Profile of today's TdF stage:
Today's journal entry:
Today was a full day. We had packed all our stuff up last night so we'd be ready to go early. Breakfast was rather late, at 8 AM, so we arrived at breakfast dressed and ready to go. The breakfast was the typical petit dejeuner affair, really not enough nutrition for a long ride. So supplementing with balance bars was required.
After breakfast, we got on our bikes and headed down the hill with Payton, Kathy, John and Kim. The descent was fast and fabulous. We waited for everyone at the bottom of the hill before continuing.
Some short climbs followed, and then more wonderful descending, this time through a bunch of tunnels which were well-lit and fun. After one of these descents (or maybe it was a climb), Kathy, Payton and John told us to go ahead. We were in a hurry and had to hammer, but they understandably wanted to enjoy the last day of riding at a more relaxed pace.
Kim, Phil and I motored on, through small villages and the countryside. The hilliness gave way to relatively flat riding and small country roads. We had a nice headwind to give us more of a challenge.
As we neared the small town of Aiton, Kim decided she wanted to explore the hillier route, whereas Phil and I, being in a hurry, wanted to stay on the flats. So we went our separate ways.
Now it was a fast 30 km left to get to Albertville, and Phil and I traded pace trying to get there as fast as possible. I had originally wanted to get to the hotel by noon, but it was now later than that.
We finally arrived in Albertville at the Hotel Million (fabulous hotel, by the way) at around 12:30. Kim arrived about 15 minutes later while we were disassembling our bikes. The others arrived much later because they all opted to have lunch on the way (smart move... we were starving!).
After taking the required end-of-journey pictures, we went to the garage to put our bikes in boxes. We also had to take our luggage to the garage, since it had all sorts of stuff we wanted to stow forever in our bike boxes.
The packing went quickly, and we managed to free our suitcases of unnecessary clothing in the process. After packing our bikes, and helping Kim a bit with hers, we went up to Dick's hotel room to take showers (thank you Dick!). It felt so nice to get out of our sticky clothing... it was a very hot and humid day.
After freshening up, we went to a local snack bar and ate sandwiches while watching the tour on their big-screen TV. We returned to the hotel, where Leslie helped us with our luggage and took us to the train station 2 hours early. She had to pick someone else up later so we had no choice but to go early.
At the train station, I tried to get us on an earlier TGV, but they were all sold out, so we had to wait around for ours. The area around the Chambery train station is not very exciting, so we mostly hung out at a snack bar in the station until it was time to leave.
Fortunately, this station had elevators, and we were able to drag our bikes to the correct track fairly easily. Our train arrived on time, and we put our bikes and bags in the train, and off we went to Paris!
Dinner on the train was the same as before... a quiche, a sandwich, lots of water. The club car on the train was very reliable.
We arrived in Paris Gare de Lyon around 9:30. This is a very nice and modern station. We got a cart (10 FF, returned when you return the cart), and schlepped our luggage through the hoards of people to the taxi line. I stood in the taxi line while Phil waited with our luggage.
After about 15 minutes, I was at the head of the line. We needed a taxi that was either a van or a station wagon. However, each time one came up, they would look at our bike boxes and indicate that there was no way the bike boxes would fit. This was baloney, of course; it's just that it was too much trouble given the number of normal people who were waiting for a cab.
Finally, someone consented, and we reconfigured his car to fit all the boxes and luggage in. I sat in the split back seat, which could not be locked in place due to the luggage. Fortunately, the hotel was close by and we didn't get in an accident. It sure beat having to lug the luggage ourselves!
Our hotel, the Hotel des Grands Hommes, is situated directly across from the Pantheon, a big neoclassical structure which no one ever seems to visit. The hotel lobby is undergoing construction, so it was very narrow. The night clerk originally said that there was no place to store our boxes and we'd have to take them to our room, but eventually consented to allow us to leave them in the small hotel lobby. And that is where they stayed for the remainder of our trip!
We took the elevator with our luggage up to the 6th and top floor to our room. The room was very nice, with a balcony outside. But our room was also very very small. We were forced to completely unpack our suitcases because there was no room for both our suitcases and us!
We turned on the tour news before retiring for the night at around midnight. Tomorrow is to be our first day of exploring Paris.