What is better than cycling in London? Leading a ‘cafe life’ in London…

One of the joys of getting around London on a bike is undoubtedly the sheer variety of pubs, shops and not  least cafes that you discover on your way between Hackney and Camden, Brixton and Richmond.  In my case, that has also helped me find some great cafes across town. Places that would have taken long to find as a traveller on tubes and busses … now I came across the handy little book ‘Cafe Life London’ by Jenny Milsom that compiles a good bunch of very nice cafes, hand-picked by the creators of the book.

The book is made into 5 chapters, looking at classic London cafes, hip new wave cafes serving anything from Flat White to Double Piccolos, and traditional tea rooms. Each cafe gets a nice write up of no more than 3 pages including some interesting facts about the owners, the history, the concept of a place. Nothing too shallow, nothing too deep, just the right level of detail that you need to decide on whether you want to visit a place or not. And being a cafe lover, you will want to, more often than not.

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A few days ago I went down to the ‘Notes Music & Cafe’ in Covent Garden. The place gets a nice write up in the book, praising the excellent espresso and the relaxing atmosphere. And indeed, having a muesli breakfast while listening to classic music is a special start to the day. The espresso gets excellent marks indeed. However, only the pricing seemed a bit pompous. My single espresso and muesli (which was a bit on the dry side – 4 spoons of muesli, topped by 2 spoons of Greek Yoghurt) set me back by £6.20. A cafe well worth it, but the food has hefty price tags. Nevertheless, a place worth visiting, just for the coffee and the ambient, especially if one is tired of the ambient noises that some other cafes choose as default background noise.

Next to visit will be ‘Kaffein’ in Fitzrovia … watch this space …

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Book Launch @ Look Mum No Hands / Old Street

 

Cycling in New York

This Thursday, Look Mum No Hands will present the launch of ‘The Enlightened Cyclist’. The event starts at 5.30 pm and will be presented by Brooks England and the publisher Chronicle books.

Please send in your pictures if you go, I will try to come down too and publish some on the blog…

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6 great reasons to attend the Cycling Book Club

1. Author Andrew Sykes will join us and talk about his book ‘Good Vibrations’

2. It keeps you fit (well, getting there and up the stairs…)

3. It’s much more exciting than that TV program (and those tweets, too).

4. It’s free.

5. It could change your life. (seriously, if you are up for it!)

6. The pub is pretty nice too. (Bob Dylan has performed in the upstairs room where we meet.)

Thursday 28th March

8pm

King & Queen pub

Fitzrovia

W1P 7LE.

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Mini Interview with Andrew Sykes / Part 2

Only a few more days until Andrew Sykes joins the book club at the King & Queen’s pub in Fitzrovia (Thursday 29th March – 8pm) to discuss his book ‘Good Vibrations’ … everyone is welcome to join and ask questions. Here we have the second mini interview with Andrew in preparation of the evening … another appetizer, in case you haven’t started on the book yet.

Question: Cycling from Reading to the south of Italy … am I right in assuming that Italy was the prettiest and nicest part of the journey (disregarding the poor street signs)?

Andrew Sykes: It’s difficult to match what Italy has to offer. I think that here in Britain we take a very different approach to our old buildings and countryside very often cordoning them off in what we call a ‘stately home’ or a ‘national park’ and then attempt to keep them as they have always been. There’s nothing wrong with that approach but if you did it in Italy most of country would have to be off limits to visitors. It’s wonderful that Italy lives its history and beauty in a way that other countries can only dream about. That said, while cycling through Italy, I experienced a wonderful top to bottom cross section of the place and that means seeing everything, warts and all; the suburbs of the big cities, the factories and out-of-town retail outlets, the out-of-the-way places that have yet to receive their fat cheque from the European Union to spruce the place up. But one of the beauties of Italy is not just what you can see. It’s also what you feel. The best example for me on my cycle was Siena which is an undeniably beautiful town but where I didn’t manage to see any of the Palio because I was there too early in the morning. What I could do however, was soak up the atmosphere and the life as I pushed Reggie through the packed streets. Each country that I passed through had elements of this so even the more visually-challenging places had their charm!

