Transcript for Episode 394: A Brief History of the Tour de France

Table of Contents for this Episode

Categories: France How To, French History

[00:00:00] Intro

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France episode 394, trois cent quatre-vingt-quatorze. Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.

[00:00:38] Today’s Episode of the Join Us in France Podcast

[00:00:38] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about the Tour de France, which is set to start very shortly on July 1st, 2022.

[00:00:51] Annie Sargent: We discuss the history of this amazing event, and tips for those of you who would like to see it in person, and why we love watching it on TV really, because you can’t beat the landscape.

[00:01:03] Keep your stuff safe

[00:01:03] Annie Sargent: I’ll also answer a question about keeping your stuff safe while traveling to France. And for my personal update, I will talk about the adventures that we had when stranded on the side of the road by car trouble. And it could happen to you too, but hopefully it won’t.

[00:01:23] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my itinerary consult service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app. And you can browse all of that at my boutique,

[00:01:42] French Immersion / Join Us in France Reunion / France Bootcamp

[00:01:42] Annie Sargent: I emailed everyone who is subscribed to the newsletter to ask if they are interested in the French Immersion Week. It’s also going to be a Join Us in France reunion, a France bootcamp, I’m not sure what name will stick, lots and lots of you are indeed interested. I think it’s going to be a good size group. I haven’t gone through all of the responses as I record this, but I hope to do it over the weekend. If you’d like to Join Us in France in Toulouse to be precise, and in person between May 21st and May 27th, 2023 save the date and shoot me an email,

[00:02:24] Annie Sargent: You can also subscribe to the newsletter by going to, where I’ll talk about it again soon. And of course, I don’t need a firm commitment from you at this time, I’m just trying to figure out who all is interested. I understand that things may change between today and next May, but we’ll need to know for sure by February. So there’s plenty of time to work on this.

[00:03:00] Main show

[00:03:00] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Elyse!

[00:03:01] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie!

[00:03:02] Annie Sargent: We have a fun topic today. We’re going to talk about the Tour de France.

[00:03:07] Elyse Rivin: Yes indeed, the Tour de France.

[00:03:09] Annie Sargent: What a beautiful event. I must admit, I love my little electric bike, but I’m really not very much of a biker, never been my whole life. But I do enjoy my little electric bike.

[00:03:23] Annie Sargent: Do you bike at all Elyse?

[00:03:24] Elyse Rivin: I don’t,I had bikes in the past, but I’ve had a couple of personal incidents that have made me a little bit leery of doing a lot of biking, I must say. And so, I pretty much stopped. That’s just a personal thing. But biking is kind of fun to watch.

[00:03:40] Annie Sargent: But you can enjoy the Tour de France even if you don’t bike yourself, obviously.

[00:03:44] How many times have they witnessed Tour de France in person?

[00:03:44] Not only that, but tell me Annie, how many times have you been a witness participant at the Tour de France?

[00:03:53] Annie Sargent: You mean like onsite, watch them? I don’t know, a handful of times. Once in Paris, several times in the Southwest, but I don’t remember exactly. Once, they actually rode up the hill where I grew up. In Toulouse, I grew up on top of a hill and we watched them from the balcony. So, lots of times I guess, well, maybe a handful of times. I don’t know Elyse, how about you?

[00:04:18] Elyse Rivin: Well, in fact actually, I think I’ve done it six times, I was trying to figure out. Twice in Paris by pure chance, actually both times for the finale, which is kind of fun. Once with the maudit Lance Armstrong, you know, we won’t even mention him after a while.The very first time was in the Ariège Mountains, which are south of here, and that was when I was surprised by how much fun it was. I went because I knew that I was staying nearby and the people I was staying with in the same house said, oh, there’s the Tour de France coming by here, and I went, oh, sure why not, whatever, kind of thing. But it was at the Plateau de Beille, which is at about a thousand meters high.

[00:04:59] Elyse Rivin: And then, two, three other times that were either Toulouse or in the region around Toulouse. So various things, beginning and middle, you know, that kind of thing. And it’s always fun, actually.

[00:05:13] More fun watching the Tour de France on TV?

[00:05:13] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it is fun, but I much prefer watching it on TV, I have to say, because on TV you get the drones, you get to see it from the top, you get to see the view of all these beautiful places that they’re going through. You know, when you’re on the side of the road, you just stand there for a long time, and I mean, they zoom by so fast.

[00:05:35] Elyse Rivin: Well, the trick is to know where to stand. I’m laughing because you’re like my husband, he watches the whole thing on TV. And like you, he watches it on TV because of the fact that you can see all the beautiful landscape and everything. I don’t think he really cares who’s winning or what. I understand that, but I actually find it fun because of the spectacle of the whole thing. Seeing all these people who wait, to set up sometimes tents and they’re in there or camping cars and waiting forever.

[00:06:03] And yes, it’s very anticlimactic because if you’re not in the right spot, you blink your eye and they’ve gone, before you can be anywhere, they’re actually gone.

[00:06:13] True fans follow their team around

[00:06:13] Annie Sargent: But like any sports, you have genuine fans who will, you know, like the Toulouse women’s team basketball here, they are playing for the finals. I went to the game last weekend and they won that game, but they have to do a second game, which is taking place in Grenoble, and they are putting together buses of people, they’re busing people. I’m like, oh, should I go? It’d be fun, wouldn’t it? And I thought, no, that’s ridiculous, you cannot spend, you know? But you have to be a true fan to do that sort of thing.

[00:06:48] Elyse Rivin: Exactly. I was going to say, if you really are a true fan.

[00:06:52] Annie Sargent: I kind of am when it comes to that team.

[00:06:55] Then you should go.

[00:06:56] Annie Sargent: Maybe, will see.

[00:06:57] Tour de France still happened despite COVID

[00:06:57] Annie Sargent: Anyway, so this year’s Tour de France. So of course, every year it’s in July. Last year it was the big exception of course, because of COVID. But they still had it.

[00:07:07] Annie Sargent: Yes, but they waited until September. Well, most other sports completely canceled their season. So we have to, let’s tip our hat to the cyclists because they went ahead and did it both years.

[00:07:19] Elyse Rivin: Both years, you are absolutely right.

[00:07:21] Annie Sargent: So, you know, bravo.

[00:07:23] When and where does it start?

[00:07:23] Elyse Rivin: But it starts the 1st of July, and this year for the very, very first time, it will begin not in France and not even in neighboring Belgium, but in Denmark.

[00:07:34] Elyse Rivin: It begins in Copenhagen.

[00:07:36] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:07:37] Stages or étapes?

[00:07:37] Elyse Rivin: And they’re going to do the first three stops. Now, this is a question that has to do with language. In French we say étape. I wasn’t sure how to translate that because it’s the first three stages, which doesn’t quite seem right to me or…

[00:07:51] Annie Sargent: I think that’s what it is, it’s a stage.

[00:07:53] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know.

[00:07:55] Annie Sargent: I don’t know either.

[00:07:56] Elyse Rivin: Okay, so let’s say the first three sections, let’s talk about sections. Let’s call them sections. Okay, so the first three sections, which of course each time is basically a day, are actually in Denmark. And from Denmark, they will go to

[00:08:10] I guess that they take a day off and they actually fly or they’d bus it. They bus them.

[00:08:15] Why are they starting in Copenhagen?

[00:08:15] Annie Sargent: Do you know why they’re starting in Copenhagen?

[00:08:19] Elyse Rivin: No.

