Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Rites of Spring

It is warming up again- it may be another false alarm, or maybe, just maybe, spring has arrived. Predictably, several phenomena can once more be spotted on our city's streets:

1) People who have overestimated the temperature and gone out without their coats, shivering at traffic lights and rubbing their blue, goose pimpled legs.
2) Van drivers singing along to 80s pop with their windows down.
3) Women cycling in utterly inappropriate shoes. Today's sighting were red leather cutaway kitten heel ankle boots with a leopard print trim. Absurd, but kind of wonderful.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Cars vs Bikes

A few things in the last few days have made me very thankful not to own a car. One was a story on MoneyBox on BBC Radio 4 over the weekend which exposed the culture of referral fees and kickbacks between garages, tow-trucks, insurance companies and claims lawyers. Once you've had an accident your details become like gold dust, and huge amounts of money changes hands. Apparently that is why car insurance gets increasingly extortionate even as accident rates go down. This makes me angry on so many different levels, the key one being- you might have died. You have experienced a major trauma. And then every time you pick up the phone it is a weasly cold-calling lawyer type pouring poison in your ear and encouraging you to sue someone. Eugh.

And on a lighter note this photo, from Howies, is the other one. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Cycling in Croatia

Just back from a wonderful five day trip to sunny (but chilly) Croatia. We spent a few days in Dubrovnik which is beautiful and well worth a visit, and then hopped on a ferry in search of a bit more wilderness and, crucially, some bikes. Reluctantly, having given more than 3 seconds thought to the practicalities I'd left Trusty locked in his bleak London garage-he's not a folder after all- so I was soon feeling the craving to be on two wheels. There are apparently good trails on the mainland, and some islands which can be reached on a day trip from the city, but we wanted to go further afield and so boarded the Nona Anna once-a-day catamaran for the island of Mljet. Despite the fact that Time Magazine apparently ranks it as one of the ten most beautiful islands in the world, Mljet is not a major tourist hub in high season, and in March it was utterly deserted. The handful of locals were visibly shocked to see us, but sprang into hospitable action once they were made to believe that yes, we had come to stay, and yes, we would like to cycle please. The bike hire places (and everything else in fact) was closed, but the owner of the apartment we'd managed to find happily lent us her two mountain bikes. 

I've not got a lot of experience in the world of MBX- I was always put off by a)fat tires=less speed and b)the likelihood of coming off going over a root and concussing myself on a boulder. I'm pretty clumsy. But Mljet is hilly and well, beggars can't be choosers, so we saddled up....and it was amazing. Pine forests, coastal paths and incredible, green-blue inland lakes. We rode for hours, picnicking on shore lines and whooping down the hills. We had the whole place to ourselves- the only encounter with another human being was with a head-scarved, raisin faced old women who thought we were disturbing her goats. Or at least, that is what we inferred from the tirade of angry Croatian. In the evenings a guy called Djuro opened up his restaurant specially, cooked us whatever fish he had caught that day and plied us with local grappa until we could barely walk. Wonderful medicine for sore thighs.

If you're looking for a DIY cycling trip somewhere near(ish) cheap(ish) and extraordinarily beautiful, Croatia is your place. Say hi to Djuro (at the Stella Marin) from Trusty and I.