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Traveller's Tale: Cow Bells & Marmots in Switzerland's Bernese Oberland

Campbell and his partner made their way to Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland in the peak of summer 2019. Advertised as “A fantastic introduction to the delights of Swiss mountain walking through two famous regions”, read here how he experienced his walking holiday in Switzerland. 
 
Review walking in Switzerland with Sherpa Expeditions _ Jungfrau Railway
 
My walking history is relatively pedestrian (pun intended), my partner and I have had many walking adventures including Madeira’s Pico Ruivo, Snowdonia, Amalfi’s Path of the Gods and the Peak and Lake districts in the UK. The last of these being a personal favourite. 
 

Why did you choose to walk in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland? 

Like all walks, we liked the appeal of nature above all else. The idea of walking through Swiss meadows with nothing but the blue sky, alpine peaks and cow’s bells to keep you company was appealing on every level. 
 

How did you prepare for your walking holiday in Switzerland? 

To be honest, poorly. We were walking the Capital Ring Walk in London leading into our walking holiday, but it by no means prepared us for the grinding uphill in the hot weather that we endured on the first day. 
 

>> Find out more about The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls trip that Campbell completed

 

What was your favourite destination? 

This would have to be Lauterbrunnen. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first being the accommodation had a bath looking out over the waterfall that I could sit in at the end of the day and enjoy a nice glass of port. Also great was the fact that it was nestled away in a valley downhill from Wengen. It has a nice village feel as you walk into it with the paragliders making their way up and down the valley. 
 
Lauterbrunnen on Bernese Oberland walk with Sherpa Expeditions
 
Reward after challenging hike in Switzerland - Sherpa Expeditions traveller review
 

Best food & drink? 

This would have to be at Onkel Tom’s in Grindelwald, due to the atmosphere and hygge factor. It was cold and unrelenting outside, yet here we were with a lovely pizza, wine and roaring fire. It was perfect after a hard days walking.
 
A close second would be the hut on the route out of Zermatt which serves a brilliant homemade apple cake with fruit tea. It makes for a perfect pit stop after arguably the hardest ascent of the trip. It was the only time we were swayed by a treat and I’m so glad we stopped. 
 

Biggest surprise of walking in the Bernese Oberland? 

The Marmots. They were just everywhere. I jest, I didn’t see any Marmots. 
The main surprises for me were actually twofold. The first being the just the scale and breath-taking beauty of the Alps and the valleys, it was quite humbling to be walking through and over such incredible landscapes. 
 
The second would be the wildlife. Living in London, aside from the odd squirrel, there isn’t much else. It is mainly livestock over this walk in Switzerland, but they are all equipped with bells, which lets everyone know where they are at all times. It was almost unusual to walk through a field or slope without the cacophony of dings to keep you company. 
On the higher plains outside of Zermatt keep an eye out for goats and black-faced sheep. The sheep are especially friendly and are typically found snoozing near any rocks that might heat up in the midday sun. In the summer and spring months, there will be a host of butterflies that will constantly distract you from the potentially gruelling uphill legs. 
 
Walking in Switzerland review_Sherpa Expeditions
 
Sheep abound around Zermatt in Switzerland_Sherpa Expeditions traveller review
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging? 

While the first day was physically challenging, I don’t think this was the most challenging aspect of our walking trip. I think that the most challenging aspect was dealing with the weather involved. As is the case with all mountain weather it is largely interchangeable and I was perhaps not as adequately prepared as I should have been. 
 
Also, we were very keen to do the Jungfrau railway, so choosing when to do this was a key decision, especially due to the cost. Luckily, they have a detailed weather service in the station that will give an update as to what the weather is expected to be at the summit. We ended up with a fantastic blue-sky day in the end and would definitely recommend walking out to the hut past the glaciers for soup or mulled wine.
 
Walking around from Jungfrau Railway _ Sherpa Expeditions traveller review
 
Review walking in Switzerland_Bernese Oberland with Sherpa Expeditions
 

Did Campbell inspire you to go walking in the Swiss Alps? With Sherpa Expeditions you have a selection of options to choose from in the Bernese Oberland, but also other highlights of Switzerland such as the Tour du Mont Blanc, Wildstrubel Circuit and Haute Route. 

