There were two practical options to get to Lyon today. A comfortable train costs in the region of €85. Or for €80 less, the Megabus will take you there. Being on an austerity trip the outcome was inevitable. Another issue was that the Megabus left Lille at 03.15 (yes 3.15am), including a three-hour layover in Paris between six and nine o’clock in the morning. There was surprising little open in central Paris at the time of day. It took half an hour to find an open Costa Coffee, containing some sheepish looking England fans who’d experienced the so-called Battle Of Marseilles. The twelve-hour bus journey was as bad as it sounds. Never mind all these Three Peaks challenges, this was an absolute mission!
I’ve had enough of lugging bags around so it was a pleasant surprise that the hostel is located approximately 100 metres from a Metro station. What the map doesn’t show is that the hostel is situated near the top of what can only be described as a huge cliff, almost directly above the station. The nice view almost made the walk worthwhile.
The plan for the rest of the day was to watch the football matches in the hostel bar. This was scuppered when the receptionist informed me that the television was not working, using the stereotypical nonchalant French manner. To be fair though this was the first time I’ve experienced this reaction in France. Plan B was to head down to the Fan Zone to watch the Northern Ireland v Poland game and then heading back for an early night after having had almost having no sleep since Friday. When I bumped into Alan from the hostel in the Fan Zone that was never going to happen. We ended up going out for a fair few beers afterwards. The bars were great and there was a good atmosphere with loads of Northern Ireland, Poland, England, Italy and Belgium fans around. Northern Ireland were fairly poor tonight and plenty of random people were commiserating Alan who was wearing his Northern Ireland shirt. I was also getting their sympathy too, by virtue of standing next to him. I was tempted to do my best Ian Paisley impression and say, “Aye, wear fecking shite!” Alan’s an interesting fella. He teaches at a university in Kurdistan, currently about forty miles from so-called ISIS-controlled territory. Travelling to Lyon involved a long taxi ride and three flights which makes my overnight Megabus tourney seem fairly tame. At one point I made the indiscretion of accidentally referring to the north of Ireland. I know a few people from this part of the world and tend to avoid talking local politics or using such phrases. It was a genuine slip of the tongue. Alan said, “Did you just say north of Ireland?” I replied that I didn’t and I’d just mumbled. Alan then explained the ramifications of the term (which I’m fully aware of) and although he’s not partisan, plenty of people around here would take offence to this. Luckily I managed to dig myself out of the hole by insisting that he must have misheard me. Everything was fine but that was a close one!