France, Monaco · 14 Days · 40 Moments · July 2017

Ian's Tour de France 2017

4 August 2017

After the exploration of the island was done, we had a quick lunch (and beer) and took the early afternoon ferry back so we could hit the beach one last time. Ryan, Mum and I dropped Kerry off to find a spot and then we did a quick detour to the local Decathlon sports store (Mum's weakness). Mum is often so mesmerized by Decathlons that we can find her wandering the aisles aimlessly - overwhelmed by the selection of discounted fold up towels (refer to photo exhibit A). After the quick shop and beach time, we walked around the main shopping area of Cannes a little bit. Ryan and I were finished a bit earlier so we left the ladies to do their thing and found a pub to entertain ourselves. Another great day. The final night was a rush of packing, cooking, drinking and canasta - but we somehow managed to fit it all in before bed. (Actually - we just shifted bed time out.)
Some more of the island and the fort (and prison). There was also a roman ship found off the coast - which apparently sunk around 100bc. What I found most remarkable was that they found nuts in the shipwreck that still look like nuts!!
Our last day before travel day and we had decided to use it to explore I'ile Saint Marguerite. This is an island about 15min by ferry off the coast of Cannes. It's where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned in the 1400's. They definitely held someone captive, but it was never discovered who was actually behind the mask (unlike in the movie).

3 August 2017

The last item on the Thursday checklist was to stop in Nice for sunset photos from Castle Hill and then show mum the promenade de Anglais. We only just made it in time - after some very very narrow roads had to be navigated. Unfortunately, my time on the promenade was spent driving around trying to find parking, so I don't have any photos, but the other three got to take a sunset stroll - and I'd already had my morning run on the promenade, so I didn't mind. Then it was finally home time after what had been quite a stressful day in the car!
Since I hadn't been able to use my full gambling allowance at the casino, I decided to use it on family cocktails overlooking the yachts. Definitely one of the best cocktails I've had! That mixologist knew his stuff! The host also made us feel very welcome and even walked arm in arm with mum to the bar. I highly recommend this spot if you're looking for a drink with a view! Will have to go back again once I've saved up 💰😊
After the train loop we jumped on the regular bus and headed over to investigate the casino. A lot had changed since my last visit and they now want 17euro to get into the main hall with the table games. Luckily it was free to play a few slot machines and it was also free to car shop in the parking lot outside. Camo Ferrari's? I'm not convinced... but Mum seemed quite happy with the Rolls Royce Wraith.
The next stop was the royal palace, but I decided to leave the other three to this and I walked around the streets a bit and found lunch. After the palace, we all joined up together again and went in search of a tour bus/train to see more of the area. The train took us on a nice loop of Monaco with some commentary of the usual random facts they throw at you. It also took us right past the casino, but we didn't want to get out just yet as this wasn't the traditional hop on/hop off kind of tour. But our train did include a photo bombing tourist!
Our first stop was the Oceanography Museum. I'd been there in 2012 on my last visit, but it's a great place to tour and offers fantastic views of the yacht basin from the roof. It also brought back some good memories of my visit with Dav and Ali in 2012, so it was definitely a highlight of Monaco for me.
Thursday was Monaco day! Getting there was quite the adventure in itself. We seemed to hit rush hour traffic going into the area and then they were doing a lot of road works in the principality too - so absolute chaos is probably a good word. Ultimately we managed to find a parking garage just in time. Any longer and my chief navigator, Kerry, and I may never have spoken to one another again 😳

2 August 2017

We stayed in Grasse for a good pizza lunch and then made our way back home to fetch Pamela and head to the beach/relax for the rest of the afternoon. Supercars were spotted along the way (as usual)
Our plan for the morning was to head to Grasse - the perfume capital of France. We'd heard that Fagonard offered a free tour of their perfumery, so that was our goal. We were only 8km from Grasse, but as always, parking in the French towns involves finding a large pay parking lot - which in this case wasn't too close to where we were heading. So I dropped everyone off and made it back literally as the tour was starting! It was a fairly interesting experience - I can't say I've ever stopped to think about how perfume is made - but I'm glad I learnt about it. Most perfumes these days are made with synthetic ingredients - so this was the original way to do it and it started to make sense as to why they charge so much! I also didn't know that men and women have different acidity levels in their skin, which is why they don't make perfumes for men (only eau de toilettes). Next stop was a local chocolatier - apparently the only one in the wider area. Either way they make great stuff!
Wednesday morning we decided to wake up early and head to the Promenade de Anglais for a morning run. It had been on Ryan's bucket list for Nice and it was a great idea! We had to leave pretty early to beat the heat as it's often 28 degrees by 9am already! Quick swim after the run and we were back in Mougins to start the day by 8:30. The 30min trip (each way) made me feel very grateful for having the promenade in Cape Town right on my doorstep! Must remember to run 🏃🏻 more this summer...

