Top 6 Cycling Experiences

Exploring a new place on two wheels can be very rewarding. I’m not much of a cyclist but I’ve discovered the immense pleasure of cycling leisurely along a flat road with the wind in your face and an endless view to die for. It makes the uphill slog and leg exercise worthwhile.

Here are my six best cycling experiences, accumulated from our travels around Europe and Asia, and in no particular order.

1. Lucca, Italy IMG_1211 IMG_1218

Lucca is a beautiful medieval city in Tuscany with intact city walls that circle the old town. Cycling the city walls is a perfect way to get to know the charming old town. My favourite bits are exploring the old town through the many narrow back lanes and hopping on and off our bikes for a quick gelato break. Oh, and the bikes we hired were so cute I wish I could take them home with me!

2. Yangshuo, China IMG_0204 IMG_9407

Yangshuo is famous for its distinct limestone karst terrain that covers a huge area best explored by bicycle. We would wake up very early in the mornings and cycle to neighbouring villages, passing rice paddies and locals going about their daily lives. In the afternoon as it got hotter we would retreat back to our rooms and venture out again in the evenings to explore other areas. It was so simple and idyllic that it became a routine for us during our time there.

3. Loire Valley, France IMG_5627 IMG_5581

Exploring the Loire Valley of France was a challenging 4 day adventure of cycling from one chateau to another with one too many wrong turns, uphills and glorious sunflower fields to distract us. Of course, we could have easily visited all four castles by train or car but the satisfaction and pride from completing 160km for a newbie cyclist like myself is something worth boasting about 😉

4. Lake Bled, Slovenia IMG_6923 IMG_6942

Bled is such an underrated place that I wish more people would know about. Cycling around the most exquisite turquoise waters of Lake Bled was the highlight of our time in Slovenia. Your eyes are constantly drawn to the stunning lake which occasionally throws you off your cycling course! We could stop any time at our whim and fancy, take a few pictures and have a sandwich by the lake with our feet dangling over the waters and ducks waiting to catch any bits of our crumbs.

5. Paris, France IMG_1628 IMG_1646

Paris remains one of my favourite cities in the world and when it’s not freezing cold, cycling on the busy streets, by the Seine or along Canal St Martin is an amazing way to soak in the city. Chic cafes and stylish Parisians line the sidewalks and you get a glimpse of La Tour Eiffel every now and then. The velib system is also easy to use and so cheap to get around town.

6. Tulip fields in Netherlands IMG_0228 IMG_0274

Cycling amongst blooming tulip fields in Holland in search of more blooming tulip fields felt like a kid unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. We would be cycling along a stretch of striking red tulips and then spot a streak of purple tulips ahead that we would race down the flat road to get to that field. It was a fun experience of finding tulip field after tulip field, with each discovery getting better and better.

Vive La France!

IMG_2351 IMG_2315IMG_2358 IMG_2383 IMG_2499IMG_2510IMG_2669 IMG_2644 IMG_2612 IMG_2600IMG_2352Bastille Day otherwise known as La Fête Nationale to the locals turned out to be a whole lot of fun for us tourists. The celebrations start the night before with the Bal des Pompiers (Fireman’s Ball) where all fire brigades host their own local fundraising party with music, cheap booze and lots of dancing all night long. It doesn’t hurt that cute firemen in smart uniforms were serving the drinks 🙂

Now after all that dancing the night before you’d think that we’ll get a sleep-in to rest our aching feet? Nope, we dragged ourselves out of bed early and walked for ages to get to avenue des Champs-Élysées to watch the military parade and fly-over. That was worth all the crowd jostling and standing just to see the jets fly over with plumes of red, white and blue smoke. Very cool.

More crowd jostling on Pont de l’Alma two hours before nightfall to get a prime spot for the fireworks, because we refused to camp out for 8 hours in Champ de Mars (the park right in front of the Eiffel with the best view). Our view wasn’t too shabby with the Seine spread out in front of us. And the fireworks? Best we’ve ever seen. I was thoroughly mesmerized and my mouth was literally gaping when the fireworks concluded with the biggest, brightest and loudest bouquet. Some moments stay with you forever. Watching the fireworks in Paris on Bastille Day 2013 is one of them.

Cycling in Paris

IMG_1625 IMG_1627 IMG_1628 IMG_1634 IMG_1646-horz IMG_1696If I had to pick one highlight of my time in Paris so far it has to be cycling around the city. I love exploring a city on two wheels especially if it is bike-friendly. The Paris velib system is the trump card for us. At a cost of practically next to nothing we can hire these bikes for a day or a week and cycle around the city, park them at the numerous velib stations dotted around the city for a break and hop back on when we want to go home.

We have since hired these bicycles several times after discovering the simplicity of how it works but our first bike adventure took us along the Seine towards Musée d’Orsay where the newly built Les Berges caught my eye. It was so much fun cycling along the Les Berges that I’m keen to go back again. We followed the Seine all the way to Île aux Cygnes (known for the Parisian Statue of Liberty, and nothing else), passing the bridge made famous by the movie ‘Inception’. As always, we were treated to amazing views of the Eiffel wherever we cycled.

My husband cleverly made this video of our bike adventures if you’ll like to see more. I think you can see how carefree and happy we felt on the bicycles. He makes a lot more videos of our daily adventures on his blog if you are interested.

The tower sparkles and my heart flutters

IMG_0866 IMG_0900 IMG_0904 IMG_0926 IMG_0929 IMG_0946 IMG_0968Seeing the Eiffel Tower light up as night falls has always been on my to-do list. On our last visit in winter last year, we had limited time and it was a tad too cold to sit out on the Champ de Mars to watch the Eiffel Tower illuminate.

This time round we bundled up in our windproof jackets (you can always count on Paris weather) and headed out to Champ de Mars an hour before nightfall to watch the Eiffel slowly light up and illuminate the Paris sky. The highlight of the night was a 5 minute light show where the tower completely sparkled like a diamond. This was the moment where I thought to myself, “I’m truly here in Paris, living my dream”.