One real trend that we have seen at Park House this year has been an interest in cycling. Over the years, we have had many cycling enthusiasts at Park House but this year has been exceptional. Maybe it's the effect of the London Olympics (Team GB does seem to be rather good at cycling) or maybe it's the triumph of 'Wiggo' in the 2012 Tour de France. Bradley Wiggins rode his bike down the Champs d'Elysee in July to become the first Briton to win the world’s greatest cycle race since it began in 1903. And indeed last month, the Tour of Britain cycle race passed within a few miles of Park House to the cheers of local supporters.
In any case several of our students have taken advantage of the quiet lanes around Park House to get some exercise after lessons. The hills can be rather challenging and our mountain bikes aren't quite on a par with Wiggo's Wonder Machine but mid -Wales is a glorious area for cycling. Some real enthusiasts have even hired specialist bikes from the local town - somewhat higher-tech than our own mountain bikes - while one Italian student even brought his bike with him in a special 'bike bag'. And the advent of smart phone GPS systems means that people no longer get as lost as they once did. But it isn't only our students who have embraced the bike with enthusiasm. One of our housekeepers, Miriam, has bought an electric bike to get to work - this certainly solves the problem of the hills. And son Henry completed a 226km bike ride to raise money for charity. This distance is apparently the length of the longest stage of the Tour de France.
We were therefore interested to read a report in this week's press that in 2011 Italians bought more bikes than cars. Last year 1.75 million bikes were sold in Italy - 2000 more than the number of new car registrations, which were at a low point not seen since 1964. While cycling is undoubtedly 'in' in Italy, there are other more practical reasons too for this Bike Boom : the economic crisis in the Eurozone, and the rising cost of petrol. Families are making do with just one car. After all, you can pop to the shops, go to school or visit the local trattoria on your bike instead of in the car. The Italian President has appealed to the regions to make their towns and roads 'bike-friendly'; old bikes are coming out of cellars and being repaired, and who knows, maybe 2013 will see a new Palio di Siena, on bikes.
So, when you plan your English course at Park House, remember that it is possible to use one of our bikes, to bring your own bike with you or to hire a specialist bike locally. Just keep left and keep pedalling.....