Essex Paris Essex: Le Tour de Femmes

Essex Paris Essex : Le Tour

Our legs ached today.  The long days in the saddle, steep climbs and broken lift made us wince with every downward, upward, or even horizontal step. With sleep being the at least 90% of all effective recovery (I imagine), we certainly were on the road to recovery with our extended lie in this morning. All we needed to for the rest of the day was watch a couple Tours de France and go to the launderette.

Using the facilities

We took one look at our dirty, sweat encrusted lycra and decided that today was not the day to wash them in the shower. They would either have to be machine washed or burned and, with the amount of security forces with big guns wandering around the city, we decided we would head to the local Laverie Automatique. Alarmed that the timer was increasing rather than reducing, we assumed that a watched machine à laver would never wash so headed around the block for half an hour to give it a nudge.

That tiny bit of life admin out of the way, we set to the next task. Food. We tried to combine this with the wandering around element of the laundry, but either everything was shut, had long queues or was a Starbucks. As it was, turning left rather than right out of Rue de Montpensier was a much more fruitful affair and we soon stumbled upon the Cafe Palais Royal which google describes as a ‘buzzy corner bistro’.

They were right. Garçon were buzzing everywhere, taking orders with absolutely no notes and delivering food with absolutely no errors. It was around midday at this point, so most definitely beer o’clock, and as we waited for our food, Leffe Blonde suddenly appeared from over our shoulder, if not in a puff of smoke, most definitely through slight of hand.

Venturing in to the heat

All this meant that we had missed the TdF Femmes Grand Depart, so ventured out, into what was by now some quite considerable heat, to watch it on the course. With every passing moment the mercury appeared to be rising. The Men’s tour that had seen snowless alpine vistas for the first time ever had brought to Paris along a wave of heat we were thankful we didn’t need to ride in.

Every step was a slog. The photos around the Jardin des Tuileries were enough of an effort to prompt second lunch of extraordinarily expensive ice cream at the Terrasse de Pomone. Cooling ourselves under the shade of an awning we could have reasonably assumed it was included in the price if it hadn’t been screwed down. Hopping from one shaded bench to another, we finally reached the south end of the park to see the race pass along the Quai de Tuileries.

Getting a better view.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best view and, so tempted were we by the empty pavements on the other side of the road, we dared to step out in to the sun once more, despite the very real possibility of turning to dust. More unfortunately still, we zigged instead of zagged. In hindsight, it would have been better to turn right and head directly to the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor bridge and a bag check to get up to the road.

Instead, with no idea that there would be security, we went left and tried to get access at the Pont Royale. Greeted with a ‘non’ from a not aggressive police officer with a gun, we went in to the Louvre courtyard and through the Lion Gate only to be shepherded down on to the river walkway. Two or three sets of steps came and went with more crossed arms and more ‘nons’ until we reached the bridge.

Having walked a mile and a half to come 200 metres, it seems increasingly likely Le Tour in Paris will become an exclusive spectacle for paying guests who are much easier to keep an eye on. From my first visit in 2010 where crowds lined both sides of every road possible with largely invisible Police, to today’s empty spaces and fully armed security services, it makes you wonder.

The journey, not the destination

Still we managed to witness the final few laps of the women’s race with competitors from the previous incarnation of the race from the 1980s a stones throw away. After half an hour of uninterrupted views of the race, the heat became too much. With the stragglers applauded, we decided that, rather than wait around for the men’s race we’d go back to the apartment, cool down and watch the race on TV. This trip was far more about the journey than the destination and, with the Patrouille de France doing their flypast over our accommodation, we weren’t too disappointed.

Eventually, the evening started taking the edge off the temperature and we were able to venture out to the Rive Gauche to grab a bite to eat. Full of Thai food and Häagen-Dazs, we got down on to the banks of the river once more and soaked up the atmosphere of the nightlife.