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      July 2010 > Vive Le Tour...Vive La France!
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Vive Le Tour...Vive La France!

There are many reasons why us ‘rosbifs’ like to give the French a hard time… their predeliction for industrial action (especially on the trains and around the ferry ports) for example; not to mention their supposed arrogance and surly lack of service provided in cafés and restaurants. So it’s all too easy to indulge in a little collective frog-bashing when their team falls apart at the World Cup, or when yet another union calls for strike action among its workers.

But I don’t buy into any of this - I never have. Maybe I’m guilty of an equal bias – but in the opposite direction – because I firmly believe that France is one of the greatest - if not the best - country on earth, and I’m happy to defend our neighbours across ‘la manche’ to the hilt. Yes, even if my morning croissant and café au lait are delivered with a shrug rather than a smile (though, I must say, I’ve personally found French service to be no worse than that in the UK - and usually a great deal better).

Gastronomic FranceSo what do I love about France? Let me count the ways… the incredible diversity of landscapes and deeply proud regional traditions; the wine and the cheese; the mellifluous flow of the language with its oh-so-sexy accent; the absolute inextinguishable pride in being French (OK, call it arrogance if you like); the mouth-watering gastronomic traditions; and, oh… did I mention the cheese?!

And then there are the bikes… The French make their love of cycling abundantly clear to every visitor, and – indeed – the late 18th-century, scooter-like ‘dandy horse’ of the Count of Sivrac was believed to be the world’s very first bicycle. Today, the most remarkable expression of ‘Frenchness’ and national pride comes in the form of a monumentally gruelling and ever-more-popular cycle race, the Tour de France. For me, this is the ultimate expression of France’s universal appeal: the riders, over the course of three leg-numbingly torture-filled weeks, follow sweeping valleys, negotiate ancient cobblestones and venture high into Alpine passes.

In 1910, the Tour organisers included the Pyrenees for the first time. It was an act of sadism that prompted Frenchman Octave Lapize to utter what became the most famous quote in Tour history. "Assassins!" he shouted at officials on scaling the fearsome Col du Tourmalet. To mark the Tourmalet's centenary, riders have this year had to scale its fearsome flanks not once, but twice!

With the epic mountain stages now behind them, the riders can at last look forward to the virtual procession which marks the race’s triumphal arrival onto the streets of the Champs Élysées in Paris on Sunday afternoon. Whatever you think about cycling – or indeed the drugs scandals which have enveloped the sport over recent years (though thankfully not on this occasion) – this event has pretty much everything. There’s history; proud traditions; a keen sense of honour; a cyclists’ ‘code’ which can be hard to fathom; an enormous sense of teamwork, as well as the potential for individual triumph and disaster; and, to cap it all, the wonderful land of France itself… The scenery of this great nation acts as a stunning visual backdrop – at times pretty, at times awe-inspiring – to this mother of all annual sporting events.

Vive La France!

Sunflowers in France

Posted: 23/07/2010 16:31:05 by | with 2 comments
Filed under: cycling, France, gastronomy, sport


Comments
Steve Jack, Marketing
Thanks, Kelly! If you need some advice about which regions to visit - or just want to enthuse about La Belle France - just give us a call...
27/07/2010 09:18:29

Kelly Drewett
France is one place that I aspire to travel around. The food, wine, mountain ranges and country side have all sparked my interest for this country. Thanks Steve, you've summed it up all in one here!
26/07/2010 18:14:48

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