A Travellerspoint blog

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Chateaux & into the Massif Central

Managed to drag Dave through not one but TWO chateaux this morning! The first was a Gothic fortified chateaux at Fougere sur Bievre, which I personally found ugly and not of great interest, so Dave agreed to go to a 'beautiful' chateax. The second was Cheverney, which was the inspiration for the Chateau of Captain Haddock for those of you that ever read TinTin. Now THAT is a Chateau!
See the photo's for comparison.....Left is Gothic, right is Renaissance
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After that Dave was suffering from a nasty condition called 'Chateau Fatigue' and decided the only cure was to watch more bike racing! So off we raced, stopping only to take an obligatory photo of sunflowers, sadly it wasn't sunny so not the perfect shot but happy enough.IMG_2986.jpg

Our first village of choice to watch the tour was Chaumont sur Loire (where we took the photo of the Chateau yesterday), we found a bit of a hill and installed ourselves on a tiny strip of grass between the road and a drain with running water, slightly precarious but it worked. As you can see Dave managed to make himself comfortable.
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With the slight incline the riders went past at a slower pace, so again a chance to see them up close. I took a cool video of Dave waving the flag as they passed but the wifi here is a bit slower so won't upload it.

Dave had made me park the car for a quick getaway, so as soon as the road cleared we scampered back to the car and headed off for Pellevoisin another tiny village closer to the stage finish so he could see the race again. We arrived basically the same time as the riders as there had been a big pile-up just before the village, Dave jumped out of the car and ran down to see the riders go past while I found a park (about 10 m from where I dropped him!). We watched the injured struggle past, some of them look dreadful, their faces are just a mask of pain (I know just how they feel!).

We then managed to find a Bistro in another village with a TV and watched the final kilometre of the race. It was then that we discovered that we still had 4 hours of driving to reach our B&B in the Grand Massif for the night - yikes! This was where our luck didn't hold and we hit a traffic jam, so it took us nearly an hour to get out of the TV village! And that was with the help of some Gendarmes directing traffic!

So dinner was at a stop off the autoroute where we refueled and grabbed a quick bite. Huge complex with space for hundreds and hundreds of people, at the hour we were there just a handful of people were eating. Still a hot meal, but nothing to right home about! When we got our diesel, Dave was thrilled to finally get to take a photo of a stock truck...so for you farmers here is a French stock truck carting dairy cattle!
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The rest of the drive was a blur. The GPS took us on a merry drive through ridiculously small country roads which at any other time would have been lovely but at 9pm when we were due at 8pm and an hour left to go was not amusing! We finally made it at just after 10pm absolutely exhausted! Looking at the map after we got here we went the most indirect route possible, so not sure what Mrs Garmin (the GPS) was up to, but she nearly got thrown out the window!!!!

But moving on....this place, St-Sauvin d'Auvergne, is lovely and we're booked in for two nights so a bit more relaxed for the next couple of days. The race starts into the hills from here on so Dave is quite excited!

Posted by Kanumera 23:55 Comments (0)

First hill stage of the tour

Finally into the hills! After yesterday's marathon driving effort decided today to limit the driving to the minimum required to get us to the tour and back. We had managed to get a B&B very close to the race route so it was only about 10Km to our destination - yay!

We went to the town of Bourboulle firstly and had a wander around. It's a spa town and we got all excited thinking that the lovely big building in the middle of town was thermal hot pools so wandered in to have a look around. BUT it was in fact a health spa for people with skin and lung problems! Lovely place, but not quite what we were looking for! So carried on with our little walk. Apart from being a health spa the town also serves as a service town for the ski stations in winter, so full of cafes and restaurants. Also very pretty.
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After a coffee, we headed off to the next town Mont Dore, which was at the foothills of the hill that we wanted to be on the Col de la Croix Saint Robert. Here we hit the challenge of the hill sections - PARKING! Drove around town for a while, no luck - so headed up hill out of town where we finally found a park. Then started our long walk...firstly a kilometre to the start of the hill...
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...then just over 5km up the hill to just past the banner marking 1km to the summit. On the way we met lots of people who love rugby and think that the French will win the world cup - we did our best to dissuade them. We also stumbled up a group of Germans playing drinking songs on a loud speaker and dancing in formation...most odd...
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..for the cyclists, look closely at what a serious French cyclist puts in their drink holder - now that's cycling!
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Finally, we met a couple of dairy farmers from Taranaki. They were having a lovely time camping around the country-side and drinking beer. Spent a little while chatting about farming then carried on our merry way.

