It’s been 10 years since I wrote my first blog post on bicycling in France. What an incredible personal journey I’ve had during this time! The people I’ve met, places I’ve visited and adventures shared with my husband over these years have been amazing, enriching my life in many ways. Out of all my experiences during these years, it’s the simple pleasures of traveling by bike that have impacted me the most: a shower at the end of a long day, a cold Orangina with one ice cube on a sweltering day, a plate of oysters from a shack along the route, fresh peaches from a market along the cycle path, sharing stories with those we meet along the way. These are the memories I treasure the most.
I’ve learned that old-fashioned simplicity is a perfect antidote to today’s stressed out world. That’s exactly why I have come to treasure my time experiencing France by bike.
Whether enjoying a picnic lunch on a bench along the way, cycling through a shady forest on a hot summer day or enjoying days with no television or newspaper, simplicity is what I cherish the most about my time bicycling in France. Here are a few of the simplicities of experiencing France by bike that I love the most.
Simple and unpretentious, that’s what I love about each day I spend exploring France by bike. It’s you, your bike and the itinerary you’ve chosen. That’s simplicity. You carry your possessions in panniers, and you are vulnerable to the environment around you. That’s unpretentious.
Add in the adventure of the unknown, and you have a travel experience unlike any other. You are part of your own adventure every day on the bike. From the first pedal stroke in the morning till you reach your destination for the night, each day is a simple exercise of dealing with the obstacles and challenges encountered along the way.
Exchanging endless “Bonjours” with fellow cyclists each day is one of my favorite simple pleasures. Each greeting makes me smile as I attempt to capture the French sing-song manner of expression.
When my travels are over and I head for home, this is one simple thing I miss the most. Inspired by my French experience, I’ve adopted my own morning ritual, always extending a warm good morning to everyone I see. Even if they don’t reciprocate, extending a warm greeting makes me happy and reminds me of special times in France!
I love the peacefulness of cycling in the countryside, listening to the rhythm of my breathing and the cadence of each pedal stroke. I love the smell of bacon cooking and church bells ringing as we pass through small French villages. I’m mesmerized by the deafening melody of the cicadas in Provence in the summertime. Each day on the bike is a giant sensory picnic, just waiting to be enjoyed. I don’t know about you, but I’d never really taken the time to listen to my breathing, or think about my pedal strokes when I was cycling.
Prompted by my experiences in France, I now take more time to stop and smell the roses. I bought bird feeders for my home, and I take great joy in listening to ceaseless chatter of the birds each morning and night. I spend time each day enjoying the peacefulness of the outdoors and less time each day connected to social media or watching TV.
For me, a great day on the bike is determined by simple things like the number of interesting people I meet, finding the perfect cafe for a mid-morning cappuccino, discovering a wonderful local pastry to enjoy for an afternoon snack, making it to my B&B for the night in time to take a shower and enjoy a glass of wine before dinner.
I’ve discovered it’s simple things like this that bring me the most fulfillment. Unfortunately many simple pleasures get lost in the hustle bustle of today’s world. That’s the reason why I now work harder to set aside time to enjoy simple things like having a “date” with my husband each morning to do the New York Times crossword puzzle, play chess with my grandson or take a long walks on the beach at lunch time.
Life is simpler on a bike. You feel years younger as you enjoy seeing the world through a different lens. Interested in giving it a try? It’s as simple as adding a weekend of cycling to an upcoming trip to France. No matter where you’ll be, there are certain to be wonderful cycle paths for you to explore. Here’s a good place to get some ideas: https://en.francevelotourisme.com.
If you have a favorite story on the simplicity of life on a bike, please send it along so I can share it!