Monday, 22 June 2009

Bike fantasies. . .

This recent post on Nonsuch Book's blog made me giggle, because it's so true! It's all about the fantasy that she, and I, and many of us have, about riding the perfect bike through a European town to buy our baguettes and cheese, our skirts blowing in the wind. This is the bike she is in love with:

I find it very attractive as well and would be tempted by it, if I didn't live in a tiny apartment with no storage locker. But when I was craving a bike again this spring (I haven't had one for about six years due to said apartment), I started investigating folding bikes and ended up buying this nifty little Dahon 7 speed number two months ago. I LOVE IT! It is super fast to fold up, rides very smooth, and goes much faster than I thought, given its small wheels. I have a 22km commute to work with a stretch that has some big hills and no dedicated bike lanes (the Europeans are so far ahead of us on bike-friendly city planning), but I fold up the bike and hop on the bus for that portion. The rest (about 14km) I can do via bike paths. I've christened him Charles Ryder after the character from Brideshead Revisited (another fantasy - bumping into Jeremy Irons riding a bicycle around Oxford). And best of all, this is what it looks like folded up:

The only drawback is its weight - about 26 pounds. Not a huge problem, but if I'm loaded down with a backpack with my laptop and - ahem - books, it feels very heavy. Still, I'm so delighted with it. If I'd had a bigger budget, I would totally have gone for their oh-so-European-looking Ciao model though! Isn't this a beauty?

And I just need to rant for a moment about the idiotic policies of VIA Rail. Last month, I had to work 12 days in Ottawa, which has such wonderful bike paths all along its canal. It's an extemely bike-friendly city. So I was looking forward to bringing my bike along - but wouldn't you know it, VIA doesn't put a baggage car on its Toronto-Ottawa route and so you can't take bikes on the train. Never mind that it's our bloody nation's capital, has several universities, and its bike paths are a major tourist attraction! I can't tell you how frustrated I was with them, and how sad I was to have to leave the bike at home.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

On visiting James Joyce, sort of. . .

Back to blogging after a period of intense busyness - work, work, work - but then thankfully followed by a lovely and restful vacation. This photo (one day late for Bloomsday, I know) of James Joyce's grave will give you some idea of where I've been. Yes, I spent nearly two weeks in Switzerland including a few days in the lovely city of Zurich, where one of my first excursions was to hike up a very steep hill (is nothing about Joyce easy??) to visit the cemetary where he, his wife and children are buried. He lies next to another writer - Nobel prize winner Elias Canetti. Is it strange or disrespectful to take photos of graves? Does anyone else do this? I've made several pilgrimages to many authors' final resting places - the Brontes, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, to name a few - and I usually snap away but always with a teensy bit of guilt and a little sense of the ghoulish.