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That’s right: World Tapas Day. Thursday 16 June, the third Thursday in June, is when Spain, and the world, recognise tapas dishes.
Tapas are small plates of food like albondigas (meatballs in tomato sauce), patatas bravas (fried potato), and chorizo that traditionally are given out in Spanish neighbourhood bars when you order a cava or wine. Spain’s tourism board, Turespana, has designated the third Thursday in June as World Tapas Day to celebrate this tasteful national culinary tradition.
Around Spain, you can join special tapas tours and workshops on World Tapas Day. At Sherpa Expeditions we are a big fan of tapas from the Andalucía region because of the quality Serrano hams and exceptional cheeses. Visit Spain for a walking holiday next month and you can enjoy special tapas tasting menus designed in collaboration with various chefs and restaurants.
Not in Spain on Thursday 16th of June? You can still join the festivities! As tapas is such a popular dish worldwide, Spanish restaurants and societies in the UK, Canada, USA and various places in Europe are paying homage by organising different tapas events.
Feel like celebrating World Tapas Day in the country that invented the dish itself? Here is an overview of our walking and cycling holidays to Spain:
- Self guided walking holidays in Spain
- Self guided cycling holidays in Spain.
Next month, wine aficionados around the world are celebrating 300 years of ‘Chianti Classico’. The area now called ‘Chianti Classico’, between Florence and Siena, was originally designated in July 1716 by Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in an attempt to combat counterfeiting on wine production and regulate the wine trade.
To mark the anniversary, we like to list our top wine destinations around Europe for you! From Burgundy to Bordeaux, Alsace to Tuscany, and the Rioja to Douro Valley: discover vine-covered valleys, meet local winemakers, wander through vineyards and of course enjoy wine tasting on your holiday in Europe!
Located in central Italy, Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (primarily made with Sangiovese grape). It is also famous for the dessert wine Vin Santo, as well as a class of wines known in the trade as ‘Super Tuscans’, which are considered of high quality and command high prices. With this year's 300th anniversary of the Chianti Classico, it is one of the top destinations for a wine tasting holiday in Europe.
Want to go on a wine tasting holiday to Tuscany? Discover the Chianti wine region and more on our Tuscany on Foot walking holiday.
Douro Valley, Portugal
This surprisingly unspoilt valley (the Douro River flows through steep channels for around 125 miles across the north of Portugal) is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Officially established in 1756 when the Port industry developed, it has the country’s highest wine classification as a denominação de origem controlada. Although associated primarily with Port, it produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine. Besides the vineyards and grapes, the area offers fantastic scenery along the Douro River, which is perfect to explore on foot.
Want to go on a wine tasting holiday to the Douro Valley? Our Douro Rambler walking holiday takes you deep into small working wine estates of golden terraces laced with vines,
Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d'origine contrôlée than any other French region, which are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to more nonspecific regional appellations. The most famous wines here (those commonly referred to as ‘Burgundies’) are dry red wines from Pinot Noir grapes and white wines made from Chardonnay grapes, with small amounts of rosé and sparkling wines also produced. You can start a wine walking holiday in the walled city of Beaune, the region'sl wine capital.
Want to go on a wine tasting holiday to Burgundy? Explore the very best of the region on our Burgundy Vineyard Trails walking holiday.
Wachau Valley, Austria
The Wachau Valley in Lower Austria, located midway between the towns of Melk and Krems, attracts “connoisseurs and epicureans” for its high-quality wines. The 3,300-acre wine region is a source of Austria’s most prized dry Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners. Traditionally the vines are planted on the steep stony slopes next to the Danube, with the temperature variation between day and night playing a significant role in the process of the grapes ripening.
Rioja is made from grapes grown in three regions in northern Spain (the Autonomous Community of La Rioja but also in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava), with many wines traditionally blending fruit from all three regions. La Rioja has a total of 57,000 hectares cultivated, yielding 250 million litres of wine annually, of which 85% is ‘tinto’ (red). A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging.
