Friday, June 14, 2013

Tours, Ville Arrivé/Départ

I wasn't the only one scouting the 135-mile Fougéres to Tours stage yesterday in the rain.  Six members of the Belgian Lotto Belisol team, wearing bright red tights, trailed by a sponsor-plastered team car, flew past me as I negotiated my way through the large city of Laval in mid-morning.  There was no chance of sticking with them, especially since my load has gained about five pounds thanks to Andrew.

Besides the three pounds of stove and cookware and fuel canisters he left me with, I am also carrying nearly two pounds worth of mint syrup in a steel can that I added to my load at his suggestion.  A week ago before we reached cold and wet Brittany we had a brief spell of summery 80 degree temperatures.  I needed to flavor the warm water in my water bottles to make it more palatable.  There is no Tang or other powders to be found in French supermarkets, just various flavored syrups.  Andrew knew from childhood experience in Australia, that such syrups have so much sugar in them they don't need to be refrigerated, as I had thought.  I should have realized that, as French bars often have a row of such syrups on a shelf with all their liqueurs.  A mint-flavored drink, menthe à l'eau, is my preferred drink when I watch a Tour stage in a bar.

Before I could even drink up half the bottle of syrup the weather turned cold and I no longer needed to flavor my water.  Andrew didn't care to help me drink the menthe a l'eau, turned off not only by its ingredients, but also its bright green color.  To some it is most attractive and to others rather ghastly.  He thought it looked like anti-freeze and didn't think it smelled much better, though not as disagreeable as my favored lunch meal of pâté.  He is not alone in his regard of the drink.

Coincidentally, the day I bought the syrup, the narrator of the book I'm reading on France, the best-selling and National Book Award-nominated novel "Le Divorce," mentions that someone introduced her to the drink.  She thought it tasted like mouth wash.  Such prejudices have not undermined my enjoyment of this popular French beverage.  I was slightly concerned that if I drank too much of it, I might no longer appreciate it.  But it still dazzles my taste buds and tastes as refreshing as ever.  I am slowly finishing it off to make more space in my panniers and also to lighten my load.

I will be adding a t-shirt to my load tomorrow compliments of The Tour de France when I join Florence and Rachid and hopefully hundreds of others on La Fête du Tour ride here in Tours celebrating the 100th edition of The Race.  Each of the Ville Ètapes will be conducting such a ride on a portion of The Tour route entering or exiting their town.  It is free and the first 500 to register get a t-shirt.  That will be a souvenir I will gladly carry for the next 3,000 miles before I return home in six weeks.

None of the round-abouts I passed yesterday or today were bicycle-decorated, at least yet.  But many still offered up some interesting art.  On the outskirts of Tours a round-about had recently been dedicated to DeGaulle with a most distinguished looking statue and fine landscaping. 

A round-about thirty kilometers before Tours advertised sites to see in the town ahead.

The day before a round-about celebrated the popular French game of boules.

None of these were as striking or has stuck with me as vividly as the flamingoes in a round-about in a small town outside of Nantes that I passed five days ago.

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