TOUR BLOG: TALES FROM THE BROOMWAGON PART 16
Day 17 – Monday, July 17
THE French love nothing more than over-taking on narrow country roads. It is their national sport.
We are a huge camper van, seven metres long and more than two metres wide. Judging by the number of nippy little saloons that buzzed past us on the road from Gap to Bourg d’Oisans yesterday we must be worth ten over-taking points in this dangerous sport of theirs.
One fella in a white Renault Clio must have had a death wish because he came hurtling towards us on a long straight stretch of road, forcing me to slow almost to a halt so he could dart back into his own lane between two trucks.
It was enough of a near-miss to make me check whether there’s an airbag in the steering wheel. There is. It also made me rather nervous about Ed’s ultra-relaxed passenger etiquette – feet up on the dashboard. That would be two broken legs our travel-sized first aid kit would struggle to patch up.
As we neared Bourg d’Oisans there were more and more cyclists on the roads and plenty of those husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend pairings that make you fear for the future of their relationships.
Him – top dollar road bike and kit, pedalling slowly but ten bike lengths ahead of his missus, frustration etched all over his face that his dream ride in the Alps is being spoiled.
Her – exhausted, looking miserable, cursing every fibre of his being and regretting the moment she agreed to this holiday from hell and about to collapse with a heavy cold brought on by over-exertion.
Him – secretly hoping she’ll be happy to stay at the hotel tomorrow so he can do a ‘proper’ ride.
Her – wondering how soon after the holiday she can dump him. And why the hell she’s carrying the rucksack.
The Alpe itself was the usual pre-race chaos. Cyclists of all shapes and sizes weaving their way up. Dutch corner already a party zone with loud music, orange everywhere and empty beer cans stacking up.
At the top it’s tent and camper van city. Our Broomwagon must feel right at home. It’s Glastonbury for cyclists and bike fans, with a real festival atmosphere, people camped in the middle of roundabouts, the bars and restaurants full and the sense of anticipation building.
Simon went off to visit some friends down in the valley while Ed and I had a quick nine holes at the pitch and putt golf course. It was the first time in three weeks that could genuinely be called leisure time so it was typical that I lost the golf. It was even more galling to learn that the last time Ed picked up a golf club was last May, when we invited Laurent Fignon to play with us at Hampton Court Palace.
By the time Simon returned to the resort it was a lot colder, a lot later. Simon was a lot more tired.
We went for dinner, which for me was a cold meat salad, followed by a share of a fondue. This was accompanied by a meat salad identical to the starter. Why don’t they tell you this when you order? It was like ordering a small version of your main course but they let you get on with it. Presumably for a laugh.
By the end of the meal, I’d had too much meat and whatever part of the body it is that processes meat and cheese was crying out for some carbohydrate.
For dessert I opted for just a coffee. It came with a slice of meat.
We have chickened out of staying in the Broomwagon and are spending two blissful nights in an apartment. It has towels and running water and a television and a fridge that doesn’t smell like something is rotting in a secret compartment.