Siobhan Lyons

Dr Hutch: Celebrating the wonderful Tour de France

This week, Dr Hutch celebrates the joie de vivre of the Tour de France

Dr Hutch: Celebrating The Wonderful Tour De France

L tat c est moi, said Louis XIV. He was nearly right. What he meant to say was, L tat,
c est le Tour.

If he had, there s a good chance France would still be a monarchy. No other race is so enmeshed in its place and its history. People have written histories of the Tour de France1 that were disguised histories of France. They ve written histories of France that talked about nothing but bicycle racing. So, with this degree of cultural pretension in mind, what can we expect in the next three weeks?

How will France enrich the race, and be enriched in turn?

>>> Dr Hutch: Why filling your garage with bikes is a good idea2

Let s start with dogs. We haven t had a dog making it big at the Tour for a couple of years now. French dogs love the Tour. There are plenty of unattended sausages, lots of strangers to tell them they re un bon chien, cyclists to bark at, and the opportunity to make it onto the evening news by having Philippe Gilbert3 yell at them while they pretend not to understand because he s Belgian. It s essentially dog heaven, and it explains why dogs in France (and their owners) always have that dopey, happy look on their faces. In another distinctive aspect of French life, it s always a pleasure to see so many farmers taking time out from filling in EU agricultural subsidy forms to mow greetings in their wheat for the benefit of passing helicopters. Note that these greetings are always correctly spelled.

L cole s out
This is closely related to those classes of French schoolchildren who take to the fields to link hands and form the outline of bicycles, often complete with rotating wheels, which always display an impeccable grasp of geometry.

They even manage to make the wheels rotate at the same speed, while all the time not looking resentful that they re missing the actual race. Both the farmers and their spelling and the children and their frame-angles are the French education system showing off.

Dr Hutch: Celebrating The Wonderful Tour De France

Tour de France fans at the roadside

France also likes to show off its spectators. There is nothing in the world quite like French Tour spectators. The closest equivalent would be an open bar at a convention for Japanese game-show hosts. One of the key cultural moments of any Tour is the bit where all the frenetic spectators part like the Red Sea before a rider on a climb. All, that is, apart from a bemused British visitor who gets left confused in the middle of the road and doesn t know which way to run.

>>> Tour de France 2016: Latest news, reports and info4

Spectators also like to showcase the Gallic sense of humour by satirical dressing. The ever-popular syringe is due a revamp, and the speculation this year is that the two-man electric-motor-and-battery-pack costume will be much in evidence. (Sadly, the lime-green mankini is still commonplace, and quite why the Leave side of the EU referendum never just put a Frenchman in a mankini on a poster is a political mystery.)

The grandest cultural gesture of all, though, is a whole nation pulling a sickie and broadcasting it live to the world.

It s a sensitivity to the priorities of life from which the rest of the world could learn much. The rest of us would phone work, cough so hard we wouldn t be able to talk for an hour, then watch the race from behind a tree while wearing a false moustache. The French spectator phones in, does a couple of half-hearted sniffs, then hoists himself and his family aloft in a digger bucket with a five-course lunch and a gallon of red wine beside what s probably the world s most heavily televised road, and does everything short of wave a banner with So fire me, it s the Tour written on it.

It really is a wonderful nation, and a wonderful race.


  1. ^ Tour de France (
  2. ^ >>> Dr Hutch: Why filling your garage with bikes is a good idea (
  3. ^ Philippe Gilbert (
  4. ^ >>> Tour de France 2016: Latest news, reports and info (

Are You Suffering from Vacation Deprivation?

Are you a victim of vacation deprivation1? Odds are, you are. And that has enormous possible consequences for your health and happiness as well as the economy. Would you let your boss withhold a paycheck or two from you, just because? You would not. Except maybe you are doing exactly this to yourself by not taking the vacation days you are owed. And if you don t take those days by year-end you just may have lost them forever. Said travel consultant Kim Zielinski: If one forfeits earned vacation, that means you essentially end up working those days for free. The numbers – from multiple sources – underline that we just don t take the vacation days we are owed.

A recent Expedia study said that the average American worker gets 15 vacation days but takes only 11. We are not the world s worst. That dubious honor goes to South Korea. South Koreans are the world s most vacation deprived workers while they re offered 15, they take only 6 days off within a given year, said Expedia. But we are near the bottom. Per Expedia, Mexican workers give back three of 15 available days, while Canadians take the full 15 available to them. Expedia added: Europeans are the world s least-deprived vacationers: workers in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are all offered 30 days off. The Germans, French, Spanish and Finnish use nearly all of those days, while the Danish take 28, Italians take 25 and Swedes take 25. That means we take less than half the vacation2 days European workers take.

