30 July 2010

More images of the Tour de France

Here are a few more rider pictures 
From the 2010 Tour de France at the start of Stage #18 in Salies-de-Bearn. I hadn't included these before. The Pays Basque region (the area around Salies-de-Bearn) is a wonderful part of the Pyrenees.
Fabian Wegmann
Andreas Kloden and George Hincapie
 Jergen Van den Broeck
David Millar
Kanstantsin Sivtsov
 Egoi Martinez
 and I couldn't tell who this was:
Images from the Pays Basque region:
Tour de France 2010 recaps and summaries: 
A look back at the Tour de France 2010. Versus Video Summary
A collection of lots of video clips from the 2010 TDF: Tour de France Videos
Pez Cycling: Tour de Pez
Steephill.TV final Tour de France page with all things Tour de France stage by stage
Another blog writer's recap from 2010 worth a browse: CyclingTips: Tour de France Recap

The Flying Fosters Tours recap of their Tour de France Experience
CyclingNews.com: Where the Tour was won 

VeloPeloton: Paddy's Blog (some great pictures!)

Tour de France Tips at tdftips.com

28 July 2010

The Baguette

The perfect baguette is a glorious thing

The baguette seems to be a daily part of life in France. As a visitor, I began to watch, learn, taste, and come to love the baguette.

Delicious plays a big part in describing a baguette. Other than riding my bike and enjoying the incredible scenery of France, one of my fondest memories over the past 5 weeks traveling in France, came at an unexpected yet simple moment. I had returned to Pau, it was 6:04pm. I remember the time because I later thought I need to remember this time. I noticed a long line of people at my favorite bakery in Gan. I opened the door and was greeted by the most wonderful smell of fresh warm bread.

For many weeks I had subconsciously wondered how the French appeared to show such restraint in not immediately devouring their bakery treats. I would watch them walk down the streets with their baguettes in hand, intact, just as I had seen the Great Pyrenees dog walking steadily up the road to the Col du Soulor on July 4th with his baguette still intact. How can they do it? Why don't I see them walking and eating, or eating in their car? How can they restrain themselves? Would I myself be offensive if I started munching away on my chocolat croissant - in public!

Then I experienced the moment. A young man stepped up to his turn in line at that bakery in Gan at 6:06 pm, he bought his baguette and within 2 steps he turned toward the door and took one huge bite from the top of his warm baguette. I couldn't believe what I had finally witnessed! A huge grin spread across his face and his eyes sparkled. This was pure joy. He smiled at the line of people waiting, and we all instinctively smiled back.

I saw it again, that same reckless abandon a few minutes later as another man walked to his car, smiling as he took bite after bite of his bread. He looked directly at me with a broad grin, seeing that I too was doing the same exact thing. I had walked the entire length back to my car across the street closely inhaling the fresh smell of my baguette, clutching it in my hands. It was fresh and warm, hot to hold, and almost too hot to eat. It was heaven.

The memory of this simple communal experience, one day in France, collecting a warm fresh baguette will stay with me for a lifetime. It is odd the things we remember from our travels. I remember a warm baguette as a glorious thing!

I remember coming across this bread delivery bag hanging from the house door outside of the town of Arette, during one of my many bike rides:
Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com
I remember bringing my baguette home one night:
Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com
I remember the Great Pyrenees dog walking up the road, all on his own, with his big baguette still intact:
Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com
I remember every time I saw a Depot of Pain (bread stop) sign in France while out riding my bike, smirking on the meaning in English. I remember almost daily having a baguette, with breakfast, with lunch, with dinner, with joy.

I will miss the French baguette. I live in Denver and am very fortunate to have a French Bakery called Trompeau Bakery (the real thing) just blocks away, tomorrow morning I might just ride my bike over for a baguette.

26 July 2010

Final Stage of the Tour de France

Paris is an amazing city
People people everywhere. The morning in Paris started quiet and calm as I sat having a cappuccino in a cafe just around the corner from my hotel. I was in no rush to get to the Champs Elysees quite yet, although I was looking so forward to the day. Every time I come to Paris I have a different experience. I love museums, but this trip was more about the people.
I did make it over to one museum, the Musee Rodin, I had never been. I sat looking up at The Thinker, thinking, just goes to show you if you sit around too long, a bird will shit on you
Also according to Rodin, the Gates of Hell are sort of an intense place to be.
Give me a Michelangelo or a Donatello any day, I think Rodin's hands are just too large. Most impressive was his home and the location of the property; right near the Invalides. Given that he was a modern sculptor, he did pretty well for an artist at the turn of the 20th century in Paris.
I found my way to the not too crowded Metro station to catch the subway to the Champs Elysees for the final stage of the Tour de France. Quickly I realized I was far more interested in the fans, than waiting on the front-lines of the barriers along the Boulevard. I even texted my brother in California at one point, and said "how much longer until the riders arrive in the city?" I couldn't take standing with the crowd pressing in on me any longer. 
So I freed myself, relinquishing my prime spot, and returned to walking among the fun fans instead.

