Two-Wheeled Tourism: 10 Cities to Visit If You Love Bikes

Anna Brones

Why spend your summer vacation on subways and buses when you could be out exploring places on two wheels?

Thanks to an explosion in bike-share systems and a general appreciation for bike culture, making cycling a central part of your travels is becoming easier and easier. You don’t have to throw down, pack your bicycle and head off on a full cycle tour to get the pleasure of seeing a place on two wheels; there are plenty of cities around the world that are bike-friendly and perfect for anyone who enjoys the thrills of riding in a new place.

Here are the ten best places to explore by bike.1. Amsterdam
There’s no denying that if you’re a bike lover, Amsterdam should be at the top of your list. Here people are practically born on bicycles, and if you want to experience the city like a real local, there’s no better way. Start off in the Jordaan district, rent a bike at the friendly Bike City and get ready to master the dance that is cycling in the Netherlands.

2. Copenhagen
Bike riding in Scandinavia is truly part of the local lifestyle, and nowhere is this more true than the Danish capital of Denmark. This is the birthplace of Cycle Chic after all. There are over 390 kilometers of designated bike lanes and over 50 percent of locals commute by bike on a regular basis. The Copenhagen tourism office has a round up of top bike rental places to make fitting in easier than ever. Just remember to wear your finest — Scandinavians look good on their wheels.

3. Portland, Oregon
Beer, baristas and bikes; it’s the Portland trifecta. You can get all three at Velocult, the city’s hub for bike related events and general fun. If you’re downtown you should be sure to hit up the Courrier Coffee Bar, opened by one of the city’s favorite pedal-delivered craft roasting companies. Add Trailhead to the list as well, another bike-powered artisan roaster. And when you’ve had enough pedal-powered caffeine for the day, take your bike, roll over to the bike-centric bar Apex and drink one of their 50 beers on tap.

4. Paris
Ok, so Paris might not be the first place that comes to mind on the list of bike-friendly places – you do have to do a lot of scooter and pedestrian dodging – but thanks to the successful Velib bike-share system, cycling is a big part of Parisian culture. The key in Paris is to identify that bike paths; you’ll find separated lanes around the city that make two-wheeled Paris a true delight.

5. San Francisco
Don’t let the hills scare you off. Through the late spring and early fall you can take advantage of Sunday Streets, a collection of events that closes off streets to cars in different neighborhoods around the city, and in Golden Gate Park there are car-free Sundays and Saturdays. For a longer adventure, make your way to Marin County.

6. Berlin
Berlin is in the top 10 of bike blog Copenhagenize’s bicycle-friendly cities and with good reason. Around 13% of the population ride their bike on a daily basis, and in some neighborhoods it’s as high as 25%. There’s the 1st Bicycle Gallery which is all about showcasing gorgeous bicycles . There’s an online route planner you can use to facilitate your ride, and if you want a different look at one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, cycle the Berlin Wall Trail, tracing the former wall.

7. Rio de Janeiro
A bike-share and over 250 kilometers of bike trails make a normally congested city ideal for the cycle crowd. A large part of the bike push has come for preparing for the Olympics in 2016, and above and beyond the Bike Rio bike-share system, there are plenty of bike rental options around town.

8. Barcelona
Beach and bikes; it’s no surprise that Barcelona is popular with budget-savvy travelers looking for a little warm weather and outdoor strolls. There are over 100 stations for the city’s Bicing program, and a variety of rental and tour options. Top that ride off with some tapas and you have the perfect day.

9. Montreal
Montreal is the place to be if you’re a cycle lover. There are trails, separated lanes and designated biking streets, easily navigable on PedalMontreal. The city is also the gateway to Quebec’s Route Verte, boasting over 5,000 kilometers of bikeways all over the region along with bike-friendly accomodations. You may need a few weeks.

10. Bogotá
Bogotá’s CicloRuta s one of the most extensive in the world. Given that a very small percentage of the local population has access to cars, bicycles make economic sense. If your destination is too far to ride to, the network of bike lanes connects well with the local transportation system, complete with bike parking at several designated stops. As the city’s ex mayor Enrique Peñalosa said, “I think the future of the world has to do with bicycles.”

British Cyclist Chris Froome Wins 2013 Tour De France

Tour de France winner Chris Froome
Courtesy Sky Sports

The 100th edition of the Tour de France will come to a dramatic end today when the riders arrive in Paris at last. For the past three weeks the best cyclists in the world have been battling it out on the roads of France for the right to wear the famed maillot jaune – better known as the “yellow jersey” – that designates the current leader of the race. As the peloton turns toward the finish line later today it will be Chris Froome, captain of the Sky Procycling team, who will be in yellow, and since the final stage of the race is uncontested, he’ll head for home knowing that he is already the winner.

