Healthy holidays for 2015

Feature by Paul Mitchell | 26 Jan 2015
  • Via Ferrata (the Hermann Von Barth Way)

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Staring forlornly at that gym membership card with a frazzled, will I/won’t I trauma not seen since… well, last January? There is no shortage of motivational sayings (‘Pain is weakness leaving the body’ anyone?) but will we ever know how effective they are? The reality is, fitness can be fun. Travel can be fun. Using this impeccable logic, travel as a means of attaining/maintaining fitness is basically fun squared. Therefore, we’ve selected five venues in Europe where all your wellbeing dreams can come true.

Watersports in La Rochelle

Everyone going to France goes for the Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa, don’t they? Or to Chamonix for the snowsport­related injuries; or Lourdes to talk to God*? However, well over to the left (eh, west) of the country lies a small but beautifully formed city situated on the Bay of Biscay. La Rochelle, (the ‘white city,’ owing to its limestone­ fronted buildings) also boasts of its Goldilocks climate – never too hot and never too cold – and so perfect for year round excursions. The closed harbour is used for all varieties of aquatic leisure activities, from windsurfing, kayaking to sailing. But watersports are not the only thing on offer; the area is renowned for its golf courses, nearby cycle trails, and even a constantly in use dancehall should the rumba and tango prove to be your calorie burner of choice.

*Disclaimer, gross exaggeration

On yer Bike in Düsseldorf

Well­heeled Düsseldorf in the west of Germany is more celebrated for its finance sector, architecture and a cultural scene and nightlife which is considered a worthy rival to that of Berlin. In other words, it’s a mighty fine place to visit for a while. And fitness junkies are catered for too. There are hundreds of bike trails in and around the city, and the nearby Grafenberger forest is the ideal location for beginners to begin earning their MTB stripes. Mountain and racing bike aficionados are well­advised to head one hour north to the Eifel National Park, 110 square kilometres of wildlife, wood and waterscapes, also ideal for hiking or more leisurely nature walks.

Walk the Iron Roads in Northern Italy

So, Milan’s pretty cool, right? If you’re into shopping, opera, classic art and, eh, watching football. But from there, it’s also possible to take a day trip (or longer if desired) to the Dolomite mountains. There, serving hikers of all abilities, are trails equipped with iron ropes, bridges and ladders. Pretty neat idea eh? Called the Via Ferrata (iron roads), these routes were created during WWI to help Italian soldiers navigate through the mountains more effectively. So, admire the spectacular views, ignore the inevitable acrophobia that invariably happens when standing on a narrow bridge hundreds of feet up, and enjoy.

Rollerblading in Amsterdam

We all know what Amsterdam’s famous for – the Anne Frank Museum, bikes for all and those cutesie canals where the majority of those bikes end up, right? The city, however, also has a reputation for being one of the most environment / cyclist / pedestrian ­friendly conurbations in the world. And there are parks everywhere, catering, in a very wallet­ sympathetic way, to activities such as horse riding, canoeing, yoga, and even bodybuilding. One of the more fun activities to try is inline rollerskating, and the best place to do this is in the largest of the aforementioned parks, the 47 ­hectare Vondelpark, right in the middle of the city centre. Lessons for the uninitiated can be procured, but the big thrill is to build up a head of steam and criss­cross the designated routes, avoiding some of the many millions of annual visitors to the park each year. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch some open air theatre or a free concert while you’re there.

Surfing off the West of Ireland

Ireland’s reputation as a surfing hotspot (minus, perhaps, the ‘hot’) has been growing sharply for over a decade now. So much so, those in the know refer to the country as ‘Europe’s cold­water Indonesia.’ Arriving in to either Belfast or Knock sees one within striking distance of probably the best known surfing destination on the Emerald Isle, Bundoran in County Donegal. Here, pilgrims from the world over come to revel in the huge, crashing waves that the mighty Atlantic provides almost all year round. The town itself caters to demand very well, with hostelries specialising in surfing tours, the provision of lessons for beginners, and a host of great places to eat, and of course drink.

FlyBe offers direct flights to each of these destinations from airports across the UK. To find out more, head to flybe.com

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