 

Traveller’s Tale: Alison’s La Gomera Walking Holiday

Review walking in La Gomera - Sherpa Expeditions

Traveller's Tale: Alison's La Gomera Walking Holiday

Alison Carr, a very skilled watercolour painter from the UK, took a walking holiday on La Gomera with us in November. Below, she shares some of her experiences – plus wonderful works of art that she produced along the way. 
 

“The first word that comes to mind about this walking trip on La Gomera is contrast.”


The harbour town of Los Cristianos at the southernmost tip of Tenerife [red: where the nearest airport is] is so busy but then the ferry takes you away to the quiet and quaint San Sebastian on the island of La Gomera, near enough to be seen  but, in some way, a rather different world.

The first walking day takes me up to the hamlet of El Cedro. The road tunnel catapults me into one of the famous rain forests of La Gomera...it’s like a portal! On the other side is steamy, dense woodland with the light coming through in misty shards. It’s truly magical. Flowers and fruit grow in rich abundance and lizards scuttle about in the dry leaves as I walk past.
 
Being up so high affords sweeping views of the coastline below. It does also put you in touch with the elements, on occasion with a stiff breeze and atmospheric, swirling mists that frame glimpses of dramatic rock formations above and below. 

Descending to the little town of Vallehermoso, I hear music and discover that the local bar in the square is a place where people congregate to sing (very heartily) with enthusiastic local guitarists and it’s so cheering to sit amongst them. Another contrast to the quiet of the day in the mountains above the town.

Highlights of the rest of the trip include the hill top village of Chipude with the zigzag path that takes you on up to the highest point of the island, into the National Park and its visitor centre with a comprehensive history of this fascinating place.
 
Playa de Vallehermoso - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays
 
Chipude in La Gomera - Sherpa Expeditions walker review

There was also an extra day to walk along the coast, a hot and dry walk with little pockets of green in the coves, such as the one at Playa Del Cabrito. Here, a banana plantation (the first I’ve ever seen!) completely takes me by surprise. A dip in the sea on the way back is most welcome.

Returning eventually to San Sebastian, there is a buzz of excitement. It may be a small place with a tiny harbour, but it’s also the place of choice for many great seafaring launches and today sees the teams for the challenge to row across the Atlantic getting their boats ready amongst all the media attention that goes with it. Even a Hollywood film, In the Heart of the Sea, was shot here. By contrast, I board the steady, safe and slow ferry back to Tenerife and home after a really amazing walking tour of this lovely island of La Gomera.


Want to find out more about our hiking options on the Canary Islands or in particular walking on La Gomera? Then contact our team of experienced travel experts or read more on our website here
 
Parador on La Gomera - walking with Sherpa Expeditions
 
La Gomera hiking trips with Sherpa Expeditions
 
© Words & artwork by Alison Carr

A Traveller’s Tale of 4: Walking in Italy’s Apuane Alps

Review Self Guided Walking in Apuane Alps Italy - Sherpa Expeditions
 
Amy and her husband randomly had a conversation with a man who spoke highly of Sherpa Expeditions and decided it sounded like a great company. Together with another couple from Idaho, USA, they took off walking in Italy’s Apuane Alps. Read here their review of the walking holiday with us. 
 

>> Find all details about the Walking in the Apuane Alps trip that Amy did. 

What is your walking history?

All 4 of us live in Idaho, USA, and regularly take advantage of the outdoors of our state including hiking and trail running. My husband and I had done a self-guided hiking tour in Ireland approximately 16 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We prefer to include some adventure and activity into our vacations and hiking / walking is always a great way to see a new place.
 
Self guided walks in Apuane Alps - Italy _ Reviews Sherpa Expeditions
 
Italian delicacies on your walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions
 

Why did you choose to walk in Italy’s Alps?

As we looked at options for our next walking holiday, we knew we wanted to go back to Italy as it had been 18 years since we’d been. We also wanted a challenging route, the Apuane Alps checked both those boxes. The other couple from Idaho that joined us was ‘up for anything’.
 

How did you prepare for this walking holiday?

My husband and I had a busy summer of trail running events that set us up pretty well for the trip. On the flipside, our friend had an arthroscopic knee procedure about 2,5 months prior to the trip and did fine. We all had a solid level of activity from the start and really had no concerns. We opted not to do the “long” day as we also recognized we were on vacation!
 

