Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Etape du Tour - Day 1
Just returned from my four day trip to the Etape du Tour, and what a trip it was!
On Thursday morning I flew to Geneve via London with my friend David. Flights themselves were fairly uneventful, but the seeming endless security checks at the airport drag on a bit.
Once in Geneva, we loaded David's bike (in a case), plus our luggage into a taxi for the short trip to the hire dépôt where we'd arranged to hire a van. This proved to be our first introduction to what Switzerland is like – the trip of 2.8 km (1.7 miles) cost a staggering 50 Swiss Francs (£33, 42 Euros, US$51)!
Once at the dépôt we collected our van using a mixture of my broken French and the receptionist's broken English. So it was out onto the roads of Geneva in a left hand drive Renault Master. (I'd only once before driven an LHD car, and that was a lot easier than a big van.) link
I'd programmed my Sat Nav for the village we were staying in, and it insisted that the quickest route was via Geneva city centre, so I had fun driving an unfamiliar vehicle with restricted vision, reversed controls on the 'other' side of the road through busy traffic. However I did get to see Geneva's major landmark, the Jet d'eau familiar to anyone who remembers the 60s television series The Champions.
We arrived at the border, and were surprised to find it manned. Switzerland is probably the only country in Western Europe with a land border that isn't just a sign at the side of the road. The heavily armed border official signalled us to stop, so we explained (broken French again) that we were Scottish and were going to the Etape du Tour. He had a quick look in the back of the van, then signalled us to proceed.
We crossed into France and it was a fairly straightforward hour and a half or so to our base in Argentière, near Chamonix Mont-Blanc. We had arranged to stay in David's boss's apartment, so it was a case of find it, move our luggage in, go to the local shop for some food, and build up David's bike. The apartment had the most amazing view from its balcony.....