The Tour de France is a multiple stage bicycle race that was first organized in 1903. Witnessing the Tour de France was an item on my cousin’s bucket list, and we were able to do just that on July 11th. The 2014 Tour de France honored the centennial anniversary of World War I. The race started in Leeds, UK and ended in Paris.
On July 11th, the race route went from Épernay to Nancy during one of the flat stages of the race. We picked the town of Flirey (about 30-45 minute drive from Metz), as the spot to watch the tour come through.
Planning to attend your self? Here are a few tips to make the most of watching the tour in person.
Have a Plan and Be Early
Once you decide which stage you want to watch, scope out the route and decide on the town you want to watch the race come through. All of this information can be found on the Tour de France website to help. You definitely want to show up a few hours before the race is scheduled to come thorugh your spot, as the roads close before and after the rides making it more difficult to travel. Since you are arriving early, be sure to pack snacks and games to keep you entertained as you hang out.
We opted to park along the side of the road into Flirey so we could see the race in action as opposed to the finish line.
Look Out for the Caravan and Helicopters
The caravan usually comes thorugh 30-45 minutes prior to the riders. All the caravan is a parade of sponors of the Tour de France in which many throw pelt you with treats from their floats or cars, so be on the lookout for flying objects or you will get hit in the face (trust me!). The goodies include candies, keychains and other souvenir trinkets from the race. Some are extremely sought after (like the cycle caps) so make sure you keep your eyes open for those.
When you start to see helicopters, keep on an eye on them. They’ll give you a great idea of where they majority of the riders are located as they wind down the road towards you.
Don't Get in the Way
There usually aren’t any barriers to keep you from the riders on the mountain passes or the small roads, but it is really important to stay out of the way of the racers. Your selfie with profesional cyclers hurling towards you is not worth the road burn. And make sure you keep your toes off the road as the riders will take up every inch of asphaplt. Your job is to watch the race and cheer them on – not for 15 minutes of fame.
If you ever in France during the Tour, I highly recommend trying to go witness this annual event in person it is pretty spectacular.
What’s the best sporting event you have witnessed?
Situated along the Moselle and Seille rivers is Metz, France, the capitol of Lorraine region, which is located in northern France at the the tripoint of France, Germany, and Luxembourg. This is where my cousin lives and studies with Georiga Tech Lorraine.
The city has a rich history with a mix of French and German culture, and its historic city centre is one of the largest commercial pedestrian areas in France. We spent the day exploring the top sights of the city! With such a rich history, and so close to two other countries, this city needs to be on your places to visit as you travel across Europe.
Saint-Étienne de Metz
Saint-Étienne de Metz, or the Metz Cathedral, is historic Roman Catholic church located only a few blocks off the Moselle River. Construction on this beautiful building began in 1220 and was completed in 1550. The cathedral has the largest nave, central aisle, in the world and the largest expanse of stained glass in the world with 69,920 sq ft, which attritbuted to the cathedral’s nickme la Lanterne du Bon Dieu or Good Lord’s Lantern. If you only visit one place in all of Metz, it should be the Saint-Étienne de Metz.
Porte des Allemands
Porte des Allemands is a 13th century bridge castle and city gate located along the Seille River. It is also one of the last medieval bridge castles found in France.
Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains
Saint Pierre-aux-Nonnains, which is believed to be France’s oldest church, dates back to the 4th century. It originally served as a Roman gymnasium in the 380 AD as part of a spa complex. It was coverted to a Benedictine nunnery in the 7th century AD.
Chapelle des Templiers de Metz
According to tradition, the Knights Templar who came to Metz in 1133 built the chapel between 1180 and 1220. It is the only example of a rotunda chruch existing in Lorraine today.
Temple Neuf de Metz
The Temple Neuf de Metz was construced from 1901 to 1905, during a period of time when the region of Lorraine was controlled by Germany. The church is located on a small island in the Moselle River.
What is your favorite off-the-beaten-path city in France?
Versailles is a suburb of Paris, located about 12 miles from Point Zero, and it served as the seat of political power from 1682 to 1789. The Palace is open for tours every day, except Mondays, from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm; and the gardens and parks are open every day from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm. (Trust me on the Monday thing – we figured this one out the hard way.) I recommend getting there a little before or at the time the gates open or else you will have to wait for a while. The Palace can get full quickly making it difficult to see some of the artifacts, so the earlier the better. I also recommend purchasing the Passport ticket for 20€, which provides you access to the most amount of things while you are on the estate.
Getting to Versailles
The train is the easiest and cheapest method of traveling to Versailles. The ride is generally about 20 minutes and costs 7€ for a round-trip ticket. You will be riding along the RER C line towards Versailles-Rive Gauche. Conveniently, that is your stop and the last one on the line so you can’t miss it. Just follow the signs for the chateau, which is about a five-minute walk from the station.
The Palace contains 2,300 rooms and is around 679,784 square feet in size. During your visit you will get the chance to explore, the King’s State and Private Apartments, the Queen’s State and Private Apartments, a series of other apartments, a walk through The Museum of the History of France, the famous Hall of Mirrors. The whole tour takes around 1.5 hours, but plan for more time if it is a crowded day (Tuesdays and weekends).
The Gardens are located to the west of the Palace and be viewed from the Hall of Mirrors.
Louis XIV started the process of laying out the gardens in 1661. The whole process took around 40 years to create and consists of 800 hectares. The “tour” around the gardens takes around 2 hours. The plus side is the gardens are open every day, so you if you just want to see these then go on Monday when the palace is closed. I recommend heading down to the Great Lawn and grabbing an ice cream cone before you start exploring. If you
The Estate of Trianon
The Estate of Trianon is home to the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon palaces, as well as additional ornamental gardens. Unfortunately, this Estate is also closed on Monday so we missed the chance to see inside. But our walks along the Palace grounds lead us to these estates. The Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon construction began under Louis XIV but is most closely associated with Queen Marie-Antoinette, the wife Louis XVI. The estate was constructed to provide the royal family a bit of respite and privacy from life at the palace.
Notre-Dame de Paris is one of the most popular cathedrals in all of France, and even the world, so seeing this place was at the top of my list during my time in Paris. In addition to seeing this spectacular piece of archeticure, don’t miss Point Zero or the geographic center of Paris.
Notre-Dame de Paris is open every day, and the admission is free. Construction on the cathedral started in 1163 and were completed in 1345, and its one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Pictures alone cannot describe the beauty of this building. Don’t miss the incredible rose windows and the organ.
In addition to amazing archeticture, the cathedral also offers amazing views of the city. The cost of admission is 10€ and the towers are open from 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM during the summer. The entrance for the tour is on the Rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame. On the tour, you climb up the 422 steps to get to the top South Touwer, but you also get to walk along the Chimera gallery. Our recommendation is to go at dusk, you get to see the city in daylight and then watch the sun set over the city of lights.
The Archaeological Crypt
Under the square in front of Notre-Dame, you will find The Archaeological Crypt of the Paris Notre-Dame. Created in 1965, the crypt offers a unique insight into the urban and archetectural developemtn of Île de la Cité. The admission fee is 8€ and the tour generally lasts 30 minutes. The tour covers the history of Paris starting with the Roman town of Lutetia all the way to 19th century. It is definitely worht the visit.