Boris Biking–London

While Lisa attended the Google Teacher Academy in London, Mary explored the city using bike share, also known as “Barclay’s Bike Hire” for the sponsor and “Boris Bikes” after Mayor Boris Johnson who introduced the program.

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Festive seat covers on some Boris Bikes.

After saying goodbye to Lisa at Google UK Headquarters, Mary used the handy London Transport map to find a bike docking station near Victoria Station. Hosts Meg and Judy provided them with bike keys–similar to a thumb drive. Mary inserted bike key to release her heavy blue bike, put on her helmet, adjusted the seat and she was off.

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Bike docking station near Victoria Station.

Ride on the left, ride on the left was her mantra.

Destination: Marleybone Street

Inadvertent Detour: Hyde Park Corner Traffic Circle and the Wellington Arch

Mary thought she was at one corner of Hyde Park, instead, she was at THE Hyde Park Corner where about 87 major roads converge. She merrily joined the other high visibility cycling warriors into the flow of vehicle traffic. Then she realized that 1) her bike was infinitely slower than commuter cyclists 2) she couldn’t see any street signs 3) she could not jump up on the curb for safety due to thick shrubbery because the Brits do love their hedgerows.

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Hyde Park Corner: the commuter cyclist Mary should not have followed.

She bailed out on a sidewalk, and walked her bike back toward the arch, the actual Hyde Park, and the original bad decision point. It drizzled in the English way and she saw a docking station, so she parked the bike so as not to run over the 30 minutes of free time. Mary took shelter under the partial roof of a newish WWII monument honoring British bombardiers and fighter pilots and the thousands of citizens who died during German bombing raids.  A dreary memorial on a dreary morning.

After waiting for some time for her old bike to “clear”, she took out another bike and headed in the right direction, on the lovely park road, to the Marleybone neighborhood. She parked and feeling slightly peckish, enjoyed a coffee and croissant. Mary was assaulted by the English language chatter of nearby café patrons. She wasn’t used to understanding every word of everyone’s conversations.

Sated, she explored Daunt bookstore with its amazing travel section, and Oxfam bookstore with amazing deals on used books.

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Daunt bookstore, Edwardian and all that.

She continued her stroll around Marleybone and came across a ribbon shop that would make a custom or “bespoke” head dress if you brought in your holiday gown. Not having a holiday gown handy, Mary went back to the bike docking station.

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Marleybone ribbon store window and potential headgear.

Mary asked for directions to Regents Park, and received them, but didn’t listen carefully (a burden rather than its usual blessing). So there was Madame Tussaud’s wax museum from which she immediately fled, but she was on Marleybone Road, rather busy and unfriendly for Boris Bikes, so she retreated to the sidewalk and studied her map. She found Baker Street and eventually found Regents Park. On the path near the pond, she saw ducks and a beautiful heron.

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Heron of Regents Park

Mary left her bike by the tennis courts and strolled toward Queen Mary’s Gardens.

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Tennis court bike docking station.

As it was no longer raining, she enjoyed her stroll through the gardens, the autumnal colors, and last blooms of roses.

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After a bucolic interlude, she and her Boris Bike hit the streets again toward Hyde Park and the Serpentine.

Another incorrect decision dumped Mary and her bike onto Oxford Street–home of many stores, and many shoppers in vehicles and on the sidewalks. No place for a bike of any kind. But a good place for festive photos.

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“Destination Christmas” at Selfridges, London’s first department store by way of Chicago businessman. Double-decker bus proves it’s London.

She soon found proper path back to Hyde Park, and after riding by a Christmas carnival complete with ferris wheel, she parked and ambled across the grass. The sun shone for at least 15 minutes and she regretted not having sunglasses.

Although slightly sunny, it was chilly so Mary popped inside the Serpentine Gallery for warmth and art. But war-related art killed her buzz so she went back to the bikes. She rode a short way through the park to Exhibition Road, home of assorted science and natural history museums.

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Bikes on the ceiling of Science Museum.

After a delicious scone in the V&A Museum cafe, she used Meg’s map of streets and secret walkways to ride another Boris bike to her home away from home on Lexham Gardens.

The following day, Mary eschewed shops for more Boris Bike riding in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. She had time for photos of horses and sculptures and monuments:

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Royal Albert Hall, current show is masters men’s tennis tournament.

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Albert Memorial across the street from Royal Albert Hall.

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Modern art in front of modern apartment buildings on Kensington Road.

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Horse and carriage near older apartment building on Kensington Road.

© 2013 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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