Europe is a fantastic place to visit because of the unexpected things that happen there.
All we knew about the campsite my sister-in-law had reserved was that it was in the French Alps somewhere. Le Grand Bornand turned out to be a beautiful village nestled at the foot of majestic mountains … almost as beautiful as the peaks that rise above Haines Junction.
The campground was very basic … with a pool, a restaurant and a ping pong table. OK, that might not be basic for the Yukon, but it is for Europe, which is another reason it’s a fantastic place to travel.
Our campsite was separated from the road into town by a row of tall shrubs. Soon after we arrived, we heard that the Tour de France would be passing through Le Grand Bornand during our stay there.
Couldn’t have planned it better!
The night before the Tour was scheduled to arrive, we woke up in the middle of the night to the sound and vibration of big, semi trucks, rumbling past our campsite into the village.
Truck after truck made the earth move under our sleeping bags. In the morning, the town had been transformed. The Tour brings it’s own circus of concessions, huge screen TVs, offices and “Le Tour” paraphernalia.
It basically rolls into town and sets itself up just hours before the cyclists arrive. In addition, the town itself, known for its cows, had built straw cows riding bicycles, which were positioned all around the town.
By mid afternoon, we had to choose which side of the road to be on – the village side, or the campground side, as we couldn’t cross over once the barriers were set up.
We chose the campground side, and were able to crawl through the hedge behind our campsite for a very front row seat of Le Tour.
For the next two hours, we watched the cavalcade of sponsor’s cars and “floats” pass by, throwing out hats, balloons, T-shirts and candy. We ended up with quite a stash!
Word kept passing through the crowd that the cyclists were on their way. Finally, we could see them coming … a quick blur of colour … and the front runners had passed us.
Did we see Lance Armstrong go by? Well, I saw a blur of yellow that I think was him.
By the time the front runners passed us, we’d been standing in the hot sun for several hours. I’d had enough, but my husband stayed to watch the rest of the cyclists whiz by.
It was quite an event. Later that day, as the energy in the village started to fade, we ate Tour de France burgers, gathered up the stash of paraphernalia we’d collected, and packed up the Tour de France cycling jerseys we’d bought.
Now, when life gets a little boring, well, I just put on my Tour de France jersey and hop on my bike to remind me of that amazing day in the French Alps, when Lance Armstrong streaked by just feet from where I was standing.
Meg Walker is a writer and visual artist living in Dawson City.