Parlez Vous Anglais?

I honestly had not realised the similarities between our family holiday and that of the trail-blazing Griswalds…

The Road to Avignon

The day after the Nice team time trial we are hurtling down the A8 at 130 km per hour, with the kids scouring the Tour course maps and Mrs S again hanging on for dear life, and all of us with no idea how or what the procedure is for watching the Tour by the side of the road. Our eventual destination is Avignon. On the map, John spots a small town called Brignoles, through which the Tour passes. Although Stage 5 is flat,  there a couple of small climbs…one of which is outside Brignoles. “Let’s head there…”

After a quick stop for supplies in Brignoles, we race up the small incline outside the town, gendarmes waving us on, me yelling out “Go Kangas” to a bloke in a North jumper, and the kids waving to all the road-side campers and on-lookers. It turns out that we are the last car up the hill before it is closed to traffic, so maybe we are being mistaken for being a part of the caravan. (And, boy, do these people throw out some crap? I reckon by the end of the Tour there is a countryside full of plastic bits and bobs that will survive the next apocalypse). We park down a country lane and then wait. And wait. The picnic lunch is good (isn’t it always in France?) and then the caravan arrives.

Mum, I’m on the telly

The entourage continues to pass. Then all is quiet. Then suddenly it is like Apocalypse Now, without the accompanying “Ride of the Valkyries”. I have dragged on my old footy jumper and am holding aloft a Sherrin as the breakaway group of six riders passes. Brendan and Luke run along beside them until Brendan breaks his thong. Then here is the peleton. Colourful and speedy. At such close quarters, it is truly a brilliant spectacle. And amazing to see the Greenedge riders leading the peleton’s charge. Drink bottles are flying everywhere and – after a tussle – Brendan manages to secure one. He holds it aloft, for we agreed earlier that securing a rider’s bottle would be the holy grail.

Another bottle has landed on the roof of an RV across the road, but our attempts to secure it are thwarted by the German woman sitting next to it. “Nein, nein” she screams at us as I try to hoist Brendan into a position which will allow him to grab it.

Then the Tour is gone again, and we are walking back to our car, and aiming for Avignon. Satisfied that we have seen a different aspect of the Tour. I learn later, through an email from my sister, that we have all been spotted on the SBS coverage. Suddenly, my life seems complete.


Well, what else would the name of our charming host in Avignon be? “Parlez Vous Francais?” he asks, but his tone is forlorn. He already knows the answer. We have just missed the end of the stage into Montpellier, but Jean-Paul makes it clear that our love of the Tour more than compensates for our lack of French. The only French words the boys are interested in learning are “Wee-Fee”, and before we can even contemplating traipsing around forts that were constructed when Hannibal was a lad, it is Facebook statuses which must be checked, or apparently the sun will not rise tomorrow.

But it does. And, for me – if not the family, that means another day at the Tour.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Mon ami Smokie, tres bien reportage a la Tour de France, tres bien vacation, tres bien familie, tres bien le vie. Crap French. But you get my meaning.



  2. Wonderful Smokie. I remember stumbling into the route of the Bordeaux-Paris race back in the 80’s. The bonhomie of the crowd. The waiting. The hairs rising on the back of my neck as the race approached (the best test of ‘greatness’ for any sporting/life event). The surge of speed racing past. Brilliant. Exactly as you describe. Keep the reports coming. The Tour is such a great event and you really capture all its nuances.

  3. Peter Flynn says


    Go up Mont Ventoux and pass the Tommy Simpson memorial.


  4. David Downer says


    That is all,

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