One of the things I was really looking forward to on this trip (among many) was seeing the Tour de France in person.
I purposely chose the first stage in which the riders would meet a few decent climbs so we wouldn't just see them whiz right past us. I also chose stage 8 because it ended in Gerardmer and stage 9 started the next morning there (which doesn't always happen). Turns out, the town had to pay 150,000 Euro to have the tour stages end and start there.
Anyway, a few months ago I booked a few nights through airbnb.com with our host Stephen of Chez Georgette. Stephen had inherited his grandmother's house in Gerardmer and was in the process of fixing it up and renting it out to visitors. Well, I'd say that we more than lucked out.
Our first lunch in town enjoying salad with cheesey bread and fresh creme on top. Europeans sure do like their good bread and cheese!
His rates were not only totally reasonable (he charged about half what everyone else was), but he was also an awesome host, from cooking us a few amazing vegetarian dinners to buying fresh baguettes and good cheese from the markets to driving us to the train station 30 min away. And the house had an awesome view to boot!
The house was pretty large, so he had rented the rest of the house out to a group of 16 (3 couples with 2 kids each and 2 aunts). While it was a little crazy with all the kiddos, it was a lot of fun and the people were all so nice. They were all Americans, but two of the families have temporary international stays for work.
The town of Gerardmer was pretty great too. With a population of about 9,000 and a beautiful lake, it makes it the perfect relaxing destination, Tour de France or not.
Overall, it was incredible to get to see just a sliver of the tour! All of the details and man power that go into setting up and taking down just one stage of this race are incredible!
July 12, the morning of the stage (and our one year wedding anniversary) I got up early and went for a run up to see the finish area where we'd be spectating from. Decent hill workout! Then, came back to the house for a big breakfast and to get ready.
We picked up sandwich supplies at the market (plus some tour swag) and hiked the hill for what would be essentially 5+ hrs of tailgating and anticipation with our housemates!
Serious game of Uno going on here!
We checked out the finish line and podium area as we were stationed just 250m from the hill top finish (a 2km climb in total).
During the afternoon, the team buses rolled through as well as a bajillion sponsors and all their free stuff.
The weather had been iffy, but about 45 min before the racers came through, it started to rain pretty good (and then thunder and lightning). But it didn't effect the awesomeness.
And finally, for about 30 min we got to see some wet riders pushing to the top! Some looked pretty miserable and others looked determined to get to the finish strong.
We also got to see the riders on their neutral roll out start the next morning from downtown, which was cool. They all seemed a little more relaxed and th rain had cleared for a bit.
As our host drove us out of town on Sunday to catch our train to Paris, he made sure to take us up to this cool view point of the lake and the entire city.
Gerardmer and Chez Georgette, we hope to be back someday!
We are now enjoying our last full day in Paris and fly home tomorrow. I suppose the honeymoon has to end sometime. ;)
Oh, I thought it would also be worth mentioning that on several occasions, we've been told that in Europe, three weeks is a minimum length of vacation for most people and 4-6 weeks is more normal. Au revoir!