Tour de France time

Today we are off to meet up with the Tour de France leg of our journey. The weather is still pretty miserable so it is a good day to be on the road. The journey is uneventful and we arrive at Toulouse airport and meet up with our Christchurch friends Max, Fi, Alex, & Kaye. We all have lots of stories to tell and the 2 hour bus trip to Lourdes goes very quickly.

Lourdes is a strange place, there are people in wheelchairs everywhere, they have come for the healing waters in a spring here. There is a huge church built on the cliff above the sight and there are so many pilgrims visiting the area every day. We visit on 2 occasions and light candles for people who are in our thoughts.

There is 3 days thru the Midi-Pyrenees to follow and we begin with the toughest day. The riders have to climb both the Col de Tourmelet & Col de Luiz Ardein, both monsters of climbs. Steve has been having some knee trouble all trip so gives the ride a miss. Max & Ale both bike up Tourmelet, at 2150 mtrs it’s the biggest climb they have done.

The support crew find a shady spot to wait for the cyclists and enjoy the atmosphere as the anticipation builds. Before the riders arrive there is a convoy of floats throwing gifts with sponsor’s logos on them, it gets the crowd buzzing and not long and the riders fly past, and there is a flotilla of support cars & motor bikes, quite incredible.

The next 2 days are very similar, we all get some riding in, get to see both the start and finish, and collect a few kilos of souvenirs to bring home. The chance to see the Tour de France has been a wonderful experience and we have a whole new appreciation about what happens around the race itself. It is such a huge event

Too soon we are dropped back to Toulouse airport, but we are off to Provence so it’s not a time to be sad. We take the B roads and cover some lovely scenery. Fields full of sunflowers, ancient buildings, and narrow winding roads make the trip memorable.

Provence lives up to it’s reputation and we are so pleased we came. The accommodation that Garry organised is beautiful. Old buildings surround a lovely pool area, and we can’t wait to have a swim and lie in the sun, as we haven’t done that since the cruise.

Sightseeing in Provence is so enjoyable, we stop to try some wine and stumble across Julian Deans riding team called Garmin, who are having lunch in vineyard on their day off. We have lunch along the road at a castle. The terrace has views across the vines and over a valley. It is the best meal on trip so far. Steve tries the Steak Tartar, a local speciality, it is raw with onions and herbs, and tastes great. Jane has a wonderful fish dish with Tomato & Mozzarella salad, washed down with some great local wine.

The day finishes by the pool, we wish every day could be like this!

The trip back to Toulouse is on the motorway so the sightseeing is a bit limited. We stop in Montpellier and find an ancient city full of narrow winding streets and a great tram system.

The airport hotel is a bit average and directly under the flight path of the planes coming in to land. There is a great local restaurant which saves the day (or night) so all ends well.

Our taste of Southern France has ended all too soon, but we have had a taste and are determined to come back for a longer spell to see this marvellous country.