[00:00:00] Annie Sargent:
[00:00:14] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, Episode 411, quatre cent onze.
[00:00:21] Annie Sargent: 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.
[00:00:37] Today on the podcast
[00:00:37] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Melinda Cool about following the Tour de France for stages that took place in Carcassonne and the Pyrénées, and they had a lot of wonderful adventures. Perhaps you’d like to watch a stage of the Tour de France on site rather than on TV, lots of tips for you to organize your trip.
[00:01:00] Supporters of the podcast
[00:01:00] 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.
[00:01:14] Annie Sargent: You can browse all of that at my boutique JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique.
[00:01:20] Annie Sargent: By the time you hear this episode, I’ll be on vacation in Tennessee. So I’ll pre-record this intro and we’ll end the episode right after the interview.
[00:01:31] Thank you new patrons
[00:01:31] Annie Sargent: I do want to thank a few new donors and patrons without which this podcast would not exist. So a special shout out this week to new Patreon donors Sali and Roberta Fonville, who wrote something really sweet that I want to share with you:
[00:01:46] Annie Sargent: Hello Annie, I live in Sydney, Australia, and I have been listening to your podcast religiously every day as I drive to school to collect my daughter from the French School, wow, which she has been attending since Maternelle.
[00:02:01] Annie Sargent: That’s wonderful. Hello daughter. Hello. Bonjour mademoiselle.
[00:02:06] Annie Sargent: We are planning to move to France in July 2024, and I found your podcast as I started my research for our move. I have started from episode one and I am now up to date and I suspect, like everyone else who listens, I am eagerly awaiting your next episode. I just wanted to let you know about how much I enjoy your podcast, and thank you so much for all of your and Elyse’s efforts. You are a great team. I can’t wait to hear more.
[00:02:33] Annie Sargent: Well, thank you very, very much, Roberta. You started listening from episode one, which is fine, but it’s been years, right? And so I recommend that people actually also listen to the latest episode. Because if they’re still on episode 10, by the time they hear the new one, you know, it might be a long time.
[00:02:55] Join us on Patreon
[00:02:55] Annie Sargent: Anyway, you can join Sali and Roberta as a patron by going to Patreon.com/joinus. That’s P A T R E O N join us, no spaces or dashes, and that’s where you’ll get to enjoy years and years worth of Patreon rewards and Merci Beaucoup. Thank you also to Ashley Kaneer Lewis for upgrading to a yearly pledge.
[00:03:23] Annie Sargent: My thanks also to Susan Nelson who made a donation using the green button on any page on JoinUsinFrance.Com that says, Tip Your Guide.
[00:03:33] Annie Sargent: Susan wrote: Annie, a belated Thank You for many months of listening, you are so well read and well traveled. My husband and I have a little house in Vaison la Romaine and I enjoy your perspective. Also as a European, I grew up in the UK. Wow. Well, thank you very much Susan, for your donation and thank you for the kind words.
[00:03:55] Show notes and transcript
[00:03:55] Annie Sargent: Show notes and a full transcript for this episode are on JoinUsinFrance.com/411 the numeral, and I’d love it if you would tell someone that they can prepare their trip to France by listening to this podcast and the many trip reports I’ve published, also episodes with Elyse, of course. I think they will thank you because this is a great way to prepare your trip to France.
[00:04:21] Next week on the podcast
[00:04:21] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about Elianor of Aquitaine, the amazing woman who had so much influence over the history of France and England.
[00:04:34] Annie Sargent: Our patrons asked for this and it was a lot of research, but Elyse did a great job.
[00:04:39] Supporting Elyse
[00:04:39] And by the way, if you would like to become a patron of the wonderful Elyse Rivin, you go to Patreon.com/ElyseArt, so that’s P A T R E O N.com Elyse Art is E L Y S A R T and thank you very much.
[00:04:58] Feedback and newsletter
[00:04:58] Annie Sargent: You can send questions or feedback to annie@JoinUsinFrance.Com and do subscribe to the newsletter by going to JoinUsinFrance.com/newsletter. But please understand that I’m not the sort of newsletter person who will hound you with a new email every day. I don’t write that much. And sometimes people write to me to say, Hey, how come I haven’t gotten an email yet? And I’m like, Well, because I haven’t written one. Sorry, I know I should send more newsletter, but you know, there’s only 24 hours in my day and it’s just not enough.
[00:05:30] Annie Sargent: And, you know, I do put the priority on publishing episodes, I continue to publish episodes even when I’m on vacation, but I can’t do itinerary reviews and newsletters while I’m on vacation, otherwise it would not be a vacation, would it? So thank you for your patience.
[00:05:56] Melinda and Sean
[00:05:56] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Melinda and Sean, and welcome to Join us in France.
[00:06:01] Melinda and Sean Cool: Bonjour Annie, Bonjour.
[00:06:03] Annie Sargent: How nice to talk to you. And today we’re going to talk about the Tour de France because you love it, right? I mean, tell me how you got connected to the Tour de France somehow?
