IMG_9007The Tour De France left from Carcassonne today, having arrived on Sunday. A big, big, big event for a small city. Two years ago, the tour had a departure from Carcassonne, but to have an arrival AND a departure AND a rest day is huge.

Of course, we had to see it. After all the preparations, the roads miraculously repaved just days earlier, the banners, the excess all around. Plus, we’ve seen the Tour de France a few times and know there are goodies. More on that on Friday. Just sayin’, if you ever plan to watch the Tour de France in person, get there at least two hours early and I hope you can catch.

The (other) guy in a yellow shirt is waving a Romanian flag. What you don’t get to see is his wife, who also had a flag and who was wearing a Sponge Bob costume (not just a shirt, but a stiff thing that stood up as if it had a life of its own). I admire their devotion, but can somebody explain the Sponge Bob-bike connection?

This time, the riders came from Millau, passing the Pic du Nore, the highest point of the Montagne Noire (Black Mountains), which is the bottom part of the Massif Central (the highland region in the middle of southern France). I love that the Pic du Nore (the Northern Peak) is the southern most peak of the Black Mountains and the Massif Central. This tells you it was named not from the perspective of, say, Paris, but from a different perspective–from the plain that separates the Black Mountains from the Pyrénées, and from where the peak would be to the north. Like where Carcassonne is. BTW, the Pic du Nore is a first category mountain pass, with a 6% incline.

Clearly these are not in order. There’s Geraint!

Geraint Thomas, 32, of Wales and Team Sky, wore the yellow jersey. That’s him in the top photo as well as several others here (thanks to the Carnivore who has a phone that actually takes photos while I use a 10-year-old point-and-shoot camera and my phone’s photos look like what I see when I don’t wear my glasses). The BBC has a story and interview with Froome and Thomas here. The BBC lost big points in my book by misspelling Carcassonne. If it were another outlet, I might shrug it off to kids these days. But the BBC? All hope is lost.

And then a bunch come by. Why is that guy standing?

Today, the cyclists left from Place Général de Gaulle in the center of town, rounded the Bastide, at a couple of paces from our AirBnB apartments (!!!), and then headed toward Montréal (a different one! They’re everywhere, like Villeneuves! This Montréal is very small and pretty, with great views, an excellent day trip, though it wouldn’t take a day to see it all) and then to Fanjeaux (to complete your day trip), where the incline is so steep that when I drive there I have to use first gear, although I take the straight short cut that’s marked DO NOT ENTER, whereas the cyclists will do the switchbacks. It’s a fourth category hill with a 4.9% incline (unless you do the straight line. But I think somebody would notice). Fanjeaux, like Montréal (and la Cité of Carcassonne), is a hilltop village straight out of a medieval painting, designed for defense.

And suddenly there are a zillion of them, riding frighteningly fast.

Some things I learned this time: Sometimes the riders take potty breaks in the roadside bushes, but sometimes they just let loose while they’re riding. Did you know that? Goodness. I didn’t! And I was shocked! I suppose they try to do it in the middle of nowhere (after all, each stage is four, five, six hours). But at least two helicopters were filming them, plus drones. I guess if you’re paid enough, you don’t care.

Possibly related or not: A friend tried very hard to offer a cold beer to a sweet gendarme who was standing on the sidelines, for hours, in the sun, with disobedient onlookers. But he declined! I was surprised.

Does this not ooze V.I.P.? Note the fake tulip! I also appreciate the wheelchair ramp, having wheeled my parents (not as much as my siblings) and noticing the general lack of access in Europe.

Urination aside, the Tour de France is a class act. I poked my head into the VIP tent and snapped these awful shots before being chased away. I was impressed that even though it was a tent in a parking lot, the workers were busily wheeling in large potted plants, and every table had a fake yellow tulip (it isn’t the season for tulips–that’s why they’re fake. Not to mention the logistics–I imagine some poor roadie assigned to scrounge up so many yellow flowers at every stop along the route. Fake is the only solution). To me, it was SO FRENCH. Of course there are flowers on the tables. Of course there are potted plants. Of course there’s a carpet on the asphalt. And, knowing who catered, of course the food was amazing. (Actually, the food would probably be amazing anywhere on the Tour de France route. You have to make an effort to eat badly in France. It can happen, but it really has to be the result of a chain of miscalculations.)P1100522

This is like a paparazzi shot of a plant.

