Archive of ‘travel’ category

London! Boris Bikes, Reader Pints & Sunday Lunch

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Bonjour! Dottie and I are blogging from our Paris hotel room. But we couldn’t wait to talk a little bit about London, where we shared Sunday evening pints at The Harp with delightfully witty and friendly readers Fred & Liz. Both are native(ish) Londoners, so they gave us a local take on cycling in the city. Apparently there are vast differences between the boroughs when it comes to infrastructure—and cycling gets better the further east in London you go. The money savings on transport here is huge: one way on the tube costs 2 pounds, so choosing to bike gets you more than freedom from the crowded tube.

Fred, Dottie, Liz & me

Also exciting: how we got there!

The bike rental system was about as easy to figure out as any bike rental system we’ve used in the past. Hardest part was getting the bikes free from the kiosk, really! And of course it was virtually free: one pound for a one-day pass, and the first 30 minutes of each rental is free. Our first stop was here: For this

Equal parts delight and intimidation in that expression, don’t you think?

Then we got back on the bikes for a ride around St. Paul’s before heading to the Harp.

The ride was pretty relaxing for the most part, beginning on quiet streets with well-designed bike lanes.  After a couple of miles, we ended up on The Strand for a few blocks with approximately half a million double-decker buses. That’s when we dismounted and walked our bikes on the sidewalk.

Obviously, we didn’t conduct a complete tour of London by bike, but our brief experience felt very different from our experience as cycling tourists in Paris, where many of the main through-roads seemed to have infrastructure for cyclists.

London felt more like Nashville in the sense that big roads are the worst for cycling—but when you’re in a city you aren’t familiar with that is not set up on a grid, it’s pretty difficult to navigate using smaller streets that would require frequent turns, even when you have a Moleskin City Guide map strapped in front of you.  :-)  If London wants to make cycling more appealing for tourists—especially those who are not used to bicycling in a big city—it should make the major boulevards more bike friendly.

We’re looking forward to using the Velib today, which we greatly enjoyed during our last trip to Paris.  A tout a l’heure!

My Trip Around Scotland

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As I mentioned before I left, in March I went to Scotland for a week with my friend Tanya and my husband.  I had not gotten around to blogging about the trip, since it was no epic bicycling adventure.  In fact, quite the opposite: we traveled all around Scotland via rental car with the express purpose of visiting as many whisky distilleries as possible.  We were successful.  :-)

We flew into Glasgow and immediately picked up the car and set out for the countryside, traveling to a different town every day, staying at a different B&B every night.  I would not necessarily recommend this itinerary for a week’s trip because driving time was much longer than estimated (and scary! with being on the left and curvy roads and cliffs and all) but we got to see a lot of this beautiful country and meet lots of very friendly residents.

Slowed down a bit by a flat tire…

And now prepare for gobs of photographs, showing our daily adventures.  I hope no one still has dial-up internet!  (All photos by me, unless I’m in them.)

Day 1: Oban

B&B: Strumhor

Distillery: Oban

Every B&B we stayed at served breakfast, of course.  The menu never changed: always the traditional Scottish breakfast.

I was happy to see that in addition to tea every place served delicious french-press coffee.

 

Day 2: Isle of Skye

B&B: Grasmhor

Distillery:  Talisker

I think sheep are so funny and awesome and I was thrilled to see them everywhere in Scotland.  The sheep roam entirely free on the Isle of Skye, since the only way off is a bridge, and the shepherds separate them at the end of the season based on color markings on their wool.  The result is a bunch of punk-rock sheep wandering around, with hot pink and bright blue and neon green tufts sticking up.

Ratagan Pass for a beautiful view.

Inveraray Castle

Day 3: Dufftown

B&B: Morven House

Distillery: Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glen Grant

 This B&B had the coolest house cat.

Day 4: Pitlochry

B&B: Roseburn

Distillery: Macallan, Dalwhinnie

Macallan is my favorite distillery and I brought back two bottles: a special edition 1876 replica and a 22 year.  Yum!

Queen’s View for the most beautiful view.

Castle whose name I cannot remember with beautiful but scary peacocks wandering around.

Day 5: On the road to Edinburgh

Distillery: Erdradour

A hike at the Falls of Bruar, which my fear of heights made nerve-wracking, but the views were worth it.

