Avery Sumner, FOUNDER/TOUR ORGANIZER/LEADER
Avery Sumner is an American living in France who began her career as a newspaper staff writer and high school journalism teacher in the Florida Keys. From there, she fell in love with the Florida Everglades where she eventually opened a seasonal organic restaurant. During her seven years as a restaurateur, Avery honed her skills for home-made everything and developed a powerful belief in the goodness of fresh and seasonal ingredients.
In the off-seasons Avery worked as an interpretation ranger at Big Cypress National Preserve and took off on adventures eating her way through places like the Bahamian out-islands, Cuba and Senegal. Avery’s camped and paddled all over Florida’s salty 10,000 Islands region, is a course graduate of the North Carolina Outward Bound School, and completed a wilderness survival course with Francois Couplan’s School of Ethnobotany. She is a Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teacher, and she led gourmet yoga and cycling trips as a tour leader in Provence and Burgundy where she cultivated a real taste for wine. Avery completed Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course in Clermont, FL in 2014.
She currently writes for Fodor’s France covering food, wine and culture in Southwest France. A native Floridian, her heart took up permanent residence in French Catalonia after she hiked solo across the region on the trans-Pyrenees GR10. (Read her blog here). Avery’s clocked hundreds of kilometers on her bike in this southernmost region of France and is enthusiastic to share the road and passion for adventure with others through Real Travel France.
Real Life Version…
Avery researches, plans, organizes and leads tours with her daughter Clara in tow. She could be super-woman and put more bicycle tours on the calendar, but she’s enjoying rediscovering the world at a toddler’s pace for now.
I’ve traveled by sailboat, on foot, by train, hitchhiking, road-tripping, you name it. But none of those adventures fed my body and spirit the way traveling by bicycle does. This geographically diverse region of France where I live is a wonderful place to share the joy of bicycle travel with others. And it’s a superb place for exploring age-old food traditions where cheese milk still comes from high-ranging sheep and wines are made from 100-year-old grapevines. But the real reason behind Real Travel France is future cyclist Clara. I wanted a job that included my daughter. Since most jobs don’t let you bring your kids with you, I created my own. So my bicycle is a freedom machine in more ways than one. The next revolution may very well arrive on two wheels. La revolution passera par le velo!
André Bizard, TOUR SUPPORT/LEADER
Though most comfortable in casual wear and hiking shoes, André Bizard began his career wearing a suit and tie at Societé General bank where he polished his business and accounting skills for 13 years. He’s a native Frenchman with a lifetime of active endeavors on his resumé. For 15 years he was the athletic director at a center for adults with disabilities where he led groups in martial arts, rock climbing, sailing, swimming, horseback riding, cycling and hiking and camping. André is a certified Tai Chi teacher and holds a second degree black belt in Aikibudo. He walked the pilgramage route, Chemin de Compostelle, from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, has camped in most of the high mountain shelters in the Pyrnées-Orientales, and has pedaled all over the backroads of southern France. André completed Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course in Clermont, FL in 2014.
André is a true gourmand, who loathes meals on the run and relishes planning a table with wine, seasonal food and willing friends. Openly partial to the bold wines of southern France, André loves showing others how to pair, taste and appreciate Roussillon vintages. André is pleased to introduce the riches of his home region to curious travelers, and is enthused to share his passion for terroir and active lifestyles through Real Travel France.
Real Life Version…
He’s Clara’s Daddy, Avery’s companion. André helps with pre-tour research because he likes meeting people and exploring, plus he gets to sample great food and wine. You’ll meet him on tour mostly behind the scenes because he’s more comfortable talking French than American (though he can talk them both).
I hope to share the pleasures of our Roussillon landscape with all who are ready to straddle a bicycle and wander between sea and mountains. It’s about meeting people. About discovering an incredible environment where the culture of altitude mixes with a culture that breathes the Mediterranean. Nothing is simpler than having several days before you and the wish to live at a rhythm that forgets time is passing.
Adrian Strong, TOUR SUPPORT/LEADER
Adrian Strong’s love of the outdoors was fostered in his twenties when he spent twelve years living in Africa, and started cycling regularly on road bikes. Roads weren’t always an option however when he lived for two years with the Bushmen in the Kalahari desert where elephants tended to monopolise the tracks! On moving to California for graduate school (where he gained an MA in myth and psychology), Adrian took up mountain biking in the hills around Ojai, but moved back to road bikes when he moved to Australia (the flattest continent!). During his decade Down Under, Adrian studied documentary film and visual anthropology, gaining a PhD, and making a number of films before returning to the UK in 2009. Here, he met Kate, his wife, and together they made plans to realise a shared dream. In 2013, they moved to the South of France to launch their B&B at Mas St. Joseph.
Adrian has continued pursuing his interests in writing, photography and film, but, when not busy with the B&B, he finds his greatest joy riding one of his bikes (mountain, road or touring), exploring the Pyrénées-Orientales and enjoying the many gastronomic delights of the region. He enjoys sharing his knowledge of the area with visitors, and his love for this corner of the world he now calls home. When Avery asked him if he would like to get involved with Real Travel France, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to combine all the activities about which he is most passionate.
Real Life Version…
Adrian runs one of the inns on the Pyrenees to Plage itinerary. When Avery discovered his love for cycling she noted it (prominently) in her research and development notes because she knows bi-lingual, local tour leaders with a good sense of hospitality are rare. You’ll meet him on the bike or behind the scenes on tour.
Moving to the Pyrenees Orientales has been a revelation in many ways. Not only is it the perfect setting for a holiday (especially on a bike!), but embracing the local people and culture brings untold rewards. Kate and I live in a community rooted in a land whose abundance manifests in the people who inhabit it. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our neighbours, who bring us gifts throughout the year: fresh organic cherries, peaches, nectarines; trout from the Tet river in the summer, wild mushrooms in the Fall and fresh vegetables throughout the winter. There is a shared sense of looking after each other, which is the essence of true community. People are proud of what they produce and delight in sharing. Never before have we experienced such generosity of spirit and this becomes infectious. We increasingly want to share what we have experienced with everyone who visits the area, for this is a place which delights all the senses.
Clara Sumner-Bizard, GENERAL DIRECTOR
Clara was born into cycling, like it or not. So far, she likes it. We’re hoping she’ll be inspired by Dervla Murphy who traveled the world by bicycle in 1963. Alone. And then kept traveling with her young daughter. And still travels with her daughter and grand-daughters today.
Baa Baa, Hee Haw, Grrrrrrr, Baaaaaa Baaaaaaaaaaa
Marian Sumner, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY to the GENERAL DIRECTOR
She’s Clara’s Nana, Avery’s Mama. You’ll sometimes see Marian on tour holding, chasing, or pushing Clara in a stroller. She’s enjoying retirement as an education administrator by living on a long term visa in southern France, happy as ever being Nana. Avery’s even happier to have her here.
It’s a pleasure for me, not only to watch the tours Avery organizes from behind the scenes, but to witness the joy I see on the faces of participants as they progress through the week. I feel it’s a privilege to be included in the group, and to get to experience many of the stops along the way: wine tastings at small wineries, goat and sheep cheese tastings at the “fromagerie”, olive oil tastings at the producer’s home…an intimate look inside life in southern France.