I feel like an ex-patriot here in Mestre. At 4:00 pm I am sitting in the hotel lobby, waiting for Volker, Tom, Ginny, Mari, and Agnese. My bike is locked to the street sign and my bike box is stored in the back room. I have no place to go and I can’t go until I ship my bike box to Amsterdam and hook-up with my companions.
The lobby has become my home, my base of operations, my safe place. I imagine that Ric felt the same way in his bar in Casa Blanca. (Sooner or later, everybody ends up at Ric’s.)
But I did accomplish a couple of things today. My luggage is organized, my bike is loaded, and I got out for a 16 mile “ride” around Mestre. I use quotation marks because although I was on my bicycle, I was going in circles, small at first, then bigger, stopping, backtracking, and feeling kind of strange.
Because I was the only person wearing bike shorts. And the only person wearing a bike shirt. Judging by the looks I was getting, I think some locals confused me for a lost Giro rider. Or maybe they just thought I was strange.
I saw dozens and dozens of cyclists today and not one of them was wearing anything remotely looking like bicycle garb. Cyclists of both sexes, multiple races, young and old; it did not matter. They were getting around town by bicycle. I was passed by an old guy wearing pants and a sports jacket. And then another one.
Since I did not know where I was going, and had nowhere to go anyway, I would occasionally follow a random cyclist. Most of them returning to their apartments or going shopping. At one point, while I was trapped in the center of a traffic circle, a large group bicycled by, obviously some type of tour, like baby ducks following the mommy duck.
I lost them before I could extricate myself from the fountain park in the traffic circle. 30 minutes later I saw them again and jumped on the back. The bikes were an amalgamation of road/mountain/touring/ city type machines. The riders looked like they belonged on a cruise ship. The leader occasionally stopped and consulted a map (when that occurred I would nonchalantly bike by and hide around the corner. But they finally found the piazza and that’s how I found it too.
Mestre is a good town to bike in because It is flat. There are a few Venice-like canals replete with motor boats backed into their spaces. Also, there are lots and lots of dedicated bike paths, both alongside the roadway and the relaxing, stand alone, no vehicle type (keep your eye on the pedestrians though). And on the roads it seems as if the cars are expecting you.
I discovered the piazza, free of vehicles, welcome to bikes, and seats outside of all the restaurants. I stumbled into a park so big that I nearly got lost in it. Just as suddenly, I was cycling through an open air market, that at times resembled a flea market, the Home Shopping Channel, and a farmer’s market. I enjoyed the fishy smell of . . . fish, and the rainbow colors of the vegetables.
I was somewhat surprised when I went back looking for the market after increasing my orbit-like cycling by a few blocks. Not even 30 minutes later, it was nearly packed-up and gone.
As I shall soon be from Mestre.