In London with toddlers. A survival guide for parents.

(Versione in italiano)

Hey there ! I’m still alive ! And back with a post that has nothing to do with the bicycle world, because since my husband has ” suggested ” me to leave my roadbike in my garage until spring for the benefit of the mountain bike , which I do not like ( euphemism! ), I focused on something else. Especially on walking , which I had never practiced before. During less than a month I walked about 260 kilometers, and I must say I love it ! A part from this, at the end of November I went to London with my children for a two-day-only-break and this is what I’m going to talk to you about, as a few friends asked me suggestions about this trip with a toddler. And here I am . It was the fourth time I went to London with my elder daughter and this time I even brought the small one , and with no stroller ! I am crazy , maybe , but I love the thrill ! 😉 Except for the small detail that the first my mom, who was with us , walking in Hyde park fell and fractured her arm and that , like all mothers , with a stoic strength , did never complain about this , the trip went very well . So here’s my mini practical guide for anyone who is brave enough to go to London for a weekend with their very young children.

Let’s start with a basic assumption : I am Capricorn with Virgo rising, so I’m a prissy, meticulous, picky girl and before a trip , especially with kids , I have to know as much as I can about  everything…museum schedules and any possible activities they have for children, restaurants offers( I subscribed to Bookatable.com ) , saved a copy of the Tube plan in my head’s hard disk, got the British Airways frequent flyer card, printed the half price coupons of Madame Tussauds, studied the plots of all possible musical in West End and so on… then it doesn’t matter if every single time, when I am there, all my plans change. The most important thing to me is to get there with a detailed plan! (and some loyalty cards…)

survival-kit

Survival kit : documents, document holder Pineider agenda Moleskine special edition London, with maps, pieces of everything, including Harrods …

First of all, therefore , I have asked my daughters about their own London trip wish list. The youngest , not yet 3 years old, when asked: ” What are you doing in London ? ” Answered ” to be in London .” Fair enough, it makes sense. The eldest, six years old, already had her trip planned (she must have taken from me!): Rainforest cafe , Build-a -bear shop , Hamley’s and Harrods. So I would suggest that these four places are essential for the enjoyment of children. (A little ‘ less for us adults )

My advice is before you go to get a  Moleskine diary dedicated to London. It ‘s perfect because the first pages have the Tube and the some areas detailed maps then some blank pages and at the end of the agenda, some pages dedicated to restaurants, hotels and so on. I always travel with a huge leather wallet by Pineider , which is more like a document case, where there is enough room for everything you may need: slots for credit cards (and loyalty cards, of course! 🙂 ), folded A4 sheet , with all possible reservations, information, boarding passes , British  banknotes , which are larger than Euros, and a zipped pocket for coins.  .

Before booking an hotel , focus on the where you will want to move around with your toddlers. The first few years I would always book a lovely hotel in South Kensington , as when I went there I often  had business appointments in the nearby and because that is absolutely my favourite area of London and having the chance to go jogging early in the morning  in the streets of Chelsea and South Kensington up to Hyde Park was like heaven to me.  This time , taking with me both my children I chose a hotel in Covent Garden, where in the evening, you can easily walk to restaurants, cinemas, and theaters, and have a pleasant stroll to Piccadilly Circus or to Leicester Square .

To reserve the hotel , after having checked all possible offers on booking.com and trivago.co.uk, I emailed the hotel I had chosen directly,  to have a quotation, and I finally had a cheaper price than on their website. So I recommend this , sending an e-mail does not cost anything …

The flight.

Personally, I gave up flying Ryanair because the game is not worth the candle. After flying , when I was working in Rome , Ryanair twice a week for about 4 years , I think I have exhausted all the patience needed to be treated like cattle , when, in fact , you are paying for a service ! So now when I go to London I  always and only fly British Airways , which has , however , super deals ( just keep an eye on the website and book with a little in advance. I paid about € 90 round trip ) My suggestion is , if you’re traveling for a few days , in groups, and with children , and you do not need to have a suitcase each, to take some tickets only hand luggage fare and others with the suitcase one , so that you can pay even less . The website also gives you the option to choose seats at the time of booking or while you are checking in online for a fee, but it is not compulsory. If you book your flight and your hotel at the same time , always on the BA website , you can find good offers on the hotel fares.  If you have a BA frequent flyer card BA you can accumulate points to get free tickets and / or various discounts . I am a loyalty card – addicted,if this wasn’t clear yet. Then , in reality, I do not know what I can use it , but I MUST have the card !

http://www.britishairways.com

Transportation: airport – hotel – airport

A few years ago I found a great cab company . They only service to / from the airports. It’s called BA Transfer , and in my experience , they work very well. Punctual, careful, kind, with clean and tidy vans ( we’ve always been in 5 /8 people ). The cost (round trip for 6 people from Gatwick hotel to central London ) is about 140 pounds , in total. If you have the card ( as, of course, I have the loyalty card) … there is a 5 % discount. If you think about the cost of the train traveling from Stansted airport (where Ryanair airplanes land), added to the metro and bus tickets ,summed up to travelling with your children and your and their luggage… it’s worth it .

http://www.batransfer.com/

Attractions for toddlers and children

Before leaving , I highly recommend you to visit :

http://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/activities/family-activities

http://www.timeout.com/london/kids

so you are aware , in real time, of what London has to offer for children in the chosen period. If you can, do not go there during the Autumn break: a nightmare ! the end of November and towards Christmas time in general, however, is wonderful.

