Paris on the Cusp: Rugby, Cycling and a New President

21 May

12-16 May, 2017
Packs of Pirates, including several Cap’n Jacks, Where’s Wallies in their red striped jerseys and caps, bowler hatted Charlie Chaplins, strutting Napoleans, a full brass band, Smurfs, many Mariannes with their lamps, (national icon for liberty), dancing giraffes, you name it, the dress up party people were out in force. My personal favourites were the twelve or so burly men wearing inflatable pink and white unicorn costumes. Their commitment was total, sitting en bloc and dancing and cheering en masse. 

Where were we? The Rugby Sevens World Series in Paris of course. Nothing brings out the extroverts like a major sporting event. For two days spectators guzzle beer, eat frites and smoke to their hearts’ content (no apparent control of smoking in the stands). Sometimes they watch the rugby too. Usually when France is playing. Then they furiously wave their flags (kindly supplied by the event organisers) and sing the Marsellaise. Even when they’re beaten, which happened every game this past weekend, they’ll cheer their team, as well as the Scots (continued historic closeness) along with any underdogs (Kenya this year) and boo the English and Australians. Not sure why they dislike the Aussies so much but I made sure to barack as loudly as I could for the Poms and Aussies which made Stuart rather nervous.


The irony of such unhealthy consumption by spectators compared to the gods on the pitch was not lost on me. Happily organisers allow you to take picnics and fill your water bottle so this teetotal vegan was fine, thank you.

Rugby Sevens is much more interesting to watch than fifteen a side. We discovered that in Hong Kong when we first went to a championship there a million years ago.  


With only seven minutes per half and seven players on the field, and with a maximum of four substitutes, there is plenty of scope for inventive play and long sprints to score tries. This tournament comprised 16 teams who played both days. It made for a long day for dedicated spectators like us and a bruising experience for the players, but at 20 euro per day per person (second best seats) it’s a great value sporting event (if you can get to Paris).We arrived at the stadium as the French team were getting off the bus. Very low key.The Paris leg was the 10th of this globe trotting championship. Next weekend they’ll be in London at Twickenham for the final round.


We were treated to some brilliant play, especially by the US, Fijians, Kiwis and Scots. It was our first time watching North American Terry Baker play. He has the stature of a long jumper, but man can he dodge, accelerate and sprint one end of the field to the other.​

​However, it was the hardest of hard men, the South Africans, who battled through to the final against the canny Scots and put the tournament away with some devastating tries. The Samoans, who eat, sleep and breathe rugby from their cradles, came third.Scotland in a group hug after coming second. 

We stayed in an apartment on Rue George Sand (what a woman she was), in the 17th arrondisement, chosen so we could walk to the stadium. Monday we kept free for a cycle ride in the nearby Bois de Boulogne. It was the weekend of the inauguration of Emmanuel Macron as French President, an exciting, optimistic time.

The Bois de Boulogne was cool and green, Moor hens were teaching their chicks independence. Dog walkers, riders and runners were out in force. Two sex workers sat by their separate pickup spots next to a pedestrian crossing. One looked like a bored secretary. apart from her serious cleavage, while the other resembled Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman’. They both responded to my ‘Bonjour!’ with a smile. It’s a dangerous job.

The rose garden at Cascades was in full bloom and the Louis Vuitton exhibition of African art looked interesting, but we pressed on as Stuart wanted a last lunch with a glass of rose at a street brasserie in the sun.The public bicycle rental system is working well, all up about 3 euros each for our 3 hours.

The sunny day became a sunny evening, perfect for a picnic by Pont Neuf. A good decision as we could watch the world promenade or cycle by in the golden glow of the sun on the Seine. A fitting finale to another memorable Paris experience.

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