[00:06:15] Melinda and Sean Cool: Well, that’s probably me more than Melinda. I’ve just always been a cycling fan. Never really followed The Tour until maybe seven or eight years ago, you know, along that lines. And then just started watching a little bit casually and getting more and more interested and became something that I would like to go see in person sometime.
[00:06:36] Melinda and Sean Cool: And I would be in the room while he was watching and I would see all the scenery and go, Ooh, I want to see that. Ooh, I want to go there. Ooh, I want to do that. So, it’s a great televised event for sure. Yes, absolutely.
[00:06:48] The difference between being there in person and watching it on tv
[00:06:48] Annie Sargent: Sure. So maybe that’s where we need to start is what’s the difference between being there in person and watching it on tv.
[00:06:56] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. Having watched it a number of years on tv, you can see the recaps, you can get all the action of the race as it’s happening, the different sprints along the way and the mountain climbs, and the crashes, you’ll see all the crashes. When you see all the spectacle kind of from above with the helicopter cameras and that sort of thing.
[00:07:18] Melinda and Sean Cool: And in person, you’re just in one location, so it’s much more, it happens very quickly, depending on where you are in the race, it all goes by, the actual race goes by faster, but there’s the spectacle of the crowds and the people, the buildup of the caravan coming by. You just see all the energy of the people that have come out to watch the race.
[00:07:43] Melinda and Sean Cool: And it’s quite a production. And just to see everything that goes into it, all the people that are working on it, all the people that come out, and to think that they do this for a little over three weeks in a row. It’s just crazy to think how you can move that through all of France in three weeks.
[00:08:02] Annie Sargent: Yeah,it’s got to be a scheduling nightmare. I mean, I don’t, I can’t imagine.
[00:08:06] The logistics of it was just crazy to think about. You also don’t get to meet any people while you’re watching from TV. People are chatty, right? People who are sitting there waiting because you are waiting for a long time, right?
[00:08:20] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. We saw it in three different places and the first day, we were kind of by ourselves most of the time and we didn’t chat with anybody in Carcassone too much, at least not where we sat to watch the actual race. But in Foix and in, I’m going to butcher this name in Peyragudes, up in the Pyrenees yeah, talked to people up there and it was great. But we can talk about that more later if you want to.
[00:08:45] Annie Sargent: Right. So, Peyragudes. Well the name Izaourt is bizarre, okay. I mean, it sounds like yaourt.
[00:08:55] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, a lot of French in high school and a little bit in college, and I was like, I have never seen.
[00:09:00] The stages they followed
[00:09:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so at any rate, you went to Carcassone, everybody knows how to say that. Foix and Izaourt. These were the three stages that you followed.
[00:09:13] Melinda and Sean Cool: Well, no, actually, so the first one, the finish was in Carcassone, and then the second, the finish was in Foix. And then the third stage, the finish was at Peyragudes or Station de Peyragudes. But we stayed in Izaourt, because in order to get to Foix and to get to Peyragudes, and maybe we were thinking we would see yet another day, I wanted to be somewhere where it was about an hour’s drive from each.
[00:09:39] Annie Sargent: I see. I see. So you found somewhere central.
[00:09:42] Yes, Yes.
[00:09:43] Annie Sargent: I see. I get it. And so did you rent an Airbnb or something?
[00:09:47] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yes, we do Airbnbs almost always when we vacation. And the one we found, the one in Carcassone, it was fantastic. It was perfect location, loved it. It was on Rue Trivalle, which is kind of at the foot of the the walls today. And was maybe a 10 minute walk up to it and then like a 15 minute walk over to downtown Carcassone or the center Carcassone.
[00:10:13] It was great, fabulous Airbnb.
[00:10:16] Why Carcasonne
[00:10:16] Melinda and Sean Cool: We picked Carcassone because the tour was coming in on the Sunday. Sunday, Yeah. And arriving. And then they had a rest day in Carcassone on the Monday. So all the tour and activity was happening and then they left from Carcassone on Tuesday.
[00:10:33] Annie Sargent: Ah, yes. Right, because sometimes, they actually fly somewhere else to start somewhere else.
[00:10:38] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yep. They’ll finish in one location, pack everything up, start at a different location the next day. Yeah. And we had visions that on the Monday there would be like some central location where all the cyclists could be, and we could go and we could see them, or we could talk to them, or we could watch the practicing on their bikes.
[00:10:56] Melinda and Sean Cool: And that was not the case at all.
[00:10:58] Melinda and Sean Cool: They had, at least not centrally located, they did have a little festival, that they called, you know what the, The Tour, I can’t remember what the name of it was, but it was a little like city block that you could go to, and that was more like for little kids to learn how to ride bikes or maybe a couple of vendors or something there.
[00:11:16] Shakeout rides
[00:11:16] Melinda and Sean Cool: But it wasn’t at all what we were expecting. But you could see like the buses and the cars. For several bike teams and they would just be at whatever hotels they were staying at. So they were parked in that one parking lot. There were a few of them and we saw them, a few people out on bikes doing shakeout rides and that sort of thing.