1 August 2017

Our final stop in Antibes was the Picasso museum. This was a house that Picasso used to paint and sculpt a lot of his works when he lived in Antibes. The museum itself has a lot of photos of him and how he used to work and only a few of his actual art, but it was very interesting and worth a visit. Although some of his work looked a little rough (as I'm pretty sure I can paint a better fish than this...)
On Tuesday we decided to join the hotel group that was doing a day trip to Antibes. It was very slow and arduous to get there - first on the bus and then on the train (and in hindsight we should have driven ourselves) - but it was a great little town to explore. The first stop was the town market. This was a pretty traditional market selling fresh produce, meat and fish. But worth investigating. We also found an absinthe bar on one of the side streets, but it felt a little early in the morning to be drinking 77% alcohol 😳

31 July 2017

We spent the rest of Monday walking around Cannes. As with almost all French towns/cities there was the customary big wheel on the waterfront. As with all French Riviera towns, there was also the customary collection of super yachts and super cars! And then our day ended back at the hotel pool to spend some qt with Pamela.
First item on the agenda - beach time! It was great to take some time off after all the traveling to and from the wedding. Luckily at this time of year everyday is a beach day! It's a min of 24 and max of 32 almost every day this week. The Mediterranean is also lovely and warm - but anything would feel warm after Clifton! This was also my first interaction with Pamela on the beach - good times!

30 July 2017

Sunday afternoon, we landed in Nice and our first stop was to do some grocery shopping for supplies on the way to Club Mougins - our hotel in Mougins (a little town next to Cannes). Event number 2 was to inflate Pamela the pink flamingo to be ready for the beach ☀️
Sunday morning was recovery day - so we checked out of our Chateau and made a quick stop at the wedding Chateau to say goodbye (and play table tennis for some reason?). The next stop was a picnic along the river banks before we had to make our way to the airport for our 3:30pm flight to Nice. The random picture of the lone road is to show just how narrow two way streets can get in this country! Driving here is ridiculous!!

29 July 2017

The rest of the wedding gets a little hazy after dinner, but safe to say we all had a great time 😊🇫🇷🍷
Such an awesome setting for a wedding! The rain clouds stayed away and it was the most perfect day for a wedding in the French wine lands.
Saturday was an early start as I had to wake up before 6am (for the 2hour drive) to make the airport by 8:30am for my flight to Bordeaux. Thankfully the mountain passes weren't too full of cyclists at that time of day and I made it without too much excitement. After landing, mum, Ryan and Kerry came to fetch me, but wanted to stop off at Le Cadillac to investigate the Saturday morning market before the wedding.

28 July 2017

Race day! The swim was more like that time I tried to play waterpolo. Except both guys and girls weren't afraid to punch or kick me this time. It was so congested, but thankfully I found some clear water after about 300m and could find a rhythm. The last 50m bottlenecked though and so the underwater scrum returned. I took a bump to the mouth, but nothing race threatening luckily. The cycle started well and I found a nice bunch to get me to the base of the Alp in just under 30mins - perfectly to plan. Then we started climbing... and climbing... and climbing... I somehow managed to keep going, but with about 5km to go I could feel the start of what might be a small "bonk" - so I took an extra gel and sang my finding nemo song "just keep spinning". The run after that was beyond tough. By this stage I was actually pretty dizzy and out of it and the lack of oxygen at altitude was just fueling that fire! But I finished!! And it felt amazing afterward! What a race! I will come back!

27 July 2017

I drove our long distance entrants down to the start line in the morning with Neil and then took it easy for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, we did a last swim, cycle and run - to get the juices flowing for race day! I also went out to check out T2 - which (like everything else) had an amazing back drop.