[00:08:20] Annie Sargent: Theleaders of the Tour de France are working very hard to promote the use of bicycles in everyday life, as well as for sports competition. And Copenhagen is the city in the world where they have the most bikes, I guess. They have more bikes than people in Copenhagen, and people use their bikes to do everything. Of course, and Copenhagen is also beautiful, so they wanted to shine the spotlight on this one town where so many things happen on a bicycle, and kind of encourage the rest of Europe and the world to include more biking options for everyday life.

[00:09:03] That’s interesting. I did not know that, but I’m just, I’m surprised that there are more bikes in Copenhagen per person than in Amsterdam, for instance, but who knows.

[00:09:13] That’s what I heard the president of the Tour de France say.

[00:09:16] An exceptional year

[00:09:16] Elyse Rivin: Okay. That’s interesting because I know that it’s in the recent past that they have started again, this goes back to the sort of the beginning of it anyway. But it’s only been in the recent past, they’ve started including stops outside of France as a beginning, usually a beginning thing.

[00:09:33] Elyse Rivin: In this case of this year, it’s exceptional because they’re going to go to do three stops in Denmark, and they’re going to go to Belgium and then they’re going to make a loop into Switzerland. And they’re going to go to the area around Lausanne when they go up into the Alps.

[00:09:50] Elyse Rivin: So it’s an exceptional year because they will actually be going into and out of three other countries besides France.

[00:09:58] Distance covered by the Tour de France this year

[00:09:58] Elyse Rivin: The Tour de France this year will cover 3,328 kilometers. Please don’t ask me how to figure that out in miles, it’s basically, about half of that in miles.

[00:10:10] The rule is, I did not know, that it has to be a minimum of something over 3000 and the average has been over the years, 3,500 kilometers. That’s a lot, that’s a lot and just to know, because I checked this out this morning as I was coming in, there’s a site that I found that has a graph of the number of kilometers every year, since the beginning.

[00:10:34] Elyse Rivin: And believe it or not, it was in the 1920s that they did over 5,000 kilometers.

[00:10:41] Annie Sargent: Oh, good grief!

[00:10:41] Elyse Rivin: Could you imagine? I am just absolutely can not possibly imagine doing 5,000 kilometers.

[00:10:47] Annie Sargent: In such a short time, that’s a lot.

[00:10:48] Elyse Rivin: In such a short time. So this year it’s been just under 3,500 kilometers.

[00:10:53] What are the stages of the Tour this year?

[00:10:53] Elyse Rivin: There are 21 sections. The way it’s divided up, is that there’ll be six that are in flatland, seven that are in what they call accidente which is basically hilly. It’s kind of like when you do the stationary bike and you see the thing going up and down and in and out, you know, that kind of thing. Six in high mountain, and two sprints. And one of the sprints is the last thing that they do, and they do that in Paris at the last minute. So it’s kind of fun.

[00:11:22] Towns pay to be a stop

[00:11:22] The towns that they go through do pay by the way, to have a stop come through their town. Now, this is not the major sites that are always included, but since they like to vary it year by year, and they change a little bit of the itinerary, there are certain things that are kept always. Like there are certain big passes in the Alps and big passes in the Pyrenees that they are always included in the race. But when they like to change from department to department, there’s a certain kind of competition for little towns particularly, who like to pay because it brings people in obviously, and brings them in some money. So this year there will be 21 different departments that will be covered, which is not that many when you think about it.

[00:12:07] Annie Sargent: We have 90 something…

[00:12:09] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. We have a lot.

[00:12:11] Annie Sargent: Maybe a few more. Anyway, we have a lot.

[00:12:13] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. So I was actually surprised. I mean, I guess it’s because they do have to skim through the region around the Alps on the east side, and then going into the Pyrenees. And they cover eight regions, since we changed the size of the regions that’s neither here nor there, I guess, in the end. Right?

[00:12:28] The end stage in Paris is different this year

[00:12:28] Elyse Rivin: And so it goes from the 1st to the 24th, and as you mentioned, on the 24th this year, not only does it always end in Paris and that has been going on for, of course forever, but they’re going to do the first part of the last section going to the Defense. Which is very unusual, because they don’t usually do that. Instead of just going up and down the Rivoli and Champs Elysée and circling around the Seine, they’re actually going to do something with a slight amount inside in the Arena, inside the Defense, which holds I don’t know, 50,000 people or something like that.

[00:13:06] Elyse Rivin: So they’re going to do some kind of a thing where it’s actually indoors, which is very unusual. And then they’re going to come out and do the final sprint up the Champs Elysée.

[00:13:16] Elyse Rivin: And of course, by then most people know who the final winner is, but that’s the it’s the show at the end, so it’s kind of fun.

[00:13:24] Elyse Rivin: I must say that having seen by pure chance, having been to the final twice, there is a certain anticipation. It’s kind of fun to watch, even though you do stand there for a very long time, I have to say.

[00:13:35] They do disturb traffic everywhere

[00:13:35] Annie Sargent: Yes, and it does disturb traffic, whether it’s in Paris or anywhere in France, whenever the Tour de France comes through, you can’t drive anywhere, they closed metro stations in Paris. So it will introduce quite a bit of disruption the day of, so just be prepared for that.

[00:13:55] Elyse Rivin: Just know that’s the 24th of July, if you’re going to be in Paris.

[00:13:59] Website to follow the event

[00:13:59] Elyse Rivin: And for those people who are traveling around France, I thought, and of course, we can put it into the writing anyway, there’s an interesting website that pulls up not only the day-by-day itinerary with the altitudes and the contour of the land, but it gives the name of every little town, so that if people are traveling outside of Paris this summer in July, and if they’re interested in seeing a little section of the Tour de France, they can check this website out and see if it’s near where they’re going to be.

[00:14:35] Annie Sargent: Will you give us a link?

[00:14:37] Elyse Rivin: Yep, Definitely. It’s a real easy one. It’s

[00:14:42] When was the first Tour de France?

[00:14:42] Elyse Rivin: Annie, when was the first Tour de France?

[00:14:47] Annie Sargent: That’s a hard one. It’s old. It’s old. Early 1800s? No, she’s shaking her head no. I’m too early. Okay. Okay. Early 1900s? Ah, I’m closer, early 1900s.

[00:15:02] Annie Sargent: So, before First World War.

[00:15:07] Elyse Rivin: Okay.

[00:15:08] Elyse Rivin: I am ending your torture.

[00:15:09] Elyse Rivin: 1903. Okay. But this is what I thought was really interesting.

[00:15:15] When was the bicycle invented?

[00:15:15] Elyse Rivin: So going back, first of all, I wanted to see, because I didn’t know, when was the bicycle invented? Ah, this is a catch. There’s a catch to this question.

[00:15:25] Annie Sargent: Not that long ago, I don’t think.

[00:15:28] Elyse Rivin: Well, this is what’s fun. Okay. So, in the early 1800s, there was a bicycle without pedals invented in France called the draisienne, because the man who invented it, his last name was D R A I S E Draise, and it is exactly what we give now to little kids who are like, you know, two, three, and four to practice. So it’s like two little wheels where you push with your feet on the ground.

[00:16:00] Yeah, with no training wheels.

[00:16:02] Elyse Rivin: No training right? With no pedals, no training wheels. So that was actually invented in around 1817. And to this day it’s actually called the draisienne, which I thought was really cute, you know, really cute.

[00:16:14] When was the modern bicycle invented?