>> Looking for a walking holiday in Italy as well? Find ideas now

Review self guided walking in Italy _ Sherpa Expeditions
Walking in Italy - Sherpa Expeditions Reviews
 

What was your favourite destination in the Apuane Alps?

We really enjoyed the three nights we stayed in Fornovolasco. We were placed in a freestanding apartment across the river from Rifugio La Buca. We were pleasantly surprised to find a washing machine and had plenty of space to spread out, dry out and enjoy ourselves. Paula is a fantastic hostess and cook and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
 

Best food & drink?

All the cappuccinos in the mornings to send us on our ways. The cold Italian bierra to greet us after the walk. And the house vino rosso to accompany all the delicious home-cooked meals. 
There was no bad meal. We particularly enjoyed the pasta and tiramisu from Paula in Fornovolasco and the breakfasts at Albergo Gorizia were delightful and had a slice of cheese as big as a plate.
 

What was your biggest surprise of your trip in the Apuane Alps?

The complete lack of tourists! We were at the end of the season and knew this was not one of the more popular hikes, but we truly did not run into any other hikers on the trail. We opted to go to the Wind Cave outside Fonovolasco and did see people there, but otherwise we just enjoyed our interactions with owners of the lodgings.
 

What aspect of this walking trip did you find most challenging?

The answer to this must be the unrelenting rain on the first day as we set out from Fornaci di Barga. It made for a challenging day with slick trails, some difficulty with way finding and energy level. However, Manuel and Sylvia, the owners of Agriturismo Summer (our lodging for the night), welcomed us with a place to dry out and arranged for some sunshine as we enjoyed some beverages by their pool!


Amy and her husband together with their friends did our self guided 'Walking in the Apuane Alps' trip. Learn more about it today or talk to our experienced team to discuss any queries you may have about walking in Italy
 

Scott’s Traveller Tale: Walking in Tarn, Medieval France

Walker's review on walking in Tarn, France with Sherpa Expeditions
 
Each year, Scott and his wife try to have one long holiday which incorporates site seeing, cultural interactions and some sort of activity. Being Australians in London and living away from family also means that holidays include time with them when they come to visit from overseas. "Each year I go on a boys’ long weekend hiking trip in the Lake District and on a skiing trip to Europe" says Scott. "I try and dust off my bike annually to participate in the Dunwich Dynamo (overnight bike ride from London to the Suffolk coast)." In the summer of 2019 he embarked on our self guided walking holiday exploring the Hill Top Villages of Medieval Tarn
 

Why did you choose to walk in Tarn, France?

France is such a diverse country and having worked there previously, I am always up for another trip visiting a different area. I had watched a programme on the Tarn region so was interested to visit. This walking itinerary also fit into one week of annual leave and, being time-starved, it was great that Sherpa Expeditions had this trip so we didn’t have to organise a thing!
 
Being time-starved, it was great that Sherpa Expeditions had this trip so we didn’t have to organise a thing!

 

How did you prepare for your walking holiday in France?

Not well and probably I should have done more to enjoy the trip in a more relaxed way. To prepare I did a few local weekend walks and also each weekend I participate in Park Run in my local park. Even though the walking days on average are over 20 km, most of the walking is fairly flat except when climbing up into the villages or descending out of them.
 

Your favourite destination on this Sherpa Expeditions holiday?

Cordes is a good village to start and finish the walk as it has great views, shops & restaurants. But I think the walking each day through moss covered forests and along escarpments seeing the villages come into view are also highlights. I recommend the 1-day Albi extension. If you have an extra day it is worth including to appreciate the Sainte-Cécile Cathedral and visit the museum dedicated to Toulouse-Lautrec, the famous late 19th century painter who was actually born there.
 
 
Albi on a walking holiday in France, Sherpa Expeditions
 
Walking trip near Albi, Tarn, France - Sherpa Expeditions
 

Best French food and drink?

The two meals we had at our chambre d'hôte accommodation in Vaour and in Bruniquel where you ate with your hosts and other guests. It was like enjoying a 4–5 course dinner party with friends. We did have to use a translate app some of the time but it made for some funny conversation. I found that most restaurants in Tarn do very good value set menu meals as well.
 

Biggest surprise when walking in southern France?

