There’s only one way to explore a place when you’re in leisure mode, unbothered by time constraints or bodily decrepitude, and that’s by bike.
I’ve known the pleasures of putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, from village to village, hotel to B&B, during a couple of holidays in Burgundy, France. But if the best sights are well spread out, two wheels are a must.
I’ve just returned from my first cycling away trip. It was a brief weekend jaunt, only one night, and the two rides were circular ones that started and ended where I’d ditched my car. But as I wheeled into yet another north Essex village lazier writers than me would call ‘picture postcard’, I thought – I could get pretty used to this…
A bike cuts out the bother of looking for a car-length parking spot on a narrow street. You can lock the bike somewhere, or just pedal gently around and take in the scene.
From Thaxted to Finchingfield to little Abbess Roding and its church, the flat roads (with the odd, welcome incline – I like having a bit of resistance to work against) enabled me to cover a fair whack of ground on Saturday in just a couple of hours.
Villages, as you approach them, reveal themselves more slowly on bike than they do when you’re motoring in your steel box. If you catch sight of someone’s restored thatch roof and decide to admire it up close, you can apply the brakes, pull up onto the pavement and gaze as long as you want.
Possibly, this time next year, I’ll be more ambitious and head across the Channel with a map of Languedoc-Rousillon, or swap the timber framed medieval houses of Essex for the half-timbered medieval maisons of Alsace.