[00:11:37] Annie Sargent: What are shakeout rides?
[00:11:39] Shakeout rise is just, the team kind of gets together and they do like, maybe an easy 20 miles at 30 miles an hour or however the fast they go. But for them it was an easy ride.
[00:11:48] Annie Sargent: Ah, yeah.
[00:11:49] Melinda and Sean Cool: On their day they don’t just stop, they keep riding, otherwise their muscles will get too tight and sore.
[00:11:55] Annie Sargent: Oh, okay. I didn’t know this.
[00:11:58] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, high end athletes never stop.
[00:12:00] Annie Sargent: Well, that’s true. That’s true. At that level they are. Yeah.
[00:12:04] Annie Sargent: They’re in every day, probably several times a day.
[00:12:07] Annie Sargent: So I think you mentioned that you rented some bikes in Carcassone?
[00:12:13] Bike rides from Carcassonne to Trèbes
[00:12:13] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, so we arrived in Carcassone on the day after Bastille Day, which was a very poor planning on my part, but that’s okay. Probably the reason she could find that Airbnb available. Probably couldn’t have had it the day before, for all the fireworks and the festivities in Carcassone, they’re supposed to be fantastic.
[00:12:32] So we arrived on the 15th of July. That was, I believe, a Saturday. And we rented some bikes from Evadeo Cycles, and the boys, our son was with us and he’s 18, and my husband, he’s a little bit older, but anyway, they cycle and they’re active and they rented some gravel bikes. And I’m active, but I’m not a cyclist, so I rented an e-bike from Evadeo Cycles and we took it on, that Saturday, we went and rode the Canal du Midi to Trèbes. So it’s about, I don’t know, 15 kilometers or so along the Canal du Midi. Then we had lunch there and turned around and came back, and that was fantastic. It was very French countryside, slow, got to see the boats along the canal, saw a few of the locks. The locks with boats coming through. Would hop over to the other side of the dyke along the canal, and there’s vineyards forever, it was definitely a highlight, loved that.
[00:13:34] Gravel bike for rides along the Canal du Midi
[00:13:34] Annie Sargent: So how was the path? Because this path along the Canal du Midi has a mixed reputation, I would say, between Carcassonne and Trèbes. Was it decent?
[00:13:46] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, it was very decent. I mean, I would not take a road bike on it. You need a gravel bike. A gravel bike is kind of halfway between a mountain bike and a road bike. Road bikes have very skinny tires and you could probably pop your tire over and over.
[00:14:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:14:02] Yeah, but the gravel bike, it was really good.
[00:14:03] Melinda and Sean Cool: It was pretty flat. There were a couple areas where you might have to get up and over a little road crossing or something, but you could easily walk it, that tiny little stretch. It was a little dusty, I would imagine on a rainy day, it could get maybe a little muddy. It wasn’t all nice gravel surfaced, so it was more of a dirt path.
[00:14:25] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. And we didn’t worry about rain because it was about a hundred degrees.
[00:14:29] Melinda and Sean Cool: I would say if you’re somebody who likes to be like very clean and doesn’t want dust on your ankles, then maybe you wouldn’t like it. But if you’re somebody who, who does that sort of trail riding or trail running, it was great.
[00:14:42] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Wonderful. So you recommend both the stretch and the bicycle shop Evadeo.
[00:14:50] Yeah. Yeah. They were, it was excellent service and they were just, they were really nice. And we actually even switched bikes to the gravel bikes once we got there. Yeah, they were very flexible. The other thing too, and this kind of went for just about everywhere that we saw in the South of France, their English was about as good as my French. If I go to Paris, I say one sentence and the person I’m talking to will respond to me in English. So I couldn’t really practice French too much because they know English so much better than I know French. But in the South of France, down there it was even if they knew English very well, they were more than willing and more than patient to let me practice.
[00:15:31] Melinda and Sean Cool: It was fantastic.
[00:15:32] Annie Sargent: Well, and also, I mean, this is a bike shop. It’s not like they work in tourism. Of course, in a bike shop, you’ll work with some tourists obviously, but not exclusively so, yeah.
[00:15:43] They definitely knew enough English that I could, or that we could rent the bikes no problem, and understand what we’re paying for and what we’re getting and when they’re due. And yes, we want to helmet that sort of thing. But beyond that, maybe the English would’ve been a little bit harder to have a conversation.
[00:15:59] Annie Sargent: So did they give you maps and tips and things like that?
[00:16:03] Tips for Riding Bikes Around Carcassonne
[00:16:03] Melinda and Sean Cool: They had those available, sure. We kind of said where we wanted to go and Sean said, that’s when we changed our bikes, they were going to be getting road bikes. And he was like, Oh, if you’re going on the Canal, you want gravel bikes. You want to say a little bit about as far as bikes on the road in general in Carcassone?
