Velogal's Blog

Monday, July 11, 2005

Well, rest day is really driving day for most of us. The teams were put on busses and driven to the airport right after the race ended, and flew to Grenoble. But the wrenches and team support folks had to drive those hundreds of vehicles down here. Of course, all the ASO staff and crew, as well as the media vehicles were in for a long drive. I stayed in Besancon last night. And therein is a long story that I will call The Tale of Trois Ibis.

My schedule showed that I was staying in an Ibis Hotel in Besancon, so I went to their website and downloaded driving directions before I left home. The directions said to take Sortie (Exit) #4 off from the Autoroute, and then had about a paragraph containing directions in French that had a lot of suivre, puis, prendre and rondepoint. OK, cool, I can deal with that.

So I get closer to Besancon, and see Sortie #4 coming up - I was near Besancon - but it seemed a bit too far out from the city. But exit 4 is exit 4, right? So I rather doubtfully exited the freeway, and on the other side of the rondepoint (roundabout) was the familiar red and green logo, Ibis Hotel, with an arrow pointing the way. Hmm, I thought, maybe it’s in the old city and that’s why it seems too far away. So I drive way down this teeny road and come in the back side of an Ibis along the freeway.

This Ibis is really tacky – it has an L’Arche cafeteria and the reception desk for the hotel also cashiers the junk that tourists buy, like Pringles, Orangina and cigarettes. So I wait in line and when I get there, the desk clerk/cashier takes her time looking at the reservation page. She shakes her head and shrugs her shoulders. Sorry, but non…. I’m at the wrong Ibis! In my very best (altho exasperated) French I say that the directions say Sortie #4. Isn’t this Sortie #4? Non, non - turns out that there are two Sorties #4 on the same Autoroute near Besancon

Okay – C’est le Tour. I turn around and find my way back to the Autoroute and start looking for Le Deux Sortie #4. Several miles down the road, and in Besancon, I find another exit 4. Well, by now, I’m watching my puis and suivres pretty carefully. So I follow directions toward Centreville and Hopital St. Jacques, and then the directions get a little sparse and fuzzy, but suddenly there is that lovely green and red Ibis logo with the arrow that directs me around the corner. There it is at last! Of course, there is no parking anywhere, so on the second time around, I pull into this narrowest of narrow driveways into the gated parking. I push the button and talk to a tinny voice, “Lewis – reservation for tonight”… Long silence…

Non, Madam – this ees zee wrong Ibis. Are you kidding? Is this some kind of cosmic motel prank? I leave my car parked right in the driveway, blocking any entrances and exits and go marching in with my reservation clutched in my sweaty fist. OMG, it is another wrong Ibis!! How in the Hell many Hotel Ibis are there in Besancon?

I drove away, in somewhat of a panic, I must confess. And I started thinking that somewhere upstairs there is a Motel Worker’s Heaven, and those folks were wickedly laughing, and cackling, and slapping their knees in Heavenly Revenge. “Hot Damn”, they’d be saying, “This Besancon Ibis thing is a keeper. We’re sure getting this Velogal person. Wa-hoo, this is funnier than Hell.”

The second Hotel Ibis person gave me directions that only made sense to somebody who knew where they were going. After an unwelcome prolonged tour of Besancon, I saw a teeny sign that said La Citie. OK – that’s in the paragraph right after a suivre, so I turned downhill on a one-way street, and Voila! I was right beside the third Hotel Ibis. C’est une miracle! J’arrivee! Except there wasn’t any place to park….

To Hell with it - I drove right over the curb and parked on the sidewalk. I locked that puppy up and went in to register. Yes, I’m in the right place. Yes, we have wi-fi. “Where shall I park?” I ask. “Where are you parked?” She asked. “On your sidewalk, Madam” “Ooh, la, la”, she says, “You cannot park there.” “Where shall I park?” “There is underground parking back up the street.” “But, Madam, it is a one-way street – Did I miss the Parking sign?” “There is no sign – You must go down to the rondepoint and go back up another street and turn left at the lights and come back down again.” “Oui, Madam.” Through gritted teeth.

So I get back in my car and go around the RP and go up the other street. But when I get in the left turn lane at the light, there are three left turn choices! With no visual clues as to which one to take… OMG – they are pranking me and laughing up there again… So I choose the immediate left turn, and as soon as I’m across the intersection, it becomes clear that it is the wrong choice. Down this one-way street and hang a left and back to the good ole stoplight. I choose the middle left turn and it finally gets me on the Ibis street. I see a teeny space between two parked trucks, and that is the driveway into the unnamed, underground parking lot.

But wait – there’s more! There was a Lotto-Davitamon van ahead of me, with great graphics – a rolling billboard of happy, healthy families waving and showing how great life is – either on Davitamon or winning the Lotto, or both. Well, one had to stop at a gate on ground level and take a ticket. Then make a sharp right turn into a narrow ramp down. The Davitamon van was having a great deal of trouble making the turn – back and forth, back and forth – the driver was trying to get that long, ole van maneuvered around that corner. He finally gave it some gas, and – Crash! Scrape! Screech! The van went head to head with the concrete pillar and lost. Well, let’s just say there was no longer any “mon” in Davitamon on the passenger side. I heard Belgian swear words flying through the air like red-hot rocket flares.

Halfway down the ramp, one has to stop and put the ticket that they just got into a second machine to open another gate. The guy put his ticket in, but the gate didn’t open. He tried several times and then moved up, but no dice. I was parked at the second ticket machine, but I wasn’t gonna put in my ticket, or I’d lose my chance to get thru. So he walked back and crawled over my hood to the attendant speaker that I pointed out to him. A two-way French conversation ensued, and he walked back to his van and started the engine – but didn’t move. Back he came and talked to the speaker again – he was kinda pulling his hair and pounding on his head, shrugging his shoulders and throwing his hands up in the air – the I-give-up signal.
Meanwhile, I am sitting in my car in the middle of this narrow tunnel, unable to go forward or backward. And having to pee very badly. “M’sieu,” I said, “I think she told you to pull closer to the gate and it will open.” “Oh,” he said, and pulled up - the gate opened. I put my ticket in, pulled up to the gate – it opened and I parked my car. The Belgian man came up to me and said, “Well, I guess we took care of that, didn’t we?” “Oui, M’sieu,” I said, “We did."


  • ;-) That's us Belgians for you. At least now you can swap Belgian swear words with Lance. I hear he and Sheryl know a few.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 12:35 PM  

  • Thanks for the hilarious story (not to you right now I understand). You had me laughing pretty good!!

    By Anonymous Mark, At 4:54 PM  

  • Love your Blog.. Wouldn't it be alot easier on you to rent a motor home to drive from place to place as you cover the TdF?? You seem to get into ALOT of hassles going the "hotel" route.. You could even have a second person along to share with the driving, etc while you type out your daily postings..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 9:58 PM  

  • You must be having a ball. I am so glad the problems are minor. My husband and I would still be looking for the right motel, because you know men never ask for directions.

    By Anonymous Pat, At 4:41 AM  

  • Rolling on the floor laughing my heinie off! I feel another book coming on - a survivor's memoir of the Tour de France!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 9:06 AM  

  • Been there. We got to our hotel in Besancon last year for the final TT and were told they didn't have our reservation that we booked through Spent the night sleeping in our rental car!

    By Anonymous Kevin, At 12:53 PM  

  • Hey, This article is cool enough for this wahine to blog up to the site and say I can just see you there... Whata' great and funny and miserable story! Did you make it to the louve?

    By Blogger Willy, At 12:54 PM  

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