Have you ever flipped through the channels in July and come across the Tour de France? Do you wonder where all those crazy people came from, how did they get alongside the road waving their flags? Why do they wear such outlandish outfits or nothing at all!
My husband and I enjoy France, we spent some time in Provence where we discovered the villages and hill side towns. My husband is an architect and there is a built-in history of architecture in France, and in the south of France there are many roman ruins and bridges.
We were talking about our affection for the country with friends when they suggested that we watch the Tour de France on TV. You can see the countryside and the announcers are very knowledgeable about the history of France. Watching it and not only continued our love for France but made us fall in love with the sport of cycling.
I became obsessed, learned all the crazy rules of the road and started following riders, they’re a bit like rock stars to their fans.
When you see all the crowds on TV alongside the roads it’s easy to imagine yourself there. And if you want to add something different to your normal trip to France, go to watch the Tour de France in person, you won’t be disappointed.
Here are a few things you will need to do a few things in preparation:
- In the fall (they usually post the route in October) before you plan your trip go to www.letour.com to down load the map for the coming tour. Once you know where the tour will be going you can then look for your place to stay. The Tour is always the first three weeks in July. I try to see at least two or three stages of the tour. We usually rent somewhere and use it as a base. We like to be in the Provence area, but we have watched the tour around Lyon and at the finish in Paris, a wonderful place to watch the finale with all the celebration, but not great to see the riders on the road.
- Once you’ve chosen which stage to watch, you will need to do a little leg work before the day, luckily my husband likes to drive around the country side following the maps from the tour. He looks for areas where there is a hill or a corner. A hill slows the riders down so you can catch a glimpse of them – otherwise they whoosh by in about 10 seconds.
- Pack food and drink for the day, a cooler box will come in handy as well as some chairs.
- Settle in for a momentous day! You will meet people from all over the world and any kind of language barrier will soon disappear. (Especially after a glass of wine).
- About two hours before the riders appear you’ll get to enjoy the caravans of the sponsors. They toss all kinds of swag! It’s totally entertaining and fun to try to catch the treasures.
- After the riders have passed, clean up your area and pack up.
- Repeat this process for the next stage. Take tons of photos and meet lots of people!
We have found going to the Tour has helped us learn more about France and about cycling. It helps to understand the rules of the Tour de France, but not necessary. Look for the jerseys from the categories:
White – Overall fastest and youngest rider
Green – Sprinter
Poka dots – King of the Mountains
Yellow – Overall fastest rider
It has also helped us with our French. When you encounter people out on the roads you must rely on your own resources to communicate. We now know how to ask for help with finding le toilette, at the café if they have Wi-Fi (they pronounce it weefee). Be careful of your pronunciation. We went into a café and I said in my best accent “Two people, please” (deuxpersonne si’l vous plait) The waitress brought us two beers just as we sat down. I then realized that she thought I had said, two Pression (draft beer) instead of persons. We just thought we were very welcomed!
You’ll find the views and vistas are just unbelievable. Stop in the villages, shop the open markets, eat the best food you will ever find and fall in love with France.
Check out this fabulous Tour de France Video for an idea of what it’s all about – the view, the passion, the showmanship and the madness that make for one of the most exciting sporting events in the world:
By Verna Bevens, Tour de France fan.