Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Dijon, France

Friends: Another of those things that makes France such a wonderful place to cycle tour is that there are official road signs to campgrounds, and not only out in the country, but in urban areas as well. It made finding the campgrounds here in Dijon, just 1.2 miles from the city center, but still within the city limits, a snap to find. Without those signs it wouldn't have been easy. Its the first I've paid to camp in weeks, but I needed a real shower, rather than river and lake bathing, plus it was a bargain at less than five dollars.

I thought I was going to have to spend an extra day here anyway, when the lone tour of the Mustard Museum was already "complet" when I arrived yesterday afternoon. One must purchase a ticket for it at the Tourist Office. I paid the three euros for the next day's three o'clock tour, but went over to the museum anyway to see if there might be a no show and I could slip in on it. It wasn't easy finding the museum, as I didn't realize it was part of the Amora factory. I figured it out with some help just moments before the tour was to start. The guide was benevolent and let me join. There were about 25 of us, about 2/3s of whom were French. Still, the guide alternated between French and English. When the tour started, I was hoping for an actual factory tour, but we didn't get to see any of the manufacturing process. Instead we were led through a maze of several hallways of photos and exhibits just like a museum, though it is only open to the public this one time each day.

We were given some mustard seeds to chew at the start of the tour and advised to save a few to plant in our gardens. About 95% of the seeds are imported from Canada, as France doesn't have the vast prairies necessary for their cultivation. Dijon mustard is a style that was pioneered here in Dijon and is used by manufacturers all over the world. This Amora factory also produces ketchup and mayonnaise and other dressings, though the exhibits were strictly devoted to mustard. We were encouraged to try to include some in our daily diet as it helps digestion. Its also full of vitamin C and was used by sailors to combat scurvy. If you're wounded on a picnic, mustard works as an anti-septic as well.

Thanks to the kindly tour guide I can be on my way to Vazeley, a medieval city on a hill and another World Heritage site, first thing in the morning. It is 60 miles away. Among its attractions are monks and nuns who present their daily prayers three times a day to the public in song.

Yesterday was another superlative day on the bike through rural France and today should be no different. Its just 70 degrees and partly sunny and calm. But best of all, the traffic remains nearly non-existent off on the departmental roads. The tranquility is utter bliss. I'm simultaneously reveling in the moment and in moments from tours past and also reveling in tours to come. I'm totally enraptured. I can thank the transcendent powers of the bike, but also the pleasantness of France. I would unhesitatingly recommend cycling France to anyone who can hold their balance on the bike, but with one reservation--be prepared for a fair amount of climbing. If one's not conditioned to it, the rolling terrain can become demanding and demoralizing. Only in the Loire Valley and parts of Provence was it flat for any length of time. I enjoy climbing, so France is all positive.

Unfortunately, it's not entirely so for Lance. The French don't want to fully embrace him. The
French press goes overboard lauding the French riders, while showing restraint for his exploits. All the acclaim and coverage heaped upon Voeckler during his week-and-a-half in yellow was laughable. He was in yellow thanks to a fluke, but the press seized upon him as if he was the next Armstrong. Actually, they were just pleased to have the opportunity to ignore Lance. Voeckler showed his true status in the two time trials in the last five days of the race when he finished 88th of 155 riders still in the race at L'Alpe d'Huez and then 85th of 147 three days later. He couldn't even hold on to the white jersey for the best young rider. But for ten days no one received more press than he did. He and Virenque, the other French rider standing out in the field, were the two big stories day after day, not Lance making history. It was worse than America's nationalistic Olympic coverage. The day after L'Alpe d'Huez "L'Equipe" quoted 34
of the 35 French riders still in the race on what the experience was like. The only one not quoted was Moreau, one of the stronger French riders who didn't have such a good day and didn't want to talk.

Later, George

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