European Experiences in the Great Outdoors
I’m longing for our European experiences in the great outdoors.
After more than a year at home in the USA, I can’t wait to be back in Europe again. I miss our European Experiences groups, our friends, our apartment in Bonnieux, the colorful outdoor markets, the wonderful food. I miss the excitement of each morning, the anticipation of what’s to come, the frequent variety as we shift locations to host our groups in different places and cultures. I miss helping people have a fabulous vacation!
I also really miss being surrounded by nature and spectacular scenery in historical settings– and the personal experience of spending much of each day outside.
A Week in the Countryside
Most of our European Experience trips base for one week one place, usually in small villages and towns in the countryside. Our trips focus on beautiful and interesting areas in France, Italy and England.
In the Luberon and in Alsace we stay in small villages in lush and fertile valleys below mountains.
In Chianti and in the Cotswolds, we’re also in small villages or towns… in the midst of rolling hills.
In Cornwall we’re on the Penwith Peninsula, the most southwestern tip of England, surrounded by the sea…
and then in the middle of the Atlantic for a few days on the Isles of Scilly.
And in the Périgord, in southwest France, our village of Montignac sits on both sides of a river.
In Puglia our town of Ostuni is a beacon on a hilltop, just a few miles from the Adriatic sea.
European Experiences in the Great Outdoors – Well-Being
I’m energized being outdoors, enjoying nature, breathing the fresh air. I like being miles away from traffic, big box stores, and chain fast-food restaurants… unplugged from my computer and cell phone.
These days a vacation in the countryside, with time spent in nature, is more appealing than ever before. Time spent in nature is relaxing and less stressful. Research shows being in nature promotes physical well-being.
I enjoy the simple, small moments when you slow down and spend time in nature…
… discovering wildflowers while walking
… savoring cherries ripening in the orchards in May
… noticing the grapevines changing colors in September
… spotting birds, insects and small animals in the woods. (It’s been especially exciting to see golden pheasants, red squirrels, seals, and sea birds in the Isles of Scilly.)
European Experiences in the Great Outdoor – Walking
Our small group tours in beautiful places showcase nature and the physical surroundings, including visits to beautiful gardens and historic sites framed by nature.
I enjoy gardens and history so much, but most of all I love being in the middle of nature—not just admiring it from a car window or an observation point or paying for admission to visit a carefully-manicured site. The very best European experiences in the great outdoors are on foot in the countryside.
Charley and I have loved our hikes and walks in Europe over the past 20 years, especially our eleven long-distance walking trips. You learn so much walking slowly through the countryside. So it was important to us from the start to make nature and physical activity a special part of our European Experiences trips.
We walk a lot on all our trips– when we’re exploring a village or town, visiting a castle, or enjoying a garden. But whenever it’s practical, our trips include optional walks. The walks aren’t just for exercise, but offer an opportunity for a different kind of experience in the countryside.
With our base in one place for the week, many of our travelers enjoy walking on their own (or with fellow travelers), perhaps an early morning walk before breakfast or an evening walk after dinner. We’re always happy to provide suggestions for walks from our hotel.
Travelers who join us for our countryside walks and other outdoor adventures often say these are a highlight of their trip. For some people it’s the first time they’ve ever done a walk in the woods or countryside.
Our travelers who aren’t big walkers still enjoy nature on shorter walks at their own pace. Often they find a bench or a wall in an ancient stone village where they can enjoy a beautiful view. Or they relax in a cafe or a tearoom in a scenic spot, savoring the ambiance around them. Everyone can enjoy nature on a vacation based in the countryside.
It’s a totally unique experience to walk where people have lived for hundreds of years… very different than walking in your neighborhood or on a greenway trail. Our walk up to the ruins of Fort de Buoux in the Luberon is an incredible experience, both for the nature, the scenery, and the history. We’re walking in footsteps of people who built a protected settlement 800 years ago in a remote and precarious place.
During our Luberon Experience week I’ve taken hundreds of people on my favorite walk through the countryside from our village of Bonnieux to the next village of Lacoste. Many people have also enjoy a peaceful walk in the Cedar Forest on the top of the Petit Luberon mountain. The last few years I’ve offered an optional morning walk to the 2000-year old Roman bridge, the Pont Julien, on Friday mornings.
