Friday, July 31, 2009


Saturday, July 31st, 2004 Nice, France

After sending our journal yesterday, we went out for our final walk around L’Isle sur la Sorgue. Watched the locals playing in the water throughout the city. Spent some time at the boating club observing members challenging each other in the flat boats and sat for a while listening to singers doing short routines for mike checks for the concert tonight in the town square.

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn and ready to leave by the time we had breakfast at 7:15 am. The newspapers and television news shows were full of reports of major traffic for the Autoroutes towards the south as people started out on their traditional August vacations this weekend. When we stopped at the rest area after the first hour it was full of people still sleeping in their cars. Traffic was heavy but not impossible.

When we opened the instruction book from the car agency to verify the procedure for returning the car this morning at the Nice Airport we discovered that we were suppose to have made a reservation four days ago. Opps…guess we’ll stop by on the way in to Nice to see how we can overcome this slight problem. The plan had been to drive to the hotel; drop the luggage and then go to the airport. (When we leave from Nice we will be using the train for the Italy portion of our trip). Airport traffic was bumper to bumper. Accidentally got into the “Kiss and Leave” (that’s exactly what the sign said) and that took even more time. Finally parked; went inside to the return counter and Jim worked his magic charm. Never mentioned that we didn’t have an appointment; requested the gate code (that we were supposed to have received when we got our appointment four days earlier) and when the guy couldn’t find our name in the appointment book; Jim said we’d be back in a hour as we needed to take our luggage to the hotel in Nice prior to leaving the car. Worked perfect! The clerk slotted us in for the noon appointment.

By noon the luggage was at the hotel, the car had been returned to Peugeot and we were on the bus back to Nice. After getting checked in to the hotel and a short nap; we put on our swimsuits and headed for the beach with our bamboo mats and beach shoes. The beaches here are rocks…shoes are very important! Advantage is that you don’t have sand sticking all over you; disadvantage is that the rocks can be rather firm! But we enjoyed our hour in the sun (that was about all we could take) and even the novelty of the topless ladies all around us soon wore off.

Back to the hotel, we’re about four blocks from the beach; rested up a bit before dressing and then headed for the local Catholic Notre Dame Cathedral for Saturday evening Mass at 5:15 pm. From there we walked another mile and visited the Russian Orthodox Cathedral; very ornate and beautiful inside and out with extensive use of gold leafing plus onion shaped turrets. They were in the process of chanting their Vesper Service while we were there. Checked the train station on the way home and then had a wonderful dinner at our favorite restaurant from the 2002 trip. Walked to the promenade along the beach by way of the old center and enjoyed an evenings’ stroll for about six blocks. The English tourist who didn’t like walking on the rocky beach to enjoy the view built the first promenade; it was built of marble. Today it’s concrete and asphalt. Swimmers still dotted the beach and ocean; bicycle riders, skate boarders and roller blade pros were streaming down the bicycle section as other just strolled along as we were; enjoying the sights and sounds of an evening in Nice. We had street musicians entertaining us; a magnificent evening sky and a mixture of language sounds surrounding us as we enjoyed our evening walk before heading back to the hotel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Tuesday, July 27th, 2004 Heading for Provence

We enjoyed our crepe dinner in Paris last night as we sat outside under the awning watching the rain that started just after we arrived at the café. Purchased beer to enjoy with the crepes; it also allowed us to sit at the tables. The café is separate from the crepe maker even though they are in the same building. By the time we’d finished our crepes the rain had stopped and we walked back to the hotel under the dripping trees and enjoyed the fresh air! Band of Brothers was on the television as it was Monday night again.

On the road by 9 am; it only took us about fifteen minutes to be out of Paris. That’s definitely a record! It helped that we were only a short distance from the Peripherique by way of Port d’Orleans; then only a thousand meters on the Peripherique (thank goodness as it was bumper to bumper) and we turned south on the A6. The southbound traffic was a breeze; pity the poor souls headed into Paris in the stop and go traffic running opposite our wide-open route. For those who have asked about the cost of the toll roads; it was 439 kilometers (about 270 miles) to Lyon, took us about four hours and cost 23.50 Euros to use the Autoroute (toll road).

On the way down we enjoyed a beautiful day with lots of sunshine. Our girls were waiting for us with their faces uplifted to the sunshine. Enjoyed the Chateaus that dot the hillside and the castles ruins on the hilltops. The fields were full of sunflowers, corn, wheat, hay and herds Charolais cattle (the white ones). They are harvesting the hay right now. Farmers use the method of rolling the hay into huge round bales that remind me of rolling snow for a snowman in the wintertime. Right now, round bales of hay are lying all over the fields waiting to be picked up for storage.

Just outside of Beaune we passed the Chateau Chateauneuf where we’ve enjoyed several delicious meals and I remembered our stay on the “Lady A” (a canal boat that is permanently moored on the Burgundy Canal that flows through the valley) next to Autoroute that we were driving on. We stayed there for four nights in November of 2000 for our first visit to Beaune. There was another American couple also staying on the boat and we shared the drama of the trying days of the Presidential Election and the “chad” issues. The boat owners were constantly changing the television channels and/or ignoring our request to watch the news on CNN. We’re looking forward to being home for this election and also a smoother flow of voting results.

Stopped in Beaune to pick up my vitamin pillboxes that I’d left last week. Purchased gasoline at the local supermarket (1.04 Euros per liter compared to 1.15 on the autoroute) before heading south towards Lyon. We visited Lyon during our trip in 1992 and so decided to make our overnight stop in Vienne, about thirty kilometers south of Lyon. We had decided that to drive from Paris to Provence was just too long for one day.

