on a touring holiday of Provence...
which is a beautiful area of France...
The tour was called A Taste of Provence and that was what we were given.The itinerary covered more kilometres than I cared to count. Unfortunately this meant daily doses of sitting on a coach together with a group of over forty people.
Since Mr A's stem cell transplant this is not the best of environments for him. We opted out of the last two days and, while he sat around the hotel coughing and sneezing and generally feeling grot, I got to see a little more of Avignon than the tour itinerary had allocated.
He managed a slow stroll for Sunday lunch in Avignon's beautiful Place de l'Horloge. We sat in the leafy shade of a street café and watched as the locals closed off the entire length of the main street, turning it into a fabulous bicycle race track.
After lunch children swarmed from all directions with an array of bikes and fancy helmets, followed by proud mothers, fathers, grandparents and babies in pushchairs. Each bike race was accompanied by a brass band ensemble and enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.
But this was no 'stroll in the park'. There was a pacemaker, the route was long and hard, with the number of laps increasing as the older children took to the track. No child was allowed to drop out, even those who fell off at the start of races [and there were many who did, especially among the younger groups]. Each child was lifted back onto their bikes and pushed off to rejoin the race. We all cheered really loudly for those peddling like crazy at the back.
You could tell from the atmosphere that everyone was having a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday afternoon but I couldn't help feeling that there was a serious side to it too. These children were being taught to 'stick at it' to 'not drop out' to 'push themselves to their limit' to 'work as a team'. It was a fascinating insight into the French cycle racing psyche and, although we were both disappointed at having to miss the last two days of our Provence tasters, we were pleased to have experienced an afternoon with the locals.
Mr A. is now well on the mend... but my throat feels just a tad... [coughs pathetically]