Question: If you were to repeat your trip this year, is there anything you would do differently this time around? Any luggage you could have done without?

Andrew Sykes: As far as the route goes, I don’t think I could have made many, if any, improvements. There are places that I certainly wanted to pass through as I had never visited them before, the best examples being Luxembourg & Strasbourg and my chosen route across the Alps (the Gotthard Pass which in fairness I chose because it was on the route of the Eurovelo 5) was as spectacular as they get. The path along the Rhine towards Switzerland was wonderfully easy to cycle and allowed for a few days of non-strenuous activity before the challenges of Switzerland kicked in and then the route along the west coast of Italy offered far more interesting diversions than would have been afforded by the east coast along the Adriatic.
As for the luggage, well, for anyone who has read the book, you will know that I left a small amount of camping equipment behind in the hotel room in Luxembourg (I had come to an early conclusion that when faced with the choice of either boiling up some water and making my own morning coffee or sitting in a café and have someone do it for me, it was always going to be the latter that I chose), but apart from that, it wasn’t so much a case of what I wouldn’t have taken as much as what I should have taken! Other than the night after the Eguisheim wine festival where for some strange reason I slept like a baby in its cradle, most nights in the tent were restless to say the least. My camping mat was one of those ultra thin jobs but for ‘ultra-thin’ I should have realised that it would actually mean ‘ultra uncomfortable’ and I regretted not having invested in something a bit thicker. My tent was also as small as I could possibly buy and I did wonder, especially after having seen what other touring cyclists were using whether I would have been better opting for a more roomy model especially in light of the fact that I spent quite a few hours cowering from the rain in my little green home! And spokes; I should have taken some spares. I’ll leave you to read the book to find out why.

Question: Anne Mustoe, author of several cycle travel books, famously quit her job as head teacher in Southwold at the age of 55 in order to cycle around the world. Something that may occur to you as well?

Andrew Sykes: Absolutely! Anne Mustoe did it when she was 55 and wrote some seven books so if I retire tomorrow, well… I think I may have to stick to the teaching for a few more years before I’m in a position to do what she did but why not? It would be a great adventure to just set off in one direction around the globe and keep going until you arrived back where you started. Recent years have seen an increase in the number of people who aspire to do a complete round-the-world cycle but the emphasis does seem to be on speed. If I were ever to attempt such a thing, my route would be a bit more wiggly and my time in the saddle significantly longer than the racers who are able to do it in well under 200 days. There are so many stories out there waiting to be told; there is definitely room on the bookshelves for Good Vibrations: Around The World on a Bike Called Reggie! Would anyone like to pay me to write it?

Thanks Andrew!

Andrew Sykes will attend the London Cycling Book Club on the 29th March 2012 at the King & Queen’s pub in Fitzrovia. Come down to meet the author at 8pm. (I am sure we’ll be able to have our copies signed, too!)

 

 

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What are you reading these days ….?

We are counting the days to the next book club meeting: 18 from today, until Andrew Sykes will join at the King & Queen pub in Fitzrovia to discusss his book ‘Good Vibrations – Crossing Europe on a bike called Reggie. If you haven’t read it yet, now is still time to buy the book and get reading … before then, we will also publish another mini interview with Andrew Sykes – if you have a question for Andrew, submit it below.
If you are reading something else interesting at the moment, do also leave a note, and we may pick the next title to read very soon.

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Meeting on Thursday, 29th March at the “King And Queen” in Fitzrovia

The next meeting is now confirmed for Thursday the 29th March at the “King and Queen” pub in Fitzrovia. Read Andrew Sykes’ book “Good Vibrations – Cycling through Europe on a bike called Reggie” now and meet the author at the meeting, too. I am sure we’ll have a great night where we hear more fun and interesting things from Andrew about his trip.

