Archive for July, 2014

Le Tour diary II

07/07/2014

So, after being awoken by the caravan going past (previous here) Steve and I headed down into town.     At about the spot where we had seen the cyclists heading to the presentation on Thursday there were the tour buses and cars with bikes on them. We got a bit sidetracked looking around the outside of the ‘Village technique’ which was based upon Millennium Square so that when we got to the part of Leeds the Départ was leaving from they were not letting any more people into it as it was so full. We walked along the length of the Headrow and found a place at Eastgate, with the incongruent mix of being opposite the West Yorkshire Playhouse and underneath the imposing, Orwellian building on the hill that houses the Department for Work and Pensions. We were about three or four back from the barrier but them being on the road and us on the pavement meant we had a good view. That deteriorated as the tallest family in Leeds seemed to come and stand in front of us which meant we could see what was happening but didn’t get any decent pictures. So the tour came past and we got to see them but it had a phony war sense to it as the race didn’t start until it had been decided to by royalty. The excitement having passed we headed off back into town and I took photos of some of the interesting use of language including the photo above. The rest of the tour was watched on TV followed by the World Cup.

Sunday we got up early and headed into Leeds to the station. Tickets were bought and then we headed to the platform for the train. As the picture shows it was platform 2b, or not! (Thesp. joke there) P1120927 A train came into the platform,people got off and our train was announced and we got on it. After the time for the train to leave had passed people started getting off it and heading further down the platform. We went out and asked the guard what was happening and another train had come in and would be the earlier train we wanted and the one we had been sat on would now be a later train. So we got on the new train but still left almost quarter of an hour later than timetabled. P1120929 At every station the platforms were packed and it wasn’t long before the train was standing room only. There was a party atmosphere on it though with people were going out for the day, they were going to have fun and they were talking about where they were planning to see the cycling, people were seen to change their mind and go with others. We didn’t.

On arrival at Keighley we got off. We left national railways behind and queued up to get onto the Worth Valley Railway, a steam route run by volunteers. It too left late to allow the people who were in the train from Leeds behind us that had been the one we were sitting on. At least getting on the earlier train meant we got to sit by the window. So the train slowly left the station and we had to listen to the usual guff that these trains were so much better and the carriage was so much better when it was clearly so much slower than a modern train would have been over the track and the seating, whilst not as uncomfortable as boards would be, was certainly not as comfortable as modern trains. P1120935 An experience not helped any by the chap speaking all this guff allowed his kid to bounce up and down on the seat, making the ride more sea-ship like than one would want. Despite the slowness, and despite nearly choking when the engine went in a tunnel, I still felt a certain romance looking out the window and seeing the engine, full-steam-ahead heading over a bridge towards a tunnel on a bend as pictured above. After twenty to thirty minutes we arrived at our destination and got off the train and headed out of the station.

We left the station and, after talking to a Tour guide, found that the caravan was due soon and the race itself in a couple of hours. We got across the road from the station and found a café and had a coffee to fortify ourselves for the day. The caravan came past and I saw again the things that had almost been part of my nightmares, or wakingmares the day before. I did fail in my challenge of taking a photo of the Yorkshire Tea floats as they came past. However, this time it wasn’t my morning befuddledness but chasing after the free pack of tea hurled my way. How did they know. I’m not a proper Englishman.  I don’t understand tea. If my childhood was deprived in any way (clue; it wasn’t) it was that I never leant how to make or appreciate proper tea. I have learnt something of the former from having to care for someone who does appreciate their tea, in fact needs it in the morning to be human. So I was pleased to get a pack of the special THÉ for the Tour. I then discovered that they were giving away a years supply of tea if you tweeted a picture of yourself with yourself and the pack, hence the picture above. I added a few hashtags relating to the fact it was in Haworth, home to the Brontés, etc etc.

After the caravan had passed we looked around and found a place round the corner with a view of the cyclists coming towards us and, whilst I saved it Steve scouted around Haworth to see if there was a better place to be. There wasn’t.  By the time he returned the sun had crossed the yardarm and, our new position just happening to be outside a pub, we sought help for our thirst inside. And, it just had to be Velo, a special brew from local Yorkshire Masham brewery to celebrate the Tour in France, Black Sheep, which Steve had visited the previous year.

After a couple the leaders raced through and people hardly noticed. They were there and gone. I managed to get a photo of them,(above). A few support vehicles came through and then the motorbikes and the peloton was upon us. People were cheering. banners were up, photos were being taken. The carnival mood reached a fever pitch as we witnessed what we had come to see.  Then they were gone.

There is more to come. You too can experience what it was like to be there. Come back in a day and see what it was like.

Well I promised it and here it is. The Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact. Experience the Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact, through the wonder of Stevecam. It’s almost like you were there:

 

 

Le tour diary 1.

07/07/2014

I’ve lived in France for seven years, more or less, now. During that time I’ve worked in the UK every summer. Initially at a summer school teaching teenagers from all over Europe or the world general English and last year and this at a university (pictured left) teaching students, about to start a Masters course at the university, how Academic English is different from the general English they learnt before, or what they did to earn their qualification to get to the university. I do that because people in France go away for July or August so you cannot organise classes in those months and now, increasingly working at the local university, courses finish mainly at Easter with a few lasting into or to the end of May and not starting until the middle of September.

Over time I’ve increasingly become interested in cycling. Initially, as a result of working on it for my job in the early part of this century, in track cycling – I saw races at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and at my local track when living in Reading. Over time this moved to interest in road racing, particularly the Tour de France. I even got to the last two and had an interview to manage the administration for Team Sky three or four years ago. In 2012, whilst working in the UK, I followed the race every day, when work had finished obsessively watching the races as the first Englishman and the first English based team went on to win the Tour de France. It wasn’t quite as obsessive, I had a new job in a new environment so hadn’t the time available, but I still followed the race last year and the second victory.

In seven years living in France I had never seen the race in the country that is my home. I had hardly seen the French TV coverage of the race. My knowledge of it came from the UK coverage on ITV4 and the previous coverage on a number of channels. You would think the tour coming to Leeds for this year would make me excited. I would be happy to be getting a chance to see it at last. Not, at all, it seemed wrong. So, it was with an ambivalence about this aspect that I returned to Leeds just over a week ago.

Thursday and work finished and preparation for Friday done so I went shopping to get a few things. Before leaving work I had talked with a few colleagues about the parade of teams which was taking place that evening through the streets of Leeds before they were presented at the Firstdirect arena.  Having finished shopping I noticed my route home was being closed off with barriers. I spied what would be a good spot to see the riders coming up from Millennium Square. So, I hung around in that spot and was joined by a flatmate and we saw the teams on their way from Millennium Square to the Arena. The one pictured are the Cofidis team. Whilst there I was given a ‘Spectator Guide‘ for stages 1 and 2 which led us to talk about the possibility of going to the ‘Grand Depart’ and possibly going out of Leeds to visit somewhere of interest and also take in stage 2.

On Friday further discussions took place and it was decided to go down to the centre of Leeds at 10ish on Saturday morning. Before that happened though I was wakened by a din from people playing popular beat combo music and talking French. But I’d left all that behind. was this some nightmare with my French living come to haunt me in Leeds? No. In seven years living in France I’d never seen the Tour De France and here theP1120919 caravan was going past my window. As well as the music there were vehicles advertising Haribo, ibis hotels, sugary fizzy drinks (pictured) and, best of all I thought, Yorkshire Tea. The last seemed so out of place with the rest but quite cool that it was present, like a very English intervention in the Tour de France.

 


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