Book Review: Graham Watson’s Tour de France Travel
More than just a another travelers guide book... an intimate introduction
to France and "le Tour" by American Lens Master, Graham Watson
“Graham Watson’s Tour de France Travel Guide,”
Graham Watson VeloPress $24.95
Graham Watson, doyen of the cycling photographers, has covered
the Tour since 1977. His time both on the side of the road and on the back of
the motorcycle have brought him face to face with some of cycling’s greatest
stars. Watson has catalogued everything from the highest of the highs to the
lowest of the lows as the soldiers of summer do battle across France and its
environs. This intimacy with cycling and the country are the motivation behind
Waton’s “Tour de France Travel Guide,” an all encompassing guide to both the
country and le Tour.
While Watson is no Rick Steves, his book does offer novice travelers a handy
tool for planning a trip abroad. Hotel book websites, train schedules, useful
phrases and general information about traveling around the country are basic
starting points for summer travel along with some obvious Tour-specific advice
like, “don’t try to see the start AND the finish of the same stage,” and “be
sure to get up the mountain before they close the road.”
Sure, there are better and more focused general travel guides. But the real
gems of the book are Watson’s cycling-specific sections. Breaking down each
region of France, Watson meshes the highlights of the region (attractions,
hotels, food, wine, etc.) with what every true cycling fan is coming to France
for: the famed tour routes and recollections of specific stages.
While I love wine, it’s not the vineyards on the slopes of Mt. Ventoux that
are my primary interest. The mountain offers up some of the most preeminent
memories of le Tour and spectators line the road in hopes of witnessing the next
As a tour guide to cycling’s greatest race, Watson offers tantalizing shots
of cycling’s greatest players as seen through his lenses. Sprinkled throughout
the guide book are Watson’s short vignettes on his interactions and memories of
Bernault Hinault, Pedro Delgado, Stephen Roche and Greg LeMond among others.
Watson also provides a detailed tutorial on photographing the tour for those
inspired to man cameras and capture the race. For the rest of us whose
photography skills consist of collecting images of people’s rear wheels and
colorful blurs, this is where Watsons’ advice on French wine and cheese comes in
useful. I’ll happily leave picture-taking and making up to Watson while enjoying
the best France has to offer while the racers fly by.
Whether or not your trip actually materializes, devotees of the Tour will
appreciate an escape from the dreary woes of the world (including cycling’s
doping issues) with this colorful and nostalgic journey through summer-time
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