Categories: Active Vacations in France, France How To
Discussed in this Episode
- Mountaintop finish
- Mountain pass
- Start town
- Team time trial
- Finish in Paris
- Alpes d'Huez. Tourmalet
- Mont Vantoux
- Rent a bike or bring your own bikes? Livre de Route
[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France episode 415, quatre cent quinze.
[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.
[00:00:35] Today on the podcast
[00:00:35] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with the wonderful Tammy McKibben about following the Tour de France, and not just from her couch, but she was doing it in France. Mountain stages are really fun to watch, so are the departures and arrival points every day.
[00:00:53] Follow The Tour next year
[00:00:53] Annie Sargent: The Tour published their official route for 2023, it was two or three weeks ago, and that gives you, the fans, plenty of time to decide where you’re going to go, what stages you’re going to see and get the most out of your time in France following The Tour.
[00:01:11] Annie Sargent: If you go to LeTour.fr you can see the details of their route for this year. You can download it on pdf. The question, is how do you choose, like, how do you organize this sort of trip?
[00:01:24] Annie Sargent: Well, Tammy will tell us all about that.
[00:01:27] Annie Sargent: And in her case, her husband shipped his own bike from the US because he wanted to do some riding. That complicated things a little bit. But it’s good to hear how these things go just in case that’s something you’re considering doing.
[00:01:39] Annie Sargent: So let’s talk about watching the Tour de France in France and all the quirky things that you need to know to organize a trip like that.
[00:01:49] Supporting the podcast
[00:01:49] 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. You can browse all of that at my boutique joinusinfrance.com/boutique. And there is a newsletter to go along with this podcast, if you would like to receive the newsletter you can sign up at joinusinfrance.com/newsletter.
[00:02:27] Following the Tour with Tammy McKibben
[00:02:27] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Tammy McKibben and welcome to Join Us in France.
[00:02:32] Tammy McKibben: Bonjour, Annie, and thank you for having me.
[00:02:35] Annie Sargent: Oh, it’s lovely to have you. So we are going to talk about the Tour of France and your experiences following a few stages.
[00:02:45] Have things changed since the last time?
[00:02:45] Annie Sargent: Now, you did this a few years back, but probably things haven’t changed that much, have they?
[00:02:52] I would expect that they haven’t. Like we mentioned earlier, I think that the “Le Tour” is very into keeping their traditions and their history alive, and they do change things from time to time, but for the most part, planning to go to The Tour is probably, it hasn’t changed very much. It’s just that internet access these days is, just opens up a whole new world of being able to find things a lot more easily.
[00:03:17] Annie Sargent: Of course, yeah. So I guess you guys are cyclists?
[00:03:21] Tammy McKibben: Well, yes, we’re taking a bit of a hiatus from it. Life has kind of taken us in different directions, some physical ailments and some other things that have kind of gotten into the way like work and life. Butwhen we lastvisited the “Le Tour” and really followed it and immersed ourself in it, we were pretty intense cyclists at that time.
[00:03:42] Tammy McKibben: Probably not the strongest or the fastest, but we were still…
[00:03:46] Annie Sargent: But you enjoy it.
[00:03:47] Tammy McKibben: Yeah, we had ridden a lot to lead up to the tour and we were as prepared as we ever could be.
[00:03:53] Advice in following the tour
[00:03:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah. All right, so give us some advice for people who would like to follow the tour as to how it goes, what they should be careful about and that sort of thing.
[00:04:04] Tammy McKibben: Oh, well, there’s so much, I mean, I looked it up. Depending on when this is actually going to be airing, because right now it’s towards the end of September. But the tour is going to be announced on Thursday, October 27th 2022, and it’s going to be at 11:30 AM Paris time which is. I guess for me, it’s going to be 5:30 in the morning. And at that point, they’re going to announce the full route of the tour.
[00:04:30] Grand Depart for 2023 in Spain
[00:04:30] Usually there’s a lot of little hints along the way. They usually announce the Grand Depart prior to the big announcement for the tour. And in 2023, the Grand Depart is actually going to start in the Basque country in Spain. And they are going to be riding three days in the Basque, and then they’re starting on July 1st, and then by July 3rd they’re going to be starting from, the Grand Depart is going to be, or the depart that day will be in the Basque country, and I don’t have the exact city at this point, but then it’s speculated that they will be having a finish in a French town, village, city. And then from there on out, the route will most likely remain in the country of France.
[00:05:16] Tammy McKibben: And at times they do, they do go outside, like this year they started in Denmark. Other years they’ve started in Britain, they’ve started in various places. But once they do officially announce the route, that’s where your planning probably kind of kicks into high gear.
[00:05:32] Tammy McKibben: Now there’s kind of fun to kind of lead up into it because there’s these various websites where people kind of start coming up with, what do they think that’s going to happen for the next year’s tour? How are the routes going to be? And you get to guess and all of that. Some years they kind of do like a counterclockwise and then other years of clockwise around France. But this year starting in Basque, it’s going to be interesting to see they’re going to be emptying out in France, basically into the Pyreneese.
[00:05:57] Tammy McKibben: So are they going to start with a major mountain stages that quick, or are they going to go someplace that’s going to be a little bit more of a flatter stage and then go from there?
[00:06:05] Tammy McKibben: But on a planning purpose, as soon as they make the announcement, they should start kind of telling you, you know, what will be the start town, what will be the finish town. And then you can start to think, okay, this is going to be the in-between.
[00:06:19] Tammy McKibben: Now, whether or not they announce it immediately or not will be where they will have all little places along the way, the intermediate sprints or the feed zones, and depending on how you want to go about to see the Tour, those are going to be very important.
[00:06:37] Which stage was she in?
