Category Archives: travel

The freedom of Vélib’

The hectic pace of life lately has me thinking about our vacation again. It was a real pleasure to go back over the photos and remember our day on Vélib’ cycles in Paris.

First, the practicalities: if you are an American, you must have two things in order to easily rent a Vélib’. First, an American Express Card (the only non-puce card that is accepted), and second, a rudimentary command of Vending Machine French—though the menu offers an English-language option, the translation isn’t the greatest and it reverts to French halfway through.

Armed with both of those things, we timidly approached our first Vélib’ machine outside a cafe a few blocks away from the Gare St. Lazare.

It took us about 30 minutes to get the three of us registered (you have to buy a day pass for 1 euro, after that renting the bikes are free for the first 30 minutes) and in possession of the bikes, but after that, we were off.

Riding in Paris was much, much less stressful than I had expected. Of course, it was a Sunday, but our ride to the Champs-Elysées was quick and easy. Before we left, we checked the map, decided on a route, memorized the few turns necessary (those long boulevards in Paris mean it’s unusual to have to turn more than 3 or 4 times on any given route) and set off.

Many of the bus lanes in Paris doubled as bike lanes. At first I was unsure whether that was a good idea, but it turned out to work amazingly well.

I think this guy's eye was caught by Dot's red dress!

Once we had them, we tooled around all afternoon and well into the night. There are so many stations that you don’t even have to plan to find them—half the time you’ll run into one on your way to your destination. And if you don’t walk, a block or two and you will.

Our itinerary included a stop for a drink at L’Hotel, where Oscar Wilde died.

And a break for Ladurée macarons (psst: Pierre Hermé‘s are better).

And of course, plenty of photo ops.

It’s true that you have to take a close look at your Vélib’ before checking it out—we ended up with a bike with a flat tire once, and another time couldn’t get all three of our bikes from the same station—but overall, the system was extremely easy and cheap, and by far the best way to get around Paris.We were kicking ourselves for not trying it out sooner.

large velib station on the boulevard Beaumarchais

And if you’re wondering how the city makes sure the bikes are evenly distributed between stations, or how the bikes are taken in for repair, we spotted this transporter loaded up with Vélibs on our way home from dinner.

Parlement at night

Parlement at night

Notre Dame at night, as seen from a Vélib'

Notre Dame at night, as seen from a Vélib'

Anyone else had any Vélib’ experience?

{snapshots by me, film photos by Dot with her Nikon}

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A Bicycling Tour of Versailles

The scene: Versailles, a city outside of Paris renowned for the Palace of Versailles.

After taking the RER train from Paris to the suburbs and walking a short distance, you are greeted by the imposing statue of King Louis XIV on horseback. The surroundings are a bit ominous, but don’t be scared – continue on and you will be rewarded.

You encounter the palace first.

Then turn around and gawk at the decadent and expansive grounds.

Okay, this is still a little scary. Sorry about that. No, the palace looks more like this in real life.

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Biking in France: the Wine Road

Alsace is my favorite region in France for a lot of reasons; it’s going to be a bit difficult for me to focus this post on our two-wheeled adventures without first enthusing just a leeeetle bit about this under-explored region. To set the scene: here’s Dottie and me in Strasbourg, along the canal overlooking La Petite France. A bit worse for the wear after our 7-hour plane ride and 2.5-hour train ride, but definitely happy to be there.

The entire city center of Strasbourg is a UNESCO heritage site and is full of beautiful timbered houses. Since it is home to a large university, there is a large number of cyclists.



The next two photos were taken with my camera by Dottie, and I just noticed that I am in the background of the first one.

The countryside looks like this.

Exploring it by bike on a beautiful fall day was an amazing way to spend a lazy afternoon. I had big plans for renting bikes in Colmar and embarking on a 40km ride through several villages. Between the advice of the bike rental guy and the condition of the bikes we were renting, it seemed prudent to change our itinerary, and instead we took an easy, 18km ride to the village of Eguisheim. Less time on the bike, but more time to wander, eat and taste wines like this one.

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Bicycling in France

Remember when Trisha and I were gone to France for two weeks? You may be wondering if and when we’ll write about our adventures. Trust me, we will! I have not yet summoned the time and energy to tackle the task, but eventually we’ll highlight three bicycling adventures: biking the Wine Road in Alsace, renting bikes to tour Versailles, and riding Velib around Paris. Here’s another sneak preview: me and Trisha riding bikes on the grounds of Versailles.

