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2000 Cycling Season, July 3 - 7

Tours

July 3, 2000, Monday - Travel from Bordeaux to Tours

Today is my 36th birthday, but the day is going to be spent traveling on the train from Bordeaux to Tours. We've had enough spectacular days on this trip that I'm not too disappointed that my birthday is spent traveling via the train.

Cathedral of St. Gatien - Tours

Cathedral of St. Gatien - Tours

Once we got to Tours we found our hotel near the Cathedral of St. Gatien but had a bit of a surprise. When we arrived at the hotel there wasn't anyone at the reception desk, but there was a sign on the door that said to go down the street and around the corner to another hotel. Although my French is still non-existent, we decided I should run down to the other hotel, while Dorothy stayed behind with all of our gear. Of course when I arrived at the other hotel, no one was there but a 16 year old boy who was cleaning floors and spoke about as much English as I do French. After a few minutes of not getting anywhere I returned to our hotel. Dorothy was speaking with some Japanese other guests who spoke enough English to confirm that the guy behind the desk was not around. About that time another group of three American teachers arrived to hoping to check-in. At this point the Japanese guests said that they spoke a little French and would stop at the other hotel to let them know that there were now five Americans who would like to check-in. After waiting about 15 minutes, Dorothy and two of the teachers decided to try their luck with the boy at the other hotel. Just a moment after they left, the boy from the other hotel came running up to our hotel. Unfortunately neither he nor I had miraculously leaned the others language in the half hour we last met, but at least there was someone at the hotel where we wanted to check in who seemed to know a little about the place. He managed to find the reservation book, find our room number, and give me a key. But the one remaining teacher wasn't so lucky. While I moved our gear up to our room this poor guy tried to figure out what to do because his room wasn't made up yet. About that time Dorothy and the other two teachers returned because there wasn't anyone at the hotel where they went, because he was now here helping me. After a few minutes of scurrying around trying to resolve the teacher's problem, with Dorothy acting as a translator the guy who runs the reception desk returned and quickly brought things to order. After all this I just wanted scream, but instead we decided to find the nearest restaurant, to get away from the hotel, and get a drink and some food. This didn't do much to set my expectations for our stay in Tours.

Later we learned that the guy at the reception desk had an emergency that he had to take care of. Everything at the hotel ended up fine, but boy what a first impression.

July 4, 2000, Tuesday-Tours

Today we planned to visit a few of the Chateaus in the region by on the bike, but unfortunately awoke to rain a steady rain. After a bit of re-thinking we decided to catch the train the short way to the little town of Ambois, to see a Chateau that sits on a hill overlooking the Loire River. When we arrived in the little town of Ambois we again realized that we landed ourselves in a city without a detailed city map. Fortunately there was a tourist map on the wall of the train station, and Ambois is really tiny. Otherwise we could have been in trouble because the thick trees around the train station didn't give any hints to find the Chateau in the rain.

Chateau Ambois From The River

Chateau Ambois From The River

As we walked to the Chateau the rain stopped ant the clouds began to break up a bit, although it was clear the rain wasn't finished for the day.

Chateau Ambois And The Loire Valley

Chateau Ambois And The Loire Valley

The Chateau at Ambois is very picturesque and has some magnificent views of the Loire valley. The museum inside the Chateau was also interesting, but couldn't surpass the views from outside. It had a few pieces of artwork, the first tapestries we has seen, and a few nice stained glass windows in its chapel.

View Of Amboise From The Chateau

View Of Amboise From The Chateau

After lunch we decided to visit Leonardo Da Vinci's home since it was just up the street from the Chateau. This was a very worthwhile stop for the engineer in both Dorothy and I. This home had been given to Leonardo Da Vinci by the king of France late in his career. This wonderful little 10-acre spread has a great view of the Chateau, and even has an underground passage that connects to the Chateau, which the King supposedly used to visit Da Vinci in private. In addition housing a very nice little museum of life in Da Vinci's time, IBM has created working models of many of Da Vinci's inventions, which are housed at the site.

July 5, 2000, Wednesday -Tours

Today the weather was clear so got our chance to get out and ride from Chateau to Chateau. We started the day by riding the train about 60k (36 miles) to the town of Blois, and then riding a 60k trainable made up of the town of Blois, the Chateau of Chambord, and the Chateau of Cheverney before catching a train back to tours. Even though this plan sounded a bit risky we figured that if things didn't go as expected, the worst that would happen is that we would have to ride the 60k (36 miles) back to Tours.

Fist View Of Chambord

First View Of Chambord

The Chateau Chambord is an architectural marvel. The collection of renaissance domes, and arches all enclosed by stone walls make it very impressive from a distance. Inside the main stairway is actually two large stone spiral stairways that are intertwined to form a double helix. This unique design is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci. There is also a rooftop walkway, which gives some spectacular, if difficult to photograph, views of the many different angles in the roof line.

Chambord Domed Roof

Chambord Domed Roof

Another Chambord Dome

Another Chambord Dome

Top Of Chambord Staircase

Top Of Chambord Staircase

Surrounding Chambord is a very large forest, which is now a national park. During the hey-day of Chambord this forest was full of game, which provided the theme for much of the artwork decorating the inside of the Chateau.