The weather wasn't exactly summery today - passing showers and a very chilly wind, struggled to keep warm in our shorts! So lay in the grass on the side of the road trying to keep a low profile until the race came along. Wasn't any point getting up when the caravan went past today as they were not throwing things out of their vehicles as we were in a protected area - nice!

Being a hill stage and being quite near the top the race was a lot more spread out. The faces on some of the riders were showing a bit of pain, others just look like zombies, some a just pure concentration and determination. We had the helicopter hanging around and were sure we would have made it onto the coverage, but according to our hosts they didn't see us - rats! Dave did a magnificent job of waving the flag - one of the cyclists even turned around to look at him!
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As we started heading down the hill after everyone had passed, we noticed a string of people heading down a track off the road, so being adventurous we decided to follow them. Turned out to be a lovely shortcut that followed a little stream through the forest and down to the township. Very pretty with waterfalls.
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By the time we got back to the car most of the traffic had cleared and we headed back to Bourboulle for an early dinner (you get hungry when you don't have lunch!), but had to wait an hour before the restaurants started serving.

So another hill stage tomorrow, then we head south to the Mediterranean!

Posted by Kanumera 12:27 Comments (0)

Massif Central & end of week 1 of TDF

Quite a dramatic day today for the cyclists...but we'll get to that soon.

We started our day with a drive around cattle country, some lovely animals Limosin, Charolais and Saler breeds dominate.
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We also visited a couple of local dams, they seemed very low which obviously at the start of summer is not great!
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Being a Sunday virtually everything was shut, but we finally found a lovely little village that was full of people, we thought something special was happening but the lady at the Boulangerie (bakery) informed us that it was simply market day. So we had a coffee and a wander around the market, bought ourselves a baguette, tomato, salami and cheese for lunch and then carried on our way.

Second day of hill climbs in the Tour today. So we made our way along tiny little roads winding around the hills towards the spot that Dave had chosen for our vantage point. We were aiming to be just below the summit of the first category 2 climb on Col du Pas du Peyrol, the highest point of the stage at 1589m. Sadly we were stopped by a Gendarme who informed us that we had to park the car and walk the final 5km up the hill....arrrrggggh! The sign says it all, Dave took his little bike computer with him and at one stage the hill we walked up was at 20% gradient.
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Luckily it was a coolish day for the climb, but even so I was sweating and puffing by about the 3km mark, the final 2km were just hideous. An hour later we got to the top and joy oh joy there was a place selling beer! So we made our sandwich and had a cold drink. Dave got his transistor radio charged up and we were ready!
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Having taken an hour to climb up the hill the good side was that we didn't have a long wait before the cyclists arrived. There was a breakeaway group first ...see video

This was followed by the peloton and a few stragglers. Just after we saw them they went over the summit and there was a serious crash involving 3or 4 cyclists slipping off the edge of the road, one of the stronger riders Vinikourov went over the edge and broke his thigh and probably his hip - nasty! TV coverage showed his team-mates off their bikes and helping him up the bank.

So once the cyclists had gone past we just had a small 5km walk back down to the car
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...then we drove off until we found a little restaurant where the locals were watching the TV and we invited ourselves to join them and watch the last hour of the tour. We were just in time to catch the next crash which was caused by one of the TV cars who swerved and took out two of the riders in the breakaway group. One of them ended up flying through the air and tangling up in a barbed wire fence with his pants practically ripped off - ouch! He had some deep cuts but got back on his bike and finished. The footage of him at the prize giving was quite emotional as he won the spotted jersey for best climber and shared the prize for the most aggressive rider for the day.