One of the best things to do, that your children, in this period of the year would certainly love is:  Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

hydeparkFrom 10 am , to 10 pm , in Hyde park , you will have the opportunity to visit a great amusement park. At the entrance you’ll be given a map of the park (also available in all the booths where they sell tickets to the attractions ) and then for hours and hours and hours you can enjoy yourself on a giant wheel , with mirror games , ice skating … taking a picture with Santa Claus, who will also give a small gift to your children, going to the circus (there are two ) , rollercoaster ride , having a stroll  around the picturesque Christmas markets… truly a wonderland !

wonderland

The giant wheel at the WInter Wonderland

Some attractions can be booked through the site, which is a great way to skip the queue.When you leave the winter wonderland, pass thought Hyde park.

hyde-park

Autumn in Hyde Park, London

I am sure your children will love to see the squirrels and the ducks in the park. http://www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/

Not far from Hyde Park, you cannot miss the chance to visit the Natural History Museum and just opposite to this, the Science Museum.

The first ( http://www.nhm.ac.uk/ ) in this period and until January the 5th housesoutside, a 1,000 square meters , wonderful ice rink .
Before you getting there, visit this page : http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/parents-survival-guide/index.html , a survival guide for parents who go to the museum with their children t with  useful advice, timetable for scientific labs for children aged 7 years, the links to the pages with the most interesting activities . The museum opens at 10 and closes at 5.30pm

The Science Museum, is located across the street and is , in my experience , perfect for children over 5, and not the best choice for toddlers. All 3D movies are for children aged 5 years and over . http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/

Opening hours: from 10.00 to6.00pm , and the last entrance is at 5.15 pm.

Another museum that children normally like a lot, which is located far from here , in the heart of Covent Garden, is the London Transport Museum . http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/

The museum  at this time is celebrating  the 150th anniversary of the London Underground with a series of activities for children and their families , ranging from the history itself, the construction of transport thanks to “make and take “offered by the museum. The entrance is free for children up to 16 years and costs 15 pounds for adults. The ticket is valid for a full year .

If you go to this museum , you can not avoid passing in front of the BUILD -A- BEAR SHOP and it is possible that this will become your worst nightmare for you for this and the next times  you’ll go to London with your children. I mean … the first time I loved it and its kind of charm , the second I started to not stand it, the third and fourth I realized that now I aolmost hate it ! But what would you ever do you do to see your children smile? Oh, before I forget : get a loyalty card of this shop before you buy anything! There are always a lot of special deals if you have the card . ( I told you that I am a card -addicted , right? I wasn’t t joking ! )

http://www.buildabear.co.uk/

I recommend you go there in the evening when you are on your way back to the hotel because it is IMPOSSIBLE to go out of the store without at least onestuffed animal, which will be given to you  inside a house-shaped package, not very comfortable to go around with…

At the Build-a -bear shop works like this … you get in and on  your left there are a lot of anymals, or rather , the body of them, not yet stuffed. So the first thing the child willhave to do is to choose the kind of teddy “bear”… a bear, a bunny, a cat, a dog, a baby plush and so on… (and this already takes at least 5 minutes, if your child isn’t too picky). The next step is dedicated to the music, if your child wishes to add a jiingle to be placed inside the animal. And your child will certainly do. There is a sort of a table which displays 12 buttons with 12 different music  , which actually seemed to me 12 thousand different kinds of jingles , and once the preferred choice is done what you need to do is to take out from the drawer with the corresponding number, the plastic mechanism that reproduces the music . BUT BEWARE : ( GREAT FAMILY DRAMA ! ) It  happened to us that the music from the drawer didn’t match the proper number…so in order not to stand once again in the queue (yes , you have to know that there is ALWAYS a queue) , double check your jingle , once you have taken it from the drawer. .
Then it’s time for a beating heart.  How did you manage to live up to now without having one in your teddy bear ? At least there is only one type. Red for anyone. Finally (it seems like a lifetime, but everything takes place along 30/40 inches of space ) , you’ll reach the girl who, as a the job, stuffes the animals and she will ask your child how hard they would like to have their animal stuffed. Another girl then sew them. Oh, I forgot . Also at this stage  you can add another heart , this time of cloth. ( it goes without saying that each option has a cost ) . Finally , your child will bring the teddy bear to the  kind of make up area, where the teddy bears are brushed and are now ready to be dressed.  Sure! Did you think to leave the shop with a naked bear??? And then the remaining square meters of shop ( 9 /10 of the shop !) are super full of millions of different types of clothes, accessories and gadgets … shoes, slippers , boots and anything else you can think of … even wigs or Merida’s  dress. (yes , we have a blue teddy bear with a red curly wig with bow and arrows. In small words a Drag Queen bear! )

When , exhausted, you finally reach the casher , you will be asked if you wish to have a birth certificate for your teddy bear. I, in the meantime you have run out of patience, I strongly recommend you to answer: no, thanks! Unfortunately my eldest daughter was just next to me and she is bilingual, so she perfectly understood… and we have not skipped ​​ the birth certificate of the Drag Queen bear… This was first time we were there. The next time I made my daughter promise promised that we would go just as long as we didn’t have to queue to buy the certificate and didn’t have to buy the teddy bear passport either, as she had noticed the first time, then the airport it would not be asked for documents  !

When you finally manage to get out of the Build-a -bear shop and you step out of the door, TURN LEFT!

 If you make the horrible mistake of turning right , you would be in front of the DISNEY STORE windows. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!!

