Some people build their lives around their love of physical activity. They spend their mornings running through the park and their weekends hiking through scenic mountains. Others try their best to avoid physical activity all together! But a leisurely bike ride through the river-lined paths of Richmond on a vintage style bike? Now that’s something everyone can get behind.
I had the opportunity to partake in a vintage bike tour to Hampton Court Palace with Mind the Gap Tours. I hadn’t done a bike tour before, nor had I ridden a bike in a good few years. I was a little nervous about my ability to keep up.
I met my group of six and our guide, Mind the Gap owner John, under the big clock at Waterloo Station. We boarded a quick train to Richmond where we picked up our bikes and were on our way. I’m happy to say that my biking experience all came back to me, and the tour is run at a pace suitable for all athletic abilities.
We stopped at Petersham Nursery, took a look at the exterior of Ham House, and paused at many smaller stops in between. John had a world of knowledge to share about the history along the route we took to Hampton Court.
I was surprised to learn that the company was only just over a year old and piloted mainly by John himself. This may very well be what brings the charm to the experience. The day felt like a cycle with friends rather than a big commercial outing. When I mentioned being originally from Vancouver, I was taken to an extra location while the rest of the group relaxed at Petersham Nursery. It was “a mini pilgrimage” that should be done by all Vancouverites, John said. It turned out to be the resting place of Captain George Vancouver. Who would have thought?
This trip wasn’t without some excitement and, of course, it just had to be caused by me. I had the hang of the biking thing, I was going along at a good pace, and suddenly, somewhere in Kingston, it became difficult to pedal. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had a flat tire. My luck! I’d ruined the bike and my personal mode of transportation!
What followed was a sight to behold. Out of his backpack, John pulled all the necessary tools to build me a new tire. We watched him inflate the inner tube, shape everything back to look like a tire, shuffle around with the chain, and get covered in grease! Simultaneously, he was keeping us entertained with tidbits of local information, and asking us trivia questions about London.
Part of the cost of this outing includes your entry into your palace of choice, my trip was to Hampton Court. We arrived from the river side, the gorgeous side, and were given a bit of background information before we dropped off our bikes. It was there that we were on our own, with our audio guides, to tour the Palace for as long as we liked.
A day off should feel like a day off, and this was a very laid back, enjoyable experience. I hope their list of tour options continues to grow because this setup is the way a tour should run.
Try one out for yourself! Mind the Gap tours have very kindly offered a discount for Union Jack readers! Visit their website to sign up for your tour of choice, and enter coupon code JACK25 to receive 25% off. http://www.mindthegaptours.com.
Written for Union Jack News.