Life is hard in Europe, but on a bike you can feel good. From time to time I run a cycle-related Tour de France check-in – something where you’ll be doing a tune-up for your bikes, generally, just like that guy in “The Hangover.”
Now, I realize this isn’t a good time to get on the airways and say anyone needs to run their bikes better than he or she does…that never gets old.
Instead, I want to give you a digest of my thoughts on some of the most beautiful European places – for such reasons, your eyes (and those of your friends) will melt every time you see them. I’m not sure I agree with much of what I say, and none of the cities will be doing too well in next year’s Tour, but the scenery is so spectacular that there’s a good chance you’ll see yourself thinking the same thing I do.
Euphoria is a capital city on the Cyclades, Greek Islands, one of the few places in Europe with life so important you may want to zip around by bike. Water taxis and most of the main roads are only a half-mile, making it easy to get from one place to another, and it has a beautiful, carefree climate and very few heat problems. (Another plus: the Hellenic Olympic Committee sponsored a speedster race between team Greece and team Italy in the summer of 2009, which looked more like chess compared to some of the speed racing I’ve seen in Italy.) The town feels so welcoming, and you’ll be walking into holiday shops and cafes – all with great views.
Madeira is at the end of a long island chain, but it’s actually quite a big place, and all of it has stunning views, no matter where you are. On a clear day, you’ll see just about the whole of the Atlantic Ocean to the west, which is a thing that stops other travelers in their tracks. All of the people on the islands are friendly, and the public transportation makes the island easy to get around, so you can visit any part of the island in a day if you so choose. Some spots here are more pleasant than others, but that really isn’t the point: the view is. The beaches are short and sweet and extremely attractive, and since anyone who wants to go cycling on Madeira has to figure out how to traverse a kayak-shaped island where it’s always one way, this one will challenge your patience.
Les Mille Collines: Chateau de Southebec, France
I highly recommend a stay in Les Mille Collines, a village in the Chateau de Southebec in the Southern Rhone Valley of France. The houses are striking: they’re all stone, but are equally styled (you know, like a Renaissance chapel), and these houses are situated very close to each other, creating a beautiful urban landscape that’s not filled with cars. The place is run by monks, who sometimes host yoga and art classes and you can eat in the restaurants or tour some of the archeological ruins and monasteries. I recommend staying at the L’Esprit, a modern hotel with just four rooms. If you want to do a little sampling of French culture, there are tons of museums nearby.