The geography of the wine growing area in Alsace is determined by the Vosges Mountains in the west and the Rhine River in the east, with the vineyards concentrated in a narrow strip on the lower eastern slopes of the Vosges. Wine here is all about aromas, with Pinot d’Alsace widely considered as one of the most uniquely flavoured white wines in the world. An abundance of cellar doors awaits for you on this walking and wine trip, while the local cuisine includes specialties such as tarte flambé. The best vineyards of France have long been associated with the Haut-Rhin, in the southern part of the Alsace region.
Want to go on a wine tasting holiday in the Alscae? Visit the best vineyards on our Alsace Vineyard Trails 7-day walking holiday.
With a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares, Bordeaux is the largest wine growing area in France. There are 54 appellations of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, 89% of which is red (also known as ‘claret’ in Britain).
Want to go on a wine tasting holiday in the Bordeaux? One of the options you have is to embard on this easy-going, on-road circuit tour through The Vineyards of Bordeaux.
For more information on wine tasting holidays in Europe and for booking requests please contact our team of travel experts in our London offices who will be delighted to help you more.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at an essential walking navigation tool as he discusses how to use a compass. Why is it a good idea to bring one and what is actually that magnetic north the compass points to?
Over the years I have unfortunately had to solve a number of ‘lost and found’ examples on walking holidays. It illustrates the importance of carrying a compass on a walking trip. Imagine getting stuck in a wood about a mile width and two miles long. You’re on a way-marked trail but proceed going round in circles for some hours, or back on the trail in the opposite direction. Without for example using a compass, a mobile phone with GPS, or a compass app, it will be hard to navigate your way out of those woods again.
We won't go into details here about all the options available regarding walking navigation, but even used simply, having a compass will tell you which direction you are heading, and when applied to a map, you can relate to features. Essentially if you come to a path junction and are not too sure, the map may tell you that the path to take is slightly south of west and so keeping your compass level, you work out which of the paths in front of you is the south of west one.
Another example is just getting off a train at your first night stop, you have a town map with north indicated perhaps, but several roads off to the street with your accommodation. A compass will show you the direction to trend in, even if there are no obvious street names, so at least you will be heading into the right sector of town. The distance to the location is another story!
At Sherpa Expeditions we always advise you to carry a compass to help you navigate. There’s no need to spend a fortune on these, but a simple 'Silva' or 'Recta' liquid filled-base plate style compass will do. My personal tip: keep it in pouch to avoid knocks and avoid those cheap button type compasses as they don’t always point North.
Assuming that you don't have anything metal too close to your compass, or some types of rock such as in Borrowdale in the English Lake District, you will always get a magnetic north reading (and so also all the other cardinal points). A compass app in a phone is something different and once set up properly should not be effected by surrounding metal. These will need continued calibration though, as they tend to go off. That’s how simple walking navigation in essence is.
The Magnetic North points to a certain location in Canada that moves over the decades. Technically there is magnetic variation to take into account - the difference between the magnetic North and the North Pole. At present, in the United Kingdom at least, this difference is very low and thus at the level of our waymarked trails, hardly ever needs consideration while you’re navigating.
We would advise anyone booked up on a walking or even a cycle tour to carry a compass. It might not come out, but it might make all the difference in the odd case it is needed, if only to navigate your way to the nearest pub.
It's just two months until the walking season of the Mont Blanc in France kicks off again. To already get you into the mood of long hikes, picnic lunches and scenic mountain vistas, we thought it a good idea to bring you this magnificent trek in pictures.
>> Via the Col du Bonhomme we reach Notre Dame de la Gorge with its ancient pilgrimage church. It's remoddeled in 1699 and can be a place of prayer for walkers of the Tour du Mont Blanc.
>> When crossing the Torrent des Glaciers at the hamlet of La Ville des Glaciers, you bypass the Chalet des Mottets and ascend via switch backs through flower fields with a backdrop of glaciers.
>> On the 700 meter descend through forest on the way to La Palud from Les Chapieux. In the summer this can be a great piece of shaded walking.
