Saturday, August 11, 2012

Winnebago Nights (Part Six)

After 2 relaxing days at Saint Bertrand de Comminges, we headed to La Mongie which was about an hour away to watch Stage 16 of the Tour. It is one of the most sought after stages because the riders would be going up the Col du Tourmalet which is one of France's highest mountains. And with such a steep incline, the bikers would be going slow enough for people to cheer on and maybe even run along with. La Mongie is the ski resort town that is located on the Col du Tourmalet.

After the boys did their research and plotted our course, we reached the town and found that we were already a bit late. There were no parking spaces available in town so we ended up in a parking lot a bit down the hill. It was almost empty which we thought was really lucky for us. It would be a little bit of a climb to walk back up into town, but with such a scenic view, it would be worth the extra effort.

La Mongie is a typical ski resort. Since it was summer, many of the ski shops were closed, but the restaurants were all bustling with activity. We decided to do our first and only touristy thing which was to ride the Pic du Midi cable car. It was not cheap! It cost 32 euros per person to ride it. Its a 2 part cable ride. The first takes you halfway up, then everyone gets out to go up the next one. When we reached the top, which was around 2877 meters up, it was surreal. Since we went so far up, I thought it would only be an observation deck with nothing more. But once you step out, you see a restaurant, a children's play area, a sun dial and lots of room for people to sit under the sun and enjoy the scenery. When I looked over the ledge, my legs turned to jelly. We were SO high up, it literally was like you were on a plane. I had never been so high up in my life before other than on a plane. I had to make a few more tries before I could keep my gaze downwards and take in the distance! We checked out the awesome scenery and after a few minutes I wasn't feeling very good. I looked at Hubby and he said he was feeling a bit yucky too. I think we actually got a bit of altitude sickness! Because we were feeling less than average, we decided not to hang out there much longer and took the cable car back down.

Beer that they served where we had lunch. What's with the kid drinking beer as their logo???

View of La Mongie coming down from the cable car.

A small river that runs through the town.

We had a bit of a look around some more after we got off the cable car, had some drinks then headed back to our happy van. We thought surely, by the time we get back there would be much more cars parked in the parking lot. But when we reached it, there were only a few more. Although it was nice to see that we weren't in a crowded parking lot, we started to wonder what was going on. After some more research by the boys they realize we were on the wrong side of the mountain! No wonder there was no one in the parking lot. Oh well, so that means the bikes will be ZOOMING past us at top speed from where we were parked.

Our empty parking lot.

Another fabulous meal created from our happy van. This time we finally used the pan and cooked a few steaks.

The next day we went back up into town again. Originally M and I were just going to hang out near our van and cheer the bikes on from there, but because we were on the wrong side, we decided to walk into town too. Since I didn't get to have my cheese filled meal when we were in Geneva, we choose a restaurant that served raclette. I was introduced to raclette many years ago while still living in Manila. I fell in love with it. I love melted cheese, and to actually eat it as a meal was heaven. Then when we went to Zurich a few years ago, I think I ordered raclette every chance I got. But the raclette I had this time was an experience in and of itself. The raclette cheese came attached to this medieval looking contraption that plugged into the wall. Once the heat started melting the huge half wheel of cheese, you just scrapped off as much as you want and eat it with all the accompaniments. If only I wasn't feeling so constipated I would have had MUCH more. haha!

Our half wheel of cheese attached to a torture-like machine to melt it.

Mouth watering cheese melting onto our plate.

After lunch the boys started their hike up to the top of the mountain and M and I stayed behind like last time and waited for the sponsor trucks to come around. But unlike last time, most of the trucks zoomed past, didn't slow down, had no one on it, was having lunch or just looked too tired to do anything. Only a few chucked things out and we were more than happy that the one item we really wanted came our way and we both got one! Oh, it was a cow key chain. Really cute.

After the trucks all left the waiting game began again and we eagerly anticipated the sound of the helicopters. What seemed like ages past and finally it all happened at once. The helicopters came, we waved like mad, the bikes zoomed past in clusters, our man Cadel Evans zoomed past, or at least we think it was him and the "finish" van drove past to indicate that was it folks.

An overly friendly mule checking out the meal being eaten by the folks at this camper van parked on the side street into town.

It was a bit of the usual adrenaline rush to watch the bikes go past and it was a calming stroll back down the mountain to our happy van. On the way down, we took the time to watch the scenery and finally noticed the graffiti along the concrete walls. One said Gladiator Lance and the other said Armstrong dope. We think the second one was talking about the doping allegations Lance Armstrong is currently facing. Its a bit of a reality check.

After we got back we waited for the boys. It was great listening to all they saw up at the top. It was packed! There was so much people there was hardly any room for the bikes to go through. Hubby had originally wanted to run along Cadel with his crazy wig or his Sloth mask from the Goonies movie. But since there was just so many people, there just wasn't much room to run next to anyone. Cadel also rides with his team surrounding him, so no point running next to them.

Happy with yet another day at the Tour, we went back to Saint Bertrand de Comminges for one more night. By this time the boys realized their man Cadel Evans would be out of the running for first place, so we started plotting our way back to Frankfurt. It was Wednesday by then and we were at the southern part of France. Frankfurt is up north. It would take us at least one whole day of driving to get there. Had Cadel redeemed himself and got back into the game, we would definitely have planned on going to the final stage at Paris on the way back. But with Cadel being 6 minutes behind, it would take a total wipe out for Wiggins in order for Cadel to get back into the game.

So we decided next stop will be to check out Stage 17 which was on the way back, go past Metz and maybe Luxemburg.

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