Join us in Beautiful Burgundy and your companion travels at half price!

Don’t miss the boat! If a bike & barge tour sounds like a great way to spend your summer holidays, it is time to book a cabin on 2022 Beautiful Burgundy departure!

View our slideshow for postcard perfect snapshots of what’s in store on this tour:

Click on the tour title below to check out the daily itinerary for our upcoming Ad-Venture:

Beautiful Burgundy, August 23-30, 2022 ~ Moret-sur-Loing – Auxerre LIST PRICE PER PERSON €2,999 (VAT inclusive) per person (double occupancy). Your travel companion can join you in the same cabin for half price!

Includes lodging (on the ship), meals (except but one dinner on your own), bike rental, guide, maps and more! See itinerary for full list of what’s included.

Want to learn more about our tours? Contact us at StephanieVentures@gmail.com.

Join our MEETUP Bike & Barge Travel Group and tune into one of our informative virtual chats about bike & barge travel

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK: Stephanie Ventures and INSTAGRAM @StephanieVentures

*based on double occupancy

Tulip Trails of Holland tour launches our 2022 Bike & Barge season!

On April 2, our enthusiastic tour guests departed from Amsterdam’s small ship harbor, Oosterdok. I’m not sure who was more excited to get the cruise underway, our tour guests or the crew of the Zwaantje, our beautifully appointed floating hotel, fully equipped with all we needed for our 8 day voyage through the cities, countryside and canals of North and South Holland in search of tulips! On the bike, we enjoyed scenic landscapes, off the bike, excursions and evening walks with our bike guide Hans.

The lovely Zwaantje sailing out of Alkmaar on her way back to Amsterdam

Our captain Martijn welcomed us aboard, introduced the crew, and conducted a briefing before heading to the wheelhouse to point us in the direction of Haarlem where we would spend the first night. On the way, we docked briefly at Spaarndam so the cyclists could disembark for a bike fitting and short test ride so Hans could dial in everyone’s fit. We meandered through the polders, past cow pastures and windmills. The ship continued on to the mooring on Haarlem’s Donkere Spaarne, just steps away from the city’s historic center. While all that was in motion, our lovely hostess Karin prepared the dining room for dinner while chef Frank got busy preparing a feast for the eyes and the belly in the ship’s kitchen.

Later that evening, we enjoyed the first of many fine meals. Once I provide the culinary crew with any dietary needs of my guests, they design menus that all of our guests can enjoy. Our meals were, as the Dutch say, “lekker”, a tasty variety of cuisines including Dutch (bitterballen!), Indonesian (a nod to the country’s spice trading history and my vote for favorite meal of the week), French (coq au vin – oh wow) and Italian (veggie pasta and a trio of bruschetta spreads). Check out our meal diary video below!

Our talented chef prepared delicious meals of generous portions with our guests dietary needs in mind.

Our guests began each day of the tour with a hearty buffet breakfast at 8 AM. On most mornings we also prepared our own boxed lunch for later. Sometimes we disembarked at 9 to start the daily bike ride, on other days we stayed onboard to enjoy a cruise and light lunch on the way to whatever town we’d start the ride. We experienced the full range of “typical” Dutch weather during the tour: sunshine, headwinds and tailwinds, rain, and yes, a brief sprinkling of sleet, but our adventurous guests took it all in stride. When the weather didn’t promise a safe ride, there were other ways to pass the time and enjoy the scenery from the cozy lounge on board. Some joined the captain in the wheelhouse, others read a book, and a few guests toiled over an impossible jigsaw puzzle featuring too many tiny tulips and too much sky!

Guests enjoying a quick ferry ride across a river to continue cycling on the other side.

Our tour itinerary included several fun excursions like the flower gardens at Keukenhof, where seven million flower bulbs are planted annually and bloom throughout the spring. We turned our guests loose to explore on their own the sprawling acres of tulips, hyacinths, orchids and more.

Keukenhof Gardens – tulips for days! And a few orchids and hyacinths thrown in for good measure.

A few days later, it was totally worth waking up before the birds to witness all the early morning action at Aalsmeer, the largest flower auction in the world. After we jumped back on the Zwaantje for a late breakfast, we were treated to a lovely sail through Amsterdam on the way to Zaandam. Once our crew secured the “rock star mooring” amidst a stiff breeze, we set out to discover just what one of those working windmills were whipping up at Zaanse Schans. As it turns out – paint! “De Kat” as it’s known, is a mill that grinds stones to make pigments. The mill’s arms were feverishly spinning so we were able to see all the action inside. After our visit, we strolled through a village of historic homes, a cheese “winkel” with plenty of free samples, and the Klompenmakerij which conducts live wooden shoemaking demonstrations. If you’re not in the market for your own pair of wooden shoes, you might want to consider picking up a pair of kitschy klompen-shaped bedroom slippers. I did!

