Well it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…
This blog post was written in advance of my previous post which was a tribute to an amazing young woman called Nicole. In light of the circumstances that seen me publishing the last post it felt right to postpone this one (another blog post that is very close to my heart) for a few days. So here it is. My photographic ode to another incredible woman! Lee Vernett…
This blog is dedicated to our friend Lee who, on the 14th of July 2013, completed the whole of the Tour De France route with the Tour De Force Team 2013. This bunch of incredible athletes took on the challenge with astounding energy and determination to raise vital funds for the William Wates Memorial Trust. To date they have raised just under £400,000…now I thought their challenge was incredible but the fund raising total is out of this world too.
So when I heard about what they were doing there it was in the back of my mind that I might want to head right on out there to welcome them over the finish line!!! Some of you may remember that I took my first trip to Paris some 11 months ago. It was six days of sheer delight (ok minus the bit where I got lost at night in the metro station!) and my love affair with this enigmatic city begun in ernest.
Next take a cryptic message on Facebook from Morag and Claire and my travel antenna was on full alert and possibly even overdrive! After a quick call with Claire I discover they have booked flights to Paris… A couple of hours later and hey presto…I AM IN TOO!!!! Wiith Ali, Lee’s husband and the 3 girls, Team Lee was born. It was really disappointing that Kirsty and Nicola weren’t able to be there, we sure did miss them!!!
By the time I got onto it the flights out on the Saturday were fully booked, so I would be heading out a day in advance of the rest of Team Lee. A few more searches and I am booked to stay in the Novotel Paris Vaugirard Montparnasse, – the same hotel that we would be residing in when Claire and Morag arrive. The rooftop terrace – with views over the Eiffel Tower really sold it to us…and we weren’t disappointed.
It felt like a longish journey over to Paris for me this time. I guess I was tired as I arrived. So it was with utter surprise that I stared at the man at check-in when he announced that he had some good news. “Miss Dunbar, you have been selected as our guest of the day. Really I say, that’s great, em what does that mean? Well Miss Dunbar you are being upgraded to one of our suites, with views over the Eiffel Tower. You have a courtesy health pack in your room, Nespreso coffee machine, a rather nice welcome tray and a courtesy mini bar (yip the whole thing!!!) and drinks in the rooftop terrace.” Well HELLO I thought, now THAT’S special. “Ricardo will show you to your suite and show you how everything works.”
So, I quickly altered my plans of wandering the streets of Paris that evening. I was going nowhere other than my room and the restaurant downstairs. It was such a fantastic surprise, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed and appreciated it. First things first…check out the views and pop that champagne cork…I am back in the city of LOVE :) Thank you Novotel for the incredible treat!
It’s not a bad view to go to sleep and wake up with is it? And the fresh fruit salad and Champagne were palatable to say the least. What a start to being back…
So I decide to take a nip upstairs to check out the rooftop bar that had sold this hotel to us. And what perfect timing. Just enough time to order a stawberry mojito (not one I would recommend!) and I popped outside to catch the sun just shimmy on down between some of the tall buildings of the city. It was beautiful and serene and I spent some time pressing the shutter on my camera…of course! Happiness is…
And to say that my obsession with the Eiffel Tower has not abated one little bit would be an understatement. I wonder if I will ever tire of watching it morph from it’s bold metal structure to the mesmerising sparkling jewel that lights up the Paris nights sky? So I guess this is a bit of an apology…no it’s not really, it’s more of a heads up that there are a LOT of shots of that tower again :) Yip, this will be the view from my balcony!
Well I finally found my way into bed after watching the 9, 10, 11 and 12 o’clock light shows looking over to that Tower. I had also polished off half the bottle of champagne and the strawberry mojito, so sleep was probably a good idea. I rested like a baby!!! So the next day I am up and at em. I soaked in my bath, read my book on the balcony and yip, mixed up a buck’s fizz to start my day. Then I hopped off down to the garden for a spot of Parisian breakfast.
