Day 7July 3, 2013
What ended up being a great day actually started off with some pretty crummy weather. It rained in Marseille on Wednesday morning (the first time during our trip thus far). Molly and I had wanted to check out the local market, which has booths right at the end of our street, and we weren’t going to let a little rain stop us. There were dozens of booths with clothes, toiletries, jewelry, DVDs (probably pirated), and so much more. I decided just get acquainted with the prices of everything since there wasn’t anything that I truly wanted or needed to buy. Molly’s only pair of stud earrings had broken a few days earlier, so she found a good deal on some really cute studs from a nice vendor we met who also spoke English. The earrings were supposed to be hearts, but as I pointed out, when turned upside down they look somewhat like tremble clefs too.
As many people may be aware, the Tour de France was coming through Marseille that day. Because of the race, many main roads were closed and the buses weren’t running. Because we rely on the city buses to take us up to campus, our professors had made the executive decision to have class in a local park instead. My only class that day was my French 101 class, so around 12:15 I met some of my classmates in the lobby and we walked to the park for our 1:00 class (the weather had cleared up pretty nicely by then). To our surprise the park was closed, so the French classes were held outside the park gates at an outdoor café instead. Class wasn’t too bad. We went over a lot of practical things like names, ages, numbers, and colors.
We finished class at 2:30, so my classmates and I decided to stay near the beach (only another block or two from the park) so we could get a good spot to watch the Tour de France. The only problem with this plan was that I had hoped to catch up with Molly at some point, but neither one of our phones were in any working order. I also wasn’t sure when exactly she was going to come down for the race. Her debate class wasn’t meeting that day and she had been hoping to get a spot in the conference room to practice her violin.
My classmates and I did eventually meet up with some other UNCW students, an Interact student, and our program leader. We had a fun time collecting the free hats and things that were being passed out amongst the crowd. I went up the street to look for Molly around 3:40, but still couldn’t find her. I hoped she had come with some other students or at least would find someone else from our group. I ended up going back down the street to claim my spot with our group by the 350-meter marker and wait for the racers to come. Originally we’d heard that the first racers should be coming into Marseille around 4:50. As we waited there was a parade of cars with advertisements and some people handing out free candy.
Finally around 5:30 the pack of cyclists came rushing toward the finish. As I mentioned earlier, I was at the 350-meter mark, meaning I was 350 meters from the finish line of this leg of the race.
There was obviously a lot of excitement in the crowd, but it soon turned a bit chaotic. I couldn’t see what had happened from my point of view, but another girl from UNCW got it all on video. 300 meters from the end of the race a cyclist had fallen off of his bike and suddenly there was a pileup of about a dozen cyclists as they had all crashed into the man who had fallen. I saw some ambulances rush past me down the street, but didn’t fully understand what had happened until later because the announcers were only speaking in French.
It was still a really neat experience, and I’m so glad we got the opportunity to see it. I don’t regret the sunburn or the long wait. The Tour de France is something I’ll likely never see again, and I’m glad I could be a part of it just this once.
Once I got back to the hotel Molly explained that she hadn’t been able to find me, but ended up seeing two other UNCW girls in the crowd and had hung out with them during the race. They ended up watching the race at a point past the finish line on the other side of the street from me. Molly hadn’t seen the crash either, but had seen the blood on some of the riders when they’d stopped. She ended up having a really fun time bonding with the other two UNCW girls that we previously hadn’t had much interaction with on the trip so far. Some of the people on this trip (in our opinions) party way too hard, and Molly was glad to find other people we could hang out with that weren’t interested in going out every single night. They had so much fun hanging out at the race that all four of us decided to go out for sandwiches later for dinner.
Overall, I was really glad I got to see such a famous race and that our professors encouraged us to take part in the cultural experience. They even moved around our class times so that we would have enough time to get good spots for the race. Some of the kids from Florida still had to go to class at their regular times and had to risk missing the event. I’m also glad I’ve gotten to know more and more nice people from our study abroad group.