FOUNDER/TOUR 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 a wilderness survival student at Francois Couplan’s School of Ethnobotany. She is a Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teacher and led gourmet yoga and cycling trips as a guide in Provence and Burgundy where she cultivated a real taste for wine. Avery completed Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course in Clermont, FL. 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.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” –Alice Walker, The Color Purple

A few years ago I traveled home to the United States from France after two solid years abroad. Though a child of the south, I cried walking through the airport in Philadelphia, overwhelmed by the familiar. I was finally home. But what surprised me during my visit were the French things I missed. In particular, the French approach to meals shared together. In France you never eat alone (unless you are alone), not even at breakfast. At home in the U.S., I was often asked “do you like such and such?” Or, “how do you like your blah blah?”. Meals seemed to be about personalized choice rather than a shared and open experience.

Sometimes the French are viewed as intolerant in stereotypical ways, but I find their general approach to the sacredness of food and wine a testament to their openness. In the quest for the perfect combination of flavors–the most delectable moment–they allow themselves to submit to the experience collectively. As a friend recently described, they relish the subtleties of a meal in an almost frugal way, talking endlessly through a meal about the meal. And it doesn’t seem to matter if you don’t prefer that particular dish or recipe, it’s all about the pursuit. André recently described some carrots we’d bought at the market as being especially aromatic. I don’t know many, if any, Americans who notice the seasonal change in the aroma of carrots!

It’s that French willingness to try a carrot, to sense it fully, that has invaded my own approach to eating and living. And what I’ve gained from that way of being is a widely expanded personal preference, with enough space to “notice the color purple in a field somewhere.” There is nothing I would like more than to expose this simple and real approach to eating and living with my compatriots–or with any curious travelers–who are willing to open themselves up to the moment–the people, the food, the landscape, the weather, the physical exertion, the joy and the subtleties of the moment. –Avery

TOUR SUPPORT/LEADER

Though most comfortable in casual wear and hiking shoes, André began his career wearing a suit and tie at Societé General bank where he polished his business and accounting skills for 13 years. He is 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. 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. A believer in living your dreams, André is excited 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. 

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.
–André

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