Harrogate: le Tour de France se prépare

Knaresborough Market Place.
Knaresborough Market Place.

Off to Harrogate today, via Knaresborough, which has just been voted Best Dressed Town ahead of the Tour de France.  It’s done a fine job.  The whole town is festooned with bunting: not the signature knitted-yellow-jersey bunting favoured all over the rest of the district, but hundreds upon hundreds of white T-shirts, decorated by the schoolchildren of the town.  It all looks very festive, and combined with a yellow bike trail to send you bike-spotting down every street and in every shop window, it’s made for a fine community effort.  I still have a soft spot for red-spotted Hawes however, which we visited last week.  But Knaresborough’s Mayor has tricked out his house in red spots too.

Knaresborough's spotted house on a busy corner.
Knaresborough’s spotted house on a busy corner.

Harrogate though.  What a shock.  We were diverted away from West Park Stray, and once we’d  parked up, we discovered why.  This usually car-filled thoroughfare was a pedestrian-only zone.  No, that’s not true.  There were no cars, but instead, huge articulated lorries, buses, media vehicles from all over Europe, Tour de France  vehicles so large that no ordinary parking place could accommodate them.  There was even an immense lorry whose purpose was to offer, at just the right moment, 3 rows of tiered seats for about 3 dozen spectators.  All this circus came from the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Germany…. but above all, from France.

All around us, busy teams of workmen and women, technicians, electricians, craftspeople, media types rushed busily around, talking in the main in French.  We spotted registration plates from Val-de-Marne; le Nord; Pas-de-Calais; even the Haute Garonne, the next door département to the Ariège.  And suddenly, I was assailed by homesickness.  It was just like being back in France.  There was even a marquee filled with one particular team of workers sitting down together and sharing a midday meal.  That really whisked us back.  We wandered about, listening in, and engineering conversations with any French type taking a breather.  England’s nice, we’re given to understand, but our motorways are a nightmare.  We know.

But this immense team is only one of several.  There are others in Leeds, in York, in Sheffield, Cambridge and London, the other five towns where the three English stages begin or end.  I’d never previously understood quite what an industry the Tour de France really is.

Local teams from Harrogate itself had already uprooted many of the town’s pride and joy, its colourful flower-beds, in favour of providing viewing platforms for spectators who want to see the Race finish there on Day One.  I expect it was the right decision.  No self-respecting flowers could survive the expected onslaught, and the beds that remain look particularly magnificent.

When we’d looked around for a while, we nipped into a supermarket for some odds and ends we’d forgotten.  This is what the fresh produce department looked like……….

One more shopping day before le Tour.....
One more shopping day before le Tour…..

Normal life has been suspended, for one weekend only.

Back in the shopping quarter, Duttons for Buttons celebrates le Tour ... entirely in buttons.
Back in the shopping quarter, Duttons for Buttons celebrates le Tour … entirely in buttons.

23 thoughts on “Harrogate: le Tour de France se prépare”

    1. Huh! Lucky to get ’em I reckon. I’m sure you realised my photos of ther empty veg. bins were taken at Waitrose. Enjoy tomorrow: I assume you’ll be at the top of your road.

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  1. What a scene! It’s really all so amazing, the amount of work going into this so the race can zip through in a couple moments! Will you watch the racers or will it just be too crowded? I would think it’ll be a bit of a relief when it’s all over . . . ?

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    1. They come past our gate. No problem. No, it’ll be a real let-down when it’s over. Every community’s invested time, skills and interest. A really positive time.

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      1. No problem, indeed–how exciting to be able to watch from your garden! Your posts have shown how much of a community event this has become–is this this only time the race is coming your way?

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      2. It’s the only time it’s coming to Yorkshire – or England. Every year, the Tour de France starts in a different European country. So this is it for the UK for many a long year. But it passed our house twice when we were in France. We’re old hands, but this is much the most exciting.

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  2. I just love all the Frenchmen taking their lunch break. You can take a man out of France but…

    I had to laugh at the news at the R4 P.M. programme this evening. Someone in Essex was complaining that all the Td F coverage was taking place in ‘the North’ and ignoring the fact it was going through southern towns as well. As I now live in ‘the east’ I can really appreciate the usual south-centric coverage of the media.

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    1. Indeed. And from what I’ve understood, in this case, the south hasn’t gone TdF crazy like we have. But in any case, now they know what it feels like to be comprehensively ignored!

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  3. Margaret and English people enthusiasm is infectious! When I was a child an later when my son was young, we stood on verges to see racing cyclists passed, but then I never watched le tour on tv. Or today since 11 o’clock I watch the joyful crowd along the roads, the beautiful sceneries of the dales with the drystone walls, the pretty little villages… I think I’ll reconize in a while Ripon and Harrogate!!

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  4. Lovely post – I was watching the English countryside this morning and flipping between channels to watch Wimbeldon and the British GP. The world of sport is amazing. Thank you for the tip on Bach, it is indeed a masterful piece to listen to. Cheers!

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    1. Amazingly, I too have been glued to sport. When it wasn’t passing our house, we were glued to the TdF, and otherwise it was Wimbledon. Did you know that John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors commentate for the BBC. They’ve both chamged a little bit!

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      1. I had Wimbledon on and saw the commentators before the match began yesterday morning McEnroes – Patrick and John as well as Chris Everett. I remember watching them at Wimbledon. Seeing those three took me back in time to my youth. My dad lived in Europe when I was growing up (my parents were divorced) and remember watching Wimbledon on BBC1 and BBC2 in ’75, 77. and 80 when I visited him for the summer. I remember when McEnroe made his first run in 1977 – his wild hair and headband and then the following years with his bad temper and poor manners. He was a great player, just not a nice person. Something to think about. PS – I even got to got in to the Test Match at Lord’s against Australia in the broadcaster’s booth – my dad’s secretary was married to a production manager for the BBC!

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      2. McEnroe’s changed a bit, hasn’t he? From Bad Boy to respected commentator who seems to have found some manners in the intervening years. Mind you, if he’s commentating in the US and UK, he’s earning a nice bit of pin money, so he can probably afford to be nice!

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      3. It’s amazing what’s a few years can do to your personality – transformational…. though I would think if things didn’t go his way we might get the ‘are you serious’ McEnroe again!

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  5. ……oups……..just realize that I missed this one – too late, anyway thanks for some tour-impressions……never watch it, so old Sigmund wouldn’t mind!xxx

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