I am currently on a virtual trip to Europe. I didn’t plan this, and in a way, I wasn’t expecting it, although if I would have thought about it, I should have.
The Tour de France started on Saturday. I’ve written about the tour before – I was able to attend parts of three stages in 2018 with my daughter and son-in-law. I’ve been a Tour fan for several years, so I eagerly looked forward to watching it again this year.
The Tour de France usually begins around the first of July and runs for 23 days. As the spring turned into lock-down this year, organizers struggled with whether or not to hold the race. They decided to postpone it for nearly two months, choosing a new start date of August 28.
Even now, racers, their crews, news media, and fans are following strict protocols in order to try to keep everyone safe.
Fans are restricted on how close to the finish line they can view the race – this area is usually filled with people pushing toward the fence for the best view possible. News media and the crews are required to wear masks at all times.
Racers wear masks until just before the race starts. They don them again as soon as they cross the finish line. Masks are worn during award presentations and interviews.
Additionally, hand washing and hand sanitizing are practiced frequently. There are limits on who can give food and water to the participants. They are lodging in single rooms instead of in a room with a teammate – all in an effort to make sure the racers and crew stays virus free.
The race departed from Nice, France, this year. Some years it starts in other countries, but this year was France’s turn again.
I’ve been to Nice a couple times. It’s a beautiful city in the Côte d’Azur – the Azure Coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The “old town” area is particularly enchanting, but there are other attractive areas and sites.
There are museums dedicated to the works of Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. Both are worth a visit, even if you are not entirely familiar with their work. Other art museums are scattered around the city.
There are beautiful fountains, monuments, and estates to wander around. Castle Hill is especially intriguing – I plan to check it out on my next visit.
In the summer, a dip in the sea is refreshing. Be aware, though, that the beach is made of rocks and the walk to the water can be uncomfortable without water-shoes or waterproof sandals.
Tour de France
Stages One and Two both departed and finished in Nice. Stage Three began in Nice and ends in Sisteron, where Stage Four will begin. The stages don’t always start from the same city they end in the day before.
The Tour makes its way around France – not always in a continual line, but riding through many regions of the country. The route is not the same each year, but many routes from previous years may be repeated. The organizers plan the stages so some favor distance riders, some favor sprinters, and others are the favorite of mountain climbing riders. In order to win the race, a rider must be good in all areas.
My Virtual Tour
Although I loved seeing the race in person, its also very enjoyable to watch on television. The coverage is amazing! The media follow the riders, with on-board cameras, motorcycle camera persons, and shots from helicopters above.
In addition to video of the riders, though, there are views from above of the surrounding countryside. Camera persons in helicopters show videos of the mountains. They show the winding roads climbing to the top with multitudes of hairpin turns.
When the participants approach a small town or a city, highlights of the area are presented in video with commentary that includes facts and history. Ancient castles and mountain top villages are my favorite. Church bells ring out as the helicopter flies overhead.
Although I’ve only been to a few of the cities that are starting or ending points this year, I’ve been near some of the areas they are riding through. I’m eager to see what the helicopter shots show.
Maybe Next Year
As I watched the coverage from Nice, I could imagine myself there. Many of the areas shown in the video were areas that I had been to in person in 2014 or 2018. Watching the coverage makes me yearn to return.
I can’t wait to go back to France. In the meantime, though, I am thoroughly enjoying my virtual vacation!