The last time the Tour left from Carcassonne, and when you’re close to the departure, the cyclists are closely lumped together. This time, for the arrival, it was after the Pic du Nore did its triage and the first riders arrived 13 minutes before the peleton.

If you want to split your sides laughing about cycling, check out the movie “Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert,” with Benoît Poelevoorde, who is one of the funniest actors alive. It’s about a mediocre cyclist who dreams of the fame of Belgian multiple Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx (pronounced merks…he’s still revered today). Hilarious.

Do you watch the Tour de France? Do you bike?

The first guys. No idea who they were.

27 thoughts on “Tour de France 2018

  1. So exciting for Carcassonne! Love that you sneaked peeks of the tent – I would do the same. 🙂 I don’t watch the tour so I’ll get all my highlights from Taste of France. A friend who runs marathons doesn’t stop for potty breaks so it makes sense these guys randomly empty their bladders. But wow. My beloved used to cycle and has the fancy bike. Now it is our eldest who rides, and he completed the Ragbrai (annual great bicycle ride across Iowa) which made me a nervous wreck since two folks lost their lives on the ride…you camp along the road, and things can go very wrong. Great reporting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We watch the tour every morning, in real time, on NBCSN. I have always dreamt of seeing it in person but don’t expect to ever be in France in July. It is a real treat to see it through your eyes – merci! And, great pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not in July? It can be fun! There’s Bastille Day, the Tour de France, the Festival of Carcassonne, lots of local fêtes….The weather is gorgeous. It can be hot, but not crazy hot (high 80s, low 90s) and it’s usually very dry, so it doesn’t get muggy. It means no mosquitos and pleasant dinners en terrasse. OTOH, when school is out (end of first week of July), that’s when everybody travels, so it’s pricier and more crowded.


  3. The Tour reminds me of a bike ride, not a race, here in Iowa in the US. Des Moines is the capital of Iowa and the main paper is called the Register. In 1979, an employee of the Register who was an avid bike rider thought it would be a great idea to ride across the state of Iowa to view our beautiful state. So RAGBRAI{ (R)egister’s (A)nnual (G)reat (B)ike (R)ide (A)cross (I)owa began. It occurs the last full week in July, quite often the hottest and most humid week of the year. The race begins on the western border of Iowa where the riders dip their front tires in the Missouri River. Each day they ride between 60-80 miles on mostly paved country backroads. All the towns from the little ones of a few hundred people to larger towns come out to great the riders. The church ladies have stands of homemade goodies. The civic organizations have food stands with anything from bratwurst to ribs and everything in between. Children stand along the roads with garden hoses or squirt guns to cool down the riders. They will usually camp overnight in one of the bigger towns or small cities. At the overnight stay there will be bands around the city to entertain the visitors as well as many food and refreshment stands. The campsites are set up with one area for families and another area for those who enjoy to party and stay up a little later. Then when they get to the eastern border of Iowa they dip their back tires in the Mississippi River. It has grown to the point that they issue a maximum of 10,000 permits but there is usually many more than that. Most people ride the whole week. Others just join in for a day or two. Many riding clubs have support vehicles that following along with extra tires and gear and the food for overnights. The French will appreaciate this. Some travel with tablecloths and candles for their tables and cook amazing meals at the overnight stop. So between the “permitted” riders, the support crews and those who join in for the day, there could be close to 20,000 people traveling across Iowa. People come from all over the world. It is a week of celebration across our beautiful state enjoying our beautiful sceney from flat corn fields to rolling hills to the beautiful bluffs and cliffs along the Mississippi in northeastern Iowa. We welcome any and all to our beautiful state. Come and enjoy Iowa hospitality at it’s best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know lots of people who do or have done Ragbrai and even some who host riders. The difference with the Tour de France is the Tour is professional, and it really is a race, with each bit timed. They go by awfully fast. Nothing leisurely about it!