The Cotswolds in England is also an outstanding area for walking, with 3,000 miles of public footpaths. We have similar optional walks during The Cotswolds Experience— through the fields to the next village of Broad Campden and a four-mile walk on the Cotswold Way from Broadway back to Chipping Campden, offering some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
During our Alsace Experience week many of us enjoy two walks through the vineyards, a short walk to the next village of Kaysersberg and then a longer walk up over the hill to nearby Riquewihr. The narrow paved roads were built to access the vineyards but are also used by walkers and cyclists.
In Cornwall, the 630-mile South West Coast Path passes through our village of Mousehole. Charley and I walked 100-miles of this path in 2017 and it’s challenging! But the section between Mousehole and nearby Penzance is flat and paved… a good place for our Cornwall Experience group to enjoy morning or afternoon walks on their own. We also have the possibility to experience a more challenging section of the South West Coast Path from St. Ives to Lelant Saltings, about four miles.
Later, on the island of St. Martin’s in the Isles of Scilly, we all enjoy exploring this peaceful island on foot. There’s one paved road that stretches across the island (one lane) and many grassy trails, offering views of the beautiful blue sea and neighboring islands.
In 2019 we hosted a Luberon Walking Week, a week that primarily focused on walking. We had such fun together– and great exercise too. Our group enjoyed a variety of interesting walks around the Luberon, as well as village visits, markets, and of course wonderful food. One highlight was our morning in the colorful Colorado Rustrel, one of the areas in the Luberon where ochre was mined in the 19th century
Another day several in the group explored the area on electric bikes. (Some travelers in our Luberon Experience groups also rent electric bikes on our free morning in Bonnieux.)
In 2022 we’re offering a similar walking week in the Cotswolds. Here’s a sneak preview of our Cotswolds Walking Week.
European Experiences in the Great Outdoor – Canoeing
One of the peak outdoor experiences on our trips is the opportunity to canoe or kayak down the Dordogne River on our Périgord Experience week. Some of the group enjoy the river on a “gabarre” boat, a replica of the flat boats that were used to transport goods down the river toward Bordeaux in years past. The more adventurous members of our group travel instead by canoe or kayak (single, double or three-person), 5.6 miles, passing six chateaux along the way.
We’ve got our COVID vaccinations, and we’re looking forward to traveling to our beautiful places in Europe again soon… and to more European experiences in the great outdoors!
We’re announcing our 2022 schedule on April 14, including several trips in beautiful new destinations where travelers can enjoy nature and the great outdoors. When you’re ready to travel again, we’d love to have you join us!
Enjoy other blog posts about our European experiences in nature and the great outdoors:
A Luberon Experience: Fort de Buoux
A Cotswolds Experience: A Walk Along the Cotswold Way
Périgord Experiences: Enjoying the Vézère and Dordogne Rivers
Garden Experiences in Cornwall and the Cotswolds
Kathy and Charley Wood founded European Experiences in 2006, offering week-long “slow tours” in some of the most beautiful areas of Europe. Their trips include The Luberon Experience in Provence, France, named one of the top 50 tours in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Kathy has personally hosted over 130 Experience groups. She hosts Experience weeks in the Luberon, the Chianti region of Tuscany, Puglia, Alsace, the Dordogne, the Cotswolds, and Normandy. Charley is now mostly retired but continues to co-host The Cornwall Experience and our Christmas trips with Kathy every year.
Kathy has been traveling in Europe for 30+ years and loves sharing her special places in Europe with other travelers. The Woods have a second home in their beloved village of Bonnieux in the Luberon. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.
I have walked in Bonnieux,, the Alsace, Chianti, the Dordogne … I also canoed there.. my first experience in a canoe, and grateful thanks to David who probably prevented a disaster! All these experiences would not have come about without European Experiences. So many thanks to Kathy and Charley. And crossing fingers for the next time we can be together.
Sandy, what wonderful and memorable times we’ve had together. We too hope be together again soon!
Really nice overview. Thanks!