Ok , now that you have avoided the Disney Store, if you are in London with your children, you cannot, you really simply cannot miss the chance to let them visit Hamley’s . If the Build-a -bear shop seemed like a mission impossible to bear , you probably should be warned that Hamley’s could be a so much worse adventure. There are two simple conditions you should follow before going there:  if you have children who don’t want every toy or game they spot and if you can say no to them. If none of these conditions are available, just do not go there! Hamley’s is a 4-storey building completelu full of toys. … It is worth paying a visit …

Nearby, in a small road across Regent Street , there is a children-friendly Italian pizzeria / restaurant, where the pizza is made in the oven , the staff is super kind and  kids are super welcome. The service is fast and food quality is excellent.  It’s called Remo and is located at 2 Princes Street. http://www.barremo.me/

Another place that is a real landmark for us, when in London , is the M & M ‘S World in Leicester Square . Even here 4 floors of useful crap but it is impossible to leave the shop without purchasing something. For what concerns us: an immensity of chocolate. The M & M’s are locked up in mega vertical cylinder , divided by color and type (chocolate and peanut , chocolate and puffed rice and simple chocolate) .

mandmsworld

Sales people are, however, very kind and if your kids fill too many bags, they kindly help you to empty them., ( and I know that it will happen! ) Downstairs there is also the laboratory of M & M’s ….. I do not recommend . It is an endless queue for nothing.

m&m's world

M&M’s world store in Leicester Square, London

Another stop little cultural but that your children will love moltissimissimo is the RAINFOREST CAFE ‘ . In high season , you have to book through the website because, although the place is huge , you could do a tail however the infinite and over the Christmas period there are often private parties , so better take a look to see that the restaurant is open to the public http://www.therainforestcafe.co.uk

Now the Rainforest cafe is one of my nightmares Londoners , I still dream of the night and the sounds of thunder trumpeting elephant in tropical forest, but after all the food is good (I recommend the appetizer ” Lava Nachos”,  the cheesburgher and the pizzza for the kids.

rainforest

My “tiger” at the Rainforest cafè in London

Not far from the rainforest cafe is the Ripley’s believe it or not . It ‘ very dear to me and not exactly worth the effort, and in fact we did not go , but definitely would love to bambnini . Online you will save money on the purchase of tickets. http://www.ripleyslondon.com . If you get there, look up now and see how they decorated Piccadilly Circus. Cupid is enclosed in a glass boule à neige . I found it fantastic !

piccadilly

Boule à neige in Piccadilly Circus

Shows

If you have a child under 4 years old is very difficult to find shows where they too can be accepted. We this time we found the show The Showman , at the Peacock Theatre and it was very cute.

If your children are older, I suggest , before leaving to take a look at Time Out , as I wrote at the beginning and buy your tickets online , usually from the site of the theater DIRECTLY OR on http://www.ticketmaster . com / , if you are in high season. (remember that often, if you buy online you must arrive 10 minutes prior to pick up the actual ticket to cash) If it is low season , or you can take it directly to the box office of the theater that morning (we have them also discounted ) or one of the box office in Leicester square where you normally have the best prices . If you are a prissy like me , I recommend this great site that not only shows you the map of the various theaters, but it gives you smart tips on the best places : http://www.theatremonkey.com

Changing of the guard 

If it does not rain , you can not lose (ie I have lost, but it would be nice not to lose it here ! ) The changing of the guard . Look here to see what time it starts , but especially the days when there is and is not. http://www.changing-the-guard.com/dates-times.html

While you ‘re in the area , a walk in St James’ Park with your kids you can not do it. It ‘s great .

saint-james-park

A walk in Saint James’s Park

And while we ‘re walking up to Trafalgar Square. If they do not want to hear the story of the battle or of Nelson, definitely appreciate the Blue rooster!

blue-roster

The blue rooster in Trafalgar Square

What have I forgotten ? Well certainly the London Eye, on which I did not go because my daughter fears hight , but which is amazing, of course!

londoneye

The London Eye

or  the crown jewels and the Tower of London, but when years ago I went with my daughter the only thing she loved was the wonderful view on the Tower Bridge.

tower-bridge

The Tower Bridge at dawn. (If you have the chance, go jogging very early in the morning. The view is simply amazing!)

and…Madame Tussaud’s, the London Zoo , the Kew Gardens and surely many other attractions and places to be seen. But if you only have two days….in any case leave something back is a great opportunity to have an excuse for another visit to London!

Have a good trip !

PS . For all my bike-lovers friends. Look what I saw at a traffic light in front of the Big Ben:

london-cyclists

How can you love mountain biking ?

My mountain bike

(testo in italiano qui)

This is not  a rhetorical or a provoking question; I just would like to understand how it is possible!

Yesterday morning I rode my mountain bike because the path I usually cycle on is now a  blanket of leaves . Beautiful, nothing to say about its charm, but super dangerous for road bikes.

 Over the past two days, it had rained a lot, so now it’s actually a wet  blanket of leaves . Not the best ever.

Yesterday-morning’s bike ride began with the unexpected encounter with Death , just outside the town center. I was riding along the cycling path that runs alongside the main road  when a Bright Asshole , driving his van suddenly decided to bend toward the gas station, just in front on me.

Surely if I had been on my road bike, I would not be here now writing this post …. I suddenly braked more than I could and I ended up being 5/6 millimeters to the back door of the BS’s van . While braking I screamed like crazy with fear and the guy didn’t seem to care about me.

Needless to say, he didn’t even say “Sorry”. For the two / three kilometers ahead I wasn’t even able to ride at a decent speed because  my legs were still shaking in fear.

So , ok , seen from another point of view , I think that the mountain bike saved my life, which is not too bad .

But ..what else ?

I cycled 30 kilometers (unusually during the week I cycle 50km, but I was too pissed off and after 15 I decided to go back home ) my speed was so slow! No more than 25km per hour , not even on the “Gavardina” cycling path , where I normally I reach 35km/h.

 My mountain bike seems to me , or maybe it really is , super heavy . I always get the impression that i have to change gears, and that’s what I keep doing, but it doesn’t work as it should do.

 After 15 km, I’d had enough . I left the cycling path and I took a main road . The more I pedaled there , the more I kept telling myself how stupid I am, because surely the blanket of leaves would have been better then the concrete of the main road ! At a traffic light a bunch of cyclists on their wonderful road bikes passed by, they seemed as light as air and I felt that nasty feeling that I thought didn’t belong to me: envy .

