9 tips to painting the road at the Tour de France

The Tour de France rolls into town in a few weeks’ time and once again you’ll see those magnificent men on their cycling machines taking on the best the mountains can throw at them. There’s no Mont Ventoux on the route this year but back in 2009 there was … and we painted a big Union Flag across the road near the top of it! And you could too!

Our Union Flag and WIGGO on Mont Ventoux

Our Union Flag and WIGGO on Mont Ventoux

We’d always planned to visit the penultimate stage of the Tour that year (Montélimar to Mont Ventoux), flying into Marseille and driving up the mountain before heading straight to the final stage along the Champs Élysée. I hadn’t planned to paint a flag in the early hours of the morning, but maybe my friend Al maybe had. So at the base of the mountain he suggested we buy some red and blue gloss paint, some white emulsion, a roller and a paint tray before heading on up the course.

Getting our paint supplies from Mr Bricolage

Getting our paint supplies from Mr Bricolage

The three of us overnighted in our Fiat Punto hire car but not before our artwork had been laid down on the tarmac just below Chalet Reynard.

In the end it was just me and Al who had the commitment to stay awake and put “paint to tarmac” and so it was just before midnight that we began. Admittedly the English flag might have been easier to replicate, rather than the unexpectedly intricate Union Flag, what with it’s thinner and thicker white edges. We had a cloth Union Flag with us so that was laid out on the floor for us to gauge how and where we should roll out our design. Our head torches serving extremely useful in the dark, mountainous night.

1am in the morning and applying the finishing touches

1am in the morning and applying the finishing touches

Halfway through creating our masterpiece we were interuppted by some French Gendarmerie approaching in their blue police car. We instantly assumed the game was up, or worse, but they simply wanted to know which side of the road to drive on to cause least damage to the drying paint. Now that was rather nice of them! So don’t worry! Painting the road is perfectly allowable during “the Tour” in France.

However I did make a rash decision to slop some thicker white emulsion on the first ‘G’ of ‘WIGGO’ out of sheer laziness which lead to a car leaving a tyre print off the bottom edge of the flag but I’ll let myself off for that.

Adding to our enjoyment was subsequently finding out that Phil Liggett had mentioned our artwork on ITV4 as the live TV helicopter flew overhead.

“As the flag of the United Kingdom is on the road there and they’re there for Bradley Wiggins and he’s right here”

Mentioned on ITV4. The yellow jersey (Lance Armstrong) in the bottom of the pic!!

Mentioned on ITV4. The yellow jersey (Lance Armstrong) in the bottom of the pic!!

Ventoux just below Chalet Reynard on race day!

Ventoux just below Chalet Reynard on race day!

Even better than the ITV4 mention was it consequently appearing on Google Maps! Using the history function (which shows the same stretch of road over the years) we could even see how long it took for the flag to disappear. About 4 years in this case, with the red and blue gloss paint lasting longer than the white emulsion.

Google Maps - our Union Flag just 2 months on - September 2009

Google Maps – our Union Flag just 2 months on – September 2009

Google Maps - our Union Flag 10 months later - May 2010

Google Maps – our Union Flag 10 months later – May 2010

Google Maps - our Union Flag 5 years on - May 2014

Google Maps – our Union Flag 5 years on – May 2014

Google Maps - our Union Flag 5 years on, pretty much gone! - July 2015

Google Maps – our Union Flag 5 years on, pretty much gone! – July 2015

Top Tips

  1. Take a head torch
  2. Take an actual flag with you if that will help you with your design
  3. Buy the paint when you arrive
  4. Use gloss paint to make your image last that little bit longer
  5. Don’t worry about the Gendarmerie stopping you
  6. Paint your design later at night when less cars are driving backwards and forwards
  7. Enjoy watching lots of people taking photos with your artwork the next day
  8. See if it appears live on the TV or in the highlights package
  9. Check out Google Maps a few months later to see if it’s still there

Anybody else ever done a spot of road painting? 🙂

Dreiländereck – walk across 3 countries in 10 minutes

A friend of mine turned 40 recently and for his birthday he wanted to fly into Basel, head to the Black Forest to watch some snowboarding cross, and then watch FC Freiburg in a Bundesliga game. The perfect opportunity to walk from one country, into another, into another then!

