I had an earlier alarm set, and hurriedly packed up my bags and checked out of my hotel in Marseille. I was heading back to Paris to see the final stage of the Tour de France. I wheeled my bike up the steps to the railway station in the centre of Marseille. The fast French trains would take me all the way to the capital before the morning was out. However, for some reason, it isn’t possible to book bicycles on the direct train from Marseille to Paris. Instead, I needed to get a Strasbourg bound TGV to Dijon, and connect with a Paris bound train from there.
My seat was reserved at the far end of the train, so I walked the full length of the platform to find the small area of cycle space, in a small section of standard class seating behind the engine loco. The journey was mostly uneventful, I made my connection in Dijon without any troubles, and found myself at the Gare de Lyon in Paris just before midday. I cycled my bike with it’s buckled wheel and wearing my heavy backpack the few miles to my hotel, next to the Metro station at Oberkampf. They didn’t let me leave my bike inside, so I had to park it at a cycle rack on the street, but otherwise I dropped my bag in my room and turned my thoughts to lunch.
I wandered around the district in Paris, looking for a crêperie nearby. However, the Google reviews led me to a sandwich bar in the Marché des Enfants Rouges. Apparently it was a really good sandwich bar, and the line was nearly an hour long and stretched around the corner from the shop. There was one guy making sandwiches, with generous amounts of local meat, cheese, onions, olive oil, avocados and salads, fried on a crêpe pan. The reviews had suggested that it was an exceptional sandwich, and it managed to live up to its expectations, and its long wait. I ate through it in a nearby park, and would honestly rate it as one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten.
It was time to head to the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées. I caught a metro train to a stop near the Louvre, and had no trouble finding the course, as it circled around the Jardin des Tuleries before heading up the famous avenue. I walked from the Louvre out to the end of the garden, trying to scope out a place from which to watch the race, but the fences at the Place de la Concorde were too far from the road. I tried to find a place to cross back over, but that meant walking all of the way back to the Louvre and around through the crowds of people. I decided I wanted to watch from the Champs-Élysées itself, but the footpath was blocked and the detoured me around a host of nearby streets before I could finally rejoin the route near the Franklin D Roosevelt memorial.
I found a place a few rows back amongst the crowds of people in a position where I could see a large screen on the other side of the road. Again, there was a fair bit of waiting before the race came by, and I was able to pretty much watch the entire stage on the screen. The caravan came by for the last time, but they were not bearing gifts. Finally, the ceremonial parts of the stage ended, and they turned onto the finishing circuit. As the race arrived, a formation of 9 French fighter jets flew over the the city, trailing smoke in the colours of the French Tricolor, their loud noise encouraging everybody to tilt their heads upwards and watch.
The race did eight laps of a circuit between the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. As they went up and down the course, we got to each see the riders go past a total of 16 times. There wasn’t much of an opportunity for a breakaway, instead it was the sprinter’s teams keeping the race close together. The stage was won by Dylan Groenewegen, a Dutchman on a Dutch team. Following the race, there was a series of presentations for the overall winners. I was stood a short way behind the podium, so I could see them in person and watch them on the big screen opposite.
The ceremonies complete, I left the avenue in search for a Metro station, and took myself to a restaurant in the second arrondissement for a final serving of French steak and chips. For whatever reason, the British in general don’t understand how to cook steak well, but the French really do. Finally, it was a Metro ride back to my hotel for the final night in France.