Monday, August 8, 2011

European Adventure, Part 7: The Tour

By a happy coincidence, we were in Paris for the conclusion of the Tour de France. Although the event has been tarnished by doping scandals in recent years, the atmosphere near the finish line was electric. Our original plan was to wade into the crowd on the Champs Elysses. That proved impossible, so we "settled" for a view from the Tullieries adjacent to the Louvre.
We weren't entirely sure when the riders would approach the finish line, but all of our intel suggested mid-afternoon. We left in the late morning to stroll and find a spot. Many fans had already taken their places, including this group from Norway.
Lea identified a place that seemed to be reasonable - several people had already set up shop. We grabbed a chair from the garden (like everyone else) and moved it to our area. We quickly realized that we were behind a large group of obnoxious Americans. The plus - they were tour guides in Paris, so we realized that we were in the right place. The minus - they reminded everyone around why Americans have a bad reputation abroad. To be fair, most of them were not over-the-top and annoying. But, the ones that were jerks were quite expert at their craft.
After hours of waiting in which we questioned whether or not the day-long commitment was worth it, we heard that the riders were approaching. Finally, we saw them come around to the Champs-Elysses (below you can see the line of riders) and they took several victory laps. The most incredible view is in the lead picture for this entry. The camera lens does not capture the image as well as the human eye - we were able to watch the riders speed past, with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop.

After a couple of laps, we moved to another spot in the gardens to see a different view.
Our early afternoon skepticism was proved wrong. It was an incredible thrill to watch the riders pass by the landmarks of one of the world's most beautiful cities.

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