Every summer I make a resolution to get my bike down from the rafters, oil it up and start touring Ottawa’s bike paths … for fun, for exercise and  because there is something so freeing about the wind blowing in your hair as you coast down a hill, or the accomplishment you feel when your legs are burning but you made it to the top of that hill!  Sadly, it’s been a few years since I even got on my bike.

Well, this summer started out differently … I have finally re-discovered biking and all thanks to Maria at Escape Bicycle Tours in Ottawa.

Escape (love the name) is the brainchild of Maria Rasouli, an Iranian born cycling enthusiast and lover of nature. You must read her story as it is very inspiring! Escape offers Express, Half Day, Full Day and even Weekend Escape Tours, cycling through the Ottawa-Gatineau Region.  Maria was our tour guide for the day and it was seriously the most fun I’ve ever had on a bicycle!

There were 6 of us plus Maria on the tour … some locals, visitors from Toronto and even a guest from Holland.  We started at Cyco’s Ottawa Bike and Skate Shop on Hawthorne Ave.  Once I was fitted for my bike (very comfortable I might add) we headed out on the first leg of our 30 km journey, Major’s Hill Park, the Byward Market, Governor General’s Residence and Rockcliffe Park.  It was a hot sunny day, but honestly, on a bike you don’t feel the heat and it was absolutely gorgeous touring through the grounds of the Governor Generals Residence and Rideau Hall.  We were fortunate to see the changing of the guards .. bagpipes and all.  After 15 years in Ottawa, I had still not visited the grounds or even the Rockcliffe Park lookout … stunning!

Our tour continued on to Dow’s Lake, Hog’s Back Falls, the Arboretum and one of my favourite discoveries … the Fletcher Wildlife Garden … a peaceful oasis that takes you literally to another place and time. What a hidden gem!  We then headed over to Little Italy on Preston St. for a delicious lunch and pit stop at Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana before the final leg of our journey to the Museum of History in Hull, where tourists and locals alike can get the best vistas of Parliament Hill.  Along the way, Maria made short stops to point out interesting architecture, historical landmarks and scenes of natural beauty.  Her stories were entertaining and informative without that “I am on a tour” feeling … more like a friend telling  you some fun facts.

Happily, most of the tour entailed riding on bike path’s, which is perfect for those whom are less experienced with cycling on roads. Even when we did have short stints on the road, Maria was very attentive and kept us all in line and feeling very safe.  The pace was also perfect!  Leisurely cycling with plenty of time to take in all the sights and sounds along the way.  I could not believe that I actually cycled 30 km in about 4 hours and believe me … I am your average boomer … not as fit as I would like to be!

I have to say that my tour with Escape really was an escape from the everyday and I am already planning to get my girlfriends together for a tour or even a few couples for one of Maria’s weekend escapes!  What a great way to enjoy the summer … make new friends and discover our beautiful city from another point of view.  Ottawa sure looks different on a bicycle!

ps happy to report that I have been cycling around my own neighbourhood after work every day .. feels great.  Thanks Maria!