The 2015 version of le Tour de France is underway and fast gaining momentum. Briton Chris Froome stormed his way into yellow after a dramatic Stage 3 which saw many riders abandon following a huge pileup – described as one of the worst in Tour de France history. Aside from the brutal physical aspect of the actual cycling, a huge draw of le tour is the incredible scenery and architecture which is on view as the peloton rides it’s way on the 3,358km route. The ride concludes on 26th July in Paris, on the Champs-Élysées. Here, we take a look at the hidden-but-amazing places which France has to offer.
The riders pass through Fécamp on stage 6 of this years tour from Abbeyville to Le Havre. Situated on the Normandy coast, it has developed a reputation as a leading cod-fishing port. The undoubted feature is the huge white cliff face leading out to sea, whilst on the other side fishermens’ houses cascade over the harbour. Atop of the hill sits the Chapel on the Cliffs. In the town itself, the abbey church of the Holy Trinity and the palace of the Dukes of Normandy can be found to add some culture to your trip.
Stage 7 sees the riders pass through Lassay-les-Châteaux, which houses a superbly preserved fortified medieval castle hidden away within beautiful gardens. The châteaux was built over the 14th and 15th centuries and comes with a fully functioning drawbridge and barbican. The barbican is unique as it is the only preserved example in the whole of France. Tours are available on request where you can view the defences, as well as the interior, including kitchens and living quarters plus the various hidden passageways throughout the castle. There is much history here, and many stories including the Germans having used the buildings and grounds as a command post in WW2.
Col du Tourmalet
If scenery is your thing then look no further than a trip to the Pyrenees and follow the riders up the famous Col du Tourmalet. See for yourself the beauty of the mountain range from an unique viewpoint while also appreciating the pain the riders endure as they summit the 2115m mountain. While the mountain isn’t actually the tallest, its steep ascent makes it one of the most difficult and has been the scene of many famous battles between cyclists. Although on the face a stunning view, be aware that the weather can change in an instant so make sure you are prepared!
Cathedral of Sainte-Marie Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges
The Cathedral of Saint-Marie was born in the 11-12th century and sports Roman Gothic architecture, renaissance windows and much history! The cathedral contains the tomb of Bishop Bertrand de l’Isle from the 13th century, while the village is a member of the association ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ which translates to ‘The Most Beautiful Villages of France’. 2015 isn’t the first time the tour has passed through Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges; in 2012 the 99th edition featured in the area.
Castellane is an old city located in the South of France, upstream of the Gorges du Verdon with a small population of 1,579. Overlooking the city at 184 metres high is The Roc – or Notre Dame – a site which has been occupied since the Middle Ages and is historically listed. History is rife in Castellane, from architecture to sites and monuments including churches and military buildings. The original military walls of Petra Castellana, the ancient city atop the current city, were reinforced by fourteen towers of which just one has survived, known as the pentagonal tower. Stage 17 sees the riders travel from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup passing through Castellane.