Me and Trisha at the Grand Trianon in Versailles

Trisha will be visiting me in Chicago this weekend (yay!) and we’ll soon have even more bicycling adventures together. And I still need to write about my thoughts on bicycling in NYC. Thanks for standing by. :)

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Happy Friday!

Hope everyone has fun plans for the weekend. Me, I plan on getting around to some of those France posts (it’s so hard to stay in front of the computer when the weather is so gorgeous!). Here’s a sneak peek: Dottie and Greg on the Velib, fitting right in with the Parisian riders ahead of them. If you look closely, you can even see me–well, my shadow–in the foreground.

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Bon weekend!

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Bon voyage

♦ Café et tartine à la fraise ♦

And . . . we’re off! To the land of wine and cheese, bikes and monuments and maybe, if we’re lucky, a Mulhousien flashmob (ah, the things you find on Flickr).

FlashDance Kuduro, place de la Réunion à Mulhouse (04 septembre 2010)

But the blog will not be dead: along with a few of our own posts, we’ve lined up contributions from some of our favorite bloggers to amuse and entertain you. And you can always follow along with our adventures on twitter. À bientôt, mes amis!

Pashley Princess Sovereign: Impressions

Sometimes it’s possible to write a basic review a bike after a spin or two around the block. But my time with the Pashley Princess Sovereign in NYC resulted only in impressions, since I was faced with both the novelty of the bicycle AND the novelty of riding through bumpy, busy streets. Negotiating traffic, even with bike lanes, doesn’t give you much mental space to devote to the workings of various components. Luckily, the pressure was off since Dottie has already written a review of this bicycle for our site.

Trisha and the Pashley Princess Soveriegn

But I had been wanting to ride a Pashley for the last two years, so it was my first choice for a test ride despite the many intriguing options at Adeline Adeline. How could I not be intrigued by a classic city bike that’s also the ride of choice for so many of my favorite cycling women?

I took out the 17.5″ frame (love a manufacturer who doesn’t forget petite women!) with three speeds, and it was indeed a smooth and sturdy bike. While I won’t say I didn’t notice potholes, they were definitely minimized by the steel frame. The upright riding position was reminiscent of Oma (check out Dottie’s original review of the Pashley Princess Sovereign for a more thorough comparison of the two bikes) and much more upright than my Batavus Entrada Spirit.

All in all, the Pashley Princess Sovereign lived up to my expectation of a high-quality, stylish and sturdy city bike.

Next up: the Linus Mixte, which I got to know a little bit better.

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LGRAB Back from NYC

Trisha and I are back from NYC! I have lots of thoughts about the infrastructure and bikes there, as well as general comparisons with Chicago, but that will have to wait until I have more time to write. In the meantime, here are some pictures of our adventure.

I’ve been posting a lot more pictures of our trip at Dream Camera. More excitement is coming up, as I will be meeting up with a very special guest who is visiting Chicago this week.

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In Kentucky, where there’s sunshine all the time . . .

I spent part of the holiday weekend in Kentucky, tasting bourbon, taking pictures of bourbon barrels (which I’ll keep to a minimum here) and roaming the streets of Louisville (as a public service announcement, let me tell you right now to stay away from Fourth Street Live no matter what the nice lady at the front desk says).

Barrels and barrels of bourbon

There's something about that honey-colored wood . . .

Though we didn’t spend many daylight hours in Louisville, there was enough time to notice a few elements of biking cuture—like this interesting bike rack. Nashville has gotten some flak lately for valuing style over substance when it comes to bike rack installations, but this dragon seems to have both.

And, um, this interesting bike rack, which, having no bikes ourselves, April, Chiara and I decided could do double-duty as a jungle gym.

Louisville does appear to have a Bcycle bike sharing program of sorts—but as far as I could determine from the street, this station at least was only for Humana employees.

I can't ride this bike, since I don't work for Humana.

Our destination was the 21C Museum Hotel, where we perused the awesome exhibits (and imbibed delicious cocktails). This was our favorite piece of art.

It's raining poetry

Then we walked over to the Brown Hotel, where we borrowed some sparklers from a wedding reception and had our own little Fourth of July celebration.

Then we decided to pedicab it home. My first ride in one ever!

The Louisville pedicabs have 21 speeds and internal hubs. Our driver certainly seemed to transport us effortlessly—but then, we Southern belles don’t weigh more than a cotton boll, bless our hearts.