[00:06:37] So what did you decide, were you at the arrival? Were you at the start? Did you do some of both?
[00:06:44] Tammy McKibben: We did a little of all of it. We did a mountaintop finish and we did a mountain pass, where they went to get the mountain points and then went back down and then had to finish somewhere else. We did a start town. We’ve been to a team time trial within the city of Nice and we’ve also seen the finish in Paris.
[00:07:10] Tammy McKibben: So I feel like I’ve gotten a fair amount. One of the things that we have not done is we didn’t, on a flat stage, we just didn’t park ourselves anywhere just to see them zoom by. That’s one of the things that we’ve not experienced. But the mountain stages are epically fun.
[00:07:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah, because the only thing I’ve ever done was, you know, if it was coming near me, which happens occasionally, I would just go stand on the side of the road, and they indeed zoom by very fast.
[00:07:41] Tammy McKibben: Yes. And I think that was one of the things that, I had been to a bike race before and it was as a cycling fan and obviously a Tour de France fan,it’s very exhilarating, but it was just so shocking when you think about all of these riders are on their top of their game.
[00:07:57] Tammy McKibben: I mean, they’ve trained all year to be ready for the tour, and nobody is bringing their B-game, they’re all bringing their A-game. And just how fast they go up, it’s one thing to be a rider and you’re riding up a mountain, but it’s another thing to think, holy moly, they’re not just riding, they’re racing and they’ve been doing this for a hundred kilometers already and they’re still going at it.
[00:08:22] Tammy McKibben: And so that, that was exhilarating.
[00:08:25] Annie Sargent: And they also do it again the next day, which is what blows my mind. Like, they keep going day and day, it’s constantly. I don’t understand how, I don’t think we’re made of the same stuff, nothing like that, you know?
[00:08:39] I feel good when I’ve done, you know, a pretty heinous climb and I’m like, oh, look what I’ve done. And then I’m like, somebody will always be faster and somebody will always be stronger. I did it for fitness and I did it for fun, but I am a huge tour fan.
[00:08:52] But you know, the mountain stages on a planning purpose, there’s a fair amount that goes into that.
[00:08:57] Planning stages
[00:08:57] Annie Sargent: So what are your steps? what do you think people should look at?
[00:09:01] Tammy McKibben: Well, I think the first part is they need to make a decision, what mountain stage they want to see. Do they want to see a mountaintop finish or do they just want to see, and I don’t want to say, just want to see, but are they wanting to see some of the most big climbs that the Tour France has to offer.
[00:09:18] I don’t know where this year’s tour is going to go. Last year they were at Alpes d’Huez I believe. Whether it’s the Tourmalet in the Pyreneese or it’s the Galibier or any of those famous mountain passes, and that would be something that will be announced with the tour route.
[00:09:35] Find a hotel
[00:09:35] Tammy McKibben: And then, narrowing down where the location is and then finding a hotel someplace that you could stay. And that’s going to come down to a little bit of how far out of town are you going to be. For example, back, when they passed over, it was actually a mountaintop finish in Ax 3 Domaines. And I apologize if my pronunciations are not the best, but in the Pyrenees.
[00:09:57] And it was near the city of Ax-Les-Thermes, and we ended up getting a hotel that was outside and we parked our car and we arrived there. And that’s another story within itself, but we got there very early in the morning, parked our car, were able to take the bikes off of our car, and then we walked into town and it was several kilometers.
[00:10:18] Tammy McKibben: But we also knew that because it was a mainly a skiing community in the winter that there was going to be a gondola that was going to take us from the base of the mountain all the way up to the mountaintop finish, saving us kilometers and kilometers of hiking up. Now, if we had been on our bikes, we could have ridden up wherever we wanted to stop or whatever for that day.
[00:10:40] Tammy McKibben: But that was the day that we actually took the gondola all the way up to the mountain,to the top of the mountaintop finish, and then that’s where the fun began. Everything was set up, they had the finish line, they had all the commentator boxes and there were vendors selling the T-shirts and the hats, and there were food vendors.
[00:11:00] Tammy McKibben: So, you know, you weren’t left out kind of in the middle of…
[00:11:03] Annie Sargent: It’s a party
[00:11:04] Tammy McKibben: …nowhere with no. Yeah, it was a party and you didn’t have to worry about bringing your own food or drink that day.
[00:11:09] Annie Sargent: But did you say pushed your bikes that day?
[00:11:13] No, no, no, we just parked, we parked our bikes at the hotel and they had a place that we could store them and that was really nice.
[00:11:21] Riding the same road before the caravan arrives
[00:11:21] Tammy McKibben: So we just did a lot of walking that day.
[00:11:24] Tammy McKibben: Now, another tour day, they went up and over Col-de-Madeleine in the Alps. And we ended up, we stayed, I think in Albertville, and then we drove as far as we could we wanted to like towards the very base of the mountain, because we didn’t want to get our car into all of the traffic for the mountain that day.
[00:11:44] Tammy McKibben: So we parked at the base of the mountain and then we rode as far as we felt comfortable. And well, let me rephrase that, as far as I felt comfortable, and then my husband left me kind of on the side and under a tree in nice shade. And then he went up to ride up to the top of the mountain, and then he made sure he made it back down before the caravan came. Because once the caravan starts coming, there’s no going down.
[00:12:10] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:12:12] Tammy McKibben: And we would’ve been separated and he wanted to make sure that we were not separated for the day. But I also didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity to do some additional climbing that he really enjoys.
[00:12:23] Annie Sargent: Right, so you can ride the same roads that the racers are going to ride, but you have to do it several hours before they arrive. Is that how it works?
