Why I Ride: Some people dream of fast cars and a luxury lifestyle. My dream is to free-wheel around ancient towns in the south of France soaking in the atmosphere. Riding my bike makes me feels like a kid again. Woohoo! I’m a free-spirit with the wind rushing through my hair and heart singing with joy. In reality I’m an ex-teacher and divorced mum who lives on the Sheffield side of the Peak District in the UK… most of the time! You know how it is? Ducks and swans! There’s a lot of peddling in small circles in my everyday life so the promise of gliding away on a new adventure every summer keeps me going through the cold dark days of winter. I started blogging in November 2018 to showcase my favourite hobby: cycle-touring (slowly). As a wannabe content-writer blogging is also a vehicle for me to hone my skills as a storyteller and word-nerd. A good traveller is always learning. And there’s no such thing as a perfect kit list or itinerary. I find that a mix of planning and being spontaneous tends to work for most tours, especially if you are – horror of horrors – camping! I know a few hacks. When in Rome, you gotta love the gelato but eat it standing up to save ten euros… When in France, scoff pastries from the patisserie and eat them at a café where you can order coffee but no food. Don’t eat standing up on the street as this is considered rude: alors! Zis ees not the French way!
Cycle tourists are a strange bunch who get stuff done on a limited budget whilst travelling slowly.
Years of multi-tasking took their toll on my health and my husband’s on-line affair with a Mexican beauty triggered divorce… I was free to follow my heart to glide through fields of gold on a bicycle!
I started with the Carcassonne to Bordeaux route, Le Canal des Deux Mers a Velo. At the time I thought of it as a physical journey yet it helped me move on in many other ways too. Cycling in France is much easier than you imagine. There are dedicated cycle routes and most of these are completely traffic-free. I like to hire my bike whilst I am there as it saves the hassle of dissembling, wrapping it up and agonising about maintenance.
Slow travel allows me to take in the fresh air and beauty all around. The French encourage you to buy the best items at the patisserie and sip your coffee in comfortable silence so why rush the simple things? I average 35-55 miles every day on flat terrain with no traffic and I feel much better for it.
A highlight at the end of one hot day was a cooling dip in the Loire (sitting down). There was a very strong current further out so I stayed where it was shallow and watched the sun go down. What’s good for the muscles is food for the soul.
French architecture and stone work is often grand. Real beauty takes time. At a bar in a central square one evening a member of our group asked if the French upped the shabby-chic artfully? No! They’ve been at it for a couple of thousand years or so! The thought of the monumental effort put in to the shabby-chic-ing kept me amused for the rest of this holiday.
Moving on every day becomes addictive when you do it and for those of us still stuck at the daily grind it gives us something exciting to look forward to. And if you are in the lucky position of being newly-retired, take your time.
Photos and text by Ruth McIntosh.
Find out more: www.slow-cycle.com
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