The Stephannie Russo Honorary Mystery Trip
(with special guest star, Tom Albrecht!)
Departure:  September 5, 2015

... and, here is where we went!

On this page, you will find...

Our Mystery Trips are your vote of confidence in us, and our special thanks to you.

They are designed for people who already know us.  After all, are any of you new folk, wandering around this web site for the first time, going to send a pile of money to a bunch of manifestly odd people you don’t even know, to take you some place they refuse to identify?  Not if you have any sense.  Though if you do, well, you’ll fit the spirit of things just fine.  Welcome!

Even our alums should worry.  But history suggests that they won’t.  Our three past Mystery Trips have been great successes, filled with carefree people (not much to worry about if you don’t know what’s next, is there?), who were a lot of fun to travel with.  And they are certainly fun for those of us who work here!

There are some carrots, to go with the obvious “stick.”   As a group, you, our alums (and the people you bring with you), account for 80% of the people on our trips.  So, when we know we are likely to have a concentration of you, we are going to try to treat you well, aren’t we?  It would be dumb to do otherwise, wouldn’t it?  So, maybe, just maybe, the hotels will be a notch up from the norm.  And there might even be a special dinner or two....

Also, where we normally limit our trip size to 19, the Mystery Trip will accept up to 25 people.   The festive atmosphere is only enhanced!

Jump down the page for the...

  • ...prices anddeparture dates for our two-week Mystery Trip...
  • ...and links to trips which connect to the Mystery Trip.  


    Frequently Asked Questions (others will be added as they are asked)

    Q:   How Should I Pack, since I could be going to Lappland or Malta?
    A:   Layer. The packing list remains appropriate.

    Q:   We are looking at several areas of Europe for further travel but are worried we will be venturing, and paying money, for an area that the Mystery Trip may include. What can you suggest?
    A:   Take one of our connecting trips! We promise that they won't go the same places :-).
    A more helpful answer? We know this sounds strange, but it won't matter. Even in the extreme case where, say, you go to Malta and so do we. There is no way, on God's green earth, that you will do anything close to the same things that we do, and the view of the place will be sufficiently different that you won't regret doing both. We say that with great confidence.

The History of the Mystery Trip
What can we tell you about the Blue Marble tradition that is the Mystery Trip?  We could pretend that, like the Beatles, we got the idea from British Rail’s 1960-era “Mystery Tours” (they stuffed innocents on trains and took them to random places that they would not otherwise have chosen to go).  We didn’t, but our inspiration was similar. 

The Mystery Trip was born in 1994, when we were trying to figure out how to convince people to go to the Cévennes, which we love, but which we knew no one had ever heard of.  Brigitte, one of the company’s founders and our Paris Office Manager of the day, observed, “well, since ‘ Cévennes’ won’t mean anything to anyone, why tell them where they are going?”  So we didn’t.

We were surprised by what ensued.  The trip turned into a giant alumni reunion, plus friends, and a couple of intrepid (foolhardy?) newbies.  It was our most heavily-subscribed trip that year, and a wonderful ride.  Which produced, among other things, two marriages and at least four children....

Our second, in 1999, was an international affair, in Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland, and which loosely served as the basis for our Northern Star trip, still a favorite.  Until an alumni extravaganza in Portugal in 2011, it was the largest single trip we had ever operated, a raucous affair which we remember most fondly.  It only generated one marriage, but there are three children.... 

The third, most recent Mystery Trip (in 2010) went to the Jura, the mountains along the French / Swiss border.  We stayed at a winery for two nights, climbed lots of hills, saw lots of cows, and ate very, very well, in one of France’s most beautiful and interesting corners.

And why the “Stephannie Russo Honorary Mytery Trip” [emphasis added]?  Well, Stephannie, along with Nicolas (Coordinator for all three) is the only of our riders to have taken part in each one of our three prior Mystery Trips.  We feel that this deserves our respect, and this tribute.  And we look forward to seeing her on the fourth!

