The race is on
Travellers to Alsace this weekend will find themselves at the centre of the sporting world. Many World Cup spectators have based themselves in the French city of Strasbourg, which is well placed for access to several match venues in Germany - as well as the England training base in Baden-Baden.
Even though the World Cup has reached a critical stage, sporting interest is shifting west across the Rhine this weekend for the start of the Tour de France. This cycling road race, which began in 1903, is the world's largest annual professional sporting event measured in terms of the number of spectators. It is due to start this morning in Strasbourg, with events in the city today and tomorrow; short-notice flights are available from Gatwick on Air France (0870 142 4343; www.airfrance.com/uk). But if you can't reach Strasbourg, over the next 22 days visitors to many parts of France will get a chance to see the Tour de France circus. The itinerary looks geared to appeal to British travellers.
On 6 July, the Tour finishes for the day at Caen, which is served by Brittany Ferries (08705 360360; www.brittanyferries.co.uk) from Portsmouth. This Normandy city is a good gateway for the next few days; on 8 July, the Breton capital of Rennes is the finishing point of the individual time trials. This city, with half-timbered houses, is easy to reach on Eurostar (08705 186 186, www.eurostar.com) from London Waterloo via Paris.
On 10 July, the Tour moves south-west, with a rest day in Bordeaux. This is followed by a stage from there to Dax, then from the Basque thermal spa of Cambo-les-Bains to Pau - a town with a spectacular panorama of the Pyrenees. Bordeaux is accessible from several UK airports, while Pau has a connection from Stansted on Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com).
Le Creusot in Burgundy sees the tour depart on 22 July to Montceau-les-Mines for the last individual time trial; Eurostar is the obvious choice, since Le Creusot has its own TGV station. And the last stage to Paris takes place on 23 July, when the cyclists race along the Champs-Elysées.