Now , I wonder , is it true that in Autumn is better to  leave the road bike in the garage and to ride a  mountain bike ? Perhaps the answer is in my morning encounter and in the avoided crash.

Who knows ?!

My first 2000 kms and why I love cyling.

(versione in italiano)

2000KM

Last Saturday I reached my goal and from Aprile, I have ridden  2000 km  . I am satisfied and happy.
If someone had told me fiftenn years ago that one day I would love cycling , I would have not believed them.
The first time I went on a bike ride it was a decade ago.

My boyfriend, who is now my husband, had parked his super professional bike in my garage and I, without thinking of the possible consequences , in order to park two cars instead of one, I had left the door open and saying OPEN I mean WIDE OPEN.
It goes without saying that within a couple of days ( yes , I left it like that for two days) , the bike was gone. Forever . I remember it was a Cannondale, but at the time I had no idea of a bike’s value, nor from the money point of view neither from the emotional one. today I can understand what it would mean to lose a bike.

 If he hasn’t killed me , I think it was only because we were still just engaged. Today , most likely, he would not, but  he surely would think about it.
He had recently come to live in this town and, apart from me, the bike was his only point of reference . It was gone, and it was my fault.

Despite this,  we then got married. During the party that followed our wedding’s ceremony, my husband came to me and said, ” Tomorrow morning … surprise ! Some friends bought us a super present! two mountain bikes! I have already loaded  them into our car and tomorrow we will be riding them across Tuscany”

What a  joy …

I distinctly remember every speck of the so called “white roads” in Montalcino that seemed to never have an end , the way to  the Abbey of St. Antimo … it was  June and the sun was shining over the green hills and I still remember, after a 26 km- ride, that my bum was so sore!

montalcino-2004

I honestly thought that my riding experience , even if it was pleasant ( a part from the sore bottom)  began and ended there.

A year later my husband didn’t give up and asked me to go riding with him, but with a road bike.  I still felt guilty about the Cannondale that they had stolen a few months before (I live with a guilt-feeling for everything, anyway ) and shortly after I went , as I did years before , to work in Rome , leaving him here alone during the week. So , needless to say , it was time for a new guilt felling!
Perhaps, it is due to the guilt-feeling if today I love cycling…

To be honest at the time I was insanely jealous of my husband’s bike, or rather “this fuc. .. bike! ,” as I used to call it . I did not understand how it could be was so nice to cycle around, make so much effort and go home again. Sometimes , when I was driving my car, I would have liked to hit all cyclists in the middle of the road !

However this time I could not say no to the invitation to go cycling with him. . I still remember what I was wearing the day of the test on the saddle, I remember how it seemed difficult to even think about cycling on a road bike. And I will never forget the day when I went for the first time on my new bike , a total black Colnago.
At the shop, they kept asking me : “Are you sure that you know how to clip into and then disingage your pedals?” . I answered “Super sure .”
Would you like to try to cycle on the sidewalk before hitting the road? “” No , don’t worry , now I’m going straight on the road  ” I said .

 So I left the store , riding , and behind me, but on foot, my husband and the owners of the store. I cycled for a meter , two, three , then there was the descent to the street . A 5, maximum 10 cm descent. I do not know how, but I fell off . I fell off the bike, with my bike on me. I was covered in blood for a mega scratch on a knee and an arm . All those who were there to see my ” going on the road ” ran towards me to check. Then, while I was still trying to stand up again, my husband arrived and yelled, ” Noooooooooooooo ! You ruined the brake handle ! Noooooooooo ! ” .

There, I realized that the road would be an uphill battle.

That summer, I worked in Rome during the week , and I was home only on weekends ,  but from June to September I cycled 800 kilometers. But today I can say this: it was without passion.

My mom , whenever I complained about the fact that my husband was always out cycling kept asking me “Why don’t you go with him?” This time I followed her advice. I started cycling as I wanted to stay next to him, who, by the way, would have never given up his week-end rides for me. At the time I said that I liked it , but now I realize that  was not true, or maybe at that time it seemed to me it was, but it is incomparable to what riding  means to me now.

Today I NEED my bike . And I really believe that if a person does not cycle or if there is no passion in it , they can’t understand what it means to ride a bicycle and enjoy every moment of it.I do not know how and when I fell in love with cycling. I know it’s been a long path.

Actually, over the past 10 years I have never stopped riding, a part from when I was pregnant and all periods of time related to the births of my daughters.

 I had short rides during the weekends with my husband to Lake Garda and back, a few times I tried to go uphill, on the Maddalena hill, in the town center, here in Brescia. The third time I tried to get to the top, I did it,  without crying ( already happened ) , without sending my husband to hell ( this, too, happened), without turning the bike and back home ( well this ) , without all three previous conditions put together, and then many ascents in the mountains in summer.

I was a “by chance- cyclist”

While I was riding across my town towards the cycling path which leads to the  Garda Lake, my only thought was: “Please God, let me find the traffic lights green!! ” I was terrified about getting my feet off the clipless pedals without crashing to the ground.

Then there were ( and still are ) my husband’s strict rules… I remember that he used to tell me a thousand times to stay focused. Once, we were riding on the Gavardina cycling path and I suddenly said,: “Look, love, it’s full of poppies ! “I said, pointing to a beautiful field . He said ” Stay focused ! We are not here to admire the landscape! ” Fu.. !

Then , last year , for my fortieth birthday my husband bought me a bike ( big surprise … ) . Bike that I have absolutely ignored for more than a year, but for a ride  in Austria . Since then, my bike has been resting in my garage waiting for better times that, frankly , I thought would never arrive .

