As I type this Gill is rummaging around searching for something that she would normally locate without hesitation. That’s because nothing is where it should be. The last few days have been amazing but ever so slightly weird. It’s something to do with the break in routine and an intense period of socialising which has made us a bit unsettled. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a really nice few days and it isn’t over yet but it has made us reflect on how simple life on the road has become. It was always our intention to break our journey to attend the start of the Tour de France as we had already booked accommodation in Harrogate before we made plans to tour round Britain. We thought we might have to travel by train from some point on the east coast but as we approached the border with England it became apparent that we might be able to ride all the way to Harrogate and incorporate one tour into another. A tour to see The Tour within our tour so to speak. Things started to take on a different feeling once we stayed with our friends Ed and Dave to the east of York and jettisoned all our camping equipment there. For one thing the bikes were lighter! This also involved shifting our belongings about and redistributing them amongst fewer panniers and that was how this unsettled feeling began. Add to this, sleeping in a bed and eating from a table and all of a sudden our whole world had changed. Suddenly our belongings were scattered about, our routines were broken and the simple daily life that we had grown accustomed to was replaced with a new and seemingly more complex one. After being spoiled rotten with a delicious dinner and cooked breakfast Dave escorted us to York on the Thursday and left us to explore the city and soak up the pre-tour atmosphere. Which was a bit lacking to be honest but we’ll come back to that.
We then found our way to Alastair and Charly’s home where they had kindly offered us a bed despite only ever having met us virtually via the YACF internet forum. We had a great evening with them and two of their children before departing early on Friday to make our way to Harrogate and the start of three nights in a B&B and a real break from our self imposed austerity of the last ten weeks. The little town of Knaresborough put York to shame with its Tour de France preparations. The place was buzzing with excitement as they set up food stalls and a sound system in the square in readiness for the big event which was actually still two days away. There were buntings made from small knitted jerseys of the green, yellow and polka dot variety all around the streets and we popped into the local wool shop to voice our appreciation of the effort that had obviously gone into them.
The tale we were told there just summed up this community and its enthusiasm for the biggest sporting event in the world coming to Yorkshire. Apparently the town council had requested that people should knit three thousand of these little jumpers to decorate the place and they got back twenty three thousand! Well done you Knaresborough Knitters.
Our time here in Harrogate has been a complete contrast to life on the road. It’s been hectic and full of bustling noisy crowds. We have packed in a crazy amount of activity in order to see the most of the racing and to go to the theatre as well as eating and drinking, probably to excess, and suddenly cycle touring seems like a very relaxed and far less tiring affair.
Seeing The Tour was very exciting and easily lived up to our expectations.
We met some really friendly and interesting people and nearly everybody we talked to wanted to know more about the story of our trip. The people of Harrogate pulled out all the stops to make the weekend a tremendous success and even though the crowds were huge the atmosphere was always friendly and relaxed. Like a really good party but with 100,000 guests and lasting for two days. Now we are feeling a bit hung over and looking forward to falling back into our simple life and getting back to the coast on Tuesday.
The experience has been a bit like having a jazz band doing a five minute set in the middle of a meditation exercise. It was a good jazz band though and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.