Tuesday, July 27, 2010

East meets west at Singapore

It's a cliche opening line but it's true. For Team BMC's first stop over in Singapore, it's a hot humid melting pot of ethnicity.

Jac arrived into Singapore carrying the airsickness bag as a preventative measure. Something wasn't agreeing with her.

Team JMC are camped not far from Orchard Road - the shopping strip in town and Singapore boy to these guys know how to shop! There are shops everywhere. With the check in not available until 1pm it was time to head out for some practice for the local custom via the Bottanical Gardens.

The shops here range from Louis Vutton to Marks and Spencer (UK Dept Store) to Cartier.Unfortunately for Jac it was only window shopping. But with the Aussie dollar doing well and many sales, there were certainly plenty of bargins around - even Mark went shopping which was accredited as a fine performance considering the the humidity and the fatigue.

By early mid day lunch Jac was getting hungry and wanted something basic. Beef and noodles looked quite bland in the picture. But Jac got a little too adventurious and order the mixed beef noodle. Freshly cooked, they came out with some strange shapes - a ball that wasn't a mince ball and strips of something that looked like villi on one side. Not good for the stomach.

After checking in, we headed out again for a self guided tour which included the fire station, parliament house, arts centre, new and old high courts and Raffles.

High tea was over, it was too early for the Tiffin so it was off to the famous Long Bar for an Singapore Sling. But at the obnoxious price of S$25 it was only the free peanut to be enjoyed. Oh well - Jac had east v west on the plane with a Singapore Sling and Red Wine - maybe that's what started her stomach bug.

Jac and Mark wandered along to the river and tired of french and asia food we went to a Western bar that did a steak burger and fries.

So we wait for the return back to Australia. It's unlikely to involve as much star spotting or gossip as we had on the way over courtesy of David Pell (Sky and Millar most underperformed and overpaid team on the tour; Vuelta to be shown on SBS on the weekends; Scott Sunderland returning home to Australia; UCI response understandable over the Renshaw incident). At least there are some good inflight movies.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We headed to the Louvreto wander to the Champs as Mark has nick named it (pronounce Champs as in champion). After Jac quickly directed him in the

right direction, they made their way through the Tuilleries Gardens to the Place De la Concorde. After the 50km warm up ride there was going to be a 60 km

Crit around the Champs-Elysee, past the place de la Concorde and the Louvre with a sprint to watch the final stage.

However, as a mater of urgency, Jac needed a bathroom pit stop. Yep - there were toiletts close to the gardens where we met Kylie and Mark on the First

day. On the Champs-Elysee. At the park opposite the finish line. At the park where you need to pay 500E for a ticket. At the park which requires bird cage

access.This town was in lockdown and each corner had dejected people passing back through it.

After passing the boutiques of Pierre Cardin, Hetrmes, Bvlgari, Jac and Mark shared a boutique Coffee at a boutique price to access a toilet. Ahhh the relief it

bought. The coffee was a brief distraction and after it cooled, we were on the road again to secure our place overlooking the place de la concorde.

Clode to mid day we found our seats - free of charge. Courtesy of the good people of Paris the metal chairs that are used to watch the grass grow or the

water bubble from the fountain in the gardens were now supporting our derieres. To our right was the spanish flag and to our left were the Australians from

Yarra Junctiion.

Trevor and Dave from Ballarat joined Team JMC. They'd been on the cycling tour in the pyrenees and had ridden the Champs-Elysee that morning.
The little kids race providing us with entertainment. Swapping riding stories, and the big screen ahead of us provoding ride updates.

The peleton was in party mode and warmiing up. But still under race control from the Depart, we watched the free publicity unfold. It appears that

Radioshack had swapped Jerseys and were asked by ASO to return to their initial colours. Lance did not looked impressed - the alternate Jersey heaily

promoted Radioshack. The peleton was stopped and they were pictured swapping jerseys and numbers. Then almost in protest, Lance was riding without

race numbers. Not long after, ASO must have stepped in and stopped Lance for he then had is numbers flapping around in the breeze in a flippant sign of

conformaity to the rules of the ASO. Jac and Mark learned later they had signed in dressed in their correct garb.

So we sat and watched. not long after the peleton's arrival, the attack occurred with 11 in the race. The gap went out to 25 -30 s to the peleton. Then their

time was up. HTC train was chuffing along. We could watch it unfold on the big screen.

The Americans to the right had fallen asleep. The warm sun, wine and beer had worked their magic. They were also disappointed when Jac and Mark

advised that while their was a win available for the stage, the grand race. So much for their plans for barracking for the cyclist from Luxembourg - what's his

name again?

