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The post Hotels with a Story to Tell appeared first on DuVine.

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On December thirty-first, the majority of the world waits eagerly to ring in the New Year. People fill the streets in large crowds and pile into each other’s homes for food, drinks, dancing and other festivities. As the earth completes its orbit around the sun people take time to reflect and revel in their past accomplishment and failures. They reminisce with loved ones, send their thoughts to distant friends and prayers to those no longer with us. Many aspects of the jubilant celebrations are consistent throughout the world. Whether dancing and singing to “Auld Lang Syne,” toasting with a glass of champagne, or enjoying a pyrotechnic display, a unified sense of merriment invigorates people’s lives. At DuVine, our tours take us to the origins of these fascinating traditions. Join on an adventure of discovery of New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the world.

Singing Auld Lang Syne in Scotland

While you are riding along the rolling green hills of the Scottish Highlands there is a common song that you may hear in the wind as it blows from the cragged cliffs of the North Sea to the cold waters of the Atlantic. It is an old ballad that has been a part of the country’s rich folk tradition for many centuries and perhaps millennia. It is the same tune that is sung every New Year’s when the clock strikes midnight. “Auld Lang Syne,” was first collected and composed in 1788 by the famous author and poet Robert Burns. Prior to then it had been part of a catalog of songs that was only known through memory and recitation. It was previously referenced in several works of poetry and literature, but Burns was the first to capture the entire song after transcribing it from an old man he met during his travels. He composed some additional verses and the legendary tune was born. The words, “Auld Lang Syne,” directly translate to, “Old Long Since,” but more loosely in the context of the song can be translated as “For Old Times’ Sake.” The lyrics tell a tale of misadventures, rough seas, friendship and love. It is a nostalgic toast to experiences of old that is sung whole-heartedly, even without knowing the proper words, with the enthusiasm of a merry Scotsman whose dram is full. Scotland is a unique place where the culture is so rich that it has influence throughout the world. You can expect to meet interesting locals, discover special traditions, and traverse the serene landscape while seeing firsthand why Scottish revelry is considered to be some of the most exuberant in the world on our Scotland bike tour in 2015.

Live Every Day Like New Year’s Eve in Champagne

For a different experience of pure luxury, travel with DuVine to bicycle amidst the famous landscape that has provided for the world’s most premier and celebrated beverage—champagne. On New Year’s Eve, this effervescent drink is sure to abound. Sparkling wine is the unequivocal refreshment of festivities, elegance, and indulgence. Without question Champagne is the elite wine of this category. Its rich history, strict regulation, and careful production ensure for a quality beyond compare. For starters, champagne must be produced in the Champagne region of France, and it has to be made of pinot noir, pinot meunier, or chardonnay grapes. The “Méthode Champenoise,” is the production standard by which all other sparkling wines are measured. After an initial fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. Several grams of yeast and rock sugar are added to the bottle and it is stored on a special inverted rack where the bottles are slightly turned every day for a minimum of one-and-a-half years, sometimes longer. Record of sparkling wine dates back to the Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire as early as the 16th century. In the late 19th century champagne producers like Laurent-Perrier began to market the wine as the favorite drink of nobility, knights, and officers. Since then, its preceding reputation has made champagne coveted throughout the world. Live every day like New Year’s Eve as you bike around prestigious vineyards tasting the finest types of bubbly along the way. Prepare to be immersed amid the quaint villages, hillsides covered in grapes, and surrounding forests that lend special qualities to this exceptional terroir on our Champagne bike tour.

Bid Farewell to the Old Year in Ecuador

Or perhaps you’re looking for a new and unique tradition. While island hopping on the Galapagos and after a day’s worth of hiking in verdant natural reserves and snorkeling in crystal blue pacific waters you may have the opportunity to see one of the most unique New Year’s pyrotechnic displays in all of the world. Fireworks are synonymous with New Year’s Eve celebrations. In the United States it is often a huge procession and display of flares and exploding colors accompanied by music or an orchestra that goes on for an extended period of time. Most major cities across the world seem to have a display similar to this. In Ecuador there is unique fire-related tradition that is far more personalized and local. Each year in addition to obligatory fireworks, life-size effigies are built to celebrate the closing of the “Año Viejo,” or “Old Year.” Each household builds their own puppet that they dress in a costume of old clothes. These statues are meant to be a caricatured struggle of the past year. At midnight, the effigies are set ablaze, and families proceed to burn away the torments of the past. As the statues break down, turning to rubble and embers, brave Ecuadorians jump over the burning effigies twelve times. One time for every month. It is this sort of local experience that you are bound to have on you Ecuador + Galapagos bike tour whether you’re traveling during the new year or any time during the year. Enjoy authentic festivities that you will have access to through our expert local guides and there connections to the most interesting occasions available.

