Monday, July 16, 2007

Tour de France 2007, Stage 2: Troyes to the Alpes - 8 July 2007

SunflowersFrom Troyes we dropped down to Dijon for a look at the home of the famous mustard and took ourselves on a tour round the town centre, following a map in the guidebook.

DijonFurther south, through the Champagne region, was Beaune; famous for its Hotel-Dieu. Built in 1465 as a refuge and hospital for the poor it has been restored to its former glory and is quite amazing. The roof is multi-coloured glazed tiles and has been copied since on many buildings in the region to create a characteristic 'Bordeaux' style

Champagne vineyardsThe next adventure was attempting to obtain fuel in France on a Sunday. There are many 24hr service stations and nearly all are automatic, card operated. Unfortunately although we had at our disposal a VISA, Mastercard, Amex and Maestro cashflow card, all of which claim to be accepted everywhere, what they really mean is everywhere except French automatic service stations.

Hotel DieuAfter our fourth failure, and with 200km still to go to our destination we were getting desperate: however, we managed to arrange for a local who had just successfully filled his car, to put €20 on his card, which we paid him in cash. Satisfied that we would now make it to our destination we set off and after turning at the next intersection came across a fully manned (or more accurately womaned) service station. After filling up, and using the facilities we were finally on the road, passing no fewer that four manned service stations!

Hotel DieuWe passed through a tunnel and emerged to much finer weather which we took (foolishly as it turned out) to be a good sign.

We arrived at the campsite at 8 p.m. and our new tent was erected for the very first time with the help of Ezra, Bob, John and Bill. We finished just as the rain started and by 9 p.m. it was thunder and lightning, very, very frightening and absolutely tipping it down.

Welcome to camping in the Alpes!

Kitchens in the Hotel DieuSitting side by side in the tent, we were literally shouting at each other to be heard over the noise of the rain on the tent.

Why are we camping in the Alpes anyway? A very good question. We have a mad friend, Bob, from NZ who considers it a fine past-time to cycle up and down these mountains and he is currently here on a celebratory 70th birthday trip. At his invitation we agreed to join him and committed before we read the 'fine print'; that it was a camping trip.

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