gastronomic pleasures - best taken in one of the many leafy squares. And this is all set against the stunning backdrop of the Palais de Papes - where the French tried to take over as the capital of the Catholic Church. We’ll spend a few hours here before moving on to Chateau Neuf de Pape for a wine tasting afternoon (time allowing).
The home of the French grape variety Syrah, Chateauneuf du Pape is one of the most versatile wine regions in the world. The famous red wines are known for their wide range of drinkability (most Chateauneuf du Pape wines are delicious young) and diverse food pairing (from game and red meat, to stews and casseroles, rich seafood dishes to vegetables, and cheese). Unfortunately, we can stay too long and waste the afternoon away imbibing as we must make our way Nice and the French Riviera. Pack you best sparkling number because tonight we hit the French Riviera or if we so desire we’ll sneak across the border for a more up-paced evening of fun and frolicking in Monaco for dinner.
Yes, there is more eating and drinking planned today in Nice with lunch on the cours Saleya, the vibrant market square in Vieux (old) Nice, packed with delis, restaurants, boutiques and bars – architecturally unchanged since the 1700’s. So the only way to combat this sort of sustained food and drink input is with a nice long walk or run in the morning with the locals and you guide along the Promenade des Anglais,
10 - 11: Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre means Five Lands, and defines the five small centuries-old seaside villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso which cuts into the rocks of the Italian coastline. Riomaggiore is arguably one of our most favourite places in Italy to experience. Scattered down approx 12km of the rugged Italian Riviera coastline, framed by steep terracing of olive groves, orchards and vineyards, you’ll find harbours filled with century old homes, fishing boats and trattorias offering sumptuous seafood specialties with local fare such as the region’s famous sauce, pesto. There is simply nothing as good in the world that sitting at harbours edge with the little fishing boats scattered around you sipping a chilled rosé or white wine and enjoying freshly made bruschetta with the cleanest olive oil, mouth watering tomatoes and sea salt!
And if the thought started to enter your mind that you are not an athlete but a food munching machine then The Cinque Terre also boasts some of the best coastline hiking trails in Europe - in one of the most stunning and culturally beautiful (Unesco) locations in the world. We’ll stay in one of the 4 coastal villages (Corniglia is situated a little higher in the mountains) and explore the coastal tracks and mountain vineyards by foot. Where we choose to stay and our planned run will be dictated by the openings of different parts of the coastal tracks, which due to current climate conditions are alternately periodically closed. We’ll explore our options but rest assured, we’ll find you a run to remember (and hopefully burn off of a little of this incredible food and drink we just can't get enough of)!
12: Verona 18th September 2017
Back on the road today - destination beautiful Verona! Immortalized in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew, this is a walled city with a grand roman amphitheater dating back to AD30. The grand scale of Roman history and culture all packaged within cobbled avenues mixes old world architectural charm with modern eateries, guaranteeing to ignite the romantic in any of us. If you are not married yet perhaps a proposal beneath the balcony of Juliet is in order? We'll take time out to just wander or relax amongst these beautiful walls.
13 - 14: Lake Garda
After only a short distance from Verona, we'll make our first foray into the hills and spend two nights at Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda. Forged from glacial movement at the end of the last Paleolithic Ice Age, Lake Garda covers 370 square km’s and is famous for it's skiff sailing boat racing. While we rest here we will organise some amazing trail running, biking excursions, water activities or of course more wine tasting from the nearby Valpolicella and Amarone di Valpolicella - a rich red wine made from specially dried grapes.
15 - 18: Cortina d'Ampezzo
Finally we head into the tall mountains of the stunning Dolomites. It’s a pleasant sight seeing drive back east then north up through the stunning Dolomiti valleys in which Cortina d’Ampezzo nestles as the crown jewel of this impressive Unesco World Heritage site. Towering mountains, share rock faces, a heartbreaking history of wars won and lost, and one of the most welcoming destinations in the world, this is the birthplace of Siamo Travel and our inspiration. We’ll take you to our favourite bars, on our favourite trails and guide you through a mountain experience like no other! We arrive early enough for you to acclimatise to the altitude and settle into the rhythm of the mountains!
17: Delicious Dolomite Trail Race 24th September 2017
You’ve tasted the French version, not lets see how the Italians deliver on their promise to endure you to their local mountain cuisine while enjoying this amazing new 35km mountain trail fun race in which you will weave yourself around one of the most historically significant sites of the Dolomites. You will pass over craggy ranges; through war tunnels and past open air museums, over two exceptional peaks, the Lagazuoi and the Nuvolau, and two high-altitude lakes, Federa and Lìmedes. On your way you’ll get the opportunity to be spoilt by local Rufugio chef’s who will prepare easily digestable local cuisine for your running pleasure! And at the end, well this is your chance to let loose and celebrate 2 and a half weeks of fun and adventure - or stagger into bed for one last long sleep.
18: Depart for Venice 25th September 2017
And with that we’ll head to Venice for those departing later today - flying out of Marco Polo airport or connecting by train to Milan airport. For those staying another night in Venice (additional cost) your Siamo guide will also stay in Venice with you for a very special local tradition – a 'giro di baccari'. This is an evening of 'cicchetti and wine touring' on foot through the backstreets of the 'local's Venice' sampling local canapés and finger foods (Cicchetti) while enjoying an ‘ombra di vino’ or one of the regional spritz specialties. We couldn't think of a better way to finish a magnificent three weeks of off-the-beaten track European travel.