[00:12:37] Tammy McKibben: I would definitely recommend that.You want to make sure that you’re not going to be in the way, and then you also want to make sure, you know, once the caravan starts, and the caravan is, for those that are unfamiliar, because I don’t think the television coverage, at least here in the States, does a very good job of showing the caravan.
[00:12:55] Tammy McKibben: And the caravan is like the parade. And they follow the tour for the three weeks, and they’re the ones that are the giant floats of the sponsors of the tour, and they’re the ones that are throwing out the hats and the shirts and the laundry detergent. I was amazed on how much laundry detergent I collected.
[00:13:12] Tammy McKibben: And you’re like, oh my gosh, I got something, and then you’re like, what am I going to do with this laundry detergent? I mean, I don’t even have access to a washing machine, so, but you do collect all of the hats. And it’s fun because when you see it all on television, you see all the people wearing the yellow hats or the polka dot hats or the skoda hats, and you’re like, Ooh…
[00:13:32] Tammy McKibben: And then that’s where you start to collect them. And that’s kind of, that’s a lot of fun. But you don’t want to get in the way of the caravan because while it might look like a parade and floats, they’re going fast. They’re going very fast. And then everybody else that’s associated with the tour starts flying by, whether it’s, you know, the actual tour officials or if it’s the motorcycles or if it’s the team cars and then you start.
[00:13:56] Tammy McKibben: Yeah. So you don’t want to get in the way of all of that and they will not let you, the gendarme,will very nicely be like, No, you’re not doing that.
[00:14:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah, there, yeah, there’s very strict crowd control and car control.
[00:14:10] Arrive early
[00:14:10] Annie Sargent: So for me, who lives nearby, when we go, we just know we have to show up quite early, usually two, three hours early minimum, and we won’t be able to park right in the village where the tour is going through. You need to park a little further away and walk in and wait for the caravan to show up. But I think if you are going to ride some of that, they might let you do it, but it’s going to be several hours before the tour, the riders ever show up.
[00:14:43] Tammy McKibben: And what I would recommend to as, you know, Oh, I call myself more of a former cyclist, but you know, cyclists are going to know their fitness levels better than anybody else. And they’re going to be able to judge their ability on any given day on climbing. And I would recommend that if you know, and cyclists, like I said, my husband, he went on and rode on up for a bit and then he came back down to meet me because he was definitely stronger. But if you’re riding with friends or family members,I would make a plan to a little bit before you just take off because somebody might be a lot stronger one day and might want to push themselves, but I would recommend that you have like some sort of meeting point, and making sure like, okay, we’re going to turn around or whatever. Whatever your goal is for that day, to try to meet back up. Because on those big mountain passes, whether it’s Alpes d’Huez, or if it’s Mont Vantoux or the Galibier, there’s going to be thousands of people on the mountain on that day. And some of those people have been on the mountain for days, as they’ve brought their camper and they’ve brought their tents and they’ve made it a point what they’re going to do, wanted to be there for that time.
[00:15:55] Tammy McKibben: So they’re going to have to, you know, they’re really kind of planning ahead. And it’s going to be thousands of people. I would just make sure you know, that you could get separated and you could get separated pretty easily.
[00:16:07] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:16:08] Tammy McKibben: If one rides ahead of the other.
[00:16:10] Booking hotels very early
[00:16:10] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And so to find hotels, you probably need to book your hotel as soon as it’s announced, right? I mean, or soon after, because they’re going to get booked up.
[00:16:20] Tammy McKibben: They are going to get booked up and you know, depending on a person’s budget and their access to various places, but yeah, I would recommend once the stages are announced, that if this is something you want to do, then go on and start looking at hotels and booking the hotels. You’re not going to be just to competing against other Tour de France fans, you’re also going to be competing against all of the teams and the riders and all the people that are associated with the tour. Because they too are going to be staying at a hotel in that area and then, you know, immediately leaving as soon as going from stage to stage. And also, just be very aware of how close your hotel is, are you willing to ride or walk, or even if you got a hotel further out, how far that morning could you drive to get to where you wanted to go? One place that we stayed, ended up staying in Lourdes for a stage in the Pyrenees, and we knew that we wanted to get to the base.
[00:17:21] Tammy McKibben: Actually, our goal that day was to make it to the very top of the Tourmalet, but once we got there, the weather it was just horrendous. So we just were able to pull off to the little town of Barèges and we somehow found a parking spot at six in the morning and we stayed there and all day long. And a hotel opened up their doors to us and they served us breakfast even though we weren’t guests at the hotel and then, but there were places that we could have lunch and do a little shopping.
[00:17:54] Tammy McKibben: And then as we walked out of town, towards the mountains, we were, I forgot how many kilometers from the top, but we ended up being in a phenomenal location and it goes down as one of my epic days. We were there from six in the morning until almost six o’clock at night.
[00:18:11] The caravan didn’t even run that day because the weather was so bad. But then, you know, as the tour comes in, there were no helicopters where we were and then, but we had all four seasons in one day.
[00:18:23] Annie Sargent: Oh wow.
[00:18:24] It was just, it was crazy, but we still, my husband and I, and we were with friends too, because we had met up with them.
[00:18:30] We still talk about that day as being one of our, one of our best days and memories that we’ve ever had. That’s where it was, where the yellow jersey was constantly attacking, being attacked, and so we actually got to see where that took place and then the cameras will spin around on the tour, of all the fans and the riders to get a little bit better of you of the attack that was taking place.
[00:18:56] Tammy McKibben: And when we got home, because we had recorded everything and we got home and we saw that spot because you know, of course we were like, Ooh, we got to find where we were in Barèges and we were on television. So we got all excited about that.