[00:16:14] Elyse Rivin: But the actual bicycle as we know it, that is with pedals and with chain, you know, with I don’t know how many gear shifts it had or anything like that, was invented by a Scotsman. And that was in the late 1850s. But it wasn’t really commercialized as a vehicle for people to use until the 1880s. So it was really towards the end of the 19th century. I mean, the concept of the idea of some kind of locomotion that would just be two wheels without a carriage, without a horse, you know, all of that, they were working on it for a long time. But the person who finally figured out the whole thing with the gears, the chain, the pedals and everything, that really didn’t happen until later on in the 19th century.

[00:17:00] Elyse Rivin: And then, that’s why, one of the things, when you see the work, for instance of the artist, Toulouse Lautrec, he’s very famous for his posters. He was one of the very first people to do a poster for advertising bicycles. And it was withthe chain, link chain,that was the very first one produced in France.

[00:17:20] Annie Sargent: Interesting.

[00:17:21] The first Tour de France

[00:17:21] But the Tour de France, this is what really I was surprised to discover. The Tour de France was invented, the first one happened actually in 1903, but it was because of something political, which I would never have imagined, absolutely never.

[00:17:36] Le Vélo Newspaper Political Story

[00:17:36] Elyse Rivin: Before that, there was a newspaper that was a sports newspaper, that probably existed for 30, 40 years, I really don’t remember exactly. And it was run by a man, the newspaper was called Le Vélo. The bicycle, right. But it covered all kinds of sports at the time. And I can’t imagine what the newspaper looked like in those days, it must have been three pages, four pages, I have absolutely no idea. But this man who owned this newspaper, and who I guess was the editor in chief, he had some very specific political ideas.

[00:18:10] Elyse Rivin: And what happened was that in 1900, he defended Captain Dreyfus, in the midst of the scandal about The Dreyfus Affair, which is a big thing in the history of France at that time. This captain in the army who was accused of being a traitor, I don’t know, people normally know the story and it had a lot to do with things about anti-Semitism and stuff like that.

[00:18:31] Elyse Rivin: And he came out and wrote an editorial, even though it was a sports newspaper, defending Dreyfus, because he had just been acquitted in a second trial.

[00:18:40] Elyse Rivin: And he so offended a group of aristocrats who were extreme right wing and against Dreyfus, really like the other side of the political spectrum completely, that they decided to create their own sports newspaper.

[00:18:57] Elyse Rivin: And they called it L’Auto et Vélo, auto and velo, even though it was at the very beginning of what a car would be an auto, right? And the man who owned that newspaper was a count, so he had a lot of money, but he was just an extremely reactionary guy.

[00:19:14] Bike Race to Sell the Newspaper?

[00:19:14] Elyse Rivin: And they weren’t getting a lot of people buying their newspaper. And he specifically created the newspaper as competition against this other guy, right? So, he and a couple of his friends, they were trying to figure out how they could get more customers for their newspaper, and they came up with the idea of doing a bike race. And they called it the Tour de France.

[00:19:37] Elyse Rivin: But it did not cover all of France. It basically was the region in the North around Paris and going a little bit Northeast and a little bit North of that.

[00:19:47] Elyse Rivin: So it was just not that big a circle around, but they officially called it the Tour de France, and the very first one was in 1903. And because they publicized it through their newspaper, it became popular.

[00:20:02] Elyse Rivin: And that is really the reason why it was started to begin with.

[00:20:06] Annie Sargent: Huh. Interesting. So I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to this guy who tells stories, Hondelatte.

[00:20:13] Elyse Rivin: Sometimes.

[00:20:14] Farmer Champion

[00:20:14] Annie Sargent: Okay. So one time he had a story about a young man, a young guy who worked on a farm, who became a champion of the early Tour de France. And the reason why he was so enamoured with the bike, is because it gave him such freedom. Because as a farm worker, they didn’t have a lot of money, but he had a bike and he was able to go places.

[00:20:41] Annie Sargent: And as a matter of fact, he would enter races all over his county and it gave him all sorts of freedoms to go be away from his work, be away from his everyday life and just ride the countryside.

[00:20:56] Annie Sargent: And he got noticed because he was pretty good at it. And it was his ticket out of the relative poverty of being a farmer back then.

[00:21:07] Annie Sargent: Anyway, it was an adorable story. And I think this happened a lot in France, young men would find the joy of being able to get on a bike and go and do things. Anyway,it’s just an interesting thing to think about.

[00:21:22] Elyse Rivin: It is an interesting thing to think about. What you’re making me think of is, I just saw a movie recently that takes place, it’s not this exact story, but in the 1930s, just before World War II and a young guy who dreams of participating in the Tour de France, because it is a way of getting out of the life of just being a peasant in the countryside.

[00:21:44] Elyse Rivin: So, obviously that really had a certain attraction at the time.

[00:21:48] Scandals and cheating on the Tour

[00:21:48] Elyse Rivin: What is fascinating to know, this is like several specific dates as such, but there have been scandals and stories of cheating from the very beginning, even though the sophistication of the kind of cheating, cheating at the beginning apparently was not so much cheating because of chemicals that people took, but people cheating on the road, because of course he didn’t have all of these cameras and everything following everybody, but I thought it’s amusing. It’s really human nature.

[00:22:14] Three main things were there from the beginning

[00:22:14] Elyse Rivin: It’s like from the very beginning, there were three things:

[00:22:17] Elyse Rivin: One, there was a whole element to it that was very nationalistic because this reactionary count and all these people, they ran it right up to World War I. And they kept saying that it was a patriotic and nationalistic event, which sounds a little bit disgusting to me. It was the Republican, it was the values of the country, you know, that goes of some of the things you hear these days going around. But at the same time, there were all these scandals that people were writing about in the newspapers, you know, people cheating and they weren’t really sure if this person’s time was there so this person’s time was that, you know what I mean? I thought to myself, well, this is weird, you know, how come this sport has always been associated with problems like this?

[00:23:01] Annie Sargent: It’s hard enough to keep people from cheating when they’re all playing on one basketball court and everybody can see it. But if they’re all spread out over kilometers and kilometers, a lot of things could happen along the road. There were a couple of years when they were saying, well, we don’t know if this is going to continue because we have to make sure that this is an honest race and blah, blah, blah.

[00:23:22] 1911 tried high mountains

[00:23:22] Elyse Rivin: Although I have no idea what they actually won at the beginning, but it wasn’t until 1911 that they decided to try high mountains. Because up until that point, they were doing kind of medium sized mountains, like the Vogue or the mountains that were not too high altitude, because one of the people that ran the race, really didn’t think that the bikers could handle going really high up.

[00:23:47] Elyse Rivin: And so the first time they did it they passed over a pass in the Alps that was at 2,600 something meters, which is about 8,000 feet. And that was in 1911, and the fact that they could do it meant that they could keep the high mountains in the race. Because up until that time they’d really avoided going into the Alps and they’d avoided coming all the way. They didn’t come down that far to the Pyrenees at that time anyway.

[00:24:13] No races during WWI

[00:24:13] Elyse Rivin: So it was the whole period of World War I there were no races, obviously.

[00:24:18] When and Why the Yellow Jersey?

[00:24:18] Elyse Rivin: Second question, huh? Oh, You’re in trouble. Here we go. When was the first maillot jaune? Okay. So for those of you out there who don’t know anything about the Tour de France, the leader of the race

[00:24:34] Annie Sargent: has to wear.It’s a yellow jersey.

[00:24:36] Elyse Rivin: It’s a yellow jersey, thank you. I was trying to think of the word jersey. And so the beginning of each new section, you see who the leader is,and he stands out. There are actually two or three other jerseys.

