I understood the charm of cycling and also saddle sore during my first trip to Bhutan.
A Mumbaikar who had never done any climbs and a casual bike-to-work person was on her MTB managing on those massive climbs. This mountain biking experience made me realize first my potential and second the love for biking.
I then got a foldie and started regularly biking to work. I even did a Rajasthan tour on the bike and boy! I and my bike attracted quite a lot of eyeballs.https://www.idiva.com/news-entertainment/this-mom-cycled-across-rural-rajasthan-and-her-experience-will-give-you-major-travelgoals/15122153?fbclid=IwAR0QhmZFcGOLxjrLTrsHyxhQrpg0dCOVKuLGKkY0dds-4D4KF3e9cU4kUX4
I dreamt to explore Europe on the bike and this dream shaped into reality in August 2018.
How did we/I decide on the tour?
We asked like-minded people for the tour and formed a group. We had discussions over discussions, meetings over meetings, searching the web for the best possible route. The first tour in a foreign land, I had to keep lots of factors into consideration, especially the cost.
This time again I was the only female in the group, and the planning part automatically came to me.
We searched lots of sites for the best route but could not find any. Sapinderji, one of our riding partner suggested riding around Austria and Italy as his close family lived there. I liked the suggestion because I was still unsure about the dynamics of riding in a foreign country. Hence we decided to ride from Innsbruck to Verona with total traveling days from 9th -19th August 2018(kids’ exams were scheduled from 20th August, and anyhow I had to be back then)
Out of all the people discussing only three of us were left for the trip, and they were also unsure. Here I took a stand as I was very clear that even if no one comes, I’ll go ahead for the trip.
It takes hell lot of planning, effort, pleading, managing to move out of the house and somehow for men it gets straightforward.
But then Bansal uncle and SapinderJi agreed, and we were set to go.
Day 1 (09th August 2018)
Take off to Milan
Myself and Bansal uncle boarded the flight from Mumbai to Milan. We took a taxi to Verona which was pre-booked for us by Dimpy Singh (cousin of Sapinder Ji). It took us 2.2 hours to reach Verona.
I had already booked the apartment at Verona, and we directly reached there.
Check the link for the apartment, https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/21501982?s=51
The condo was strategically located, and it was a beautiful place to stay as well.
We finalized the bikes in the evening with Haider (owner at a local bike shop). We chose basic touring bikes where we could arrange our panniers as well.
We skipped the support vehicle to save the cost.
Day 2(11th August 2018)
Drive to Innsbruck
We loaded our bikes in the car and drove to Innsbruck which is approx. 3.4 hours drive from Verona.
Innsbruck(Austria) is Europe’s one of the most beautiful city.
It was cold here at night, and our apartment was very cozy. Our host was wonderful, and we had no problem in either locating or staying in the apartment.
Check the link, https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/19621713?s=51
The morning view was splendid.
Day 3 (12th August 2018)
Innsbruck to Bressanone- 84.2 km
Day one of our ride and we were pretty excited. We got up early, packed our panniers and layered ourselves a little as it was cold. We had an excellent breakfast of freshly brewed coffee and croissants before the ride.
Oh! What a splendid morning it was, crisp sun, slight cold breeze, beautiful mountains, mesmerising scenery. I was already excited for the ride.
As soon as we started the ride, we found ourselves climbing the Brenner pass. We were not aware of the route hence were not expecting any climb. But the treacherous climb refused to end, and we climbed up for 40 km with basic bikes and panniers mounted.
We finally terminated the ride one station before Brixen, loaded our bikes in the train and headed for our halt.
Check our stay, https://www.airbnb.co.in/users/show/174956600
Here we were again hosted by Sapinder ji’s cousin and treated ourselves with rajma chawal and superb scotch.
Brixen is a laid back, quiet and a breathtakingly beautiful city.
Strava 1 <a href="http://”>http://
Strava 2<a href="http://”>http://
Day 4(13th August 2018)
Brixen to Bolzano- 44.44 km
We started at ease in the morning. It was a crisp, beautiful day and after manoeuvring for a while, we found ourselves on an exclusive cycling highway running parallel to the main road meant for other vehicles.
Oh ! what a delight to ride on a narrow lane meant only for cyclists. No rush or worry about any vehicles is honking or speeding. We had an incredible, delightful, hassle free and a fabulous ride. Each one of us was enjoying the route, and at one point we three were riding at our own pace and zooming freely.
The vineyards and apple orchards ran parallel to the highway, and Bansal uncle decided to be a naughty boy to pluck few and keep them in the panniers.
I was on guard and raised the alarm if I saw anyone approaching us. What fun, turning into mischievous little kids !! I was singing, clicking pics, taking videos and couldn’t stop my grin ear to ear.
We went through the local villages soaking into the vibrancies of colors and breathtaking architecture.
Sapinder ji’s young nephew also joined us on this ride, and it was great to learn a few Italian words for him. He also helped ask for directions.
We met many cyclists on the way, and we waved and greeted each other.
Here we had to change our stay option as the young chap with us was tired and our stay was a little far from the city.
But, everything happens for good and the place we decided to stay is beyond any description in words.
It was a wooden cottage owned by a couple who had apple orchards in the backyard and a beautiful extensive spread garden with amazing flowers.