As for Tom, well, his history is very much ours.  With over 20 Blue Marble trips under his belt, he has fostered a sense of dependency in us and in many of our riders.  He was once asked if he spoke any foreign languages, and responded, “Not really, but I read Route Sheet.”  And he does!  His sobriquet, “Tom the Navigator,” is there to prove it.  We are both coming up on a “big birthday” in 2015, so we figured we’d throw a joint party....


The Mystery Trip can be combined with the following:

Pre-Trip

  • A Week in Provence, August 30th. 
    Special “Connecting Trip” price of  $1,450 US / $1,750 C / 1,250€, includes the Provence trip, the bike, dinner and the night in Aix-en-Provence between the trips, and a Saturday train to Paris to meet up with the Mystery Trip.


Post-Trip:

  • Umbria Unravelled, September 20th.
    Special “Connecting Trip” price of  $1,495 US / $1,795 C / 1,295€, includes travel to Umbria (Spoleto) to meet up with the trip (including lodging on Saturday night), and the trip itself (including the cycle rental and shipment).
  • Pinot Noir Burgundy, September 20th.
    Special “Connecting Trip” price of  $1,295 US / $1,595 C / 1,150€, includes travel to Burgundy (Dijon) to meet up with the trip (including lodging on Saturday night), and the trip itself (including the cycle rental and shipment).
  • Red Wine Roads, September 20th.
    Special “Connecting Trip” price of  $2,695 US / $3,350 C / 2,395€, includes travel to Burgundy (Dijon) to meet up with the trip (including lodging on Saturday night), and the trip itself (including the cycle rental and shipment).
  • 2 Weeks in France & Italy, Umbria, plus Bordeaux & the Dordogne, September 20th.
    Special “Connecting Trip” price of  $2,995 US/ $3,695 C / 2,695€, includes travel to Umbria (Spoleto) to meet up with the trip (including lodging on Saturday night), and the trip itself (including the cycle rental and shipment).

Day-by-Day Itinerary:  Mystery Trip
Day of the Week
Description
Typical distances, in km
Saturday
TRAVEL to ?
In order to preserve the surprise, the usual “Access Package” is included in the trip price.  Travel from Paris to the trip on Saturday is a part of the deal.  We will assemble at the Paris arrival point for the airport train.  Our hope is that you be there by 11:30a, but late arrivals will be accommodated (advance warning solicited).
Modest k
Sunday &
Monday
FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU ARE,, GET on the BIKE, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE
There really isn’t going to be much to write here, is there?
Some k
Tuesday -
Thursday
MORE of the SAME
Over hill and down dale.
More k
Friday
THANK GOD it’s FRIDAY
Variable k.
Saturday & Sunday
WEEKENDS WERE MADE for MICHELOB
Drive safely
Monday - Saturday
A FINAL WEEK in PARADISE!  But which side?
Who’s counting?
Sunday
GET BACK to PARIS (or to ongoing trips)

Back to Paris, or to your next trip.  The return to Paris is included in the trip cost.  Plan on a post 1p flight if flying out the same day...

Fewer k than the other days

Stephannie Russo Mystery Trip — Facts & Figures
25 riders can be accommodated on this trip
Dates
Baggage Service Offered**
(optional)
Difficulty of the Ride
September 5 - 20
$4,995 US
$5,995 C
4,150 €

Daily, Lite

It’ll all work out just fine...

We know each other well enough to know that you’ll be able to get what you want to out of this, in either direction....
* Prices in $ and € do not include precisely the same things.  Click here for details.  Exceptionally, all prices include the Access Packages (travel between Paris and the trip, any necessary hotel nights, dinners, or breakfasts).  September 5 is the day by which one must be in Paris.  September 20th is the date on which one may book a flight or other ongoing travel from Paris.  Train tickets will be in first class if journey times surpass 2 hours.


Prices of Optional Extras (links lead to explanations)
Currency
$ prices include
the bike.
See here for information on bringing your own.
**If the service receives 10 subscribers, its price will be reduced by 10%.  A further 2% price reduction will apply per additional subscriber  beyond 10.
$US
$498
$850
$C
$590
$1,050
€uros
450€
795€
280€

Reaching & Leaving Your Trip
any travel and / or lodging necessary to move between Paris and the trip is included. 
Trip Start Paris.  At our Paris meeting point, convenient to the airport train, between 10:30a and 11:30a.   Later arrivals will be accommodated, but the first day’s activities will be truncated, and we are very grateful for any advance warning you can give us.

