The last day was entirely devoted to the Tour. We got up and headed down to find a spot to catch the race and then stood there. All day. In the sun. All day. With annoying people crowding into our personal space. Including improper touching. But damn was it cool!!!
There were a ton of Brits there to watch Wiggo win the yellow and Cav destroy the field for the stage win. Kristin was trying to get any kind of acknowledgement from Cavendish. There were some crude comments made that I won’t repeat here. Lucky guy. I ran down to a market and grabbed a bunch of snacks and wine to enjoy while we baked in the sun for the seven hours on the curb. It was great to have the peloton come around eight times so that you could actually see some of the racers instead of a two-minute rush of chaos. We were able to get about 30 minutes of chaos.
There were some lame people that showed up late and expected us to squeeze over to let them up on the rail. Including their annoying as hell children bouncing and bumping into me for a couple hours. But the crazies from the UK were all fun to chat with and share food and drinks with. Now we can get back to watching the race from the comfort of the breakfast table next year. I love me some bike racing, but one session of that was good for me.
Well, that’s about it. Just a couple other photos from the trip home that I’ll throw into a last post with some closing thoughts.
We worked up a gameplan for the day. It started off by heading down to the Henri Cartier-Bresson museum, since he’s the grandfather of the decisive moment and all, and was based in Paris for a long time. We finally managed to work our way through the Metro system to get to the stop near the museum but then we couldn’t find the dang thing. Eventually we happend to find it and learn that there was a temporary exhibit by a Japanese photographer and that only 12 of HBC’s prints were up on the top floor of the three floor building. I was a little bummed, but it was still cool to see some real prints from the legend.
After that, we stopped and grabbed some lunch on a patio before heading to Tour Montparnasse. It’s the tallest building in Europe supposedly. We figured it was the second best option to the Tour Eiffel, with the elevator issues and all. We made it to the top and it was a great view. The rooftop is on what would be the 58th floor. The views were great through the plexi. I had found a couple of features on my new Canon P&S, so I was playing with those a bit – the mini effect and toy camera look.
After heading down from the top, we walked over to the Luxemburg Gardens. Second largest park in Paris. This park was very cool. Since it was Saturday, there were tons of people about. In the main pond/fountain were little sailboats that are controlled purely by winds and shoves from kids with bamboo sticks. Despite the big crowds, it was still quite pleasant to sit and watch everything. After a while in the park we hoofed it over to Notre Dame.
There was a bit of a line to get into the sanctuary, but it didn’t take long to get inside. It was amazing to me that it is still a functioning church with the tourism booby traps that were all over the outside and inside. As we left we walked down the northern side of the building to see the line for the towers. I don’t know that waiting three hours to look for Quasimodo would be worth it, honestly. But to each their own. I was just having fun shooting oddness from the hip on the Toy Camera setting on my P&S.
We then came upon a bridge with thousands of locks clamped onto the railings. Each one with names and or dates. We finally figured out that it was a love lock memorial of sorts. We didn’t have a lock with us, but I thought about writing our initials on someone else’s lock. Until I figured it would be bad luck. We moved on to find out what time a completely vegetarian restaurant opened for dinner. YUP, all veggies, all the time. Since 1978. We had more time to burn, so we decided to get a patio evaluation spot and spy on tourists over a bottle of wine. Everything was great. Not nearly as interesting people watching as we had had the night before, but still fun. Then our table neighbors, presumably from western Europe as they had a Germanic sounding language, ordered some white wine and then poured ice water into it – to soften it up a bit? Might be like the Coors Light of wine, you never know.
Dinner at the restaurant was money. So good and jammed with all kinds of great flavor. Not worrying about what was in whatever you were ordering was a nice change. There were several tourists in there too. Not a lot of locals from what I could gather, but then again we were upstairs away from the front door. After dinner we jumped on the Metro back to the hotel. We were wiped out. Tomorrow would be a bit different day, watching Le Tour.
We took the train just west of Paris to Versailles. We were lucky to find out about the side-trip from Kristin’s cousins Mike and Jenny. They had just traveled to the area about a month before we had, and said it was a sight to see. We’re glad we went, though my feet are not quite as sure.
The place is surreal and enormous. And all together rather beautiful despite it’s stature of pompousness. The main palace area is the major tourist area and had some really interesting elements to it, but the gardens and Trianons are much more interesting and fun to be in. Might be because I didn’t have to feel like a fullback on a Sunday afternoon in the AFC Central.
We roamed around a bit, grabbed some lunch at a little place hidden among the trees between the palace and the Grand Canal, then rented bikes to get out further into the gardens. Riding around was probably the highlight of it all. It was nice to not walk on our tired feet and feel like we were back in the saddle a bit. We both were kind of jonesing for a ride, despite the crazy riding we had just done. The lines and grids of the gardens was fascinating.
