It’s just past mid day on a Saturday and I find myself sat on a train emerging from a dark tunnel onto the shores of France, giddy with childlike excitement about what the next 24 hours is going to hold. I’ve already filled up on breakfast at Dishoom in Kings Cross (bacon & egg naan and more bottomless chai than any human should probably drink) and resigned myself to activating the roaming ‘deal’ (in the loosest sense) EE have offered me, which’ll allow me to use data and texts while abroad, in the knowledge that after so many reports of fan violence coming from the south of the country my family will want me to be in constant touch. We’re sat planning how we want to spend our fleeting visit to Paris, which a core focus on football. With the huge increase in security, partly due to the devastating bombings at the Stade De France last year, and now the disgusting scenes of hooliganism, we’re having to build in ‘getting through all that extra security’ time into all of our plans. Before all that though, we’ve got to check in at our AirBnB, actually see a bit of Paris and eat five million pastries.
Rewind a few weeks and my housemate informs me that he wants to try and get to a game at this years European Championships. With the next few tournaments taking place in either unsavoury locations (Russia, Qatar) or spread so thinly across Europe that the atmosphere just won’t be the same, we both agreed this was the best chance to go to one of the big tournaments we’ll have for quite some time, so we snapped up a couple of tickets to Turkey Vs Croatia and planned a trip to watch England Vs Russia at the Paris Fan Zone.
It also marks the end of a fairly grim few months, so we decided to treat ourselves to an AirBnB that would normally be a tad out of our price range (even with 3 people). This one was a true gem of a discovery. Located right in St Germain, a 2 minute walk to the river, 10 minute walk from Notre Dame and actually attached to Monnaie de Paris. With fresh flowers and french pastries delivered for breakfast, on top of the stunning pictures we were expecting a lot, and it delivered. The apartment itself is a complete mismatch of styles, which all work. It’s obviously the home of a painter, with easels, canvas and pain splatters in pretty much every room. Stacks of books used as furniture, a marble topped kitchen table and heavy but ‘lightweight’ duvets. The whole thing is an offence on the senses, but it’s welcome, and each time you enter a room you discover something new. We were greated by their housekeeper, who is the same person to deliver breakfast. If you’re after something a little different in Paris I’d recommend it. It comfortably sleeps 4 and they add small charges for extra people. See the above link for more photos and details.
With the excitement for the days matches noticeably spreading throughout the city (you couldn’t turn a corner without seeing a group of fans from various nations, all in good spirits) we spent the afternoon walking from our apartment to Notre Dame, along to the Louvre and finally to the Champs Elysees before crossing back over the river and heading back to our apartment to catch part of the Wales game. We improvised a television by placing a tablet on an Easel as the flat doesn’t come with a television, something we welcomed. By this point, outside of a large selection of pastries, we’d worked up quite the appetite, and after some recommendations on twitter and facebook, we tried Frogburger. For €15 I had a pesto burger, fries and frozen margarita. The burger itself could have been a touch pinker, as that’s my personal taste, but Maddie labeled the Halloumi burger as the best she’s had (and she’s speaking from experience, not just wine).
The evening after this was spent surrounded by thousands of football fans, beneath the Eiffel Tower in the Paris Fan Zone. Security checks weren’t as long as expected, but pretty thorough. Inside the fan zones, you get your fill of over priced cheap lager, which for once was welcome as the sun had finally decided to show itself. The atmosphere remained positive throughout the evening, with groups of fans from half the teams in the tournament drinking, singing and dancing together. It couldn’t have felt further removed from the violence being touted about further afield.
The Sunday morning we deliberately kept slow, so we could enjoy our apartment to its fullest. Tucking in to the pastries, bread and cheese they provided us for breakfast, and sampling one of the roughly 20+ varieties of tea they had in a corner of the kitchen. We then went for a wonder around, before the rain started, in St Germain and the Luxembourg gardens, before heading to Coutume Cafe. Paris is well known for its cafes, but it’s only in recent years that they’ve really started joining the move towards true quality coffee shops. I’d read good things about this one in particular, with a lot of people talking about its modern takes on brunch dishes and quality coffee. Between the 3 of us we tried two of their dishes, I opted for the Blueberry Pancakes with Thyme Cream and both Tim and Maddie got the Spring Tarine with Poached Eggs (a medley of fresh spring veg, on toast with smashed avocado and feta). I was left envious of their choice. The pancakes were light and fluffy, but the blueberry compote, only being on top, didn’t do much to flavour the rest of the stack. The veg on the tarine was wonderfully fresh, well sourced and full of flavour and bite.
After the food we separated so that Maddie could go sightseeing (to Sephora) and Tim and I could go watch Turkey Vs Croatia. Having listened to the tremendous Guardian Football Weekly (Daily for the tournament) podcast in the morning I was slightly on edge, as this was a game apparently flagged for possible fan trouble. I’ve never been to a match with such an intense atmosphere, but all round it didn’t actually feel all that hostile. Modric well and truly ran the game, scoring the winner and dictating the play at both ends of the pitch.