Location: Cusy, France
Why: Dark chocolate cake, strawberry tarts, and really good coffee
Two-thirds of the way through the penultimate stage of the 2013 Tour de France, after the ascent of Mont Revard but before the race’s final climb up le Semnoz, what was left of the beaten, tired peloton cruised along the Route des Bauges past an unassuming boulangerie. The bakery was the last of thousands found along the route of this summer’s Tour, and no more distinctive than any other. I doubt they noticed.
Seventy miles into a little Étape du Tour recon ride, bonked and thirsty and 30 miles from home, I most certainly did.
The boulangerie sits teetering on the edge of the Cusy, on the road that heads back towards Annecy (Route des Bauges, just east of Route des Créts). The same family unlocks its doors “7 jours/7” — every day, all day, all week — mother, father, or daughter taking orders in turn and under no perceptible schedule.
The place has no name, in the traditional sense, nor any visibly distinctive features. Dark block letters hang on the gray walls over each window: “Boulangerie, Patisserie, Épicerie, Salon de Thé.” Not names, but functions: bread, pastries, select groceries, tea. Coffee, of course, needs no sign; obviously, there’s coffee. There’s always coffee.
And it’s good, of course. Better than average, for France. And the bread and pastries and dark chocolate cake and strawberry tarts cannot be argued against. Nor can the Coke and the smile that greets any tired face and aching pair of legs that stops at the door.
It sees a lot of those, situated as it is, half way between Annecy and Aix-les-Bains. Rides from either city, or between the two, are likely to include the Route des Bauges and pass by the boulangerie’s front doors, or within a few hundred easy meters. Its position on the map begets its purpose to us: the perfect distance between commencement and culmination of any day’s spin, all but requiring a half hour stopped on its sunny patio, coffee in hand, feet up on the top tube.