The caravan of sponsors distributing their presents were there but most people didn’t even reach out for gifts as they were clinging to their umbrella. And today, Vittel couldn’t give their water away! While we waited for the cyclists, a young couple approached us asking if we spoke English
. All four of us were surprised at the limited number of US visitors were in Pau. I attribute that to the fact that Rick Steves does not cover Pau or that area in this tour books! The couple was from Los Angeles and was starting their trip in Pau for the TdF then heading to Bordeaux with the TdF and finally in Paris for a week’s stay. We traded hotel, restaurant and side trip recommendations before wishing each other well in our journeys.
Finally…..we hear the helicopters meaning that the cyclists are on their way! We positioned ourselves on a wet 90 degree bend which will require them to slow down so that I can get a decent picture. First the police motorcycle escort, then the officials’ cars, the sponsors cars, the reporters’ cars, the cameramen on the back of motorcycles, then finally, the riders! I used the sports setting on the camera and used the infinite photo shooting. From the time I held down the button on the camera until the time I took my finger off 90 seconds later I had taken 600 pictures. I assumed that SOMEWHERE in those 600 photos I have a good one. I won’t be reviewing them until tomorrow when I’m on the 5 hour and 15 minutes TGV train trip back to Paris but I did see the last riders were Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans. I was able to capture a GREAT shot of two old friends and rivals who have shared the best and worst times riding Le Tour together
. They were hanging out at the back of the pack sharing a moment together. That picture is definitely included in today’s blog. As the cyclists pass I yell the traditional greeting said to any cyclist about to embark on their ride….."Bon Courage!"
After Le Tour we stopped for lunch at our favorite little café for a sandwich. Every day we spoke a few words about Le Tour to the owner/manager of the café. Every day he wears a cycling cap by one of the defunct French cycling teams from the 70’s. Based on all the cycling “stuff” in the café we presume he has been a long time TdF fan. As we were ready to leave I thanked him for the fine food during our stay and told him “Vive Le Tour.” In his broken English he asked to “trade?” and pointed to my yellow cycling hat. He was offering an awesome red polka-dotted hat. I agreed and now have both yellow and red polka-dotted hat. Maybe I’ll get a green one in Paris!
After lunch we departed Pau and headed to Lourdes. The street between the Lourdes train station and the Grotto were lined with one religious shop after another with the occasional café wedged in between. For a moment, the experience reminded me of some streets in Mexico with one “santos” shop after another
. When we arrived at the shrine it was more beautiful than I imagined it would be. The cathedral there was at the foothills and the dramatic Pyrenees its backdrop. Ed visited the grotto where the young Bernadette was visited multiple times by the Virgin Mary. There was a line of the blind and injured to visit who touched the walls of the grotto hoping for its healing miracles. After visiting the grotto we went to the grotto springs where the waters are holy and considered healing. Ed filled three bottles with the water and pulled up his pant leg to allow the water drip onto his injured knee. Since two surgeries and 2 years of physical therapy haven’t healed his knee, who’s to say this won’t work. After, we visited the church office to purchase a Mass to be said at the Grotto as a birthday gift for his Aunt Agnes whose birthday is next week. When we visited the church we were surprised when an English speaking Mass was being said since only French Masses are held there. The priests, their Bishop, and the musical performers were all from Ireland on a pilgrimage. We stayed for the Mass and enjoyed the beauty of the cathedral. After, we headed back to the train station where we caught a train back to Pau. Arriving there, we headed to our favorite Pau restaurant, Le Berry, for our last dinner in Pau. After dinner, our biggest adventure after one week…..trying to pack the luggage after getting so many goodies from Le Tour de France and from shopping.
We heard the rain in the middle of the night and in the morning we had some thunder and lightning with our breakfast. After breakfast we decided we were here for the TdF, we had the appropriate weather gear, so we would head off to see the cyclists depart from Pau during this storm. There were other people out too including many French families with their children. The weather was just rotten and while I don't know enough French, I sure understood several of the words being thrown around like canard (duck), poisson (fish) and miserable (needs no explanation).