[00:19:10] Annie Sargent: That’s great. Yeah. And for people who want to do it simpler than all of this, people who don’t want to show up at five in the morning and hike up and whatever, what you could do is wait for the tour to go through a major city like Toulouse or Marseille or whatever big city, and book a hotel there, and then that morning, walk to the path.
[00:19:34] Annie Sargent: But it’s not going to be the most spectacular, it’s going to be, they’re probably going to, well, if it’s where they end, you could be close to the arrival. But in that case, you’d have to show up several hours before the riders arrive because there are going to be a lot of people. Or you could go somewhere along the route and there people are more stretched out and there’s more room for people, but then they’re going to zoom by pretty quickly.
[00:20:00] Tammy McKibben: They are going to zoom by very quickly. Depending on how interested you are in the tour, that might be exactly what you want to do. But I think for a lot of cyclists, and I certainly don’t want to speak for all cyclists by any stretch, but I would imagine that if this is something that they really want to do, they want to see mountain stages, but they also probably want to test their own ability and do some of the mountain climbs, and even do maybe some mountain climbs of previous stage routes that perhaps are not on this upcoming tour.
[00:20:33] Tammy McKibben: And that’s what we did the last time we were there, we really did it, immersing ourselves in that. But that was something, we did some in the Pyraneese and more so in the Alps. There’s lots of different ways to do it.
[00:20:43] Rent a bike or bring your own bikes?
[00:20:43] What do you think about renting a bike so that you can ride perhaps the day before the tour comes by, or the day after the tour comes by? Is that something you’ve done?
[00:20:55] Tammy McKibben: Well, we actually were brave enough to take our own bicycles, and we did not rent bikes. However, that is certainly, I would recommend that if you are renting, once the tours are announced, you start kind of looking into the cities in and around that, at bike shops and the bike rentals.
[00:21:16] Tammy McKibben: And I would imagine that, the last time we rented bikes in France was several years ago, pre-pandemic, and they had come a long way of renting bikes to cyclists, so there were quite a few different bikes to choose from, but this was not the time of the tour. I would imagine that they would book up pretty quickly and you would have to be very specific about your measurements and the size of the bike, the type of components you want, and everything that goes along with that.
[00:21:43] Tammy McKibben: Now, the issue would be, I would say with renting, would be that if you plan on following for X number of days and depending on how long the route is going to be in a certain area, because they’ll be in the Alps for a few days, most likely, and into Pyreneese for a few days. But then you would have to rent the bike at one location and making sure you return it at the same location. And then if you want to follow it even further, that could be cumbersome and maybe not practical.
[00:22:11] But bike shops are going to have very nice bikes to rent in France.
[00:22:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah. They usually have.
[00:22:17] Bring your own bike – Airport experience
[00:22:17] So what was it like taking your bikes, bringing your own?
[00:22:20] Tammy McKibben: An adventure. I wouldn’t, there’s a lot of planning that goes into taking your own bike. First, you got to think about how skilled I am at taking apart my bike and then being able to put it back together. And making sure that you’ve got a nice carry bag for your bike or some sort of storage, packing container that you’re going to use for your bike. And just making sure that if you take it apart, you know how you’re going to put it back together. Otherwise, you’re going to need to find a bike mechanic at a bike shop. And, you know, that adds a whole other layer to it. So just, I would say practice doing that before you leave.
[00:22:59] Annie Sargent: Right. And that’s because you can’t put, it depends how you get around. Right?
[00:23:03] Oh, you mean for the flight? You’re going to have to take your bike apart for the flight.
[00:23:08] Tammy McKibben: Yeah. I’m sorry I didn’t clarify that real well. But I would recommend that you definitely practice taking it apart and putting it back together. And that you find a good travel case, something that is going to be, you know, some of them can get pretty pricey depending on the type that you have.
[00:23:23] Tammy McKibben: And sometimes now with Facebook marketplace, you could probably, there’s all kinds of various bike exchange Facebook seller pages that you could probably find a used carrying case that would be perfect for your experience. I would also double-check with airlines to find out how much is it going to cost to actually check your bike bags. Becausewe found that airlines could be pretty inconsistent about it.
[00:23:50] Tammy McKibben: And, you know, our bike bags were the kind of like where you put air into them, I’m not explaining this really well, but it was obvious that it was a bicycle. And then there was others that were more like lay flat. And we ran into one man, who we were talking about our experiences, this is getting it over and he goes, they were going to charge me, I forgot, kind of an exorbitant fee, and then he was like, but it’s a massage table, it’s for my work. And they were like, OK $50. So you just have to, you know, just the airlines, they seemed to be very inconsistent with us when we were going over and coming back with it.
[00:24:24] Then you also have to be, you know, you’re obviously not carrying your bike on, so you are going to be checking it as luggage. And you have to be thinking about your connections. Because what if you fly over and your bike doesn’t make it?
[00:24:38] Tammy McKibben: And it doesn’t make it for a few more days. Now, the first time we did it, the bikes made it perfect, we made our train connection at Charles de Gaulle, made it on to Grenoble with the connection in Lyon, which was not fun necessarily, hauling bicycles and our luggage and coming from an eight hour flight and a three hour train ride and all of that.
[00:24:57] Tammy McKibben: Another time that we did it, my husband just brought his own bike. And unfortunately, the bike did not arrive in Nice when we arrived in Nice. They did let us know, because this is really, there wasn’t as great communications, because of the apps were not really where they are today with airlines, but they called us and left a message on the voicemail. But unfortunately, the voicemail was in French and it was difficult to understand, and we were able to get that, finally get it figured out, but we had to go to the airport.
[00:25:25] Tammy McKibben: But then trying to get it from the airport was kind of challenging because you claimed it in the arrivals and they don’t want necessarily people to go into the arrivals. Getting a taxi to take us into that spot was very challenging. And then the hours of picking it up.
[00:25:41] Tammy McKibben: So that would be something that I would make sure that if you were flying in with your bicycle, that you give yourself at least a day or two cushion before you go off to someplace else, just to be on the safe side.
[00:25:52] Tammy McKibben: But then also if you’ve got your own bicycle or even renting bikes, you’re going to have to have a car to go to all of these places.
[00:25:59] Traveling without a car it’s just not possible because there’s no, the transportation is just not as fast, but then you’re going to either have to get a vehicle that is going to be large enough like a van to put a full bike in, or you’re going to have to get a bike rack and you’re going to have to make sure the rental car has a bike rack. Or you can do what we did, and we actually bought one of the, a Bones bike rack from the company Saris. And we were able to fit it, tear it apart, divide it up between the two of us in our luggage. And then put that together to put it on the car to put our bikes on.
[00:26:39] Annie Sargent: You guys are hardcore, man.
[00:26:41] Tammy McKibben: Well we were, more so, but yeah, there’s some logistics that you need to consider and making sure that you have the proper tools, that you’ve packed those, you’ve got your extra tubes for your tires, and making sure that your tires are in good shape before you go, and just things like that. It’s all possible. And I would imagine that a lot of cyclists, at least one person in the group that they might be traveling with, probably knows a fair amount about bike mechanics. Or you can just pretty much learn everything you need to do, learn at, on either YouTube or at your local bike shop.
[00:27:17] Clubs or bike associations
[00:27:17] Annie Sargent: You know, one thing I wonder about, because nowadays, there are so many, I mean, in France we have a lot of bike clubs, where you have people, sometimes 50, 60 people who will just organize long rides. And yesterday, when my husband and I went to lunch and there was a bike club of about 30 people who were having lunch at the same time, and they were all decked out in their bike clothes and they were all 50, 60, obviously retirees, okay? And they had just left from wherever at 6:30 AM. And I know that because one of the guys showed up late at the appointment, the start appointment, and he got chewed out for showing up late and making the group late. So I wonder if clubs like that could arrange to rent you a bike because they know the areas, they have bikes.
[00:28:15] Annie Sargent: I don’t know, it’s just, because we have them, they are all over the country.
[00:28:21] Tammy McKibben: Yeah. And I would say that’s definitely worth exploring. And I would imagine the community of cycling might be very open to something like that.
[00:28:30] Tammy McKibben: Definitely worth looking into.
[00:28:31] Because we have, I mean I call them bike clubs, but they are associations, just like everything else in France works with associations. And they probably do events around the tour, and if they don’t, maybe they’ll be open to hosting groups from the US to, just like they do choir exchanges and things like that, I wonder if they do bike exchange for riders.
[00:28:59] Tammy McKibben: I mean, they very well might. There’s so many, like with the era of Airbnbs and even people short-term renting out their cars to tourists. That might be a great opportunity for someone to get a bike. The problem could be a little bit more of a sizing depending on your height and you know, all of that.
[00:29:19] Tammy McKibben: But, it’s definitely worth exploring.
[00:29:22] With the bikes on the train
[00:29:22] Annie Sargent: So it sounds like you also took your bikes on the train. Can you talk about bikes on the train, because that’s another kettle of fish, isn’t it?
[00:29:30] Tammy McKibben: That was, you know, after getting off of an 8-hour flight, picking up our luggage and our bikes at Charles de Gaulle and of course, we were extremely thankful that everything had arrived. And then we go to board the train and we didn’t get first class tickets. And I don’t remember why. Hindsight is we should have gotten first class tickets.
[00:29:48] Tammy McKibben: Butwe get ready to board the train and we had a pretty large piece of luggage because we were going to be there for so long and we were carrying, you know, our cycling shoes and our helmet and all our gear, plus our bicycles and trying to get on a train. And it was a two-story train, and trying to drag everything in that spot to where they needed to be, that was a challenge. Your heart rate is going pretty good, like, oh my gosh, this is, oh, I wasn’t counting on this per se. And then having to change trains in Lyon onto Grenoble.
[00:30:22] Tammy McKibben: And we had plenty of time, we had a 15 minute change. But still it was a little stressfulin getting off from one platform to another platform.
[00:30:30] Tammy McKibben: And luckily, they were right next to each other for us. But what I would, one of the things too is, once you do get your rental car, and depending on, most likely in the rental car parking lot, it’s not the place that you’re going to put your bike together. So we had to make sure that our luggage and our bike bags, could all fit into the vehicle before we departed the train in the parking lot of the train station. So that was a little challenging.
[00:30:56] Tammy McKibben: And we were headed into the high Alps and just wanted to make sure that we didn’t get lost in Grenoble. Because we didn’t want to waste hours driving around the town just trying to get out.
[00:31:07] When we were there, the GPS was not necessarily as beautiful it is today. And same goes with mobile phone service, but that is something to very much consider is, will your rental vehicle hold your luggage and your bike bags?
[00:31:22] Tammy McKibben: And also, how many people are you going to have?
[00:31:24] Renting a van
[00:31:24] Tammy McKibben: Now, if you rent a van, you’ve saved yourself a lot of issues.
[00:31:27] Annie Sargent: Right, but then wouldn’t you damage the bikes if they’re just thrown in a van?
[00:31:33] Tammy McKibben: Well, you could probably get them a little bit more stationary. You could probably figure out a way to kind of load them up without, yeah, to secure them. And maybe put some sort of barrier in between them all so that they’re not going to be scratching each other’s frames or, you know, tearing out components or something like that.
[00:31:51] Renting a vehicle from a grocery store would be ideal but probably not doable
[00:31:51] Because I mean, grocery stores in France nowadays, all rent moving vans. And moving vans all have things, like the little rings that you can use for tie-downs. So you could do that, you could tie your bikes and whatever.
[00:32:10] Annie Sargent: But the thing is, renting a vehicle from a French grocery store, I don’t think people who don’t live in France can do that because they ask you for proof of residence.
[00:32:24] Annie Sargent: Like, I had to print out my electrical bill to prove my residence, just to rent a stupid van to move a piece of furniture. This was just a couple weeks ago, so it’s fresh in my mind. And I don’t think they would rent to foreigners, but that would be a really good solution because they have all different size of vans that are just made for moving really.
[00:32:48] Tammy McKibben: Yeah, and plus, whether or not you would be able to have it for multiple days and take it out of certain regions. And I, you know, I don’t know how that works, but that’s pretty interesting though that grocery stores do that.
[00:32:59] There are companies that can arrange all of that for you
[00:32:59] Annie Sargent: The logistics of following the tour are pretty difficult, really. I mean, you really have to be. No wonder there are companies that do this. There must be companies that will just get it organized for you, right?
[00:33:13] Oh yes. I mean, you can definitely pay a company to make sure you have all your accommodations, that they provide a bicycle that is going to fit you, that where they have the leaders of the group and even,you know, side wagon so that you, if youhave mechanical issues or if you are just exhausted for that day, that you can get in a van and ride with them.
[00:33:34] Tammy McKibben: So, I mean, there’s always that. If you have the budget to do that, or if you want to take more of the adventurous route, what we did, there is that.
[00:33:41] The finish in Paris
[00:33:41] Annie Sargent: And what was it like seeing the finish in Paris?
[00:33:45] Tammy McKibben: Oh, that was so much fun. Now that was, we also got up very early in the morning to stake out our spot. My husband had been before and we met up with some friends who had also been before too. And we knew where we wanted to be. We wanted to be able to be where the cyclists came up near the Arc de Triomphe and made their turn.
[00:34:04] Tammy McKibben: And now, I think back, a few years back is when they started going all the way around the Arc de Triomphe. But when we were there at the finish, they went right up to the Arc and then turned. And so it was a pretty tight turn. And so we wanted to be right at that tight turn as they’re making their way back down the Champs-Élysées. And we have some great photographs and it was just an all-day experience.
[00:34:26] Tammy McKibben: But getting up along the railing became, you know, we wanted to stake out our place and we staked it out pretty early. But I mean, there’s plenty of places along the Champs-Élysées if you are in Paris that I know a lot of, on various travel forums, they say, Hey, if you want to see the tour go over by the Louvre and the, and there’s these garden areas and it’s a great place to hang out all day long.
[00:34:47] Tammy McKibben: But I guess if you are willing to, want to be more up close and personal, that may not be the place that you want to be, because I think they make seven laps around on the Champs-Élysées, so you have ample opportunities to see the riders as they are making their approach to the finish and they’re still racing.
[00:35:07] Annie Sargent: They’re going to zoom by, but several times.
[00:35:10] Tammy McKibben: Yeah, and you know, it might be the last stage, but there’s still a lot at stake, because you might have the rider going after the green jersey and then, you know, getting a stage win on the Champs is epic. But we did not see the podium when they actually acknowledge the winner of the tour and those that came, you know, that won the green Jersey and the polka dot jersey.
[00:35:32] We did not see that. We were pretty far from all of that.
[00:35:35] Team and rider victory lap around the Champs Elysées
[00:35:35] Tammy McKibben: But one of the things that I would highly recommend is that if you’ve stayed all day long there, stay longer. Because what’s going to happen is, the teams and the riders will kind of make their own personal victory lap maybe with their general managers and they just ride very slowly around the Champs.
[00:35:57] Tammy McKibben: And kind of, it gives the fans the chance to wave, and sometimes they stop and sign autographs. They are spent, but for them it really is that victory lap. Because whether they finish first, or they were the very last of the tour, The Lanterne Rouge, I believe is what they call it. Yeah. I mean, they did it. And that it’s such a, you know, it’s such a feat for them and that was a lot of fun to see them celebrate. And some of them would stop sign autographs, it was really a great experience to end the Tour of France in Paris like that. For the fan, especially.
[00:36:30] Watching the Tour on TV
[00:36:30] Annie Sargent: So I want to ask you one last thing is, so you’ve seen it in person a couple of times, you’ve done all this stuff, but then you watch it on TV as well, I assume?
[00:36:41] Tammy McKibben: Yes. Yes. Every year.
[00:36:42] So is it very different watching it on TV? What’s the difference? I’m sure it is different.
[00:36:48] Well, you know, the one thing is, now with technology, I would imagine that you, you have an opportunity, you could probably watch a lot of it on your phone if you were standing on the side of the road on the mountaintop. Depending on the mobile service, you know, mobile phone service.
[00:37:02] Tammy McKibben: But you do get to see all of it when you’re watching it on television. You get to see all the nooks and crannies, you’re hearing all of the commentary. You get to see if there were any sort of things that caused issue within the race. All of the attacks, you know, all of the details of the race on television and all the stunning scenery from the drone shots, the helicopter shots, where you don’t get to see that if you’re just standing on the side of the road.
[00:37:28] Tammy McKibben: But being there live in person, and like I said, my Tourmalet day will go down in history is one of my epic days that I ever had. But, you know, the memories and the people you meet up on the mountains, it really is a huge international community. Everybody basically was there to have a good time. Everybody is pretty relaxed, they’re like, Hey, we’re here at the tour, what could be better? This is awesome. We’re outside, enjoying the great outdoors, you know, maybe we rode our bikes, but we’re all here, this international community environment, all is fun.
