July 24: Time Trial in Bordeaux and Arrival in Paris

We woke up early, collected all our possessions, put out way too much trash, and said goodbye to our charming hosts.

I noticed almost immediately when we got to France that the garbage cans were smaller. Not just the kitchen ones, which are the size of bathroom ones at home, but the bathroom ones, which are the size of Kleenex boxes, and the outside ones, which are the size of kitchen ones. It’s all very intimidating for someone like me who puts out a lot of garbage in a day, both verbal and otherwise. My attraction to chipboard boxes is deep seated and I have been known to purposefully choose a prepackaged version of something I could buy fresh and make myself, just because of the attractive marketing. Among all my other flaws, this one seems so insignificant, but my need to put out lots of garbage conflicted with France’s willingness to receive this garbage, and led us to be sort of overloaded all the time, trying to find a place to put it.

I think that French people typically buy more fresh food, less pre-packaged crap, and they also tend to recycle more. Lots of times you’ll see groups of recycling bins out in public, huge things the size of porta-potties (in fact we thought they were porta-potties until we saw the pictures on the sides) grouped by category: glass, plastic, paper. In France the recycling bins are big enough to house a small family, and the garbage cans are teeny. In America, there’s a dumpster behind every building, but the recycling bin tends to be a little crate in someone’s laundry room. So, another difference. But I digress.

The road to Bordeaux took us through Gers country, and every roadside shack was selling Foie Gras by the sackful. Since I’m pretty sure that Foie Gras is baby duck souls, we passed on it. I had seen plenty of jars of “Foie Gras Entier” in grocery stores around Gascony, and it looked really awful. It’s a testimony to my complete lack of interest or education on French food that I still have no idea what Foie Gras actually is. And I don’t care. I know it’s the inside of some sort of domestic fowl, their cheerful faces are decorating the signs that are trying to sell me the stuff on every corner.

Heading into Bordeaux, which is actually a pretty huge modern town, we decided to do something radical. We’d determined where we wanted to be to watch the time trialists go by in this penultimate stage of the Tour, but we knew that the GPS was going to try and get us there right down the path that would definitely be closed to traffic. So we actually took the GPS thinger off its clip, and I operated it in my hand, putting in waypoints as we went along. This was such a perfect idea – me being the mediator between the GPS and Dan, that there were no episodes of rage and frustration. At no time did the GPS go flying across the front of the car, at no time did Dan bite through his lip trying not to swear at it, and at no time did it proclaim “Recalculating!”

Magically, amazingly, we found our little target town and parked about two blocks from the course. Not only had we missed the caravan but we missed a lot of the early riders, including Dave Zabriskie, which was not so great, but a lot of the big names were still to come, so we set up camp and started yelling at cyclists, our favorite occupation. If the mountain stages are the domain of the crazy young punks that paint their faces and wear crazy costumes, the time trial was the domain of the sedate elderly cycling fan, no less crazed and enthusiastic in their support of their favorites, but definitely more sedate and less drunk. We sat down across the street from a group of delightful older couples. They had a list of the order of racers and every time a French national would come down the road, they went NUTS. “Allez allez, Benoit! Allez Sylvain! Allez!” They called them all by their first names and yelled their heads off in support. It was very entertaining. At one point, one of the old dudes fell asleep and had to be roused in order to cheer, and at another point, another old dude fell out of his chair backwards, to the great merriment of his wife. A festive attitude on the course, just like on the mountains but different.

There was a McDonald’s a little way down the road, and someone had had the brilliant idea to send out McDonald’s treat bags to all the children on the course, with coupons for a free happy meal. Not being ones to turn down free French fries, we strolled on down to McDonald’s and got food for the kids, frappes for me and Dan, and then I had to work my way back up the course avoiding mildly drunk French people who were all suggesting in a jovial manner that I share my milkshakes with them. Which I did not.

We yelled for George Hincapie, we yelled for Popovich, and then with a fanfare of helicopters and a full motorcade, Lance Armstrong powered down the road. It was awesome! The whole time we’d been watching stages, I never managed to really get a good look at Lance, and here he was with no one else on the road – we all had fun cheering for him, even though he was out of the running. He’s still a champion, and he has charisma for days. With a time trial helmet, going a million miles an hour, covered in motorcade and skin suit, you can still feel the star power. Go Lance!

After Lance went by we got together and left, planning to get out of Bordeaux before the traffic. Miraculously, with the help of the me/GPS teamwork, we did it. On the road to Paris, we passed a lot of the places we had visited in our first week in France, and there was a great sense of closure, as we had come the full circle all around the country, and we felt like so much time had passed from when we hit that toll booth at Amboise with no Euros and no clue. Yes, we waved!

GPS took us straight into Paris and straight into our apartment, where we miraculously, MIRACULOUSLY found a parking space right in front of our building. Dan and Benny dragged all our stuff up to the place, which was beautiful and amazing. And it had a clothes dryer! And wrought iron balconies from which we could see down four different streets! And a teeny tiny kitchen behind a velvet curtain. And it was in Paris! I can tell you that night I sat down and wrote 1000 words.

No comments:

Post a Comment