Froome, who was born in Kenya but carries a British passport, took control of the race early on with a stunning ride in the early mountain stages of the Pyrenees. His impressive climbing skills left all other contenders in the dust, including former champs Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. Later he was able to widen his lead by dominating two individual time trials and although he looked a bit more vulnerable in the Alps, he still managed to gain time on his closest rivals.

While today’s ride is technically the final stage, there is an unwritten rule in the peloton that you don’t attack the yellow jersey on the ride to Paris. With more than a five-minute advantage on the next closest rider, it would be impossible for a competitor to actually make up that much ground anyway. Instead, Froome will enjoy a leisurely ride into Paris where the sprinters will take center stage on the Champs Élysées. That will prove to be a fast and furious scene that the race winner is generally happy to stay well clear of.

Since this was the 100th anniversary of the Tour, the organizers of the event went out of their way to make things special. In the opening days, the race visited the island of Corsica for the first time ever. Later, they punished the riders with some of the toughest stages that have ever been a part of the race, including a double ascent of the famed mountain stage of Alpe d’Huez, on the same day no less. Today may be the best day of all, however, as the riders will embark late in the afternoon from the gardens at Versailles and will arrive in Paris as the sun is going down. They’ll then pedal through the courtyard at the Louvre before making their way to the Champs Élysées, where they’ll race around the Arc de Triomphe for the first time. It should make for a very memorable finish that will leave fans of the race counting the days until its return next year.

8 Hotels Where Famous People Have Died

Michael Francis McCarthy, Flickr

Thirty-one-year-old heartthrob Cory Monteith of “Glee” was found dead at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, Canada over the weekend. Sadly, this isn’t the first time a celebrity spent his or her final hours in a hotel. Here’s a look at some other hotels made famous by celebrity deaths.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida
Anna Nicole Smith was found dead at the age of 39 in room 607. Coroners ruled her death resulted from “combined drug intoxication,” but no illegal drugs were found in her system.

Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, California
John Belushi was found dead at the age of 33 in Bungalow 3 of this Sunset Boulevard hotel, shortly after being visited separately by friends Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. The comedian, actor and musician’s death was ruled a drug overdose.

Stamford Plaza Hotel in Sydney, Hotel
INXS singer Michael Hutchence was 37 when he was found dead in room 524 of this Australian hotel, which was then a Ritz-Carlton. Despite the fact that a coroner ruled his death a suicide by erotic asphyxiation, fans and relatives consider his death accidental.

Hotel Chelsea in New York, New York
Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of the Sex Pistols’ front man Sid Vicious, was found stabbed to death under the sink in the bathroom of the couple’s hotel room at Hotel Chelsea. Four months after her death, Vicious, who was out on bail, was found dead of an overdose.

Ritz Hôtel in Paris, France
Style icon Coco Chanel died peacefully in her sleep at this Paris hotel at the age of 87. Chanel is credited with inventing the “little black dress,” as well as Chanel No. 5 perfume, the most famous fragrance ever made.

Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California
Singer Whitney Houston was found submerged in a bathtub at the age of 48 in Suite 434. Her death was ruled an accident due to “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.”

Highland Gardens Hotel in Los Angeles, California
After failing to show up to a recording session, musician Janis Joplin was found dead at age 27 in room 105 of this property, which at the time was called the Landmark Hotel. Her death was ruled a heroin overdose.

Swissôtel Nai Lert Park Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand
In 2009, David Carradine — a martial artist and actor most known for his role as Bill in “Kill Bill” — was found strangled to death in the closet in this luxury hotel. Carradine, who was making a film in Bangkok, was found with a rope around his neck and another around his genitals. It’s believed his death was an accident.

David’s Discoveries: The Beetle-Loving Calligrapher Of Paris

David Downie, AOL

For the last 26 years, calligrapher extraordinaire Eric de Tugny has lured the curious into his magical bolt-hole of a stationer’s shop in Paris, on the Rue du Pont Louis Philippe.
Long down at the heel, part of the crumbling old Jewish district, this short, straight road is on the western edge of the Marais. Most of the traditional businesses have gone elsewhere, though the nearby Shoah Memorial remains the neighborhood’s soulful anchor. Now a chic shopping enclave, indigenous bobos and visitors crowd the sidewalks to gaze at the handmade papers in the accessory-filled boutiques, do the photo gallery and tea salon, and open their wallets wide in the chocolate or specialty food shops that stand cheek-by-jowl between the Seine and Rue Francois Miron.

The shop’s name – “Mélodies Graphiques,” meaning “Graphic Melodies” – gives nothing away. What might it really mean?

