Experience Plus!

Bicycle Tours Since 1972

Experience Plus - Bicycle Tours since 1972

ExperiencePlus! Staff Recommended Gift List

by ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010 travel-stories

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The ExperiencePlus! Staff Recommended Gift List

 

Fort Collins, CO, USA

 

Rick Price, founder of ExperiencePlus!:

You probably know that I’m all about safety.  So my bright yellow cycling jacket and my bright vests are legendary in Fort Collins.  Buy your favorite cyclists a screaming yellow jacket.  My favorite accessory is my "Oregon" sunglasses – Oakley’s with the amber lens.  If you live in a cloudy area get your loved one a pair.  Last Christmas Paola gave me a pair of light weight "Titanium" glove liners from Columbia sportswear.  They fit under a pair of regular cycling gloves and are perfect on those cold, dry mornings.  And of course, a book is always under the tree in our family.  Buy granddad Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods to remind everyone in the family how the kids these days need more unstructured play time outside. Finally, here’s a stocking stuffer for that cyclist of yours who likes to read:  Boneshaker:  A Bicycling Almanac (Wolverine Farm Printing Office, Fort Collins, 2008; try and get issue number BA 42-200 as it will have Paola’s article on 19th Century women cyclists). You can order the Boneshaker online here. The Boneshaker is a quirky, avant garde compendium of brief thoughts, ideas and articles about bicycles and bicycling published in "pocket format" that fits nicely in your bike jersey, pants pocket or rear rack pack.  Join the movement (or help your favorite cyclists do so) by forking over the five American dollars this Christmas!

Paola Malpezzi Price, co-founder of ExperiencePlus! and proud mother of the two current mangers/directors of ExperiencePlus!:
I would recommend giving Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, a book I really enjoyed as a get-away from my course readings and administrative duties at Colorado State University. Not only does it provide readers with an interesting background in China’s history and culture of the last century; it also gives us a poignant look into the life of Chinese Americans, which reflects the miseries and the joys of so many immigrants and their descendants.

 Rick and Paola in Argentina      

Maria Elena Malpezzi Price, Owner/Manager, Tour Leader:

I’m not very good at giving gifts during the holidays.  Maybe it’s because I can’t think about great gifts “on demand”, instead I’d prefer to give gifts throughout the year when I come across something perfect for someone in particular.  But, since I can always imagine and dream of what I would like to receive here are my picks for this holiday season.

It’s starting to get cold in Colorado so I’ll admit I’m a sucker for sweaters (in fact I did receive one of my Christmas presents early just the other day, a nice warm woolen zip up sweater!)

There is one thing that I wish I could have throughout the winter here in Colorado that is difficult to find. . . .Real Italian Hot Chocolate.  I consider myself a gelato snob, but I may also have to plead guilty to being a hot chocolate snob.   You can’t beat the “cioccolata calda” an Italian Barista makes – it is rich, chocolaty and very, very thick.   In fact, if you didn’t know better one might think it was hot chocolate pudding!

I’ve tried to bring the barista hot chocolate back to the US and make it myself but for some reason it just isn’t as good – and I don’t have the patience to stir and warm it up so that it thickens at the right time.  So, I’m afraid that if you want to try this hot chocolate you may have to travel to Italy!  Unfortunately as a “seasonal” item for some cafes, you often won’t find this hot chocolate between May and October.  One region where you can find  “cioccolata calda” during the summer is up in the Dolomites.  If you are on your way to Italy this winter then I please indulge in a wonderful hot chocolate for me – otherwise, join us in the mountains this May on our tour that chases the Giro d’Italia and I’ll guarantee great cycling and great hot chocolate!

You can find cioccolata calda online at Italy From the Inside .