Vienne is a beautiful town located along the Rhone River and offered extensive Roman Ruins to explore. As soon as we were checked in we headed over to the Gare (the train station) to see about purchasing the first of our seat reservations for our journey into Italy in August. I had purchased our Eurorail Pass for Italy prior to leaving home. I had also very carefully researched the train schedules on the Internet and made a list of the train numbers, etc. that we needed seat reservations for because of time schedules, etc. We also needed a ticket for the first day from Nice across the French border, as our Europass is only good for Italy. The stationmaster was great. Very patience, spoke no English, and spent nearly half an hour with us attempting to fulfill our request. Finally, he suggested that we get the last part of our reservations after we arrive in Italy as he was having trouble getting the hours that we wanted. But we did manage to get the tickets from Nice to the border, the reservations for seats to Genoa, then for the trip to Rome and also for the trip to Naples. He was so good we surprised him with a tip before we left. He was shocked to say the least!

Spent the balance of the afternoon exploring all the Roman Ruins scattered throughout the old center of town. Everything is walking distance from our hotel; an Ibis Hotel with central air, television, elevators, internet access…wow….and only a two star. One thing that we’ve learned is that when you need change, go to the Post Office. Banks post signs in their windows that say “No Change”. The Post Offices have a special machine for obtaining change; handy for parking meters and Laundromats. Yes, that is coming up before we get on the train so we made a visit and got prepared early.

Wednesday, July 28th: Back on the Autoroute; known in France as the Autoroute Du Soleil (route to the sun) as it goes from Paris to the south of France. Only used it for a short distance and then headed for the side roads to find a small town that one of my books (novels) written with French themes mentioned. The town is Seguret on D23 southwest of Vaison-la-Romain. A very old, small village located on the side of the hill. We walked from the bottom to the top and back to the car. Many of the shops were selling Christmas Nativity Scenes. Seems like a community theme as there were many different shops selling the Nativity Sets. The surrounding hills were covered with vineyards. We’re really in the center of wine production and nearly every Vintner has a wine tasting shop for the public. In France they sometimes call them Caves. So far we’ve managed to keep driving without testing the vintages. But, we sure have developed a taste for Pastis; decided to shop for another bottle today.

Weather is getting warmer. We had ninety-four degree weather when we arrived in L’Isle sur la Sorgue at 1 pm this afternoon. We’re here for three nights. Wonderful village known for its’ Market Days on Thursday and Sunday. The one on Sunday is most famous for it’s Antiques. We will miss that one as we leave Saturday morning. If you’ve not been here, there is a delightful stream that flows through the town. It’s fast moving with crystal water from underground springs. They race very thin boats that are only able to go under the bridges because the pole man lies flat in the boat as they scoot under the bridges. We had dinner tonight outside on the edge of the river. I kept looking for the twelve-inch fish that we saw during the afternoon. I have not seen any fish other than that one! We think they must release him once a day to entertain the tourists.

Our hotel is quiet, has all the amenities and is reasonable. It is also only two blocks from the center of the village and is called the Hotel Les Nevons. We spent a good part of the day today repacking our luggage for next week after doing the laundry. When we leave here we will be dropping the car off when we arrive in Nice. We’re mailing another box home and leaving a goodwill package here in the hotel room for the maids of things we decided to just leave. Amazing how luggage grows and grows and grows…..

We’ve been watching the Boston Democratic Convention today; so nice to have CNN and be able to catch up on the news. Until now the French TV station had a reporter in Boston covering the convention so we have been getting the news story; but only in French.

Thursday, July 29th: Slept in a bit and then headed for the Thursday Market. Had lots of fun; hard to not purchase sooo many things but then the “baggage issue” rears it’s ugly head! But we did find a couple of unusual small things to purchase. The food is what is so much fun. The wide variety of cheeses, olives, spices, vegetables, meats (cooked and raw), fresh fish including the head of a swordfish, bolts of material, flowers (fresh and dried) you name it; it was here. We found a clever little dish that grates food very easily and Jim purchased a small package of ground up spices. We’re going to find a pottery shop in Orange County when we get back to the USA that has the Provence style pottery; we’ve said this before, but this time we WILL actually do it when we get home! One dish that I really liked was made for olives; about six inches round with an attached small bowl for pits and a smaller one for toothpicks. Surely someone in America has made one of these! Lots of dogs, bicycles and baskets created a special flavor and the interesting places they find to park their cars while they shopped was a constant surprise. They’re so small the French seem to be able to park them on the proverbial dime.

Finally left the market, picked up our car and headed for the large supermarket on the edge of town. Needed to purchase tape and string for our last package. When we took it to the post office we were pleasantly surprised when she said we didn’t have to pay any postage. Seems as though when we purchased the box at the post office last week; the postage was included in the price of the box as long as we didn’t exceed a certain weight! That makes the first five boxes a bit cheaper than we’d thought. Hummm….maybe another box in the near future?? We’re keeping the extra tape and string just in case we decide to send more home.

Decided to drive to the Fountain of Vaucluse. We’d been there in 2000 but wanted to see everything in bloom. Beautiful and quaint, not very changed. Decided to walk about a mile each way to see the actual “source” of the water for all the crystal clear streams that run throughout the region. We were amazed when we arrived and found the pool to be extremely low due to the lack of rain for the past few years. It was at least twenty feet below the level in 2000. I guess California is not the only area affected by drought these days. We purchased a book and found that these conditions have occurred regularly over the centuries.

During the afternoon the children learning how to maneuver a kayak in the river entertained us as we walked along the river. A teenager seemed to be in charge; each of the kids wore a life jacket. He was working with a group of ten. He had them going up and down over small rapids created in the river; great place to safely learn the techniques. Other teenagers were busy jumping and diving into the water from a bridge; each trying to be more daring than his friends. Everyone in the water wears shoes we noticed; lots of rocks and unfortunately trash litters the bottom. All along the river there are concrete steps that allow people to sit with their feet in the cool water. Shoppers, both old and young, sit next to their bags for a break in their day with their feet dangling in the cool water. And so another warm day closes. It’s much cooler in the evening but hits the nineties during the day. The shade is comfortable but walking in the sun is guaranteed to burn your skin!