>> Walk from meadows to mountain passes and make sure to have enough time to take in the stunning views along the way.
>> After a steady ascent past Ville de Glaciers, the Tour du Mont Blanc leads walkers to the Col de la Seigne (2516m) from where you cross into Italy.
>> Trient is a tiny village in the Val Trient and is home to some simple relais or auberges.
>> Scenic spots like these make walking the Tour du Mont Blanc a most rewarding trekking holiday in France.
The Tour du Mont Blanc, also known as TMB, circumnavigates western Europe's highest mountain. With Sherpa Expeditions the circular walk takes 14 days and is shaped as a semi-individual walk: where you guide yourselves and walk along with other Sherpa travellers. Accommodation is in 2-3 star hotels with en-suite facilities. For more information or booking requests, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office.
- 10% Off Cornwall Walking Holidays
- Win A Travel Voucher
- Contribute to the Path
- Help Set a World Record
Get 10% off your October trip to Cornwall when you book a Sherpa Expeditions walking holiday on the
Cornwall Coast Path. By travelling this fine part of Britain in October this year, you help set a new
record on the iconic 630 miles long walking trail. Donate your saved 10% to the South West Coast Path Association
for conservation purposes or even raise extra funds for the charity and get a chance to win a Sherpa
Expeditions travel voucher. (*terms & conditions apply)
Every year in October the South West Coast Path Association
organises “The Challenge”. Goal is to break last
year’s 9,144 miles world record of walking and running the path in one month (that is like 56 times
Everest!), while at the same time raising funds for the maintenance and development of
England’s longest trail.
The individual walker with the highest donation to the association
during The Challenge month of October is rewarded with a £63 travel voucher offered by Sherpa
Sherpa Expeditions is a proud member of the South West Coast Path Association and likes to keep
the path accessible for many generations to come. We believe the South West Coast Path offers one of
the finest walking trails in Great Britain and Sherpa Expeditions travellers can explore the path via our walking and cycling holidays.
Because we expect a high interest in the event, we ask you to make bookings for your October
walking holiday at least one month in advance.
discount offer applies to 3 trips: Cornish Coastal Path North - Padstow to St. Ives; Cornish Coastal Path West - St. Ives to Penzance; Cornish Coastal Path South - Marazion to Mevagissey. 10%
discount offer is valid for new bookings made before 04 September 2016 and is applicable to trips
departing between 01-31 October 2016. Direct bookings only. Discount is on the trip price only and does
not apply to extensions, flights or supplements. Subject to availability; cannot be used in conjunction with
any other offer and cannot be redeemed for cash. Sherpa Expeditions encourages travellers to donate
their discount to the South West Coast Path Association.
Sherpa Expeditions travel
voucher is worth GBP 63.00 and needs to be validated on a Sherpa Expeditions holiday
departing before 31 December 2017. The travel voucher is rewarded to the individual that donated the
highest amount of funds to the South West Coast Path in the month October 2016. Your donation must
have received the South West Coast Path before 02 November 2016 to be eligible for the travel voucher.
The receiver of the travel voucher will be announced in the South West Coast Path Association and
Sherpa Expeditions newsletters. Subject to availability, cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer
and cannot be redeemed for cash.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at hiking boots: the development of walking shoes, different types of hiking boots and some tips on how to clean your walking boots.
There was a time when it was reckoned a good pair of hiking boots cost a month’s income. These days, modern developments have put a stop to that, but it goes to show how valuable mountain footwear should be regarded. It’s important to cover our feet from the worst of the elements and from environmental impediments that would otherwise prevent us from going on a nice hike.
Once, Hiking Boots Were All Leather..
Once, hiking boots were all leather, stiff, and had little tricorns of metal banged into them. Since the 1950s the Vibram sole has revolutionised the production of hiking shoes and the company still probably make the best sole units. The real revolution has been the variety of materials now used for walking boots and the different shapes, colours, levels of stiffness and cushioning. Horses for courses...