The peleton started to pick up the pace again and with 3 laps to go, the action started to happen. The break away was caught on the last last lap and

another exciting finish was ahead of us. The train of HTC had been disrupted and just like the finish in Bordeaucx, Cav was going to have to use someone

else to deliver him to the line. The Mannx Cat pounced on Petacchi's wheel then lept forward. The 25 yr old had plenty of space as his crossed the line.

The polite French crowd clapped. The Schleck supporters yelled Allez Andy and the Spaindards cheered Contador as he crossed the line.

Just before they headed for home an Australian tourist stoped jac who still had the Australian Flag drapped over her. Was there a cycling race on today? Has it finished? Where are the presentations? Who won?

Nice lady - but for the next 24 hrs - please don't admit you're Australian.

And so Contador clinched his 3rd Tour title and Team JMC folded up the EMCC jersey. But of more important things.... the headlines on CNN not CNNN
report "Leaders debate bumped off TV cook off"So who did win Master chef??

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Paris People

As Mark says... It's not about the sites you see, it's about the people you meet.

Today was another one of those days where the people made the day.

We've ticked off a few sights today - Catachombes, tower Montparnasse, shopping in the Markets featured in Masterchef episode in Paris, Lunch on the

lawns of the , a guided tour of the Paris Opera house or the Palais Garnier, TV in the motel room for the tour, the Luxemberg gardens and finally the

Panethon in the Latin Quarter.

It started with the dodgey looking European men, wearing soccer Jerseys, working for the local French Governement, guarding the opening of the

Catachecombes. It was like lining up for a night club and if you knew the bouncer you'd have a better chance of getting in. They even had the pull across

rope that they used to indicate if you were the lucky 6 that they were allowing in.

Then like, it was, like the American girls, like, lining up behind me to get into the Catechombes. There was a group from like, Michigan State studying biology

(not sure why the had to visit Musee D'Orsay or the Effile Tower then) and then was the girl from New York like who was an actor. Not studying acting, an

Actor. My mum said if you can't say anthing nice, you shouldn't say it at all. So i didn't tell her that because she was obese, she would find it hard to get work.

Nonetheless, in true American style, she was boasting about her photo shoot that afternoon. Only hope the lense was wide enough.

We could talk about the chunky itialian stallion at the Resturant for dinner, who was struting his stuff, sweating, moving quick, brushing up against the ladies.

Did we mention his specific odour l'homme?? Or the poor service we received from like resturant when they mistook us for Americans. Having to ask for

bread in a French resturant is a crime.

There is the Russian born receptionist in the hotel who flirts with Jac as he thinks he has something to offer - alothough Mark stands at her side and she has

explained he proposed on the Col du Tourmalet. Although he encourages her to speak French.

The highlight of the day was Fabienne - feminine Fabienne, The tall blonde frenchman, with the hip wiggle who either had his eyelashes tinted or wore

eyeliner. He wore the summer weight linen pants and shirt with loafers and was our Tour Guide for the L'opera or the Palais Garnier. As he told us Palais

Garnier. Was he thrown . He obviously felt that we weren't intelligent enough to share his passion for L'Opera and the Ballet and he was living his penance

taking English speaking tourists through his beloved Palais Garnier

He told us very important facts about Palais Garnier - the stage was 60 m heigh - not 16, 6 - 0 high. You are not allowed to use your flash down stairs but I

will tell you again when we get there. Some say the Foyer is like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles (Jac did) but I do not - the Hall of mirrors is made of Marble,

there are 17 windows and mirrors. There are not that many mirrors here. the walls are made of plaster. In the renovations we did 6 years ago we replaced

the curtains, not with silk but with synthetic silk. The only way you would know would be to touch them but you will never know because you are not allowed


And so the tour went on. Mark and Jac had little pokes and digs at each other regularly as the tour progressed waiting for the next funny saying, action from

our dear Fabienne.

But alors, Fabienne could not keep our attention. We were intereted in the other Fabian - of Cancellara Saxobank Fame. The world champion. Jac and

Mark descended the marble stairs of the auditorium, weaved their way throught the labyrinth of the Opera's boutique and library and high tailed it back to the

motel for a guided tour in English of Le Tour. On the little flat screen.

At one point Schlek was within 2 s of the GC. O'Grady and Lancaster both had ridden well. Contador was riding into the race while Schlek was putting in

every once of energy he had. Did he fade or did Contador ride into it? The race between Contador and Schlek has been the highlight for the tour. Schlek

was giving it all and regardless could walk away knowing he put in everything (damn chain). It was emotional to watch Contador with the relief as he

donned the yellow jersey.