Friday, July 30th: This is our last day before heading for Nice. We decided to go south and find the town of Ansouis located just north of Pertius. A couple of years ago we both read “The Magic of Provence”, a book by Yvone Lenard. She had restored a home below a castle in a hill town and wrote a book about the village of Ansouis and her experiences.

Found the town perched on a hillside with the castle at the top just as she described. Parked near the café and walked up to the castle as we knew her home backed up to the base of the castle. We discovered a beautiful home that Jim was sure belonged the author; we also found the Tourist Information that was actually built into the back of the home. We were fortunate to find a delightful young French girl who spoke extremely good English in the Tourist Information Shop who confirmed that we were correct about the house. We were the only customers and she spent about twenty minutes with us. The castle is only open in the afternoon, it was now only 11 am, but she offered to ring up the author as she is now in residence and does not mind meeting people who ask about her. We elected not to bother her but asked many questions of the clerk. She has a new book out called “Love in Provence”…Jim is sure we’ve read it but I don’t remember reading that one. Will check when we return home. Asked her why the first book was not translated into French and she replied that the editor would not cooperate as French people don’t like to read books by Americans about their French experiences…or something like that. There was a German translation in the shop for sale as well as the English version. We also saw a selection of wines from Forbin de Janson. Of course Jim couldn’t resist asking about that one and again, she provided us with lots of information regarding the town where the wine is grown.

When we left Ansouis we had a new quest; we were on the road to find Forbin de Janson. Finally found the town known as St’ Egreve Janson after touring several cornfields. Nothing much, lots of new houses; but no winery with the name of Forbin de Janson was visible in the areas that we searched. We did find a street by that name and drove to the end of it without success. Headed back to our hotel for a late lunch and siesta time.

It’s been fun being back in Provence again. Tomorrow morning we head south to Nice and turn the car in at the airport. We have three nights in Nice and then take the train into Italy. I will miss the ease of using the internet in France. Last time we were in Nice at the same hotel I had trouble signing on and finally had to use my computer from the manager’s office. Do hope they’ve corrected that problem. So for now it’s adieu, farewell and au revoir until next time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Monday, July 26th, 2004 Paris

Left the hotel about 10 am this morning and started walking towards Notre Dame. First we walked through the Luxembourg Garden, a very large park. The flowers are beautiful here in the gardens. Most European cities have hanging baskets on their lampposts during the summer months. Paris only has trees and the flowers are in the parks and up on window ledges. From there we walked through the University District and over to the Seine River where we followed the river down towards Notre Dame. Lines were long so we kept walking to enjoy the gardens between the Cathedral and the river. On the bridge leading to St Louis en I’le there was a violin player earning his living. Verified that all of our old hotels were still there and then proceeded through the crowds of people to walk towards the Quai on the north side of St Louis en I’le where they have created the Paris la Plage (beach).

The beach only exists from July 21st to August 20th. There are hammocks, beach chairs, many small boule courts (in Italy it’s bocchi ball), small swimming pool, rest rooms, first aid and very strict rules posted in many different languages. Some areas have sand but most are just cobblestone. It’s quite a novelty item and is making the news regularly here in Europe. There is no charge for using the chairs, etc. First come rights. Today was so cool that there were not too many people using the beach area! By the way, two of the rules are that you may not go topless nor swim in the Seine River!

After visiting the beach it was about 1 pm and time to use the Metro for a return trip to the hotel after our three-hour walk. Arriving in the lower echelons of the Metro we found a small band composed of Slavic musicians playing their instruments. It’s always so much fun to stop and listen to the various forms of music one finds in the Metro system and sometimes even in the cars as they move from station to station. This group was especially good and it was hard to continue on our trip home rather than to stay and enjoy the music.

From the hotel we headed to the local movie theater and enjoyed a V.O. (version originale ie: English with French subtitles) Spiderman II that has just been released here in Europe. The subtitles are distracting but it was fun to watch a movie. Walking home a different way we found an Alimentary Store (a small neighborhood grocery store) and picked up drinks and snacks. Tonight we’re headed back to the same area to have jambon, champignon and fromage crepes at a small restaurant in Montparnasse that was frequented by Hemingway when he lived in this area before World War II.

Tomorrow we head south for a week in Provence and Nice before heading into Italy. Again, have not a clue as to whether or not I will have Internet access; but must admit I’ve been pretty lucky. So for now we bid you farewall….

Next Blog will be on July 30th, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Stage 20 of the 2009 Tour de France begins in Montereau-Fault-Yonne, where the Seine River merges with the Yonne River. The city is east of Fontainebleau. The riders will head north about 40 km before turning west towards Paris and the Champs-Élysées. Today they will ride 101.9 miles, but much of it in the streets of Paris.

The final Stage of the 2009 Tour de France was very predictable with no mountains and only 2 sprints….Mark Cavendish didn’t take the Green Jersey but took the final sprint for his 6th Stage Victory as he crossed the finish line first!

The leaders final times were only slightly different from the end of yesterday’s stage with Alberto Contador winning his second Tour de France! We were thrilled to see Lance Armstrong on the podium in third position…using a popular phase “not bad for an old fart”!

As Chris Brewer wrote on the Livestrong Website:

It's a parade like atmosphere as they approach casually from the southeast, champagne toasts being made on the bike and many a staged photo taken with the race leaders and their teams. That all ends in earnest, though, soon after the race leader's team ceremoniously leads the peloton across the finish line for the first of eight laps around the famous Champs Elysees. As the race heads down to the Arch de Triumph and back again to the Place de la Concorde the speed gets faster with every circuit. Tens of thousands of fans line the route, with attack and counter attack being played out again and again. Winning a stage is important, but winning the final stage of the Tour is very prestigious, too.

And so, once the sprinters have had their day the true victors of the Tour de France will be crowned midway down the Champs. Each team will also get their time in the sun as they take a victory lap acknowledging their amazing effort. After three weeks of racing it's hard to believe it's all over, but it won't be long I assure you before the speculation and planning for the 2010 edition is back in full swing. But for now, it's all about finding where your family and friends are, and where is the team party tonight?!

The WINNERS of the 96th Edition of the Tour de France are:

#1: Alberto Contador

#2: Andy Schleck +4:11

#3: Lance Armstrong +5:24

#4: Bradley Wiggins +6.01

#5: Frank Schleck +6.04

Our Jerseys were awarded to:

Top Team Overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Alberto Contador

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd

Maillot a Pois Rouges: Franco Pellizotti

Maillot Blanc: Andy Schleck

And for the final chapter on the 2004 Tour de France, here is the story of that eventful day on Sunday, July 25th, 2004, in the City of Paris……

Sunday, July 25th, 2004 Paris

The final day of the Tour de France. Took the Metro over to the Place de la Concorde about 10 am with plans to possible see the Museum L’Orangerie and then walk down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe to get a feel for the course that they would ride between four and five o’clock this afternoon. Whoops…we came up from the Metro and found a zoo of police and people. The streets were already blocked off. We had difficulty getting anywhere even though we were walking! We walked over to the L’Orangerie and found that they have closed it again for remodeling! We then walked for about a mile before we could get near the course. Found a great place with seats on a stonewall with several other Americans. After half an hour, the police came and moved us out…the area was to be kept cleared of people! Later, on television, we saw our wall during the race and it was void of people! Made us feel a little better; Jim had been sure that other people would eventually get those seats.

So we continued to walk and try to get closer to the course. Finally managed to find a street that they would allow us to cross and we made it over to the Champs-Elysees. By that time all the rails were taken but we found a great curb with a lamppost to lean again with a wonderful view of a television screen that was at least forty feet square. We were now very near the Petit Palace. It was now about noon and the caravan was due about three with the riders arriving in Paris about four in the afternoon. Once inside the city they will make ten loops up and down the Champs-Elysees between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. We had another interesting group of Americans around us and one Scotsman. The young couple was from San Diego, here for ten days only. An older couple from Michigan has been working in Paris for nearly four years; they are scheduled to go home in September. So, we were an interesting group exchanging information! When you spend several hours standing on a corner you get to know each other. Never exchanged names but learned all kinds of facts about their lives in general.

Jim saw some people with Postal Team on their shirts so he went to ask about the “party”; they didn’t know about any party but since he had a Livestrong yellow bracelet they gave him a small yellow shirt pin that said Postal to put on his Tour de France hat. They also told him where he could get more bracelets if he wanted them. I asked him to see if he could get more pins so he set off to find the booth. He didn’t get any more pins but did come back with a French Hot Dog. They put a French roll on a heated rod that creates a perfect space for the hot dog. They put the condiments in the bun then they insert the hot dog….volla…a non- dripping hot dog!

By the time the riders arrived in Paris the street between our curb and the television screen was packed solid with people. We were amazed at how many step stools and small ladders that we saw. People would climb up the light poles and then the police would allow them a few minutes and make them come down. A real mass of humanity with one common goal…to see Lance Armstrong become the first to win the Tour de France for the sixth time.

The television played short versions of all the stages of the race and also kept us up to date with the progress of today’s ride into Paris. The riders were very relaxed today and did lots of interviews as they road 110 kilometers (about 70 miles) towards Paris. Once the group enters the city limits the sprinters start breaking away to improve their individual times. They do another 53 kilometers inside the city limits including the ten laps on the Champs-Elysees. When they arrived Jim went over and elbowed his way close enough to the street to film the riders. We watched them make two loops and then headed back to the Metro and the hotel to watch the finish in our room. It’d been a long and very hot day; had not seen a restroom for seven hours; the only shade we had had been from our umbrellas. But a great experience and well worth the inconvenience.

Rested up after the race and then walked over to the Paris skyscraper for a city view. Fifty-nine stories high, you have a wonderful three hundred sixty degree view of the entire city from the top. You have a twenty-five mile view per the brochure. The roof also doubles for a helicopter pad. The one view you don’t have is of the Seine River as it sits down too low below the buildings. But a much better view than from the Eiffel Tower. Another end to a memory filled day. We celebrated the end of the Tour by drinking the last of our Pastis!

On Tuesday, July 28th, 2009, I will continue our 2004 Journal as we spend another day in Paris and then head south into Provence, then Nice and on into Italy. We end our adventure with a couple of days in London before arriving in the USA on August 19th. Hope you stayed tuned….

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Stage 20 of the 2009 Tour de France begins in the city of Montelimar, about half way between Valence and Avignon. The riders will head southeast and then circle back to the northwest after mile 70 in a long loop for the approach to Mont Ventoux for a total of “make or break” 103.8 miles. This is the first time a difficult mountain stage has been planned for the day before the final ride into Paris.

An early break away of 16 riders, including Tony Martin, set a fast pace and soon they were eight and half minutes ahead of the Peleton. The weather is beautiful for today’s ride, only a forest fire near the route caused concern because of the smoke that could affect the riders and also the fire equipment using the same roads as the race.

As we neared the base of Mont Ventoux the Peleton began closing the gap to the break away group as the top riders began dancing on their pedals. The last time the Tour de France climbed this mountain was in 2002, and we were there…our story follows today report for your enjoyment.

At 27 km Team Astana, all 8 riders, broke the Peleton apart to begin the attack on the mountain as the winds changed from a tail wind to a cross wind! All of the leaders made the break with Astana with the exception of last year’s Tour winner, Carlos Sastre. The split is only about 5 minutes at the base, giving the new break away the advantage and they will soon pass the initial group as Astana, Saxo Bank and Garmin-Slipstream teams rotate the lead up Mont Ventoux; a grueling hour’s ride. Slowly, one by one, the workhorses dropped off after completing their share of the load of leading the top riders up Mont Ventoux; closing the gap to the original break away. There are nearly half million people on the mountain to watch the riders make this famous stage…many, like we did, walked the final miles to the top to be there for the finish.

