Experts + Insiders:
It’s not the most unique story in the company, but it’s certainly unique to the company. It started, as it did for much of B&R’s leadership, with a sense of longing for the continent.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to travel much as a kid, so when high school friends of mine set out on a European biking odyssey after graduation, I vowed to save up and follow their lead,” explains B&R Director of Planning Chris Mark. “Two years later I had ridden 10,000 kilometres across Europe, and the hook was set.”
And once hooked—to Europe, to biking, to adventure—a relationship with B&R became almost inevitable.
“A good friend was a bike mechanic for B&R when he heard that I was traveling through Europe. He offered me a job when my money ran out, which it did quickly,” he recalls of his humble beginnings. “Twenty-five years later (!), I’m still here.”
Having worked his way up to the head of B&R’s planning and operations department, Chris (or CMark, as he’s affectionately known to his colleagues) has become a one-man resource for all aspects of B&R’s European operation. From route questions to restaurant recommendations, no one else can match either the breadth or the depth of his trip knowledge.
But never let it be said that Chris forgets where he came from. When asked to identify his preferred method for immersing himself in a country, he doesn’t hesitate; it is as it’s ever been.
“Biking,” he asserts. “You cover ground but without the barrier of a windshield or train window. With this accessibility, friends, language, cuisine, and culture follow inevitably.”
Years in Travel Business: 21 (!)
Years with B&R: 13 (non-consecutive)
Countries/Regions of Expertise: Italy, France, Japan
Countries visited: At least 25
Countries lived in: Canada, US, France, Italy
Trips planned: About 100
Trips guided: 8
Q&A With Chris:
What’s your favourite B&R trip?
Amalfi Coast Walking, just a perfect itinerary for landscapes, people, hotels and food.
After two decades in the travel business, you’ve been around the world and back. Is there any place you haven’t visited that entices you?
Sub-Saharan Africa, because travel should transform and everyone I’ve ever met who’s been there has returned a changed person.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
A grilled squid steak seaside in the Italian resort town of Sperlonga, south of Rome. It was not fancy or expensive, but perfect.
[quote]Travel should transform, and everyone I’ve ever met who’s been there has returned a changed person.[/quote]
Do you have a favourite bottle of wine?
Almost anything from Burgundy. I also really enjoy a cool Gruner Veltliner, a highly underrated white from the Wachau region in Austria.
After 25 years with B&R, you must have amassed a lifetime of George Butterfield stories and moments. Can you pinpoint one that stands out?
When he, utterly of his own accord, presented me with a vintage bottle from the year of my marriage to drink with my wife (a former B&R guide) on our fifth wedding anniversary.
What’s your most embarrassing travel story?
Hiding my wallet with all my I.D. and money in a hostel so that no one could steal it—even though I was the only one staying there—and then biking away the next morning without it. I realized it checking in at a hotel 100 kilometres away the following evening, and so had to ride all the way back to get it.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or done while on a trip?
A bunch of merry (read: tipsy), leather-clad Austrian men prancing around and slapping each others’ butts. It was cultural immersion like no other.