I know it’s been a long time since our last post. Not a lot of action, lately, to report. But, just to let you know that we haven’t forgotten about you, I thought that I should at least post a little something to fill the gap. Here it goes …
In the time we’ve lived in France, we have learned a few undisputed truths: 1. The natural talent which the French have for rapid, intense, and exceedingly lengthy conversations cannot be overestimated, 2. The bise (kissing on the cheek) is a cultural ritual held in such high esteem by the French that it easily outmatches any American beliefs in the sanctity of owning a car or a Bruce Springsteen album, 3. French pastries are what your soul has been craving all of your life, and 4. The French absolutely adore a good bicycle race.
And it is the last truism I’d like to briefly explore. This is, in part, because one of our readers quietly expressed their disappointment that I had missed the opportunity to report on this year’s Tour de France. You know who you are. But also because it seems to be a not infrequent feature of life in France. One which, surprisingly, comes close to home.
The French are great enthusiasts about competitive bicycle racing. In fact, they adore all types of competitive sport. From informal Sunday afternoon games of boules played by a few locals in the village park, to internationally televised football (soccer) matches played by multi-millionaires. And everything in between. They love it all with equal fervor.
Our city of Fougères has hosted stages of the Tour de France in the past. It’s quite a coup to have a the course run through your town. So, when it was announced that the 4th stage of the 108th edition of the most elite bicycle race in the world was going to end in Fougères, the city was justly proud. For several months before the race, everything here was Tour de France. Clothes, key rings, advertising, the tourist office, the excitement surrounding the event was at a fever pitch. Even the Château was brutally adorned with a giant yellow jersey stretched across the rampart. June 29th arrived, streets were closed, cars, busloads and RV’s of race enthusiasts jockeyed for space, and everyone was sporting those little cycling caps that neither keep your head warm, soak up sweat, keep the sun out of your eyes, nor make you look more attractive. Pointless, really. Nevertheless, cap bedecked cycle fans were teaming throughout the city.
As it happens, Cherie and I had to go south to Rennes so she could get her second COVID vaccination. When we arrived back in town that afternoon, the Tour mania was in full swing. We had no idea it was such a big deal. Apologies to those of you who are fans of bicycle races, but it’s just not our thing. Because of that, we simply continued on with working on the house, amidst the background din created by a world-class sporting event. Shame on us, I suppose. We probably should have taken greater interest. But we didn’t. So, yeah.
Later in the summer, the town closed off our street for a series of races. All of which were run in succession directly in front of our house. It, too, was a big event, albeit a purely local one. There were 8k, 18k and 26k courses winding through the streets of Fougères during a lovely late summer evening. It was kind of fun to watch all of the hullaballoo that goes along with such affaires. Our fellow citizens clearly enjoy the event and lots of encouragement was given to all of the runners. Surprisingly, part of the course ran right through the church of St. Leonard. We watched, bemused, as the runners trotted through the main doors of the church, down the nave, and out, somewhere, beyond.
Not to be outdone, last weekend our street was closed off again. This time to allow for the Tour de Bretagne. This particular tour is a major race in the national sporting calendar, running across the length and breadth of Brittany. The streets were filled with network TV trucks and their broadcast equipment, temporary communications towers, and the many, many team support vehicles which accompany the riders. In short: kind of a big deal! The course ran right past our house, so we again had front row seats. Although the advantage is wasted on us, we were happy to see many fans filling the front of our driveway, eager to support their favorite riders.
Even though neither of us are particularly interested in races, or sports in general, for that matter, we are conscious that lots and lots of people are. Clearly, this holds true for our neighbors in Fougères. The people here are very eager and supportive of sporting events in this city. That’s probably why this town seems to punch far above its weight in terms of attracting major competitions like the Tour de France. The excitement is infectious, even for us. So we can’t help but share a little pride in the place we now call home. For this, and so many other reasons!
We’ll be back with another post in the near future. Good health and happiness to all!