Day 6: Edinburgh

B&B: Ayden

It rained pretty much the entire time, which we took as a sign to spend most of the day poking around used book stores and drinking in pubs.

My Lululemon rain trench came in handy.

While in Edinburgh, we were thrilled to meet up with Jennifer both nights, a fab woman and LGRAB reader whom I hung out with when she visited Chicago two years ago.  So handy to have a local to bring us to the best restaurants and bars!  :-)

Day 7: Glasgow

B&B: Alamo

After Glasgow, we flew to Dublin for 2 days/3 nights.  I’ll post about that part of the trip separately.

The single malt whisky I brought home with me!

Half of these bottles are empty by now.  :-)

 THE END

Other trips we’ve taken over the years:

St. Petersburg, Russia (with some interesting bicyclists)

London, England (with cycling infrastructure)

Littlehampton, England

Paris, France (with Velib and bicycling around Versailles)

Alsace, France

NYC, New York

San Diego, CA (twice!)

Montreal, Canada

And we’re very excited about our planned trip to London/Paris/Amsterdam next month!

We’re crossing the pond again!

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Sorry for the slight lapse in posting lately. Dottie and I are devoting a lot of mental energy to planning our next trip.

Yep—that’s a London-Paris-Amsterdam itinerary you’re looking at. We will be there in mid-October (and I’ll be in Wales and Dublin before that).

Since we have so much time to dream and plan, we’d love to get suggestions from you on what we should see—especially when it comes to Amsterdam, as neither of us has been there before. Please share in the comments! And let us know if you’re interested in a reader meetup. Tea and Topshop in London??

Surprise Trip to Montreal

I’m back!

En route home to Chicago from Dublin, I had an unexpected side trip to Montreal. My flight from London was delayed, causing me to miss my connection from Montreal to Chicago – the last of the day.  Air Canada comped my hotel and meals, so although I was exhausted and ready to be home, I embraced the opportunity to see Montreal for the first time.

In the morning, I woke early and Mr. Dottie and I set off to spend three hours wandering around downtown before we had to catch the 1:45 flight home. The weather was perfect – warm and sunny. Armed with a map, complete with Bixi bikeshare station locations, we planned to pick up Bixi’s at Parc LaFontaine and ride along a protected cycle track to the Old Town area, ending at Marche Bonsecours.

We arrived at the park and wandered around looking for the Bixi station for a good 15 minutes. (Montreal peeps know where this is going…) We were so confused, standing exactly where the map said the Bixi station should be. Finally I asked a woman walking by with a bike where we could find the station and she informed us – oh, the bike share? – Bixi does not open until April. :(

Sad about not being able to ride a bike (no time to track down a bike rental store), we instead walked the planned route, which was also a great way to take in the city sights.

The feel of the city is unique.  The old buildings and French language contributed to a European feel, but overall it felt more like Chicago than Paris.  I imagined an idyllic bicycling paradise, while in reality it was more…real.  A big city with a lot going on.  There were many cyclists and some cycle tracks, but also a lot of motor vehicle traffic.  The number and types of people bicycling seemed similar to those in Chicago.

Since I could not ride a bike there, I compensated by buying a bicycle t-shirt.  It says in French, “Ceci n’est pas une bicyclette,” which Trisha assured me is an arty little meme, nothing dirty. :)

I also bought a lovely bicycle-print dress at Marche Bonsecours that was designed and made in Montreal.  I love the dress and I’ll definitely post about it later.

I enjoyed the unexpected side trip to Montreal.  I only wish I had time to plan ahead, see more of the city, ride a bike, and meet up with some locals.  Next time!

Brewery Bike Tour in Fort Collins

I’m back in Chicago! Can you believe it’s November already?

During my Denver vacation, I spent a day in nearby Fort Collins, Colorado.  Melissa, Chanh, Mr. Dottie, and I went on a bike tour of the city’s breweries. Melissa mapped out an ambitious plan to hit all seven, but a late start, early return time for the bikes, and a lot of beer sampling lowered that number to three.

Our first stop was the Fort Collins Bike Library to pick up free bikes. That’s right: free.  The Bike Library is a non-profit that lends out bikes like a library (get it?).

The Bike Library is located in a small hut in the middle of the downtown pedestrian plaza. Once we signed a waiver and provided credit card information, we were free to pick out the bikes.  Many were unrideable due to needed repairs, but lucky for us, several were left in good condition.

