Thanks for stopping by! The Trip Chicks® are two unconventional tour guides/travel agents with 25+ travel industry/airline years, mischief in 85+ countries, and a heap of travel (mis)adventures under our belts. Our goals? To educate, entertain, and help save you time, money, and stress on your next trip. Sometimes we digress. Happy travels!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tiptoe Through the Tulips in Springtime Netherlands

Almost every year since 2000, we have happily pedaled through stunning tulip country in the Netherlands with our equally happy bike and barge tour groups. In recent years we've started scheduling our Holland flower trips earlier in the season to increase our chances of catching the glorious Dutch flowers blooming in the fields.

Though prime tulip season used be mid-May (and of course, you never really know with Mother Nature), now we advise our cyclists to travel with The Trip Chicks to the Netherlands by the end of April. Keukenhof Garden in Lisse is wonderful, and due to staggered planting, the tulips there bloom longer than in the open fields. Still, there's really nothing quite like the breath-taking magic of a Dutch bike route along rainbow-colored tulip fields as far as the eye can see. It's a scene that can make even the most straight-laced of travelers get teary-eyed at the sheer beauty of it all.

What about the barge itself, converted from a Dutch freighter? It's a cozy floating hotel typically with a crew of three to eight, along with an experienced multi-lingual Dutch tour guide. The guide, thankfully, is also a bike mechanic for those rare instances we need one along the way. Each morning after breakfast on the barge, we pack a picnic lunch. Then we head out with our bicycles while the barge chugs on to the next port. Not a cyclist? Not a worry! The crew is delighted to have a few extra willing hands on board. Those who prefer to stay on board for the day usually reach the overnight stop an hour or two before those who pedal. That gives the "advance team" a chance to explore a bit and share great finds with their biking shipmates.

Before meeting up with our boat, cyclists take in the peaceful green countryside and tidy Dutch neighborhoods, complete with carefully-manicured gardens, miniature windmills, and windows peeking from behind Dutch lace curtains. En route to our port, we make both scheduled and serendiptous stops, enjoying a scenic picnic, a visit to a working windmill, cheese farm, or maybe a medieval town or two. Of course, on each trip there are always a few cyclists who sneak off, on the daily hunt for the best Dutch apple pie in the province before hopping back on their bikes.

We reach the barge just in time for tea/coffee with tasty desserts. Then most of us grab a quick shower or stroll before the hearty dinner cooked up by our crew. To cap off our memorable day, sometimes our Dutch guide offers to lead us on a leisurely walking tour of the town. A bike and barge trip through cycling paradise - the land of wooden shoes, windmills, Droste chocolate, Edam and Gouda, and the welcoming Dutch - is hard to beat. What a perfect way for the young and the young-at-heart alike to experience the Netherlands at its best!

Happy travels. Tot ziens!

~Ann Lombardi & Wendy Swartzell
The Trip Chicks

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Lucky Shot in the Heart of Cheese and Cow Country

After 25+ years of travel and over 80 countries under my travel belt, you'd think I would have perfected my photography skills. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every once in a while though, by a stroke of luck I happen to be in the right place at the right time.

I snapped this colorful shot last September during the annual "Cheese-Sharing Festival" in the village of Sigriswil, Switzerland. It's a tiny place in the heart of Swiss cheese country called the Juestistal. After a summer of happy grazing high in the mountain pastures, the cows decked out in huge bells and sporting garlands of flowers in their horns, parade down the mountain to signal the end of another successful cheesemaking season. Earlier that day way up in an alpine meadow, farmers distribute their season's cheese wheels as crowds gather to enjoy the fresh mountain air, yodeling, music, cheese snacks, and other local festivities.

Whenever The Trip Chicks bring our rail groups to Switzerland, we always try to spice up the tour by adding a tradition folk event to our trip. For many of our travelers, the market or festival ends up being the highlight of their stay. For more info on our favorite alpine nation, check out Switzerland Tourism's helpful site: Click on the "events" tab. You might be surprised at all the neat things happening the very same time you're on vacation in Switzerland.

Happy travels!

~ Ann Lombardi
The Trip Chicks

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tantalizing Turkey

Like us, you've probably traveled to Europe countless times. It's a culturally diverse continent to which we return time and time again, a user-friendly destination within the comfort zone of most American travelers. So, at the end of our Bike Bulgaria adventure, I was all set to go back to some old familiar European stomping grounds...until I peeked at a map and pinpointed Turkey, gateway to Eurasia. Bordered by eight countries, it seemed like an excellent choice for a serendipitous place to visit after our Bulgaria adventure.

We were dead on with our decision. Now I can't wait to return to this magical country of sensory overload. If you're yearning for something different to cap your European travels, don't miss Turkey. In an upcoming post, we'll share our top tips along with a few of our travel tales from the land of the Ottoman Empire. Until then, keep on traveling in 2010!

~Ann Lombardi
The Trip Chicks