101 reasons to love cycling in London #28; enjoy the scent of a city

It's been a while since we've had one of our 101 reasons to love cycling featured here on the blog, but it's been one of my new year resolutions to push on and finish the list, so I'm glad to get on to it again...

Reason number 28 struck me just the other day, quite literally...  as I was riding past a neighbour's garden I was practically knocked off my bike by the scent of some winter flowers - of what sort I don't know - growing over their garden wall.  It was so sweet, strong and powerful, and such a refreshing smell and made me realise that when we're out walking and cycling in our city we experience so much more.

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And it isn't just flowers...  The cornershop I pass on my way to work always has fantastic bouquets of aromatic herbs for sale out front, and anyone who has cruised up Brick Lane at 4AM will tell you about the amazing tang of the 24-hour beigal bakery that hangs in the air there.  Ride along the canal tow path where the house boats are moored up and that old sweet industrial scent of coal being burnt always gets me going, as does the hint of the smell of the sea down by the Thames when the tide is coming in (and it smells very different and much less pleasent when the tide is going out!)  According to some scientists smells have an impact on everything from our state of happiness to our sex life (perhaps the two are linked?)  Who knew that a whiff of something good while out for a ride could turn out to be such a big deal?

Hermetically sealed in a car or a bus, or stuck deep underground on a train we miss so much - not just sights, and sounds (or lack of) but smells too - there's no hope of getting in touch with nature with those modes of transport.  It might seem like an inconsequential, ephemeral moment but it is interactions like these that help us to celebrate the cities that we live in.

And I'll take the smell of garden flowers over the sweaty old Tube any day.  (Of course, there are days when you're stuck behind a bus on your bike and things don't smell so great at all, but at least there is the possibility of nice smells sometimes, as oppose to bad smells all of the time!)

The scent of a city?  It's just number 28 of a 101 reasons to love cycling in London! 

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13 comments:

mc2 said...

- the sound of your cycle tyres on a smooth road
- seeing the wildlife on Union Canal

Alice said...

Lovely smells like that of the chemicals being used to renovate Tower Bridge. In fairness, it looks like they're trying to pump them away from the road but it doesn't really help....

But there are pockets of the city that have lovely smells. Cycling through any of the parks is always an olfactive pleasure.

Vicky and Ben said...

One of the unexpected smells I like is when cycling past bus stops with lots of people first thing in the morning - often you get a whiff of clean, perfumed men and women!

Lindsay said...

When I'm waiting at the lights at the corner of Duke Street and Oxford Street I'm always struck by the smell of caramelising nuts from the stall on the right. As I'm usually on my way home from work it makes me absolutely ravenous! And in spring and summer the smell of flowers is wonderful. Someone's garden on my route has the most amazingly fragrant shrub that always has butterflies on it.

A few months ago I had the misfortune to be riding on the day they manured all the royal parks. I go through Hyde Park and round the side of Regents Park. I couldn't get the smell of poo out of my nostrils for days! Still better than having to inhale other people's farts or BO in a sealed tube carriage though.

Can I suggest "talking to strangers" as a future post? Whenever I'm on my bike I get an irresistable urge to say good morning to everyone, especially dog walkers and bin men. Not to mention striking up conversations with other cyclists (or motorcylists or drivers with the window open) at the lights.

Lindsay said...

Oh, forgot to mention the stench of rubbish trucks. Although it's fun to see how long you can hold your breath for before your cycling is impaired.

kimbofo said...

Totally agree. Although sometimes when you cycle past a "Lush" shop I do want to gag from the oh-so strong smell of bath salts!! ;-)

Actually, I've just spent two months doing some leisure cycling in Australia and the smell of summer -- freshly cut hay, dusty gravel, eucalpytus -- was definitely one of the highlights.

londonneur said...

Bizarely... Giraffe(?) poo! Riding in regents park by London Zoo. The Giraffe's are sometimes right by the road on ther north side. Very friendly.

Paul Martin said...

Great post, Mark.

The sensory world of the bicycle is yet another reason why it is such a great way to travel and feel alive.

The Woollen Typist said...

D'oh! Someone got in there with the rubbish trucks before me.

I do quite love the smell of the waffle place I cycle past...sickly sweet it makes you dizzy.

:)

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic - in the picture for this post, what are those large metal post things in the ground, bottom right? I've seen quite a lot of them on the street, and they seem to be placed randomly...

Ben Brown said...

curry restaurants on the way home always seem to swerve my opinion on dinner tha evening

ibikelondon said...

Mmmmm... curry (dribbles like Homer Simpson)

jrg said...

The large metal things are to protect corners from cars (and larger vehicles). More effective than tall bollards: less vulnerable to being knocked over, though it seems wrong that money has to be spent on such things instead of useful stuff like, say, useful cycling facilities.