Chambord, Us, And The Bike

Chambord, Us, And The Bike

After an 18k(11.2 mile) ride through the forest surrounding Chambord we came to the Cheverney Chateau. This smaller Chateau belonged to the minister of finance of France during the hey-day of Chambord. Although Cheverney is much smaller, it stayed a private residence until 1985, so it is a much warmer place that is decorated with family heirlooms that date back to the 16th century. Cheverney is also home to a kennel of traditional hunting dogs that are still used to hunt dear. Although it seems barbaric, they still use this pack of 100 dogs to chase down and kill dear during a special hunting season.

Chateau Cheverney

Chateau Cheverney

Cheverney 'Chennel' - Woof

Cheverney 'Chennel' - Woof

After a slightly abbreviated visit to Cheverney, we jumped back on the bike to catch the last bike friendly train from Blois to Tours. Although there we had a few tense moments trying to ride and navigate under time pressure, we made it back to Blois just in time to catch the train, and save ourselves a long bike trip back to Tours.

After returning to Tours we stopped by the Office de Tourism to get the final scoop on the Tour de France which was coming to town on July 6th, and leaving on July 7th. It turned out that the "caravan" was to arrive at 6:00am, and the riders would arrive at about 6:00pm.

July 6, 2000, Thursday -Tours

Although the weather was nice we decided to ride the train out to Chenonceau, to leave enough time to ship the bike boxes ahead to Rouen, and see the Tour de France.

Chenonceau From The Entrance

Chenonceau From The Entrance

The trip to Chenoncea by train was really easy, there are a couple of trains a day that run right past the run right past the entrance to the Chateau. Out of all the Chateaus that we've seen on the trip Chenonceau is my favorite. Chenonceau was originally created for the mistress of the king of France, but after his untimely death, the queen kicked her out and made it her own. Chenonceau has everything you would expect in a French castle, it has a defensive look as it stands out from the dense forests that surround it. It has spectacular gardens, an extremely fancy interior, and a very rich history.

My Favorite View Of Chenonceau

My Favorite View Of Chenonceau

Dorothy At Chenonceau

Dorothy At Chenonceau

Chenonceau In Morning Sun

Chenonceau In Morning Sun

Chenoncea From The West

Chenoncea From The West

Chenonceau From The Guardens

Chenonceau From The Gardens

We spent lots of time taking pictures of the grounds and the Chateau from every angle before we headed inside to see the ornate rooms, and halls. Although Chenoncea is very large, the insides felt like it was a nice place to live. There were nice kitchens, small studies the overlook the river, and almost every room had it's own fireplace.

Artwork At Chenoncea

Artwork At Chenonceau

After visiting Chenoncea we took care of some logistics, by sending our bike boxes ahead to Rouen via the SNCF baggage service where we hope to meet up with them on the 19th of July.

Then it was off to the center of town to see what the Tour de France is all about. We discovered that the "Caravan" that arrived early this morning included the finishing line, the grandstand where the day's awards are presented, and a small city of sponsors tents and displays. It was amazing to see how much they had set up in such a short time - it was also amazing to see it all disappear the next day. In France the Tour de France is as big as the Superbowl in America, so the crowd was already so big at 4:00 that we couldn't even get close to the finish line. Instead we found a little place a few hundred meters past the finish line, where the riders came to get assaulted by the press before jumping into their team RV's.

Official Pace Car

Official Pace Car

Cool Single Wheeled Thing

Cool Single Wheeled Thing

About an hour before the first rider arrived, the parade of sponsors started pouring into town. This really was a parade. All the vehicles were decorated, and dressed up, and the people insides were throwing goodies to the people lining the street.

Tour Parade Car

Tour Parade Car

Credit Lyonaise Yellow Jersey Car

Credit Lyonaise Yellow Jersey Car

Champion King Of The Mountain Car

Champion King Of The Mountain Car

Astra Satelite Car

Astra Satellite Car

After a long pause in the parade the day's lead rider arrived, and was mobbed by reporters. It took 4 big body guard type guys to rescue him and help get him into his team van. Then one by one the other riders started appearing some alone, some in small packs. From a side road all the support vehicles started showing up with team loads of spare bikes loaded on their roofs.

The Days Leader

The Days Leader

American Rider

American Rider

More Riders

More Riders

American Team Support Car

American Team Support Car

After all the riders had come in, the area turned into a big street festival that went on for another few hours. Although we aren't here to accumulate stuff, Dorothy and I couldn't resist picking up some Tour de France souvenirs, we each got a Tour de France 2000 shirt, and pin, and I got a Tour de France hat. I figured a Tour de France yellow jearsy would be a bit pretentious, and besides they cost nearly $150 U.S.

Tour Steet Art

Tour Street Art

Wildly Decorated Clown Bike

Wildly Decorated Clown Bike

Tour Mechanic - Can You Clean The Tandems Chain?

Tour Mechanic - Can You Clean The Tandems Chain?

Celestial Signs Clown Bike

Celestial Signs Clown Bike

For those of you who don't know much about the Tour de France, it's really quite an affair. The race lasts most of the month of July, and its route takes the riders to every corner of France. I was impressed to see that the average daily distance is ~200k (120 miles) a day - for 20+ days. Not only is the ride a grueling event on the riders, the crew involved in moving the "Caravan" from town to town every day must get really good at tearing down moving and setting up everything every day for the month of July.

July 7, 2000, Friday -Tours to ???

This next section of our trip is an un-planned 5-day 400km (200 mile) journey to Quimper in the Brittany region of France. Our overall plan for this section of our adventure is to get up in the morning, and start riding, enjoying things along the way, until about 4:00 when we will stop to find a hotel, and dinner. We'll see how it works outů