London is one of my favorite cities to visit, with my most recent trip being early September 2011. On this solo trip, I decided to take the vintage cycling tour to Hampton Court with Mind The Gap Tours.
From the moment I met up with John, my guide, at Waterloo, the service, generosity and professionalism that he provided until the end of the tour was first class all the way....and despite being the only person booked to tour that day, he went above and beyond to ensure that my experience was truly excellent.
A short train ride from Waterloo brought us to the bike pick-up point, and I must say that these bikes are amazingly comfortable to ride. In fact, I wish I could have taken my bike home with me!
All the bikes are new, vintage design bikes in super condition....light, single speed with brakes on the handles. With a flip of a lever, the comfy, springy, seats are easily adjusted to your own riding height.
Young or old.....weekend warrior or serious cyclist, these bikes are super fun and extremely easy to ride. The pièce de résistance, of course, is the optional wicker basket which is super handy for a quick reach to your camera, purse, or a bottle of water. Oh, and I can't forget the bell!!
Throughout the entire tour, I felt that John ensured that my safety and comfort was paramount. Extremely cool looking Union Jack biking helmets are available and offered to you prior to setting out on your journey, should you so choose.
The ride along the Thames en route to Hampton Court was incredibly picturesque. Everything you ever imagined the English countryside to be.....this is....and more. The architecture, lush green landscapes, cattle grazing on rolling hills, huge Willows and ivy winding its way to everywhere. Layers upon layers of quintessential English beauty.
We had many historical stops along the way allowing plenty of time to take great photos. At each stop John would describe the provenance. John is a wealth of knowledge and has a genuine passion for the history of his country.
And...on the lighter side, I loved the quirky Monty Python "fish slapping dance" snippet offered up on John's ipad at the identical spot on the Thames where the snippet was filmed. Very innovative and fun! And....on my next trip to London, I will definitely search out the recommended "Maid of Honor Cake."
Being from Vancouver, BC, Canada, one of the highlights of the tour for me was a stop we made in the small cemetery of St. Peters in Petersham to see where Captain George Vancouver was buried. I had no idea that I would be seeing this on the trip and the stop had a real "wow" factor for me.
I also loved the pub stop along the river where I enjoyed Ginger Beer and a divine drink infused with dandelions and herbs. If you love sweet things....then you don't want to miss out on this incredible dandelion drink. Once you try it, I guarantee you will want it again.
Arriving in Hampton Court, there was plenty of time prior to entering the Court for an outdoor lunch at an old pub where the food was quite excellent and the service friendly, with a smile. Lunch really hit the spot after riding there.
After lunch, I entered Hampton Court and was able to view the site at my own pace. Hampton Court and its grounds are spectacular. The beauty of the tapestries and intricacies of the chimneys are mind blowing.
I arrived back in central London in late afternoon with the feeling that I had a truly great day out. Kudos to you, John, for creating a wonderful touring experience for people from all over the world to come together to enjoy.
If you go to London, don't miss out on this tour....it is an absolute gem.... food for your soul and, without a doubt, shines bright!
Cheers from Vancouver, BC
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