Trip End,
Ongoing Travel

You may leave the trip as you arrived, in Paris.  If travelling onward on the same day, book travel after 11a if continuing by train (not counting Eurostar check-in time, if applicable), after 1p if by plane.

Or...  elsewhere.  If you are continuing your travels elsewhere in Europe, returning to Paris may be silly.  To understand, consider this example, which places Japan in Europe for the purposes of discussion.  Let’s say that our trip ends in Tokyo, before returning to Paris.  And let’s further say that, by chance, you had planned on a few days in Sapporo after the trip.  Flying to Paris would be silly, as you would no sooner get there than you would have to get back on the plane to Japan.  No one needs 10 extra hours on a plane, let alone 20.

So, here is an offer:   we have told you that you will be in Paris on Sunday morning, in time to catch an 11a train, or a 1p flight.  Would you like to be somewhere else, instead?  If so, tell us.  For a fixed price of $50 US / $55 C / 40 €, we will put you in any alternate continental European capital except those of the countries that used to make up the URSS, on the morning of Sunday, September 20th, in time for an 1p train or flight.  Travel and lodging costs necessary to get to your destination will be included, but you will miss dinner on Saturday night
, and no alternate meal is provided.

Analysis, Detail
There is obviously a double-or-nothing aspect to this.  We could be charging you 40€ to just leave you in place (see the Tokyo example, above).  But we could also be charging you 40€ to take you across the continent. 

We are obviously hoping that these will average out, and this offer is made with a triple objective: 

  • Keeping the mystery in the “Mystery Trip.”
  • Helping you avoid unneeded travel expenses.  And, most importantly...
  • ...avoiding wasting your time. 

So... you are not allowed to whine if the trip ends where you want to be (Tokyo, in this example), and you spend 40€ to stay there, thus subsidizing the guy who flew to Nairobi (also temporarily placed in Europe).  Spending 40€ “for nothing” is better than a 10-hour flight to Paris, and then another 10-hour flight back to Tokyo (actual mileage may vary)

We do not recommend using this 40€ offer just to save, say, 80€ on a plane ticket.  The end of the trip will inevitably be a convivial affair:  truncating it to save a few pengo will not feel like it was the right decision.  It should really be used to facilitate ongoing travel within Europe.

If your destination is not a capital city, tell us where you are actually going.  We may be able to get you there at the same cost, by suspending our promise regarding arrival time.  After all, if you are going to some little village in Aomori prefecture, you won’t have same-day ongoing travel plans from there, anyway.   So arrival time will have less importance.  Unless you’re trying to get the Tairadate Straits ferry, of course.

Fine Print:  

  • This offer is valid until April 30th.  After that, your return to Paris is presumed, and will be booked.  We may nonetheless be able to honor the offer with less notice:   enquire if interested.
  • Travel method is at our discretion.  Feel free to express a preference — we know, for instance, that many of you share our predjudice in favor of the train, even if the journey is long.  We shall honor your wish if we can do so at a reasonable cost, and nonetheless respect our timing commitment.  
  • If travel is by train, and the trip is over 3 hours, tickets will be in 1st class.   If by plane, one piece of checked baggage will be included in the ticket supplied.  If by overnight train or boat, a berth in a private, double sleeping car (or ship’s) cabin will be included (private single cabins available for 75€ additional).  If by long-distance bus, you are not travelling with Blue Marble.  Check your itinerary, and contact your operator..
  • Travel between airports and city centers (if required) is not included.
  • Supplied lodging will be “Blue Marble level.”
  • Arrival times will be based on common carrier schedules.  While we plan travel (and any connections) with reasonable concern for reliablity, we act only as your agent in making arrangements.  We accept no responsibility for the service of any hotel or transportation company used in connection with this offer.  Nor for any delay, loss, or accident to travellers or baggage occasioned by such services from whatsoever cause.
  • If you are not returning to Paris after your trip, and must have baggage shipped to the end of the trip for you (not including pieces being transferred by us during the trip), the usual “one way shipping” cost applies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Ho
w to Sign Up for the Trip:  send a trip application, and a deposit
If you are requesting a private single room, please tell us additionally if you would like a private cabin on any overnight train or boat (not included in the Private Single Room Supplement).  The additional charge will be 75€, if applicable, and this will be payable in the Paris office at the start of the trip (which is also when you will find out if it is necessary).