[00:24:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah. There’s a polka dot one and…

[00:24:50] Elyse Rivin: There’s a green one, whatever. But we know that the maillot jaune,the yellow jersey, that’s the leader. So give me a guess, what year?

[00:24:59] Annie Sargent: After World War II, no, before World War II!?

[00:25:03] Elyse Rivin: Getting warm, but 1919. It was the first year back to the race after World War I, but again, the reason why is because these three people, including this reactionary count, when they started this new newspaper, they used yellow paper for the newspaper.

[00:25:24] Elyse Rivin: And they said, and it is true of course, that the other reason why, so it was to identify the fact that the race was sponsored by their newspaper so that people would associate the two.

[00:25:36] Elyse Rivin: But it is also true, that is because it’s the most visible color, except for white, from a big distance. And so that way, they could make sure that people who were watching, who came out to see the race, could see who the leader was. So, it started in 1919 and it’s been the yellow jersey ever since.

[00:25:54] Why watch it?

[00:25:54] Annie Sargent: So, you got to know that, no, this is me talking, maybe you won’t agree with me. But in a lot of these towns, villages, where the Tour de France goes through, like nothing freaking happens. So if the Tour de France is going to come through, everybody comes out to watch them, right? Because what else is there to do?

[00:26:13] Annie Sargent: Like, you are going to be busy what? Plowing your field perhaps, but, well that’s a good opportunity to stop plowing your field for a day and wait for the racers to come through. So yeah, I think that was a lot of the attraction to begin with.

[00:26:27] Elyse Rivin: Watching it, you mean?

[00:26:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah, watching it. I mean, honestly, if today you started a sport where all you do is watch people ride on a bicycle, you think it would work?

[00:26:37] Elyse Rivin: Well, of course now, because we see it all on television with the drones, it’s a totally different experience. Absolutely fabulous with the drones.

[00:26:43] Elyse Rivin: It’s fabulous with the drones.

[00:26:44] Annie Sargent: When you see it from the road, it’s like, huh, OK.

[00:26:46] The best place to watch it from

[00:26:46] Elyse Rivin: Well, I have to say that the first time I was on a turning, I was on the upside, near a turn. So it was the best time of all the times I saw it, because that was the only place where they actually had to slow down a little bit. So when they went past…

[00:27:02] Annie Sargent: You know, a good place to watch it, if you can get to it, is right in front of the statue of Joan of Arc on Rue de Rivoli. Because at that point, they go underneath the Jardin des Tuileries and then they’re going right in front of Joan of Arc and usually they take, if you’re Joan of Arc, if you’re watching them, of course she does every year, so they’re going to go to her right. And it’s very nice, and the TV always does that shot, so you can see Joan of Arc and the racers coming around the bend in front of her.

[00:27:38] Elyse Rivin: And then of course, when they turn, that’s the only time where you see them spread out a little bit, instead of all condensed.

[00:27:43] Annie Sargent: Oh, and one year on TV, they were riding on the la cour du Louvre.

[00:27:50] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:27:51] Annie Sargent: So they entered La Cour Carrée and they had, I mean there’s stairs, but they had put like ramps, and so they just went in between the two courtyards of the Louvre, and they were doing a circle, and so they did it several times around the Louvre. It was kind of great, yeah.

[00:28:08] Elyse Rivin: It is great that I’m telling you, that kind of stuff is fun.

[00:28:11] Elyse Rivin: Okay, third question Annie.

[00:28:13] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:28:14] Publicity Caravans

[00:28:14] Elyse Rivin: Now for those of you who don’t know this, and this is specifically for the people who really are onsite, because you don’t see this on television.

[00:28:22] There are what are called publicity caravans and they are floats basically. They’re floats of the different sponsors who participate in paying for the race and therefore they get to show their products. And in general, it’s either things to eat, or it’s little, like hats or it’s whistles or it’s pins, or it’s little stuff.

[00:28:46] Elyse Rivin: And I remember the very first time being amazed, because these caravans of course come through way before the bikers do. And what they do is, they have these young people that they hire that are on the top of these floats and they throw this stuff out at the people. And so everybody’s running to grab the little piece of sausage, little piece of chocolate, the little keyring and.

[00:29:08] Annie Sargent: It’s just ridiculous.

[00:29:09] It’s really silly, but it actually is from a commercial point of view, one of the more genius ideas that these people had who were running it, because it was at a point when they were starting to really lose a lot of followers and therefore they were losing a lot of money.

[00:29:24] Elyse Rivin: So third question for you, Annie. Guess what year was the first year of the publicity caravans.

[00:29:31] Annie Sargent: Oh, okay. That’s gotta be 60s or 70s? No? Oh.

[00:29:37] Elyse Rivin: Much earlier, to your great surprise and mine.

[00:29:39] Annie Sargent: 50s maybe?

[00:29:41] Elyse Rivin: 1931.

[00:29:42] Annie Sargent: Oh goodness.

[00:29:44] Menier Chocolate the First Advertiser

[00:29:44] Elyse Rivin: And the first company, I think they were the ones who thought about the idea and then sold the idea to other people, was a chocolate company.

[00:29:51] Elyse Rivin: There’s a chocolate company called Menier.

[00:29:53] Elyse Rivin: Menier. Which is from the North, it’s actually a company that still exists, but it’s really up North it’s like near Lille, I think. And they suggested to the owners who were, of course the people who ran this newspaper, they were still the owners of the Tour de France.

[00:30:07] They said, we would like to publicize our chocolates, and I don’t know what the caravan looked like, it certainly did not look like what it is today. But they were the first ones to do that, and because they did it, a whole bunch of other sponsors decided to do the same thing.

[00:30:22] Annie Sargent: So did they hand out like chocolate?

[00:30:24] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:30:25] Elyse Rivin: They handed out little, who knows, I have no idea if it was teeny little pieces broken up. I mean, what did they manufacture in the 1930s? They didn’t give them huge chocolate bars, as it is today. People lunge on the ground for the tiny little things as souvenirs of the Tour de France. But I was really surprised that it was that early and that it was this chocolate company that started it.

[00:30:47] Taken over after the war

[00:30:47] Now again, World War II, there was nothing. In fact, there was nothing from 1939 until 1947. It took a long time for it to come back. And when it finally did come back, these people that had run it basically from the very beginning all through until the 1930s, were no longer part of the organization. It was taken over by a couple of other groups, one with the new newspaper called L’Equipe.

[00:31:15] Annie Sargent: Which still exists.

[00:31:16] Elyse Rivin: Which still exists, and which apparently was started by a group just after the liberation of France, after World War II, and which wanted to make it a less politically-oriented sports newspaper. I’ve actually, to be honest, never read the L’Equipe.

[00:31:33] Annie Sargent: I have a few times, you know, when you go to somebody’s house and they have it, you kind of look at it, but I’ve looked at their website a few times, to look at results.

[00:31:42] Elyse Rivin: I mean, it’s considered to be a very good sports newspaper. Right. But whatever, and so they were involved with it from right after World War II until just the recent times, just the recent past times.

[00:31:54] Television changed everything for the Tour

[00:31:54] Elyse Rivin: But, the big event really, that changed everything in the history of the Tour de France was the advent of television, because before that, you either were on the road or you were listening on the radio.

[00:32:08] Annie Sargent: Right, right.

[00:32:09] And it’s kind of like listening to a soccer game on the radio.

[00:32:13] Annie Sargent: Which people did. I mean, people love those things.