How quiet it was, we came across very few walkers and a couple of mountain bikers. The trails were very clean and the waymarking excellent. 
 

> Learn more about the Tarn region & view stunning images

 

Flowers along the walking trail in Tarn, France - Sherpa Expeditions
 
Well deserved drink after a day of walking in Tarn, France - Sherpa Expeditions
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

The heat, we had very high temperatures so carried 2 litres of water each daily. The last day was very exposed so we took our time walking back into Cordes where we celebrated with a few well-earned beers.
 
 

Curious to learn more about this self guided walking holiday in France? Have a look at the full description of our Hill Top Villages of Medieval Tarn walking trip, or contact our specialist team to discuss your wishes. 

Read the Q&A on Walking in France's Tarn & Aveyron Region

 
Walking in Tarn, medieval France, includes picturesque hill top villages
 
 
 
 
 

Travellers' Tales: Wainwright's Coast to Coast with Gail

Gail upon completing UK Coast to Coast walk
 
Gail Rast from Australia went on a self guided Coast to Coast walk with us last summer and in this article shares her feedback of the walking holiday across England. Her walking history began around five years ago when she walked the entire Camino Frances – solo! 
 

What is your walking history? 

I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, but became really passionate about walking a little over 5 years ago when I made the decision to walk the Camino Frances. This was fairly ambitious for my first multi-day hike, but I succeeded in walking the entire 800km (solo). Since then I have done a number of multi-day hikes in Australia (including bush-camping) and 2 years ago I did the Portuguese Coastal Camino (260km).
 

"I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors"

 

Wainwright Coast to Coast feedback

Why did you choose to walk the UK’s Coast to Coast? 

I chose the Coast to Coast long distance walk because I have always wanted to see the Lake District and spend some time in the English countryside. Walking is a great way to see and experience new places.
 

"Walking is a great way to see and experience new places."

 

How did you prepare for this long distance walk?

I keep myself fit year-round by swimming, walking and other activities such as kayaking. In the lead-up to the Coast to Coast walk, I increased my walking (distance and more difficult terrain) and trained with a pack. I also incorporated weight training into my routine to strengthen my muscles.
 
Gail in the Lake District UK with Sherpa Expeditions
 
Osmotherly village and viewpoint on Coast to Coast
 

What was your favourite destination along the trail?

I genuinely enjoyed the entire Coast to Coast Trail – I loved the diversity of the terrain! Stand-out village for me was Osmotherley, such a pretty place and such friendly locals. I also loved the coastal terrain of St Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay (great way to start and finish!).
 

Best Food & Drink?

The pub food was hearty and sustained my ravenous appetite at the end of the day! My most memorable meal was braised Cumbrian lamb in a pub in Rosthwaite – it was plentiful and absolutely delicious. I also enjoyed the local ales, and have now developed a taste for boutique gins!
 

Biggest surprise? 

The biggest surprise was the number and variety of animals that shared the trail – so many different types of sheep and cows, as well as horses and numerous birds including pheasants and grouse. As I was walking solo most of the time, they were great company!

Belted galloway - walking Wainwright Coast to Coast
 
Stiles and bleak moors - walking UK Coast to Coast - Sherpa Expeditions
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging? 

The descents of the Lake District were more challenging than I had imagined. I managed fine with the ascents, but my knees struggled coming down the peaks. But the views and sense of achievement made it absolutely worth it.

 
Want to experience Wainwright's Coast to Coast for yourself and cross England's Lake District on foot? At Sherpa Expeditions we offer a variety of ways to discover the area, whether on foot or by bike, guided or self guided, check out your options here
 

>> More about the Coast to Coast trail in the UK

 

Travellers' Tales: Amalfi Coast with Charlotte and Sven Aaberg

Charlotte and Sven are long time walkers and have completed some incredible challenges along the way. There latest adventure was in Italy's Amalfi Coast where they discovered the wonders of the limoncello, admired some beautiful views and climbed many steps!

 

What is your walking history?

My husband, Sven, and I are walkers from WAYYY back! In 1995 we walked 1250 km of the Grand Randonnee Cinq from Hoek van Holland to Ribeauville, France. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the full 2500 km of the trail due to my feet developing stress fractures! Since then, we have trekked to Everest Base Camp and Kangchenjunga Base Camp in Nepal and more recently walked both Sherpa Expeditions’ self-guided Coast to Coast Walk and also Tuscany on Foot.
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

Actually a girlfriend suggested we walk this trip. She was going to come with us but had an illness in her family and was unable to join us. We had never heard much about the Amalfi Coast but are so glad we took her advice and had this wonderful expedition!
 