The melody of beautiful writing, or the graphic quality of music? Inside, Bach or baroque chamber music plays softly on the sound system. The only other sound is that of Tugny quietly penning sinuous lines of his inimitable script letters – creating invitations and announcements, or love notes, wedding menus and anything else clients can imagine where the beauty of the penmanship and the composition are essential to the message. Perched behind his working surface – it doubles as the cash desk – Tugny merges village scribe and New Age seer.

He has far too much work for one calligrapher to do. Fan mail from friends and clients in Helsinki, San Francisco, Casablanca and London is pinned to the wall behind.


But there’s more to the shop than first meets the eye. All may seem proper and normal: pens, pencils, wrapping paper, agendas, book plates, cards and suchlike are carefully displayed, with an artistic yet orderly sensibility. Look closer and you might recoil. Real, preserved bugs adorn the shop windows, or perch near the cash register. The book of bugs, a richly illustrated volume with Tugny’s illustrations, is displayed nearby.

What makes the middle-aged Tugny so extraordinary is not merely his talent with quill pen, ink and rag paper. Insiders know the impish Frenchman as the City of Light’s most bug-wild, beetle-mad collector, an intrepid hunter, preserver and illustrator of creepy crawlies, coleopteran many-legged, horned, fanged, stinging, biting, dangerous, deadly, gorgeously weird-looking insects from around the globe.

If you’re lucky you might step in as he’s drawing a scorpion he caught, most likely in the Cote d’Ivoire, and brought home triumphantly, pickled and floating in a mason jar.

Ask the affable Tugny what he has in the old-fashioned folders propped up on wooden crutches at the front of the shop and you will be treated to beetle mania. Green bugs with antennae that would put Big Ears to shame, locust-like monsters with translucent wings, giant yellow beetles with chocolate-brown bottoms seemingly dipped in chocolate – dozens and dozens of exquisite drawings done by Tugny. Each is a labor of love requiring, on average, 60 hours of work with loupe, caliper and the ink-filled tools of his trade.

Born in Morocco to French parents, brought up and educated in Lyon, Tugny’s first profession was biologist, with a specialty in entomology. His expertise: the coleopteran of North Africa. In the last 30 years he has captured – or been sent – every known species, and has immortalized each with the precision of an Audubon. Astonishingly, the modest, soft-spoken Tugny is self-taught, his hand and mind driven solely by passion.

“It all started 15 years ago,” he told me recently, one rainy Paris day as spring turned to summer, his mirth contagious, “with an invitation to a bar mitzvah.”

A local Marais resident came to buy paper supplies, admired his handwriting – the store hours are in calligraphy – and asked him to write out names and addresses for a celebration. Soon the Jewish community was beating a path to him for personalized invitations: bar mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, special events, art exhibitions and more. Word spread. Now photographers, authors, movie directors, fashion designers and wealthy new neighborhood denizens beeline to Tugny’s shop. He is in such demand that, with evident regret, he refuses clients who don’t give him a long enough lead time. I watched as several came in, one begging for the scribe to write a letter, another to create a menu for a soiree.

The calligraphy led him to indulge his twin passions: drawing and insects. Now he’s preparing to sell limited editions of his prints. “Oh, I never sell the originals,” he answered when I inquired politely. “Those I will always keep.” Alongside the mounted pickled bugs – and his inimitable, wry sense of humor.



Author and private tour guide David Downie’s latest critically acclaimed books are “Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James” and “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light,” soon to be an audiobook. His Paris Time Line app was published in April: www.davidddownie.com and www.parisparistours.com.

French Given Etiquette Manual To Combat Rudeness

paris eiffel tower
Gary Cycles, Flickr

French tourism authorities desperate to overhaul the country’s reputation are handing out a manual aimed at teaching locals how to be polite to foreigners. France is the number one tourist destination in the world with nearly 30 million people visiting the capital in the past year; however, many foreigners leave Paris feeling snubbed by the locals.

The unhelpful tone and attitude used by shopkeepers or the unwillingness to speak English to tourists has earned the French a reputation for rudeness causing tourism bureaus to fear they will start losing visitors to friendlier cities in Europe.

The six-page booklet “Do You Speak Touriste?” teaches locals how to greet foreigners in a number of different languages and explains some of the cultural peculiarities of various nationalities. This includes referring to Brits by their first names, welcoming Italians with a firm handshake and greeting the Chinese (who are described as “fervent shoppers”) with a smile and a “Ni Hao.“Around 30,000 copies of the etiquette guide have been handed out to wait staff, taxi drivers, hotel managers, retail sales staff and other Parisians who regularly come into contact with tourists.

This is not the first attempt to encourage the French to be more polite to visitors – just last year the Parisian transport authority launched an ad campaign to end rudeness, and back in 2008, a group of locals set up a meet and greet service designed to showcase the friendlier side of the local folk. Five years on, the effort to combat rudeness continues… old habits, it seems, die hard.