I thought I'd share some images of the fans on Stage #20 of the Tour de France 2010 in Paris:
A very enthusiastic fan named Randal was trying to get the crowd to do the wave. He succeeded in getting it to go all the way around the corner at the end near the Arc du Triomphe. It was lots of fun for the crowd waiting for the race. This was a happy group of people to be around.
I then saw four happy satisfied men standing behind the American contingency, drinking cans of Heineken beer.  After being smashed in the crowd, I needed a beer! I walked straight up to these friendly men and asked, "do you speak English, where did you get your beer?" With perfect detail they directed me straight to the key location I had been longing for.
I wish I had gotten their picture because they ended up inviting me to go out to dinner with them, which was very nice. After the race, we went for Lebanese food and then walked up the Champs Elysees to sit having a beer outside in the Tuileries as the sun was setting. Chris, Mark, and Brian are pilots with Delta and were great fun to spend the evening with. They just happened to fly into town that morning and thought they'd go see the Tour de France.
I did get some pictures of the Caravan (but none are money shots, it was more about being there for me today and enjoying the atmosphere):
The pole dancing Xtra men where a fixture this year in the Caravan (I wonder how many calories they burn a day, and no they weren't out pole dancing on Stage 17 when it was raining so hard). Those StMichel teacakes do not taste very good, in fact most of the treats thrown out from the Caravan are yucky tasting, but the fans love the stuff. I kept giving them away. I did keep the hats galore, and kept piling them on top of my head. (They don't throw any freebies to the crowd along the Champs Elysees though).
Here is a picture of the actual Tour de France race. I didn't get too many shots, instead at every lap I chose to focus on the riders. I tried to pick out Cav or Lance or George or Fabian or Petacchi or Basso or others. The riders go by in a whir, but somehow, I seemed to see Lance on almost every lap. He was easy to spot, as was Contador. 
A few pictures from the procession afterward:

Robbie McEwen
David Zabriskie
Mark Cavendish (thank you Mark for getting this picture of Mark).
George Hincapie
Alessandro Petacchi (do you see the toddler shoes around his neck?)
The Radio Shack Team in their new 28 Livestrong jerseys (in honor of the 28 million Americans living with and surviving cancer)
Rui Costa
Team Astana
This is Alberta Contador .. he is very short, or the crowd was very tall, anyway I saw him, but no pictures really.
Alright that was my day at the finishing stage of the Tour de France 2010. Wow.
I am one year older in age and had a fun time texting my brother and friends during the day, and hanging out with the Delta Pilots. It was well worth traveling to Paris to see the finish. (Although I am not a fan of any of the airports in Paris. Flying in and out of the smaller airports in France is far far better).

Tomorrow I return from Toulouse, through London, back home to Denver, Colorado. Culture shock! and Altitude shock!

25 July 2010

Ah Paris!

Paris is the city for Lovers, and Walkers!
Yesterday after arriving in Paris, I simply walked for 5 hours. I had no plan really. I went out the door of my hotel, looked left, looked right, and decided to walk left. To the Tuileries, I thought, and beyond!

Well as with all good things, one thing led to another and I walked through the Palais Royal, the Louvre area, the Tuileries, along the Seine toward Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame. I continued past the picnickers to the Isle de la Cite, across to the island of Ile St Louis for gelato and more street musicians. I walked along the blocks of cafes on Rue Louis Philippe reading the menu boards for fun. Through the trendy art area near Place des Vosges, and finally caught the metro back to my hotel. Whew.
The night was filled with street musicians and picnickers along the bank of the River Seine. Cafes overflowed with the clanking of glasses and chatter. Customers stood 15 deep in line for gelato in perfect weather in Paris. The gardens were in bloom and as people sat relaxing, taking photos, and visiting, it was amazing to feel the energy of this city. I marvel at how Paris was designed for people to come outside and enjoy it fully.
Out my hotel doorstep (a quiet street in Paris!)
There were lots of bikes out and people riding them everywhere. They have a very popular bike sharing network here, and people use the bikes!:
Images from the Louvre / Tuileries:
Everywhere people were sitting in the gardens, on benches and chairs, on the ground (everywhere) ... watching the people go by ... I had to join in. So I found an open chair and relaxed along with them:
Guess they didn't have to lock this bike up:
 Images along the Seine (sightseeing tour boats and picnickers):
 I loaded up on tons of gifts (kidding, there is just something so odd about tacky souvenirs!)
Back to the real sites of Paris (Notre Dame):
Party down by the river! These people were all singing out loud together. With others playing Bocce ball.
I love Paris!