How did you prepare?

We live on a small island where there are limited long distance trails. We walk our dog to the ferry terminal every day (around 3 km) and once a week we walk a 10 km trail. We also train on our stairs to the beach (Sven’s Grind) which has 57 steps down. We go up and down them 5 or 6 times daily.
 

What was your favourite destination?

Amalfi is a beautiful small town but very busy with cruise ship tourists. It does have a lovely walk up into the mountains behind, the ‘Valle dei Mulini’ – Valley of the Mills. It was a rainy day when we were there, but it was so peaceful and had such outstanding views. But, I think my favourite destination was Praiano. It is such an artistic community and it was very special to see the donkeys and their drivers delivering goods; just as they must have done for years.
 

Best Food & Drink

If you like something a little strong, the Limoncello is dee-lish! And you can never go wrong with a real Italian pizza! But the best food for the area is Caprese Salad – tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. YUM!
 

Biggest surprise?

Our biggest surprise was the beauty of the entire area – such stunning views! We were also surprised by the number of ceramic factories and the beautiful work they do.
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

We found the ‘Pathway to the Gods’ challenging because we both have problems with vertigo. Although the path is fairly wide, the steepness of the dropoff to the water is a little daunting at times. We also were unprepared for 1,860 stairs down one day! In fact, every day, stairs are everywhere!
 

Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?

Practice a LOT of walking up and down stairs!
 
 
 
 
 

Travellers' Tales: My Walking Journey with Julie Gordon

Julie and Rich are from California and first started their walking journey in 2008. Since then, they have been on many walking trips and have definitely got the bug for it. Read on if you want to find out about their favourite adventures and and biggest surprises along the way!
 
 

What is your walking history?

In 2008, thanks to the guidance of Sherpa Expeditions, we put our “boots on the ground” for our first, very long walk, the Coast to Coast across England.  Though we had been hikers and, generally, spend a lot of time outdoors, as most folks in California do, we had not done a long-distance walk. The 192 mile walk from St. Bee’s to Robin’s Hood Bay couldn’t have been a better choice.
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

The UK is a perfect place to walk, in particular because of the attitude of the country towards walking across what, in the US, would be private land.  There is both a respect for the land and a willingness to share access to it.  At the time we did the walk we managed about 15 miles per day; now it would be less! The terrain was varied, from deep muck and bogs to gravel trails; the weather a mix of everything from rain to drizzle to sun. We learned the importance of having all tools available to make one’s way when dense fog made using certain tools impossible. Nothing like a paper map when all else fails. We also learned that the trails as described in the notes and even maps can change after the information has been shared by Sherpa. Flexibility and adaptability are key, though they can be learned on the way!!
 

How did you prepare?

Our preparation for that trip was intense as we had no idea what to expect. We walked every weekend for six months and did back to back long walks across San Francisco in order to get a sense of what walking daily might be like. In the end, our preparation paid off but, as I will note further on, such intense training is probably not required (since 2008, with a walking trip almost every year, our regimen has become considerably more limited and we rely on our daily exercise to keep us ready.  Of course, readiness is affected by age and that has increased since our first walk!)
 
Also, in addition to building stamina and strength, there is planning for what one should pack. Although Sherpa and other companies provide lists, determining what and how much you will need and how you will limit it to one 20 kilo bag takes work.  Over the years we have scaled back our tendency to “overpack”, learning that things can be purchased on route. One critical factor is how one can wash clothes and, more importantly, dry them!!  On some of our trips there were clothes lines and the ability to wash in large sinks but, for the most part, one relies on hotel or B&B small sinks and decorating the room with laundry to dry, using hair dryers in emergency, and the heat racks that are for towels but work well for socks too!  There are places that will not allow you to do laundry in your room but they are few and far between. 
 
 

What was your favourite destination?

