The Tour de France 2021

Le maillot jaune! The yellow jersey!

Last week I had the opportunity to see the Tour de France cyclists race by on their leg from Nîmes to Carcassonne. Since the race went by only 2 kilometers from my village, I invited a friend to come with me for this rare opportunity. We packed a lunch of baguette sandwiches with Serrano ham and tomatoes. Cucumber slices, potato chips, and fresh peaches rounded out the meal. Slathered with sunscreen and armed with an umbrella to shade us on the hot day, we walked the two kilometers to wait by the side of the road with other locals. My French neighbor suggested we bring chilled rosé to compliment the meal, but we made do with water.

My favorite car, a Citroën 2CV, was part of the opening cavalcade passing out merchandise.

The Tour’s estimated time of arrival in our area was at 3pm. Before then, around 1:30, a cavalcade of vehicles came through tossing out gifts of t-shirts, hats, pencils, and other merchandise to the waiting fans. I caught 4 pencils, a coupon for chicken cutlets, and a sample of dish soap. One of the pencils was from Domitys, a senior residence company. Were they target marketing !? The youngster near me beamed with his booty of four hats and two t-shirts.

This brilliant clown kept us entertained while we waited for the cavalcade and the riders.

One of the highlights of the day was a local clown who kept us entertained while we waited for both the cavalcade and the riders. He had me in stitches with his antics.

I was touched when the clown tried to win my heart with a wildflower bouquet.

Maybe because I laughed so hard at his antics, the clown took a fancy to me and offered me a wildflower bouquet picked from the fields beside us. He waited for my response with a shy stance. When I curtseyed to thank him, he pirouetted and flapped his arms in ecstasy.

The riders went by so fast we could barely take them in. The strong wind they generated almost threw me off balance!

The moment we awaited arrived. The first three riders zoomed by. It was almost anti-climatic! The main group of cyclists, the peloton, followed them. They cycled so fast, in such a tight group, we could barely take them in. The strong wind they generated almost threw me off balance. We left after that – tired and sunburned, but happy to have witnessed such an iconic event firsthand.

What bicycling events have you done this summer? Do you follow cycling events? I don’t follow racing, but it was thrilling to see this event in person.

If you like to read about travel and bicycling, you can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

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Bicycling France’s Loire Valley

 

We flew to Paris with our bicycles. But in order to avoid fighting traffic in the city we took our bikes onto the Réseau Express Régional, (the commuter rail service that links Paris to the suburbs) out of town as far as we could. We started cycling at Saint-Martin d’Étampes past brown fields of mown hay, waving barley, tall oats, and yellow sunflowers. 

In addition to the secondary roads, France has a wonderful system of even smaller roads only the local villagers use. These are the roads we chose for our trip in France. They are the thinnest lines on a detailed map and are called “departmental roads.” We bicycled past a village every three to ten miles.

Our first destination was the cathedral in Chartres. We spent an afternoon in and around the glorious medieval cathedral, marveling at the 167 stained-glass windows in its Gothic interior. The Chartres Cathedral, home to a Black Madonna (Notre Dame de Pilar), is one of several pilgrimage sites throughout Europe with Black Madonna figures. We walked around the labyrinth on the floor of the cathedral, following the footsteps of pilgrims who had walked it for hundreds of years. This was a good start on our journey through France.

We continued on toward the Loire. Bicycling the Loire Valley was a dream. The land was fairly flat with dense forests on either side of the road. Every so often, a stately château broke up the ride and begged us to visit. We easily bicycled over one hundred miles a day, still managed to tour a château or two, and ate well. With the long summer days, we packed two days of cycling into one. Our legs and stamina were strong after Scotland. In France the days were warmer, and the sun shone during our entire month there. Campgrounds were plentiful with amenities, such as hot showers, clean toilets, swimming pools, and even little stores. We met other campers from all over Europe and enjoyed talking with them about travel and life.

Chambord

The châteaux of Blois, Amboise, and Chinon impressed us, but my favorite château was Chambord, which Leonardo da Vinci had helped design. I had visited Chambord many years ago, but bicycling up to the château was an entirely different sensation.

I hadn’t realized that the grounds were so enormous and surrounded by woods full of deer, wild boar, and other animals. Before our visit inside, we took out our cameras and fanny packs with our money and passports, and locked the fully loaded bikes together. We did this at every stop without a problem.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci’s final resting place in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, Amboise.

The Loire Valley in France is a wonderful bicycling area. I highly recommend it both for the ease of cycling and the abundance of campsites.  Unlike many other places we bicycled in 1991-1992, I believe the area hasn’t changed too drastically. Since then, many reclaimed rail lines have been converted into bicycling, hiking, and equestrian trails. They are called “voie vertes” in France. The possibilities of bicycling for hours without traffic are very enticing. I want to explore more of them soon. Do you have favorite rides or hikes to recommend? Or ones you are dreaming of doing soon?

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .