Sunday, July 18, 2010

Medival City of Carcassonne & Stage 14 of the TDF

Last night we enjoyed dinner here in the Abbey….or more correctly known as Notre Dame de l’ Abbaye. For ten Euros we were served bread, wine, water, a salad of half a avocado topped with tuna salad on a bed of lettuce. Then we were served a main dish of roast beef, rice and fresh green beans followed by a dessert of diced fruit. What a treat; and then this morning we enjoyed their breakfast for only 3.80 Euros. The same breakfast at a regular hotel is about 9 Euros. Even the candy and soda machines are half the price. We’ve really enjoyed our stay here.

After dinner last night we walked across the street and into La Cite: the main attraction in Carcassonne. It is a completely walled and working Medieval Village; there is nothing like this anywhere else in the world. We then went outside the walls to the old bridge and took some night photos from a distance before heading back for a little more Internet time….so unexpected…and nice to have.

This morning we left immediately after breakfast to catch Stage Fourteen of the Tour de France. We were less than half an hour away from Castelnaudary where the race was scheduled to ride down the center of town. This is also the town where we picked up our boat for the week’s tour down the Midi Canal with friends in 1999. Along the way I could not stop taking photos of the yellow carpets of sunflowers that stretched on both sides of the road as they turned their little heads east to catch the morning sun. These are teenagers and not all that tall yet; a few were babies that still had their eyes closed. But what a glorious summer day to drive through these beautiful ladies!

We arrived in Castelnaudary about 10 am; easily found parking about two blocks from the main street and carried our chairs over to wait for the Caravan that was due at 10:45 am. We were hardly settled when a French speaking Spaniard who made us look young asked for help in setting up his chair next to us. We continued to chat in our broken French in reply to his French statements that we really didn’t understand for the next couple of hours. At times he’d ask us to watch his things while he stepped away for what I’m not quite sure and just before the riders arrived he moved his chair to the opposite side of the street where there was more shade. He was a character and made the time pass fast. He wasn’t very quick on the pickup during the caravan so we gave him some things to add to those he caught.

After the Caravan we settled down to read the newspapers (race results and photos only as they were French Newspapers) and tried to stay cool as the sun rose high in the sky. I’d grabbed my blue umbrella from the car and as I have the low beach chair it was perfect to put it over my legs for shade. You can see the photos that Jim took of me. Suddenly I saw a professional photographer and his sound man…they glanced at us and then crossed the street. As they crossed I quickly got out our American Flag and draped it over my umbrella. Soon they were taking photos of me with what looked like a television camera. Afterwards they talked to us for a bit and made a remark about Lance and we said that we still support him and Jim reminded them that Liepheimer is in sixth place. They laughed and agreed and we gave them a thumbs up. So we may have made the “color” on some show about the race but we’ll never know for sure. I kept the flag on the umbrella and secured it with some clips that I had that made it easy for me to handle by myself as the riders arrived.

Just before the riders we had a visitor from Austin Texas with his Texas Flag. Had fun with them; he is in the Navy; mother is French and they are they’re visiting with his grandparents. Parents lived in Newport Beach at one time. Realized that his wife and little boy were with him and we gave his son a hat and one of the green hands that were passed out earlier. We didn’t exchange names but he has my card and promised to check the website and send an email.

Found the car and headed back to Carcassonne the fast way on the A 61 and checked out our Balladins Hotel for Monday and Tuesday before heading home. Found the manager when we entered; staff is limited on Sunday. Asked about the television room and he showed us where it was located. We’re the only ones in here and have the place to ourselves. Right now they are climbing a Category One Mountain and they’re dropping like flies off the back. Today will really separate the boys from the men as they head into the Pyrenees where the riders will be for the next several days.

It was a great day for the French rider Christophe Riblon of the French team AG2R La Mondiale. He broke with a group within the first twenty kilometer and ended up doing the last twenty on his own and took first place on the 14th Stage of the Tour de France! This was his first win on any major race. Andy Schleck still has 31 seconds over Contador for the overall lead. Team RadioShack lost their first place team position; they are eight seconds behind the Spanish Team Caisse d’Epargne. Lance Armstrong has slipped to 38th position overall after losing more time today. But, they are one of the few teams that still has all of its members riding and that seems to make a big difference for the team award.

For my Holland friends from yesterday…congratulations on your Robert Gesink did very well today coming in sixth in today’s stage. That was the name they were chalking on the street before the race! He is now 4’27” down overall and is in 6th place; knocking our Leipheimer down to 7th place!

The museum here in the Abbaye is now open and we headed over to tour it before it closes at 6 pm. Dinner is not until 8 pm so we’ll have some time to walk back over to La Cite for another walk into the medieval world. Actually, we ended up finding out at the Tourist Information Office in La Cite that there is one more Mass this evening. We had to rush back to the car and drive into the newer part of the city but we found the 6:15 pm Mass at St. E. des Carmes. Lovely Mass in a church that has to be at least five hundred years old and I’d say it hasn’t been restored for nearly one hundred years…..dark and missing lots of paint here and there but a delightful experience with very nice priest and guitar music!

After a delicious fish dinner at the Abbeye we walked over to catch the last rays of sun against La cite from the old bridge and then ventured one last time into the interior of La Cite before calling it a night. Tomorrow we move hotels and attempt to catch another stage of the race.

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