Choose Your Walking Gear Wisely
So what boots you wear depends upon what kind of hike you do:
· Boots with stiff soles, perhaps with insulation, for winter Alpine climbing,
· Boots with hardly any sole flex if you need to take a crampon,
· Semi-stiff leather or fabric boots for comfortable walking on rough surfaces,
· Cushioned mid-soles for long distance walking,
· Hiking boots with Gore-Tex linings for improved waterproofing, and
· Meshed boots for hot environments or when drainage is important.
The list is endless!
Generally there has been a move away from leather boots to modern fabrics and a fashion for minimalism, both on cost grounds and for lightness. The trick with a lot of fabric hiking boots is that they can get smelly after a time and they are generally not as durable. Gore-Tex linings in wet conditions are great. If you are generally walking in the dry though, your feet may become sweaty and you can end up with damp boot material that takes a long time to dry.
If you can find a brand that fits you well, a full grain leather boot is probably the best for general mountain hiking wear. High enough to protect ankles, stiff enough so you don't feel rocks through the sole, perhaps even with a cushioned sole. It’s good to note that when hiking softer sole materials tend to get chewed up by stones pretty quickly. Well-made leather boots, from manufacturers such as Scarpa and Meindel, breathe naturally.
How to Clean Your Hiking Boots
All hiking boots need occasional cleaning and reproofing and especially with leather, if you neglect this it may lead to it drying and cracking. If your walking boots are muddy, soft brush them when dry, or damp-sponge clean them immediately and then apply sprays or waxes. Never force drying your boots (avoid hairdryers and fires at all time!). Do stuff your shoes with newspaper immediately when you come back from your day’s hike and maybe keep them in a warm place like your hotel room.
Personal Favourite Boots
So what do I use myself on my walks and hikes in Europe? Well, there are the leather Scarpa Mantas used for cramponing up volcano glaciers (and in the Ruwenzoris in Uganda). Then there is a synthetic Gore-Tex lined Asolo boot I use for general trekking holidays, such as the Coast to Coast in the UK, Dolomites in Italy, Tour du Mont Blanc etc. For just about everything else I use trail and fell running shoes. Salomon make ones with very bright colours, and for me brands like Inov, Keen, Adidas and North Face are good as well.
Well ahead of your walking holiday, decide what you want to use a type of footwear for and then visit a good retailer like Cotswold for a hiking boot fitting and selection. They can help you get booted ready for the great outdoors. For advice on the terrain you’ll be walking on, do get in touch with our team of experts in the London office.
At last, after many years of prevaricating, I’m off to do the TMB in France, Italy and Switzerland. I don’t know why I hadn’t been before, maybe because I perceived it to be too famous, but an opportunity arose to do one of Sherpa Expeditions bestselling trips and one of Europe’s most beloved long distance walks: Le Tour du Mont Blanc with my first ascent from Les Houches.
It’s day 2 on the Tour du Mont Blanc and after the usual continental breakfast, with benefits such as yoghurts and pastries, it is time to take off for my first real ascent. Stocked up with baguette, pain-au-chocolat and a handy thermos full of coffee, I’m on my way!
I walk down past the Bellevue gondola, which can be taken to reduce the altitude gain by 800m. Most people starting their Mont Blanc circuit, at least today, seem to be taking it. However I decide to walk up the steep trail. It is quiet – there’s no one around. Pastures are brightly verdant with summer flowers and herbs. The sheep will be happy! Reaching Bellevue a couple of hours later, it is time to slip out the thermos flask and enjoy my coffee.
So after this refreshment the trail descends rockily and early in the season it can still be slippery. The trail drops to a bridge over the torrent from the Bionnassay Glacier. Weird? On the Mont Blanc map I have, the glacier appears to descend all the way to the bridge, but nowadays it is about a mile up the valley. Global warming is alive and kicking. A steep ascent follows up to the Col de Tricot (2120m). There are ruins of what once was some sort of French farm, which now act as a windbreak. The local sheep resting here with me are adamant to discover if there are any snacks to be had…
From here I move on to a 600 metre descent into the charming Miage Valley. I thread through the chalets and avoid the temptation to get a drink in the refuge, because it is already full with walkers and it would take too long today for me to get served.
