Tomorrow is the first stage of the Tour de France – which means the countdown to our next adventure has begun! In two weeks we depart for our honeymoon 2.0 – an adventure from Johannesburg to France (via London) and then on to Iceland. For the first leg of our journey we will fly to London and spend one night in The Smoke before catching the Eurostar to Paris. The train supposedly gets up to 300kph or higher and has the longest under-sea portion of any train. I’m interested to see how that goes!
From Paris we pick up a rental car and head out on a long drive to Pau in the Pyrenees. We are going mostly for the Tour de France, but will also do a bit of exploring when there’s time. This will be my second time to France; we also followed the Tour in July 2015, just after I moved to South Africa. It was an amazing trip and really awesome to watch Chris Froome win – we are hoping to see him gain his fifth Tour title this year!
This is our current itinerary. Paris – Pau – Lourdes – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Tours – Paris. Most of our itinerary follows stages in the tour, or else gets us close by. We might stay somewhere between Paris and Pau, if we have time. These are the stages we hope to see:
I’ve included the distances of the race days because it often just floors me. 200.5 km for a mountain stage on day 19. No big deal, right? These guys are superhuman…
Following the tour is such an exciting experience. Watching these cyclists race, at least in part, for 21 days straight, is just a reminder of how amazing human beings are. I mean, I know I couldn’t do it – but I love cheering my favourites on! My family has also gotten into cycling a bit, since my husband introduced us to the sport years ago. It’s actually an incredibly complicated, strategic race.
In Pau we are staying at a “studio near the castle”. I just love the description of our Airbnb. From the pictures I’ve seen, the streets are all cobblestones and there is old and beautiful architecture to be seen. Add in a background of mountains and it sounds like a pretty amazing place for an overnight. Stage 18 of the tour ends there.
Then we head to Lourdes, which is described as a small market town on the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is also a pilgrimage centre for Catholic devotees, and there is a famous Sanctuary there. Stage 19 kicks off from Lourdes. Watching the start of a stage is actually the most fun part – seeing all the cyclist lined up and cheering them off.
From Lourdes we head to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Also in the Pyrenees foothills, this town is a popular waypoint for pilgrims hiking the Camino. Having heard of this trail, which begins in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and ends 780km later in Santiago, Spain, we are keen to learn more and perhaps hike a bit of the trail from the town ourselves. This might be a day when we skip racing and just explore.
From Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port we will watch the last real stage of the tour, the time trial. Then we will drive half-way to Paris for the night and stay in Tours. Tours is known as the garden of France – so hopefully that’s an indication it is a pretty place! We picked it largely because it’s nicely situated along our drive back. If we have time, we will explore.
From there we head back to Paris to watch the final stage of the tour around Champs Élysées. This is such a fun day – people line the streets of Paris and then cheer on the riders. In the past, teams have ended their tour with their arms around one another in a line, sometimes with champagne in their hands, as they cross the finish line. It’s an emotional and exciting moment in the race. At least, if your guy wins!
We’re pretty excited for the first leg of our journey. Yesterday was the team presentation and tomorrow cyclists head out on stage 1 – a flat 201km segment from Noirmoutier-en-l’Île to Fontenay-le-Comte. We’ll be cheering our guy on and looking forward to two weeks from now!