Kay and Del found us on the side of the road in Saint Lary on SBS TV. We are in disguise with cameras in our faces but it is proof we were there!
And while they were taking photos of us, we were taking photos of them.
Today ended in Lourdes but began with a drive over the mountain the Tour rode over after we saw them on Sunday. Lots of riders following their tracks as well.The front seat passenger became somewhat nervous as we passed many campervans returning from their overnight camp on the summit and once or twice she had a great view down the side of the mountain but once again we survived one more skinny road.
Many campers were still there. And what a place to camp! France has some incredibly beautiful mountain scenery none better than the section we drove through today.
We made our pilgrimage to the sanctuary in Lourdes and were amazed at the procession of people, young and old, well and unwell, walking and in wheelchairs, good knees and bad, all passing by the grotto, filling water bottles from the spring or lighting candles, some as big as cannons. It was certainly an interesting afternoon.
A quiet day today, if you can call standing on the side of the road watching the Tour de France hurtle past, a quiet day. We stood in one spot while the caravan of sponsors drove past tossing out their goodies. Sharon snaffled a small bag of sausages, a hat, some cake and a few other items which we should have given to the small children nearby. A French woman standing near us picked up a stubby cooler and looked at it, turning it over a few times looking puzzled.
“Ze mobile phone cover?” she asked Sharon.
She gave it to us as she had no need to keep her phone cool in this climate.
Being a mountain stage, the riders were well spread out and it took probably a half an hour before they all rode past. This village is at the foot of the last of about five big climbs for the day and there were a lot of riders who looked pretty well stuffed! Saw Stewy O’Grady at the end of a big bunch opening a can of Coke. And then it was all over.
We took a drive to a lookout at a ski resort above Saint Lary where paragliders were jumping off and then headed up the mountain where the riders climbed earlier in the day before being turned back by a policewoman.
Our hotel in Saint Lary is to the right of the large field lower centre at the bottom of the mountain. The tour headed up and over the mountains through the villages at top right. We’ll head that way tomorrow and plan to ride (read drive) to the top of the Col de Tourmalet and other Tour peaks. Should be fun.
We spent a relaxing two days in the countryside outside Pamplona and didn’t see a single bull to run away from. The place happened to be where Francis Jabier/Xavier (say Har -bee-a) was born in the castle outside our room, so perhaps some of the Xavier school teachers on their “pilgrimage” had been there too.
Having a castle outside your window is no big deal as there seems to be one in every town which are just a few minutes apart from each other in these parts.
I must have needed a rest as had a nap each afternoon we were there after lazing on the bed watching the Tour in Spanish. This area happened to be in Julie’s Spanish Drives book so were able to take some lazy drives into the mountains to test the lower slopes of the Pyrenees. We drove and walked through some spectacular gorges where the main form of bird life appears to be vultures. Luckily there is some life left in us still so we left them to pick over other bones. Of course, we visited a monastery and took a tour with a Spanish speaking guide.
We left Spain this afternoon via a tunnel under a Pyrenees’ mountain and arrived in France to Saint Lary Soulan where stage 9 of the tour is tomorrow. We entered the town along a typical mountain road with switchbacks down into the valley. I pity those riders tomorrow.Barricades and directional signs are up in the town and it appears to be quite busy.
On arrival, we sat in the lounge of the hotel and enjoyed a beer, yes Sharon had another one, and watched the Tour on French TV with a room full of French men. Some were taking notes and following the route on maps and, “Oui Ouing!” when the helicopter shot showed a village they knew or had ridden through. One had just come in from a ride and was dressed in BMC cycling kit. As he cooled down, he kept stripping off his gear and with each layer peeled he kept looking around at Sharon. He looked pretty fit so I sucked my Spanish wine belly in the best I could until my breath gave out. He pulled the shoulder straps down from his nicks and looked across at her again and I did the same to see if I’d have to flex my pecks. Here were two grown men, one in tight lycra, the other in baggy shorts and t-shirt trying to compete for a woman texting on an ipad. We both had no hope. She hadn’t seen a thing!
Our room has a good view of the mountains. It is warm here today, 29 degrees. The hotel owner said they had snow in the village till May so he was happy for the warmth and so are we. At 8:30 pm, we were lounging in the room when we received a call from the restaurant (we had dinner included as a part of our stay) to ask if we were going to eat. As it was well before our Spanish dinner time of 9:30 -10:00, we were taking our time and when we got down 5 minutes later, most were finishing up. At least these times will get us back in fashion for when we get home. We put spoons down at dinner in Javier two nights ago at 11:00.