[00:16:19] Melinda and Sean Cool: Oh, yeah. The one thing I was a little surprised, we had just come from Barcelona where there were bikes everywhere and naturally, a little different sized city of course, but yeah, didn’t see for a city that had the Tour de France coming through, I didn’t see quite as many bikers and bikes out on the roads in the city.
[00:16:40] Melinda and Sean Cool: Maybe they’re out on the smaller country roads. Actually, I tried to ride my bike to the airport to pick up our rental car, and it was a bit of an adventure. Some of the roundabouts and the busier part of town. It was kind of like riding a bike on the highway. Maybe not the best decisions but…
[00:16:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah,I’ve been to the Carcassonne airport. I don’t remember what the roads were like, but it didn’t look like the kinds of roads where I would want to ride my bike.
[00:17:07] No, no. It was the city was not, it was not exceedingly clear of where you should ride if you were on a bike or not. So if you’re a tourist, try and say, Okay, how do I get to the airport? Yeah, don’t follow those directions for a bicycle. Maybe the walking directions would be better.
[00:17:25] Be Careful with Google Biking Directions
[00:17:25] Annie Sargent: Yeah, the Google biking directions in France are definitely not great because I’ve tried several and sometimes I’m like, Why are they bringing me here? Like, this is weird.
[00:17:36] I think if we had asked at the bike shop, a few days before when we had rented them, they would’ve given us great directions, but we were waiting for a taxi at the train station. And it was, like Sean said, it was very hot, it was one of the heat waves and standing there in the sun, it, he was saying, well, maybe I’ll just ride the bike and I can pick it up and yes, you do that.
[00:17:59] Melinda and Sean Cool: So yeah, the spur of the moment type thing.
[00:18:04] Annie Sargent: Well it worked out, but not ideal. Yeah. So tell us about the restaurants that you tried in the Cite du Carcassonne, because that’s always a problem for people. Since this is a touristy town, where do you eat?
[00:18:16] About Restaurants in Carcassonne
[00:18:16] Melinda and Sean Cool: Well, we went the first day that we got there, because the Tour de France had not arrived yet, we figured, okay, let’s go up to the Walled City and we’ll see what that’s about. And so we went up and, I would say that the restaurant that we chose, it was probably one of the few disappointing experiences on the trip.
[00:18:37] The food was not that great, the service was not that great, I don’t know if we want to say the name of the city.
[00:18:42] Annie Sargent: Yes, we do, we do.
[00:18:44] Melinda and Sean Cool: Okay. So that was Les Terrasses de la Cité. It was very busy, a lot of people there, but you know, maybe it was the heat too, but it just felt like everybody was just really grumpy with you. It was not the best experience.
[00:18:58] Melinda and Sean Cool: Later though, a couple days later for a evening dinner, we went to Le Plô, was very good service, very good food. They were extremely busy too, but they had two servers working the garden area and just, they were working very well together, and it was a good restaurant. Also in Carcassone Center, so away from the walled city, but down in the center of town, there’s a very large courtyard center and restaurants all around it.
[00:19:27] Melinda and Sean Cool: And we probably ate at three or four of them. All of them were good, good food, good service, but as far as names of which restaurants, none of them were ones you have to go to, but just that whole area, I would say eat in that area because there’s a lot of activity and such.
[00:19:44] Annie Sargent: That happens a lot. Like in France, it’s sometimes it’s silly to recommend restaurants because one is almost like the other, I mean, it’s more about the area than about the specific restaurant. Yeah, I totally get that.
[00:19:57] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, the first night we were there, I think it was a Saturday night, we went down to Carcassonne Center and there was a concert going on, there were people dancing. It was just like this festival, and we thought, Oh, this must be because of the Tour to France. And then looking into it a little bit more, it’s like, no, they just do this for the month of August or the month of July, they just have these almost nightly concerts and it was very French, it was neat.
[00:20:24] Everyone is more relaxed in Carcassonne
[00:20:24] Melinda and Sean Cool: The other thing I liked about, about Carcassone too, in comparison to Paris, we went to Paris in 2018, is everybody was just more relaxed. I mean, there was a lot of come as you are, everybody’s just relaxed. It was good.
[00:20:37] Annie Sargent: The pace of life is completely different in a city like Carcassonne than in a city like Paris.
[00:20:43] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, felt like in Carcassonne, I could live there, I could move there, live there. Hopefully, my French will improve a little bit. That’s wonderful.
[00:20:50] Eating too much foie gras while waiting for the Tour to come by!
[00:20:50] Annie Sargent: So you had a, you mentioned something that made me laugh about the foie gras, that you got too much?
[00:20:56] Melinda and Sean Cool: Oh yes. So there’s a, I love fromageries, love them, this is my weakness. And so there’s one called La Ferme. And so there was a fancy cheese shop, it was fantastic. And just kind of told the gentleman I would, I just want some local cheeses, kind of a variety, and he was like, How about some foie gras? I said sure, and he says, how many people?