Autumn and winter passed by and then came this year spring.

 The morning of April 19th , my husband asked me, for the billionth time , if I wanted to go and have a ride with him. I do not know why I said yes , just do not know . Maybe I thought about my mom telling me ” go and ride with him,” or  perhaps because since our daughters were born, we don’t have a second for us alone , or maybe just because I love him…but I said yes.

I borrowed a cycling jacket from him , because I didn’t even remember where I had put mine . I rode only 16 km and I got the impression of being in the movie The Shining. I was so frightened! The slightest breath of wind made ​​my  bike    swing, or at least so it seemed so to me , I was so scared and the Clipless pedals nightmare had come back again!

 But back home , I said to myself that it was very pleasant. I even went to cycle two days later , the same location , just a bit  faster, or I’d rather say, less slow .

Then , as I wrote here on the blog , a few days later , I had a bright idea and  asked a mother of my daughter’s school , a sort of a wonder woman , who attends super competitions such as  the Half Iron woman and other marathons or similar non-human things , if she could train me . We established 10 training sessions , two hours each . And Cristina made ​​me realize that cycling could be fun . With my husband , I always felt not up to the task , because it’s true , I’m not up to it, of course, but it’s useless to underline it every single times. Maybe he doesn’t even stress it, but that’s how I used to feel. With Cristina and her very “casual” way of training me, it was different. As soon as she saw me slowing down, she would scream at me ” Ride ! pedal , Ari , fu..k! ” , I would blush, afraid that people on the road could hear her and then I would pedal so fast! I pedaled and laughed , laughed and pedaled !I remember our fist ride to the Montenetto , south of our town…sShe asked me ” Can you see all these beautiful colors around us ? ” And I could not see anything because I was focused on my bike and at that stage of my cycling life , I was not able to do two things at the same time. After a steep, super steep, ride on the San-Gallo Serle road  (I had already cycled 500 since the beginning of the season)  then Cristina told me” Now you’re ready to ride on the Maddalena” It was a dream come true.

  And the next week I got to the top. ( 10 kilometers uphill with an average 6,3% gradient ) Cri was shocked by the fact that I occasionally stop to take pictures to report my enterprise, because it really was an enterprise for me ! I reached the top and I liked it so much that two days later I went there once again.

Maddalena hill is not the Everest, but , as I wrote on my Facebook page , it was MY personal Everest . The second time I cycled to the top of it , it was a Thursday in June this year.

The day before, I had gone to see an endocrinologist and out of the blue, he looked at me and  he said ” there is a chance that you have a thyroid cancer .” As simple as that, just when you don’t expect to hear such a thing! The next day , riding on the Maddalena, I thought about life, MY life, my daughters , and about fear, as I had never done before  in my life . I, who have never been afraid of death, certain that the one we are living now is only a trial for a next one,  found myself suddenly attached to life, and with an incredible fear of losing it. Climbing to the top , bend after bend , pedaling as hard as possible, has meant to me something I will never forget . Getting to the top was a challenge with myself , that I won and I won again many times since then,  even after the danger of a cancer was , thankfully, gone.

 I won and won again when in the morning , even after I returned from vacation, without not so much continuous training , I took my bike and alone , slowly, until I arrived to the top or again, when one day at sunset, with my husband , lulled by the light of the sunset and the lengthening shadows on the already dark roads.

my husband and I at the top of the Maddalena hill

my husband and I at the top of the Maddalena hill

During these six months I’ve found that you can cycle and in the meantime you can have a look at the landscape around you, but my husband was right , you must first become familiar with your  bike and now  I add that you have to respect and love it .

Concentration is everything. I don’t have an athletic body, probably I have the farthest shape compared to a cyclist’s one. And If I can do it, everybody else could.  I got to the conclusion that everything is just inside your  head: strength, desire and passion.

I still ride with my husband and now it’s beautiful. Sure, there are times when I still get pissed off because he tells me to stay in the slipstream , and I don’t. Then he goes forward without checking if I’m still alive and well, times when I call him and he cannot hear  me , and then I look like a crazy hysterical woman screaming his name in the middle of nowhere and then when he finally hears me, I have already forgotten what I wanted to tell him.

Every now and then I still do not feel up to it, but I live for the moments when , seized by I know not what kind of rapture , on a the flat road,  I ” fly ” at thirty five km per hour and then at the traffic lights my husband reaches me and asks me if someone had put some hot chili on my bottom …

I know he has his rules , I now learned them by heart and respect them. I have my own , which is that first of all cycling is a pleasure, not a duty , so if I do not feel like going , I don’t . This rule is very often broken because if it was for my laziness , 90 % of the time , I’d stay  home. I am grateful to my husband because , knowing me well , he insists on this and then I go out of my pajamas on Saturday mornings and I ride my bike. Happily. Thanks to this common passion , together, we are treading new paths , we are discovering new, wonderful places around here. Together.

 Mine is no more A bike , but it is MY bike , my wonderful and irreplaceable bike .

My beautiful Pinarello Dogma 2

My beautiful Pinarello Dogma 2

These 2000 km on my road bike , which unfortunately is now going to rest in the garage until next spring to now leave room to the mountain bike,  were 2000 kilometers of discovery of nature all around me, 2000 km during which I felt part of a sort of a parallel world which welcomed and cuddled me  , but above all, these have been  2000 kilometers of travel inside myself.

Autumn clothing for cycling

Choosing the right clothing is the secret of a good bike  ride in autumn. If then you also have quality clothing , it helps and quality does not necessarily mean the thickest clothes. Dress in layers is the  smartest option.  The more layers you have, the easier it will be for you to adjust to your changing body temperature.  So Don’t get caught out by the changing weather this autumn!