 Maria Elena Malpezzi Price      

Julie Horton, Director of US Operations:
It’s been three years since I purchased my Shimano cycling sandals and I have to say I’m happy every time I put them on and go for a ride – my feet stay cool and comfy on the hottest days! Another bonus is that I love to stop at rivers, lakes, reservoirs in the summer and jump in, and with my sandals there is no need to delay my satisfaction removing my shoes and hobbling to the shore. I know some of you (like my office mate Joeann) are appalled at the idea of going into water with cycling shorts on, but try it before you dismiss it as just crazy talk.

For those of you looking to really splurge this Christmas I can personally recommend two ExperiencePlus! trips that will allow you to take full advantage of your own pair of cycling sandals. The first is the Classical Greece trip from Athens to Olympia, not only is there great swimming, you can also comfortably stroll through ancient ruins without changing shoes. The other is the Puglia-Cycling Southern Italy Plus! the Ionian Seaside tour. Day 9 has a gentle, long and wonderful downhill that ends at the Ionian Seaside that  begs cycle tourists to ride directly into the water. Our group did stop briefly to dismount (and, of course, some people had to take off their shoes) before jumping in and going for a refreshing swim.( Not to mention there’s great gelato a few hundred yards down the beach!)

BicyclingApparel has a good selection with prices ranging from $64.99 to $79.99.

 Julie Horton decided not to model her beloved sandals in December    

Joeann Gutowski, Accountant:
Call it an occupational hazard, but just as every double-entry accounting transaction has two parts, so does my response for a gift selection. I am going to step outside the world of cycling and commuting by bike with my gift selections this year. I have found books to be the perfect gift for my friends and family members of all ages.  The choices in books are endless —historical, travel, best sellers of fiction and nonfiction, spiritual, art, biographies, and don’t forget puzzle books. Or avoid the paper printed book and provide a download of an e-book for use on an electronic reading device. My other gift recommendation is padded clothes hangers.  They allow you to hang a nicer clothing item without getting “hanger bumps” at the shoulders. They are a gender neutral gift and I have never found a cycling jersey that did not like to spend a little special time on a padded hanger.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the northwest region of Italy called Piemonte on our Cycling the Piedmont Plus! the Lakes District tour.  This itinerary offers spectacular scenery with a chance to ride high into the Alps, to leisurely cycle in wine country, to visit UNESCO heritage sites, experience towns great for strolling, and a grand finale of beautiful Lake Maggiore. The Piedmont is famous for vineyards that produce the Barolo and Barbaresco wines, the town of Asti is known for its sparkling wine, and the entire region takes its cuisine as serious business. To sum it up, how can you go wrong with food; wine; history; mountains, plains, and lakes; great vistas and great cycling?

Joeann and her husband, Bob in the Piedmont    

La Fortuna, Costa Rica – ExperiencePlus! Costa Rican Headquarters

     

 

Mario Cordero, Country Coordinator and Tour Leader Costa Rica:

 

In Costa Rica we don’t get presents from Santa Claus.  It is "El Niño", the baby Jesus, who brings Christmas gifts to us, kids over 40, who behaved well during the year.  My letter to El Niño this year says I want a pair of UV protective long sleeves.  If you are wondering, this is the tropical version of your regular arm warmers.  But in this case they are made with a lightweight material that’s really cool to wear (I mean temperature! ) and protects your arms from the strong UV radiation of the tropics.  They come in different colors and designs.  I do suggest you avoid the one that imitates having tattoos all over your arms. You can find them online here.

Our Arenal Multi-sport trip is the ideal scenario for taking advantage of your UV sleeves.  You’ll use them not only for biking but also for white water rafting on the Pacuare River and for paddling our canoe on the Pacific ocean. 

