On this page, we present our philosophy of travel...

...including our company history, traveller profile (hint:  not a typical one), how we bike, what we eat... in sum, a description of who we are.

You can follow links to...

Who Are We?
The World According to Blue Marble


How We Got Here

Blue Marble was founded in 1986 by a group of grad students in different domains (MBA, phd in Chinese, Diplomacy Masters...) who otherwise would have had to find real jobs.  Our idea was to appeal to a fun, relaxed, intellectually curious crowd:  people we wanted to travel with!  The trips were conceived with that group in mind. 

They haven’t changed much, and the spirit of our riders remains the same. 

The biking is a means to an end (though we genuinely like biking).  A bicycle is the ultimate “small [no?] footprint” vehicle, and it ensures that you are welcome wherever you find yourself. 



So, Who Are You?

Well, you are some (maybe most) of the following.
  • Young, or young at heart.
  • Interested in the aspects of a culture best seen from the countryside:  villages, farms, open markets....
  • Active.  You may not be a cyclist, but you enjoy doing things that require the use of more than your thumbs.
  • Social, but independent.  You like interesting company, but aren’t afraid to sunbathe on the château lawn while others go in for a visit.  Or to find a little restaurant with a friend while the group has dinner at the hotel.
  • Curious.  You like exploring things and places different from those you know.
  • You are a gourmet, and enjoy the use of your five senses.
  • You are open and tolerant:  of other people, customs, cultures....
  • You’ve travelled before and done the “If-It’s-Tuesday-This-Must-Be-Belgium” thing.  This time, you would like a less superficial contact.

Who you aren’t is also revealing...
  • You don’t have stacks of money, and what you have, you like to see spent well.  But this means selection, not privation.  After all, you can afford to go to Europe....  Only, curling up for the night in a florescent-lit air terminal while some idiot’s baseline leaks from his ibuds has lost what limited appeal it may once have held.
  • Your day isn’t ruined by finding something closed for lunch, or by finding yourself elsewhere on the map than where you expected to be.
  • You aren’t excited by picky detail, even if you handle it well.
  • And perhaps you would “never” take a group trip.  Our version of the concept (fiercely independent organized anarchy), is about mutualizing set-up costs and putting you in contact with fun people who share your travel philosophy.  It merits your consideration.

 

Our Philosophy

We create our own website (it shows, right?).  But at least you don’t pay for expensive marketing to people who don’t go on trips.  If you go, you’ll find that the funds you gave us are used for your trip!

We don’t sink a fortune in hotels, ’cause you don’t spend much time in them.  We focus on the meals, the bikes, researching our routes and the towns and villages where we spend our evenings… the important things!  And we shop well.

Our travel is independent and flexible.  You aren’t bungied to our idea; we help you live your own.  Our trips are small, generally 10 to 15, so it’s easy to be autonomous.

Yet we liberate you from the hassles of solo travel:  finding a room at night, figuring out which train you can ride with a bike, hunting down the best bike routes to follow or the most interesting villages to visit.  We offer plenty of adventure, but not of the bed bug or big truck variety.

We know the wines on the list, how to ride trains with bikes, the little hotels with good showers, which village has market day when.  You are free to make the most of your experience:  explore your beautiful surroundings, dine, window shop, or chat with your companions over a glass of wine in an out-of-the-way bistro.

Finally, we do our best to be respectful, small-footprint “citizens of the world,” hopefully without being preachy about it.  We replace machines and fossil fuels with human labor whenever we can.  As we travel, we do our best to live like and amongst the people around us, and to consume locally.  We buy good bicycles, maintain them, update their components...  rather than buying pretty “disposibles” destined for a quick trip to a landfill.  And we have been doing all of these things since well before they were fashionable.  Indeed, since before the word “green,” now collectively used to describe them, was even coined.

We even help you reach and leave your trip.  “Access Packages” are available if you want them, so that you don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out where (or what) Finse is.



