SIT REP!

There are dark and evil arts at work. I just returned to my humble abode in London on Waterloo Road and I am sure someone has placed a spell on me. There is no other way to explain what took place this evening at Twickenham (home of English Rugby).

In what was billed as the most important game at the World Cup to date I just sat in the south end of the stands and watched the good guys let a 10 point lead slip through their hands in defeat to Wales.

Tell me I’m wrong, tell me I dreamt it and exactly the opposite occurred. No? Ok well let’s just back up for a mo and catch up with events of the last 48 hours. On Friday morning we woke in Paris and headed by foot to the Montparnasse neighbourhood. Our mission was to get to the highest point in Paris for an unobstructed 360 degree view of the city.

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We walked from Armondine’s apartment southwest following loosely along the overground portion of the Metro. A clear morning and soon into the walk we stopped to charge the batteries for the day with the obligatory pain au chocolate and Cafe’ au lait. Paris was humming around us as millions made their way to work and school.

This place is electric and cool. They do panic in style. It’s like nuclear fusion with super well dressed electrons moving at hyper speed. We reached Montparnasse soon after and arrived just before three tour busses full of tourists from Southeast Asia. We had our tickets in a jiffy and 2 minutes later we were 59 stories higher and gazing out over Paris. I am so glad to have done this. The last time I was in Paris we went up the Eiffel halfway and this eclipsed that by a long chalk.

After 30 minutes up there it was back down and on our way to the Luxembourg Gardens. We watched chess, tennis and devoured a baguette while strolling through the the trees dotted with sculpture. Once through the gardens we moved on to San Sulpice church made popular in recent times by the books by Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code), but let’s be honest and recognize it not for that but for its age, architecture and astrological significance.

From San Sulpice it was into Saint Germaine and some sit down cafe culture. Kronenbourg, peanuts and a sidewalk table facing the entertainment was a perfect afternoon break. A couple of hours later we stood and moved on toward the Institute De France and then on to the Louvre. Once there we were entertained by musicians who literally played and sang in a spellbinding way with the assistance from the acoustics of a stone archway entrance to the great art museum.

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After the Louvre we walked the left bank with some earlier purchased groceries and chose to sit by the Seine and have an early supper. Job done, Paris done, off to Gare de Nord to catch our Eurostar to London. We arrived at Gare de Nord by Metro and moved quickly to the ticket office. We picked up our prior purchased tickets but because we were early were asked if would like to leave a hour before planned. Yes please! And gentlemen would you accept our free upgrade to first class with our complimentary 3 course meal? Yes please!

15 minutes later we were travelling in excess of 200 KPH on a train in the lap of luxury awaiting a glass of Bordeaux and the cheese course. I think this kind of opulence may have caused a slight uprising in Paris a couple of hundred years or more ago. An hour and 40 minutes later we were pulling into London St. Pancras and rushing to the connecting tube to Waterloo with a smile and gout.

Outside of Waterloo we walked a few steps across the street to the Union Jack club and our home for next 8 days. Swift check in after clearing club security and bags down, feet up, TV on and a good nights rest. The next morning I met my friend Zoe from the English Rugby Football Union for tea and a chat and of course the hand over of the holy grail. Zoe had delivered two tickets for Wales vs England eleven hours later at Twickenham. We parted with the hopes of reconnecting before we leave back for Canada and I returned to the UJ Club to grab Dale.

We set off for the South Bank and a great walk in the sunshine. Yes another day of sunshine in old blighty. The first character of the day we met was Mariano. He was the purveyor of fine locally made gelato sold from his recently refurbished 1960 Lambretta three wheel mini truck. We learned that he was a medically discharged Italian soldier that suffered several injuries in Lebanon in the 80’s.

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Mariano loved ice cream, chocolate fountains and Banff for skiing as we soon learned. A classy guy and a pleasure to make his acquaintance. On to the London eye and Westminster Bridge before turning back for Waterloo station and our train to Richmond. Leaving the train in Richmond we were guided to the World Cup Experience Centre by way of Richmond and London Scottish Rugby club for lunch, a few chats and a 2nd Div game.

An awesome club with huge history. Well over 200 former players lost in the great wars were remembered on plaques hung on the walls. On to the fan zone to watch the Canada Italy game on the big screen (so close) and a couple of beers before climbing aboard a double decker for Twickers and the pilgrimage was complete. Hallowed ground. With hundreds before them and thousands behind them England took the field to the roar of 83500 fans. 20000 or so were Welsh to be fair.

I have never been in a louder place to experience anything even close to this magnitude in my life. My sporting bucket is now filled. Job done! And then England let a 10 point lead slip and the dragons took advantage. The emotional damage has taken the best of me. The train from the game back home was miserable. Welsh fans singing Delilah and English fans blaming everything and everyone. As a side note the average ticket price was $600 Canadian. You do the math!

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Vive la France, Vive l’Angleterre, Viva la difference!

Cheerio
Mark

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