There is then a steep 200 metre ascent to a high wild farm at Chalets du Truc. I would love to stop, but everyone has gone to ground and I am getting tired and want to keep going. Today’s final 700 metres descent is into the town of Les Contamines and I am feeling as if I’ve worked up an appetite. I visit the local supermarket before heading off to the Hotel La Chemenaz. It’s probably the finest lodging on this Sherpa Expeditions Tour du Mont Blanc walking route and, joy of joys, the room had a hot bath so I could try to steam out the tiredness! At the mountain hotel I enjoy a great dinner and then have an early night.
Today's first real ascent on the Tour du Mont Blanc certainly got my legs and heart working! Tomorrow evening I sleep in a traditional mountain guesthouse..
>> Keep an eye on this page for further posts on the 14 day Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) with Sherpa Expeditions!
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month we have a look at global positioning systems (GPS) which are becoming increasingly popular with walkers and cyclists for following existing routes or creating new tracks. They can normally locate your global position to 100 metres or less and are a system in use by many walkers and cyclists.
Gear matters: GPS in Your System
GPS originated as a military system controlled by the US, although other countries such as China have their own military versions, it has now been in the consumer domain since the early 1990s. The units have decreased in price and become much more efficient over that time. The devices track satellites and normally four of those are needed to provide a global location. It usually takes a unit less than 5 minutes to locate itself assuming there are only minor obstructions to the sky.
As well as the traditional GPS handhelds such as Magellan, Garmin and Satnav, which are walker and cyclist friendly, you can also get software for your Android, Windows or iPhones. These do pretty much the same job. Both are different to the car navigation versions though, they don't shout at you in a voice of your choosing from a list including Darth Vader!
The walking or cycling GPS models change every couple of years, and the best way to get a feel of the differences is to read online reviews on the devices or in walking or cycling magazines, such as Walk. We would recommend GPS devices with larger screens in terms of using them with maps. The budget models may only give you a Grid Reference and show you a route line or gradient graph without showing you where you are. In those cases you may want to transcribe this information to a map. Do make sure that you have your GPS device set up for the relevant map, e.g. 'OS British Grid' or 'IGN France'.
More expensive units generally have water resistant casings, SD card slots for expanded route memory and pre manipulated maps on memory cards available detailing popular routes such as the Coast to Coast or Tour du Mont Blanc. With these you can walk more or less exactly along the route. The map systems are also very detailed, at least in countries where the mapping is already good, in others you may be presented with a very generalised representation.
You can also download GPS coordinates from different sites such as the LDWA Long Distance Walkers Association website in the UK or from the various long distance path sites. You can also laboriously preload a route by working out the grid references manually by using a map and typing them in to your GPS handheld. Once you have walked your route, recording it on the GPS, you can download the results on programmes such as 'Memory Map' to generate statistics and route graphs. It's amazing to see your trip represented like this!
Interested in more? Read our 5 points to Keep in Mind When Using GPS article, or for more information on using GPS devices on your walking on cylcing holiday with Sherpa Expeditions, please contact our team of experts in our London office.
Do you love being surrounded by flowers in bloom? If you are thinking of a spring getaway to the English countryside, the next few months may well be the best time to travel for you! This is when the bluebell woods (forests with the floor covered in purple bluebells) pop up all over the UK.
Bluebell: England's Favourite Flower
The bluebell has been voted as England’s favourite flower and it appears in many British organisations, such as the logo of the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, hospitals, tea & bakery shops, accommodation providers, a brewery, kitchen company and even a vintage train company!
It is estimated that 25-50% of the world’s common bluebells are found in the UK, so what better place to appreciate this charming lavender-coloured flower than in Sherpa Expedition’s homeland!
To best enjoy these quintessentially English carpets of blue, you travel to the Cotswolds. The landscape features a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath through Cheltenham to Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. The region is dotted with unspoilt woodland, National Trust gardens and picturesque villages lined with stone-built houses – and of course bluebells!