We were served freshly baked bread with homemade butter and jam, fresh apricots from the garden and surely an excellent coffee for breakfast.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland!
Strava <a href="http://”>http://
Day 5(14th August 2018)
Bolzano to Terento(route changed to Verona)-69.96 km
After a sumptuous breakfast, we were back on the cycling highway.
We met a family from London with three kids, and they were on a cycling holiday as well. We also met two friends somewhat over 50 years old and loved the way they were chatting and riding, also stealing apples and keeping them in the bag.
The whole experience of riding on the highway was stress-free. We were not chasing starva ratings, speed or QOM but we were pursuing happiness in riding across this beautiful country.
We stopped more than we cycled.
Each one of us was displaying a very happy hormone in the body language.
There was a particular midway café meant only for cyclists. It had cycle trainers, cycle stands and necessary servicing too.
At this café, our young champ gave up, and then our trip itinerary changed.
We decided to go to Terento and board the train to Verona and drop him home.
At night we were back to Verona where Dimpy ji’s famous restaurant called Maharaja welcomed us with best food and drinks.
Strava <a href="http://”>http://
Day 6(15th August 2018)
Verona to Desenzano- 52.35 kms
We started from Verona to Desenzano aka Lake Garda early morning.
It was also Independence Day of India, so I hanged the Indian flag on my bike and proudly took it wherever I went.
It was a holiday season in Italy at that time, and everyone was in a holiday mood. We lost our way as usual and landed in a roadside café. There was a group of men over 70years I guess sitting and sipping their wine. Laughter, chatting and sparkling wine filled the restaurant at 9 am. Even without knowing the language we talked a lot and finally started our way ahead. We cycled through deserted, decorated and as well as villages full of life and colors. It was sweltering, and the sun was piercing the skin, but every pedal was worth taking. We finally reached Lake, and again this place stunned us with its beauty and charm. Colorful flowers, beautiful streets, all people in the holiday mood and the spectacular lake.oh ! it was stunning.
Our apartment was clean, strategically located and comfortable.
After a quick shower, we headed out for evening walk, followed by dinner and wine. It was a beautiful eve with live bands playing at every nook and corner, children dancing all over, young and the old shaking their booties too.
I heard a band playing “Happy” from Despicable 2. I rushed and requested to sing again because boys and I love singing this song together.
Strava <a href="http://”>http://
Day 7(16th August 2018)
Desenzano to Verona 46.46km
We got up easy the next day, had our coffee at leisure and cycled way back to Verona. We took a different route this time (as if we knew the way back, Ha!) and within no time we were in Verona.
It was scorching hot, and Dimpy Ji hosted us again with best of lemonades and salads.http://www.maharajah1.com/
We quickly took a shower and then walked all over Verona for site-seeing. Right from Gelatos, to wishing at Juliet, sipping wine, visiting an internationally famed pub, we did all until we were dead to retire for the day.
We stayed at the same apartment the next day as well.
Strava <a href="http://”>http://
Day 8 (17th August 2018 )
Our changed itinerary gave us two rest days, and we headed towards Florence to set the leaning tower of Pisa upright.
At Florence, Mr. Jyoti Singh owns a restaurant called Havelihttps://florenceindianrestaurant.it/ which is again a must visit. He served us with the best possible Indian food both veg and non-veg, and his hospitality floored us. After convincing him that we could not eat anymore, we headed for Pisa and also the town. Florence architecture is worth admiring and leaves one in complete awe.
We had a beautiful day roaming and driving around Florence and headed back to Verona by evening.
We packed our bags at night as our trip was now taking a different route.
Day 9(18th August 2018)
We bid adieu to Verona and thanked our host. Myself and Bansal uncle boarded the train to Venice. Yes, we were now heading to the city of Gandolas.
Our Air BnB apartment here was nothing less than an excellent, super clean and beautiful five-star hotel https://cadegliantichigiardini-venezia.com/
With the sun in its full fury, we decided to stay indoors. I soaked myself in the bathtub for the longest possible time and took a great nap.
We headed out to explore the city on foot in the eve.
It is indeed a beautiful city with Gondolas ferrying from one part to another. We walked to almost one corner of the town to another finally had our dinner and came back to our comfortable room.
Day 10(19th August 2018)
It was time to do the final packing as we were heading back home. With most beautiful experiences, memories, routes, food, missing the way, finding a new one, meeting new people, we boarded the flight back to Mumbai.
I had set a budget of maximum 1L for the trip.We tweaked our flight destinations to match our budgets. We also chose Air BnB for our stay with kitchen. Sharing our expense,
|INR 48120||INR 32000||INR 26000|
Some pointers for a smooth yet enriching experience
- Form a group of like minded people- gives a lot of comfort
- Be strict on the budget
- Book tickets in advance and do a comparative analysis as well
- Do an excellent survey for stay options preferably take one with a kitchen; it saves a lot of costs
- Travel light
- Be mobile and carry walking shoes to cover a lot of distance walking
- Be open to immediate change in plans
- When traveling with men, be very clear- they never grow up, ever! (you’ll have to play mommy role time and again)
- Keep all the things sorted back home. Emergency doctor contact, inform friends about your travel, drop a message at school group for the last minute project submission help, maids should not take off. Trust me as long as things run well behind you; you’ll be at peace.