Paris. The city of lights.
Another early morning wake up call. I slept in until 5:15 a.m. One thing about this Trek Travel tour is that we were kept moving with little down time. Although we had one lunch and a couple of dinners "on our own" it was nice to have some private time or grab something quick and not have a group dinner that lasted at least two to three hours.
We boarded the bus at 6:00 a.m. for transport to the train station. It was a private train and it was very long. Breakfast was served by Trek Travel staff - quiche and a chocolate croissant plus orange juice and coffee. Ed Karrels had his Garmin out and at one point we were doing 300 kph - about 200 mph. The major differences I saw compared to Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor was that there was no rocking back and forth, no clickity clack of the train on the tracks and the bathrooms did not smell of urine. It was one place you could pee for free in France.
|Train Station in Bordeaux|
We arrived the train station and it was immediately noticeable that Paris was more "English-friendly" than Toulouse, St. Lary, Lourdes, or Bordeaux. Most signage had English here as well. That was not the case last night when I went out in Bordeaux and found a place to eat. The menu was only in French and the waitress spoke less English than I spoke French - which is only a few phrases or words. But we managed.
We boarded a bus from the train station that took us to within three blocks of our hotel then we walked the rest of the way. The street was too narrow for the bus to maneuver the turns. After storing our luggage at the hotel, we walked 5-6 blocks over to the Automobile Club of France. I need to find out more about this "club" but we were told this is the one day a year women are permitted in the club. No jeans. No shorts. I always envisioned this is the AAA of France. Guess not.
We had to go through security as we got to the block in which the club is located. Then we passed through a second point and finally, once inside the building, a third check. It is a stately building with wonderful balconies over looking the Champs-Eslysses.
|Automobile Club of France|
Today is the day Ashley joined me. Her plane was delayed four hours so she did not arrive Paris until 1:30 and then had to make her way downtown. At the worst possible time. But she had met a couple from Tucson, Arizona on the flight and they had hired a private car to take them from the airport to their hotel. As it turned out, their hotel was right across the street from our hotel. I had left the club and gone back to the hotel to wait for her.
After Ashley arrived we went to the viewing at the Automobile Club. We jockeyed around trying to see if being at ground level, the outside balconies, or the higher floor windows offered the best view. We ultimately settled on the highest view and then watched the big screen TV coverage of the final lap.
While we were on the balcony, one of the riders in our group, Paul Sommer, asked me to take his picture, framed with the Eiffel Tower in the background. As I was, a woman and her child just cut through the picture. We politely asked them to hold up for a second and they did. As it turned out, it was Johan Bruyneel's wife and daughter.
|Megan Elliott (middle), Chris Horner, Johan Bruyneel|
After the race we went down to the Radio Shack team bus. We waited, along with many other people, to get one last glimpse of Lance Armstrong participating in his final Tour de France. I passed my copy of Johan's book up to Hollie and Dave Eenigenberg who got him to sign it. But, unlike some in our group, we didn't go through the rope line and get a picture with Lance, Chris Horner, or Levi Leipheimer.
After returning to the hotel we went to the final event - a dinner cruise on the River Seine. A long day, especially for Ashley, who didn't get to bed until midnight after flying in from the U.S.
Front (beginning with woman in brown dress): Stephanie Chapman (guide), Susan Alexander, Scott Spector (kneeling), Anne Mader, Donna Thackrey, Dave Edwards (Guide, kneeling)
Middle (beginning with woman in white dress): Marquette Kelly (guide), Hollie Eenigenburg, Aimee Cutright, Deirdre Mullaly, Debbie Jaudon, Todd Mader, Nancy Karrels, Ed Karrels (with arm around Nancy), Barry Sherry, David Thackrey, Paul Sommer, Nicole Kimborowicz (guide)
Back: Dean Cobble, Burt Piper, Peter Pellicano, David Eenigenburg, Tom Michaud, Deron Cutright, Richard (Rich) McCrea, Mike Bandemer, Matthew McDonald, Dennis McDonald
Missing: James Hartzberg
Barry and Ashley atop the Eiffel Tower