Day 1: Chicago to Lausanne
As with our previous trip to France, we started once again by taking shots of Chartreuse and eating some French flag-colored M&M’s (so lucky they sell those in the US!). We made our way to O’Hare for a 3:50pm flight. Despite gambling with basic economy tickets, we were seated together with extra legroom and the flight went off without a hitch.
We landed in Zurich a little early, giving us some leeway before or our connecting flight. We overcame our minor jet lag and breezed through customs (got a real stamp!) to find the correct gate once it was announced. The flight from Zurich to Geneva only took 35 minutes in the air, during which time Matt grabbed the Swiss Sky magazine and thumbed to the maps section, whereupon he noticed the town of Lausanne was only about 50 miles from Geneva…
“I’m pretty sure stage 8 of the Tour de France ends later today in Switzerland in a town called Lausanne, right?”(yes it does) “According to this map, that’s really close to Geneva.”(it is!) “But I thought Lucern was further away.” (that totally different city sure is!) “Are there multiple spellings of Lucern because of different languages?”(nope!) “What about Luzern?”(another different city and nope again!) Are these all the same city?”(DEFINITELY NOT!) “Well regardless, seems like we should hop a train and definitely go to Lausanne!”(yes indeed!)
If fortuitous map-reading wasn’t enough, arriving at the hotel three hours before check-in did the trick, so we proceeded to venture out. Taking the train from Geneva Airport to Geneva City Center was quick and easy (with a free transit pass from Ibis). But for Lausanne, figuring out what train to take and how to buy a ticket was a bit trickier. Also, as noted above it is super important to know that while Lausanne is pronounced like “Lucerne” (we think), it is an entirely different city from both Lucerne and Luzern. We eventually figured this out, bought the correct ticket, and found a train that got us there.
From the Lausanne train station, we wandered towards where the final kilometers of the stage would be winding through the city. The streets were decked out in celebration of the Tour. We eventually found the Fan Zone where we ordered a duck sandwich and coffee for lunch. Jo’s Tour de French Foods has officially begun.
Making our way back down the climb, we found a grassy and somewhat shady spot to hang out until the TdF Caravan arrived. As loyal blog readers know, the caravan is basically a Mardi Gras parade with sponsor cars/trucks/vans driving the route ahead of the cyclists and throwing swag at the crowd, usually courtesy of enthusiastic French 20-somethings harnessed to the vehicles for their safety.
Today’s caravan haul: 2 E’Leclerc King of the Mountain t-shirts, 1 King of the Mountain flag, 1 King of the Mountain hat, 1 yellow jersey hat, 1 metal bike keychain/bottle opener, an espresso pod for an espresso machine we don’t own, 2 packs of cheese crackers, and a luggage tag. We also spun a wheel at the EF booth in the Fan Zone and nabbed a drawstring backpack and a passport holder. Education First, people!!!
Once the entire Caravan passed, the Tour soon followed. From our location at the 2km banner, we busted out our cameras and the Cubs W flag. Obviously not a traditional TdF flag one would see in France, but definitely the right choice when you are trying to speak to a subset of friends who are both Cubs fans and know who Wout van Aert is.
As a bonus, it turns out that the white W flag is pretty easy to spot on camera (we’ll have to do better than the split second we got on air today). And oh (spoiler alert), Wout Van Aert ended up winning the stage, so our flag was totally appropriate.
After the last riders passed, we walked back down to the train station. We successfully figured out which train would get us back to Geneva the quickest and without requiring a train change along the route. We stopped in the hotel to officially check in, then left again to eat dinner. Last time we were here, we tried a burger place called “Holy Cow,” so this time, we had to try the competition, “Burger Factory.” After determining that Burger Factory is in fact delicious, we took a quick stroll to the waterfront before returning to the hotel.
Tomorrow, we meet our Alpine Chaingang group at the Geneva airport and drive over to France where we will stay for the remainder of the trip. Tomorrow should be a relatively uneventful travel day, and biking starts Monday!