Well – we’ve experienced Le Tour first hand, and what an experience!
Set off for Les Baux at 8am as we knew there would be crowds of people watching the cycling elite do a category 4 climb up Col de la Vayede…sure enough, as we got to St Remy, the traffic was building and there were loads of cyclists too, all making their way to Les Baux…As we approached the turn off from the main road to Les Baux, we could already see campervans and motorhomes – all shapes and sizes – parked up on the side of the road! Made our way up the hill to find most of the spaces already taken, but, as we drove up, there was a possible spot so we quickly turned around and headed downhill – sure enough, our spot was still there so parked up and got ourselves organised…Not a bad view either – a nice bend to watch the cyclists coming up, plus standing in the back of Buzz meant we could see over the motorhomes down the valley and spot them coming…nice!
As we had at least 5 hours before Le Caravan arrived, we set off to have a look at Les Baux…
The village is on top of a pile of rocks – in French, ‘baux’ is a rocky outcrop and is like many others in this area…the village itself is very touristy with little shops selling all sorts of stuff…a couple of nice looking cafes and restaurants too. A church right at the edge of the village has some wonderful stained glass windows and the sun shining through was just beautiful…
The views from the top of the village were just superb – as the mistral was blowing a gale, the air was so clear and we could see all the way across the plains to the Camargue and Marseilles…lots of little alleys and fascinating buildings almost growing out of the rocks…
We were able to get a good look at the route up to Les Baux from the top…easy to see the climb the cyclists would make – standing at the Col was difficult though as the wind was howling through the gap – it was hard to imagine cycling into that!
As the village was getting busier and busier, we decided to head back to the car and soak up the atmosphere…events like this make people want to talk to each other and we wandered down the road chatting to various bods along the way…ah, variety is definitely the spice of life!
One of the traditions of Le Tour is to have some of the ‘oldies’ show up on the original bikes which used to tackle Le Tour – sure enough, this chap went up the course and on the way down, Andrew managed to get a photo – rider complete with his spare tubes around his neck…and look at the bike – superb!
Time to get organised on the truck – out came the table and chairs and the cool bags – lots of icepacks and cold water = check, thermos flask + tea = check! Cant take Andrew anywhere without a cuppa..
Le Caravan is as much a part of Le Tour as the cyclists and it certainly was an eyeopener…about an hour or so before the cyclists arrive, a convoy of cars, people, floats, you name it, it will be in the Caravan…as they pass, they chuck out all manner of stuff – sweets, hats and assorted junk! It’s great fun to watch and see how people scrabble for the stuff being thrown…we had a French family next to us (Dad and son sat on Buzz’s tailgate :D) who somehow managed to get a huge stash of stuff that Mama had tucked into her jumper (yes, I said jumper – in 30+ degree heat!) They were almost as amusing to watch as Le Caravan…About 180 vehicles are in this parade and it takes ages for them to all go past…that done, it was time to get revved up for the main event!
And then they were gone….probably 30 seconds, and it was all over…apart from all the support cars following behind…we had our eyes peeled for the Manx Missile – Mark Cavandish – but didn’t spot him in the crowd until we reviewed Andrew’s photos…and there he was!
Andrew’s video will hopefully give you an idea of what it was like… turn your sound up and enjoy…we did