[00:38:02] Tammy McKibben: But I will say that if you are at a finish, like where we were at the Ax 3 Domaines, you stake out your spot on the railing, and then as the day progresses and more and more people are arriving and more and more people, everybody starts elbowing their way in and you just kind of got to hold your ground.
[00:38:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah.Be like, Ah, I got this spot. No, this is mine. But for the most part, it’s such a great environment and I know that, like all the swag that you can get, you know, like all the laundry stuff. I will say, I parted with that pretty easily, butthe hats I held onto, and we’ve had tour France parties at our home since then.
[00:38:38] Tammy McKibben: And I have a little bin that I keep those out and I’ll bring them out sometimes for the parties, but, I remember coming down from a mountain and on my bag, I had somehow collected like three or four yellow hats or maybe three or something like that. And I saw this dad with his little son, and his dad said something about like, Can we trade you something for a yellow hat?
[00:38:58] Tammy McKibben: He didn’t get one today. And I’m like, no trade necessary, and I just gave him one of our extra yellow hats.
[00:39:04] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s nice.
[00:39:05] Tammy McKibben: That’s part of the fun of it all, getting that long awaited, Skoda hat that I always wanted because you hear that very unique horn that we don’t have on automobiles here in the US.
[00:39:16] Annie Sargent: The Skodas are unique.
[00:39:19] Yes they are. And you know, I’m like, you know, I can’t say how happy I was when I finally got my Skoda hat. And just goofy things like that, but you know, there’s such a sense of community that you feel like you get to know these people. And I think I even put it in my notes that I sent you, but when we got to the base of the Col de Madeleine and we ended up parking our car next toa motorhome and it was a Belgium family. And they were there to see as much of the tour as they could, going from spot to spot as the mom and a dad and their daughter. And the daughter spoke better English than the mom and dad. But I told something to my husband like, I need to go use the restroom facilities.
[00:39:57] Tammy McKibben: And I was going to just go around the corner to a shrub and they made a very, Oh no, you must come and use our facilities in our Camper. And then they took photographs of us and then emailed them to us later on.
[00:40:12] So there’s a good ambiance and a good feeling and people. Well of course, you’re going to be around people who are just as excited about it as you are. Which you’re not going to get if you see the tour in the city center of a large city, because people just come, because there’s a tour.
[00:40:30] They’re not necessarily fans, but if you make your way to the top of the mountains or however far up the mountain you go, well, these are the people who really want to be there. Yeah. And even we stayed at a small, it bitty tiny hotel in the Pyrenees that we walked to Ax-Les-Thermes to take the gondola. We stayed that first date when we got there, it was absolutely jam packed, but we came back that night and even the next, we stayed two nights in that area so we could go to a start town, it was a ghost town. Like we were the only guest at this hotel, and we ended up having a conversation with the owner who was our waiter that evening at their little restaurant. And he spoke about as much English as I did French, which is not very much, but we were able to talk about, you know, French writers and this, that and the other, and how much, who we admired.
[00:41:18] Tammy McKibben: And he got all excited, ran off and then came back and showed us this commemorative Tour de France poster that he had somehow obtained that we had never seen. And I was thanking him for, you know, thank you for showing it to us. And he was likeNo, it’s yours.
[00:41:33] Tammy McKibben: And he gave it to us as a gift.
[00:41:35] Tammy McKibben: Yeah. And then another time, my husband was talking to this group and somehow or other, the next thing you know, they’re pulling out the Livre de Route, which is the, like the tour Bible that they give to all of the riders and the teams and all that are connected with that, that gives unbelievable detail to the tour.
[00:41:57] They gave that to him as a gift too. So, I mean, it’s an interesting, it’s a great community.
[00:42:02] Annie Sargent: That’s great.
[00:42:03] If you like cycling and love the tour, go for it.
[00:42:06] Yeah. Well, Tammy, we didn’t get a chance to talk about all of the things that you put in your notes, but as always, there will be guest notes attached to this episode. And if people want to read all of the things that you did, it’s quite interesting.
[00:42:21] Thank you so much for talking to me about your experiences with the tour, because I know lots of people are huge fans and it’s kind of the, you know, the DNA of France.
[00:42:32] Annie Sargent: We’ve had this tour for so long, and even the people who are not big fans, that would include me, I’m not really a cyclist at all. I like it, it’s a fun event.
[00:42:42] It is. I have lots of stories and I would imagine anybody who has gone is going to have, they’re going to have a story and it’s going to be usually a very good comforting memory.
[00:42:53] Annie Sargent: Which is wonderful.
[00:42:55] Annie Sargent: Merci beaucoup Tammy.
[00:42:57] Tammy McKibben: Merci Annie, thank you very much and I hope you have a wonderful day.
[00:43:00] Annie Sargent: You too.
[00:43:01] Tammy McKibben: Au revoir.
[00:43:11] 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 Patreon.com/joinus P A T R E O N join us, no spaces or dashes.
[00:43:28] Annie Sargent: Thank you all for supporting the show, some of you have been doing it for years, you are amazing.
[00:43:32] New patrons
[00:43:32] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Barbie and Eileen Sotomora, thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible. And I know that most patrons support the show because they enjoy the podcast, but getting a reward, an extra reward now and then it’s fun, don’t you think?
[00:43:53] Annie Sargent: Thanksgiving is almost here, and oh my God where has the year gone? I will share some of my make-ahead tips with patrons because it’s so much work if you leave it to the last minute. But you can get organized and I’ll talk about that in a video with my patrons.
[00:44:09] Supporting Elyse
[00:44:09] Annie Sargent: I am not sure what Elyse has planned for patrons for the next few weeks, but you can see for yourself what she does by going to Patreon.com/elysart That’s E L Y S A R T, and I would love for you to support her as well because she brings so much to our team. She records a podcast with me twice a month, how cool is that?