 

Mario Cordero, Country Coordinator and Tour Leader Costa Rica

 Forli, Italy – ExperiencePlus! European Headquarters

 

   

Monica Malpezzi Price, Owner / Director of International Operations and Tour Leader:

I’ve been traveling through Europe, S. America and Africa with a faithful companion for the past 10 years, my 22” American Tourister expandable soft-sided suitcase. Except for its faded color (looks more gray than blue), you would never know it had withstood so many kilometers, loading and unloading from bike-tour vans, elevators, trains or airport handlers. Everything about this suitcase is perfect—the material and equipment, the size and the ease with which it travels. The material and equipment have not broken or torn (except for a bolt on one of the handles which gave way in Hungary on the 2007 St. Petersburg to Istanbul ExpeditionPlus!—luckily our hotel owner was an old shoe cobbler and he just cobbled it back together). The wheels and the extractable handle have never gotten stuck or broken off, despite my not-so-gentle treatment up and down stairs when the suitcase is too heavy. The zippers all still work perfectly and the exterior has no holes or worn parts. The size and the possibility of expanding the suitcase are another winning quality—when traveling light, I can even travel with it as a carry-on if it is not expanded. Otherwise, I can fill the top expanded part with shoes, dirty clothes or anything else I want to keep separated from the body. While I might sound like an advertisement for this particular brand, I am really not. I just really like all the different parts of this size and type of suitcase. I am sure that other good brand-name suitcases also are as durable, but I’ve had bad experiences with cheap imitations!

I use this suitcase for short, week-long bike trips, such as our Culinary Cycling Circus in Italy which is just a 6 night tour and runs during nice, mild summer weather so you don’t need a lot of types of clothes for day, biking and off-bike times. But, I’ve also traveled for 2 months during our St. Petersburg to Istanbul Expedition, and while I carried an extra duffel for shoes, this suitcase did the job of carrying cold weather and warm weather clothes as well as other sundries necessary for such a long tour through 9-10 countries. Not only do I like this size suitcase, but all of your tour leaders like it since it’s a manageable size and not one of those “body bags” that are nearly impossible to haul around.

Monica Malpezzi Price    

Bea Tassinari, European Operations Manager and Tour Leader:
There is a “type” of gift that I lately love to make: organize something for my friends or my family to do together. For example, as a Christmas gift  two years ago I invited my friends to Ravenna for a guided tour of the town and its Byzantine mosaics with a professional tour guide. I united the beauty of the town, knowledge of history of art and friendship, and the result was really appreciated by everyone. So my suggestion for this Christmas is to invite your family or friends for a special event and share your time with all of them!  A concert, a ballet, a hike with a professional guide, a weekend in a spa or at an Italian agriturismo,  just to list some ideas.

Bea Tassinari hiking in the Dolomites    

Igor Baccini, Logistics & Bike Fleet Manager and Tour Leader:
I recently became an uncle, well, almost 10 months ago, and I decided to give my nephew and my brother a kids’ cycling trailer, one of those carts that you attach to a bike so that you can share the joy of cycling with your kid. That’s exactly what my brother is doing these days and with great pleasure I noticed that Giulio, my nephew, is enjoying it a lot; he is so relaxed that after three or four km he generally falls asleep and we have to wake him up when we arrive to destination. This past Saturday we went for a ride to the seaside and when we got there Giulio was as fresh as a rose (we would say in Italian), full of energy despite the 15km ride. He looks like a little astronaut in a mini space ship looking at the world unfolding in front of his eyes; in fact it is all new for him. Sometimes I’m jealous of him, I’d like to be in the cart with my blanket……falling asleep while riding………

I would recommend the Sicily trip first of all, I love going there in April and October because it’s either an anticipation or an extension of summer for me. The sun is strong but not brutal as it can be down there during the summer; the palm trees, prickly pears, oranges and agave plants make you realize how close you are to Africa, but especially the culture, so different from Northern Italy, brings out always something new to learn and experience. In Sicily I have enjoyed some of the best fish dinners ever and great swimming in crystal clear waters, plus some of the beaches are deserted in October! These are the ingredients for a great trip and a lot of fun. Another trip I love is the Coastal Tuscany one, partially for the same reasons: great swimming and great food, but also the natural thermal pools……so great at the end of the rides………..

