Posted on July 21, 2011
Once again it is July and I am watching cycling, even though I don’t own a bike or ride one. As far as Tour fans go, I am not the sort who really knows or cares who’s who. Nor I am the sort who would stand on the side of some meandering road in the French countryside, madly waving a flag at a given rider as they zoomed by. Me? I’m more like the folks who spread out their picnic blankets and lounge in the sun, taking a sip of this and a nibble of that as they think “Oh…well, what do you know? Cycling. Must be nice exercise.”
Still, I can’t deny that it takes a special breed of person to train that hard and be that dedicated to killing themselves on all manner of terrain for the better part of a month. And this year’s Tour, with all its crashes and drama, has definitely left me wondering how many riders will coast into Paris this coming Sunday with their lives and limbs intact (Hm. Sounds like graduate school, come to think of it).
Could it be that I’m becoming hooked, a real fan? On a few occasions recently, I’ve heard myself say to friends and family “You know, we should really see the Tour de France in France next year and not wait for the late night recaps on Versus. Wouldn’t that be so much fun?” This bright idea has been met with a mixture of skepticism and enthusiasm.
To the enthusiasts in the bunch, I say thank you. Next year will be a very good year.
To the skeptics, I say come on. Live a little.
Meanwhile, this year I will do what I normally do — watch the final day from the comfort of my own home and daydream about what it must be like to take that triumphant ride into the City of Light. I will probably attempt some nonsense like this again and then later, when it’s quiet, I’ll work some more on this. I’m pushing hard, uphill, doing my level best to be well past the finish line this time next year. But enough about that…
Here are a few other ways you can get a French fix this summer:
1. See Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” : Allen’s love letter to one of his favorite cities stars Owen Wilson as a Paris-loving screenwriter who wants to be a novelist. The romantic comedy co-stars Rachel McAdams as Wilson’s fiancee who wants him to just shut up about Paris and focus on his lucrative career in film. The script is funny, the cinematography gorgeous (how could it not be?) and there are memorable cameos by Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni and Marion Cotillard.
2. Read David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey”: According to historian McCullough, “not all pioneers went West.” Many notable Americans (among them James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel F.B. Morse, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Mark Twain) went to Paris between 1830 to 1900, eager to perfect their respective crafts and, then, make their mark on the world. “Journey” a sweeping history, engaging and beautifully-written, and after a year of reading some fairly dry works on this period, it has become a welcome addition to my bookshelf.
3. Get seduced: It’s not what you think. I’ve read Elaine Sciolino’s work for The New York Times for a very long time and was curious about her latest book “La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life,” especially because of the sexual assault case against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. She mentions Strauss-Kahn throughout this well-written, entertaining book, even noting that one comedian said women should wear burqas in his presence. But seduction isn’t just political or sexual in France, it’s something that touches every single aspect of life and Sciolino shows that, for better or for worse.
4. Listen to a First Lady: I knew Carla Bruni sang, but it took me a while to actually listen to her music. I mean, she’s gorgeous (and looks amazing pregnant, for crying out loud) and first lady of France and in the new Woody Allen flick. She can sing too? Really? (Sigh) Really. She can sing. I love her music. I love her. So be it.