So that was our last day in the Massif Central, a region that has very similar country-side to Apiti. We then set our dear friend Mrs Garmin to take us to Montpelier, once again she took us through some interesting places, in one village we drove through a little tunnel that was only just wider than the car - thank goodness we don't have a camper van!!!!

The further south we got the more the country-side changed, much drier and rockier in the south. We were very impressed with their relatively new bridge that joins the north to the south. Dave took this photo while we were flying down the autoroute at 130km/hr so its pretty good!
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We finally made it to Bea and Serge's house in Beaulieu (just out of Montpelier) where they had dinner and wine waiting for us - magnificent! Tomorrow is a rest day for the TDF and for us as well...maybe a wee walk around the village and a swim or two in the pool?

Posted by Kanumera 01:04 Comments (0)

Rest day in Beaulieu (Montpellier)

A rest day for both the cyclists and us. So a slow start with a few domestic chores like catching up on washing. Then a dip in the pool - nice.

Once all the washing was done we got out Serge & Bea's bicycles, dusted them off, pumped up the tyres and headed into the village. Despite the village being tiny, we still managed to ride around in circles before we found the town square! As we arrived in the square we realised they were having a bull catching event in a small bullring, we just caught the last few moments.

We have managed to arrive in the village in the middle of their annual town festival so every day there is different events involving bulls and drinking it seems.

We sat in the town square and had a very ordinary lunch from a fast food van, and watched the goings on. The young men started out getting wet, then some went and bought flour and they threw it all over each other, then a huge bottle of mayonnaise appeared and that got squirted everywhere, and finally tins of yellow and blue paint got tossed around, at that stage we got on our bikes and rode away!

We did a quick tour of the village then popped back into the square to visit the drinks tent.
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Given the temperature was in the early 30's they had set up a mist system in the drinks tent, so it was nice and cool and a little damp. We had a drink and asked about the events of the day. Found out that there was another event in the early evening.

We then went for a longer ride, looping out to the main road through another little village and back to Beaulieu, took 45 mins and I was VERY hot at the end. So straight into the swimming pool for another soak, then a bit of lazy time in the lounger chairs in the shade.
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At 6pm we went back into the village to watch the bulls. This event involved horses so very exciting. We managed to get a good vantage point on some stairs and then the fun started. The bull runs in behind the horses and almost surrounded by them, while the locals try to grab it by the head and wrestle it to the ground (well we think that's the aim). They did several runs past us and only succeeded once that we saw. Quite funny to watch! Dave took some great videos, so here's one...

The rest of the day was spent planning our next few days in the Pyrenees. Might be quite challenging, but worth a crack!

Posted by Kanumera 23:07 Comments (0)

Roads of France and the Fete at Beaulieu

Too busy having a good time last night to do yesterday's blog! So here it is today....

After a leisurely breakfast on the veranda with Bea, we set off in a North-westerly direction to catch the Tour de France at a spot just outside of the small town of Rieupeyroux (try saying that after a few drinks!). Rather than take the autoroute we opted for the scenic option which took us through some beautiful but hard country-side.
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Dave decided to take a series of road photos to show the different standards of roads that we are travelling on so here are a few examples...
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We had a pretty good spot to watch the race, on a slight hill with a long view down the road as they approached. As usual they steamed past in a matter of minutes and that was that. We managed to catch the last 10 minutes of the stage on TV in a bar in the town with the unpronounceable name.

We whizzed back to Bea's place just in time to get ready for dinner, she had friends coming who had a couple of South African's staying with them, so to Dave's relief we had a night of speaking English, although the languages spoken at the table included Argentinan, Afrikaans, German, Alsacian, Japanese, French & English....not bad for a table of 9 people!

At 11pm there was a mad scramble to get into the village to see the fireworks display. For a small village the fireworks were amazing, sadly the photo's are rubbish so nothing for you to see. But the night carried on with a band playing and then the some chasing of bulls through the streets at midnight! The band was great and there was lots of dancing
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Unfortunately it absolutely poured with rain so no photo's of the bull chasing either...but it was funny and sad at the same time. The bulls were quite small and seemed completely bewildered by the whole affair.

So a late night...but lots of fun!

Posted by Kanumera 13:49 Comments (0)

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