It has been 11 years since that first long walk. During that period we walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the islands of Kerry and Beara in Ireland, the Via Fracigina in Italy, the Dordogne in France. There were also treks in Nepal and a bicycle trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. This year we just returned from walking across Scotland on the John Muir Way. Although it has not always been the case, we have sought walks that were destination based, the Coast to Coast walks being the pinnacle of that kind of walking. There is a great deal of satisfaction in walking across a country, most particularly the chance to immerse ourselves in the variation of the lands, the economies, the cultures, the history as we cross. 
 

What has been the most challenging aspect?

Each walk we have taken has challenged us in different ways.  On our first walk the challenge was simply to persevere, to walk daily, rain or shine, through rabbit holes, peaty soil and getting lots in the fog.  Walking in Italy, from hill town to hill town in Tuscany, challenged us to walk UP hill at the end of every day !!  And the hills were steep and long. Whew! And walking the John Muir Way in Scotland  challenged us because there were unexpected obstacles and diversions that added to the length of our days when, as you might have guessed, our energy was flagging. 
 

Best food & drink?

Each walk has had different culinary offerings the best of which were found in France and Italy. The other walks, including our most recent walk, seemed to have the same menu during a good part of the trip. The variations came when we came to a bigger town or city (like Edinburgh) when we could enjoy cuisines from around the world. As walkers, a hearty breakfast is critical and, though the delicious food found in Italy and France made for lovely dinners, the breakfasts were largely something sweet and coffee, so sometimes we found ourselves supplementing with local cheese and fruit. We also brought an array of protein bars to carry us through the energy gap. England and Scotland win the prize for a substantial breakfast albeit one filled with not such healthy sausages, pudding, hash browns as well as eggs, beans, bacon, tomatoes. It should be noted that in the UK one could get a vegan, vegetarian, lactose free or gluten free meal everywhere too, if required.
 

Biggest surprise?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of these walking trips, from our first to our most recent, is the level of detail in which we immersed ourselves as we walked. The myriad questions about what we are seeing made for a very stimulating experience in every case. And, although not an entire surprise, indeed a great pleasure, is the kindness of strangers.  We have been rescued from bad judgments, bad weather, bad signage and fatigued bodies by so many folks whether we could speak the same language or not. The best example of the kind of help we received was during our Coast to Coast walk when, upon arriving in a tiny village, it appeared our supposed host was in crisis and had locked his inn. At a loss for what to do, we were approached by a local woman who invited us to stay with her for the night and she arranged for dinner as well. What’s not to like about that!

Obviously I could write on and on but, if you take away nothing else from what I have written, know that long walks, supported by having your luggage carried, your lodging taken care of, and your routes provided, is the best way to see the world step by step!!
 
 

Travellers' Tales: Tuscany on Foot with Charlotte Aaberg

Charlotte and her husband, Sven, are keen walkers and have been for many years, and this time chose to explore Italy on our self-guided Tuscany on Foot trip. If you want to find out why they decided to walk here and hear about all of the adventures they got up to along the way, read on!
 
 

What is your walking history?

My husband, Sven, and I are walkers from WAYYY back! In 1995 we walked 1250 km of the Grand Randonnee Cinq (GR5) from Hoek van Holland to Ribeauville, France. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the full 2500 km of the trail due to my feet developing stress fractures. Since then, we have trekked to Everest Base Camp and Kangchenjunga Base Camp in Nepal and more recently walked Sherpa Expeditions’ self-guided Coast to Coast Walk.
 
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

I have always wanted to visit Tuscany and what better way than to walk it? Not only do we love adventure, but also food and wine. Tuscany is famous for both! Also, we recently took a course on the Etruscan history and decided it would be rewarding to visit the area where the mysterious Etruscans once resided.
 
 

How did you prepare?

We live on a small island where there are limited long distance trails. We walk our dog to the ferry terminal every day (around 3 km) and once a week we walk a 10km trail. We also train on our stairs to the beach (Sven’s Grind) which has 57 steps down. We go up and down them 5 or 6 times daily.
 
 
 

What was your favourite destination?

We liked them all but Volterra and San Gimignano were the most interesting. The alabaster factory (Rossi Alabastro) in Volterra was amazing which made it very difficult to choose a souvenir. The view from Hotel La Cisterna in San Gimgignano was magnificent. We also really enjoyed the pool with a view at Agriturismo Sant’ Antonio, Sensano. The walled town of Monteriggioni is so beautiful seen from a distance. 
 
