Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bike Racing & Palaces

On Saturday 26th April we headed to Belgium to spend the day watching the oldest professional bike race, the Liege – Bastogne – Liege.  We spent the night in Spa, close to the Belgium Formula One race track.  We did notice a lot of really nice fast cars in the town, must have been full of race drivers!  Spa is a cool town, and we found a very helpful person at the visitor center who gave us plenty of details about the race route for the next day. 

We got up early on Sunday and before heading out bought enough baguette sandwiches to get us through a long day.  From our previous trips to watch the Tour de France we were not sure how busy the crowds would be, and even if the roads would be open to cars.  We got to the first location in plenty of time, and chatted to a Belgium guy who used to be a professional bike racer.  As usual there was a lot of waiting around, watching first the police cars drive by clearing the road, then followed by the publicity “caravan” providing advertisement for the race promoters.  Finally the racers flew by in about 5 minutes, and it was over for that segment! 

Next we moved to beautiful hills area in the Ardennes regions, where the Battle of the Bulge occurred, where we staked out a spot on the climb ‘Cote de Wayne’.  The advice from the Spa info center and a detailed map really helped, as it is tough to know the race route exactly.  Sara did manage to persuade someone to give her an official race route sign, which will join our Tour de France souvenir sign.   It was a beautiful day, and we had a pleasant time waiting for the racers, who flew by again just as quickly as before, even though they were now going uphill!  Check out this short video of the racers.  

With just a few more days to enjoy of our trip we headed back to France, spending the night in Reims.  On Monday 28th we spent a few hours checking out the impressive Notre Dame cathedral in the Reims city center.  Most places are closed on Mondays so the crowds were very minimal which is always pleasant.  The downside was we couldn’t climb up the cathedral to check out the architecture, but will add that to a future wish list.  In the afternoon we headed to Versailles, and realized we had booked the same hotel we stayed in 10 years ago, a great location, and luckily it had been renovated, so was much improved.

We spent a delightful afternoon wandering the Versailles Palace gardens, even venturing to the extensive park area.  The palace is normally packed with people, but being a Monday was empty and we mostly had the place to ourselves!

The next day we had an easy morning, and then drove 20 minutes to the Paris- Orly airport for our flight to London.  Orly is a great airport, easier than the busier Charles de Gaulle airport and closer to Paris.  A quick flight and trip on the Heathrow Express train and we were in London, enjoying a fabulous evening with Sara’s Mum and sister.

Finally on Wednesday 30th April we headed home, having walked over 90 miles and consuming goodness knows how many baguettes and crepes.  We always enjoy our vacations, and look forward to planning many more.

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