[00:21:20] Melinda and Sean Cool: I said three. And he goes, okay, this is a good size. So I was like, Okay. And I was just agreeing to whatever he said. And then we took that all of our cheeses in, well, most of our cheeses and foie gras the next day when we were waiting for the tour, and before the caravan had come along, we were just eating our foie gras and our cheeses, and oh my gosh, I ate way too much and I felt like, side of the road.
[00:21:47] Melinda and Sean Cool: So about half as much foie gras would’ve been perfectly fine.
[00:21:51] Annie Sargent: Yeah, well see, this is the thing, they have an incentive to give you too much because you pay by the pound, obviously, so you know.
[00:22:00] Melinda and Sean Cool: Well, and that too. It’s like once you open it, and especially if you’re in that heat, you don’t want to like put it aside. So you eat, you need to finish it.
[00:22:10] Annie Sargent: Yeah. This is not cheese and foie gras weather for the most part, it was too hot.
[00:22:14] Annie Sargent: Especially not on the side of the road. Oh, no.
[00:22:18] Melinda and Sean Cool: Probably not Cass, weather either. It was, I have Cass in this weather.
[00:22:23] Boulangerie in Carcassonne
[00:22:23] Annie Sargent: So you enjoyed boulangerie in Carcassonne?
[00:22:28] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yes. Oh, yes. So this one, it was, we went from our Airbnb, which was on Rue Trivalle and in a touristy area, and you go over to where Evadeo Cycles is. It was probably like a 15 to 20 minute walk, but it’s, you’re definitely heading away from the touristy area. The Evadeo Cycles was in more of a industrial area, but on the way we saw this Boulangerie and it had like one of those drive up vending machines for the baguettes. And the morning that we were walking to get our bikes, there was this line and there were cars and it was just really busy. So did we stop there that morning and get something? Yes, we stopped there that morning and just got a few croissants, that sort of thing.
[00:23:13] Melinda and Sean Cool: And I think we went back there like three times. And by the third time we went back there, I think the employees were kind of looking at us and looking at each other going tourists, I don’t think were regular there, but we loved it. Yeah. It definitely has a feel of just the locals stopping in really fast to grab, grab their the day.
[00:23:34] That’s good. Well, and it’s a good sign that they have a vending machine because that means that they sell a lot of bread.
[00:23:40] Annie Sargent: And if they do that, it’s good.
[00:23:42] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, we went on our last day to get some baguettes to bring with us when we left, and they looked at us like, are you kidding, they were sold out hours ago, so it was called Boulangerie Ancestrale. But it was great.
[00:23:53] Public transpot in Carcassonne[00:23:53] Figuring out the local bus company
[00:23:53] Annie Sargent: And all of these will be in the show notes for today’s episode, so you can see it if you want to look at it. So you mentioned also that you didn’t figure out the public transportation in Carcassonne. Every city has its own bus company, and so you have to kind of google it or notice what it says on the bus stops for the name of it.
[00:24:14] Annie Sargent: And so you can google the schedules and stuff. In Carcassonne, it happens to be called RTAC so, but I had to look it up. I didn’t remember that.
[00:24:23] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, we definitely saw buses and we saw bus stops, but like if you tried to do Google Maps and tried to get a Google map with transit, it would never show you any bus options. But like I said, we had our bicycles and between bicycles and walking and where we were staying, it wasn’t a problem. But usually, we like to do public transit wherever we’re staying, but we didn’t do any.
[00:24:44] The Caravan of the Tour de France
[00:24:44] All right. Let’s move on to Foix. And what you thought of that. Was the Tour de France experience much different or was it similar?
[00:24:53] Melinda and Sean Cool: Actually, one more thing before we move on to Foix. So one of the big experiences for the Tour de France is the caravan. So this is not something you really see on television, although on television, you see a whole bunch of these spectators on the side of the road wearing white shirts with red polka dots, like probably half of the people are wearing these shirts. And that is part of the caravan.
[00:25:18] The funny story, I sent a picture of the three of us in our shirts after we got them from the caravan to my boss at work, and she does not follow cycling at all. And she thought I made these shirts for our family. I did not make these shirts. I did not make them for half of France. So the sponsors of the tour, it’s Leclerc is the sponsor, is one of the very big sponsors, and they do these shirts, just a white t-shirt, red polka dots.
[00:25:42] Melinda and Sean Cool: It’s kind of a homage to the polka dot jersey, which means the King of the Mountains Jersey. So the cyclist who has the most points on all the mountains, he’s wearing a white jersey with red polka dot. So probably about three hours or so before the cyclists are due to come by, maybe four hours, two hours with the red polka dot shirts, it’s even earlier.
[00:26:06] Melinda and Sean Cool: But anyway, Sean says two hours, I say up to four hours, but there will be a van that comes by and they will give a white shirt to anybody who wants one, polka dot shirt for anybody who wants one.