The Means (food, lodging…)

We bypass chain hotels in favor of family-run inns:  pretty in the country, central in the towns.  We choose a 17th century courtyard over an in-room TV (though, modern world oblige, virtually all of our inns offer free wifi).  Our restaurants are characterized by charm and good food, rather than capacity.

We avoid standardization.  We prefer a modest meal followed by a splendid one, to two “averages,” and we accept the dips in the road as the cost of the marvelous peaks.

We use quality transportation.  Our bikes are purpose-built road touring cycles, designed precisely for the use we make of them.  And whether you are on or off a bike, our journeys are interesting and fun.   We travel as the locals do, on trains, boats and bicycles – not in the cocoon of a charter bus on an industrial autobahn, less still in the bleak environment of a modern air terminal.



Biking

In his book about the Appalachian Trail, “A Walk in the Woods,” Bill Bryson writes wistfully of the human contact experienced while hiking in Europe.  He writes specifically of Luxembourg, but the text could apply to any of our routes, and to cycling as it does to hiking.

“Luxembourg is a ... delightful place to hike.... It has [forests], but also castles and farms and steepled villages and winding river valleys -- the whole, as it were, European package.  The footpaths we followed spent a lot of time in the woods, but also emerged at obliging intervals to take us along sunny back roads and over stiles and through farm fields and hamlets.  We were always able at some point each day to call in at a bakery or post office, to hear the tinkle of shop bells and eavesdrop on conversations we couldn’t understand.  Each night we slept in an inn and ate in a restaurant with other people.  We experienced the whole of Luxembourg, not just its trees.  It was wonderful, and it was wonderful because the whole charmingly diminutive package was seamlessly and effortlessly integrated.”

We couldn’t have said it better, and won’t try.  This is biking in Europe.

Our bikes (with whom we often become friendly) can be your purpose, or, on the contrary, a means to an end.  The rides are beautiful, and easy or challenging, depending on your goal.  You can even change your mind each day, or skip a day entirely.  There is plenty of time to stop and explore – though never enough.

Our “base routes” start off slowly, for those who haven’t been on a bike since the training wheels came off.  They gradually work up to a daily average of 50 - 80 kilometers (30 - 50 miles).  Distance depends on terrain, and on the sights that compete for our attention.  Doing more is always possible:  Trip Coordinators propose long routes for the ambitious, and trips integrate “loop days” (riding days between 2-night stops), which allow you to do as much biking as you please, or none at all.

Indeed, doing less is equally possible:   our extreme case is people who use the bikes to toodle around the villages and towns they sleep in, and then take the train to the next one!  It’s your vacation, and we are here to help you enjoy it, whatever that means to you.

We support our cycle routes by following country rail lines, and giving you daily information on how to jump on the train with your bike.  Railway personnel have welcomed aboard more than one sleepy cyclist, seeking nothing more than to forget prowess at the lunch table, the cycle stowed safely out of sight in the luggage compartment.  These things happen.



Staff (Us)

Your trip’s Coordinator serves as a center of information, helping with city orientation, ferreting out special events, calling attention to sights, and sharing hidden pubs and restaurants that guidebooks miss, and that an individual traveller would stumble upon only with the greatest of luck.  We don’t make you do stuff; we help you to do what you please.  And the administrative hassles that inevitably arise are ours to cope with, leaving you the freedom to enjoy your vacation.



Our Favorites

We offer over 40 routes, plus variants and combinations.  The innovative will find a discussion of connecting trips, offered at discounts.

All of the trips are great, but we have a natural preference for the long ones.  They permit an understanding of continental Europe that is unattainable in less time and with less material for comparison.  They have been life-changing experiences for many of our guests, and for us.  We believe this so strongly that we offer extra weeks on favorite itineraries “at cost.”  It’s time you changed jobs anyway.



Want to See More?

Here is what a “Day in the Life of a Blue Marble” looks like.