The clock will strike twelve in various parts of the world at different times, but most New Year’s Eve celebrations are united by diverse and spectacular festivities that have permeated into a global culture of revelry. With DuVine we will take you to the sources of these great traditions and also introduce you to some new ones if you are interested. There is a great deal to be discovered whether it is the mythical landscape of the Scottish Highlands, the luxury of the Champenoise vineyards, or the authentic local culture of Ecuador. This New Year’s Eve, toast to past memories and future travels. The world awaits and with another year gone by. So embark, adventure, and enjoy! After your holidays start to settle, schedule a call to start planning your next celebration on a DuVine bike tour.

The post On December Thirty-First appeared first on DuVine.

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Holiday Gifts for Cyclists

Stumped for what to give the bike lovers, gourmands, and world travelers in your life? We surveyed our friends in the worlds of cycling, food, and wine for the gifts they’ve been personally loving and coveting. See what the experts suggest for every price point (and every age), and you may even find a few things to add to your own holiday wish list.

Peloton | $1,995.00

“I do the Peloton even when I don’t want to do it, and I never regret it.” – Andy Levine, DuVine founder

When it comes to cycling, it’s said that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. But for those who like to use winter weather as a reason to take cycling classes instead, the Peloton offers everything that’s great about studio cycling—in your home and on your schedule. The carbon fiber bike and live and on-demand instruction makes year-round devotees out of this seriously addicting system.

Leatherman Sidekick Multi-Tool | $46.50

“This is the most universally useful tool. I always need it!” – Seamus Mullen, Chef

Small enough to fit in a stocking (or your jersey pocket), this gadget has spring-action pliers, knives, screwdrivers, a metal file, and even a bottle opener for your brew break. Give the gift of preparedness in unexpected scenarios, from quick mechanical fixes to carving up an impromptu picnic lunch. And Leatherman’s 25-year warranty makes it the gift that keeps on giving.

Hincapie Arenberg Zero Vest | $150.00

“Cowboy up for the winter with this versatile vest and go.” – George Hincapie, Hincapie Sportswear

Remember when we said there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing? No excuses: a vest is one of those essential layering pieces to keep dedicated cyclists riding through all conditions. This one by Hincapie is breathable, comfortable, and visible thanks to a HyperOptic RoubaixTM reflective treatment. We love this brand because it’s made by cyclists, for cyclists in an ethical, family-run factory.

Finest Roots Mastiha Liqueur | $26.97

“Made from the resin of a Mastic tree, this sweet after-dinner drink has an unusual earthy flavor.” – Jody Adams, Chef

Take it from our Chef on Wheels: this unexpected hostess gift is an up-and-coming holiday spirit. It tastes like Christmas with notes of anise, pine, and herbs, but it conjures the Greek island of Chios where it’s produced in wooden casks. Offer it on ice at your cocktail party, serve it after Christmas dinner alongside coffee, or sip a shot of it as the night wears on. This premium brand was founded by two Greek brothers who come from a long lineage of local distillers.

Cashmere with Fur Throw | $2,000.00

“Love the softness and quality of this throw. A perfect wintertime gift.” – Jung Lee, Fête NY

A staple for frequent long-haul fliers, this Italian cashmere throw will wrap its recipient in super luxe comfort. It’s the antidote we’ve all been looking for to combat frigid in-flight A/C, and it transitions beautifully to a literal security blanket once you’re checked into a faraway hotel room. Of course, it’s also delightful to leave it home for cozying up by the fire on Christmas Eve. And for the fashion forward, it doubles as a cape, too.

Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm | $27.00

“Because I’m either cooking or riding in harsh conditions all weekend, my hands take a beating. This beautiful, fragrant balm is such a treat!” – Lentine Alexis, Skratch Labs

Super aromatic (it smells like sweet almond, citrus, cedar, and lavender) and hydrating, this is one non-greasy hand cream that transcends the women-only world of luxurious cosmetics. The cool, unisex packaging doesn’t hurt, either. Pick up two: one for a stocking stuffer, and another for yourself to use on the  Sonoma Wine Country Women’s Bike Tour With Lentine Alexis.

