Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Wheely Good Tour of London

Eager to get the blood flowing and to see a bit of London, Erik found us a cycling route online. It apparently looked very simple - out and back, essentially on the same road. This had appeal because it would eliminate the need to take a map and would minimize the risk of getting lost. These were important qualities, since it was cold, windy and raining from the moment we stepped outside.

The start was easy: cut through Hyde Park, which was right behind our hotel. The rest was not so easy. At a small enough scale, I suppose any route can look like it follows a single road. We discovered that, at 1:1, this route was a lot more complicated than we had anticipated. Sometimes we were certain that we were on the right road, other times we were not. Not that it mattered, since it felt like we were always going the wrong way. I'm not sure either of us really adjusted to the backward flow of traffic.

We didn't really see any of the usual London tourist attractions, but eventually found ourselves in some sort of ethnic quarter. Signs were in another language, the smell of falafels was abundant, and I felt like I was dressed rather provocatively in my long sleeved jacket and spandex pants. It was nifty to ride through this part of town because, as far as I know, we don't have anything like it in calgary. Then again, I rarely wander east of Deerfoot Trail.

As we headed back to the hotel, we caught up to a Ferarri. The poor guy obviously blew the bank on the car because he couldn't even afford jeans without holes in the knees. He also apparently couldn't afford a good muffler - his car was loud enough to set off the alarms of the cars that he passed as he gassed it out of every stop light.

I wouldn't describe London as a bike friendly city - but I would still recommend the bicycle as a means of seeing the city. My best piece of advice would be to bring a map. The city doesn't follow the grid system, number system...or any street organization system for that matter. And the traffic goes the wrong way. You need all of the help you can get.


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