The Tour de France (TDF) starts this week and I am actually in France. Of course, I am in one part of France and the TDF is in another. When I am there the Tour will be here but it doesn’t really matter. I came to France with Alla to enjoy the art, food and wine, the historic sights, to cycle, and to enjoy the whole atmosphere that is Provence. France has not disappointed in any way.
The cycling has been fabulous. I have especially loved the small roads the French call chemins. The literal translation is path or narrow lane and the countryside is full of chemins to be explored. It is almost impossible to believe that stages of the TDF have visited some of the narrow lanes and roads I cycled over these past few weeks.
Even when you cycle on the major roads, it is difficult to visualize some 200 riders, team support cars, neutral support, motorcyclists and TDF cars occupying the roads. The roads do not seem large enough for the cyclists alone. Still, the race organizers make it work.
The drivers in France have been unbelievable. They accept cyclists as part of the culture. I am sure there are rude French drivers but I have not encountered them over the past six weeks of riding here. Even in Nice which has heavy traffic, no one has screamed, hit the horn, buzzed me or made any obscene gestures. Returning to the US is going to require some adjustment.
It is also going to be an adjustment not finding a boulangerie and pâtisserie in every small town I cycle through in America. I am not sure how but I have actually lost weight bicycling in France without ever passing a boulangerie.
I am also going to have to start paying more than $6-7 for a good bottle of wine. Provence is awash in vineyards and local wines. I have yet to find a bad one and I never pay more than 6 Euros for a bottle.
Wherever you cycle, you find history and/or magnificent views. I have found crosses and memorials on small roads, far from any town, dedicated to some French man or woman who did something on that spot in 1700 something. I guess I should study more French. The views along the French Rivera need no translation.
Finally, I should mention how welcoming the French have been. I sometimes hear that the French are rude to non-French speakers. I have found just the opposite to be true, but do not take my word for it. Come cycling in France and you will never want to leave her warm embrace.