Venture inside this working windmill with us!

We like to do things a little different on a Stephanie Ventures tour so I arranged a special visit to meet a herd of friendly cows at de Witte Gravin, a dairy farm in my new hometown of Alphen aan den Rijn. My farmer friend Sari showed us around and answered questions from our curious guests about what it’s like to raise dairy cows in Holland’s Green Heart. Dairy is the queen of the food groups in these parts so we got our fill in many forms! De Witte Gravin sells milk on tap in a cute roadside shed. It doesn’t get much fresher than that! During the week we also enjoyed local cheese, warm siroopwafels and stroopwafels, cheese, artisan chocolate, cheese and more cheese. Exploring the Cheese Experience in Gouda was a fun alternative to spending a rainy afternoon on a bike.

Thanks for visiting the blog! Have I sparked a little wanderlust? I do hope you’ll consider traveling with me on one of our other 2022 tours which are featured at the top of the home page or you can view them here:

Panoramas in Provence (June 4-11)

Panoramas in Provence (June 11-18)

Beautiful Burgundy (Aug 23-30)

I may have had a little too much caffeine before we left the ship to visit Alsmeer…

Travel Insurance – protecting yourself and your travel investment

If you’re planning a trip, at some point you should give some thought to travel insurance. There are more than a few scenarios that might prevent or interrupt your trip, and most tour operators, airlines, and many online booking sites won’t issue you a refund if you or someone close to you becomes ill or dies, forcing you to stay home. Of course you want to protect your travel investment, but just how much insurance is necessary?

Before you buy more insurance than you need, check your homeowner, auto, life, and health insurance policies to see what coverage you already have. Then consider your risks, and shop accordingly to fill in the gaps. Keep in mind that you should purchase  travel insurance as soon as you make your initial deposit because some carriers may offer you additional coverage such as Cancellation for Any Reason, at no additional cost. At the least, you’ll be covered for any of life’s unexpected calamities that may railroad your travel plans. You should expect to spend 5-7% of the total cost of your trip on an insurance policy, depending on your age, health, and the level of coverage you want.

Here are the basic types of coverage and where to shop for it:

  • Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption. Check for a policy that protects you in the event you have a medical emergency or a death in the family that will prevent you from taking the trip. Some policies will allow you to cancel for any reason, others will compensate you for travel delays that include reimbursement for expenses related to flight delays (for any reason) such as lost or stolen luggage, and missed connections.
  • Emergency Medical Care. It’s wise to have coverage for this on any trip but particularly if you are taking an active vacation. You’re probably at greater risk of injury on a bicycle tour than on an over-the-road motor coach tour but you could trip and fall on the walk from the rest stop to the bus so, protect yourself no matter what you’re doing on your trip! If you are covered at home through a HMO or a network provider plan, you may not be covered if you become sick or injured in another state or country and receive medical care outside your network.
  • Medical Evacuation. If you sustain a serious injury that requires transport to a hospital by ambulance (or helicopter) and eventual evacuation back home, that can cost upwards of $100,000. It may be worth it to insure yourself and have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are covered for the worst case scenario.

Stephanie is now a licensed home-based travel agent who can assist you with travel insurance. Contact her at StephanieVentures.com to discuss your situation and she will be happy to prepare a quote that meets your particular needs.

Greetings from the Netherlands!

Tour Director Stephanie here, sending you this greeting from the Netherlands where I landed on Monday. Yes, I am a little early for our Tulip Trails of Holland Bike (or Walk) and Barge Tour but I’m here to call the Netherlands home for a while. We will be ready to sail in just a few weeks but there’s still time to book yourself a cabin and join me on April 2!

I want to share my recent travel experience with you as I’m sure you’re wondering what it’s like to fly to Europe these days. I ran a safe tour in the Netherlands in September and couldn’t wait to return for my Tulip Trails of Holland tour in April. The entry requirements vary by country but I am happy to report that many of the Covid-19 restrictions in the Netherlands have been lifted. The museums, cultural sites, and restaurants are all open. Masks are still required in certain places (public transportation and indoor shops) but I think that’s a minor inconvenience for the opportunity to experience all the wonders this country has to offer – especially during TULIP SEASON!

