The food is extraordinarily good: caillete cevenole, 7 hour lamb, cheese, dessert. The wine is a very tolerable Duché d’Uzès, a vin des copains which seems to improve as the evening progresses and supplies of which appear infinite. The band is as enthusiastic as the dancers. And the feux d’artifice, which heralds midnight and Bastille Day itself, are spectacular.
In the company of the usual copains, Jill and I had a great evening, but we were happy to climb the hill to rue de la Révolution at a reasonable hour because Bastille Day itself is very special this year. The circus – in the form of the Tour de France – is in town.
Jill and I have a grandstand view, courtesy of Doug and Lynne whose shop, Village Velo, lies directly on the route. (Many thanks for your hospitality and generosity.) The riders are scheduled to pass at around 13.00, but before then comes the Caravane, an endless succession of cars, trucks and curiously adorned vehicles of all kinds bearing the names of the sponsors of the Tour. We settle in with our wine and beers to cheer the more amusing efforts and to collect the freebies which are thrown at us at an alarming speed.
Then, the road goes quiet. Doug’s computer shows that the leaders are only minutes away. Some Brits unveil Union flags. I open a terrific bottle of Domaine Mirabel, a luscious red from Pic Saint Loup.
The beakaway group is upon us. Half a dozen riders, none of whom will figure in the final stage placings, race past in a couple of seconds. Another pause. The peloton appears on the bend, and speeds towards us. We see Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome and cheer them on, but their focus is total. The concentration, the power, the speed is remarkable. And before one can find the camera app on the iPhone, they are gone. For St Quentin la Poterie, the Tour de France is over – probably for many years.
But for the St Quentinoises, it’s only just begun. More meat goes on the barbecue, more bottles are opened, more conversations with total strangers are initiated. It is a jour férié, after all, and tomorrow is Sunday, a day of rest. We’ll maybe wander into Uzès for lunch and – who knows? - I might write a blog about the events of the last couple of days.
Thought for the day: Joy Harper, who would have been with us for these events but who is currently in hospital in Nimes. I tried to give blood on Friday morning as a gesture of support but was refused because I was in England during the mad cow crisis. Instead, we have toasted often and are thinking of her always. Get well soon, Joy.