Warning: it’s a longer one today. Also, for those of you grammar police out there I apologize in advance. I wrote today in a combination of as it happens and what just happened. If the switching of tenses gets you worked up (Sarah Parsons?) just skim ahead to the pics.
So today is a selfish day. When I went to bed last night I had concluded that this was not my time. But this morning I had an unsettled feeling, in the words of the late Robin Williams, it was a Carpé Diem type feeling. Tour de France, I’m coming!!
And so, a quick scramble to put together a day-pack for my big adventure and I was out the door in a flash. Walking with determination and purpose I knew that I could shave at least 10 minutes off the suggested 52 minute walk to the train station. And I did despite over shooting it quite substantially and facing a dauntingly vertical staircase.
I felt good about my increased heart rate and early morning sweat considering that I’ll spend the better part of 7 hours today on a train. But oh the anticipation!!!
Arrived hot & sweaty at the station in Lugano with 10 minutes to spare until my train.
10 minutes quickly turned into 1 hour as I experienced my very first Swiss train cluster. Quick to blame it on the Italians I watched as the platform grew busier and busier while soon-to-be passengers grew angrier and angrier.
The ride to Zurich is long but beautiful. I was growing more & more anxious to arrive in Bern.
The delayed train messed up the whole schedule. I attempted a sprint to catch a connecting train but got caught behind some blue hairs so missed it by 20 seconds. Gah!!
Next train was in 20 minutes. Enough time to grab a bite. I am embarrassed by how much of a shit-show I was here. My mission was to buy a yummy drink to begin my little personal bucket-list celebration and food. Went to 2 shops then to the platform to await the train. Had a sinking gut feeling that my phone wasn’t in my bag. Did a quick check, panic mounting and indeed – no phone. Holy shit. How is it that when travelling with my family I am able to keep track of everyone else’s stuff plus my own. Give me a day alone and I am a hot mess.
Train is arriving in 4 minutes, que the sprint to retrace my steps while madly, silently praying for a miracle. First stop no luck, second stop, thank heavens, the sweet angel from behind the counter had my phone safely tucked away. I thanked her profusely in every language I sort-of know and sprinted my ass back to the platform.
This is not how this day is supposed to be going? Why am
I channeling the frazzled? How have I become the flappable, sprinting, sweaty tourist?
Here’s hoping my wine on the train will help reign that mess in. Wine does that right?
The train ride to Bern from Zurich wasn’t all that inspired. Not unlike the drive between Calgary & Edmonton, flat, mostly straight, not much to see. It had me wondering how tough the route would have been for today’s riders. Slackers.
Then we neared Bern and I caught a glimpse of the Alp’s to the west. Whoa. My bad, it was clearly a tough day!
Upon arriving I was surprised/disappointed by the lack of TdF paraphernalia. (To be honest I had hoped the train ride into Bern would have had a festival feel complete with cow bells and face paint – nope…) Certainly not like Stampede where there are white hats, plaid & cowboy boots everywhere you look. I suppose it’s a little trickier to encourage the entire professional population to dress in spandex and yellow in celebration for the week…
Once out of the train station I did see an “official” TdF booth so headed straight there. Asked the pretty lady inside where to see the race. In impeccable French snobbery and accent she said “I have no idea. Take that bus.” Really? And you work in the official booth?
I hopped on said bus, along with a whole pile of bewildered gawkers and off we went. Crowded busses on a super hot day are not a pleasant experience – just saying…
You could tell we were growing nearer to the action by the increased amount of pedestrians & cyclists and by the fact that the bus was now barely moving. Knowing it was a short window of time before the riders arrived I had a vision of us all being trapped on the bus, stuck in traffic and missing the whole thing. One also overheating rider begged the driver “could you just let us off?” To which he got a curt “nein!”
When we did finally get to disembark I hustled along with the flow of traffic. All the walking since we arrived has been great training for this moment. I was able to overtake loads of people with my speed walking. (Picture the Olympic style speed walkers. I could contend.)
As I arrived at the stadium for the finish line I saw that no amount of sweet smiles and “Entschuldigungs” were going to get me to the front of the barricade. (That’s German for “sorry”. Did I mention I’m super fluent now…) the barricades were a dozen people deep so I hustled my way down route to a better vantage point.
I settled in at about the 300 metre mark, still right in the action and waited for the riders to come in. It was a mere 10-15 minutes and they arrived. So exciting. And fast. It was thrilling to be there to see it all unfold. This video shows the leader pack racing to the finish. can you spot the yellow jersey?
In hindsight I wish I had been able to witness it a little further down route. The hour train delay in the morning didn’t leave me with too many options, nor did the super helpful info-booth lady. It wasn’t my goal to see them cross the finish but I suppose that’s what most people want to see. A pretty little winding street or through a town square would have been my preference but with just 10 minutes leeway it was a miracle I saw it at all!
The return hot bus ride didn’t appeal so I chose to walk back to the train station. Google assured me is was a mere 35 minutes. Once again aware of how much time I’d be sitting on a train today (pushing 8 hours not 7) another brisk walk was the best choice. Plus this way I got a quick glimpse of how pretty Bern is. Manolo has another cousin here so I hope we can return for a less hurried visit.
(I have some pics to add here but can’t get them uploaded while on the train. Will post them tomorrow.)
I was once again struck by how well dressed and put together everyone was here. And feeling really quite awful for them. The poor impeccably dressed men, in sweltering heat, still wearing tailored trousers (no one wears pants here, slacks on the weekend perhaps but trousers otherwise.) and remarkably fitted dress shirts with most likely hand crafted leather shoes. The ladies definitely have more freedom and I am yet again inspired to don a floral skirt & heels for my next bike ride.
All in all it was really good that I took on this day alone, without dragging the family along. It was a lot of rushing, a lot of waiting and a whole lot of sweating for a few mere moments in the presence of these elite athletes. The endurance these riders have blows my mind. I’m a two-hour ride kind of gal. And that is rare. Back home, a typical ride for me was closer to the one hour mark which I squeeze in when possible, on a good day, as my ride home from work. On the rare occasion I could squeeze in 2 or more hours I felt like a rock star and promptly rewarded my efforts with beer a burger and ice cream. Perhaps not the training regiment of a TdF rider…
So one exciting check mark on my bucket list today. Two actually…this whole year is a big giant bucket-list experience. Living abroad takes a lot of faith and courage (and incredibly supportive family where you’re headed is HUGE); it’s not easy to walk away from everything that is safe and secure. But our goal in life shouldn’t be the pursuit of safe & secure. Or perhaps that’s an entitled first-world opinion. There are millions in this world who would risk everything in pursuit of safe & secure. So let me rephrase that; the opportunity to try something completely new and a whole lot scary with your family is worth taking that leap of faith. These are the moments we feel truly alive.