Category: France

Monpaple Art, Tusson Cap, Hope Charity Hat

On Sunday morning we had lots of time for a bike ride before the final stage of the Tour started – they have it a little later now so that the presentations can be done near sunset at the Arc de Triomphe..

Our ride took us past the nearby village of Monpaple, which was having an art exhibition.  

We rode by and on to Aunac where we stopped for another of the very strong coffees.

On our return to Mansle we did stop in Monpaple and had a look around.

There was an abundance of clown paintings – including clown’s painting – but lots of other subjects as well.

The final TdF stage was the usual boring bunk for the first couple of hours – the winner and his team riding side-by-side drinking champagne, etc.  I always hope someone’s going to go for it but it never happens.

The only exciting part is when they hit the Champs-Élysées and do the eight circuits to the finish.  I was, of course, loudly cheering on Cavendish, but he was pinned in and couldn’t get past Wout van Aert, who won yet another stage.  That’s now a very difficult mountain stage, the individual time trial, and the final sprint that he’s won – seems like the young Belgian can do it all.  Still, even though he didn’t break Merckx’s record the Cav did tie it, and what a comeback Tour it was for him!

On Tuesday morning we heard sirens rushing along the highway and when we drove up to Ruffec to do some shopping we saw why.  A semi-truck had flipped into the ditch and looked like it had caught on fire.

There were several fire trucks and other emergency vehicles and it looked like they were trying to decide how to get the trailers uprighted.

On our ride on Wednesday we went to Tusson for coffee.

Along the way we saw a couple more of the ‘mannequins’ lounging around.

The coffee shop we ended up going to was awesome – it looked quite small from the outside but had a lovely fairly large terrace area at the back.

Most of the folks that came in for coffee and cake were brits, and we enjoyed the best cappuccino we’ve had since we left Italy.

For the first time I ventured into the church that’s on one side of the main square in Mansle.

It actually has some nice stained glass windows, and was wonderfully cool and quiet.

On Thursday we went to the Hope Charity shop in Sauze-Vaussais and picked up a few jigsaw puzzles and some books.  On the way out Colin pointed to the hat section and I scored a great black sun hat – I could have used it last weekend and avoided the raccoon eyes.

At Last a Race – TdF ITT

Race day dawned sunny and beautiful, with enough of a breeze to make the flags fly well.

There was one campervan behind us in our great little pullout, as well as several cars that had arrived during the morning.  The lady in the campervan warned Colin to wear a hat and indicated we should be careful of the sun – good advice, of course.  I had already smeared shea butter on my forearms, back of the neck and top of my ears (more on that later).

As usual for the Individual Time Trial many of the riders took a re-con ride around the course throughout the morning.

Also as usual at the Tour the Caravan was eagerly awaited by all…

It arrived a bit late, but was worth the wait…

It was even bigger and better than ever, and we cleaned up on goodies…

Including several packets of the doggies’ favourite sausage treats…

Third off the line in the ITT was Mark Cavendish – having tied the great Eddy Merckx’s TDF stage record earlier in the week it’s not likely he’ll break it today, although he’s not a bad time trialer.

It was easy to tell whenever a French racer was approaching as the crowds before us would go crazy.

We’re a bit concerned for a couple of fans just down from us – they keep taking off their shirts and seem unbothered by the fact that they might look like lobsters tomorrow.

As soon as the last rider – current overall leader Tadej Pogacar – passed I ran to our neighbour’s campervan where they had the race on tv.

Wout van Aert won!

And almost better the young 2nd overall Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard was so fast he almost caught up to 3rd place overall Richard Carapaz.  That would have been sweet!

We had contemplated staying another night but the traffic didn’t seem to be backed up too badly so we decided to get back to Mansle.  The drive was better than expected and we were home in good time.

The next morning I realized what I had missed when applying the shea butter to protect from the sun – my forehead and upper chest were bright red.  I look like a raccoon – or maybe the elusive red panda (and I don’t mean the small Italian car!).

Heading to the ITT

Got another nice ride in – a lovely route around to Aunac, with a stop for coffee.

Bastille Day celebrations were fairly subdued – no huge parties or fireworks that I could hear or see.

We got away mid-morning on Thursday – we’re both pretty organized and packing up the campervan didn’t take long.  The trip south to the time-trial course took about 2 ½ hours as we travelled on smaller, quieter roads.

The yellow route marking arrows weren’t up yet, but it’s pretty easy to tell when you’re on the route…

We looked for a parking spot along almost the entire route, starting in Libourne and going almost all the way to Saint-Emilion before pulling over and claiming our spot. 

