After a pretty intense week of work, we had the weekend off, before resuming the following week. We had a choice, city or country. Having had lots of city time already, we opted to find a nice quiet village where we could get plenty of work done, and then take long meals and just enjoy the summer weather. In Europe, unlike Texas, it is safe to go outside during the summer. ;-)

We ended up staying in a village that the Tour de France came right through. I knew nothing about the race or what it was like to actually see it live, all I knew was that Lance Armstrong beat the crap out of everyone seven years in a row.

Look! It's the yellow jersey! Just kidding - we saw lots of cyclists as we made our way into the mountains.

We saw lots of folks set up along the road. It's common to have a camper, then follow the race through several stages. So you hang out all day, then the riders come through, and then you pack up and go to the next stage. People are really into it.

We got to Mezel and checked into the inn (not the hotel, the inn) by going into a bar and getting our key. The bartender led us out the front door of the bar...

And up the "street" to where the hotel was. In reality, it was just two bedrooms attached to each other.

This was the door to our room. Really, the stairs of the room.

This was the overhead light in my room. You can see that the whole place was pretty rustic. (It was really cheap, like 30 euros a night or something crazy.)

This was the one in Mick's room. Hilarious.

There was a kitty on the lookout for danger.

This was the view out my window. Nice laundry!

So what the heck, I washed my socks in the sink and hung them out too. This is the problem with a really long trip like this - getting your laundry done. Sometimes you have to do it yourself.

We were hungry so we went to look for food. We found this neat place. This is the dining room for a bar that is across the street. (behind me as I took the photo.) Check out the roof of the place - they trimmed that mighty sycamore so that it would provide a canopy. The girl standing on the right is Suzanne. She is Irish and moved here to buy and operate this bar. The two guys sitting down figure prominently in the later events of the weekend. We had a hell of a weekend in this little town.

We started with another one of these - the Anise-flavored drink.

And ordered some tomatoes and mozzarella with olive oil.

And some carpaccio.

Mick adds a little salt and pepper. FORESHADOWING: Take a goooood look at his shirt.

I had a coffee.

This is our room key.

Original equipment.

After that, things got a little bit fuzzy. There was a fight between two really drunk guys. I mean, wasted. They couldn't really punch each other, but they were cussing each other out and falling onto the furniture. Jean-Luc, the bartender/bouncer threw the one guy out, and he left. We went in and it was all smiles. No one spoke any English, but they knew we were Americans, and we sort of got it all figured out. Jean-Luc offered up these green drinks to a few of us as some sort of "hey we're all friends here" drink. Keep in mind, we just sat out on the sidewalk while the scuffle ensued, but we got to be part of the party, which was nice.

Here is Jean-Luc. He is a talented man. He is the bartended, cook, waiter, bouncer, and peacemaker for this bar. He does it all. And he is super nice and good natured. A great guy.

Now THIS is the best picture from the whole trip. Notice their shirts. Remember earlier when Mick was wearing that blue shirt? Now the other guy is wearing it. Mick, who speaks no French, and the dude with the white hair, somehow got to "talking." The guy was wearing an Arizona State shirt, and we thought that was weird. So Mick is telling him, "Arizona State. I like your shirt." I'm all, "Il aime votre chemise." So the guy points at the shirt and makes a "you mean this one?" face and we both nod and say, "Oui."

The guy just pulled it right off and handed it to Mick.

So now this guy is standing there without his top on, in the bar, with his hand extended towards Mick. Mick looks at me and says, "Now what do I do?" I said, "I think this is where you give him your shirt." Mick said, "This is an expensive shirt, and I don't really want an Arizona State shirt!" and I said, "Too late, the transaction has begun!" So Mick dutifully swapped shirts with the guy. Being a good friend, I had to take a picture. We still laugh our asses off today about how Mick went to France and got an Arizona State shirt.

A little later the guy who got bounced came back. His shirt was all torn up. It was all smiles after that. In a small town, you really can't afford to hold a grudge.

That's it for that night, we went to sleep.

We slept late the next day and had roast chicken for lunch. It was pretty dang good.

Then we went to wait for the riders to come through. Now, seasoned watchers of the race know how all this works, but we had no clue. As it turns out, there is a huge caravan of cars and trucks that precede the riders. They are almost all basically advertisements. (You will see what I mean.) They ride through the village and throw "swag" out the windows of the vehicles. Or they have them set up like parade floats, and cute girls fling the swag. Swag is Stuff We All Get. Basically, free crap.

Here comes the Cochonou cars.

They were flinging little sausages at us. That's the other thing - these cars are going fast, around 40 miles an hour. And the people are throwing the little free things out of them at us. They come pretty quickly! And I think they get bored, so they try to nail you with them. They either throw them at your head or your crotch. It's crazy.

These were tasty.

Kids were chilling, waiting for the real fun to start.

So were the adults.

These guys were spraying the crowd.

Here is an eyeglass company. Note the guy with the microphone. These cars all had announcements too.

Looking back the other way.

Unfortunately they were not throwing watches.

We got some gummy bears. These were amazingly good.

Small groups of people that were riding the route for fun came through.

Another group. You can see Jean-Luc waiting to cross the street back there.

People started getting festive.

Now some fun "floats" started coming through. (Remember, these cars are all hauling ass.)

This guy was driving a go-cart with a huge lion on top of it.

These are for a grocery store. Miraculously they were not throwing canned goods.

I hope you're not getting tired of looking at these pictures yet!


Look at all the stuff Mick has! He as like a hockey goalie, just vacuuming up everything that came near him.


WTF! I'll bet this job looks good on a resume. "Ummm, yeah, and last summer I was a bottle of Panach."

Another huge rider came through.

By now you are thinking exactly what Mick and I were thinking... where the f*ck are the riders? All I can say is "Soiyez patient."

Now it got really fun. We have Laughing Cow cheese here in the US, and I eat it. I like it. But in France, it's very popular apparently. When these cars came through, everyone CHEERED.

"The cow who laughs."

Sorry dude, hanging your arm over the door of your giant, motorized bed does not make you look cool.


Sorry dude, only using one hand while driving your giant cup of hot chocolate does not make you look cool.

A water truck came by and wet down the road. We assumed this was to cool it, or clean it, in preparation for the riders. So we figured something was about to happen.

Four helicopters came in and landed behind the town.

And we all waited some more...

Lo and behold, there he is! The leader of the stage!

And this is probably the luckiest photo i've ever taken. I was pivoting around to follow him with the camera, and the shutter closed, and somehow it all worked out that he is in focus, and the background is blurry. Pretty neat.

And there he goes. But where are the rest of the riders? Where is the peleton?

Here they come!

There's the yellow jersey. He is the leader of the race overall.

And this is about it...

And the last guy. This all took about 15 seconds to go by. Seriously, it's one of the fastest sporting events I've ever seen.

These are all the support vehicles.

There are a LOT of them.

The final police and medical vehicles came through.

The helicopters flew away.

This LAST guy came through. He was easily ten minutes behind everyone else. Of course we have no idea why he was so late. For all we know he has a broken leg, but he was all alone, and very, very far behind. Poor guy.

In the next installment, you get to see a real French accordion player.

Thanks for looking.