Some important details about my journey… I flew with United Airlines and was truly impressed with their Travel Ready Center. It’s a portal that allows you to link your travel documents (passport scan, vaccination record, and Netherlands entry forms) to your itinerary so you don’t have to waste energy wondering if you have every document you need to travel hassle-free. I received reminders of what to provide as my departure day approached. I was able to schedule my Covid-19 test locally with a participating test site. On test day, my results were sent to me and to United so when I arrived at the airport the next day to check in, all I did was drop off my bags and head to security where I only had to show my boarding pass and passport because everything else was “on file.” The arrival in Amsterdam was equally easy, I showed my passport and my CDC vaccination card, grabbed my luggage and was on my way!

If you are fully vaxxed and boosted, and you can’t wait to start traveling again, don’t wait any longer! 

We only have a few cabins available at these special prices below! We have a beautiful itinerary for cyclists and for the first time, we are welcoming walking guests aboard with a special escorted experience for them, too!  

The Netherlands is open and ready to welcome you, AND I AM TOO! 

FANTASTIC FLASH SALE
NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT for SOLO guests: $2695
DOUBLE OCCUPANCY GUESTS: $2495 per person

View our complete itinerary at this link: TULIP TRAILS OF HOLLAND – Itinerary

Ready to bike and barge your way around Europe? Check out our new itineraries for 2022!

We’re excited to announce three new tours for 2022! We are proud of our loyal following and want our guests to keep coming back to explore more of the bike paths, waterways, and hidden gems of Europe. If this is your first tour with us or your fifth, we are sure it will be memorable!

Visit our Youtube channel for a glimpse of the Stephanie Ventures bike & barge experience and follow us on Facebook @ Stephanie Ventures LLC