[00:32:16] Elyse Rivin: I know, but I think it’s hard to follow.

[00:32:18] Elyse Rivin: I mean, yes, I understand.

[00:32:20] Annie Sargent: You have to have an imagination.

[00:32:22] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, I guess I don’t have enough imagination, really.

[00:32:25] Annie Sargent: Well, and you have to have announcers who are good at describing and qualifying and making it interesting.

[00:32:33] Elyse Rivin: That’s true. I mean, from the 30s up until the 60s, it was basically the radio that people listened to follow the Tour de France.

[00:32:43] Elyse Rivin: And of course, what you get then is a description of where they are. But once television was used, once there was broadcasting, and of course it brought more money in, because the stations really had to pay to be able to broadcast and everything, there was a lot more sponsoring of course that way. But also, you get to see the bikers, but you also get to see much more of the landscape, which is what the biggest interest was of having it on television.

[00:33:08] When were drones introduced?

[00:33:08] Elyse Rivin: And okay, what year were drones introduced?

[00:33:13] Annie Sargent: Oh, drones. Drones are relatively new, but not that new, so maybe 10 years?

[00:33:23] Elyse Rivin: Good. Good. Good, Good, Good. 2013.

[00:33:27] Annie Sargent: Oh, I’m close, I’m close.

[00:33:29] Elyse Rivin: You’re very close, right? So they say that it revolutionized it. First of all, it brought many more people to the television, even then to watch it. And now of course, they said that two of the things that have changed because of the drones is that now you see everything from the very beginning to the end.

[00:33:49] Elyse Rivin: Before, they would actually select certain passages, certain sections, when they would show, where they wouldn’t show, or like you said, some little villages or some places were not particularly interesting.

[00:33:59] Elyse Rivin: But now with the drones, the entire race from the beginning to the end is covered every single day.

[00:34:04] They also have motorcycles

[00:34:04] Annie Sargent: Well, they also do motorcycles. So you have a motorcyclist with a camera man riding behind. But that’s not as easy as using a drone, but it gets the closeups of the racers, their faces,their expression.

[00:34:22] And that’s quite a job to ride a motorcycle or do the camera work around the racers. Yeah, very specialized.

[00:34:32] Elyse Rivin: It’s very specialized. And I have to say that the moments when I do watch it, which basically means I walk into the living room, I go, oh, it’s the Tour de France, I watch for five minutes and then I leave. My husband’s sitting there for hours, you know? It looks dangerous, because these guys, you usually have two people on the motorcycle. One, who’s driving it, the other one with a camera and they’re going really fast to keep up, and at the same time, not collide with the other motorcycles and not collide with the bikers, or the public.

[00:34:58] Elyse Rivin: And it’s kind of insane, the whole thing. It really goes fast.

[00:35:02] How many people watch the Tour?

[00:35:02] Elyse Rivin: So, the statistics. How many people do you think watch it theoretically on television, this is an average amount, the last two, three years or so?

[00:35:10] Annie Sargent: You mean in France?

[00:35:12] Elyse Rivin: Well, no, everywhere.

[00:35:14] Annie Sargent: Oh. I know that in France it’s several million? I don’t turn on the TV most of the time,

[00:35:23] Annie Sargent: but when the Tour de France is on, I turn on the TV and I have the sound low most of the time, but you know, I’m walking about my house and going about my business and just gawking at the landscapes, because it’s so nice.

[00:35:39] Annie Sargent: I don’t ever take the time to sit and watch. And I really enjoy the commentary from Franck Ferrand or whoever is doing the historical commentary, the visitor’s commentary, not the sports commentary. There’s other commentators for that. So what was your question?

[00:35:55] Annie Sargent: Sorry, I forgot the question.

[00:35:56] Elyse Rivin: So there are two questions. One is, how many people do you think are actually out on the roads each year altogether, step-by-step, section by section. And the other is, how many people you think altogether watch this on TV?

[00:36:12] Annie Sargent: Okay. I know just in France, it’s at least 5-6 million. Worldwide, I don’t know, lots.

[00:36:21] Elyse Rivin: Well, you’re right. Talk about lots. It’s considered to be the third most-watched sport ever.

[00:36:27] Elyse Rivin: And they estimate, now these are estimates, right? That every year, there are a 3.5 billion people who watch the Tour de France everywhere in the world, on television.

[00:36:39] Elyse Rivin: And on the roads, if you count the people in each section altogether for the entire 24-25 days, 12 million.

[00:36:48] Elyse Rivin: That’s a huge amount!

[00:36:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s a lot of people. Yeah, it draws a lot of crowds.

[00:36:53] What other sports are popular to watch?

[00:36:53] Annie Sargent: I mean, I wonder what the first and second sports are most watched.

[00:36:57] Elyse Rivin: I think soccer.

[00:36:59] Annie Sargent: Maybe basketball?

[00:37:01] Elyse Rivin: I know that soccer was the number one.

[00:37:03] Annie Sargent: Well, maybe football, American football. I don’t know.


[00:37:06] Annie Sargent: American football is like limited because it’s only watched in America, really.

[00:37:11] Elyse Rivin: Right. I don’t think it’s basketball, but you know what? I’m not sure.

[00:37:15] Annie Sargent: Anyway.

[00:37:15] Annie Sargent: But I’m not surprised that especially recently, like in 2021 and 2020, since we were on lockdown, we couldn’t do anything. I think even more people watched it those years, because there were no other sports. There were very few sports.

[00:37:35] Annie Sargent: Well, some sports, but not as much. And we were all home. And so it was good for your emotions to watch Le Tour de France those years, I think.

[00:37:45] It’s probably true. I mean, it’s a kind of zen thing to watch. It doesn’t get your blood running, you know?

[00:37:50] Annie Sargent: No. Well, unless you really…


[00:37:53] Elyse Rivin: I mean, it’s not like the final of Roland Garros tennis or something like that, you know?

[00:37:58] Teams and bikers this year

[00:37:58] This year there are 22 teams. And one of the other things that is interesting, is that on each team there are eight bikers. Over the years all of those numbers have changed a lot. They’ve gone from fewer teams to more teams to more people on each team, it’s very strange. From the beginning in 1903 to now, it’s gone from teams that are representing a country to teams that are representing a company, to teams that are representing a sponsor and that’s changed a lot over the last 120 years.

[00:38:28] Elyse Rivin: So right now, we’re back to 22 teams, but with fewer members on each team and sponsored. Basically it’s sponsors, it’s not national.

[00:38:38] Commercial company sponsors vs Country representation

[00:38:38] Annie Sargent: Although at the end of the day, you know which country the winner is from.

[00:38:44] Elyse Rivin: Right, right. Absolutely. I mean, and they always do make a point of saying that, but there was a period of time and it specifically the period of time between World War I and World War II, where it became one of those things where there was a team from each of the countries. But there was also the leftover rivalry I think,the bad feelings and competition that was between the countries from World War I, unfortunately. It makes almost more sense that it would be sponsored commercially by a company, by a bike company or something else. What’s the name of that watch company that’s one of the big sponsors?

[00:39:17] Annie Sargent: Rolex?

[00:39:19] Elyse Rivin: Pristina or something like that.

[00:39:20] Annie Sargent: I don’t know. I don’t know watches.

[00:39:21] Annie Sargent: Not Apple Watch.No, it’s not Apple Watch, but you know, it’s whatever, it’s commercial.