After finishing up with our jaunt around Versailles, we headed back to Paris on the train to see if we could get up the Eiffel Tower. But the lines were immeasurable and we decided to go find food before we harmed anyone from the deranged hunger pangs. After a bit of fussing with maps on the iPhone we managed to find a Thai restaurant not far from where we were. It was a terrific find. Amazing food and even better desserts. There was a newlywed couple from L.A. sitting next to us, and the bride’s father went to school with the owner of the restaurant in Laos back in the day. So it was interesting to hear all that, as well as the sad news from Aurora and the shootings at the movie theater.
After dinner we stopped back by the tower, but with only one elevator working to take people to the top and the line a mile long we decided to head in for the night and take it easy after the long day out in the gardens. We figured we could give it another go tomorrow.
We headed out of Pau on a flight at 11am so that we could get into Paris and get out for a bit before it was too late. The hotel is pretty cool. Even more so if you like rock music motif. We’re not too far from the main drag and just a block from a Metro stop. Should be fun. We were able to get some awesome Indian food and have a change up from the fish staples we’ve been having for a while now. It was fantastic.
On a side note, we are perplexed and enthused at the Parisan custom of sitting outside bars and restaurants, with the seats all facing the sidewalk, and quite simply evaluating aspects of passersby. It’s like approved social criticism. Kind of a fun exercise, and I don’t feel guilty about it for a change. Oh wait, I guess I do it all the time. So judgmental.
For now, here’s some photos from our brief outing to the Tour Eiffel area. I have to get Kristin’s photos off her cam still.
Today was our last ride of the trip. And boy, did we make it a Duzer.
We decided to go with the “dashed route” for the final ride. Typically the dashed route is a bit longer and more difficult. See: more climbing. Since it was going to be the last one we wanted to make it a good one. Plus, Peter had said that the road was very beautiful once you got up the initial steep section and it leveled off and ran along the edge of the top of the valley. He drove it in the van a couple years ago and was scared to death on the trip. The road wound up being a glorified bike path really. It was super narrow and was listed on a dangerous roads website – Kristin found the site but I can’t find the link now. But we were sure to look for the “flat section” after the initial 15-24% climb. Yep, that’s right, there was a section of 24%. It was only about a 100 yards, but _______ (chose your explicative) that’s steep. The initial “steep section” ended up being about the first 4 miles. Then it was flat for about a mile before kicking back up to 9-15% for the last mile plus. It was also a bit warmer than we had been riding in the whole trip, so that added a new dynamic to the mix. Along with the mean as hell horseflies, this climb was pretty brutal. But I’m still glad we did it. The other route, the “dotted route,” would have been an interval training session on HGH and steroids with all the little but steep climbs over the foothills of the Pyrenees.
I’ll try to put together a little video from the climb and a bit of the descent and add it soon.
Once we started down the rough and gnarly road I managed to get yet another flat tire. This time it was a thorn and not some massive blowout with potentially dangerous side effects. I swapped out the tube pretty quick and caught back up with Kristin, Galen and Ella. By then a few others had grouped up with us, including The Canucks and Steve.
Things were going well, then the road drastically changed color from a slate gray to a high gloss black. Fresh. Hot. Sticky. Tar. We all hopped off our bikes and walked in the ditches and weeds to try and avoid the tar as much as possible, but we all still managed to get it all over our shoes and cleats. It was a mess. We ended up walking at least a kilometer if not two before we could get back on the bikes and then deal with the occasional sticky rick flinging off a tire at ourselves or bike parts.The sad part was that several other tandems and singles were still behind us and ended up riding through the tar instead of hoofing it. The carnage on those bikes was bad. A couple people upon tearing down their bikes tonight, just threw away the tires because there was so much stuck to them.
Kristin and I then worked our way back to Pau in the warm temperatures. It was about 90 degrees and we were running out of water. Every village we went through we were on the hunt for water. We made it into Pau and managed to coax a man into taking a photo of us on the overlook before we made it the last few hundred meters. I’m sure we smelled as rank as a carcass on the roadside after all the sweating and road tar. The top notch room and all at the hotel was greatly appreciated as we took showers to clean up for our last happy hour and dinner with the other riders. Lots of folks were down in the bar watching the end of the epic Tour stage and having some beverages. The food was amazing as always, even when there’s things I shouldn’t nor want to eat. The food on the trip has been quite memorable. I never did take any photos of it all but I should have. I think I was just too hungry and tired to think about it really.
Overall, this has been an amazing trip. Harder than we even expected, and we expected to suffer a lot. More beautiful than the footage can share while watching the Tour riders race through the Pyrenees. More rewarding than we considered with the great group of people that we were sharing it all with. It was a high suffer to reward exchange expedition, that’s for sure. And despite all the notions of how brutal and horrible it may sound on these pages, we’d do it all over again. Just let us have a few days of recovery first. Then we can go out riding again.