|There they go....|
A quick two-day visit to Paris, aboard the excellent Eurostar, was mooted. Discussion lazily turned to the Tour de France, which had been pedalling furiously all over France for the past couple of weeks. It looked like the British team and Bradley Wiggins were going to win the cycling honours for the first time ever, taking the title from last year's Australian winner, Cadel Evans, who had not had a good Tour this year.
"So, when does the Tour end?"
"In Paris, this Sunday..."
"Aren't we in Paris on Sunday?"
|Small charming hotel in Paris.|
So, quite co-incidentally, we found ourselves on Sunday afternoon strolling along the banks of the Seine from our charming small hotel behind the Bastille, towards the Tuileries Gardens and a phalanx of barriers, police and people which marked the final circular course of the Tour, around which the cyclists would dash madly eight times before crossing the finish line on the Champs d'Elysees.
"There's no way we'll be able to see anything."
"But it will be nice to just absorb the atmosphere..."
Trotting up to the curb, we found to our mild surprise that the crowd was a mere three people deep around the barricades. Striking while the iron was hot, so to speak, one of us established Base Camp while the other went off to scout water (the temperature was creeping up to 30 degrees C) and to make sure that there wasn't an even better vantage point further along. But the original spot turned out to be the best.
Within about an hour the press helicopter overhead, followed by a cheer creeping up the boulevard towards us, warned that the cyclists had reached the heart of Paris. Sure enough, they soon zoomed around the curve right near us and then zoomed right by and into the road tunnel under the Gardens. How exciting! Apart from a few gendarmes blocking the view now and then, we had an excellent vantage point. After the first couple of circuits, some less-hardy spectators even abandoned the front row of the barricades, and our view improved to front-line. On the barricades in Paris! Could we hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men....? But I digress. We waited out all the circuits, and excitedly pointed out to each other the Yellow Jersey, the Green Jersey, the British Sky Team, and a possible Cadel Evans in red and black.
The amateur video and pitiful attempts at still photos were barely worth the effort, as the 140-odd riders passed us in a hissing blur of furiously pedalling legs. Later, enjoying a well-earned bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape and excellent French cuisine in a charming small bistro in the 11th arrondissment, we flicked through our photographic efforts on the camera.
"Hmmm...this is the least blurry still pic. Someone in red and black."
"Let's see...Hmmm. You have Cadel there."
"Cadel? I have Cadel? Are you sure?"
Indeed we were.