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Fat Tire Bike Tours / Monet's gardens

We got lucky for one day in France and both got to do stuff we loved. We met early in a Paris train station with the group leader for Fat Tire Bike Tours (f/k/a Bullfrog Bikes) and took a train towards Normandy. The plan of the day was to pick up the bikes in Vernon, ride to a picnic spot, continue on to Monet's grave, gardens & house, poke around on foot for a few hours and then reverse.

The rain started during our train ride and continued for a few hours while we shopped in the Vernon market and claimed bikes from FTBT's fleet. Fat Tire is an apt name, since the cruiser-style 3-speed bikes float on huge balloony tires. The seats were ultra-comfortable, the frame weighed a ton, and the components were shiny and dialed-in. It was like riding on rails--you couldn't fall off one of these bikes if you tried. Or so I thought, until there was an immediate minor fiasco when a woman in our group pulled out into the road, saw a car, and freaked out. She fell over.

We lunched in a pretty park where Monet used to paint. Our tour leader supplied regional cheese and cider. The drizzling intensified, and we hid under a graffitied bridge to wait it out. Eventually, we had to go and took a nice rainy ride along a paved country bike trail up to Giverny. We saw the man's grave and extensive gardens (photo of the pond here). The walls of his house were covered in Japanese woodblock prints--a major inspiration for his impressionist work. I was delighted; J was hoping for more Monet.

After a few hours of touristing, we got back on the bikes and returned to town. This is where it got really ridiculous as people started walking their bikes. We are talking about giving up on a slow, easy ride with foolproof bicycles on flat ground and a dedicated two-lane bike trail. Those of us who enjoyed riding and wanted to catch our train back to Paris were dumbfounded. Why would you take a bike tour if you don't like riding bikes?

Our group leader handled this well and shepharded the slowpokes back to the stable. I felt like riding around for a few more kilometers, but it was time to go. The rain had cleared up when we arrived at the gardens, so we hung out on the train platform and talked with the leader about working for FTBT. Sounds like a fun and easy job, I was thinking about doing it myself some day, but I wouldn't have wanted to deal with our group. Moral: good times, Fat Tire recommended.

Categories: bicycles

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