[00:26:18] Melinda and Sean Cool: And then a little bit later after that, about a half an hour the caravan starts. And the caravan is all of the vendors or sponsors of the tour. And there are food vendors and there’s real estate vendors, or I’m sorry, sponsors. I keep saying vendors. What else did they have? Doors. Everything. And they just throw out hats and shirts and tea towels and drinks and food, and key chains. We have so much stuff thrown at you. So that is definitely an experience of the Tour de France that you don’t get by watching it on tv.
[00:26:54] One day you’ll get plenty of stuff, if you’re there in time to see it, you probably don’t need three days worth of stuff.
[00:27:02] Getting the good stuff as the Caravan goes by
[00:27:02] Annie Sargent: But people don’t fight over these things, right? I mean, they just like,
[00:27:05] No, they do. Some of them do. They don’t fight, but they’re excited to get it and they all, they rush to, to catch it or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. But for the polka dot shirts, if you’re there early enough, you don’t have to rush, you just go and put your hand up that you want some, and they will stay there until they’ve given everybody who wants one.
[00:27:24] But things during the caravan, they’re driving by fairly fast, and they’re just tossing things to the crowd. So there’s a little bit more scuffling, but not fighting. I mean, nobody’s like …
[00:27:35] Annie Sargent: I have seen those polka dot shirts all over France, by the way. So yes, they are all over.
[00:27:41] You think 21 days of this and how many they give out, I can’t imagine how many of those shirts they make each year. It’s
[00:27:48] Melinda and Sean Cool: gonna be.
[00:27:49] You can buy official jerseys at the start and finish lines
[00:27:49] Annie Sargent: they’re kind of spandex shirts, right?
[00:27:53] Melinda and Sean Cool: Oh, so the spandex shirts, tell them about that, the jerseys. Oh, the jerseys are a much tighter shirt. The giveaways are just a cotton T-shirt. Yeah.
[00:28:04] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, but they have, you can buy the jerseys at the start and finish line. There’s usually a truck set up. If you want one for a specific team, you might want to visit one of the early stages of The Tour. Yeah, we were like 17th, 18th, and 19th tour, 15, 16, 17 or 15, 16, 17, he says. I’m wrong. So by that time, the leading teams were all sold out, or at least in this, in regular sizes, you might be able to find an extra small.
[00:28:33] But those jerseys are probably around a hundred euro or so. So they’re not expensive, but for cyclists, they’re a bucket list type of thing.
[00:28:43] Annie Sargent: My husband was looking for a cycling jersey the other day, I never thought to gift him one from the tour. Why haven’t I thought of that? You’ve put a bug in my ear now.
[00:28:54] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. They have them so that they look like each of the teams. And then they also have just general Tour de France jerseys, but they have a lot of good swag to buy.
[00:29:04] Annie Sargent: Cool. Very cool. All right.
[00:29:07] Watching a stage of the Tour de France in Foix
[00:29:07] Melinda and Sean Cool: Moving on to Foix?
[00:29:08] Annie Sargent: Yes.
[00:29:09] Melinda and Sean Cool: Okay, so on Tuesday morning, the tour left Carcassone went to Foix. That was at the base of the Pyrenesse so it was a hilly course, but not quite one of the mountain ones. Right. And we took a path with our rental car that was different from the path that the cyclists were taking. So you have to do a little bit of planning on how you’re going to travel around because they close the roads, what, about eight hours or so?
[00:29:36] Beware of Road Closures around the Tour de France
[00:29:36] Some of them close way early. Yeah, so you can’t really plan on the usual route to be open. So we entered Foix from the North, whereas the cyclists were going to be coming in from the west. And that took a little bit of planning because Foix is a town that is kind of, it’s in a bit of a valley, I believe, and it’s locked in by like rivers and only two or three roads in, and several of those were going to be closed from The Tour. So we had to make sure we got there by, I think, 10:30 in the morning.
[00:30:08] Melinda and Sean Cool: And the cyclists weren’t going to be arriving until probably, what time do you think? Oh five. About five o’clock.
[00:30:16] Melinda and Sean Cool: Five in the evening. So we got there quite a bit early. And at this one, Sean wanted to have, wanted to see one that we were right at the finish because in Carcassonne we were about say two kilometers from the finish. In Foix, we wanted to be right at the finish line. So he went and staked out a spot about 50 meters from the finish.
[00:30:38] Melinda and Sean Cool: Whereas my son and I, we went to the, is it the Castle or the Chateau in Foix? Which was great. I was surprised there weren’t too many people visiting it. Apparently everybody was interested in The Tour instead, but maybe there would be families like ours where some were in The Tour and some were touristing.
[00:30:56] But, so we went and saw that and then after we were done with that, we got some food and we went to meet Sean at the 50 meter line, because there were a lot of people starting to arrive and it was, if we didn’t get there at a certain point, it’s hard to hold three spots.
[00:31:12] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:31:14] Melinda and Sean Cool: If you’ve watched The Tour, near the finish line, they have all the gates set up, it gets lined up several people deep and so it, it’s really busy and lot, lots of folks. Yeah.
