The tour de France ... thus far !!!

Trip Start Mar 05, 2008
Trip End Jan 11, 2009

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Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Monday, July 14, 2008

Sorry for the delay in posting, we've had a little trouble finding the time & internet facilities we needed. But let's get you all up to speed ...

We pulled into Lille, France, on the train, panicked a bit about not contacting the car people four days earlier (like the paperwork said), then gave them a call anyway. It turns out that they were actually expecting us, and brought our car to the station. It was quite hilarious really ... all they did was make Ian sign one piece of paper, then they left us - alone & completely out of control! We found a car park, caught our breath (only 1 'wrong side of the road'!) and decided to plan our trip.

We decided to head for Stage 4 of the tour - the Time Trial in Cholet. We plugged it into the Sat Nav (clearly the best thing we would purchase on this trip!) and 7 hours later, we were there. We hadn't stopped for supplies cause we wanted to arrive in time to set up camp. Somehow we managed to snag the ONLY campsite left in the FULL caravan park, so we set up, then went to drive back into the town for a feed (BONUS). But they had chained up the gates for the night & their little shop/restaurant was packing up (BOGUS)! Well I spat it (as you all knew I would ... well it was 11pm & we had eaten nothing but a small snack at 1pm!)

Anyway, a couple of English guys (Graham & Gary) took pity on us, boiled up some water for our noodles & even brewed us a cuppa & gave us a couple of bickies!!!! They were definite life savers.

The next day we went down to watch the time trial - there were people everywhere!! We watched some starts & some finishes and had a good day. That night (after purchasing some supplies) we went back to see the guys and pay them back for their hospitality. They filled us in on all the 'tricks' of the tour. So the next day we went down early with them to see the start of Stage 5 ... before the riders come thru, the sponsors vans ('the caravan') comes past throwing out heaps of goodies. We ended up with quite a stash (it's all in where you stand ... and my Aussie flag & hat help as well!). I even stacked it on the concrete in my haste to chase down a prize. Gotta take on those little French kids you know!

Once the riders had gone through, we all decided to head off to the end of Stage 6 on top of a mountain in a town called Super-Besse. We still had a heap of shopping to do, so we took the guys' details & said we'd try & catch up there. About 7 hours later we were there ... and even more surprising was that we managed to find the guys as well!!!

We all pitched in some field on the edge of town - no facilities, but hey, it's free! Spent a chilly night amongst the midgies, and then up early for stage 6. On the way up from the town to find ourselves some nice place to set up, we saw Phil Liggett (the guy who commentates on SBS - for those of you who don't follow the cycling!). We stopped him for a chat & (of course) a photo.

The riders came through about 5.30pm, but yes, the goodies caravan came through before that! Not as good a haul as the previous one, but not too bad.

I had an international incident with some French woman who came and tried to muscle in on the space we had been holding for over three hours! (Aussies 1 - Frogs Nil)

We were set up just through the 300m to go banner, so had a perfect view of the small crash near the end where the yellow jersey guy (Schumacher) went down.

The other highlight of the day was when a Rabobank rider threw me his water bottle on the way up to the finish! This is quite a coup to get one of these during a stage. We decided to give it to Gary on the Monday as it was his Birthday (and they had helped us out heaps!)

The Double Gs and the Traylers were having such a good time, that we decided to head down to the middle of Stage 7 (as it wasn't too far from where we were already camped). We set up in a gorgeous little village called Dienne. G & G said that it would be a great place because the riders (& the caravan) need to slow down on the way through. It was good to watch the race, cause the riders had broken into a few bunches by the time they reached us (oh yeah, and the goodies collection went alright too!)

We made friends with an old French couple & they let us set up right outside their house. They even let me use their toilet (& their house was beautiful - all polished wood & old style)!

After staying the night at a Municipal campsite in St Saturnin (can't beat 4 euros!), we decided we'd do one more stage before we headed off to the west coast & the boys headed back home (Bristol). So Stage 8 - here we came! (does that make sense?)

We miscalculated a little & left a bit late, so where we were going to watch from, the caravan had already arrived by the time we got there. So we checked the maps & the sat navs, did a few calculations, then headed further down the route, to a place called Gaillac. We couldn't believe our luck when we arrived and were able to drive up to within 200m of the race route, right near a roundabout. The weather was pretty yucky, so everyone was taking things pretty carefully. We got a final collection of goodies, then watched the riders come through in a couple of bunches & that was the end of it.

We said goodbye to Graham & Gary and made our way back up to a gorgeous old medieval town called Cordes Sur-Ciel (that we had driven through on the way to Gaillac). We had a really nice look around, then decided to head west towards Bordeaux.

We found another municipal campsite in Valence d'Agen & stayed for the night. We reached Bordeaux at about 1pm, had some lunch, then had a really good look around. It's a very pretty city. Unfortunately we were unable to check out any vineyards (chateaux's) ... probably just as well, since Ian was driving!

Continued down the west coast & stopped for the night in Parentis En Born. We will continue towards Bayonne & Biarritz tomorrow. .... then perhaps, back to the Tour de France! (most likely!)
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