An exciting finish with Juan Manuel Garate of Spain taking the Stage with Tony Martin coming in a close second. The third group in was lead by Alberto Contador with Andy Schleck on his heels. Lance Armstrong also finished in the lead group following Alberto who today proved to be a great leader and a great teammate!

The leaders are:

#1: Alberto Contador

#2: Andy Schleck +4:11

#3: Lance Armstrong +5:25

#4: Bradley Wiggins +5:36

#5: Frank Schleck +5:59

Our Jerseys were awarded today to:

Top Team Overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Alberto Contador

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd

Maillot a Pois Rouges: Franco Pellizotti

Maillot Blanc: Andy Schleck

I thought that I’d pull the journal from our trip in 2002 when we followed parts of the 2002 Tour De France during our three months in Europe. Our story started on July 8th in Paris and we caught up with the 2002 Tour de France in Vannes on July 13th. We continued to catch stages as we traveled through France and arrived for the Mont Ventoux stage on July 20th.

2002 was the last time that the Tour de France has raced up Mont Ventoux.

Sunday, July 21st, 2002, was the climb up Mont Ventoux on the 14th Stage of the 2002 Tour de France; this was the Stage that Jim wanted to see more than any of the others! This stage is legendary as the scene for one of the most grueling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle races. It stands alone and is visible from nearly all of Provence, and the minstrel wind sweep down off of its barren slopes.

They were closing the roads early so we left by 9 am and managed to get up the back side of the mountain to a parking space along the road that was ONLY 7 km about 5 miles from the finish line at the top of the mountain. The hike up actually wasn't too bad as we had shade most of the way. Most of the road was only about a 5% grade with a few tougher spots. We had an American from Philadelphia ask us if we had band aids when he heard us speak English. He was totally unprepared as he'd come from some business meetings in Belgium and thought that this would be a good way to spend the weekend. I have been carrying a roll of adhesive tape in my purse for blisters so he was very grateful. Saw him several times during the day and he said it worked wonderfully on his dual blisters. We also shared our sunscreen with some girls from Texas.

The weather was great....very hot, about 85 degrees but the winds kept us cool. We used lots of sunscreen as there is absolutely no vegetation at the top. You can see this mountain from miles around and it looks like year round snow as it is totally white due to the limestone rock summit. The race came here in 2000 and the wind was so bad that everyone froze in July. But we never put our jackets on today even though we did bring them along because of the possibility of a weather change!

Arrived at the top about noon (a two hour walk) and found the portable toilettes which were already nearing their max. We then located a good spot on the hill above the road which was at the 200 meter mark for the finish. We could also see a good piece down the road. We found some flat stones about eight inches square for seats and moved the surrounding rocks so that the points were down. This was our "stadium" seats for the next five hours. I did bring an umbrella that gave us some shade as we passed the time people watching and reading. We put our American Flag out in front of us...I think the helicopter filming crew got it several times. Also, people would stop to chat knowing that we were also Americans.

The caravan came through about 4 pm and the riders arrived at 5:30 pm. Lance was 2 minutes behind the leader in third position. It was a very exciting finish. A Frenchman won and you can just imagine the excitement in the crowd. Lance is still in first place overall, but he would have loved to win this mountain also! We headed back down the mountain as fast as we could and I managed to stumble...only a bruised knee and some embarrassment.

I was so tired and Jim was also, that we drove straight home, showered and went to bed after our five mile walk back down the mountain to our car. Plus navigating all of the traffic as people headed out for the next spot on the Tour; the same town that we were staying near.

We continued to follow the 2002 Tour De France for a few more stages but none so thrilling as today’s stage on Mont Ventoux. After a day of rest, the riders started from Vaison La Romaine, the town where we have been staying, so we witnessed the beginning of Stage 15. We followed the race into Chamonix before heading south towards Nice and into Italy to continue our three month tour of Europe; catching the race on television until it arrived in Paris less than a week later. Hope that you’ve enjoyed our little story of our adventure on Mont Ventoux in 2002.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

STAGE 19 OF 2009

Stage 19 of the 2009 Tour de France begins at Bourgoin-Jallieu located near the heart of the Rhone-Alpes Region and flows 110.6 miles to Aubenas; a town that sits on the edge of a rocky ridge overlooking the Ardeche Valley.

I’m publishing this Blog a day early as we are traveling for two weeks and I will be without an Internet on Friday Morning ….I’ll add the story and awards lists as soon as possible. LATE BUT HERE ARE THE NUMBERS FOR TODAY:

Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd took advantage of the course today and beat all of the top ten to the finish line except for Lance Armstrong who increased his advantage over the others by having the same time as Cavendish who took his 5th Stage Victory today. Tomorrow is Mont Ventoux...another MOUNTAIN day!

The leaders are:

#1: Alberto Contador

#2: Andy Schleck +4:11

#3: Lance Armstrong +5:21 (4 seconds less than yesterday)

#4: Bradley Wiggins +5:36

#5: Andreas Kloden +5:38

Our Jerseys were awarded today to:

Top Team Overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Alberto Contador

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd

Maillot a Pois Rouges: Franco Pellizotti

Maillot Blanc: Andy Schleck

Our 2004 Journal continues without a slideshow as we elect to head into Paris and beat the traffic for tomorrow’s Final Stage of the 2004 Tour de France….

Saturday, July 24th, 2004 On the road to Paris

On the road early, we decided to skip the time trails at Besancon and beat the traffic into Paris on the A6 Tollway. Had light rain off and on most of the way to Paris. At a roadside stop half way to Paris we found the “fishing” jacket that Jim has been looking for; he wanted something with lots of pockets but sleeveless. They are great for traveling. We also made a stop to drive through part of the Fountainbleau Forest and the village of Barbizon, the birthplace of “plein aire” and ultimately Impressionism, just south of Paris.

