Chillin’ in Lille, France: Stage 4

It has been go, go, go or allez, allez, allez since July 1 and I was ready to mentally take my foot off the gas pedal. There were challenges with getting across to France on the Chunnel, so I did not arrive until 2 p.m. and I was worn out. I checked into the Best Western Art Deco Euralille and immediately checked the race on the telly. The riders had 135 km still to go and it was lightly raining. I did a few chores and then headed into central Lille to find a place to eat and watch the race.

The rain was getting harder so I ducked into Printemps department store to buy an umbrella. I love travel. Even a simple purchase can delight whether it is trying to communicate with the sales staff in French or watching a little girl run up the down elevator.  I continued on towards Boulevard de la Liberte and found the La Table d’Eduard. They had 4 outside tables under an awning right on the street where the race would whiz past.

Ordered what I thought was a ham and cheese sandwich with ice cream for dessert. What I got was spectacularly better. It is such a simple looking place and the food was simply delicious. The “ice cream” was strawberry sorbet with real strawberries and whipped cream in a sundae glass. I enjoyed it immensely, and a delightful little boy near me enjoyed his even more. If this is the low bar in France, it is going to be awesome. I loved how entrepreneurial the proprietors were: by the time the race was ready to go by they had moved all their tables outside and were serving drinks and food for Le Tour fans.

First, though, the caravan comes through as a kind of parade of sponsors. They toss a mountain of hats, product samples and candy at the crowd. A group of younger business men were my favorite group to watch. They were so competitive about catching the swag. They all had King of the Mountain caps by the time the caravan was through.

I introduced myself to the family from London with the Jens, Shut Up Legs signs they had made themselves. Then three blokes from England and Japan who sat next to me needed someone to take their photo with their flags and this led to a delightful conversation about cycling.

The peloton flew by in less than 10 seconds, so it is not about seeing the race as much as it is about participating in an event. As soon as the riders had passed I paid my bill and went a few doors down to a bar where they were watching it on someone’s MacAir. About 10 people huddled around it and watched as Marcel Kittel won his third stage this year (7th overall).  He appears unbeatable at the moment when it is a sprint finish. UK favorite General Classification contender Chris Froome crashed earlier in the day. He was safe for time and will need a new pair of bike shorts for tomorrow!

I walked leisurely to my hotel and took a hot bath. I have been enjoying a relaxing evening catching up with my children and friends and writing this blog. Stage 5 I will intentionally watch on television because the weather is supposed to be ugly and it is a challenging course to reach without a car. Plus I need to do a few more chores.

It was great to participate in the Trek Tour and it is just as sweet to travel alone and to chill a little. I made a new list of goals: 1) get the playlist for the music played by the various caravan sponsors (the music at le Tour is terrific) 2) interview the sponsor liaisons (the women who pass out the bouquet and kiss the winner on both cheeks); 3) Sleep through the night.



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