Living in a big city like Marseille, you sometimes feel like you are just in any other big city. I have noticed this trend during our travels that although many cities have defining characteristics (and trust me Marseille is unique), all big cities have somewhat of the same feel. Hence it has been that some of our most "French" moments have happened in little towns in the countryside. Add our viewing of the Tour de France just outside of Uzès to this list. It is almost as stereotypical as cheese, wine and baguettes, accept miraculously the Tour de France is not just about cycling but is actually about showcasing French stereotypes.
Yes little did we know that if you are under the age of ten the most exciting part of the Tour is probably not the cyclists and the amazing way they can do hundreds of kilometres day after day, but the Caravan! The caravan is basically a parade of cars and floats of the various sponsors of the Tour that come about two hours in advance of the cyclists. And let me tell you both the children and adults who were lining the route next to us were more than excited about the caravan because not only do they sail by at 50km/h with hilariously "French" floats but they also throw stuff into the crowd. The kids around us were jumping up and down each time a new sponsor came buy to try to get them to throw them a t-shirt, cap, wrist band, waterbottle or baked good in their direction. Here is a selection of some of the more interesting floats.
Yes of course a bakery would be a sponsor of the Tour because nothing says French stereotype like a baguette.
You are looking at one of the two packages of Madelines that were thrown out to us. Yes it does take talent to accurately throw baked goods out of a car moving 50km/h. Lucky for Keith we both got one of these packages.
I'm not sure if you can read the writing below this mascot but it for "le coq sportif" and I think that this is almost as funny as the sixty-something lady who was standing three meters away from me but somehow managed to run over and block me so that she could get her hands on the haribo candy that landed in front of me. Who needs to see the cyclists when the pre-entertainment is so great?
The ambience of the whole event was fantastic. We were stationed on a small hill (which I'm sure the cyclists would simply consider a minor incline) so we were not only able to see the cyclists coming, but they also did slow down incrementally as they powered up the hill. Since we were close to the beginning of the stage there was only one larger breakaway group but it was very cool to see the peloton organized by teams. The riders really did fly by, but it was great to be there to cheer them on and to give extra encouragement to those behind the peloton who were getting nourishment or fixing their bike as they were riding it!
We stayed for the afternoon in Uzès and took in the market while admiring its architecture. This town was like so many in Provence inhabited by the Romans and is actually the beginning of the aqueduct which flows across Pont du Gard and into Nimes. It also contains the Duché, which is a private chateau still used by the duke and duchess of Uzès. Below you can see their coat of arms on the roof.
On the whole it was a very "French" weekend outing!