[00:31:25] Melinda and Sean Cool: And one of the things that people will do when the cyclists come by is they will pound on those gates and those boards that are set up and they’ll pound hard on them so that it will just make huge noise and the excitement and everything. So we wanted to be one of the people that could bang on those boards. We didn’t want to be like five people back from the finish line.
[00:31:45] Melinda and Sean Cool: We want right there.yeah.
[00:31:47] Melinda and Sean Cool: So he had been sitting there for probably an hour and a half, while we were out doing our thing.
[00:31:53] Made some friends
[00:31:53] Melinda and Sean Cool: And he made some friends. Do you want to tell them? About Eric and Marie? Yeah. They were just staking out a spot too. At first, I felt like they were kind of crowding on my space a little bit, but I was only one person trying to hold a spot for three. But I started talking with Eric and hehad enough English that we could communicate pretty well, and then, Marie was, I mentioned that Melinda wanted to practice her French and would be coming back soon.
[00:32:21] Melinda and Sean Cool: And she basically, once Melinda got there, adopted Melinda as a wanted to talk and talk and they were from Toulouse. We had a great time talking with them. Yeah, it was fantastic. And now I have a pen pal. I owe her a letter. Eric had a little bit of English and would help me with some of my French.
[00:32:41] Melinda and Sean Cool: And then Marie, I’m not sure she spoke any English whatsoever, but she just wanted to just talk and talk and I was trying to, it was great. She was fantastic. We got photos of their kids and yeah, it was, but it was fun.
[00:32:56] Annie Sargent: That’s wonderful. What did you think of the town of Foix? I mean, it’s a small town, right?
[00:33:02] I would’ve loved to have spent like an afternoon or a full day walking around in there. But with The Tour, it was just so busy, that you couldn’t necessarily get around. The Tour would come through the middle of the town, so you kind of had to choose which side you were going to be on because at a certain point, they were going to close it down.
[00:33:22] Melinda and Sean Cool: It basically bisected the town. The race bisected the town and cut it off. But it felt like the old French villages that I had envisioned in my mind where The Tour de France was and it was, yeah, it was just beautiful. I loved it.
[00:33:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s a great place to spend a day or part of a day, to go up to the Chateau, look around the little town. It’s cute. It’s very Cute.
[00:33:46] Melinda and Sean Cool: It’s very, I mean, if you’re looking for excitement, probably not the place to go, but if you were looking for just an old French town with a lot of history, great, great place.
[00:33:56] Last stop
[00:33:57] Annie Sargent: Okay. Let’s move on to your last stop because we don’t have a lot of time left. How did it go now? This time you were on the le you were high up.
[00:34:06] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yes, we were high up. So, this one, it was a party on the mountain for sure. On this one, we wanted to watch the cyclists on a steep incline, so one of the mountain finishes. But we wanted to be away from the finish enough so that when the cyclists came by you could kind of get closer into them.
[00:34:27] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. If you watched how the crowds as they climb the mountains just scooch in towards all the racers and there’s no gates from about one to two kilometers out. On this finish, it was about two kilometers out from the finish. There’s no gates and it just, all the people are lining both sides of the road with their flags and excitement. Yeah, almost like reach out and touch the riders as they go by.
[00:34:54] Chasing the cyclists
[00:34:54] Melinda and Sean Cool: So one of the things that people will do, the spectators will do, is as the cyclists come by, they’ll chase after the cyclist.
[00:35:01] Melinda and Sean Cool: They’ll run alongside,run alongside them. And since they’re going at a slow pace up the mountain,you can keep up with them. So after, I don’t know, probably 20 or 30 cyclists had already passed us. So all of the leaders had passed us, our son was talking Sean into running alongside, and both my son and my husband, they’re not like risk taker type people.
[00:35:25] Melinda and Sean Cool: They don’t want any of the cyclists to fall over. They don’t want cause any mass problems. I don’t want be that guy that saying somebody crash on a mountain finish.
[00:35:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:35:35] Melinda and Sean Cool: So he took some time to convince his father, the next time they come by let’s chase after him.
[00:35:41] Melinda and Sean Cool: So I think that probably is one of the things my son’s going to remember forever. That was fantastic. Run after this.
[00:35:48] Annie Sargent: And nobody fell.
[00:35:49] Annie Sargent: But you’re not supposed to touch them. Right?
[00:35:50] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. Not supposed to touch them at all. That’s a big no-no. Don’t touch them, you might push them over. That’s not a good thing.
[00:35:56] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:35:57] Annie Sargent: That’s cool.
[00:35:59] When the leaders came by actually a little bit earlier, so I had an American flag with us, and on that day in particular, the leader of the stage was an American when they passed by us. So I had my half of a second where my American flag showed up on the tv. Not me, but…
[00:36:20] Following the race action on the app
[00:36:20] Annie Sargent: But how do you know? How did you know it was him coming back? Because he was the leader, he was upfront?
[00:36:24] Following the race live with the Tour de France App
[00:36:24] Melinda and Sean Cool: Oh yeah. We were able to follow the race action on an app on our phone that kind of gave you where they were,who the leaders were, how far back the Peloton was, that sort of thing.