Arrived about 1 pm and found our hotel fairly easily; having a detailed map of Paris from a previous trip helped. We are staying in a district that is new to us; Montparnasse. It has the fifty-nine story skyscraper and also a very large cemetery. Jim decided on the hotel because it was featured in a recent movie with Matt Damon called “Bourne Identity”. The name of the hotel is “Hotel de la Paix”; a very nice hotel that has all the amenities except air conditioning. But, no bugs to speak of so we’ve left the windows open. We’re on the fourth floor, but there’s an elevator; our room is located on the backside so it’s quiet. Spent the afternoon watching the Tour de France on television and then walked over to the neighborhood Cathedral for a beautiful Mass celebrated by three priests. After Mass we walked to Chez Clement’s for a delicious dinner to celebrate being back in Paris again.

We enjoyed walking the streets of Paris. The streets are lined with trees and life has a special quality that you can feel as you walk the broad sidewalks lined with outdoor tables at the cafes and individual shops for every imaginable thing that you can purchase. They have small homes and apartments, very small refrigerators and prefer to shop daily for food in their neighborhood stores. Occasionally a small grocery store but mostly it’s the bakery, the butcher, the wallpaper shop, the stencil shop, the framer, etc., etc., etc. It’s always a joy to experience the sights and sounds of Paris again.

This evening I found out that I was missing something from my luggage. I’m always after Jim when we leave a hotel to make sure we don’t forget anything. Well, this evening I searched high and low for my vitamin pill box; going through all of the suitcases several times. I finally called the hotel in Beaune and sure enough; I’d left them in the room. Fortunately we will be driving right past that city on the way back to Provence on Tuesday. Would have made it the rest of the trip as the pill box only held a week’s supply; but will be nice to be able to stop and pick up the box on Tuesday. This is probably the only city that we will visit on the trip twice with the exception of Madrid at the beginning of the trip. Somebody was watching out for me!

Parking has always been a problem in Paris like all large cities. The cost of parking in an underground garage is now 21 euros for twenty-four hours. We decided to risk parking on the street and after several different tries have finally gotten a spot right in front of the hotel. I was concerned about the hot weather, but we’ve been blessed with cooler weather since we arrived in Paris. Hate leaving things in the trunk of the car when it’s ninety degrees outside. We’re enjoying about seventy degrees at least for a few days.


Stage 18 of the 2009 Tour de France is an individual time trial around the city of Annecy which is located next to a very large and unusually clear lake near the Swiss and Italian borders.

Time Trials around Lake Annecy for Stage 18 saw the Swiss Road Champion Fabian Cancellara take the lead early and hold it until the very last rider, Alberto Contador, crossed the finish line 2.5 seconds faster! The challenge of the day was the Col de Bluffy...where we watched the 2004 Tour ride through in yesterday's journal.


The leaders are:

#1: Alberto Contador

#2: Andy Schleck +4:11

#3: Lance Armstrong +5:25

#4: Bradley Wiggins +5:36

#5: Andreas Kloden +5:38

Our Jerseys were awarded today to:

Top Team Overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Alberto Contador

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd

Maillot a Pois Rouges: Franco Pellizotti

Maillot Blanc: Andy Schleck

And so we continue our 2004 Journal ….

Friday, July 23rd, 2004 Lons le-Saunier … Stage 18 of 2004 Tour

We decided to change our plans and drive over to the town of Lons le-Saunier where the Tour ended today. It was only about eighty-five kilometers each way. The weather is a little cooler but very humid. Had light rain and lightning most of the way to our destination. We drove the red and yellow roads with only a few deviations and arrived in less than ninety minutes. They were starting to barricade the streets as we arrived but we were able to park about two miles from the finish line.

We had a nice little jaunt to the awards area and back to the car afterwards; our morning exercise. The crowds were already standing along the barricades and the rider’s were not expected to arrive for another four hours or more. Always exciting to see the crowds, enjoy them and then leave before they begin to press the flesh with everyone trying to get close enough to touch the riders. We had a little more trouble getting out of town as the roads were already closed and we had to go back to Beaune by a different route. Yes, we left long before the caravan and the riders arrived in town. We just wanted to see all of the setup and experience the excitement again.

Sometimes I feel like a car rally passenger with the maps spread out on my lap; attempting to read the signs as we speed by and also read the maps at the same time. I also switch between a map of France and a local map so that I can see both the small roads and the overall view for the directions of what large city the roads end at…sometimes a hundred or so miles away! But, I must admit, Jim never yells at me and is willing to stay on the circles (round-d-rounds) until I’m confident that we’re heading off at the correct spoke of the wheel! If necessary, he will turn around to go back to check on signs whenever I ask. What adds to the confusion is the fact that they will put signs for every possible way to every possible town. Miles after we’ve passed the major road to a large town we will continue to see directional signs to that city.

We saw a wonderful flower display this morning. They had a two wheeled wooden cart tipped to the back. The wagon and about five feet beyond were used as a flowerbed. It appeared that the wagon had tipped and the flowers were spilling out the back. Also, so many of our girls grow in this area. This morning with the lack of sunshine they were hanging their heads towards the ground. On the way home the sun was out and their faces were turned to the sunshine! The fields are so beautiful but how many photos can you take of sunflowers!

We arrived back at the hotel in time to watch the last half of the tour on television. Then we walked into the village to enjoy seeing the changes and appreciate the things and places that remain the same. There is one store next to the Tourist Information Center that is one of our favorites. They have a hodgepodge of items, books (yes, some novels for the ladies in English), bouquet items and a wonderful collection of very expensive wines (some from USA) with beautiful stemware and related china for the enjoyment of wine. For the cigar smokers out there; they also have items to enhance the enjoyment of your pleasures including a special selection of wine. But, like so many other things we see; how ya gonna get them home!

