Europe 2013, Part 2: Venice and Le Tour

Venice

You can see all 54 pictures from Venice or the best 8 (mixed with the best pictures from elsewhere on our trip).

From Krk, Croatia we left Amy, Brian, Melanie, and Martin and struck out on our own. We drove back through Slovenia and into Italy. We dropped the rental car off at the Venice airport (on the mainland) and took a shuttle bus to the edge of the islands that make up Venice. From there it was a short walk to our lodging.

As with any city where real estate is at a premium, hotels in Venice are expensive. We chose to rent a room via Airbnb. Nothing special, but it was only $122 per night. Our hostess was friendly. All in all, a positive experience.

Venice at night

Venice! Everyone has seen pictures or movies. I loved seeing it in person and I enjoyed our time here. The city is a maze of canals, bridges, and curving streets. We spent our day and a half here exploring, eating, and drinking wine. We went on a cicchetti and wine walking tour for lunch (cicchetti are small appetizers, similar to Spanish tapas). It was fun, though the high price wasn’t quite justified. The food + walking + wine (especially) led to a multi-hour nap. We ventured out again in the evening and had dinner at a pleasant outdoor cafe along a busy canal.

Two or three full days here would have been better, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Tour de France

You can see all 13 pictures from Le Tour.

From Venice we flew to Barcelona, rented a car, bought some groceries, and set a course for the Pyrenees. I totally dig mountains and I’m happy I got to see the Pyrenees. They’re striking. Dark. Each subsequent peak higher than the one in front of it.

We stayed the night in a hotel in the small country of Andorra, on the border between France and Spain. Andorra, by the way, is basically a big ski town. The next day I made Emily wake up early and we headed into France to see the mountaintop finish of stage 8 of the Tour de France. We parked our car at the base of the mountain, in the town of Ax-les-Thermes, and rode the convenient gondola lift to the ski resort of Ax 3 Domaines at the top of the mountain.

Truth be told, I made Emily wake up a good bit earlier than needed. We would need to wait eight hours before the riders would arrive… so we had some time to kill. We wandered around, Emily bought a t-shirt, we ate the food we’d bought the previous day (Nuttela sandwiches, in honor of Renaud). We walked half a kilometer down the mountain and found a place along the road to watch from. The final kilometer of each mountaintop finish on Le Tour is typically lined with fences to keep out the riffraff. Consequently the riffraff tends to congregate just below this. We were safely above the riffraff, which was maybe less fun, but was calm and we had a great view.

The tour is a serious operation. Many trucks, many workers. Preceding the riders is a publicity caravan of the sponsors of the race. They throw random souvenirs at you—hats, a T-shirt, some bad beignets, coupons, etc. Then a lull. Then team cars, neutral equipment cars, police, camera motorbikes, and finally the riders! After waiting all day, it’s quite exciting. Stage 8 was the first day Froome broke away from the rest of the GC contenders. He claimed first on the stage and wore the yellow jersey for the rest of the tour, eventually winning by 4 minutes and 20 seconds.

One of the last groups of riders

As the last of the riders came through we walked five miles down the mountain to our car. At this finish there isn’t enough room for the team buses at the top, so the riders zip down the same road they just ascended, even as other riders are ascending and pedestrians are making their way downward. It felt very dangerous to me.

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