The Pyrenees. Cruel, steep, savage, wild.
A place so inhospitable that absolutely everything is shut, virtually all of the time. Truly, the only thing tougher than climbing the Tourmalet is finding a place that's open for lunch at 13:01. And when you finally do find a spot that's open and willing to exchange goods and services for cold hard Euros, you must grab it with both hands.
One has to work quite hard for the rewards, with famous names like the Tourmalet, Aspin, Aubisque and Hautacam on the docket each day. These mighty old men of the Tour are a different kind of test to the French Alps.
And what do we do when the mountains are finished for the day? More Coca-Cola in one week than we've drunk in a decade. Interminable Orangina. Five pints of ice cream between six. High fives. Burgers. One less horse out in the world. Smiles. Pizza. Frites. Some beers. Profiteroles de Maison. The shattered remains of home-made brownies, eaten out of a bin bag. Cake. Tarte. Gateaux. Croissants on croissants on croissants. Oh, and the descents.
Next year, Austria.