  4. I love the ville en fête atmosphere and huge pride that goes with being a stage on the Tour. Being a departure and arrival (and rest day) is huge so félicitations Carcassonne. Milau it should be noted also has the highest road bridge in the world …. one of the masts tops out at 343 metres above the valley. Did they cycle over it? Whatever they did and wherever they go the joy and devotion with which they are met is infectious. I have, though, had many funny dinner conversations at tour time when a Brit (Geraint counts, he’s Welsh) is leading with grave shaking heads and questions about where the real mountains are in Britain for the riders to train on. Always makes me smile, as did this post 😊

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  5. Both my husband and son cycle, my husband for pleasure and exercise, my son competitively (he is a member of an amateur team.) My son has taken part in two Etapes du Tour, where amateur riders follow a stage that the professionals ride, usually one of the mountain stages. The first etape he did, French Alps, he came 48th out of about 8500 participants, and the following year, in the Pyrenees, he managed to come 20th. My husband has regularly cycled up the Pas du Peyrol, in the Massif Central, which is on the Tour de France route fairly regularly, the most recent time a couple of years ago. We have a holiday home in the Cantal, in the beautiful Vallee du Mars.

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  6. I love the Tour! Although I have been a little remiss in watching this year. The beer comment reminds me of a documentary about the Tour I watched. back in the day (you know, like when they didn’t even wear helmets), groups of riders would stop and dash into bars/cafes and down several beers (okay, they stole the beers) before hopping back on their bikes – it rehydrated them and gave them a little calorie boost. Of course, a few miles down the road, there’s the unsavory pee break, but…. Oh, and nice sneaky picks of the VIP tents!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Tour is July for us. We started with holidays and moved permanently to France after watching The Tour on the TV with the helicopter shots of towns and villages that needed to be visited in person.
    Carcassonne, as usual, looked the business and much was made of the yellow paint on the Citadel. It was shown as random jagged flashes but looking things up – good ol’ Google- when viewed from one place they are circular . Rather smart IF temporary!
    Good camera work especially in the VIP area!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. No, I don’t watch it (have no TV either) but every single day I suffer with them, for them, read about their heroic, stupid, wonderful, silly ‘day trips’ and wonder WHY on earth would ANYONE want to do that? The strain, the heat, the hard, hard work, the suffering, the hardship, the not-being-able-to-pee-in-dignity…. and much more. This summer must be THE hottest ever. Why oh why all of this?
    But your reporting is ACE. I now know so much more – and we already remembered very fondly and with big smiles the one time we were visiting the Bretagne when we lived in UK and our host so very proudly told us that THEIR road was totally resurfaced for the TdF!!! He couldn’t understand that we weren’t jubilant with him…. BTW; he also explained us the graveyard with the names and ‘stories’ of the victims of the WWII. And much more! It was like a long educational, historical, humanistic story being told over the 2 nights we stayed in their B&B. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Carcassonne is one of my faved places in France, albeit much too hot and often wahayyyy too crowded. I think it would be, for me, a great place to live in let’s say for a few months in winter time, if I couldn’t go to live in Portugal for that time….. Both options sadly are only options in my dreams – but hope dies last – and I just might add Carcassonne to my ‘winter living’ places 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Winters are pretty mild. I have to say, today is about as hot as it has gotten this summer, and it’s 33C/92F at 3:30 p.m. That is hot, but not unbearable, even without air conditioning. And it should get to 19C/67F tonight, which is lovely for sleeping.
      OTOH, yes la Cité gets crowded in summer, but not in the mornings or evenings. The rest of town is livelier than, say, January, but it doesn’t feel crowded or touristy. You can seek out a cool breeze with a picnie in the garrigue just outside town, or take a slow (and flat) bike ride along the Canal du Midi or visit the art museum or another of the local museums. Plenty to do!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Love seeing the Tour! I have been in Paris twice at the end and it is exciting to see the riders. Beautiful photos and by the way I did not know this about the potty breaks. Have a great week.

    Thank you for sharing your ice cream recipe. I made something similar today for a party we are having. I cannot wait to cut the slices!

    Liked by 1 person

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