They say life is a journey, not a destination, and wow what a journey we are on right now. And.. I have just fallen in love. Just 2 weeks in to our Rugby World Cup tour and we already have enough memories to fill a large scrap book. After a false start we headed down to the Mediterranean coast, taking a stopover at Cap de Adge which we have since found out is Europe’s largest naturist area. Although I am happy enough to get my kit off in the confines of our own swimming pool, I don’t really find wandering around in public in a dangling fashion as an attraction so we avoided that place and found a nice spot further up the beach to get the barbie on. Next day we headed for Marseille, the crime capital of France, only to drive around for a few hours trying to anchor up but to no avail as the security guards branded us as football fans and therefore unsavoury. Anyone in the know will confirm that the behavioural difference between the fans of those two sports is a gulf so wide you could drive a super-tanker through, but it appears that previous English round ball fans had already muddied the waters before us. Eventually we settled for a small seaside town half an hour away, surrounded by like-minded rugby fans, all sporting our respective nation’s flags, and took in a local lunch by the harbour. Journeys into the city were quite effortless by train with the fancy-dress outfits and camaraderie adding to the excitement of England’s first game. Down in Marseilles old town, we found a Scottish bar and promptly bumped into a few of my mates from the Northern livestock scene, many of whom were avid listeners to my Toplines and Tales podcast, before we made our way to the ground to witness a pretty mediocre match, narrowly sneaking a win in boring old style. The fun of seeing thousands of folks in Argentina shirts, and kilts, most of whom had never been south of Edinburgh, let alone the equator, is what makes our sport so special. A rather eccentric taxi driver fixed us up with a ride back to base at 1.30am for hefty sum as all trains had long stopped or were on strike. Similar situation the next day, this time to see Scotland sadly outclassed by South Africa who are making a habit of playing their best games every four years, as many will remember from the drubbings England have taken from them in previous events. For some reason we were adopted by a jackdaw at our camper-park, whom we named Gregory as he continually pecked at my ear. One night, after slurping half a tin of Stella and most of a glass of wine, he was too drunk to fly and spent the night on one of our foldy-chairs, quietly snoring. We offered him breakfast but the hangover was too great and he toddled off to annoy some Aussies.
From there we took a detour into St Tropez by boat to see how the other half lived and enjoyed a beer at 13 quid a pint, declining to even look at the menus, let alone order anything more than bag of crisps. Thankfully our camper is tooled up when it comes to cooking so our friends joined us for a feast of duck supper and chips, with bottles of wine we had brought from Bordeaux which cost less than a sip of the local restaurant prices. A stay up in the hills above Nice proved fruitful when we met a nice chap who gave me a phone number for the head of parking at Nice harbour. With a quick bit of negotiation in my best French I somehow secured us 2 spaces right in amongst some of the world’s most expensive super-yachts, for four nights! Not only were we parked next to the water’s edge but also 200 yards from the tram-stop that took us all over town with ease. I mentioned I have fallen in love, and that is with the town of Nice itself, such a wonderful place it is. Clean, safe, friendly, beautiful, all the things that Marseille wasn’t. A chorus for my next song: “Nice, so good they named it nice!” As well as revelling in the colourful bars and culture, our pitch in town resulted in us making many friends, mainly with folks passing by and us inviting them in for a beef and a chat; sound folk of all nationalities. As both Wales and England were playing that weekend, there was much friendly ribbing as each nation supported each other’s opposing team. I am now officially both Fijian and Portuguese as a result!
Today we have run for the hills, settling into to a quiet spot near a lake where the smothering heat of the last few weeks has been replaced by some rather welcome rain. Tomorrow we reach or the sky, as we put the camper through its paces heading for an Alpine ski resort at over 2000 metres up, just south of Grenoble. Unfortunately watching four international rugby matches in eight days, and the travel that involves, has taken its toll on my knee which is letting me down more frequently these days, so we won’t be trekking the hard yards up there. By the weekend we will be back in my new favourite town again, for more of the same, before heading up to Paris following our thirst for the oval ball. Shortly both mine and Wendy’s nations will be despatched from the competition, nothing surer, and it will be time to don my beret once more and back the team of our adopted country. Allez le Bleu.