[00:39:27] Keeping Tour de France Clean

[00:39:27] Elyse Rivin: And of course, we’ve had to deal in the last 20 years with various doping scandals. The Lance Armstrong one was of course the worst, but there were several others that were also really pretty bad.

[00:39:37] Elyse Rivin: And now they really pay attention a lot more to all of that. Because they want to keep the Tour de France clean, if they can, and it’s hard, it’s really hard. Keep trying. When you get somebody who has to go.

[00:39:51] Health risks during the tour

[00:39:51] Elyse Rivin: I was just reading some of the details, there have been two or three times over the course of, I don’t know how many years, but a biker just has a heart attack because they’re at 8,000 feet up and it’s really hot out.

[00:40:03] Elyse Rivin: That reminds me, one of the things I didn’t know, nowadays of course, people give them bottles of water and they have all theseaids that come by the motorcycles.

[00:40:11] Elyse Rivin: And they’re only teams that they’re allowed to drink water. They’re allowed to do all these things. There were years where they were not allowed to? And that’s why they would die, they would just collapse from dehydration, you know? Yeah, that was a bad idea.

[00:40:26] Elyse Rivin: It’s not a good idea.

[00:40:27] Annie Sargent: No, bad idea.

[00:40:29] Elyse Rivin: But in fact, in spite of all of these things, it’s really a lot of fun.

[00:40:34] A little dangerous for the public too

[00:40:34] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And honestly, if you are in France and you’re going to be in a town where the Tour de France comes through, it’s worth going. I’m a little snarky about it because the times I’ve been I’m like, oh, was that it? But you do get to see the riders very close.

[00:40:53] Annie Sargent: I mean, the public is possibly a little too close. Last year there was an accident with a woman waving some sort of cardboard sign or something and she caused a huge pile up, so it can be dangerous for the riders and for the public, but it’s fun.

[00:41:10] Trinkets from the publicity caravans

[00:41:10] Because they close the roads, you have to show up kind of early in the morning and you have to claim your spot and just stand there for hours until the publicity caravan comes through. And that gives you some excitement, but then you get one of the things that they throw at the people and you go – I don’t care about that. I don’t want that.

[00:41:33] Elyse Rivin: I got a really nice keychain one year.

[00:41:35] Annie Sargent: There you go, keychains, pens, little trinkets, things like that.

[00:41:40] A Tour de France little cap. People go crazy for those things. And even though I’ll never wear the cap and I’ll never use the keychain probably.

[00:41:50] If you’re waiting to see the tour

[00:41:50] Annie Sargent: But it’s a lot of standing around and waiting around.

[00:41:54] Annie Sargent: So bring a folding chair and bring some water and an umbrella or big hat because it’s hotter and hotter every July in France, like everywhere else. And so be prepared to stand there in the heat for a long time.

[00:42:13] Elyse Rivin: Or, do stay where you know it’s going to be the end or the beginning of a section, which I did in Toulouse, because it happened that was not very far from where I live, which was just by pure chance.

[00:42:24] Elyse Rivin: And that’s really kind of fun too, because if you get up early enough in the morning, if you happen to be lucky enough to be where they’re going to begin, you really see them leave and you don’t have to worry about the caravans and the motorcycles and everything else.

[00:42:38] Elyse Rivin: It’s really kind of fun to see them because there are a lot of them.

[00:42:41] The First Women’s Tour de France

[00:42:41] Annie Sargent: And we need to end on this, because I’m hoping to do a whole episode about it. This year, they are going to do the very first women’s Tour de France.

[00:42:53] Annie Sargent: And we both have a friend Marion Clignet who is a cyclist and probably the most badass woman I’ve ever met. She’s really something. She has worked tirelessly for years to increase awareness to the fact that there wasn’t a women’s Tour de France.

[00:43:14] People often think that France is this very enlightened, progressive country. Well, not really. We have a lot of older guys who don’t like to be told that the women should get a shot at this. But they are finally seeing the light. Maybe it’s the sponsors that are telling them, dudes stop it, we need a women’s race as well.

[00:43:39] Elyse Rivin: It would be nice to know who the sponsors are actually.

[00:43:42] Annie Sargent: Oh, it’s like Swift or something. I can’t remember. This year they have a major sponsor who’s carrying a lot of the financial weight. But you know, the things that they say about women’s sports that they’ve been saying forever is, nobody’s going to watch this, nobody’s interested and that’s never true.

[00:44:00] The reason why people don’t watch this and are not interested is because we’re not putting it on and we’re not giving women a chance. If you do, of course just like the male Tour de France, it didn’t start out to be the massive event that it is now. It started pretty small, as we discussed. And the women’s Tour de France is going to also start pretty small. And give it 10 years, 20 years, how long has it been with the Tour de France? You said 1903. So that’s what…

[00:44:29] Elyse Rivin: 120 years. Almost, yeah almost. And so, you know, it has had a lot of time to develop. Give the women that long to develop and it will be just as amazing. Just as amazing, but you got to give them a chance.

[00:44:45] Annie Sargent: So finally, Tour de France. We’re going to have the women, and I’m hoping that Marion Clignet will come on the podcast to talk about it with me, because she’s been working, you know, awareness mostly, and I know she’s gone to meetings with various people over the years and there it is, it’s happening finally this year.

[00:45:05] Elyse Rivin: Last day of one, beginning of the other.

[00:45:08] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes. Yes.The women will start in Paris and will mostly race around the Northeast part of France. And they have some very challenging etapes. It’s probably not going to be as long as the men’s.

[00:45:23] Elyse Rivin: It sounds like the circuit that the men first did.

[00:45:26] Annie Sargent: Possibly, they go East.

[00:45:28] Elyse Rivin: They go East and North a little bit.

[00:45:30] Yes, yes, yes. So it’s going to be very fun. I think it’s not the full three weeks of racing. I think it’s a week or 10 days, but I need to check it, but it’s not going to be as long, but it’s going to be just as challenging because now they are doing all sorts of different kinds of events. Within the Tour de France there’s different competitions for the fastest, for the climbers, for the, this, for that. So, it’s going to be very exciting to see and I will watch it. And it’s great that they’re starting in Paris because there’s going to be a lot of journalists in Paris waiting for the men’s tour to arrive.

[00:46:08] Annie Sargent: And so all they have to do is just arrive a day early, cover the women’s and maybe stay a few days longer and cover the women as well. And I hope all the TV stations, the big ones, do that, because the women deserve it. It’s going to be wonderful.

[00:46:25] Annie Sargent: Merci Elyse!

[00:46:26] Elyse Rivin: Thank you, annie!

[00:46:27] Annie Sargent: Au revoir!

[00:46:29] Thank you, patrons!

[00:46:29] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so. You can see them at Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for many years. You are wonderful.

[00:46:53] Shout out to new patrons

[00:46:53] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons: Joèl Adrienne Amzil, Yves Zsutty, Joy Meade, Lisa DeFalco, and Penny Carothers. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible. Patrons, you’ll hear from me soon about changes coming to the Patreon rewards and there’ll be a new video update. I’m just getting my bearings after having 10 days of vacation with my friend.

[00:47:24] Annie Sargent: My thanks also to Mary Pilch and Celi Monsivaiz Malbrough for sending in a one time donation by using the green button on any page on Join Us in France that says, Tip Your Guide.

[00:47:39] Annie Sargent: And Celi wrote, “Annie, I would like to send you a donation.” She made it very generous by the way, thank you, “to thank you for being such a wonderful resource for our Paris trip. Is that welcomed, and if so, where may I do that? Merci.”