26 July 2017

Spent the rest of Wednesday going down to Borg d'Oisan to check out the village at the bottom of Alp d'Huez. It was almost a 40 degree temperature change from the peak! We walked around window shopping and stopped for a lunch and beer on the main road. After that we went down to check out the lake where we'd be swimming - it is a spectacular venue!
Some pictures from the very cold peak! I definitely didn't dress for what was around -6 apparently. The wind chill might have even made it colder! I definitely missed my leg hair 😳 There is a distant view of Mont Blanc in the 4th photo - just to the right of le Pic Blanc. Neil and Stuart decided a snowball fight was also in order - although Neil's hands weren't a fan after they went numb!
After breakfast - with this amazing honey - we spent Wednesday doing some sight seeing. Stop 1 was the cable car up to Le Pic Blanc - at 3330m! On the way up we saw a lot of mountain bikers using the cable car to do some extreme downhill riding. Madness! But possibly fun too...

25 July 2017

We spent Tuesday morning relaxing and doing some walking around town. After lunch we also had a swim session in the local outdoor pool - the altitude definitely hits you! Later in the afternoon, I picked up my rental bike - a Wilier GTR Team - which will be my steed for the next three days. Cobus, Noami and I then went to explore a bit of the town at the base to test out the bikes (Borg D'Oisan) and then we climbed a bit of Alp D'Huez to get a feel for the slope. I'm definitely feeling more confident after that ride - but 4 or 5 switchbacks is nothing compared to the full 21! So there are definitely still some excited nerves.

24 July 2017

23 July 2017

The rest of our loop included the Notre Dame de la Garde - which was the main climb of the time trial. We also went past the pajama church - as it's named. Because of the contrasting black and white stone used. Cathedral de la Major is its official name. Then we finished up with some time on the beach (although it was a little windy). And then back to Jo's hotel pool to wash off the sand before she headed off to the airport. I went to find a sports bar to watch the last few holes of the British open and then met up with Neil and his family for dinner.
I don't usually take photos of food, but lunch (at Miramar) and was amazing! Definitely recommend eating there. After that we hopped on the tour bus (see what I did there?) and did a full loop of the city. There is a great coastal trip, which we called "fake Cape Town" because it was like a poorer version of Clifton/camps bay. But it still had some great little beaches and offered good views of Chateau d'If. This was the Chateau on which the Count of Monte Cristo was set.
Jo was still busy packing/checking out, so I found a spot near the big wheel to catch up on my book.
Tourist day - and first stop was to treat the main train/bus station (Gare St Charles) as a tourist attraction. It offered some great views of the city and had this old staircase leading up to it from the road below. Then moved onto the St Vincent de Paul church. It has some amazing stained glass windows inside! It wasn't on my list, I just happened to walk past it. And I lit a candle for Dad.

22 July 2017

Post race celebration - after a long day in the sun, we headed back to Jo's hotel on the other side of the old port to where we'd been on Friday. It was definitely time for a drink, dinner and then a night cap at the very fancy Sofitel hotel down the road (with the awesome views).
All 4 jersey wearers - Webb, Yates, Barguil and Froome.
Finally time for the favourites for le Tour itself. Kwiatkowski - who ended 2nd on the stage by 1 second! Barguil - in polka dot selfie, Uran, Bardet and then the Froome train. It was very noticeable how fast Froome was going relative to the others in the top 10. What a machine!
The race is on and some of the earlier riders still had a great chance of winning the stage! Taylor Phinney (in the pic where I'm clapping). Tony Martin in the white kit - where I'm in the photo behind the railing. And then there is Jo at our base camp. You could watch down the road by turning around on the wall - so we could see who was coming and get ready for photos if required.
Team sky doing a warm up during the Caravelle parade. Froome actually went round twice - it definitely paid off! Starting to practice my selfie timing here too (for later).
The Caravelle comes past before the race and it starts to almost rain down free trinkets. This ranged from key rings to t-shirts to mini sausages! Unfortunately I had the worst luck and the guy next to me was pretty tall and kept plucking all the good stuff out of the air - but it was still a lot of fun to experience.

21 July 2017

First day in Marseilles. Landed at 11:30, made it to the hotel by 1 and then went to find Jo for a late lunch. We did a short walking tour of the old town and then spent the rest of the afternoon pub crawling around the Old Port before meeting up with some of the other triathletes for dinner and then bed.