(Please also note new articles under France: Paris Life, and Paris Sights
Scroll down the France page for the link to Paris Life and Paris Sights)
In spite of the drugging and doping scandals that have dogged the 2007 Tour de France cycle race, this is still AN EVENT, and we are very lucky to be in Paris for the final day and the ceremonial finish.
Sunday July 29th was a grey day, rainy at times, windy and cool, but that didn’t deter the many thousands of fans, many of whom got to the Paris streets early in the morning to get a prime spot. Rod and I are new to this, and blithely arrived about an hour and a half before the expected arrival of the cyclists to begin their 5 ceremonial loops, or circuits, around the Tuileries Gardens and Place de la Concorde, up Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, and back round again before the final finish at the Arc.
We exited the Concorde metro, to be met by throngs, security guards, policemen, barriers, and no way to move around, as we’d imagined doing. It seems silly to have been so surprised, because if we’d thought about it, of course it would be mobbed. Anyway, we did push through and managed to get up to the walkway by Jeu de Paume Museum with an overlook to Place de la Concorde. We were about 2-3 rows back from the balustrade but had a reasonable view out.
Below, the square and the streets were blocked off and, behind the barricades, lined with crowds 4-5 deep.
An air of expectancy, of excitement, was pervasive, and rumors were flying around about when the cyclists were expected, what was going to happen when. Finally, 2 helicopters appeared, the lead cars drove round, then motorbikes, and then the cyclists, moving fast, and the crowds went wild. The cyclists flashed by, followed by the back-up cars and trucks with extra bikes etc. We waited and, about 15 minutes later, saw them again on the second circuit, then the third and the fourth. The crowd around us moved and changed and I ended up at the front and Rod standing on a chair, so we did have great views.
We walked across the Tuileries Gardens and caught the 5th circuit, viewed through the ornamental gates, as they pedaled along the Quai des Tuileries.
How to describe all this? ‘Thrilling’ doesn’t really do justice. ‘Electrifying’ perhaps. Anyway, an amazing spectacle, and one we are unlikely to see again.
(Click on each photo for a larger view)