Day 7: Port Louis/Lorient
Tour de France Day, the sequel! Today, the fifth stage of the Tour de France begins across the bay from Port Louis in the city of Lorient. This gives us the chance to watch the start of a stage and compare it with a finish (from yesterday).
With some help from our local translator/guide (aka. Alan), we picked up a couple of loaves of bread from the Caucutts’ favorite boulongerie and ate breakfast back at their house. The bread lived up to the hype and the homemade jam was delicious.
We then took the bus, conviently located right across the street, to the ferry dock. The town of Port-Louis — which has only two stop signs (yes, two) — has a surprisingly well-run public transit system.
Despite Port Louis’ impressive transit system, the locals seemed to be a bit thrown off by the the influx of race fans as they were just trying to get to work. The first ferry filled up quickly, but a second arrived shortly thereafter and we grabbed a couple seats on the top section.
The Caucutts recently signed the lease for an apartment in Lorient that happens to be located about a five minute walk from where the Tour was getting started today. Although they are not yet fully moved in, we stopped by for Nate’s new apartment tour — not to be confused with THE Tour.
After checking out the Caucutt’s new place, we made the short walk to the “Athlete’s Village” and found a festival with a large main stage and an emcee introducing and promoting various things to the crowd. There was music and sponsor booths to get/win free crap, which are always fun. We attempted to enter the official hospitality area, but discovered that area is reserved for the sponsors, team guests, and fancy-pants people who bought tickets.
The same sponsor parade that we saw during yesterday’s race also runs at the starting line. But, as Hannah so wisely put it, “We saw this yesterday. We don’t need more.” Instead, we avoided the throngs of people and walked along the park several blocks south of the starting line to reach a quieter area along the route.
When we arrived, we found a bakery and sandwich shop to meet our snacking needs. We ate and relaxed as we awaited the start time. We were positioned near a curve in the road after a bridge so we figured that might look cool.
The start of each stage features a “controlled start” where the riders warm up. They aren’t truly racing until they reach a point later down the road from where we were observing. Even so, they are biking as fast as you’d be driving a car on these same roads, if not faster. Here are the videos from our vantage point(s): Video 1 | Video 2
When the very exciting minute concluded, we made our way through the fishing district of Lorient to board a different ferry back to Port Louis. This boat didn’t have a top deck, but it still allowed for some pretty good views.
Back in Port Louis, we met at the sailing club and tried our hand at paddle boarding. After a quick lesson, I was up and paddling. Matt not so much, but he gave it a good shot. We paddled around Lorient Harbor for a couple of hours. There is a very nice view, and while difficult, it is quite peaceful as well.
We were able to relax a bit before dinner at Le Tan’Pouce, a restaurant specializing in mussels convientiently located right on the water. Alex translated the menu for us and taught us a key trick in how to use one shell to pick the mussles out of the others. She made sure we knew not to eat the closed (dead) mussels so that we don’t get sick.
The name of Port Louis was established 400 years ago, but the town has been here for much longer. There are still clear remnants of this history. One is the giant city wall that surrounds the town. After dinner, we walked around (and on top of) the wall as the sun set, enjoying the views of the low tide.
We will depart Port Louis tomorrow, but plan to have breakfast with Nate and the kids one last time before we hit the road. A big thank you goes out to Nate, Alex, Alan and Hannah, who helped us plan, execute and thoroughly enjoy the last two days!