Contact us at StephanieVentures@Gmail.com for pricing, to schedule an introductory phone/Zoom call, or to book your European bike & barge getaway! Have a group you’d like to travel with? Inquire about special group rates and a private online or in-person presentation to your group.

~~~~~ 2022 BIKE & BARGE TOURS ~~~~~

Tulip Trails of Holland ~ April 2-9, 2022, roundtrip from Amsterdam

Click here to view: Tulip Trails of Holland ITINERARY

Panoramas in Provence ~ June 4-11, 2022, Avignon – Aigues-Mortes, France

Panoramas in Provence ~ June 11-18, 2022, Aigues-Mortes – Avignon, France

Click here to view Panoramas in Provence ITINERARY

Beautiful Burgundy ~ August 23-30, 2022, Moret-sur-Loing – Auxerre, France

Click here to view Beautiful Burgundy ITINERARY

Breaking news! Dutch borders may re-open to Americans by mid-summer so our Tandem Ramble tour can sail!

UPDATE (Oct 13,2021) – We successfully hosted this tour and were delighted to travel with our guests to this beautiful corner of the Netherlands! Guests rode a combo of touring bikes, e-bikes, and tandems. All of our guests have returned home safely and several have already made plans to return to Europe with us again on a 2022 Stephanie Ventures Bike & Barge tour.

We’re celebrating Monday with news out of Europe that Dutch borders may open soon to vaccinated US travelers. That’s great news for cycling enthusiasts with wanderlust…our Sept 4, 2021 tour should be full steam ahead out of Amsterdam as planned. If you can’t wait to hop on a bike and barge in Europe, check out our Tandem Ramble thru Holland’s Hansa Towns itinerary at the link below and contact us today.

2021 Tandem Ramble Thru Holland’s Hansa Towns – SPACE AVAILABLE

On this tour you’ll pedal through a historic “drive-thru” windmill!
Enjoy dedicated bike paths through the scenic Hoge Veluwe National Park.

How we’re adapting our bike & barge tours for your safe and enjoyable post-pandemic vacation

I should be packing my luggage, practicing my French, and preparing to join twenty enthusiastic cyclists for our Panoramas in Provence Bike & Barge tour. However, since recent world events have made it necessary to reschedule our tours to 2021, I find myself researching topics for video calls I’ll be hosting for my registered guests. Most of them will eventually be joining me on their 3rd, 4th or 5th tours so they’re seasoned bike and barge travelers. While we wait for the right time to travel again, technology will allow them to reminisce with former travel companions and meet new ones, but also to ask questions and learn how their next bike and barge tour will be different from their previous ones. Social distancing and stepped-up disinfecting procedures may be with us for a while but those guidelines won’t prevent us from enjoying a fantastic voyage. I will see to that.

I know we’re all sleeping better at night now that I’ve chased down refunds for airline tickets. I’ve also updated trip insurance policies with new departure dates, so they won’t have to purchase new policies. Lastly, I’m working with my “best-in-class” overseas operators to develop new protocols to ensure all of my tour groups enjoy safe journeys when we travel together again.

Because we sail on small ships that sleep 20-24 passengers, it’s easier to socially distance ourselves when we’re on board. And when we’re off the ship during the day, we’ll have the option to ride with a regional guide, or explore independently in smaller groups, with maps and route sheets. While we’re all meandering through the countryside, the crew will get down to the daily business of cleaning the ship before our return. At the end of our ride, they’ll greet us with smiles and snacks, while our guide whisks away our bikes for a thorough cleaning. The culinary staff will prepare a fantastic three course dinner which may be served in two seatings to allow proper spacing between guests. After dinner, our guides will lead a town walk to wrap up a perfect day, we’ll just take up a lot more space on the sidewalks than we have in the past.

If you’re dreaming of a day when you can see the world again, the scientists say it’s helping you cope with stress and anxiety. They also say that committing to a vacation helps you cope even better! We’re here for you.

Check out our (now) 2021 tour itineraries. We only have a few cabins available – but they may not be for long. My awesomely loyal tour guests have a talent for persuading friends to come along for the ride!

2021 Panoramas in Provence Itinerary Jun 19

2021 Tandem Ramble through Holland’s Hansa Towns

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Announcing the first ever TANDEM Bike & Barge tour!

UPDATE: We’ve rescheduled this tour to 2021 due to Covid-19 Pandemic. Changes are reflected and highlighted in the post. 

In Europe, bike & barge tours exclusively for tandem riders are a challenging proposition for tour operators. One has to consider the availability of tandem rentals and the space constraints on the ship’s decks where the bikes are stored overnight. Most ships that host bike & barge tours maintain their own fleet of hybrid touring bicycles (for solo riders), better suited for the terrain than the road bikes most of us ride at home. In order to offer an all-tandem tour, the crew would need to switch out a couple dozen hybrids for a dozen tandems, which they’d likely need to rent locally. And at the end of that tour, switch all of those bikes out again, in addition to all the usual tasks to ready the ship to welcome a new group of travelers!

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I’ve hosted several bike & barge tours over the last five years but it didn’t occur to me to offer an all-tandem tour until I had the pleasure of traveling with a fun tandem-riding couple on one of my recent tours. Tom and Diane (pictured above) lobbied me daily on behalf of tandem enthusiasts everywhere for an all-tandem tour. They were so convincing that after the tour ended, I tapped into my expert bike & barge network for a recommended itinerary that could cater to tandem riders, with enough proper tandem rentals. The network’s unanimous vote: embark from the city where there are more bikes than citizens: Amsterdam. It so happens to be one of my favorite cities on the planet, so let’s do it!

I’m excited to announce our 2021 tour: Tandem Ramble through Holland’s Hansa Towns. AND we will open this tour up to all cyclists and will offer hybrid touring bikes and e-bikes (surcharge)!

If you want to bring your own bike to ride on tour, you are welcome to do so. Please let us know when you inquire about booking so that we can make recommendations on the type of tires you should be bringing – skinny road tires won’t perform well on cobblestones. 

Tandem Gazelle (003)