 

Best food & drink?

Oh my, what a decision! I think the plates of Percorino cheese with orange marmalade, salami, prosciutto, and olives. Dee-lish! And the WINE. Sven loved the Chianti from the Monteriggioni region but I prefer the refreshing white Vernaccia of San Gimignano.

 

 

Biggest surprise?

On our way to San Gimignano, we took the route to Castelvecchio. We were glad we did as we were surprised it was such a worthwhile detour. It was quite unique to be all on our own out there.
 
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

Some of the days ended up being very long as we had to backtrack quite a few times as we took a few wrong turns. It was a more difficult route than we expected. More stair climbing training for us, I think!
 
 

Travellers' Tales: Dales Way with Andrew Robinson

Andrew and Sandra are experienced walkers from South Africa, who have walked many of the great long distance walks in the UK as well as within Europe. Read on to find out more about their trip along the Dales Way and why it has a special place in their hearts.

 

What is your walking history?

Sandra and I walked the Dales Way in August 2019. The previous year we walked a portion of the Via Francigena in Tuscany, Italy, also booked & arranged through Sherpa Expeditions. We live in South Africa and are keen walkers, and love the scenery and excellent public transport systems that make walking in Europe so enjoyable. We have walked extensively in Cornwall, along the South Coast path, and also in Yorkshire, along the coast, and in the Lake District. The Via Francigena was our first long distance walk together, and we enjoyed it so much we decided to tackle other long-distance walks of about a week’s duration.
 
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

We chose the Dales Way for our most recent walk because I was born quite close to Ilkley, the start of the walk, and although I have walked quite a lot in the areas around Burnsall, Grassington & Kettlewell, I have seldom ventured into the northern Dales. The area has outstanding natural beauty, so much so that several times during the walk we just stopped dead in our tracks, rendered almost breathless by the often stark beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.
 

How did you prepare?

Although both around the 60-year-old mark, we are quite fit and active. Sandra and I go to gym and yoga respectively, and walk at least 10 km per day three or four times a week. In preparation for this walk and the previous one in Tuscany, we maintained our normal exercise routine, just making sure that our walking shoes were worn in before departing, as most of our walking here in South Africa is bare foot on the beach or in sandals.
 
 

What was your favourite destination?

We enjoyed every hamlet, village and town along the route. Ilkley is a wonderful starting point and we booked an extra night prior to starting the walk, just to get over the long journey from South Africa. Burnsall is a beautiful village, of which I am particularly fond as my Mother’s ashes are scattered under one of the arches of the bridge over the Wharfe. Grassington is interesting, as the main town for walking in Wharfedale and all the tea rooms and narrow back streets; Kettlewell brings back childhood memories of sitting outside the Blue Bell with my parents on long summer evenings; Hubberholme & Cowgill we enjoyed for their remote location and friendly welcome at our overnight stops; Sedbergh is an amazing town with its bookshops, cafés and dramatic position under the Howgills.
 

Best food & drink?

Our favourite overnight stay was probably the George in Hubberholme, partly because we spent the evening with a group of fellow walkers around a roaring log fire, (yes, in August!), and also because the route along the river Wharf, branching off just before Hubberholme, was beautiful, even though the river was flooded in places, with our destination coming slowly into view as we left Buckden. The food was excellent at the George, a hearty pie after a hard day’s walking, and the wine selection good for such a small place.
 
 

Biggest surprise?

We had many surprises along the way, several sightings of deer, usually in the early morning, many raptors circling overhead looking for prey, but the real surprise was seeing an otter in the swollen river Wharfe, just before Buckden. We stood for several minutes watching him swim backwards and forwards to his den on a small island in the river.
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

The walk was more strenuous than we anticipated, but manageable all the same. The stretch from Hubberholme to Cowgill was particularly challenging, especially in strong wind, driving rain and very cold weather for most of the day. During the section along the Pennine Way, we had to stop several times just to catch our breath in the face of very strong wind gusts. Our sense of achievement on completing this section was very rewarding, especially as a group of much younger walkers looked in worse shape than us on reaching Cowgill!