From there we walked to find an Art Gallery that we’d seen two years ago. It was still there and Jim stopped in for a minute wanting a card, but also getting a glimpse of the artist creating in the back room. The last time was on a Sunday morning as we were going to Mass and the shop was closed. From there we walked on to the church and heard music inside. Walked in and found a rehearsal in progress for a concert tonight. The singers and orchestra were not in costume but the sounds were wonderful; they were opera arias. We enjoyed them for as long as they allowed us to stay. Finally they politely asked us to leave. We had another great thunder and lightening rainstorm tonight!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Stage 17 of the 2009 Tour de France begins in the ski resort of Bourg-Saint-Maurice and continues through the Swiss Alps for 105 miles including five mountain climbs! The Stage finishes in the town of Le Grand-Bornand, a ski resort located at the foot of the Aravis Mountain range of the Alps.

A wicked day of difficult mountains saw Thor Hushovd taking off early to gain some bonus points to secure his Green Jersey. He held on to the sole lead right up to the last 39 km before being overtaken by the group who started the counterattack. A nice surprise when they announced that the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is riding in a team car today.

Lance played the “perfect teammate” today helping to control Bradley Wiggins who will take extra points tomorrow during the time trials while Kloden and Contador battled with the brothers, Andy & Frank Schleck, for the lead.

Contador broke but only managed to lose his teammate. Suddenly just before the summit, Lance Armstrong repeated his sole journey across the break to Kloden. At the end of the day, Andy pulled back and gave the Stage Win to brother Frank; but the Yellow Jersey stayed with Contador!

The leaders are:

#1: Alberto Contador

#2: Andy Schleck +2.26

#3: Frank Schleck +3.25

#4: Lance Armstrong +3.55

#5: Andreas Kloden +4.44

Our Jerseys were awarded today to:

Top Team Overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Alberto Contador

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd

Maillot a Pois Rouges: Franco Pellizotti

Maillot Blanc: Andy Schleck

Our 2004 Journal continues as we spend a day in the mountains; parked along a desolate (on normal days) mountain road for five hours to watch the riders’ whiz though on a mountain stage. ….. the 2009 tour will be in this area tomorrow for Individual Time Trial on Stage # 18

Thursday, July 22nd: 2004 Bluffy

Left about 8:30 am and hit rush hour traffic for a while but managed to arrive in Bluffy before 11:00 am. Bluffy is a very tiny village at the top of a small mountain just outside of Annecy a large city on a large lake located south of Geneva. This was going to be a good (but not too high) hill climb after they’d already completed two major hill climbs earlier in the morning. We chose this climb because we were able to drive to the area, get a parking spot right on the course for viewing and then get back on the road quickly to drive to our hotel in Beaune; a three hour drive!

We picked a spot to park the car that was headed downhill but still an easy walk to the top for viewing. We were in the shade on a curve. Put the American Flag up on the car by using the windows to secure the corners. Then Jim walked back and forth to his favored viewing spot at the top of the hill while I stayed with the car and read a book. About 3 pm the Caravan arrived. Jim was at the car for this and he stood across the road and gathered more of the throwaway items that I did. We got bags, key chains, food, etc., etc; lots of fun. They are going at least thirty to forty miles per hour while they are tossing these things at you; but that definitely add to the fun of the event! After the caravan had passed, Jim went back up the hill to watch the race with his new buddies.

Jim has been up there most of the afternoon; good company and also there was a small television where he was able to watch the race. There was an Italian gentleman with a camper who had a generator and a satellite dish hooked on a fence for a small television set that he put where others could stand around and see it. He also had refrigerated water bottles for the Italian riders that he gave them as they passed. He goes to all the bicycle races and the Italian team knows he will be there on the course with the water bottles. Also, a Frenchman who lives in Annecy near the lake had worked in the USA in Illinois for six to eight months so Jim had lots of fun talking with him in English.

The initial group of three riders whizzed by followed very closely by Lance and a small break away chase group at 4:10 pm. The riders continued to come by every few minutes. We had to wait until the final rider had passed before we could use the road. The last rider was followed by a truck called “Lanterne Rouge” with a flashing sign that said “Race Ferme” meaning that the last rider had passed. It was 4:45 pm; we pulled out right behind the truck and managed to be the first car off the mountain. The second car was right behind us; a couple from Pennsylvania that we’d talked with during the hours of waiting. The wife had given me a novel that she’d just finished; always nice to have another book to read. We headed south back to Chambery, then west to Lyon and back to the north to Beaune. Called the hotel to tell them we were going to arrive late…the clerk did not speak any English. I’m on the cell phone with the French dictionary trying to get her to understand. Finally found the work for late (tard) and she seemed to understand that. Always a challenge, but I certainly can understand and speak a lot more French than I could in 1992.

We found our hotel in Beaune easily since it was the one that we’d stayed in on our 2002 trip. Old, but quaint and walking distance to the old part of town; also has TV and Internet connections. They’ve done extensive renovations since we were two years ago. No central air, but the walls are over two feet thick and our room is very comfortable temperature wise. What more could you want? How about a thunder and lightening storm while we enjoy our evening shot of Pastis? It’s been 90 to 95 degrees this afternoon…we have a huge storm going on right now outside. It’s a storm like they get in the Midwest and south during the summer! This is a great town and we will enjoy it tomorrow as we stay two nights. Known as the hills of gold (Cote d’Oro) because of the value of the wines that they grow in this region called Burgundy. This is our third trip to this area. We’ve done just about everything so will relax tomorrow and absorb the ambiance. Saturday we will watch a time trial and then head into Paris to watch the finals on Sunday. Should be a mad house!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Stage 16 begins in Martigny and heads south in the high mountains of the Swiss Alps for 98.8 grueling miles to the small mountain town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice, next to the Italian border. Our day will take us into the Italian Alps and then back into France before we complete today’s Stage at the bottom of a very steep descent.

A difficult day with two huge mountains to climb; we saw an early break away by several; the first a group of two followed by a single rider and then a large group of seventeen after the first mountain. These groups merged into one at about 37 miles before the final mountain accent began and about 4 minutes in front of the Peloton at that time.