It was time to check out…well that was before checking in again. So I decided I would head out for a walk before the rest of the Team arrived. I wandered the streets of Montparnasse and melted a little more into the arms of this place. Before I knew it they were here! Woo hoo…let the next part of the adventure begin…
Ali was staying in the Ibis, so we wandered (quite a long wander really!) over to meet him and headed on out onto the streets to find somewhere for some lunch and a cool refreshing beer. It didn’t take long, and soon we were chattering, laughing, eating and being introduced to Picon…a rather magical beer with a shot of liqueur in it. We whiled away a few hours talking about how the day would go tomorrow as Lee would come over the finish line. As the light began to change we fancied a change of scenery so we headed off to Montparnasse Tower, as I had a hunch it would be a fantastic spot for sunset. Oh yes indeed. WOW…
So that brought our first day to a close and we wandered back to our rooms tired but inspired and slept like little logs….a whole 9 hours in our room! Thanks Mo, those earplugs were just the best gift ever ;) Sunday morning, and we are all a bit anxious, it was Lee’s big day. The finale. So we have breakfast and head off early. We decide to walk down to the Champs De Mar, the final destination for the athletes completing the Tour. We meander through the Parisian streets and stumble on this little market. Claire is catapulted back to her trip over 10 years ago when she and Al found this little gem. We happily whiled away half an hour taking in the sights and smells of the flowers and fayre to be had. We were on the look out for a little Paris snow globe for a rather special little girl. Further still, closer to the Park de Eiffel.
12.30pm and we arrive at the Park De Eiffel in front of the astonishing structure that I love. We wonder what we will do for the next 4 hours in the baking temperatures. The excitement in the air is palpable as the city prepares for the Bastille Day celebrations. The stage is going up in front of the Eiffel Tower and the security and traffic control is evident on every corner. It seems like a good time to introduce Team Lee to my favourite crepe stall….Yip, all this meandering was making us hungry again and I knew there were some leafy trees to rest under the midday sun (whilst Lee powered on in the last few miles of her ride!)
Fed and watered we headed back into the park and towards the finishing line, passing some great music on the way. We of course stopped for a quick dance :)
Then it was time to get ourselves ready. Ready into our Tour De Force Yellow Jerseys! Thanks Mo and Nicola for all the work you put into making these. They certainly got us noticed alright!!!! A touch of blue and white face paint in the hands of creative director Ali, and some personal messages scribed onto a 5ft saltire and all that’s left to do is wait….nervous, excited, even a little agitated. We were all anticipating Lee’s big arrival.
The sense of jubilation was incredible, the atmosphere and spraying of champagne filled the warm afternoon air as these amazing people celebrated together and with family and friends about the achievements of completing the whole of the Tour De France circuit – exactly one week in advance of the pros. There were grins on faces like you have never seen, tears of joy and emotion and a fair few tire marks on legs (I can’t remember the official name for them…come to think of it there is a lot of cycling terms I had to learn that weekend!) But wow….what a sight to see!!!
There are a few images missing from the blog, mainly of the first moment that Lee and Ali seen each other at the end of the Tour. They are very special but I figured a personal viewing of those ones might be best rather than sharing them on here. So please enjoy the celebratory shots from the Tour De Force (this is the link to the Facebook Page, they previous link above is their website) Anyway, here’s what this blogpost is all about! Congratulations Lee, you are truly amazing. and we are all so proud of you. This one’s for YOU!
Now those that know me know that I love storytelling, and often use my photography to do just that. But I was so excited to be able to find out more about this team through some of the riders personal blog posts. I settled down to read many of them on a regular basis and it really helped me to get the know them before I ever clapped eyes on them in Paris on the 14th of July. We were lucky enough to spend some time with them having a drink at the Pullman before they headed off to the Montparnasse Tower for a Gala Dinner and what a spot they had for watching the Bastille Day Fireworks celebrations.
So there it is, my MAMMOTH blogpost about SuperLee completing the Tour De Force 2013. She skipped over that finish line like a spring bunny and I could almost hear her say…RIGHT WHAT NEXT?!?! I can’t even begin to imagine what she can possibly follow this with but what I do know is that Lee show’s me that if you set your mind to it you can do anything.
Lee I admire you beyond belief and am glad to call you my friend. I know that many of the riders appreciated your energy, passion and drive and that you have probably met some lifetime friends through sharing such an incredible journey with these guys. They, and we, all consider you to be not only a wife, friend, sister, daughter, neice, teacher of small children etc etc etc but ALSO a truly outstanding pro cyclist! You ROCK!
Oh and just in case you are wondering why there are not shots of the fabulous fireworks from Bastille Day? Well that would be because my amazing NEW Canon 5D2 (which I had owned for 16 weeks) malfunctioned about an hour after the Tour De Force team arrived into Paris. So the last 2 shots above are taken on my iphone as of course I didn’t take my back up with me. Well I didn’t think I’d need it with such a powerhorse of a camera in my bag! There’s a lesson for me. Anyway, the long and short of it (for any of you camera lovers out there who are remotely interested) is that I am now the very proud owner of the 5D3 which is what I had really wanted all the time! So there was a silver lining in that story :)
So as the sun sets on Paris once again, like a real love affair, this city’s charm and elegance has gotten deeper under my skin, that little bit further and I just know I will return again….soon!