Igor and a small part of the ExperiencePlus! bike fleet    

Michele Boglioni, Tour Leader:
My bike has been nearly perfectly tuned since I received my Topeak Alien II multi-tool for bikes as a gift. This tool is everything you can possibly want on the road; it has a complete set of allen wrenches, screwdrivers, a pedal wrench, a chain tool and chain-pin holder, a spoke wrench, tire irons, knife, and box wrenches. All in a handy 9 ounce tool….and it even has a bottle opener for post-riding drinks! I carry this tool with me when I work on ExperiencePlus! tours and when I enjoy my mountain bike! Of course, the less I have to use it, the better, but when something happens and I don’t have a toolbox, this multi-tool gets most work done.

It will definitely be my riding buddy on our upcoming High Andes ExpeditionPlus! tour where we cross South America through the Andean Plateau since on these tours the van is less present as distances are longer than regular tours. Although we’ll be riding up some long climbs, the weight of the multi-tool is not too much to carry for everything that it can do so I’ll make sure to carry it with me from Chile over the Andes, across the Pampas and into Uruguay and Buenos Aires…If you also decide to travel with me as well this tool, make sure you remember put it in your checked bag since it does have a knife and can be confiscated at the airport.

Michele in the Andes    

Cavaillon, France:

 

 

Jonathan Hancock – Tour Leader and County Coordinator: During these cold winter months when I’m not reminiscing about the spectacular experiences I had over the summer months touring around France with you all by bicycle, I spend a lot of my time listening to music, reading and cooking. This year I have some good recommendations for those of you who also enjoy hunkering down in your warm abode and spending some quality time with these sedentary activities. As you might know, the face of modern France has transformed itself in the last 50 years into a rich, mosaic of African influences which has pervaded current French culture. At least one good thing came of French colonialism! A blind couple from Mali, called Amadou et Miriam, has recently come to the music forefront with a couple albums that will brighten those drab winter moments with some tropical Afro-rock. I recommend their last two albums: Dimanche a Bamako and Welcome to Mali. On a more traditional Francophile note, I just finished reading (for the second time) a book called, How Proust Can Change Your Life. Most of you have heard of the famous author Marcel Proust and might agree that the French have a knack for slowing down life and focusing on the details. Without having to read Proust’s 3500 page chef-d’oeuvre  In Search of Lost Time, you can tap into his insights on life and beauty in this witty, original book written by Alain de Botton. It actually has changed my life. Finally when you’re not boogieing to Afro-French music or playing the French intellectual, you might want to try your hand at being a French chef. It’s easier than you think and the only book you need to start enjoying French cooking is called Bistrot Cooking by Patricia Wells. Well I hope this gives you all some good ideas for the holidays. See you next summer in France and in the meantime Bon appétit!

Although it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite tour and it seems to change from one year to the next, I would say that my current favorite tour is the Culinary Heart of Provence. This tour really offers all the highlights of Provence while at the same time exploring the delicacies and secrets of the Provencal food, wine and olive oil. You’ll see perched villages that have made this region famous. You’ll pedal along country lanes that wind through vineyards, olive groves, and oak forests. You’ll be overwhelmed by the pervading scents of the markets and the magnificent landscapes that inspired Van Gogh’s hundreds of paintings of the area. And to top it off you’ll discover some of the best preserved Roman monuments in the world. With spectacular routes, great food and wine, and a rich history from Roman to medieval times it’s hard to top the Culinary Heart of Provence.

Jonathan Hancock

Faenza, Italy:

 

 

John Giebler, Tour leader France and Italy and a recent sommelier graduate!:
Well, my one-track mind goes to wine and the Burgundy Tour. Pedaling through beautiful villages and famous vineyards works up your appetite for a great French meal, with some terrific Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Why not see the birthplace of these two famous grapes? Wine always makes a great holiday present. And to get your juices flowing, check out the detailed wine maps in Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson’s The World Atlas of Wine.

John Giebler enjoying some wine in the Dordogne