There’s still more troubling news. Over the past 15 years we have gotten worse about using available vacation days, said Cait DeBaun, an executive with Project: Time Off in Washington, DC. The math gets complicated as more companies switch to a single bucket, Paid Time Off program (where vacation3 days, sick leave, personal days off are all thrown in the same pot). But we are still leaving days unused. Lots of them. Another study sponsored by Project: Time Off found that the average American worker has 21 days in a PTO bucket but uses only 77%, which means 4.9 days go unused. Is that time necessarily lost? Not always. Some companies allow unused vacation days to be banked; some states have in fact made use it or lose it policies regarding vacation illegal.

But that Project: Time Off study nonetheless found that maybe 23% of the unused PTO4 time simply vanished. The irony: workers who take their vacations may be happier, more productive employees, said Charles McCool, who teaches travel skills workshops to employee groups. Time off is essential to our personal health,” said DeBaun. “Employees are more productive.

The landmark Framingham Heart Study, for instance, showed that men who did not take a vacation for several years were 30% more likely to have a heart attack than men who take vacations. Women fared as badly. Ones who did not take a vacation once in every six years were eight times more likely to have a heart attack or develop coronary disease, compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.

Not taking time off also may be bad for the economy.


  1. ^ vacation deprivation (
  2. ^ vacation (
  3. ^ vacation (
  4. ^ PTO (

Authentic outsiders?

Welcome to the age of the ‘post-tourist’

In the last decade, the tourism industry has been overtaken by a new kind of tourist: one who avoids popular sites and abandons their maps. Welcome to the age of the post-tourist . The term post-tourist is commonly used to refer to a new breed of travellers, those who eschew common tourist1 hotspots and opt for a more unconventional experience, immersing themselves in local culture for an extended period of time.

As German broadcasting organisation Deutsche Welle2 put it in August:

Tourist attractions and hotels are boring, as far as the post-tourists are concerned. Instead, they want to get an authentic feel for the cities and places they visit.

Tourist , resident or somewhere in-between?

Wikimedia Commons, CC BY34

Writing in 2010, urban planner Johannes Novy described5 a blurring of the prior divisions between tourism and everyday life, but conceded that post-tourism, as we now think of it, is not especially new:

It s rather that these different forms of tourism have become more prevalent in the city as tourism has grown and diversified. The niche has become mainstream, so to speak. But it has been happening for a long time. The slumming and flaneurism of the late 19th and early 20th century in Weimar-era Berlin essentially involved the activities we now call new tourism .

Seeking real and authentic experiences

With the rise of this supposedly new breed of traveller6 , more and more people are hoping to immerse themselves with the help of technology and organisations such as Airbnb7 in local culture and environments. The concept of post-tourism has already gained much traction among travellers questioning the authenticity of merely sightseeing, who seek out so-called real places. But the concept of authenticity 8 is where post-tourism, and tourism in general, runs into trouble.

The Tourist Gaze9 (1990), argues that there is no authentic tourist experience . In their 2010 book Key Concepts in Tourist Studies10, Melanie Smith, Nicola Macleod and Margaret Robertson argued that the post-tourist:

embraces openly, but with some irony, the increasingly inauthentic, commercialised and simulated experiences offered by the tourism industry. So perhaps post-tourism isn t all that different from ordinary, run-of-the-mill tourism.

Visitors still take guided tours by locals, have no need to learn the language thanks to translator technologies, and endlessly seek authentic experiences.

Tourism and Politics11 (2007), posited that:

The myth of modern tourism is centred on the possibility of encountering authentic difference seeing the real Bali, engaging with the real Spaniards, having real adventures by getting off the beaten track But as tourism became a truly global industry in the 1990s, that myth of authenticity became more difficult to maintain.

The Gentrification Debates12, emphasised the global and local basis of tourism gentrification in the context of modern urbanisation a gentrification that as argued by Michelle Metro-Roland of Western Michigan University in Tourists, Signs and the City13 (2011) could lead to making city environments more sterile .

article14, that post-tourism and gentrification together can render formerly sleepy neighbourhoods instantly more upscale and exciting . But when established residents and businesses are forced out due to tourist expectations, other issues emerge:

(This) taps into a host of other resentments about American entitlement, about being required to speak English, about a calm neighbourhood being hijacked for the sake of someone else s clich idea of Berlin hedonism.

The resultant blurring between the local and non-local will continue not only to shape Berlin, but the future of tourism itself . Visitors immerse themselves in the culture before taking off for another city, but the residents remain.

^ tourist (

  • ^ Deutsche Welle (
  • ^ Wikimedia Commons (
  • ^ CC BY (
  • ^ described (
  • ^ new breed of traveller (
  • ^ Airbnb (
  • ^ the concept of authenticity (
  • ^ The Tourist Gaze (
  • ^ Key Concepts in Tourist Studies (
  • ^ Tourism and Politics (
  • ^ The Gentrification Debates (
  • ^ Tourists, Signs and the City (
  • ^ article (