FEET

When your feet are warm, you’re warm all over. So let’s choose the proper socks!
In my closet I have two kinds of socks that I use at the beginning of spring and in autumn.

spring-fall-assos socksThese spring/autumn socks by Assos are very soft thanks to 70% Coolmax , a performance fabric that allows perspiration and evaporation of the sweat of the feet through the fabric , 21% polyamide and 9% elastane.
They are very thin and comfortable .

assos-socks

But  my favourite ones are these: slightly higher than the previous ones, so you’re sure not to have cold ankles , even when you are wearing ¾ shorts . They are the new Assos socks , which are fantastic. They are slightly thicker than those above, but still are very thin and comfortable with no wrinkles inside your shoes.  The fibres perform proper moisture management to keep your feet dry.

LIGHTWEIGHT BASE LAYER

A base layerith with good wicking properties is the best way to keep warm, drawing sweat away from your body.
My husband uses a horrible white base layer. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t stop laughing But it seems to work .
Personally, I refuse to wear this! I find it too thick , too long and really unwatchable.
I use an ODLO  short-sleeved t-shirt  that I also use for skiing. It helps me from getting cold, by wicking moisture away from the body  and it is very comfortable.

In any case, don’t use a tight fitting cotton t-shirt as a base – it’ll make you damp and cold.

A LONG SLEEVE SHIRT OR JERSEY

You don’t want to be too hot while you are cycling, so, in autumn just wear a long sleeve shirt or a lightweight windproof  jersey, with a full-length zip on the front. If you are cold, you could complement with a gilet or a lightweight windbreaker .

My husband who is NEVER cold, continues wearing his short sleeved shirts, even in autumn, and when it gets colder, he uses a pair of arm warmers, which he always keeps in his back pocket.

SHORTS

In autumn I  always use my Zero RH plus three-quarters pants , which I  find very comfortable. I’m not a fan of bibknickers, but in autumn I use them as I don’t like the fresh air coming in on the back!

My husband, who is never cold, uses short bib knicker bib, and eventually a  pair of  leg warmers.

 ARM AND LEG WARMERS

These warmers are perfect for autumn days. Last week I cycled around  Franciacorta, Northen Italy wearing three-quarter pants and a long-sleeved shirt. In the morning it was cold, but then suddenly it  was  27 degrees!  And this ruined my ride, as I was too hot.

Arm and leg warmers are the best solution. If it suddenly  warms up they can be easily folded up and put in the back pocket of your shirt or jacket. These below are the ones that I use, which are not very professional ( they had been given as gifts to my husband when he joined the Triptych of Ticino race) , but I like them and they are comfortable.

warmers

assos-leg-warmers

These, are my husband’s, who is a big fan of Assos and he love them. I found a very interesting review about them here: http://www.cxmagazine.com/clothing-review-assos-legwarmers-armwarmers

GLOVES

First of all, even if you don’t like gloves, as I do,  at the end of autumn (if temperature drops –  around 10 degrees) it should be advisable to wear proper gloves  to keep my  hands protected from the cold and rain. I only have one pair of lightweight  gloves, by  North Wave.

gloves

SKULL CAP

One thing that bothers me when I cycle is the mosquitoes which land on my head through my helmet…. To avoid this, and to keep my head warm, in autumn I usually wear a skull cap.  I bought this Zero RH and I find it very comfortable, keeping me warm and dry .

sottocasco

NECK WARMER
Personally, I have some neck problems and when I cycle in autumn I want to keep it warm and I always wear a neck warmer.

neck-warmer

I am sure I forgot something. If so, please feel free to add a comment. It could be helpful for me too! 😉 Thank-you!

The perfect Christmas stationery for the bike lovers

And… here we are, the four of us, on a Christmas card and a matching gift tag! I just love them!Christmas card by pineider

We chose the design, featuring myself, my husband and our daughters, and at Pineider they did everything. The cards are printed from a hand-engraved die.

How to Carve a Halloween Pumpkin

(versione italiana)

I know this post of mine has absolutely nothing to do with the cycling world, but, before being a cycling lover, I am completely in love with my children and I spent yesterday afternoon carving some pumpkins with and for them.

Then I was asked how to make them and now…here I am…

Now, waiting for my next cycling ride (it the weather lets me…), here are the instructions!

PS: All the pictures of this post hsve been taken yesterday by my eldest daughter, who is six years old. Without her support I coudn’t have published this post. I love you, my sweetheart!

What you need:

1 washable marker
1 sharp knife
1 spoon
1 ice cream scoop
1 candle
Plenty of newspaper to protect work surface
Large bowl for pumpkin seeds and flesh

Wash the pumpkin in warm water. I added some baking soda to get rid of any possibile bacteria. Draw a kind of a circle around the stalk with a washable marker. Take a sharp knife and cut the hole.  Now remove the top.

wash the pumpkin

Remember to tilt the point of the knife into the centre of the pumpkin. This way, it will prevent the lid from falling in.

carving a halloween pumpkin

Scoop the inside of the pumpkin

Scoop out flesh, pulp, and seeds with your hands at first, and then with a spoon or an ice cream scoop, which works perfectly for this. If you don’t feel like putting your hands into the pumpkin, use a pair of disposable gloves.

IMG_3367

carve the pumpkin

You are now ready to carve! The pumpkins I bought had already   “pumpkin face” stickers on them, so it was easy to choose the design.. If you are using a stencil, transfer your paper stencil onto the pumpkin and trace the design by poking holes with a skewer or a sharp tool.

Trace the design by poking holes

When you are done, remove the paper stencil and you will have a clearly marked outline of where you have to carve the face. You can now carve your pumpkin with a short sharp knife.

Grasp the knife like a pencil

Grasp the knife like a pencil and hold it at a right angle to the pumpkin. Move it steadily up and down, working from dot to dot.

