The cable TV channel in our Paris hotel advertised a France v Scotland rugby match.
To fill in time, I stuck with the channel, and then to my delight, it turned out to be a rugby league international, played at Perpignan in France.
I already had given the Hotel du Levant the thumbs up, but this sealed matters.
The rugby union World Cup was being held in France at the time, and my wife and I had been bombarded with the 15-man code during our travels in this magnificent country.
Our trip had started in Rome, taking us to Siena, Riomaggiore on the Cinque de Terre; Nice; Toulouse, Villeneuve-sur-Lot and Chartres.
I have documented those travels, up until Chartres, previously on this site.
We drove from Villeneuve to Chartres, and although the Beauce Plain approaching the city was uninspiring, Chartres itself was fascinating.
We explored the medieval centre, and had wine and craft beer at a trendy place, before dinner at Cafe Cathedral, which featured set menus.
The next day, the Chartres Market proved a winner, before we caught a train to Paris.
The Notre Dame, which was just across the river from the lively St Germain area, where we were staying, looked lovely in the moonlight.
On our first full day in Paris, where we had been, as a couple, four times previously, we went to the Notre Dame and Luxembourg Gardens. Dinner at Tire Bouchon, where the maitre d shouted us liquors. Marie had egg plant and scallops, while I tried the fish soup, followed by sole. In between there was a vodka sorbet.
It pelted rain the next day, so we caught the Metro from St Michel, to Les Hallas, where we spent hours sheltering from the rain, in the shopping precinct. Lunch at Le Cavalier, beside the Pompidou Centre (Quiche Espagne, Marie; club sandwich, moi).
Dinner at Le Florence – lamb (Marie), Duck Maigret (moi).
Come on. Tell the truth. You love to hear what dishes we had.
At breakfast, there was a petite lady stashing away fruit, in her handbag and pockets.
Metro to Arc D’ Triomphe, where we climbed to the top, for the wonderful views. We walked over Pont Alma to the Australian Embassy, where I had been a guest (along with the Wayne Bennett coached Australian Rugby League side) in 2004, to cast our votes in the Federal election, which pitted the incumbent Prime Minister, John Howard against Labor’s Kevin Rudd.
The Embassy staff were out to lunch, so we walked the Cambronne area (where my 1990 Kangaroo Supporters’ Tour had stayed), having two drinks at Primrose Bar. Then back to the embassy, where we voted, but embassy staff said we needn’t have bothered. In many countries, there are millions who can’t be bothered voting, and, when the election goes against their stance on life, they whinge.
A photographic display along the river bank included Ricky Maynard’s work from Australia. (In 1997 he had received the Australian Human Rights Award for photography).
Last walk around Paris, but our lunch stop – Metro Restaurant – was crap – quiche and lettuce (Marie), sausage and chips (moi).
Marie and I went our separate ways for a while. I said a prayer for my sister, Kerri-Anne (who had died the previous year ) in sixth century St Germaine des Pres (abbey) church, afterwards saying goodbye to Paris in style with half a dozen oysters at an adjoining cafe, and then two (Belgian) beers at our St Germain local, where I talked rugby league with the barman, who was fascinated (I think) to hear some of the history of Rugby Treize, in particular the deeds of rugby league’s greatest French citizen, Puig Aubert, and the first rugby league World Cup, which was held in France in 1954, when Great Britain emerged the victors, with Scotsman, Dave Valentine the skipper, in the final in Paris.
That night, Marie and I were to catch a Thompson Air flight to Coventry in England, for the next part of our adventure. We were to stay a night in Coventry, before heading into deepest, darkest Derbyshire, to stay with Cliff and Jane Rodgers, Derby County soccer (football) supporters. (To each their own).
More to come.
By the way – France beat Scotland 46-16 in that rugby league international in Perpignan.
1 Marie and Steve Ricketts in Paris, 2007
3 Marie Ricketts in Luxembourg Gardens
4 Paris window shopping.