From Amsterdam, this tour will take you on a scenic journey through the central region of the Netherlands, its landscape shaped by the many rivers and streams that crisscross it. This region flourished during the Middle Ages when the Ijssel River was one of the most important Hanseatic trade routes in Europe. This relatively undiscovered area is a favorite among Dutch cyclists and we’re confident it will become a favorite of yours!

For more details on this fine voyage, please check out the complete itinerary and contact us for pricing and availability! 2021 Tandem Ramble through Holland’s Hansa Towns

Tandem Ramble tour map

 

Magical Mosel Valley ~ Bike & Barge Tour ITINERARY SPOTLIGHT: Trier

Thanks for taking a closer look at another fascinating stop on our Magical Mosel Valley tourTRIER!

The Roman bridge in Trier

Germany’s oldest city, which the Romans founded c. 16 BC, boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, including several architectural and engineering marvels that those ingenious Romans constructed a couple of millenia ago.

Porta Nigra small

Perhaps the most significant of the Roman sites is the imposing Porta Nigra, the black gate. The three-story stone structure was erected around 170 AD, a relatively peaceful time in history. It’s likely that this gate, while massive by ancient standards, was built to impress visitors, not to intimidate them. When you visit the gate, climb up and peer out the windows for a view of the city and nearby Hauptmarkt (market square).

TRIER ROMAN RUINS dreamstime_xxl_57205109 smallThere are several other well-preserved Roman sites to check out while we’re in Trier, including the Roman Amphitheater, Imperial Baths, and the oldest bridge in Germany, a stone stunner which crosses the Mosel River.

 

On our last visit to Trier, while wandering the streets in search of a laundromat, we stumbled upon the neighborhood where Karl Marx was born in 1818. You may remember him as the father of modern socialism and communism. His Geburtshaus (birthplace) is now a museum that features exhibits about his life and works. If you join us on the tour, it will be your call: catch up on your laundry or brush up on the history of communism!

Laundry Marx

 

 

Magical Mosel Valley ~ Bike & Barge Tour ITINERARY SPOTLIGHT: Eifel Valley & Maars!

Happy New Year Cycle-nauts! 

Have you resolved to explore the planet on your bike in 2019?!

We still have space on our Meander Through the Magical Mosel Valley tour, and this week, we’re casting the itinerary spotlight on the other-worldly landscape of Maars in the Mosel Valley’s neighbor, the Eifel region. Read on to learn more about our exhilarating bicycle ride from Daun to Bernkastel-Kues.

Day 3 of our Meander Through the Magical Mosel Valley Tour will be no ordinary Monday – we are going to Maars! Not that far-away planet, my friends, but a fabulous UNESCO site known as Vulkaneifel Nature Park via the Maare-Moselle Cycle Path.

maars view smallThis Maars is a region of lakes created by volcanoes (350 to be exact!) that are over 12,000 years old. We’re pretty sure they’re extinct now…but once-upon-a-time, they spewed forth lava and rocks and created a landscape that begs to be explored on two wheels.

 

maars tunnelTo get there from Bernkastel Kues, we’ll load our bikes and ourselves onto a bus for a short drive up to the town of Daun. We’ll jump on our bikes and ride down the Maars-Moselle Cycle Path, a scenic Rail Trail that will gradually descend past volcanoes and Maars, the Lava Bombe that’s way bigger than you, through forests, illuminated tunnels, over viaducts and bridges and eventually to the vineyards on the Mosel. Doesn’t THAT sound like F-U-N?!

Check out our itinerary: 2019 MEANDER THROUGH THE MAGICAL MOSEL VALLEY Itinerary

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Magical Mosel Valley ~ Bike & Barge Tour ITINERARY SPOTLIGHT: Cochem

dreamstime_xl_46975194 ID 46975194 Jan Schneckenhaus Dreamstime small file

We can’t think of a more charming town to begin our 2019 Meander Through the Magical Mosel Valley bike & barge adventure than in Cochem! We encourage guests to arrive in town the day before the barge tour begins to allow for some extra exploring time on your own. Here’s the scoop on our first stop on the tour that begins on August 17, 2019.

Cochem is nestled beneath the splendid Reichsburg Castle. Built in the 12th century, trashed in the 14th century, and rebuilt in the romantic neo-Gothic style in the 19th century; the castle is open daily for tours of its impressive collections of period furniture and art. It’s situated on a 300 ft high crag above the Mosel River, and a 15 min walk up a cobblestone path will also reward you with a panoramic view of hillside vineyards and the town below. Consider a splurge for the Knight’s Dinner, a traditional medieval dining experience, on Friday evening.

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During the Cold War, the Federal Republic of Germany set up secret currency reserves around the country to guard against inflation that would have resulted if war broke out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact States.

One such hiding place was the Bundesbank Bunker, a subterranean vault in Cochem. For over two decades, the citizens of Cochem had no idea there were 15 billion Deutschmarks “in their own backyard!” Of course, as a bunker, it needed to be cleverly disguised, but, fear not, we know where it is, and can tell you exactly how to find it if you’d like to explore it on your own. 

Mustard Mill

In a country where pretzels are practically a national treasure, mustard is a most revered condiment. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about it at the Historische Senfmühle, Cochem’s mustard mill, where they’ve been churning out Cochem’s favorites since 1810. Free tastings are available daily, mustards of every kind await your discriminating palate. Time your visit right and, for 2.50 Euros, you can join a guided tour and watch the miller in action as he prepares mustard according to a 200 year old family recipe.

If you arrive prior to August 17 by train, you can easily hop into a taxi for a short ride to your hotel. If you arrive on Saturday, August 17, of course you may go directly to the barge. Check-in time is 3 PM but you’re welcome to drop off your luggage before you head out to wander the medieval alleyways of the old town. Don’t worry, when you sign up for your tour, we’ll tell you exactly how to find the Quo Vadis, from Frankfurt airport, to the train, and to the dock. We can even assist with train tickets if you’d like.

Click here for a peek at our full itinerary: 2019 Meander Thru the Magical Mosel Valley

Contact us at StephanieVentures@gmail.com to inquire about a booking before this tour sells out.