Saturday, May 10, 2014

Some thoughts on the bike and barge experience

I must admit I was nervous about cycling the distances on the bike and barge trip.  Probably the furthest I'd ever biked before this was about 12 miles out from East Point on Saturna Island a few years ago and my butt was pretty sore after that.  We tried to get on the bikes every day before we left Victoria to get in shape, and we managed to do pretty well but the distances were not great--only four or five miles.  So the first morning when we set out to cycle 30 km, a supposedly easy trip, we were pretty nervous. As it turned out 30 km was doable so long as we stopped for refreshment and rest en route.

Here is Hein, our guide, on the first day with a special almond tart we bought from a bakery. It was delicious, washed down with Prosecco that the bar had on tap.

Harry chose to stay on the boat one day and walk around Mantua another day, but I managed to cycle every day and pretty well keep up with the pack. Even though I wore biking underwear it left me with a sore butt by the end of every day.  However by the next morning I was ready to start again.

It was nice to have a guide to tell us about some of the places we cycled by.  And Hein, being a Dutchman, was quite a character.  We had a lot of fun and jokes and it made the kilometres pass more quickly.

We were incredibly lucky that our group was very small so we got to really connect with the other cyclists and with the staff.  Aside from the wonderful opportunity to make friends with the staff and the other cyclists, the high point was actually completing the ride. We saw some beautiful countryside including many fields of blooming poppies.

Everyone was very encouraging and it helped a lot each day around km 25 or 35 to know they were rooting for me to finish. And I was honoured to receive an achievement award from my fellow bicycle buddies at our last dinner for making it through the week.  Now I just have to have the discipline to keep the riding habit up once we return to Victoria.

The boat part of the trip was also very fun.  A highlight was sitting on the top deck as the boat glided downriver and into Mantua.

Another benefit of the week was the chance to tour special places with professional guides.  Yesterday we spent some time in the old part ofMantua and learned about the architecture. 

After the tour we learned about Aperol Spritzes from our Aussie friends, Gill and Catherine. This is something I'd never seen until this trip. It's a drink made with Aperol (a herbal mix that's bright orange) and Prosecco and soda.

Very pleasant too, and something that we'll be having through our Victoria summers to come--that is, if we can find the liqueur at home.

Last night's dinner was different because we had it on the open upper deck and all the staff joined us, including Giuliano (on the right). He is an amazing and self-deprecating cook, actually a chef who ran a restaurant in Vicenza and is going to create a "bike and barge" cookbook with his incredible recipes.  I will be sure to get a copy as soon as it's out. In fact I'm hoping to be able to help him with editing it for a North American audience.

I really enjoyed this trip; it's something we've never done before and we have to thank Liz and Ritchie for encouraging us to join them.

This morning we said teary goodbyes to all our friends, both the riders and the staff, and headed off by train to Verona (site of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette) and then to Padua. Tomorrow I'll show you some photos of these special cities. I must admit that I'm happy not to be cycling tomorrow!


  1. Breathtaking and beautiful shots, Joanna!

  2. The Bridge photo is fabulous.
    I have so enjoyed "riding" along with you on photo tour.
    Great job on sticking to the the bike riding. If I did that I would have to have a little motor on my bike !

    cheers, parsnip

    1. I forgot...
      Prosecco on tap just made me giggle.

    2. Thanks Parsnip. I think Prosecco on tap is a fabulous idea -- if you're on holiday that is.


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