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Mini Interview with Andrew Sykes, author of ‘Good Vibrations’

Andrew Sykes, Reading based author of ‘Good Vibrations – Crossing Europe on a bike called Reggie‘ has answered some questions for us in an exclusive mini interview. If you haven’t got the book yet, now is the time to get it on Amazon and start reading. It’s a perfect pre-summer read that definitely makes me want to get on the bike and launch into an adventurous ride…

Question: I have just started reading Good Vibrations, and I like the fact it really makes me want to cycle the same way down to Italy. Have you heard from people who you inspired, who maybe already followed in your footsteps?

Andrew: Yes, all the time! It’s one of the nicest things to get emails from people from all over the world who have either found details of my cycle from the UK to southern Italy on my website CyclingEurope.org or have read the book Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie and are interested in finding out more. Sometimes if they have specific questions about specific things, I can furnish them with a bit more detail but by far the most asked question is along the lines of ‘where can I find a map?’ and I have to break the bad news that, as far as I know, one doesn’t exist. When I cycled the ‘route’ I had to fill in the lines between the towns and cities mentioned in the official European Cyclists’ Federation description of the Eurovelo 5. I do sometimes wonder if I have inadvertently created a quasi-official route which was never my intention. One reader who goes by the curious name of ‘Thunderthighs’ has actually recreated my route from the references in Good Vibrations for Bikely.com the cycling route website. I take my hat off to him or her as they have done me a great service by doing so. That said, my advice to others is what I liked so much about my own trip; make it up for yourself!

 

Question: You have given your bike the name Reggie, and you talk of it a bit like of a person… so, how is Reggie these days?

Andrew: He is very well and continues his day job of helping me commute the round trip of fifteen or so miles daily from my home in Reading to the school where teach in Henley-on-Thames. The children at the school do find it very bizarre that I gave the bike a name but it was done with good reason; by naming him Reggie, I was able, to some extent, to impose human characteristics upon what would otherwise have to be referred to repeatedly as ‘the bike’ or the ‘Panorama’ etc… The ways in which we can describe a human being are a bit more varied than those we usually use for describing a bike. His appearance in the title of the book came much later after the book had been written; he was the star of the whole show so it was only natural that he should have his share of the limelight. One reviewer of the book on Amazon took exception to the ‘constant references to Reggie’ but if you buy a book with the name of the bike in the title, you should really have worked he might get a mention from time to time before reading the first page, no?

Question: Before we talk more about ‘Good Vibrations’ – are there trips planned for 2012? Have you become a serial adventurer?

Andrew: No trips planned for 2012. In 2009, as I detail in the prologue of Good Vibrations, I did experiment with long-distance cycling by taking my then bike (not Reggie) to Berwick-upon-Tweed and cycling down to Derby so I didn’t start the European cycle as a complete novice. I was quite scared that I would get as far as Dover and decide that touring wasn’t for me and head back home so the northern England trip gave me a bit of reassurance that that wouldn’t happen. My next trip is penned in for 2013 when I would like to cycle the Eurovelo 8 from Athens to Cadiz in Spain. It was chosen for no better reason than the hope that the weather will be a bit better than it was in summer 2010. I never intended writing a book about cycling to Italy along the Eurovelo 5 so I’m looking forward to cycling a long-distance route and have in mind the book that I will write after it is finished. That, I think, will add an extra dimension to the whole experience. Summer 2012 will hopefully see me busy being a ‘Games Maker’ for the London Olympics.

Thanks to Andrew for answering these questions for us. Andrew will also attend our book   club meeting early March at the ‘King and Queen’ pub in Fitzrovia. I will confirm the exact date as soon as I can, hopefully this week.

Feel free to submit more questions to Andrew, I hope we can follow up with another mini interview…

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