[00:47:54] Annie Sargent: That was really sweet of you, Celi. And yes, of course donations are always welcome because, putting together a podcast like this week in and week out, takes a lot of resources and a lot of time.

[00:48:07] Annie Sargent: I’ve also invited both Mary and Celi to the private forum on, where they can enjoy donor rewards.

[00:48:17] Preparing a trip to France?

[00:48:17] If you’re preparing for your own trip to France and listening to as many episodes as you can to get ready, welcome to you and keep listening to the podcast, because that’s a great way to get ready for your trip. Search the website as well, because you know, there’s a lot of information that I can’t repeat on every episode. So some precious stuff might be in previous episodes and you can search the website, which is a wonderful way to find stuff.

[00:48:46] Hire Annie

[00:48:46] Annie Sargent: You can also hire me to be your itinerary consultant. I’ve made some changes to the service to make it better. Here’s how it works now. You purchase the service on,, then you fill out a document to tell me what you have in mind. We make a phone appointment, and then we chat for about an hour. And after all that, I send you a document with the plan that we discussed.

[00:49:12] Annie Sargent: I’ve done this with several customers already. I mean, I’ve done itinerary reviews with hundreds of people at this point, but this new procedure, I’ve done it with a few customers and it’s a better process. It works better because I get to know what you want exactly. And after talking to you, it’s pretty clear. And I get to ask you my questions because sometimes what you think to tell me about is not complete. You have other things going on that you forgot to mention. So, if you would like to do that, you can go to

[00:49:44] Take the self-guided tours

[00:49:44] Annie Sargent: But this service is booked far in advance because it’s popular. So if you can’t talk to me because I’m all booked up, you can still take me in your pocket by getting my GPS self-guided tours on the VoiceMap app. I’ve produced five tours of Paris and they are designed to show you around different iconic neighborhoods of Paris.

[00:50:07] And you know what, even though I make more money from the itinerary consults, I want you to also use my VoiceMap tours and other people’s VoiceMap tours for that matter. Elyse has a great one in Toulouse. It’s a really wonderful way to see a place with the freedom that this technology gives us.

[00:50:27] Annie Sargent: And you’ll see so much more than just bumbling around on your own. So again, take a look at these tours,

[00:50:36] Travel question of the week

[00:50:36] Annie Sargent: For the travel question of the week, Mary asked about keeping her stuff safe while on vacation. Here’s what she asked on Facebook:

[00:50:45] Annie Sargent: “I’m going to Paris, London and Rome this summer. I’m planning on wearing a small cross-body purse. Do you think I should also wear a money belt under my pants? I could put a bit of cash and credit cards in the money belt, but I would still keep my phone in the cross-body. I’m just looking for opinions. I would rather not wear the money belt. Thank you.”

[00:51:08] Annie Sargent: Okay. Keeping your stuff safe really has nothing to do with a money belt or very little to do with a money belt. Here’s what works.

[00:51:17] Annie Sargent: Number one, take as little as you can. Your hotel room is much safer than the outside world. You do not need all your cash in a money belt. You do not need several credit cards.

[00:51:31] Annie Sargent: Just take maybe 100 euros, one credit card, and you’re good to go, especially if you’ve set up Google Pay or Apple Pay with your phone or with your Apple Watch. Those work everywhere, and I bet you will never have to pull out either cash or a credit card.

[00:51:48] Annie Sargent: Number two. Okay, forgive me for mentioning this, but I’ve been around a lot of visitors. Don’t drink so much that you get stupid, and I will leave it at that.

[00:52:00] Annie Sargent: Number three, thieves want your phone, not a few $20 bills. Number four, be attentive. And by be attentive I mean, I know you’re interested in what you’re looking at, the buildings, the places, the feeling, and all of that. But when things get crowded around you, when people talk to you that you don’t know why they’re talking to you, okay, be on high alert. Something’s happening that shouldn’t be happening.

[00:52:27] Annie Sargent: Number five, don’t be a sucker for a good story, because there are a lot of people trying to tell you a good story on the streets of Paris, and I’m sure it’s the same in London and Rome. Don’t be a sucker, okay? Some street smarts, city smarts is needed when you visit world capitals.

[00:52:46] Annie Sargent: Number six, chatty locals are not looking for new friends. They are looking for ways to get your phone, okay?

[00:52:55] Annie Sargent: Number seven is the next thing, zip it up. You know, if you have stuff in open pockets, if your purse is open, you are an easy target. Doesn’t have to be under your pants in a money belt. It just has to be zipped up.

[00:53:10] Annie Sargent: And number eight, make a plan just in case you run into a pick pocket who’s better than average, does get your stuff. What are you going to do about it? Just have a plan, have your credit cards numbers, have your passport number, have this sort of thing ready. And also your phone, you can brick your phone at a distance, if you set it up that way. All you have to do is log into your Google account or your Apple account, and you say, delete my phone. That way they won’t have access to a lot of stuff. And of course, back up your photos. I mean, there’s stuff you can do to make it less of a huge deal.

[00:53:49] Annie Sargent: You will have lost the price of a phone, which is terrible, but it’s not going to be the end of your life. But if you lost all the photos from your kids, you know, from five years ago, that’s terrible.

[00:54:01] Annie Sargent: So do the due diligence to keep yourself safe before you show up in France.

[00:54:07] Feedback from Toulouse visitor

[00:54:07] Annie Sargent: I got some fun feedback from someone who visited Toulouse this week.

[00:54:12] Annie Sargent: Sue wrote, “Toulouse does not disappoint. In just one week’s time, I’ve been delighted by so many new experiences and beautiful views of La Ville Rose, that I can hardly catch my breath.”

[00:54:26] Oh, wait. That might be because of the ongoing heat wave and yes, it is super hot in Toulouse this week.

[00:54:33] Annie Sargent: “Never a dull moment in the city. I even caught sight of the rapper Oli, but not Big Flow.”

[00:54:40] Annie Sargent: I’m sorry, I don’t know either Oli or Big Flow, but I saw the photo, you know, popular people.

[00:54:45] “Thanks to Annie and Elyse for sharing the wealth of useful information on the Join Us in France travel podcast, episode 228, Coffee Culture discussion boosted my confidence ordering coffee any time of the day. I better appreciated strolling along the Canal du Midi, having learned of its significance to Toulouse in episode 22. I could go on and on, but I’ll give one final shout out to Annie and David Sargent for enlightening us about the roundabouts in France, in episode 16. Though, I don’t have a car I am riding bike daily with the city’s Velo Toulouse service. And those red plus signs in roundabouts are a lifesaver for cyclists to know about.”

[00:55:32] Annie Sargent: Yes, indeed.

[00:55:34] Annie Sargent: “Un grand merci.”

[00:55:34] Annie Sargent: Well, un grand merci to you as well, Sue. It’s very good that you feel the podcast has been helping you in getting ready. The only thing I might add is, you know, you could have made it a little bit better by either taking a tour with Elyse in person. She knows Toulouse like the back of her hand or taking her VoiceMap tour, which is a lot more affordable and could not quite as, you know, as good as hanging out with Elyse, but you know, it’s a good way to get to know the city as well. And to see all of that go to This is her website and there’s links to all of those items there.

[00:56:14] Personal update

[00:56:14] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week, well, there’s so many things I could be talking to you about because my friends, Brenda and Jeff came to visit and they stayed for 10 days, which was wonderful, because it’s so hard when people just stay a day or two.