How to Cancel Your Trip
, once you come to your senses.
Cancellation of your participation in the “Mystery Trip,” of extra on-trip accommodation charges, “Baggage Transfer” services, and other independent services such as cell phone rental or luggage storage, are effective only when received in writing by one of our offices, or if final payment for a trip is not received at least 60 days in advance of trip departure.

If you cancel your trip, we generally assume you have also canceled your rental cell phone (for instance), even if you don’t explicitly bring it up.  We aren’t dunces.  But the more explicit you are in your cancellation, the safer for all of us....

If final payment is not received 55 days in advance, you may (at our discretion) be considered to have de facto canceled your participation in your trip on that date.  A refund of your trip cost, less the applicable cancellation penalty, will be sent to you.

We aren’t mean, and try to give you a couple of days to sort this out if it comes up.  But we have been known to apply the term strictly when a trip has a wait list, and we cannot immediately reach you (are you sure your spam filter is set to let us through?).  You can lose a lot of money in this case, which will make you mad.  And, though we are compensated for our time and effort by your payment, we are nonetheless the source of that anger, which makes us sad.  Please settle the balance of your trip cost on time, even if details concerning the organization or price of ancillary services are still outstanding.  In other words, the fact that you have not yet decided whether or not you want to rent a handlebar bag is not a reason to hold off sending that 1,500€ due, on the premise that another 20€ might be added down the line, and you are hoping to “just make a single payment.” 

Costs will be refunded less the following amounts (converted to the currency of your account, if your statement is in $):

  • 12 weeks prior to trip departure:  an administrative charge of 200€.
  • 56 - 90 days prior to departure:  500€.
  • 35 - 55 days:  50% of the cost of the trip and service(s) being refunded.
  • 8 - 34 days:  65% of the cost of the trip and service(s) being refunded.
  • 1 - 7 days:  80% of the cost of the trip and service(s) being refunded.

No refunds can be made if cancellation is notified on or after the start date of the trip.

Notes:

  • Percentages are of base trip costs, cycle rental and shipping charges, extra accommodation charges, and Baggage Transfer charges (Daily, Lite, or One-Way Luggage Shipping).
  • Individual travel arrangements not part of the trip are subject to cancellation terms of the supplier(s), plus an administrative fee of 20€ (or the equivalent in your statement’s currency) per transaction.  Virtually all European rail tickets carry at least a 10% cancellation fee, and 20% is more common, with a minimum of 10€ withheld from any refund.  Seat reservation charges, and tickets costing 10€ or less, are not refundable.  Use special caution in reserving pre- and post-trip hotel nights in high-demand cities in Italy:  some hotels may require up to 4 weeks’ notice (!!) for penalty-free cancellation.  See our note on Italian city hotels.
  • Refunds are made in the currency of the payment, and by the same method.
  • Guests subscribing to two or more connecting trips are considered to travel on a single, unified trip, whose start date is the start date of the first of those trips.  If different refund conditions apply to the two trips, the refund conditions governing the Mystery Trip will apply.
  • Cycle insurance cancellation is subject to a fee in the amount of half the cost of the first week's insurance.
  • Allow 4 - 6 weeks for the processing and refund of all cancellations.  In cases where outside suppliers are involved, refunds may take longer:  airlines routinely take 6 months (!!) to process refunds.  If this stuff gets out of hand (beyond 6 weeks), we go ahead and refund our charges, and send a second refund when we get the rest of the funds back from the suppliers.

Our Cycle Trips

Overview Map
of the places we stage trips


Departure Calendar
of our scheduled trips


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or...
Short Trips from Paris
 

What's Included
...
...in the Trip Cost


Additional Services...
...which you can add to your trip.


Other Trips We Offer