As with all good cycling holiday stories the conversation was soddened with ‘it was hell, ‘ I wore two pairs of socks over my gloves’, ‘I thought I might die, ‘I took a kamikaze exit down Ventoux because I needed to be warm/eat/dry/hug my mum’.
This particular tale was being relayed by the Grappa Club – called so because they drink grappa. Well if I am going to be pedantic, which I am, they ordered a grappa once; so poignant a moment was the realisation it was 18 euro a shot they aptly named themselves after it. The Grappa Club consists of four blokes who a) ride together when they can b) travel to the continent in a chaotic manner and ride together when they can, c) drank grappa once. One of the fellas lives in Wales, north Wales if I remeber rightly, one is Canadian with a name that confusingly sounds Japanese – I haven’t met these two. The other two I went riding in Hertfordshire with a few sundays ago. Strangely upon entry to the north London county you are greeted with a sign ‘Hertfordshire, county of opportunity’ – I didn’t happen upon a golden ticket, nor did I see anyone who looked like they had, it’s very nice all the same.
Anyway the real purpose of this story is the start and end point; Amici Delicatessen’ in East Finchley, so enjoyable was my experience I felt compelled to write about it. I beg you, don’t be fooled by the unassuming exterior of this family run Italian treasure trove. Me and my Colnago were momentarily transported to the foothills of the Dolomites the other Sunday. Vintage cycling jerseys hang from the ceiling, fresh pastries decorate the counter, the sound of milk being steamed, the smell of fresh espresso, ah heavenly. As I said we started here and we finished here, I won’t bore you with the ride we did in between, but fast forward 50 miles and we are back in the cafe. I ordered toasted pannetone alongside my cappucino, I had never tried toasted cake before, and the cynic inside of me thought perhaps it was going stale, hence it being toasted; well more fool me, it was a taste sensation, I don’t care if that cake was older than me, it was one of the damn finest bits of cake I have eaten. I also had some boquerones (I don’t know what these are called in English or Italian) served with fresh ciabatta, sun dried tomatoes and very tasty, juicy olives. I honestly can’t remember how much this little lot set me back, which is a sure sign it was reasonable.
I conclude that Hertfordshire makes for a pleasant ride, although I don’t think you should get your hopes up regarding opportunities. And that the Amici Delicatessen really is quite special – for one hour of my Sunday, I was lazing on a sunny plaza cooled by a Mediterranean breeze, weary from Alpine plights – and all of this in East Finchley, who’d of thought?