Garmin Varia Rearview Radar | $199.99

“Choose your weapon with your favorite Garmin product, but this one is essential for bike commuters.” – Richard Fries, MassBike

The world’s first cycling radar helps keep road riders safe. On a handlebar-mounted screen, it warns of vehicles approaching from behind up to 153 yards and syncs to a tail light that brightens and flashes to notify traffic that you’re there. The entire unit integrates with Garmin Edge cycling computers, and an optional head unit takes even more stress out of commuting.

SpheroVelo | $110.00

“With my mild obsession with design and bikes and as a father to a young boy, this gorgeous kids’ bike grabbed my attention.” – Richard Banfield, Fresh Tilled Soil

Start them young with this push-along ride for 10-24 month olds. Removable stabilizers make it safe whether kids are just learning to control balance and coordination or feel ready to go it alone. This is one toy that doubles as a design object instead of looking like clutter!

Markets of Provence by Marjorie R. Williams | $19.99

“The excellent photographs and indispensable information in this guide make one of my favorite pastimes even more enjoyable.” – Eric Jausseran, Attaché

Get inspired for a DuVine trip to Provence with this guide to the region’s 30 best markets. Detailed maps and day-of-the-week organization arm you with all the information required to shop for French treats. When ordering fromage and a fresh baguette, Markets of Provence prepares you with tips on negotiating and paying, and includes lessons on etiquette when you’re eyeing apricots and haricots—so you’ll never seem like an out-of-towner.

ASSOS Laalalai Bib Short | $249.00

“ASSOS is one of the brands in cycling, and let’s be honest—no cycling apparel is more important than comfortable shorts.” – Arien Coppock, DuVine Guide

This Swiss brand is renowned for high-quality gear that relies on painstaking research for every garment. In keeping with their high standards, these bib shorts are ultra-chic and clean looking—to say nothing of the performance. We’ve all had those rides that end too soon because staying in the saddle is just too uncomfortable, so keep your favorite lady riding on in something designed especially for the female body. After all, if you’re going to wear tight pants, you might as well look hot doing it!

Skimo Dynafit Daulaghiri Ski | $699.95

“For the skiing cyclist, Skimo makes incredibly light, hard-charging skis, boots, and bindings.” – Tim Johnson, Cyclist

If you change sports with the season, put this complete gear overhaul on your list. Pair this super-advanced ski technology with Skimo’s Dyanfit Radical FT 2.0 bindings and Dynafit TLT7 boot for uphill sessions or on the lifts with family and friends. We also love the new SkimoEast event series, which straddles borders with races in Quebec and Vermont resorts.

VinniBag | $29.99

“When I find a wine I like, I really value being able to bring it home with me immediately.” – Carlton McCoy, The Little Nell

An ingenious solution for wine enthusiasts who collect from around the world or someone who’s planning a forthcoming tasting trip. Spare them the cost of international shipping fees, since these inflatable and reusable sleeves put drinkable souvenirs right in your suitcase. They pack flat until you fill them with wine or olive oil, and bottles arrive intact leaving luggage contents safe from spills and shatters.

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The post 2018 DuVine Holiday Gift Guide appeared first on DuVine.

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For thousands of years, intrepid spirits have crossed the Pyrenees, Alps, and Dolomites—from Hannibal with his mighty elephant herd to the campaigns of Charlemagne and the humble treks undertaken by medieval pilgrims. Today, you’ll see spandex in place of chainmail all over these ranges as cyclists challenge themselves to conquer the bucket-list giants. Yet so many are stuck on the same well-known climbs, never to venture into unknown territory.

On any sunny summer day, the Alpe d’Huez is a carbon magnet attracting thousands of cyclists. But also on this busy stretch of pavement are holiday travelers speeding past the cyclists finally fulfilling a lifelong dream. Don’t get us wrong—the ride is beautiful and the graffiti-covered road is a kind of tribal rune recording some of cycling’s greatest moments, but believe us when we say there are better Cols out there. Our favorite unknown climbs will show you the hidden sides of the Pyrenees, Alps, and Dolomites—and you may even like them better.

Pyrenees: Port de Balès

Photo by Andy Wong

The 18-kilometer climb to reach the top of the Port de Balès is the French government’s gift to cyclists. Legend has it that the organizers of the Tour de France were looking for new routes in the Pyrenees, so in 2006 they paved the last five kilometers of an old trail on the south side of Port de Balès. With almost no traffic, guaranteed sheep and cow sightings, and a serious challenge at an average gradient of 6.3%, this one should be on every bucket list.