The Dreiländereck monument on Swiss soil. Not much to do there but it was a dreary day

The Dreiländereck monument on Swiss soil. Not much to do there but it was a dreary day

Dreiländereck (also spelt Dreilaendereck) is a tripoint just outside of Basel where France, Germany and Switzerland’s borders all meet. This tripoint is one of the only ones within a major city (Basel) and an iron pylon monument shaped like a rocket celebrates the fact … even though the actual tripoint is 150m NW of it in the middle of the River Rhine (the Dreiländereck scuplture is therefore 150m to the SE on Swiss soil). Ever the stickler for detail I wanted to walk across the two actual borders. I had my passport with me as I’d just arrived from the airport but never needed to show it once as everything’s open for you to walk “to and fro” as you please.

In total from my starting point in France, across the bridge into Germany and then down into Switzerland it’s a 9 minute, 700m walk. From the French starting point to the actual Dreiländereck monument it’s a 32 minutes and 2.6km walk.

Walking from France into Germany into Switzerland

Walking from France into Germany into Switzerland

 

To get there you will most likely arrive from Basel-Freiburg airport. Ask for a taxi outside to the ‘Passerelle des Trois Pays bridge’ (Dreiländereck bridge), or Huningen on the French side of the river, or just point on Google Maps on your phone like I did. The taxi cost from the airport was approximately €12.50 and was a 10 minutes drive. Exiting the airport from the French side “may” be cheaper unless both the French and Swiss sides share the same taxi rank?

The Dreiländereck Bridge outside the La Huninguoise bar in French Huningue

The Dreiländereck Bridge outside the La Huninguoise bar in French Huningue

Once you get dropped off you walk across the bridge from France (Huningen) into Germany (Friedlingen) with the actual border on the floor being unmarked (instead there’s a plaque on the railings in the middle of the bridge). The ideal time to post a social media status of “I’m in France”, followed by one 15 seconds later “I’m in Germany”!” I walked to and fro a few times before realising It was probably a bit strange-looking, especially as I still had my wheelie case hand luggage with me.

Walking across the Dreiländereck Bridge from France into Germany

Walking across the Dreiländereck Bridge from France into Germany

 

rhine-from-the-german-french-border

On the border between France and Germany looking out over The Rhine. France right, Switzerland left

From there walk down the bridge into Germany and you’ll see a bench to match the one on the French side with “Gemeinsam über Grenzen wachsen” written on the side (Grow together across borders). Quite apt in the current times what with the USA/Mexico situation.

“Gemeinsam uber Grenzen wachsen” – grow together over borders

From the foot of the bridge I walked onto German soil, past the Rheincenter shopping centre before turning right at the roundabout into Zollstraße. There, 150 m along near the German/Swiss border is a tram stop which looks like it’s a border control but is actually just a ticket booth for the tram. The border line is level with the centre of the spaceship-like building in the middle of the road marked with a 10cm wide line of stones in the ground.

Approaching the German/Swiss border level with those red/white barriers

Approaching the German/Swiss border level with those red/white barriers

 

The Dreiländereck monument on the left and bridge separating France and Germany on the right

The Dreiländereck monument on the left and bridge separating France and Germany on the right

 

Getting closer! 500m to go to the monument

Getting closer! 500m to go to the monument

I chose to walk along the main road, across the bridge into Switzerland, but according to Google Maps there is a slightly shorter footpath just across the Swiss border (taking 1.5km instead of 1.8km to the Dreiländereck monument). However up on the bridge it’s a nicer/safer walk and you get a good view of the Dreiländereck that you’re heading towards, which is on a long spit of land, jutting out along an industrial road. A scenic route it is certainly not, but it’s a destination to aim for so you can least say you’ve been there.

The monument has the 3 flags on its side but there’s little to actually do when you get there and little to read. For me walking across the borders was the enjoyable and novelty part, especially walking over the bridge from France into Germany. On a sunny, Summer’s day I’m sure it’s a lot nicer and you could sit by the river watching the world go by, with the nearby restaurants most likely being fully open. I imagine there wil be some pleasure boat rides too? Maybe you can boat from Germany into Switzerland instead 🙂

The Dreiländereck monument on a dreary February afternoon

The Dreiländereck monument on a dreary February afternoon