It is not at all odd in Paris and in France to see someone riding a bike and smoking a cigarette at the same time, in fact it is commonplace. It is hard to imagine that a city like Paris with its sophisticates, pack-a-day smokers and coffee drinkers could get so excited every year over a sporting event and turnout in droves to watch über healthy athletes race across the city and up the length of the Champs Elysées to the finish line near the Arc de Triomphe every year, but show up they do.
Parisians with their lithe physiques and sometimes malnourished looks are deceptively ‘sportif’ and just as crazy about their sports and national teams as the Brits or Italians or any other European country. This year’s tour, riding right on the heels of the French Open and Paris’ Fashion Week (which in many circles is considered a sport), will draw thousands of spectators from around the world as well as from Paris to the Champs Elysées. Some of these folks are diehard cycling fans, some just want to get a glimpse of history being made and have a gander at the omnipresent and legendary Lance Armstrong, others come looking for any excuse to down a few beers with friends in the open air. Still more show up just wanting a chance to buy a copy of the yellow ‘maillot’ (jersey shirt) which is bestowed every year upon the tour’s winner.
Le Tour de France, probably more than any other sporting event in France, taps into the French nationalistic pride, showcasing some of the country’s most positive attributes – like its diverse regions and scenery, while at the same time highlighting its egalitarian values – after all you don’t have to know anyone or pay to watch the final stretch of this – one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. All you have to do is show up anywhere along the Champs Elysées starting from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe in the late morning or early afternoon on the 26th of July and watch the teams cross the finish line. Hang out a little bit longer to see the awarding of the ‘maillot’ by the mayor of Paris then race off to the cafes and pubs for the evening’s festivities. No special VIP parties… any old pub will do.
Métro stops to view the tour:
Ligne 1 – George V
Ligne 1 – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Ligne 1 – Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau
Ligne 9 – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Ligne 13 – Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau
Photo courtesty of Celso Flores/Creative Commons