Americans have NASCAR, but France has a world-renowned race all its own: the Tour de France, which sees contestants ride around 2.200 miles (the exact route varies from year to year) through punishing terrain, putting themselves through what the New York Times describes as the equivalent of running marathon several days a week for three weeks. That’s hardcore!
This year, the Tour de France started on July 2nd in the seaside town of Le Barre-de-Monts. It will end in Paris on Sunday, July 24th.
Is it worth it to watch the Tour De France in person, in France? That depends on how much seeing it live is important to you. Some people feel that they can get a better view of the entire race by watching it on TV. However, while you may be able to see the action more clearly on your widescreen, you’ll miss out on the adrenaline rush that being right in the middle of an excited crowd of spectators can provide.
You’ll also miss out on the swag from the sponsor caravan, which rides a little bit ahead of the riders. The caravan throws bunches of goodies and small souvenirs to the waiting crowds. It’s a little bit like Mardi Gras with less booze and more clothing.
If you decide to go, here are a couple of tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience:
Get to the race area as early as possible. Some people even choose to camp out a few days in advance.
Remember is to stay out of the way of the bikes-there are no fences or barriers, and you don’t want to get run over!
Check the Tour de France website for detailed information on each stage of the race, including facts about the towns the race will run through and nearby tourist attractions.
Since the race doesn’t end until July 24th, there’s still time for you to plan a last-minute trip, as long as you have a passport.
If you don’t have a valid passport, you’ll need to get an express passport before you leave the country. The Department of State’s express passport service won’t get your passport there fast enough, either- it takes 2 to 3 weeks door-to-door.
If you’d like to get an express passport before the 24th, you have two options available to you: make an appointment at one of the country’s 24 regional passport agency offices, or use a private passport expediting company to submit your express passport application on your behalf. The option that is right for you will depend on your ability to take time off work and possibly travel to a regional passport agency office, among other factors.
Alison Kroulek is a freelance writer and blogger with a focus on the travel industry.
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