Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tour de France in The Netherlands

Last night when we were checking into our hotel we kept seeing young people either dressed all in white or carrying white clothes with them as they were checking in. The clerks said the hotel was full for the weekend due to an event in Amsterdam. After dinner we watched as they started congregating at the entry way….all in white from shoes to their hats! Mostly young men and a few girls, lots of drinking and they were very loud. After a while we called the desk and they assured us that they would soon be gone as buses were coming to pick them up. We were directly above the entrance to the hotel.

Sure enough, the buses arrive…several very large buses and then it was all quiet. We went online to find out what this was all about. The event was called “White Sensation Dance”. It’s a large dance event where about 40,000 young people gather for a night of dancing to “trance music” and you are required to be dressed in all white attire. The tickets are about 95 Euros. So it’s not a cheap event….plus the hotel and bus fees. They started arriving back at the hotel about 7 am….an all night event and very popular in the Netherlands.

A full English breakfast buffet was included in our hotel bill so we really enjoyed a great breakfast before heading south towards the first day of the Tour de France just after 8 am. Our goal was to find a spot on the highway about half way between Rotterdam and Brussels. We ended up at the village of Hoogerdeide about 10 am….walked about a bit to see the big fair that they had set up for the day to entertain the people while they waited for the riders. We decided to go about a mile outside of town. We found a nice shady spot and settled in for the duration. The road was closed to traffic just after we arrived.

But that didn’t stop the people….there were only two people on our section of the road when we arrived; they continued to arrive by bicycle and on foot all morning. By the time the Caravan arrived there was hardly an empty space…people lined the road for several miles.

The Caravan…..the funny cars of the sponsors of the race that sometimes throw “give aways” to the crowds along the route….arrived about 2 pm. The first of the riders….a small break away group, arrived about 3:30 pm and the peloton (the pack of riders) wasn’t far behind. So, after waiting on the side of the road for about six hours (the only available “rest room” was a short walk into the woods behind a tree) we watched them whiz by in less than a minute. But, we were there and, by coming early we did have a soft car seat to sit on while we waited.

Then the fun began; we had to exit from our road along a very narrow one lane road with hundreds of bicycles also leaving. Occasionally there would be a car coming in the opposite direction and then it really got tense! These people we discovered had ridden for probably ten plus miles to reach the race. They were moving faster than we were and as we neared the highway half an hour later they were already there. The riders were all ages from children to probably some in their eighties. It was really impressive to see them riding bicycles at their ages.

We finally found the highway, reached our destination for tonight in Waalwijk; north of where we were today but when we were making reservations we didn’t have the exact route for the Tour de France. We’re in for the night at another Formule 1 and will leave early tomorrow morning for a long drive back into France and the city of Reims. We’ll spend four nights there in a lovely hotel in the city center where we’ve stayed before. We’ll turn this car in tomorrow and pick up another car in four day when we leave Reim or sometimes it is spelled Rheim. Remember to roll your “r’s” we’ll be back in France.

The Tour de France will be spending the next two days crisscrossing back and forth among Belgium cities and then on Wednesday, July 7th, it ends in Reims….and we will be there among the crowds to witness the ending of that day’s stage. The next day’s stage begins just south of Reims in the very old city of Epernay (famous for their Champagne…especially Madame Veuve Clicquot Champagne … we visited that Cave several years ago). We may take a train down to see the beginning.

n the meantime ….be sure to enjoy the race on your televisions at home; you’ll see much more than we do. Today was a flat stage and they had a tailwind…at least when they came by us. This was the coolest day we’ve had so far. And, you'll see on television that the race ended today in Brussels very near to the Atomium....the large atom shaped building...large silver balls...that we saw on last Friday!

1 comment:

Mary said...

Enjoyed your race pictures.. We have only watched the last 30 minutes of the race so we saw the big wreck... Wow...what a pile up.
No voice mails for you today. We do not get Versus at our hotel. But Todd let us watch the most important part inbetween his auto races..lots of people at their house today.