Pyrenees: Col Arangaïtz

Photo by Andy Wong

Travel west into French Basque country and you’ll find undulating roads so narrow that it’s not even clear whether a car could drive them. On the Col Arangaïtz, there are still places where locals stare in disbelief at the spandex-clad and shaven-legged aliens who seem to have lost their mind in pursuit of the top. But as you climb, the people disappear—which is probably for the better as you groan and swear your way up the 16% grade. We promise it’s worth it!

Pyrenees: Col de Port, Col du Saraillé + Col de la Core

If you travel to the east of the Haute Pyrenees, you’ll find this trio of Cols often obscured by the Big Three. Sure they’re smaller than Tourmalet, Aubisque, and Hautacam, but it wouldn’t be the first time the appetizers outshined the main course. The route passes through typical French mountain towns, where if you don’t speak French the faces of the old men in the square tell a story all their own. Follow the road through forests and fields and past rivers as it works its way over these three Cols. Perfect for those seeking enjoyable cycling without the steep extremes.

Dolomites: Sella Ciampigotto

Busy season in the Dolomites can be really busy, with the Sella Ronda becoming a German holiday hub in August (some tourists are on motorcycles while others sit comfortably on buses). Suffice it to say, it can be a less-than-zen cycling experience. The good news is that just to the east is Sella Ciampigotto and its glorious 13 kilometers with an average gradient of 6%—and without the traffic. The switchbacks leave us swooning; they’re the type you’ve dreamed of your entire cycling life.

Dolomites: Mortirolo (from Aprica)

We know, we promised unknown Cols, but the Mortirolo is one of the most famous climbs around. You’re right: it’s not Mortirolo we’re necessarily suggesting, bur rather the lesser-known approach from the Aprica side. The first part of the climb is steeper before the insanely rewarding views open up before you. To sweeten the deal, the majority of the ride is on one-lane roads where few drivers dare to venture.

Dolomites: San Genesio (Start in Merano towards Bolzano)

This one is so far off the radar that there’s no official Col sign or even a Strava segment on top, even after the 20-kilometer climb (more or less). Twitching legs after an 18% section are a fair tradeoff for the selfies that seem to show you pedaling right through a postcard. And since we all know your ride doesn’t end on the top, the downhill is a truly fine finish with all the fixings. The road actually corkscrews twice through the mountain, providing a pretty crazy sensation as you fly down into Bolzano.

Alps: Col d’Sarenne

Thousands of cyclists pass the Col d’Sarenne without even knowing it’s there—likely because it’s at the back of the most famous Col of them all. Though it may live in the shadow of the Alpe d’Huez, the 12.8 kilometers with an average gradient of 7.5% are a sheer pleasure to climb. The switchbacks take you higher and higher, and they boast better views than Sarenne’s famous sister. After winter the road can be a bit rough, so we recommend climbing up the Col d’Sarenne, then descending via those 21 famous switchbacks of the Alpe d’Huez.

Alps: Col d’Izoard

The Col d’Izoard has had its moments in the sun, yet it still hasn’t cracked the top 10 of Alps climbs. Not only is it incredibly long and steep, it’s woven into the legendary tapestry of the TDF as the site of some well-known battles between Coppi and Bobet. One highlight is the scenery through the Casse Déserte, eerie and arid at an altitude of 2360 meters between the border of Italy and France. And who knows, maybe Izoard will rise to fame this year when the TDF finishes on top for the last mountain stage before Paris.

Alps: Col de la Cayolle

Right next to the famous Col de Bonette, the Col de la Cayolle tops out over 2000 meters for a long and scenic ride, yet it’s never steep enough to stand in the way of enjoying its beauty. You’ll see exactly no one, and the section inside the Gorges du Bachelard is one of the most famous balcony roads in the country. If you’ve never ridden a balcony road before, get ready for a hair-raising lane cut right into the face of a sheer cliff and the big grin it’s sure to put on your face.

Ready to conquer some of these epic Europe cols? Let DuVine take you to these three ranges for a Challenge Series cycling tour.

The post Epic Unknown Cols to Put on Your Bucket List appeared first on DuVine.

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The post Highlights from the Highlands appeared first on DuVine.

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The post The DuVine Chef’s Table appeared first on DuVine.

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