[00:36:36] Annie Sargent: So what’s the name of the app?
[00:36:38] Melinda and Sean Cool: It’s the Tour de France app.
[00:36:40] Annie Sargent: So just the official app.
[00:36:41] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yep.
[00:36:42] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. it gives all sorts of information on there, it’s very helpful.
[00:36:46] Melinda and Sean Cool: I couldn’t imagine doing it without consulting it for some information. I
[00:36:51] Staying informed about road closures
[00:36:51] Melinda and Sean Cool: Oh, the other thing about road closures too, the best place to ask about road closures would be the tourist bureaus in each town. And they might not know until just two or three weeks before The Tour comes.
[00:37:06] Melinda and Sean Cool: So if you’re somebody like me who is planning things like in April for when you’re going in July, just be patient. They will know…
[00:37:14] Annie Sargent: Eventually
[00:37:15] But if you’re somebody like me who’s planning a couple days ahead, then just ask your wife. She’ll know.
[00:37:21] Annie Sargent: So you saw some people who were in campers and things like that as well?
[00:37:26] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, so another way to follow the Tour de France is, people will rent RVs or have RVs and just follow the tour all along, all throughout France. And in some places, they’ll just pull off to the side of the road and set up their motor home there. But then up in the mountain finish, they really don’t want you parking on the side of the road on the mountain courses, it’s way too narrow. So they would have like fields where usually, there might be cows grazing. They would have those fields and rent out spots there. And I don’t think the spots, it wasn’t too expensive, it might be like 20, 25 Euro, to have a parking spot there, but we walked past one of them and it was just a sea of RVs.
[00:38:11] Melinda and Sean Cool: There, a picture of that one. They were just all over.
[00:38:15] Melinda and Sean Cool: But yeah, a lot of people will do that.
[00:38:18] Was it all they had hoped?
[00:38:18] Annie Sargent: So overall, was it all you had hoped, like as people who had watched it for so many years being there? Was it, how was it?
[00:38:26] Yeah,it was great. We really tried to get the experience with catching the race along the way, one near the finish and one near the mountains, and I think we got all of that. . Like I said, it goes by really fast compared to watching it on TV, but the energy and just all the people and meeting our friends, Eric and Marie, yeah, we had a great time.
[00:38:47] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And some people actually ride some of the, but they ride it the day before or the day after.
[00:38:54] Yeah, if I could do something over, I would probably either bring a bike or rent a bike in a way that we could get out on the roads.
[00:39:03] Tips for riding the tour yourself
[00:39:03] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, the day of the, on our mountain finish, there were a lot of people that rode up the mountain early, yeah, and had their bikes with them. And I would probably do that if I went back again.
[00:39:16] Annie Sargent: So they did it the day of just early in the morning.
[00:39:19] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yep. Yeah, they close down the course probably an hour or two before the cyclists are going to come. But up until that time, you can ride much of the course just on your own. A lot of people, well not a lot of people, there would be some tour groups that would come by and they would be, they would probably have access to more of it, and closer to when the actual cyclists or professional cyclists come by.
[00:39:46] Melinda and Sean Cool: Those trips can be very expensive, but they also looked like they were very well supported. They had a van that would carry extra bikes for them and water and all that, and they all were wearing like the same kit, the same outfits. So if you wanted to do that, definitely, a way to do it that’ll probably cost you some dollars.
[00:40:05] But a bunch of people would just bring their bike over as a piece of luggage and do it on their own. So, it’s open to all sorts of people, I mean anybody can do it.
[00:40:16] Annie Sargent: Yeah. As a matter of fact, I’m planning on another episode with people who did the same sort of thing you did, but it was around the Alps and they did bring their own bikes.
[00:40:26] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah. We had spent a week in Spain before, so it was kind of difficult, how are we going to do it. If we did it again, bringing a bike is not as hard as we expected that it would be.
[00:40:40] Melinda and Sean Cool: So, next time.
[00:40:41] Annie Sargent: Very good. Well, Melinda and Sean, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful to talk to you about this because I live right in the middle of all of this and I have never gone to as much trouble as you have. So that shows that you’re a fan. And I’m like, ah, I enjoy, I mean, honestly, on TV I mostly watch The Tour because of the shots and the historical stuff and what have you, so.
[00:41:05] The route of the 2023 Tour should be announced soon
[00:41:05] Melinda and Sean Cool: Yeah, it’s beautiful. Yeah. One of the things too to mention is that they usually, they tell what The Tour route is going to be for the following year, sometime in October-ish. So if people are planning for next summer, don’t use this year’s course.
[00:41:22] Annie Sargent: It changes every year. Yes.
[00:41:23] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much, Melinda and Sean, and well, hopefully you’ll come back and bring your own bikes next time.
[00:41:31] Melinda and Sean Cool: yeah. Oh, bien sûr,
[00:41:34] Annie Sargent: Au revoir
[00:41:35] 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.