How was your holiday weekend?

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LGRAB, California style

It all started with our friend Wanda . . .

. . . who summoned me, Dottie and our friend Erin to California to visit her for a long weekend. At the end of January. Who were we to say no?

Because Dottie and I can’t seem to travel without taking at least one turn around the city by bike, our sunniest San Diego day was reserved for a cruise down the boardwalk near Belmont Park, and a meetup with our blogger buddy Beany of Brown Girl in the Lane. Though Beany didn’t want her picture on the blog, if you look closely you might catch a glimpse of the handlebar of her sharp customized Surly in some of these shots.

The group sets off!

The group sets off!

We didn’t get a real sense of what cycling in San Diego day-to-day was like (check Beany’s blog for that), but our one beachside afternoon was a lot of fun. So consider this your glimpse of what LGRAB would be if Dottie and I relocated from the midwest tundra and the land-locked southeast!

First of all, the colors would be a lot brighter; at least, this time of year.

Grass would be green, and it would be windy! The hair is flying in these shots.

Erin against the ocean

We would make sure to pause for some goofy photo breaks — OK, so that’s not a change.

handlebar pushups!

And stop for ice cream. OK, also not much of a change!

I’m still not completely sold on beach cruisers. In addition to the strange geometry, they don’t do much to encourage people to make cycling part of their everyday lives, even though they’re easy to ride in everyday clothes — we saw a lot more bikes on the boardwalk in San Diego than on the streets. On the other hand, a pleasant cruise alongside the beach might be a nice introduction for a reluctant rider — and who says cycling has to be serious all the time? Certainly not us.

Dottie & her cruiser

Dottie sparkles!

A beautiful beach with a vibrant city behind it is a pretty killer combination — now I realize why people fall in love with San Diego. You can see more pictures from our trip here.

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Back From California

We are back from a trip to San Diego for our annual girlfriend reunion.  We will have intelligent stuff to say about the city and its bicycling culture later – which includes cruisers and meeting the fantastic Beany of Brown Girl in the Lane.  For now we’ll leave you with pictures.

I’ll put them after the jump to spare loading time…

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You Can’t Go Home Again

You can’t go home to a trailer park and farm in North Carolina again, not after living the simple bicycling lifestyle in Chicago for three years. It’s not that folks from my hometown read my blog and hate me for portraying them as bumpkins, a modern and predictably crappy remake of Thomas Wolfe, simply that my way of seeing the world has changed dramatically in the past few years.

A Vanity Fair article I read years ago aptly described my military hometown as a mix of strip bars and Baptist churches. Growing up, I itched to get out of my city; it was an ill-fitting sweater that took 16 years to wrestle off, catching my limbs, pulling my nose, tangling my hair and finally releasing me as I gulped for fresh air. My yearnings were basically the cliche teenage feeling that there is a big world going on without me – not a world of parties and glamor, but a world of pedestrians and cafes. I had fantasies of sidewalks, which I knew existed from TV and rare visits to family in Massachusetts, and a hazy idea of “culture” that my city lacked.

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Picture Message Gallery

You know you’ve secured your reputation as a bicycle fanatic when you start receiving random bike picture messages. It makes me feel happy to know that even my non-cyclist friends are now on the lookout for bicycles everywhere. It’s just a matter of time before they too succumb . . . right guys?

My friend Ali sent me this photo of a Batavus Course that she spotted in Charlotte. I’ve never seen a sporty Bat in the wild*, so this was a lucky sighting. If you look closely you can see the pinstriped lugs.

80s Batavus Course

1980s Batavus Course

And  Amy reminded me that Mormon missionaries are some of the most dedicated cyclists around when she snapped this image of a couple of them riding down a highway outside Birmingham.

Jehovah's Witnesses take to the road in Alabama

Mormons take to the road in Alabama—are those folding bikes?

Do your non-cycling friends support your obsession? How?

* I have seen them in the blogosphere—Cosmo just rode the SCS Spirit.

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When Graffiti Goes Right

Yesterday, in between thrift store visits, we stopped for lunch at the Earwax Café, where the food was much more delicious than the name might suggest.

Public bathrooms aren’t usually the best photo venues, but I couldn’t resist documenting this piece of graffiti. If you’re going to deface a wall, you might as well say something worth saying. Just one of the reasons I love visiting Chicago!

Graffiti I can agree with

Graffiti I can agree with.

