When the heat and humidity get oppressive in Tokyo, when air conditioned chauffeured cars start to get stale and the 2002 Dom Pérignon rosé gets warm a little too quickly, I often send my assistant scurrying to book a flight to more temperate climes. I’ve always preferred the villa in Monaco, although the private island in Fiji can be quite pleasant. Since taking up cycling, I’ve considered purchasing another residence in Nice, perhaps a small château in Aix-en-Provence…the 6 bedroom in Girona is starting to look a bit shabby, after all.
But that was the extent of my French musings – a few properties I would maybe discuss with my trustee – as crowds have always deterred me from the Tour de France. The press of people contributing to the heat of Paris summers, the nightmare of transporting my army of garçons to fan me from every angle [they never seem to be able to stay in one place], the châteaux that friends would insist I stay at. I’ve been known to order a case of 1988 Krug Brut at the mere mention of actually visiting Paris for the Tour.
The realization of a necessary, token trip to mark my thirtieth birthday, however, dawned. I was bored with Fiji, my parents asked me to tag along with them to Monaco, but Alex of Sram sent an email suggesting I join him in attempting to photobomb the photographers at the last stage of the 100th Tour de France. I couldn’t say no.
Thus, last Sunday morning, we convened at the Royal Suite of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée (Sram Red 22 has apparently been doing very well). A mix up with the helicopter reserved to transport Ben, Jason, Alex and I to Versailles turned into a train ride on the RER. The conversation and company proved to distract from my sweating through my custom Miu Miu dress, and the experience was quaintly quotidian. All that was missing was that bottle of Krug.
A flick of a yellow band around a wrist got us through to the start, where we strolled to the team buses. Saxo first, then OPQS, Cannondale, and Lotto for me. No amount of rose water or Marc Jacobs perfume could have kept me smelling luscious at this point, but Adam Hansen, ever a gentleman, didn’t mention my dusty appearance, offered some Dom Pérignon, and held my Hermes Kelly bag while I scaled a barrier. We caught up, in real life – he really is a sweetheart – before parting ways with promises to race our Ferraris, as soon as we settle on a good wager. [If he bets a pair of his Hanseeno shoes, though, I’ll have to get my F12 back from Tim Johnson…a good excuse to fly stateside for ‘cross, maybe?]
As the pros wheeled to the start, the Sram gentlemen and I collected near the team buses. How to get back without the helicopter?, we asked each other. The train, while tolerable, didn’t seem to agree with our hand-tailored garments and Italian shoes. Neither does the RER supply an endless amount of champagne or wine. As I pined for my chauffeur in shining Aston Martin, OPQS came to the rescue of this damsel, offering a ride to Paris in the plush confines of the team bus. I could hear the rattle of ice around a bottle of champagne from within. We gladly accepted.
An hour later, we were in Paris. My assistant had timely sent a few garçons, although their fanning did nothing to alleviate the heat. I was only too glad to arrive at the VIP tent, where the white wine was chilled, the beer cold, and the fois gras finger sandwiches and tiny madelaines in abundance.
Fed and buzzed, we strolled out of the tent to the adjacent grand stand and watched the pros fly by ten times up and down the Champs. Between sightings, giant TVs aided my line of vision, sometimes obscured by a large fan or a spaced out garçon. Passionate, fast French kept me updated when I tore my eyes away to sip more wine or consider my dessert options. Life, I was realizing, in Paris, during the last stage of the Tour, is very, very good.
Though none of our chosen sprinters took the stage, we celebrated by climbing over those pesky metal fences – so efficient at keeping the crowds out but quite detrimental to our aimless wandering – onto the course, before making our way slowly back toward the team buses. We shook hands with friends and said some au revoirs, and thirsty for some more champagne, headed to a hotel bar for a few bottles of Laurent-Perrier. The night slowly slipping by, we strolled around the city, Ben ripped his pants right across the ass, and we ended the night at the only brasserie open at 4am. I slept for an hour on my Egyptian cotton sheets, the air stirred by a still-awake fanning garçon, and got up the next day to meet the talented and charming Dave Chiu for some artistic endeavors [of the spectating variety].
I have a plane to catch tomorrow, headed back for a short shopping spree to Tokyo, then maybe a jaunt to Bora Bora for the rest of the summer. The Paris Plages are charming, yes, but don’t quite hold the luxury of their French Polynesian counterparts. But I will be back to watch the Tour…perhaps next year from the balcony of a new château…
[More pictures, here.]
[*Events may be slightly exaggerated.]
[A big, big, huuuuuge thank you to Sram, OPQS, Adam [Hansen], Dave [Chiu] and everyone else who made this trip absolutely amazing. Hugs and high fives…hopefully see you guys in Tokyo soon!]