[00:44:33] Preparing a trip to France?
[00:44:33] Annie Sargent: If you are preparing a trip to France and listening to as many episodes as you can to get ready, keep listening to the podcast, that’s a great way to get ready for your trip. Search the website also because you know we have a lot of episodes.
[00:44:48] Annie Sargent: You can also hire me to be your itinerary consultant. You can purchase the service on joinusinfrance.com/boutique and then you fill out a document to tell me what you have in mind. We make a phone appointment and chat about your intentions for about an hour and then I send you a document with the plan that we discussed.
[00:45:09] Annie Sargent: My time is usually booked up several weeks in advance, so to see the date for my next appointment availability, go to JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique and then click on the itinerary service.
[00:45:22] GPS self-guided tours
[00:45:22] Annie Sargent: And 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 of Paris on the VoiceMap app.
[00:45:33] Annie Sargent: I’ve got five tours for Paris so far. They are designed to show you around the different iconic neighborhoods of Paris quickly and efficiently. VoiceMap technology makes it really easy to find your way around the best Paris has to offer.
[00:45:49] Annie Sargent: It is absolutely flexible as well, so take a look at these tours JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique.
[00:45:57] Amazon recommended products
[00:45:57] Annie Sargent: And the other thing that you’ll find on the boutique page, a link to my Amazon favorite products. I don’t mention this very often, but if you start your Amazon shopping session from one of my links or from my boutique, the show gets a small commission, and it does not cost you a penny more, which is the nice thing about this.
[00:46:17] Annie Sargent: Most months I get just a few dollars, but it’s enough to cover some of the services that I pay for in order to keep the show going, so it’s very much appreciated. I’ll mention this on episodes between now and December, because you know, Christmas. Yeah, Christmas it’s coming.
[00:46:34] Annie Sargent: I published two other episodes recently about the Tour de France and just a reminder that they were episodes 394, A Brief History of the Tour de France and that one was with Elyse.
[00:46:45] Annie Sargent: And episode 411, A Trip Report About Watching a Stage of the Tour de France with Sean and Melinda Cool. So if you’re interested in the tour, you should probably listen to those as well.
[00:46:58] This Week in French News
[00:46:58] Annie Sargent: This week in French news, well, new rule in France, parking lots with more than 80 spaces will be required to install solar panels over their parking spots.
[00:47:10] Annie Sargent: And that’s going to be within the next five years. They need to be done with the work within the next five years, unless it’s a parking lot with a lot of trees already, or it’s a parking lot very close to a building of historical significance. Did you know that all urbanization rules change as soon as you approach a building listed on the historical registry?
[00:47:33] Annie Sargent: Well, yes, that’s how it works in France!
[00:47:36] Annie Sargent: At any rate, I was delighted to hear that most large grocery store parking lots in France will be required to install solar panels. And not just grocery stores obviously, any large retail space, you know, malls, all that stuff.
[00:47:51] Annie Sargent: It seems to me it’s already that way in Cataluña, in Spain where I go in the summer. I’m always happy to park my car in the shade of one of those solar panels. And why not? It’s a win-win.
[00:48:03] Annie Sargent: Now I got to add this. Like most things in the fight against climate change, that one measure is not going to change the world. But we have solutions, we need to implement the solutions that we have.
[00:48:18] Annie Sargent: Emmanuel Macron has invited the 10 biggest emitters of CO2 in France to meet with him one-on-one to find a way to drastically reduce their emissions.
[00:48:30] Annie Sargent: That’s where the biggest bank for the buck is because these 10 companies emit about as much as all the cars in France. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, and not all our problems are going to be solved. We have a lot of people who feel that governments are doing nothing, and that’s simply not true.
[00:48:50] Annie Sargent: They’re not doing as much as I would like them to do, but we are doing, governments are doing, even the US has really kicked it up a notch recently.
[00:49:00] Annie Sargent: If you want to scare yourself, which I don’t recommend, but I did it anyway. Look at the emissions per capita instead of per country.
[00:49:12] Annie Sargent: Per capita, US, Canada, Australia are not doing very well at all. France and the UK are doing relatively okay per capita, and yet we should do better. We should also do all the things that we can to make it a little bit better. But US, Canada, and Australia. Hmm. Please push that ball forward some more.
[00:49:38] Personal Update
[00:49:38] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week, I am planning a trip to Strasbourg, the beautiful town in the northeast of France with my husband, between Christmas and New Year. We only have four days, but I think it’s going to be enough to have a great time and enjoy the Strasbourg Christmas vibe. Now I need to find a good solution for house sitter because my usual wonderful dog sitter is going to visit her grandma.
[00:50:05] Annie Sargent: When she told me that, I thought, could I really talk her out of going to grandma’s house for Christmas? No. I can’t. I really can’t. I’ll find something.
[00:50:13] Annie Sargent: I am planning this a little bit late, but I think I’ll make it. I mean, I have gotten very astute at trip planning, as you can imagine, with all the trip itinerary planning that I do.
[00:50:25] Show notes
[00:50:25] Annie Sargent: Show notes and a full transcript for this episode are on JoinUsinFrance.com/415 the numeral, and you can help your Francophile friends plan their visit to France. Go to JoinUsinFrance.com, click on the share buttons on the side and tag your friend, they will thank you.
[00:50:44] Next week on the podcast
[00:50:44] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about the life and times of Jean-François Champolion. The really interesting guy, nerdy guy, who shook up the Egyptology field in the early 1800s. We both had a lot of fun researching him and recording this episode. I think you’ll like it as well.
[00:51:06] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to email@example.com.
[00:51:10] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir!
[00:51:19] 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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