So as we sign off, tonight we'll sleep much better. We found the remote for the air conditioner which means we won't be joining the party in the street through

the open windows.

Tomorrow is the pompour of the Champs, more people watching and the final stage for le Tour and Team JMC.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kicked out - no more space for the tour de france.

Where are we now? Back in the captial of romance - Paris. Team JMC are reaching the end of their Tour De France. We only have to keep the pride in the Australian Flag for the next few days.

So with another couple of days away from Wifi access (it's wee-fee here not wy-fy) we're writing the next blog from a Laundromatt in the opera district of Parisl. It would be a great idea to have wifi here but we can post later.

We last left our journey writings North of Orleans on a village parking spot. We were heading for Paris on our second last stage of the driving holiday. For all the driving he'd successfully completed, Mark was looking forward to handing the keys back to Avis.

We set Tom Tom for Versailles - potentially three camping grounds within Km's of the Palace, close to the drop off depot and close to bars so we can

So as the saying goes something about the best laid plans being set aside... Two camping places became one when we realised they had changed names. All the while Mark performing docey does with little European cars in the narrow streets. After a telephone call, we headed back to the Palace and onto the Gardens and voila - a dodgey space of grass out the back of local bus depot a short walk from the Verailles Palace Gardens.

After a wait in the queues we headed for the beautiful sardine tin - so many people!! Breath taking was the Verailles Palace Hall of Mirrors, the gardens and the painting on the ceilings of the grand apartments. Did we mention the Chapel - covering two stories.

Just as important as the palace was the palace to watch the TV. It was the tourmalet - the grand tourmalet.

After checking out a few bars, we found a resturant/bar with a large TV. In kindess we ordered drinks, then chips then coffee. We were about to order more drinks when the TV was switched off. We weren't welcomed. The hint came earlier when the wanna be m'aitre de stoped serving us and sent the kitchen hand/bar man for our service. They were about to hit the Col du Solour. This mean that after a short descent they'd be starting the tourmalet. Sastre was in no mans land and there was a small echappee which included Burghardt, Flecha, Hagen.

As the cliche went = we walked this way and we walked that way. No bars with TV's!! Argghh. Jac sent team JMC down to a street and Voila a bar more than a resturant. A big TV people drinking not eating. ESPN which could mean english subtitles.

A few orders and Jac's broken French had ensured the TV channels weren't getting changed back. What team do you go for. Do you think Contador or Schlek will win the stage?

Saxo were in control - Stuey first, then contador had his turn at the front. Eventually it was just Schlek. At the same time Vino had dropped off for Astana. 10 kms from the top Schlek went on the attack and Contador followed. The race the organisers were looking for was on. The barman paused every time he was to pour a drink to watch.

At the 3 km mark, Contador attacked and Schlek responded. What was going to happen. Was Schlek going to attack or just set the pace. Could he step it up again. They were both hurting. Do you trust Contador to allow the now deserved win to go to Schlek?

And so it finished up - Schleck went across the line first in the fog that had descended the Pyrenees the days before. Contador retained the yellow. Rodriguez had limited his losses and Robbie eventually made it across the line and celebrated by crossing on one wheel.

The grand tourmalet.

On the road again... just can't wait to get back on the road again

So where are we - we're not really sure. North East of Orleans near a forest and a road.

As like the second half of yesterday, today has been about travel. Pluis - wet weather makes it or more the better for travelling when it's not much fun looking at things.

Additionally, today is a rest day for the tour. Just like the cyclists, directors, organisation, press the followers too need a rest day. Whether it's for travel, fitting in that longer ride for those who can squeeze it in.

For Team JMC it was a bit of reality bites - heading back to Paris to the end of the tour. It also changed our pespective on France. We were now tourists per say. Not sports fanatics fitting in a holiday.

So accordingly we behaved like tourists. We stopped off at the Cahors markets early in the morning to beat the peak hour rush in our gigantic car. The thunderstorm through the night had cooled the hot limestone cliffs which surrounded us. It was still close to 28 C at 11 pm and we were cursing the spainards who were up late partying.

Fortunately France hasn't fully embraced the McDonalds breakfast cuture - really Maccas has nothing in it's arsenal to defeat France. The french invented crepes - the boulangeries are open from 6.30, it's easy to get a coffee and the french have crepes. While Macca's was closed on the edge of Cahors, their WIFI was going strong in the carpark and subsequently a great spot to enjoy our breakfast.

Cadel's diary brought a smile to the face - his most recent upload included the aussie flags which were flying in the pyrenees - and that meant us!! Yell for Cadel was our motto.

