Stage 10: Tour of Chiens in Mulhouse

IMG_1799IMG_1819We got up early, packed and dashed for the bus to le Gare (train station) in Mulhouse. The original plan was to stow our luggage in a lockers, go to the official “depart” or start. Alas, in France there are no lockers in train stations, so we adapted. I asked a policeman to show me on the map where the Tour route passed closest to the train station. We schlepped our bags about 5 blocks and found a great spot for viewing the caravan and the start.

 The first cute dog alert occurred just moments after we sat down at a café for a coffee. I ended up taking so many pictures of cute dogs that Hetta and I joked that today it was Le Tour of Chiens (dogs). IMG_1855IMG_1866 IMG_1868

We had a lot of fun and it was easier than going to the official start. We nipped back to the station and made our respective trains. So glad I had this time with the WatLoves and great to see Nora and Grace Julie growing into adventurous young women.

 I bought a first class ticket on the train to Lyon because it was only E3 difference. I am not sure what advantage there is to first class other than better padded chairs and a plug for recharging my computer. Noticing a lot of all white cows in fields. It is an unfamiliar breed and it is hard not to think of them as ghost cows.

 By the time I got to Lyon I was feeling truly rotten from this cold. It is a bank holiday weekend so no pharmacies open (not even the 24/7 emergency pharmacy!) No room service. Just one lonely desk clerk who filled two teapots with hot water.  Got to my room and turned on the Tour and watched the last 34 km.  Shock! Contador crashed out. So sad for him and for all fans. Thought the break would stay away and then Nibali decided to write his name all over that last climb and crushed it.  He deserves the yellow jersey.IMG_1891IMG_1859

 July 14 is Bastille Day and if you think it might be like Independence Day in the USA with decorations everywhere, you would be wrong. They put all their money toward fireworks. I woke up from my drugged sleep thinking that I was in Syria. Then I remembered my original intention was to stay close to old Lyon so I could see the Bastille Day fireworks. Oh well. I am in it for Paris and it another 2 weeks on the road.

Tomorrow I am meeting the Thomson Tour group at 8:30 a.m. and gladly letting them lead me for the second half of my adventure.  I will be the mysterioso member of the group if I still do not have my voice.  (P.S. I sound like Demi Moore today.)

Tough Day for Le Tour; Easy Day for Me

Blel Kadri won a very hard stage 8. Flat until the end and then some good climbs. The finish was up a 10% grade. It made me think of Yorkshire. Ouch. I loved watching him once he realized he had won. I bet you right now he is still walking a f

BF since 2nd Grade: we met in Mulhouse to watch the Tour
BF since 2nd Grade: we met in Mulhouse to watch the Tour

ew inches above the earth. He was transported. I watched it all on French television. Alberto Contador also clawed back a few seconds in the general classification.

My day was much easier. I rode the train from Nancy to Strasbourg and then changed to Mulhouse. Met up with Harriet, Brian, Grace and Nora Watson Lovell also known as the WatLoves. Great to hear of their adventures in Germany and to see Grace after an exchange year.

We are staying at Les Jardin du Temps. It is a beautiful lodge in a vast garden in a suburb of Mulhouse (Illzach). Very quiet and beautiful. We will watch the finish tomorrow afternoon and the start the following morning. Then they go on to Switzerland and I travel to Lyon to meet up with Thomson Tours for the Alps.


Stage 7: Never Give Up

Oh my spirits flagged midday. I had a successful shopping excursion to get warmer clothes for the Alps. Just as I gave up on France having sunshine it popped out for bit this afternoon. Since I packed for the weather I experienced in Europe last July, I have plenty of sundresses and not enough long pants and layers. Thanks to a big sale at Go Sports I have a ski jacket and a hideous pink turtleneck (both will go to Goodwill in Paris before I fly home). I also received kind help from a couple from Perth in the pharmacy who recommended the Strepsil for my throat and shared their around the world travel plans. 

When I got to the train station I learned that I had 2 trains and a bus to get to Nancy. I took a deep breath and dove in and it all worked like clockwork. I checked into a better hotel and turned on the television for my daily ritual of “how many kilometers to go?” I waivered for a bit in my room. I could not figure out what day it was, what stage. I looked out the window and wondered, “Why am I doing this?” And then I started out and I met a lovely couple from South Africa also staying at my hotel and walking to the Tour finish line. 

With about 3 hours to wait, there was already 2-4 people deep along the barricades before and after the finish. I picked a spot just 20 feet after the finish with only 2 people deep. I set up my REI chair and did some knitting. Now that I have seen the caravan a few times it is easy to just relax and enjoy the atmosphere and not stress over catching stuff. Interestingly they do not toss swag near the finish line. I guess even though there is an hour or more before the racers arrive, they do not want to have any hazards on the course.  

I love being small and slipping through the crowd to get to the finish in the first place, and then my height is a disadvantage. Once the crowd starts to squeeze in I wish I were as tall as my brother Dean (+12″) and as broad shouldered so I could hold my ground. Ah well, crowd behavior is similar the world over. The finish was so close everyone around me called it for Peter Sagan. He is a favorite with fans and even has his own hard core fan club. (In fact they were so noisy with the air horns during the awards presentations that the gendarmes hustled them out of the VIP section.)

Even the actual winner Matteo Trentin thought Sagan must have won. Until the officials told him he won. The photo finish is my inspiration for today. Never give up. 

I stopped for a bite to eat on my way back to the hotel and I realized that whatever day it is, tomorrow I am headed to Mulhouse and will see Harriet and Brian and Grace and Nora. I am loved and they are adored. I am getting my second wind. Life is great. 

Watch this video for one of the most thrilling 1 kilometer of the Tour 2014:

Planning My Tour de France 2014

I bought Frommer’s France Day by Day to help me plan my Tour de France 2014 adventure. My intention to follow the 21 stages of the Tour will take me through many regions of France. It made me chuckle to read the sections called, “Champagne in 3 days,” and “Champagne in one week.” At the speed of le Tour I will be lucky if I am able to stop and taste champagne at one winery.

I have watched Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggott announce the Tour for so many years I cannot count.  Paul provides a great many details about chateaus along the way, so I want to see at least one.

Landscape in Champagne, France.
Landscape in Champagne, France.

I took my Frommer’s with a country map to a coffee shop and began to look at the things I can do and see while I chase legends.

Stage 4 is the first on French soils from Le Touquet Paris-Plage to Lille. According to Frommer’s they call this region The North and Picardie. Tucked between the UK and Belgium, there are World War I battlefields, gothic cathedrals, birdlife and marshes.

Stage 5 from Ypres to Arenborg Porte du Hainart is still in Picardie and then Stage 6 moves on to Champagne with 194 km stage from Arras to Reims. Only bubbles from this region can legally be called champagne. Everything else is sparking wine.

Reims Cathedral
Reims Cathedral

Stage 7 is from Epernay to Nancy in Alsace and Lorraine. Luxembourg and Germany are across the border. The German influence can be found in architecture and food. Stage 8 finishes in Gerardmer nestled next to Parc Naturel Regonal des Ballons de Vosges. Mulhouse hosts the finish of Stage 9 and the start of Stage 10. July 15 is a rest day and then the race enters the mountain stages.