I think the best way to ‘do London’ is on a bicycle. Granted, as a Dutchie I’m biased, because in Holland we are practically born on a bike. I am however also a big fan of my Vespa, so that might make me a little more objective when it comes to judging the best vehicle to use during London discoveries. But with a scooter being impractical, too fast, and not accessible for everybody due to rules & regulations, the choice here is easy; the number one ride to explore the British capital on is a pedal bike.
In fairness, I have to thank my friend Martine and her sister Marjolein for this recent revelation. When they came to see me a few weeks ago, they wanted to go out on the famous Santander bikes – I’m still not used to them being Santander bikes by the way, even though it has been awhile now – to make the most out of our day. And that I can tell you, we sure did!
I’ll take you through the itinerary we cycled, obviously there’s an infinite number of routes you can take, but this is just to give you an idea of how much you can do in less than 12 hours.
We started off in my neighbourhood – Mile End – to get to our first destination of the day: the Victoria & Albert Museum. Distance: about 12.5 kms (7.8 miles). After what was I think only 10, maybe 15 minutes of pedalling, a slightly heavy shower forced us to get off our bikes and into a Pret A Manger. We were ready for some refuelling anyway, so while we waited for the rain to pass, we had something to eat. Soon enough we were on our way again and had a short second stop just around the corner from Westminster Abbey.
The journey continued, and our third stop was right in front of the V&A museum, speaking about a perfect parking spot! Now, about the museum, or perhaps about me and museums first. I seem to have a 2 hour limit for them after which I get either tired, or hungry, or both. Luckily, my fellow visitors felt the same way, so we gave it our best during those 120 minutes in the Victoria & Albert museum.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the displayed collections. There are different types of art, from different corners of the world, and from various different eras. You can get a 1 pound guide that will take you along the museum highlights. We made a promising start using this guide, and it was very interesting as long as it lasted – at some point we lost track of the itinerary a little, and after that we’d reached our maximum culture intake for the day. Do check out the outside courtyard though, and the coffee/bar/restaurant space is a must see too.
As I said, museums make you hungry, so we hopped on our bikes again and went for a well-deserved scone in Notting Hill. Distance: 3kms (1.9 miles). Time was ticking though, and we had one more thing on our list – Holland Park. Distance: 1.5kms (about 1 mile).
For me, Holland Park was the discovery of the day, or maybe even the month. What a great park and very different from the ones I’ve seen elsewhere in London. We got there at that magical time of the day when the sun starts to go down, so the light was beautiful and there was this really pleasant, serene atmosphere there. If you haven’t been to Holland Park yet, please do so when you can find the time. Personally, I’m a little guttered it’s the opposite side of town from where I live, if not I would definitely go there as often as possible. Pictures sometimes do say more than words, so I’ll post some of the photographs we took that day showing – among other things – the Rose garden, the Dutch garden, and the park in general.
After our moment of bliss in the park it was time for some serious pedal action again. We were going for dinner at Afghan Kitchen – the place I wrote about before – in Angel. Distance: 10.7 kms (6.7 miles) and I’d like to add that the final part of our itinerary was a pretty big climb uphill – on a Santander bike. Needless to say, we deserved our delicious dinner and the wine that came with it.
A few hours later and with renewed energy, we were up for the final part of our journey; the road back home from the restaurant. Distance: 7.2kms (4.5 miles). We pedalled as if our lives depended on it and decided to end the day with a nice pint in the Lord Tredegar.
So, for those of you not yet convinced: What’s not to like? It is much nicer to be cycling around town, parking your bike when you feel like going for a stroll or a coffee somewhere. On top of that, it’s less tiring than an entire day of walking, and you can see a hell of a lot more. Give it a try next time you think about discovering London, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be hooked too.
PS. A big thanks to the girls for a fantastic day and to Martine for part of the beautiful pictures!