IMG_3439When you are done, simply knock out the carved pieces and now trim up the edges, angles, corners and inside of the pumpkin with a knife.

IMG_3424

Place your candle inside, turn the light off and

my halloween pumpkin

BOOOOOOOOO!!! Happy Halloween!

From Brescia to Lake Garda. 92 kilometers, cycling with Virginia Woolf and others.

(Versione in italiano)

Saturday 19th October

Bike track- Brescia - Desenzano - Sirmione

Cycling track from Brescia to Desenzano, Sirmione, San Martino e Solferino and back. Lake Garda, Italy

I am tired. As usual. My little child doesn’t let me sleep much. It’s been like this since she was born. And now she is almost 3. I got to the  conclusion that she thinks sleeping is a waste of time! But at 41, I do need some rest.

My husband is already ready to cycle. I get ready too, but, to be honest I am still sleeping.

As soon as we leave home,  I think “I am so not making it today! I am tired, I am sleepy, it’s cold. I wish I was still in my pajamas….”.  the sky is grey and so are the clouds.

In order to get straight to Salò, on Lake Garda, and back, we don’t take the cycling path, as we would usually do.  I’d love to cycle about 50 kms, no more than that. I am too sleepy.

Along Viale Venezia , leaving the city center of Brescia, I spot two cars ( always the same two , every single day I go cycling) parked ahead of me on the cycling path . And every single time I feel I’d love  to destroy them and their owners.
My morning hasn’t started in the best way ever.  However …. in Pontenove we then take the cycling path, which runs through the countryside, heading to the lake Garda.

Cycling path towards the lake of Garda

Cycling path towards the lake of Garda, from Brescia to Desenzano

Despite the grey sky, the landscape is beautiful. Alongside the path runs a blanket of yellow leaves. I suddenly find myself thinking about Mrs. Dalloway. I don’t even know why. I was a huge fan of Virginia Wolf when I was younger and I haven’t thought about her and her works for years. And now, out of the blue, in the middle of nowhere, I am thinking about Mrs. Dalloway’s character.

For those who haven’t read it , Mrs. Dalloway is the protagonist of a book, which takes the title from her name, by Virginia Woolf.

It has been ages since I last read a book by V. Woolf and  yet, suddenly,  it is as if Mrs. Dalloway in person was here with me and with her, some other characters of this and other books by Virginia Woolf.

And then, as I cycle on the yellow leaves-covered-path surrounded by green fields and hills with white horses , I think of how much I’ve loved Virginia Woolf and how much I was fascinated by her and by the  Bloomsbury Group, which she created together with her brother.

I remember that when I read about it , I thought of those writers, poets, thinkers, artists, all joined together, who once a week would meet and discuss about Aesthetics, Philosophy and Literature .

I still clearly remember my own feeling, which was a kind of envy (I know, it sounds crazy , but maybe in fact , I am a bit crazy ) towards them. Envy seasoned , however, with affection, and of course great, great respect and immeasurable admiration. I would have liked to live during the Victorian era , too , even only in order to be able to criticize it.

I wonder how it would have been if only I could have had the opportunity to meet Virginia Woolf  and the others from the Bloomsbury Group. I would have loved to savor every single word, spoken or written, during those meetings , I would have listened carefully and learnt.

To me, Mrs Dalloway was an epiphany. Before then I had never read a novel that took place in a single day . I loved and appreciated not only the plot itself , but the unusual way by which Woolf tells a story exclusively from the inner perspective of the protagonist; I loved the sudden time travel, through the thoughts and emotions of Clarissa Dalloway , her monologues and soliloquies as if time and space were melted , the past, the present and the future flowed on the same level , driven by a memory born from an object, a sentence , a thought.

I was really fascinated by this reading, even if , frankly, until this morning , I thought I had forgotten everything about it.  As soon as I think of Clarissa’s stream of consciousness, while I am still riding my bike, I think about James Joyce.

There was a time, in my life, when I was madly in love with Joyce. I see myself as a young woman ( well…let’s say youngER which sounds better ” ) reading Ulysse , without being able to get to the last page and without having the ability to understand it in depth , but still involved and fascinated by the characters’ stream of consciousness. Now my memories go the easier-to-be-read-and-understood “The Dubliners”, which made my personal interest for Ireland grow, despite Joyce’s  point of view of the moral history of his country when both Ireland  in general and Dublin in particular seemed to be centers of paralysis.

I remember that my favorite story , or perhaps , the only one I distinctly remember was ” The Dead .” Again, I do not know how and I do not know why, but suddenly I remember the sense of loss of the protagonist and his first awareness of the dilemma of whether it is better to die when you are young or when your are old , when mistakes are growing dramatically. And living this dilemma was like to taking his mask off , unlike all the other protagonists of the Dubliners , who never called into question , and while I was reading , I was wondering if, later on, the Irish, had changed their attitude … if something had changed in their soul. And it was , perhaps, from that moment that I began to deeply love Ireland, from every point of view , from literature to history, from poetry to the origins, Celtic myths and legends linked to St. Patrick, from Oscar Wilde to the poets , from WB Yeats , whom I love the most, to Séamus Heaney .. and so on.

When I was immersed in these readings I could not even imagine, then, many years later, I would have lived in Dublin and that I would have walked on the same streets where my favorite writers / poets and protagonists of their stories, had walked before me.

cycling path towards Desenzano, Lake garda, Italy

cycling path towards Desenzano, Lake garda, Italy

While I am cycling towards the lake, time flies and I am not tired anymore, immense , in my personal stream of consciousness … I go back to the Bloomsbury Group, and I think of TS Eliot. I think about how much, at University, I hated studying The Waste Land, and how much, on the contrary, I have loved ” The Hollow Men”. I remember reading somewhere that Virginia Woolf wrote a letter to TS Eliot to tell him that the group collected some money to allow him to quit his job and devote himself exclusively to literature.

