24 July 2010

I'm in Paris

Bonjour, Where do I begin?
I am now in Paris, ready to watch the finish of the Tour de France for my 4th time on the Champs Elysees (2001, 2003, 2005, 2010). I flew from Toulouse to Paris on Easy Jet (26 euros!). Hopped the Air France bus from Orly, stepped off the bus to a view of the Eiffel Tower, got on the metro, and 4 stops later I hopped off, walked up the subway stairs straight to a bakery, bought a sandwich pouillet, and am now enjoying a glass of white wine with my sandwich while watching the Tour de France ITT in Bordeaux, on TV in Paris.

After five weeks in France, I finally feel at home here in this wonderful country. Not even phased by Paris. I am here at the Hotel Gramont Opera. I have previously stayed in the Marais, in the Latin Quarter, near the Eiffel Tower, and this time the Opera area, I think I've been here 6 or 7 times over the years. All I know is anything I do in this city is fine, tomorrow is my birthday, the final day of the Tour de France 2010, and in two days I return to the USA.
Bordeaux brings back memories as I watch the ITT. I have clear memories of being incredibly lost in the city of Bordeaux during a finishing stage of the Tour de France in 2003. In fact my ex-boyfriend did get lost; looking back, I should have left him lost. I did have a fun dinner with Allan Peiper (manager HTC-Columbia) after the stage however. Right now, I'm rooting for Andy Schleck, but am thrilled Fabian Cancellara is the leader of the ITT at the moment.
I need to catch up on posting photos and stories from the past days. I was busy enjoying the experiences at hand and having too many stories to write about. Plus enjoying the last lingering moments of being in the Pyrenees. Hooking up to wi-fi took a backseat as I decided to sit and enjoy the views of the Col d'Aubisque, from the farm, until it got dark. Good times! Although I had to ceremonially pack up my bike into it's box last night.
Tomorrow is the finish on the grand boulevard. The Tour de France will complete 9 laps on the Champs Elysees. I have learned that it is not really worth hanging out for hours along the barriers, holding a position, because within 30 minutes of the beginning of the 9 laps, suddenly 1 million ++ people show up and smash you to bits. My space bubble is just too big to handle the crushing crowds. It is best to hang out in a cafe down one of the side streets, go out and visit with people, walk around and soak up the atmosphere of the Tour de France.
The best part is after the race is over! After the 9 laps, most of the crowd will leave and I can more easily move to the front of the barriers. After the awards ceremony, the teams take a victory celebration lap. The riders take off their cycling shoes and helmets and roll down the entire length of the Champs Elysees, together with their teammates. They are relaxed and happy, it is great to see. This is definitely worth staying for. This is where the best photo ops will come. This is when I can scream and yell for my favorite riders. 
If you are in Paris, remember to stay for the fun. If your noisy contingency is large enough, you may get a rider to stop at your group for a photo (if you beg and plead and call out his name and wave your flags). The entire boulevard will be closed, so if you need to get to the other side use the underground metro station stairs and tunnels as an underground passage from side to side.
Oh, and don't go to the Arc de Triomphe, the race does not actually go around the arc. It makes the U-turn short of the Arch. The photographers pack this area because the riders must slow down here. It is also a good spot to see the riders bouncing off the cobbles on the turn. The crowds are huge at either end of the course. The Champs Elysees is indeed an uphill, so they will come up faster to the arch and slightly slower in the middle. Also the sun will not be in your camera lens if you are on the side next to the river (up from the arch).
Wow, could Andy or Alberto slip around on their saddles anymore during this ITT (on the rivet, back, on the rivet)? Okay, I will post some pictures later. Still having fun in France, drinking wine, feeling good ... time to go out for a walk soon. 

Photos from my long walk in Paris: Ah Paris! 
Photos and story from the final stage in Paris: Final Stage of the Tour de France