[00:56:27] Annie Sargent: We had a great, great time. I took some time off so we could go explore, not just Toulouse, but the Southwest in general. So I’ll give you a list of all the places we went, went to La Romieu in le Gers. We rode Le Train Rouge and saw a beautiful part of the Aude department called, Les Pyrénées Audoises. It’s like gorgeous mountainous landscapes, around Limoux. My California friends said many times, you think we’re in Yosemite and it’s that sort of landscape, it’s beautiful. We had a very eventful stop in Renne-le-Château that we discussed in episode 280 of the podcast, and I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.

[00:57:07] Chateau de Mereville

[00:57:07] Annie Sargent: We saw the Château de Merville. Very well kept. I hadn’t been inside before. I’d been to the labyrinth, but I had never been inside before. Lovely, lovely place, with all original artifacts, which is not something they do in the Loire Valley or whatever. Up there, it’s all reproductions. Here, it’s the real thing.

[00:57:27] La Grotte de Pech-Merle

[00:57:27] We went to another place that had the real thing. It’s La Grotte du Pech Merle, it’s a painted cave from 30,000 years ago, and there you see the actual paintings.

[00:57:37] Annie Sargent: It’s not reproduction, it’s absolutely fascinating, and because of the heat, it was a great thing to do, because it was cool in the cave.

[00:57:44] Restaurants

[00:57:44] Annie Sargent: We went to a one-star restaurant, in Pézens, I think it was called. And a two-star restaurant in Toulouse. We had many other great meals.

[00:57:54] Farm

[00:57:54] Annie Sargent: We also went into a farm where they make lovely cheese and where they produce everything from the feed to the milk, to the cheese, and the cows seemed very happy indeed. They’re well taken care of.

[00:58:08] Winery

[00:58:08] Annie Sargent: And we visited a winery with a super friendly Australian manager who let us taste the wine, even though it was a Sunday morning and he was having a day off. So anyway, there’s lots for me to share about this trip. I’ll share about it on the podcast, as well as in my itinerary planning service.

[00:58:25] Stranded by mechanical failure

[00:58:25] Annie Sargent: So what about this eventful stop in Renne-le-Château? Well, you’ve heard me talk about my car troubles. I’ve been driving a diesel VW Touran since 2007. It had 274,000 kilometers on it, and I called it the ghetto car because things kept breaking. It didn’t lock, the A/C barely did the job. The cloth on the top of the car came down. I had to staple it up, which is apparently the only way you can do this. The back gate, the trunk kept on opening. Anyway, just, you know, just not a good car.

[00:59:01] Annie Sargent: And what’s worse, is that we’ve had major engine repairs to do every couple of months for a while. So the old car was costing us dearly and it wasn’t reliable.

[00:59:12] Annie Sargent: So I ordered a new electric car last month and I picked that one because it’s a great car, and I was told that the wait would be minimal.

[00:59:22] Annie Sargent: Buying a new car is mighty difficult right now because the semiconductor shortages and shipping problems. I mean, it doesn’t take much, you know, if you are missing just one component, you’re not shipping the car, right? It’s terrible.

[00:59:37] Annie Sargent: I think this is global. Apparently, you can’t get cars in the US either, new cars anyway. But my new MG Marvel R arrived at the dealership in Toulouse. I saw it with my own eyes and I’m picking it up in two days, it’ll be ready in two days.

[00:59:52] Annie Sargent: I was hoping that ghetto car would last until Tuesday, but alas, it did not. Just as we were pulling into Renne-le-Château, the overheat light came on. I got to the village parking lot a minute later, we were really close and I stopped obviously. I had just refilled the coolant, so I knew it wasn’t that. I thought, well, maybe it’s the coolant pump, maybe it’s the radiator, but it could also be the head gasket. And no matter what of these it was, we couldn’t go anywhere. So I called the assistance immediately, because I knew we were dead in the water.

[01:00:26] Road side assistance in France

[01:00:26] Annie Sargent: Now in France, we have a great system of road assistance that is linked to our car insurance and they take really good care of us. But this was a Sunday, late afternoon. There were four of us, plus my dog, Opie the labradoodle. So I didn’t think we’d be home anytime soon, and I was right again, unfortunately.

[01:00:49] Annie Sargent: So here’s how it works. If you rent a car and you have roadside assistance, call the number they list and it won’t cost you a penny. Yes, they will put you through someone who can speak English and they will call a tow truck, and that person will try to get you on the road again, if it’s something simple, like you need a jump. Obviously, that’s quick. And I guess the tow truck driver probably doesn’t speak English, possibly, I don’t know, I didn’t try English with mine for sure. But, you know, you might have to make do with your French and their English. You make it work, you know, sign language.So if you blew a tire, for example, the roadside will tow you to the nearest tire place. If it’s more involved, you get towed to the nearest mechanic who will probably not be able to fix it immediately. Maybe they’ll need parts, whatever. So the assistance will call you a taxi to take you back to your hotel or to the nearest car rental place, if they are open.

[01:01:47] Annie Sargent: So that’s how it works. And it won’t cost you a penny, if you have roadside assistance.

[01:01:52] Annie Sargent: If you don’t have roadside assistance, I’m sure they will send you a tow truck and a taxi and all that. So you’ll talk to the person from your car rental company, but you’ll have to pay for it.

[01:02:04] And you can ask to be refunded later, if you have car insurance through your credit card or whatever. At any rate, my ghetto car broke down in Renne-le-Château at around 6:00 PM on Sunday, and we didn’t get home until 1 in the morning, the next day. What slowed things down was that there were four adults and one dog, several taxi drivers declined to take the job because they can’t fit four people in their car and they won’t take a dog either.

[01:02:33] Annie Sargent: Plus, we had a lot of stuff in the car, like we had four cases of wine that we had just bought. Thank God it wasn’t a hundred degrees out. I had plenty of water for all of us and the dog was totally chill.

[01:02:44] Annie Sargent: Renne-le-Château is a very cute touristy village. We looked around, you know, it was so much better than getting stuck on the side of the road somewhere.

[01:02:53] Annie Sargent: But my friend Brenda said that my car got cursed, and it was my fault because on the way. I was telling them that there were crazy beliefs about this village, as explained by Elyse in episode 280 of the podcast. She said, don’t dis the spirits or they’ll get back to you. We had a good laugh about it, even though, you know, 284,000 kilometers is like, yeah, that’s it.

[01:03:17] Annie Sargent: I pick up the electric car on Tuesday. I’m rushing to read the user manual because there’s a lot of software in those EVs. I’m already planning a visit to the Abbaye de Fontfroide next Saturday. I’ll stop in another cute village for lunch and recharge there because the Abbaye doesn’t have a charging station yet. I emailed them and they said they’ve applied for one, but they don’t have it yet. And the French government is being very good, they are subsidizing the installation of these charging stations in France. So they’re popping up all over the place. And I really think that destinations like a beautiful famous abbey should have charging because then you can just visit the abbey and charge while you’re looking around. So lots of adventures in my life the last 10 days.

[01:04:07] Show notes

[01:04:07] Annie Sargent: Show notes and a full transcript for this episode are on Transcripts are wonderful, they make the website easy to search, use them. And you can help your francophile friends plan their trip to France. Go to, click on the Share buttons on the side and tag your friends. They will thank you because they will learn a lot to make their trip to France better.

[01:04:34] Next week on the podcast

[01:04:34] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode about visiting France on a student budget. It can be done if you go about it the smart way as my guest, Josh Taylor explains.

[01:04:45] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir!

[01:04:56] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2022, by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial, no derivatives license.

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Categories: France How To, French History