People often wonder what type of vacation I prefer – extreme sports activities like cycling tours through hilly terrain? Strenuous hiking up steep mountains? Boot camp at a basic training facility? No, no, nothing so intense. For me, the perfect balance is active touring with plenty of time for naps and a good night's sleep.
In past years, my husband and I have traveled together as far as Africa and as close to home as the Jersey shore. We are continually drawn to western Europe, particularly to France and Italy. We've hiked the goat trails of Cinque Terre, climbed the steep steps of Positano and toured the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Paestum. We're especially fond of the ancient medieval villages of Tuscany and the south of France.
This year we are returning to a favorite town in Provence where we'll stay in a perched village, high atop a hill. Our accommodations are right under the chateau, so we know that our legs will get a good workout every day as we climb to our quarters.
There is a pristine river nearby which provides a refreshing way to cool off in the most amazing natural setting. You begin walking in ankle deep water on smooth round stones, but as you progress downstream, the water gets deeper and the stones become giant boulders that you need to scramble up and leap over. You swim through whirl pools and under water falls. There are no set paths so you have to scope it out to figure out the best way to proceed. It's every man for himself and truly a delicious, challenging workout.
We like to shop in the gorgeous outdoor markets and prepare most of our meals from fresh, local ingredients. We load up on fruits, salads, and veggies and, of course, the cheeses and breads. We're game to try various types of seafood and unusual cuts of meat. Then there's the wine: Staying in the midst of the vast Cotes de Rhone vineyards, we make sure to sample the specialties of the region.
For me it's important to maintain the balance of activity and rest, of calories in and calories out. I keep a mind-body tally of how I'm doing so that I'm not in shock when I return to reality. With that said, I'll be back at the end of July to let you know how I fared.