My solo bike odyssey from Pisa to Nice
When you think you can't, boy you can. My solo bike odyssey from Pisa to Nice my own journey of absolute possibility.
Life is a journey filled with twists, turns, and opportunities to rediscover our passions, it's also an adventure, and it's never too late to reclaim the spirit of your youth. With this in mind, and a whole lot of courage, I decided to embark on a remarkable adventure that mirrored the tapestry of my past while celebrating the wisdom and freedom of my present life.
I decided to retrace one of the paths of my youth, peddling my way from Pisa to Nice, just as I did 37 years ago. My journey of self-discovery reminds me that it's never too late to relive a dream and forge new connections with our past and present.
A naive but spirited 20 year old, I embarked on a bike ride around Europe that imprinted on me forever. As life unfolded over the next three decades, the memory of those open roads and boundless horizons never faded. With my children having left the roost, I am discovering a newfound sense of purpose, so I dared to ask myself: "Why not relive the dream?", and made the somewhat scary but exhilarating decision to retrace the road from Pisa to Nice was a passage of freedom, self-discovery, and youthful enthusiasm. I will add, this trip saw me utilise the modern landscape with a slight upgrade to an e-bike, but hey, it made my trip a little easier and allowed me to take in the sights.
Embarking on such an epic journey requires meticulous preparation with months of training, right? Well, no, this is Maxine. I'm more of an ok, let's do this, Now! And that's how it was. I found a bike to hire, booked a flight and packed a few basics, literally.
I flew to Pisa and picked up my e-bike. The journey would be both physically and mentally challenging, as doubts and fears surfaced. What if I got lost? What if I get knocked off my bike? So much so that the last conversation I had with the man I hired the bike from went along the lines of, 'If anything happens to me, please tell my children I was doing what made me happy'. He nervously laughed, but I was serious. I will never stop doing things for fear of 'what if'. If that were the case, Absolute Collagen wouldn't exist. Launching a product I had created in my kitchen at 50, into a market that didn't exist taught me that whilst 'what ifs’ should be a consideration, and once you’ve calculated and are happy with the possible risks, 'what if' can be your reality.
I overcame each obstacle with every pedal, proving that age is no match for determination. I rekindled my love affair with the bike and rediscovered the strengths I had always carried within me, even if, at times, I doubted them.
Setting off from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, my heart raced with excitement, nostalgia, and a wee bit of fear, which being Maxine, I chose to ignore. I named my e-bike Mary, after Mary Poppins, as I really did feel like Mary Poppins as I flew through the Italian streets.
As the wheels glided, memories intertwined with the present, each mile bridging my youthful self and the woman I had become. The road and the experience felt so familiar like 37 years ago had been just yesterday.
Moments of solitude gave me time to reflect on time's passage and appreciate my strength and resilience and the women I had become, perhaps always had been. I crave my alone time, and traveling alone is my guilty pleasure. For those of you considering it, DO IT. It really is exhilarating and is very much an integral part of my self-care. When traveling alone, my only consideration is me, Maxine. I wake up when I want, eat when I want, go where I want, and if I wish to eat three gelatos, I will have three, and did I? Hell yeah.
The journey was not without its challenges. Having peddled leisurely through the coastal towns of Viareggio and Massa, I headed inland and climbed steadily but surely up to the mountain town of Vezzano Ligure, where I enjoyed a well-earned coffee and cake whilst renaming Mary Lady Mary after discovering on the way up that Mary had a turbo button 🚀 - I yelled "Lady Mary and I make quite the team", as I freewheeled down the last of the 79.6km to Porte Venere.
Porte Venere is utterly stunning, atmospheric, unspoilt, and not too touristy and is known for Porto Venere Regional Natural Park, a protected area dotted with beaches and caves. At the top the rocky headland is The Gothic-style Church of St. Peter, where I enjoyed the most beautiful sunset. I enjoyed spending two nights here as I had a board meeting. Real life sure does go on, hey!
The following day after a lovely breakfast on my balcony watching the fisher people offload their catch, rested, and refuelled, I boarded Lady Mary, and we were off.
The 73 km to Portofino was a tad laborious as I headed inland and was a case of just getting my head down and getting the job done.
Portofino was beautiful and seemed to be the place to be 'seen'. I stuck out like a sore thumb in my rather basic sports kit as I had dinner in the harbour watching everyone parade in their Chanel and Christian Dior. Whilst I enjoyed it, I found myself yearning for a different experience - a more authentic encounter with the place beyond its glamorous façade. I vowed to return in the winter, eager to witness its rawness and discover its hidden charms.
Having looked at the map and realising the coastal view would be hampered by the train line running next to the sea. I boarded a train and jumped off after 179 km at Sanremo, following the last of the Italian coast riding the 57 km through Ospedaletti, Ventimiglia, and finally arriving at The French Riviera and enjoying the stunning and peaceful town of Menton, before heading tentatively to the bustling, noisy and chaotic Municipality of Monaco, and the Principality of Monaco.
The day ended with an exhausted, weary, and somewhat disheveled Maxine feeling chuffed and rather smug as I checked into the 5-star Royal Riviera hotel—the treat I had gifted myself to mark the end of my achievement. Only to be told I had booked the wrong month! And they were fully booked! BTW I'm really good at doing this!
Being late in the day everywhere was fully booked, so I headed to Nice with my undiminished spirit, my head held high, and the experience of a lifetime in my heart, finding whatever accommodation I could.
The following day I had the pleasure of joining my children and their partners on a boat to celebrate a friend's 30th.
Through it all, I embraced the journey for what it was—a tapestry of challenges, victories, and unexpected moments that collectively formed an unforgettable adventure.
I hope my story reminds us that age is just a number and our spirit for adventure knows no bounds when we feel strong in our skin. With determination, a sense of humour, and a trusty e-bike by my side, I turned the clock back to my youthful dreams and demonstrated that life's greatest journeys are the ones that lead us to rediscover ourselves. So, let my story inspire you to dust off your dreams and embark on your own remarkable journey, no matter where life finds you.