I scored a Jamis Commuter, the first bike I owned as an adult.  This was a very nice version, complete with 8-geared internal hub, chain guard, fenders and generator lights, although it made a crazy noise and the fenders were bent up.

Melissa tried out the bakfiets (awesome!)…


But went with a cute blue cruiser.

Chanh and Greg chose/were left with red single speeds.

Our second stop was CooperSmith’s Brewery, since it is next to the Bike Library and has a pub where we could eat lunch. Also, beer!

Then we set off down the road to our next stop, Odell Brewing. The ride was quick, but most of the route was along the shoulder of a two-way street with faster traffic. Someone with less experience riding among traffic may not be totally comfortable with this route (along Lincoln) but we found a more enjoyable back-streets route for the return trip.

The beer at Odell was AMAZING!  Easily among the best beer I’ve ever had, especially the Bourbon Barrel Stout.

I think we managed to taste them all.

Our final stop was New Belgium Brewery, which appropriately had a wide bike lane outside.

And its own small fleet of branded bikes.

I’m a big fan of New Belgium, both for its Tour de Fat/bike advocacy and its delicious beer.

Uh, yeah, we enjoyed our beer. :)

Fort Collins is not only breweries, though. Before heading out, we spent some time walking around the cute downtown area.

It is very pedestrian friendly.  ;)

We played with the interactive street art.

Surely, this fish was meant to be ridden.

Definitely this bike piano was meant to be played.

Fort Collins is an awesome little town.  We had so much fun and I’m happy we spent a day there.

I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. What could be more fun than bikes and breweries?

B-cycling in Denver

Mr. Dottie and I are in Denver this week vacationing and visiting Melissa and Chanh. We’re staying at a B&B downtown and so far we love the area. Today was devoted to B-Cycling. We picked up a couple of bikes a block away and made our way across town to the Platte River Trail, where we biked several miles, stopping for lunch and an excursion to the flagship REI store.  We biked about 12 miles total for the day.

B-Cycle is Denver’s bike share system.  There are 500 bikes at 51 stations, mostly serving the downtown area.

The bikes are fully outfitted for city riding, with 3-speeds, drum brakes, skirt guards, chain guards, baskets, generator lights, fenders and adjustable quick-release seats. Very comfy.

You swipe your membership card (which we borrowed) and the bike of your choice is released.

After paying a membership fee, using a bike is free for the first 30 minutes, $1 for the hour, and thereafter $4 for every half hour, to encourage short local trips. We managed to spend no more than $4 all day by docking and re-releasing our bikes as often as possible.

And then we were off! The trail is lovely – paved, scenic and well-maintained.

The fall colors here are gorgeous.  So beautiful.

We stopped by a cool bike shop/coffee shop, Happy Coffee Co., that had this great mural outside.

Then Mr. Dottie had to infuse the ride with adventure and bomb up this hill with his little B-Cycle. Pretty impressive for a 3-speed city bike. We’ll have to find some real mountain biking later this week.


We loved our adventure on the B-Cycle and are enjoying biking in Denver.  The past couple of days have been warm, but it’s supposed to snow up to 10 inches tomorrow!

Now back to vacation…

Cheers to the cyclist’s happy hour!

Dottie and I had a great time at our first NYC cyclist’s happy hour. Co-hosted with Adeline Adeline, the evening was filled with interesting people, beautiful bicycles and just a wee bit of vino. :)

Wine uncorking!

Gracious Adeline owner, Julie

Steve and Jeanette chat in the bustling shop

The summer heat had just broken, and it was a beautiful evening for test-riding bikes.

Malaika takes a Linus test-ride

Julie and her pink Linus, Kate Middleton, stars of The Julie Blog.

 

Hilarious and huggable Amanda from Amanda's Project.

 

Gazelle test-riding

 

Abici test-riding

 

Chatting

 

Chatting with Kristin, aka neighbortease. :)

 

still more chatting: Steve, Dottie and Julie

Women! Bikes! (This one's Carol and her nifty commuter)

 

Riding away

Meeting longtime commentators and fellow bike lovers and bloggers was such a blast (here’s Julie’s take on the evening, Amanda’s take, and one from The Bike Writer). Next time, ladies and gentlemen, we’re coming back to ride. Thanks to Adeline Adeline for hosting the fun.