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Together Again! (Again!)

Surprise – Trisha and I are together again! She’s in Chicago for the weekend, to be joined soon from Texas by our friend Tanya. Tonight we rode our (well, my) bikes downtown for a picnic in Millennium Park. I thought we were going to see a free ballet performance, but that was yesterday – oops! my bad. We still enjoyed our picnic and the beauty of the park at night.

Trisha and Dottie - you'll have to take our word for it

Trisha and Dottie - you'll have to take our word for it

Laughing :)  Totally not staged

Laughing :) Totally not staged

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Tweed Ride and More British Fun

Mark your calendars for Chicago’s Winston Tweed Ride this Saturday, September 12. Everyone should come! I didn’t know anyone on the first Tweed Ride, but I still had a blast. The kind of people who dress up in tweed and ride to bars on bicycles are bound to be friendly.

Leaving from The Globe Pub @1pm, we’ll make our way at a genteel, civilizing pace to the 89th Annual German-American Festival in Lincoln Square. And of course we’ll be stopping in some damn fine bars representing British allies during that unpleasantness in the 30s & 40s!

In celebration of the British, here are some images from Trisha’s and my trip to London in April. Previously, we posted on London cycle chic, cycling infrastructure and tea time.

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Together Again

This week I am in Nashville, vacationing at the Trisha Resort and Spa. Highly recommended, as it includes a pool, cats, bikes, alcohol and delicious home-cooked meals. Except for the ride from the airport on Tuesday, I’ve yet to get in a car. Here we are last night setting out for a Yazoo party in celebration of its new beer, Sue, a high-alc, cherry-wood smoked porter. Yumm.

To the beer party!

To the beer party! Special thanks to photographer C

I must say a bit about the hills. And the humidity. Ugh. Very articulate, I know, but that pretty much sums it up. Trisha is a Southern warrior, I tell you!

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Biking the Biltmore

Good friends. Wine. Wonderful weather. Mountain landscapes. A visit to a  luxury estate. Delicious food. Only one more thing was necessary to make my trip to North Carolina complete: biking!

It wasn’t hard to persuade Jennie and Kristi to get on board. $10 and a trip to the activity center at the Biltmore Estate took care of that little omission. We chose the Trek Single cruisers and set off for a quick ride to the lagoon and back, past fields of grapevines and sunflowers. It was the perfect post-lunch, pre-wine-tasting-and-concert activity.

Before we set out, we spotted these adorable young cyclists riding along the path.

Starting early

Don't worry mom and dad, we're only taking their picture to post it on the Internet!

After paying, we headed out to the barn where bike mechanic Jessica had the Treks all ready for us — complete with baskets for our purses.

And . . . they're off!

And . . . we're off!

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Biking with My Brother

The holiday weekend found me in Indianapolis visiting my brother. On Sunday, we rode the Monon Trail from his neighborhood to downtown, a roundtrip of somewhere around 14 miles. The trail, built along the path of an old railway was beautiful, the snazzy Bianchi bikes we borrowed from a high school friend were nimble, but the best thing about it was spending some time riding bikes with my brother again.

Charlie and me on bikes today.

Charlie and me on our borrowed Bianchis.

This is an old favorite hobby of ours, as you can see.

Charlie and me, with our bikes in 1987.

Charlie and me, with our bikes in 1987.

We’re no longer quite so blond, and I no longer carry a groomable dog toy with me when I ride, but other than that, things were pretty much the same as when we used to ride around our neighborhood in Minnesota, or to the convenience store from our house in Alabama: fun!

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Oma’s Operation

Just before the mixer on Thursday, Mr. D and I discovered that Dottie’s 53-cm Oma could not be adjusted to fit me. The seat post was a bit too long for the tube, so the seat wouldn’t go down to the top of the seat post. That left those last two crucial inches that meant the difference between my toes grazing the ground and my toes having to stretch to complete the revolution of the pedal — not the safest method of riding in city traffic.

Contrary to what Friday’s post might imply, Dottie is more than willing to go the extra mile to share her bikes with friends. Once we got back to the condo, she gave the go-ahead for those crucial inches to be amputated the next morning. Ten minutes and visit with the handsaw later, and the extra seat post length was history.

Dr. Greg: "The patient is recovering nicely and will be ready to ride later this morning."

Dr. Greg: "The patient is recovering nicely and will be ready to ride later this morning."

And I was able to spend the weekend on two wheels.

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