A decent chunk of the Belgium population appeared to be in Lyon today. As I did some sightseeing they seemed to enjoy getting involved in am drinking and congregating in the streets. Among the throng of football fans was a young lady taking her dog for a walk down the high street, dressed in an Italy kit (the dog rather than the lady). The quirks of modern life meant that they could barely walk more than ten yards without getting asked to be in a photo. Lyon is a great place and is buzzing with supporters of many nations who seem to be using it as base, with good transport links across the south of France. My wayfaring around Lyon was cut short by an almighty downpour that would last most of the rest of the day.
It has become a bit of a running joke about how French people are flagrantly refusing to converse with me in French and just automatically switching to English. Not that long ago the opposite would have been the case. This afternoon I happened to be visiting a branch of Starbucks. The server had the most ridiculous slicked-back quiff and mustache so I didn’t feel too bad being a bit of an arse to him. The conversation went something like:
“Bonjour. Je voudrais cafe Pike Place. Grande. S’il vous plait.”
“What is your name?”
“Je m’appelle Percy.” I never give the real one. It’s a long running joke with a mate about who can get away with the most ridiculous name.
“Would you like that for here or to take away?”
“Ici s’il vous plait.”
“Two Euros forty cents please.”
It’s a good job that I set off to the stadium in plenty of time as it’s a fair way out of Lyon. I’m not even sure if it’s even in Lyon judging by the time it took to get there, via Metro, tram and then bus. Aside from being big and modern, I wasn’t that impressed by the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, an archetypal generic new stadium that would fail the test of being easy to recognise when watching a game on telly. It’s a shame that Lyon left the atmospheric Stade de Gerland, itself within walking distance from the city, but I suppose this new place generates plenty more cash.
Judging by the amount of Belgium fans around town today I expected them to easily outnumber the Italian support inside the stadium but it’s actually fairly even in numbers, with plenty making the relatively short journey across the Alps from Italy. Obviously Italians aren’t as fond as getting drunk on the streets as their Belgian counterparts. On paper this was possibly the pick of the group fixtures and while not a bad game, it didn’t really live up to the hype. Belgium’s attacking talent couldn’t get going and the unfancied Italians put in what has since been described as a classic Italian display – solid, well organised and slightly cynical. Not wishing to get stranded in the middle of nowhere, I left at the start of injury time, missing the second Italian goal. This was probably a good call as I was back at the hostel within an hour. Tomorrow I heard plenty of horror stories of people arriving back at 2am.