 

{B&W shot and developed by Dottie; color snaps courtesy of Trisha’s iPhone}

Nashville!

I’m back from Trishaville, aka Nashville. Although I lived there for only three years and moved away four years ago, Nashville is my favorite city to return to again and again, simply because of Trisha and other friends.  And there’s something about the South that calls to me, although I spent my youth hatching escape plans.

My three days with Trisha were full of awesomeness, of course: used bookstores, a British sitcom marathon, a discount designer warehouse, French breakfast, fancy ice cream, duck fat tater tots, Yazoo beer and live music at the Mercy Lounge (Those Darlins!).  Plus, I finally got to meet Trisha’s brother, Charlie.  Hmmm what else?…

…oh yeah – bicycling!

I got to meet the new Kate Spade Abici, whom I keep calling Kermit Spade, to Trisha’s chagrin.  With Trisha on KS and me on the Bat, we rode downtown and crossed the pedestrian bridge for a view of the Nashville skyline.

Yeah, we’re cool.

I must share, there are a number of weirdo men loitering around downtown Nashville who were quite interested in us.  We handled them effectively with stoney silence, which we’re both really good at when we put our minds to it.

After the bridge, we rode over to Broadway, with its honky tonks and cowboy boot shops.

We really should have stopped to take advantage of the 3-boots-for-the-price-of-one deal – missed opportunity.

Bicycling in Nashville was a great pleasure for me.  The weather is not yet at Southern summer oppressiveness.  The infrastructure is quite supportive of cycling, with wide bike lanes on many medium-sized streets and plenty of winding back roads with almost no cars at all.  Drivers seemed to display the fabled Southern hospitality, although I’m prone to romaticize it now that I don’t live there anymore.  One guy in a work truck blocking the bike lane drawled, “Pardon me, ladies,” which made me inordinately happy.

Today my thighs are sore from all those hills (damn! major props to Trisha for handling those every day) but it was worth it.

I make it to Nashville at least once a year, for Trisha’s birthday, but hopefully it won’t take me a year to return this time.  Chicago is comparatively cold in all ways.

Many more photos from our Nashville adventures and Trisha’s Abici to come.

Parisian Daydreams

On a Monday morning, waiting impatiently for spring, a girl needs daydreams.

Paris is always a good daydream, so if you’ll indulge me in a non-bicycling detour, I’m putting up some of my photographs from our trip last year.  {This post goes out special to Trisha.  :-)}

Read more about the bicycling aspects of our trip:  Bicycling the Wine Road, The Freedom of Velib, and a Bicycling Tour of Versailles. For more French goodness, see street shots of Parisians on bikes at Un Cycliste Parisien.

Paris was my favorite place ever, so I daydream about it a lot.  Where does your mind wander when you start daydreaming?

San Diego Bike Friends

Trisha and I spent New Year’s together in San Diego, as bridesmaids in our friend Wanda’s wedding. On Sunday, after we fulfilled our obligations, we spent the whole day hanging out with bicycle people, including two of our favorite bloggers, Beany of Brown Girl in the Lane and Eva of Eva.lu.

Beany organized a brunch in the North Park neighborhood with a group of her bike friends and Eva came from quite a distance to be there, too. Everyone was so cool and friendly and the restaurant, El Take It Easy, was a yummy and unique gastro-cantina. [Mole chicken nuggets, delicious taquitos and Truck Stout FTW! —T]

Trisha and Eva

Katie and her bike

Aaron and his bike

Stylish couple: Jay and Katie

El Take It Easy welcomes bikes inside!

Eva: ladylike and on a bike

Unfortunately, the day was dark and rainy. After 3-hour brunch we took a trip to the ocean. [D's suggestion; would have been a nice break between bouts of eating and drinking had we not stumbled upon a fortuitously placed shop that sold ICE CREAM WAFFLE SANDWICHES. Yes, they are as wonderful as you are imagining! T]

Afterward, we had a small dinner at an excellent restaurant, The Linkery. [Which included an awesome cask-conditioned ale on its outstanding beer list. -- T]

No bike riding for us, but great company, conversation and beer made up for it.  :)

You can see my color film photos from our beach walk here. You can read about our previous San Diego trip here.

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