Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stage 10: Chambery to Gap

Happy Bastille Day, everyone!

If you ever want to learn about Bastille Day, Christopher Hibbert, my favorite historical writer, wrote a gripping blow by blow account, sparing no bloody detail, called The Days of the French Revolution. My Mom and I read it to each other on my first trip to Paris, and I'll never forget how it made those events come to life. Nowadays, I love to be reading a great history book about wherever I'm traveling, or even a piece of historical fiction. Hibbert has some amazing ones. The guy was incredibly prolific. My next of his to read will be about the Borgias--before the Showtime series starts in 2011. Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia, aka Pope Alexander VI--can't wait!!!

Today as I watch the Tour, it looks like everyone is just baking. You can't underestimate the effect of temperature and climate on cycling. I remember biking around Bermuda in July and the heat and humidity made rough work of hills and distances that in L.A. were a breeze.

Gorgeous descent at the moment now on the TV, about 50 miles out--gradual climb with snow-dusted peaks in the distance. Today's stage commemorates the addition of the Savoy region to France in 1860, and the route runs along Napoleon's road back from exile in Elba to rule again as Emperor in Paris.

If you ever get a chance to visit Elba, do it! Very pretty island with lovely old harbors, great hills for cyclists who like to climb, and nice beaches. But if you do visit Elba and go to Napoleon's villa--a must--you'll see how ridiculous it was to "exile" this guy here. He built a house festooned everywhere with his imperial 'N's. From his back veranda he could see every ship coming into Porto Ferraio. I believe the island was still a working iron mine when he was living there. I don't know where he got his money, but that house is massive and had its own sunken bath. So you send this guy who clearly has major ambitions and leadership skills to a place with great harbors, a ship-building industry, and a working iron mine. What do you think is going to happen? Of course, he ended up running the place, and it wasn't long before he was planning his comeback.

At any rate, today for food, it would be good to try a Fondue Savoyarde, made with cheese from the local Savoy folk, and apparently this pairs quite well with Rosé de Loire, a rosé that comes from the Loire valley. Normally I like rosé from the Cote d'Azur, especially in summer, because it's fun to taste the way the flavors change from chilled to a bit warmer with the bottle out on a table in the back yard. Rosé should not be sweet, unless that's what you like. I think the best rosé is pretty dry, and has notes of watermelon, strawberry, apple cider--yum! Please, if you value your taste buds, don't drink white Zinfandel--it is almost always gnarly--like cough medicine. Try some French rosé from Provence or the Cote d'Azur. Delicious with fruit, salad nicoise, cheese, whatever is light and summery. Enjoy this lovely season!

Vive le Tour!

A demain o après demain!

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