Sunday, July 19, 2009

TDF Stage 15: Pontarlier to Verbier

Maybe you cannot imagine what it takes to actually follow the Tour de France. Or maybe you can.

Imagine driving for 5 or 6 hours into the night, or maybe 7 or 8 until you are bleary eyed to find a hotel.

BBB had one night not booked along this trip, and it happened to be last night. Rule of thumb: always take a place in a nice hotel on top of a mountain between Besancon and Lausanne.

Well I did not. I thought, well Lausanne will be fine. BBB and her family used to live nearby in St. Cergue. How bad can it be?

Something like $300 a night. Puis depuis ca j'ai cherche pour un endroit, mais je n'ai pas encontre un. So on BBB went to Vevey. Non madame, pas plus de place.

It soon became impossible than to go all the way to Martigny, Switzerland, the town closest to Verbier where this stage should end.

After going from one hotel to another BBB decided on a hotel that had opened up it's separate--but very scary--hotel building near the train station. All the lights were out in the building, and even the receptionist and her helper who walked over to help BBB and some other journalists from Japan to get into the building, didn't know how to use the elevator, open the doors, or even if there would be blankets there.

But besides the bed being a bit uncomfortable, it had those wonderful eiderdown comforters that are so famously used in Switzerland, and in the morning a spectular side view of the mountains.

And we thought--they are going to climb that? They are steep, with gorgeous pined peaks.

Down on the streets of the nicely laid out town, cyclists pass in droves, headed for Verbier to see the stage.

They'll be waiting a long time: the riders won't be here until the mid afternoon.

PS Lance says on Twitter today:
Big day today @ the TdF. Expect fireworks. Lots of them. 4 those who think it's been boring, you'll appreciate the final week. Fosho..
34 minutes ago from UberTwitter

Also, yesterday the ASO made a big deal about us getting stickers to put on our cars for traveling on the Swiss highway. It cost 28 Euros (about $40). I stood in line for more than half an hour, and lo and behold, crossing the border last night--a tiny building with a man sitting there reading a newspaper with a green light over him on a small mountain road, made me laugh.

The drive from Besancon over the mountains to Pontarlier, and then from Pontarlier down towards Lausanne was extremely beautiful and winding. Good thing to have manual transmission on roads like this so you can downshift on the curves.

First of all the center of Besancon is completely different from the modern outskirts that I passed through yesterday and dissed. It actually IS the kind of town you could base Stendhal's novel Le Rouge et Le Noir, and definitely is the kind of town you could imagine Victor Hugo hanging around in 200 years ago. The homes are at least 200 years old, and an old barrier still exists around the top edges of the town.

I wish I could have stayed there longer. But one thing is for sure, the TDF does not allow you to linger and savor the beauty of the area.

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