Tuesday, 21 July 2015

This year's Le Tour adventure

Mark took this photo of Jane, Steve and I, as we arrived at a col in the Pyrenees
We've just had our annual Tour de France day. This year we decided to make a real trip of it, and we stayed overnight in Massat, in the Pyrenees so we could see a mountain stage. We’ve seen flat stages through French villages, a hilly Yorkshire stage last year, and the dramatic Carcassonne depart, also last year, so this was something new.

our hotel, in Massat

The hotel was basic, but pretty and interesting. I could have done without the creepy dolls set out in the public areas,

..... and the bed could have been more comfortable and the décor in the French bathroom (which did not have a toilet) was fairly bizarre. 

However, the staff were lovely and the food was amazing.

It does look as if I am snorting this pomme sorbet with calvados, but I promise I wasn't.

The hotel was actually on the route for Le Tour, and it was incredibly cheap.

Massat is a pretty village in the Pyrenees, and it welcomed Le Tour with open arms.

There are bears in the Pyrenees...not many, but they are there.

Jane, Steve, Verity and Mark checking the Tourist information board

A fabulous brocante shop in Massat. There was so much "stuff" in it.

We sat in the café in the centre of the village, as the gendarmes argued with the café owners about table positions at the side of the road, and people began to select their viewing positions.

Mark, buying some Tour merchandise.

The barricades, ready to go up, to hold the crowd back....and keep the cafe tables off the actual route. Those black arrows on the yellow background are to show the cyclists the way to go !

We had decided on a spot just before the village. We had checked it out the day before and thought we would be able to see any breakaway that had happened due to the previous climbs, as well as the peloton, going through, just before they hit the final 2 climbs of the day. We reckoned they would not be zooming past us so fast we would not be able to pick out our heroes…but fast enough to be excited by it all.

Mark, and Jesus, waiting for the race to arrive.
It all worked to plan. We had set up by about 9.30 am, waiting for the caravan to come through at about 1pm. The waiting was nearly as good as the arrival of the caravan and then the cyclists themselves. Verity kept us informed about the progress of the race by checking Le Tour app on her phone, so we knew exactly what was going on.

Establishing shade was important
So getting those umbrellas right was crucial
We chatted, we arranged chairs in the ever moving shade, we had a pic-nic and we organised our yellow umbrellas, Sky vests and other Tour paraphernalia.

A gendarme was positioned next to us....she was required to stand all day ! It was very hot.

Mark, opening the wine, Steve, as designated driver, was very good...he did not have a drop. Others among the group did !
Waiting for the race.....after lunch, Sky jerseys set out so the boys would know who we were supporting
The caravan arrived with all its razzmatazz…..and we joined in, catching key rings, hats, wrist bands, bottles of water, juice, bags of various sizes, tee shirts and blow up pillows ( IBIS hotels advertisements).
I've seen this huge cyclist many times now....but it's still exciting......Steve was perfectly positioned to catch goodies thrown from the floats.

I don't think they threw out any pens.

We shared some of our loot with a French family who had positioned themselves nearest to us, and some Dutch supporters who had come fully equipped with their camper van.

We then awaited the real purpose of the day. A lone rider arrived, seconds ahead of the expected breakaway group.

The break away arrived
No one who could threaten the main GC riders was in the breakaway, so we know that a few minutes later, the peloton, with all our favourites, would arrive.

...and then the peloton....Froome in yellow, behind the Sky team.
We had a great view of them, as they sped past us….not too fast, as we had expected. Sky was in control of the peloton, leading the way into Massat, with yellow jersey Christopher Froome tucked safely behind them, being protected by his team.

This was the day that Froome had urine thrown at him. We did not hear about that until later. It does seem that the reporting of Le Tour questions how “clean” Froome and the Sky team are. Some Brits, of course, consider it to be just that the French never win anymore, and whoever is winning, or seems strongest these days is going to be criticised. I suspect it’s a bit more complicated than that, and after the years of Armstrong’s dreadful behaviour …not just taking the drugs, but the cruel and damaging denial that went with it for so many years….there will always be questions about outstanding performances. Froome’s performance has been outstanding.He is amazing. I believe, and hope that Sky’s brilliance has been that they have been one step ahead of others as far as the psychology, the science and the technology of cycling goes. I believed that when Wiggins was the hero, and now I think that Froome is just a superbly trained and honed athlete. I really do hope I'm right !

A great photo of Froome...provided by Steve....not sure whether he took it, or Verity did, I missed him completely, but for a change, after I had captured one image of the peloton's arrival I decided to watch the race itself rather than  through the camera lens. 

Anyway…..once again, being part of Le Tour has been a great experience. Sharing it with friends, as we did last year in Carcassonne, was a great way to do it. Who knows what we’ll do next year….there’s talk of Paris………Oh to see a Mark Cavendish win on the Champs Elysees! 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Lazy blogging

Despite best intentions, my blogging directions are still pretty vague. I know I want to keep blogging, and following others.....but I just don't seem to get around to either writing, or reading much at the moment. 

So, this is another catch up sort of blog, continuing what has been a kind of diary for me over the last 3 years. It all feels very predictable...the rhythms of the year, the vide greniers at the same venues on the same weekend each year, the cherry trees ripening, and the cherry conserve making, the cigales starting to accompany every hot afternoon......the arrival of les hirondelles.....and the blue blue skies.

We had to return to England for a couple of weeks at the end of June, for my regular hospital check up ( all is well ! ). We took advantage of some lovely English weather, and spent several days with the grandchildren. 

Izzie and Flynn

I worked a couple of shifts at the Hospice shop, and enjoyed seeing some of my favourite volunteers, staff and customers.

With Georgie at the Overgate Hospice shop

 We mooched, as it is by far the best thing to do, in our lovely Hebden Bridge, and then we spent some time in Liverpool with Jess, who ran an amazing personal best time 10K in a Race for Life event in Sefton Park. It was exactly 2 years since she ran her first ever race, a 5K Race for Life, when I removed my wig for the first time, following my chemotherapy.

2 photos, 2 years apart......

Back in Caunes again, and the summer has really got underway. Le Tour has started....into the Pyrenees today....we're going into the mountains tomorrow,to get our first ever view of a mountain stage. Les Venderedis Classiques concerts in Caunes have started, It's feu d'artifice in Carcassonne tonight, to celebrate le quatorze.....and its hot ! It has been over 30 degrees every day for ages, no rain for 5 or 6 weeks, and our figs have already started to turn purple.

Opera in the grounds of Caunes Abbey

So...all is well. We have no visitors for another 2 weeks, then lots of visitors for the duration of the school holidays. It will be good to see the grandchildren again, and to watch how their swimming and  treasure hunting skills have developed since last summer.

Mark & Clark

So, that is it, our very lovely life continues to jog along, meanwhile Greece totters, benefits are reduced for the poorest in the UK, migrants continue to risk all to arrive in our part of the world,  Scott Walker, from Wisconsin, seeks the Republican nomination for the Presidential race, alongside wanting guns to be more easily available for American citizens, Tories want to ease regulations re fox hunting and people are not  travelling abroad on holiday because of terrorism fears.

I feel very lucky. All is well in my personal world, and being cocooned in this lovely place, with so much to enjoy and look forward to, sometimes seems very unfair. On the plus side, it is wonderful to be able to share it with our family and friends who come to visit. 

How well will they all be able to swim this year ?