We travelled North sopping at a cute town just south of Limoges with quintessential Limousine architechture- mini turrets on houses, lunch was somewhere and arrived at Chambourd Chateau in the Loire Valley at 1500hrs - exactly as Jac had estimated.

Quick history lesson- built by Louis 1st and is a 2 day trip in horse and carriage from Paris.Took many years to build as Louis kept changing his mind. There is a huge hunting ground surrounding it and is the official hunting ground of the French president. It is symmetrical and has enormous Greek architechural influences. Louis 14th and Marie Antoinette were dragged from before their heads were chopped off.

Not only is it pretty, it's the first flat part of France Jac and Mark have come across. It's a bit like Echuca just greener and with Villages closer together! It's perfect riding for Mark to return to next time we come back.

But alors - Mark was determined to head closer to Paris and by doing so Jac waved good bye to the last chance to ride in the land of frogs legs and snails. However by leaving the Loire, Team JMC discovered they were leaving the nooks and crannies of the forests - perfect for hiding a 3 m high campervan for open paddocks - not so good for free accommodation for the night. With a little back tracking we found the forest, checked out a few nooks, found a cranny and settled in for the night. Well that's what we thought. We could hear the hunting happening in the forest. We had a visitor pull in who needed to use the naturale toilet that was supposed to be hiding us. Then either side of dinner, two semi trailers had pulled up. What had we occupied? Was this the drug exchange spot? There were no shoes hanging over power lines in cooee of us! Then with our light fading, we let our imaginations run - what if a tree fell on us? Could we get shot? Do they hunt at night here in France? We jumped in the white beast and headed to the nearest Village, pulled up in the car park pulled up the blinds and closed the day on another chapter.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Tourmalet - The grand Tourmalet

A quick post - we're sitting in an English Pub in Cahors on our way back to Paris.

Over the last two days we've seen our last few stages in the Pyrenees.On the 19th we were on the top of the Portet D'Aspet (Jac road both sides with 17% ptiches) Cheered on the Aussies particularly as Luke Roberts from Milram was in the echappee. Kept an eye out for Robbie and Cadel.

Jac has ridden the Tourmalet and we've partied and watched the tour come through St Marie de Campan - between the Col D'Aspin and the Tourmalet. We saw Robbie at the back of the peleton and cheered him through. We were cm's away from the cyclists and cars as they went around the corner. We've been kicked off tables in bars to allow mum and mum to have the prime posistion for the caravane.

We're heading for Paris - via the Loire Valley and Verseilles.

Keep in touch and hope Silverfox is on the mend.

The proposal

As you can see, we're a little behing on our blogging. We've spent the last few days in the beautiful pyrenees. It's now Tuesday and we haven't written since Saturday evening.

Sunday we awoke to an overcast sky - again for the pyrnees. We took a gamble a headed for the Col du Tourmalet. Matt and Karen before our departure had said there are two valleys to the Tourmalet- one more beautiful than the other. Mark unable to ride, was determined to get a look at it. The participation ride - mondo velo was to close the roads to the top later that day.

As we ascended, we quickly worked out where we were - the beautiful side - steep drops, fresh Icy cold mountain water below us, big green trees. It was still overcast as we headed to the top and then the clouds broke and we popped up above the cloud line that had covered the valley for the last few days.

The motor homes had already settled in the available carparks - this was Sunday 18th and the tour wasn't due through until - 20th. There were little mobile home cities and not much space for another. The car parks were full!!

The intent was to have breakfast at the top of the Col, however we pulled up close to the top with space as a premium. For breakfast but Mark had other plans...

He pulled out the pink champagne bottle and Jac thought we were having a champagne breakfast with the collection of croissants.

It was pretty simple after that - he popped the cork, we went outside to have a toast to our trip and on one knew he said - "I suppose I should ask you... will you marry me?"

Standing on the edge of the no standing Zone above the valley and a sheer drop below, Jac had no other option than to say yes.

Worried about the gendarmes and getting caught on closed roads, we hurriedly jumped back in the camping car, crossed the Col, were amazed at the traffic ascending and had breakfast with champagne as we were safely down the mountain.

As for the remainder of the day- we spent the afternoon watching most of the tour in a lovely bar in Aspet - 12 km from the base of the Portet D'Aspet, ascended the Portet D'Aspet, payed hommage to Fabian Casartelli who died tragically 15 years to the day and then joined our friends we met at the Avis in Paris in a campsite on the top of the Portet D'Aspet.

A lovely day, great views, great company and a great holiday. What more can one ask for??