We’d passed quite a few campervans already and knew many more would come but didn’t want to risk getting stuck on the wide shoulder as the ground looked a bit soft.

We’re in a nice wide spot with room for one or two more campervans, right next to a large vineyard.  This is a UNESCO Heritage area and is well known for it’s excellent wine – we’re beside a field of Merlot grapes.

They’re doing spraying of the vines right now – great timing!  We kept all of the windows shut for part of the day but luckily the sprayers knocked off fairly early.

We’ve discovered a problem with the campervan – the sink isn’t draining properly.  There’s a bit right at the top that’s a plastic piece of crap and has broken so all of the drain water flows directly into the cutlery drawer underneath.  I am now doing dishes in the bathroom sink.

The town of Libourne had their fireworks on Thursday night – I was already in bed but listened to them for quite awhile.  Mo heard them too and did her usual little barky/growly thing at them before settling back down on my feet.

Just after breakfast Friday morning a fellow pulled up in a car beside us – the vineyard side, not the road side.  We wondered if we were going to get asked to move, but all he did was warn us to close all of the windows as the sprayers would be coming soon.

We knew the machine was approaching, but appreciated the warning and kept the windows closed for an hour after he’d passed.

In the afternoon we took a walk back to the next group of campervans and on the way passed a very beautiful garden that must belong to the owner of the vineyard.

We had a rather lazy day – I finished the last of the three Genghis Khan books and was left wishing for a fourth.  We found a second problem with the campervan – the freezer has stopped working and the chicken as well as the salmon were both completely defrosted.  Chicken is Friday’s dinner so that’s ok and I made a teriyaki marinade for the salmon so it’s all good.

Late in the evening a bunch of vehicles pulled up on the road, including a semi-truck and several vans. They commenced to put up large signs and some barriers.  Apparently we’re right at the ‘4 km to go’ point.

The team had men from several different countries, including a fellow from Louisiana who said he used to do setups for the Cirque du Soleil.

It was quite a production and they didn’t finish until almost 10:30.

Manx Missile Explodes – We Ride for Coffee

A week ago Friday there was a dinner at the bar – we both chose the scampi and chips.  As usual there were quite a few Brits there, although they’d put the tables a bit further apart so not so much socializing.  During the lockdown last year Edith and Sylvain had used the time to re-decorate a bit – it’s lighter and spiffed up, and looks really good.

When returning home from Ruffec one day we stopped to say a quick hello to Tony and Joyce in Fontenille.  It’s the first time I’ve seen Tony since he did the two beautiful paintings for Colin based on two of my photos so I finally go to thank him personally for doing them.  One of them is in Papiano, so I’d already seen it last year but the other – of Mo and Benny – I didn’t see until we got to Mansle ten days ago.

We’ve taken a couple of walks down to the campground, and the river is still pretty high, although after the flooding several weeks ago it actually has subsided.

They’ve finished putting the new windows in the Mairie and it looks pretty good – Colin is especially pleased that they’re no longer flying the EU flag.

Last Sunday there was a regional cycling race and Colin drove the lead car while I took a few photos.

Unfortunately the weather sucked and there were a couple of periods of torrential rain where I had to go and take shelter in the car.

During one break in the rain I took the opportunity to walk home before the next downpour hit.

We’ve gone for a couple of nice bike rides – the first up to Aunac for coffee.  I have to say it’s very pleasant to ride on roads that aren’t just pothole after pothole – even the small back roads here are in much better shape than most of the ‘main’ roads in Italy.

This Friday we took a day-trip to Cognac, with a quick stop first at a bike shop in Angouleme to get new pads for my front brake.  By the time we got to the campervan store near Cognac they had already closed for lunch so we took the opportunity to find a place to eat.

We came upon a cafe in a nearby village and had a lovely roast chicken lunch alongside a bunch of locals.

A very very exciting Tour de France stage a couple of days ago – Mark Cavendish has now tied Eddy Merckx’s stage win record with his fourth win of this year’s race.  After being a last minute choice to even go to the TDF, and almost a write-off in some people’s minds makes it even more special for the Manx Missile.

Yesterday we went for another, longer bike ride, this time up to Aigre for coffee.  A very good last minute decision was to wear my rain jacket/windbreaker – we were halfway to our destination when the clouds opened and we just got poured on.

The coffee was good and strong, although I do miss Italian cappuccino – cafe creme is not the same!

On the way home we got more rain, but thankfully it didn’t last very long.  At the village of Villesoubis there are several cute stuffed ‘scarecrows’, two of which depicted bike riders.

Another special day at the TDF yesterday – Cdn. Michael Woods is now the proud wearer of the King of the Mountains jersey.  It would be great if he can keep it until the end next Sunday.