With just over 20 miles to go the Schleck brothers came out to play taking Contador and Wiggins along with Kloden away from the main Peloton. Suddenly Lance Armstrong came out of the Peloton and rapidly moved to the break away surprising everyone as he passed rider after rider! Suddenly there were 3 Astana riders in the main group who were quickly chasing down the lead group of four including Franco Pellizotti who took both summits to secure his King of the Mountain Jersey.

The group of leaders came back into France behind the lead group and began the dare devil descent to the finish line. A very exciting finish by the Spanish rider Mikel Astarloza winning his first Stage of the Tour de France! He broke from the lead pack just as the Peloton closed the time between the groups!

Several have asked how they figure the team points. The finish time of the first two riders of each team to cross the finish line are combined for the team points each day. So it is really is important to have two members of the same team in the first group to cross the finish line. This award is usually announced long after the podium is torn down and moving on to the next venue; thus my report is changed hours after the initial report if I find that the Team Leader has changed!

The leaders are:

#1: Alberto Contador

#2: Lance Armstrong + 1.37

#3: Bradley Wiggins + 1.46

#4: Andreas Kloden + 2.17

#5: Andy Schleck + 2.26

Our Jerseys were awarded today to:

Top Team Overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Alberto Contador

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd

Maillot a Pois Rouges: Franco Pellizotti

Maillot Blanc: Andy Schleck

Our 2004 Journal today continues five years earlier and southeast of today’s mountain stage……

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004 Alpe d’Huez Stage of 2004 Tour de France

Today is the day of the big race up the Alpe d’Huez. This morning’s newspaper has a twelve by eighteen photo of the switchbacks leading up the mountain that was taken yesterday. Every inch appears to be covered with a trailer or motor home or tent. So glad we went yesterday and not today. We had several American families here at the hotel last night that were going to attempt to get as close as possible to the start. There are buses starting from the center of Grenoble at 5:00 am this morning taking people up the mountain to the starting point of the race for five euros each. Private vehicles will not be allowed within seventeen miles after midnight last night. Then after the race they all have to wait in line to be brought back to Grenoble bus by bus….some may be lucky to get back before midnight!

Remember my saying that we’d gone yesterday morning and only gotten about four miles above the starting point of the race. The family from New York said they’d tried about 3 pm in the afternoon and they had been turned around about seven miles before we were. They were taking the bus this morning and then walking as far up the mountains as they could. The race doesn’t start until about 2 pm. We’re watching on television right now and the whole fifteen kilometers (nine miles) is wall-to-wall people. Lance will not start until 5:00 pm. It takes them less than forty-five minutes to ride the Stage. It’s a time trial so they go off individually in two-minute increments.

Our day started after breakfast this morning. We’d packed the five boxes that we purchased on Monday with things that we didn’t need any more, extra books and maps, etc. Some were heavy but each box was only about 3 inches thick and small…they were designed to store magazines. Found the Post Office in Grenoble. Stood in one line; and they sent us around to another line. No one, I mean NO ONE, spoke English in the place. The first gentleman finally gave us forms to fill out for each box. After doing that we got back into line and had a different clerk. She began to put the information into the machine and complete the information on the form. We decided to say that the boxes had clothes in them, she said gifts, we said yes. This was not a fun experience. We kept trying to tell her cheapest way. On the fourth box Jim said…look the tape that she is putting on says “Priorte”…the euro total was adding up rapidly. I started using my French book and asking questions. She said two weeks; we said a month is no problem! She finally got the drift. Cancelled the four that were finished and started on the fifth package and now she was putting “Economique” tape on the boxes. We had to redo four mailing labels. That’s an important French word to learn! “economique” Suffice it to say, it is not cheap to mail packages home. Think twice before you plan to lighten the load by mailing things home. It’s about $5.00 per pound to ship the economique way! Then to cap off this event, when she tried to put the cost on the credit card; nothing worked. After trying three different cards, we started searching our pockets for euros. We came up with just enough to pay the bill! Another reminder, sometimes your credit cards don’t always work so be prepared to have enough euros at all times. As we walked away from the post office; and towards the ATM machine, Jim said…this has been a “journal entry” for sure!

After the post office we headed to the toll way and a side trip to see an historic sight located west and a little south of Grenoble in the village of Hauterives. Soon we’d left the mountains behind and found ourselves back in the land of sunflowers. Jim said he’d read about this place for years but didn’t realize we were in the area until we looked up Grenoble in the Eyewitness Book for things to see in this area. It’s called the “le Palais ideal du Facteur Cheval”. Located north of Romans, it reminds us of three other sites for various reasons: In Los Angeles California we have the “Watt’s Towers”; in Barcelona, Spain there is the Gaudi’s Cathedral and in Death Valley California there is Scotty’s Castle.

Known as one of the greatest follies of France, an eccentric “palace” constructed entirely of stones, single-handedly by a local postman, Ferdinand Cheval. He collected rocks on his daily rounds and built his palace between 1879 and 1912; it became a National historical monument in 1969. It is visited by thousands of visitors from around the world every year.

We arrived during the lunch hour and waited for half an hour. During our wait we walked around the village. When we found a field of sunflowers, we climbed the fence and got into the field for some photographs. It was fun until the bees started buzzing us for disturbing them. The sunflower girls were over five feet in height; taller than I thought they’d be. When the site opened we were able to see the entire thing in about twenty minutes.

Then back on the road and Grenoble to watch the race on television. Lance set one of the fastest times ever and beat his closest competitor by two minutes, when places are usually measured by seconds. We were very proud of him. Talked to some people at the hotel who taken the bus early in the morning. They’d walked up the mountain about two miles and were delighted that they’d gone. They arrived back at the hotel about 9 pm due to the time to walk down the mountain and waiting for the return bus after the race. We were still happy with our decision to enjoy the day and then watch the race on television.

Jim is pouring us each a Pastis as I type. It’s nearly 4 pm. We have the window and door to the room open, as it’s about 93 degrees. Warm afternoon! The Pastis should warm the insides and equalize the temperature. We purchased a small bottle and enjoy a very small quantity each evening before bed. Jim swears that it helps him sleep through the night better.