Meet Eléonore & Ophélie, Women Behind Cyclin’ Jaipur
- IWB Post
- July 29, 2015
Eléonore and Ophélie are two friends from France who have now found home in Jaipur. Founders of Cyclin’ Jaipur, these ladies are the pioneers in the market of cycling tours across the city. Inspired and in awe with the tradition of cycling in their own country, they realized that Jaipur can be explored efficiently if tourists cycle instead of hiring a taxi.
“You miss out on the real fun. Taxi won’t stop at the local shops or restaurants as long as you want. They have fixed timings for every place. Moreover, cars can’t enter every corner of this beautiful city”, quips Ophélie.
“Also you get to escape the hideous traffic”, adds Eléonore.
On Cyclin’ Jaipur’s website, they write: “We want to promote a responsible tourism and encourage travelers to experience differently the local culture with a genuine interaction with the inhabitants and with fun!” Good part is, they do what they promise.
Cyclin’ Jaipur has a team that is open-minded & respects every culture and tradition. “Our guides are especially asked about their views on the caste system, gay marriages, different eating habits across the world, etc to check if they will value the guests traveling with them”, tell Ophélie & Eléonore.
Between sipping the Darjeeling tea and hogging hot jalebis with them, we managed to bring out the ‘inquisitive girls’ in the ‘professionals’. Below are the excerpts:
JWB: Tell us about your life and the early days in the Pink city.
Ophélie: We had some difficulty finding a descent apartment to live.
JWB: Stereotypes, eh?
Ophélie: We are firang and single, need we say more? In the beginning we lived in Amber, close to the city area to learn about the culture. After some rough struggle, we have managed to find this beautiful flat owned by a doctor couple.
JWB: We’re still wondering, why Jaipur?
Eléonore: Our people there recognize India as the land of Maharajas, elephants, hawelis and beautiful handloom. Rajasthan is beautiful and is the epitome of what I just described. Jaipur, because it’s the capital!
Ophélie: And more so because here moving on cycle is fun. The idea to create bicycle tours in Jaipur seemed obvious to us. Indeed the beauty of the city does not only lies in its monuments but also in its atmosphere and vibrant street-life that you can not feel when you travel by rickshaw or car. When you cycle in a city you become part of it!
Eléonore: We started executing our idea by first studying the history of the city thoroughly, and it was as if we fell in love with Jaipur all over again.
JWB: How one can use the services of Cyclin’ Jaipur?
Ophélie: We have got 3 kinds of itineraries tailored according to the preferences of tourists. These include sightseeing, visiting city’s back streets, meeting the locals & having meals at their houses, meeting the halwais and knowing their recipes, learning about the craft from the local artisans, and much more. One can even ask us to customize the tour further. Prices are charged accordingly.
JWB: Do you go on tours along with the tourists?
Eléonore: It depends. If we have foreigners coming, our trained and humble guides go with them. This is because foreigners want to explore the city through local eyes. But Ophélie & I go if we have Indians coming. They are curious to meet the minds behind Cyclin’ Jaipur.
Ophélie: We also offer cooking classes with the renowned chefs of the city, yoga classes, traditional spa, etc. All in all, one gets the real taste of Rajasthan while in Jaipur with Cyclin’ Jaipur!
JWB: Do you have any particular age group that opts for the tours?
Eléonore: We get clients aging from 10 to 70. As we go at a slow pace, our tours are made for everyone. Ophélie, didn’t we enjoy with that 72 yr old gentleman? He was full of life!
Ophélie: Totally. We did a lot of practice ourselves before beginning any tour. I remember the day when Eléonore and I had been crossing one street in the Johari Bazaar again and again just to get experience on one of the busiest roads of Jaipur. Believe us, bystanders looked at us as if we were aliens! We have done a lot of practice ourselves to find the best and safest ways to cross Jaipur’s roads with a group of 7 people.
JWB: We’re sure, all this wasn’t really easy to achieve. Want to talk about those challenges?
Eléonore: We have heard things like ‘they are stealing our clients’ to ‘they won’t last long on this foreign land’ and ‘they’re not legalized to work in Jaipur’.
Ophélie: We still get remarks on the streets.
JWB: How do you respond?
Eléonore (laughs): Earlier we would fight back but now we have learnt that there is no point arguing with people who can’t respect other human beings. We have learnt to ignore all that doesn’t matter anymore. You know, we just keep on cycling our way forward!
JWB: What is your experience in the streets while touring?
Ophélie: People are still surprised to see foreigners on cycles, as they perceive it as a poor way of transportation. But this is changing, more and more Indians acknowledge the benefits for health and environment to circulate in a city on cycle.
Eléonore: Did you know that also, cycling has been a tool for women emancipation in our countries? It offered them the freedom to move and impacted on women outfits, allowing them at the end of the 19th century to leave tight dresses for trousers.
JWB: That’s the spirit, after all, you guys are Jaipurites. Loving the place?
Ophélie: Too much! It’s been 1 ½ year now.
Eléonore: We go home when the tourist season is low. We’ve just returned back from France and are now eagerly waiting for season-tours!
JWB: Where can we find you?
JWB: Who do you want to invite for cycling tours?
Ophélie: Anyone who knows the basics of cycling. We provide you the cycle and helmet along with our trained guides, so relax and just enjoy.
Eléonore: You don’t have to worry about the traffic. We start early in the morning when you hardly find any vehicle on the roads. Moreover, Jaipur’s main city area where most of the monuments lie, has narrow streets and is apt for cycling. Four-wheelers can hardly enter there, so it’s you who owe the roads!
JWB: Lastly, would you like to be friends with Jaipur Women Blog? A dinner and a campaign for city’s women in future?
In chorus: YES!!
Yay! Keep an eye here to know more about our campaign with them!
So that was the awesome team of two women from Cyclin’ Jaipur. By the way, they are hiring & looking for women who would be interested to start their career as a guide. Contact them if you are young in spirits, friendly, curious, ready to explore new places and are a game for an adventurous job!
Photo courtesy: Shashank K Tyagi