On one of our self guided cycling holidays, you start in elegant Cheltenham, with its Regency buildings and beautifully landscaped gardens, to explore the Cotswolds along your choice of routes. Let the day’s bike ride depend on how energetic you feel. >> view trip
From only GBP 360 per person, you can witness the blue flower in a five day self guided walking holiday to the Cotswolds. This trip departs daily in April and May and there is an 8-day version of this walking holiday available for those with ample time. >> view trip
Dramatically reduced over thousands of years, many parts of Yorkshire once were covered in woodland. However, do not worry as today the preservation work of organisations like wildlife trusts and the UK National Trust help keep ancient, mixed forests thrive today. On the Coast to Coast walking trail for example, when you're coming down from Reeth and walk into Richmond, you will find woodland that is covered with bluebells in the spring months. For other areas in Yorkshire to see bluebell flowers, please contact our team of travel experts.
Go walking in Cornwall in the spring months of March, April and May, and you will come across tiny pockets of woodlands with bluebell carpets. Also along the cliff tops and in trees and gardens, you will notice the purple layer covering plots of land. As the weather is excellent in this southern part of England, you can already enjoy the popular flower from late March onward. Check out this overview of all walking and cycling holidays in Cornwall.
South Downs Way
At other times of the year the woodlands around Cocking may be dark and sometimes muddy, travel in the spring season though, and you will find a carpet of bluebell flowers. On both the 8-days South Downs Way walking holiday or the 10-day version of this long distance trail, you will pass through Cocking and find several other patches of wood that are home to bluebells in the spring months.
For more information on where to see the bluebells bloom this spring, or for holiday bookings to the Cotswolds, please contact our team of experts.
Global positioning systems (GPS) are becoming increasingly popular with walkers and cyclists alike. They can be real life savers because they can normally locate your global position up to 100 metres or less! We advise to combine using your GPS device while walking or cycling with our route notes. Here are some five reasons why!
Referencing to your GPS system and its maps can, especially in cold weather, drain power from your GPS device. The life of lithium batteries has improved to around 10 hours of use; nevertheless it is essential to make sure your unit is powered up each night. Perhaps a device such as a Power-monkey, which is a larger lithium reserve battery that can be used on the go in an emergency, is also worth carrying.
The base maps available on memory cards vary in quality. With OS in the United Kingdom or IGN in France, the GPS versions are excellent. Unlike big traditional maps that you can fold out, the electronic maps are shown on a relatively small LCD panel. For an overview of your route including details, a combination with a traditional paper map can be convenient. Here you can easily follow or plot routes from point A to B.
Luckily with the advanced, modern GPS devices, signal loss is usually temporary. The handhelds have become more powerful and trees don't provide the problems they used to! However cliffs, gorges and proximity to mountainsides can affect reception, or bounce signals giving spurious readings.
Following your GPS device usually gets you where you want to go, but not always by the best route. There are often many nuances to any walking trail, and these can best be appreciated by looking at the larger printed maps. In low visibility your signal might be 100 metres out and you will have to be careful on the ground making micro navigational decisions in areas of steep ground or cliffs. Last year, Coniston Mountain Rescue in the English Lake District reported a surge of assistance that had to be given to people who just carried a GPS into the mountains without a map.
Oops, Wrong Turn
Using GPS systems solely, can restrict a user’s relationship and understanding of the landscape. Using a good map makes you mentally interpret features, appreciate distances and look and wonder at place names. Sometimes the path on the ground may not exactly match the preloaded GPS route and there maybe variations to the original route set up. Carrying a route map will quickly help you solve these issues.
At Sherpa Expeditions we suggest using GPS devices in combination with the maps and route notes we provide make for your most enjoyable walking or cycling experience. For information on the GPS systems available around Europe and using GPS on your Sherpa Expeditions holiday, please get in touch with our team of active holiday experts.
Images courtesy of ©Richard Dorrell