The last day’s walk, from Burneside to Bowness was also quite strenuous, made more so for us as we stayed quite a way out of Burneside, making the last day longer than anticipated. The views over Lake Windermere, as we dropped off the high ground down into Bowness, were truly breathtaking.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Dales Way adventure, the scenery, history, sights along the way and hospitality at the overnight stops were all amazing. We’d have no hesitation in recommending this walk.
 
 

Travellers' Tales: In Van Gogh's Footsteps with Heather Zrini

Heather hails from Canada and has walked many UK and European trails, as well as most recently completing the Camino Frances, with the hope of doing more in the future. Read on to find out how her and her friend found the In Van Gogh's Footsteps trip, challenges, surprises, Michelin stars and all!

 

What is your walking history?

Eight years ago, my friend that I walked this tour with, returned from a walking trip to Italy and couldn’t say enough great things about it. She wanted to do another walk in the Loire Valley and I said that I would join her. The Loire Valley trip was wonderful and I have done several other walks in the Cotswolds, the Dordogne Valley and Bavaria with friends and family since then. Last year I completed the Camino Frances which was an amazing experience and I hope to complete the Camino Portuguese next year with the people I met on my first Camino. My plan is to try and do a walk every year until my knees start to complain too much!
 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

I’ve always wanted to go to Provence and In the Footsteps of Van Gogh included many of the towns that I wanted to see. My friend and I walked in September, so we missed seeing the lavender in bloom, which is something on my bucket list, so I will just have to return another time! We learned while we were walking in Les Alpilles that we couldn’t have walked during the summer months as the risk of forest fires is too great.
 

How did you prepare?

When I went on my first walk, I was very nervous. I wondered if I would be able to walk that far and for that many days. I surprised myself and didn’t even develop any blisters! When you’re walking in the beautiful countryside in Europe, the fact that you might be walking 25km doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. It also amazes me how once I arrived at my destination for the day and changed my footwear, my feet felt like they could keep on walking! Since the Van Gogh walk was really only for 4 days and the maximum walking distance was 18km, I didn’t do a whole lot of preparation, other than to walk 10 km on the Saturday and Sunday of two weekends prior to departure. Walking a few more hills might have been useful, in retrospect.
 

 

What was your favourite destination?

This is a tough one as all four of our destinations were beautiful in different ways. St. Remy de Provence had a beautiful city centre and we really enjoyed following the path of Van Gogh paintings that led to the hospital where he stayed in 1889-90. We were thrilled to see some of the landmarks in his paintings as we following the route. The best part was climbing up to Les Deux Trous (The Two Holes), seeing the holes at sunrise from our hotel room the next morning and they discovering a Van Gogh painting with the holes prominently displayed above the olive trees.
 

 

Best food and drink?

We started our trip in Lyon prior to travelling to the starting point of Avignon. The gastronomy capital of the world didn’t disappoint. While we were there, we learned about Michelin starred and Michelin recommended restaurants. In Avignon, we ate at a Michelin recommended restaurant that was delicious. In Arles, we went to a tiny little restaurant that has been suggested in our route notes that was just down the street from our hotel. We got to eat outside and the dinner was amazing….I even went back for lunch the next day! We sampled various wines with our meals, tried an Aperol Spritz and the hostess at the hotel/restaurant in Les Baux de Provence gave us a thyme flavoured liquor after our dinner to ‘aid in our digestion’.
 

 

Biggest surprise?

We had many lovely surprises during our trip. The things that stand out are the lovely terrace overlooking the hills that was attached to our room in Les Baux de Provence, as well as the amazing view of the amphitheatre from our hotel room window in Arles. We were also pleasantly surprised to be able to get into Palais des Papes and Le Pont d’Avignon for free, as we happened to be there on Journees du Patrimoine when all the monuments in France weren’t charging an admission fee!
 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

This is an easy one! It was definitely the optional 8km walk in Les Alpilles on Day 3. The first part of the walk was lovely and not too challenging so we decided to see what the optional walk would be like. We had climbed up to Les Deux Trous and loved the view so we figured it would be similar terrain. It wasn’t! There was a 1.5km section where you were walking along the ridge of the mountains. The views were spectacular, but it was quite windy, very rocky and nothing to prevent you from falling down on either side! We had been warned in the route notes that ‘a well-placed hand would come in handy’ and they were right! We found it quite challenging but we just took it very slowly and managed just fine. We certainly felt a sense of accomplishment when we were finished!