When we travelled out to Italy we spent our first night in Strasbourg, in France but close to the German border. We booked all our overnight stops before we left and after the midnight ferry from Dover we could easily have been at the hotel by 9 am. To pass a little time we stopped off in Metz to view the new Pompidou Centre, a stunningly modern building that we had to admire from the outside as it didn't open until 11. I don't recall what time we were there but it was probably around 8 and we didn't have much inclination to walk around anyway. We managed to find a lovely little shop selling good coffee and fresh pastries that made us feel better and we reached our hotel around midday. They kindly let us into the room and we slept for a few hours before we took a walk round the city centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site and very nice too.
On our return journey we stopped off again in France for our last night, this time in the Lorraine at this gorgeous chambre d'hote in a very well kept village (view from our bedroom window). Such a treat after our exhausting/frustrating time in Italy to be surrounded by calm clean whiteness. My French isn't great, its over 40 years since I studied for and failed my French O Level exam, and I constantly lapsed into Italian but I did managed to communicate with Madame who booked us into an excellent restaurant for the evening. We enjoyed a delicious communal breakfast next morning with a couple oddly enough from Strasbourg and a Belgian couple. Madame was almost as excited as me about our plans for the rest of the morning.
Making our way back to the ferry we popped into Belgium to catch a stage of the Tour de France, something that has been a long term ambition. The tour is amazing, so much bigger than our beloved Giro d'Italia and we only had to wait about half an hour before the excitement really began. First came a breakaway group with about four minutes lead and then the rest of the raceWe'd have liked to have followed the riders and seen them again but we had to catch the ferry. I've been watching the tour on tv since we got home and while I get to see much more and hear lots of information you can't beat being there. It's just not the same in cold wet Scotland seeing the guys whizz through gorgeous scenery usually in scorching sunshine and I know I'll feel bereft when they ride into Paris on Sunday and its all over for another year.