I would have wanted to know them so much!

Every now and then my husband turns to check if I am still there and there I am, just behind his wheel.  Today I am in good shape! I’m riding with many writers!  But I am not going to tell him about this…

We then  get to where the track splits: to the left to Salò , Desenzano to the right .

Here, the first change in plans. I ask my husband if he has ever been to Desenzano and I find out, with surprise, that he has not. So we decide not to follow , as we normally would,  the Valtenesi cycling path , but to go to Desenzano . After a couple of kilometers, following the main road , we enter the town.

desenzano little harbour

desenzano little harbour

The clouds are still there . The sun is pale , but the light is wonderful. There are many people strolling on this Saturday morning . We cycle through the narrow roads of the town center and then  stop to take a few pictures of the harbor. Looking at the lake, in front of us, I spot a lighthouse . And I can’t avoid thinking again of Virginia Woolf and her ” To the lighthouse .” But it is time to go.

My bike and myself in Desenzano

My bike and myself in Desenzano

Desenzano small harbour, cycling on Garda lake

Desenzano small harbour, cycling on Garda lake

Looking at the lake, I see the amazing peninsula of Sirmione and find out that my husband has never been there either. And then, we definitely change our program , and we are now cycling to Sirmione.

Sirmione castle - lake Garda - italy

Sirmione castle – lake Garda – italy

And it is wonderful. It’s crowded of foreign tourists, as if it was Venice in the summer time. They all standing and wandering around the main entrance to the castle, which is actually  the only point of access to the village . Inside, among the narrow alleys, a couple of traffic agents are trying , in vain , to drain the crowd and let the cars pass through. (only residents and hotels guests can circulate in here) . It ‘s impossible , however, not to stop and look up at the walls and towers with dovetail battlements, home for seagulls in search of rest .

sirmione - lake Garda

Sirmione castle – lake Garda – italy

We cycle through the crowd, trying hard not to fall off our bikes and we stop to take some pictures. This castle is fascinating. I think that it has a sinister look . When I get home in the afternoon , I find a legend associated with it : ” In the castle a long time ago there lived a happy married couple : the beautiful Arice and Ebengardo . During a dark and stormy night , a man knocked at the door of the castle in search of shelter . The young lovers welcomed him to spend the night there . It was Elalberto , Marquis of Feltre . Enchanted by the beauty of Arice , during the same night, Elalberto snuck into her bedroom with the intent to take advantage of her . Arice strenuously tried to defend herself and her desperate cries attracted the attention of her husband Ebengardo . But when he arrived to her bedroom, he found her dead , stabbed by the fury of Elalberto . After a violent scuffle , Elalberto died pierced by his own dagger, and from that day the ghost of Ebengardo wanders the castle , condemned to remain among the living , separated from her. “

Sirmione - Lake Garda - the Castle

Sirmione castle – lake Garda – italy – with a ghost

We continue to cycle uphill to the ancient caves of Catullus , but we don’t manage to get to the entrance gate because it’s a gravel road and it would be dangerous for our bike wheels .

I remember the last time I was in Sirmione, I was studying in France for Erasmus and I came to Italy with some friends, as a tourist. It’s amazing! It has been nearly 20 years ago! Time really flies ! Talking about time… it’s noon already and we have to go back home! We have already cycled  nearly 50 kilometers! On the way back , just left behind Sirmione , I see the tower of San Martino and Solferino and since the signs say only 3 km away…let’s pay a visit!  But soon, we get lost. My husband, like all men , doesn’t want to ask for directions as a principle! Since I don’t have this silly principle, I ask for directions and we soon get to the tower.  While we are getting there , I tell my husband that there is an ossuary, on the right hand side of the road , but as soon as I start explaining what an ossuary is, as soon as hears the words ” skulls ” and ” skeletons ” , his facial exprssion changes and he says, ” Let’s go! Let’s move on!”

We stop for a moment to take some photos of the tower and then look for the way back. The treasure hunt for the way back takes us ages .

Tower of San Martino e Solferino

Tower of San Martino e Solferino

San Martino e Solferino

San Martino e Solferino

We are lost, again, so I rely on Google maps , but after 5 minutes, my phone is dead. We then cycle on the moraine hills . Beautiful landscape , but if you only had a cup of coffee at 9 am , you’ve cycled 60 km, you are cold and hungry, the climb is not exactly what you want to deal with. Eventually we find the Leone shopping mall on our left and then understand that we are cycling in the right direction , towards Brescia. In the center of this town we meet an old lady who, seeing us in trouble asks us “whe-re are you go-ing?” Slowly , enunciating each syllable well , as if we where foreigners, and couldn’t understand her Italian. My husband pretends not to notice , as you know , this is one of the pillars of bike wisdom according to my husband. . .I obviously appreciate her help and reply ” to Brescia .” Then the lady’s attitude change , and she gives me direction not even in Italian but in this village’s old dialect. I thank her, while my husband just nods. I’m starving and I have bad foot cramps . I am cycling very very fast  because I cannot wait to get home . I leave my husband far behind me. When he finally reaches me, with his British aplomb, he asks me : “Sorry love, but …  have they put some hot chili on your ars? “

I can’t stop laughing.

We pass through   Mazzano , Rezzato and after another 15 kilometers we finally get home. I get off my bike , take my empty water bottle, I save my track and take the Garmin device with me. We cycled 92 kilometers . I’m really dead.

As soon as I open my home door, my children run towards me with open arms and ask me ” Mom , you’re finally here! Are you going to play with us now?” . 🙂

My bike track - lake Garda

My bike track – lake Garda