Avignon, Saint-Étienne, and EURO2016– June 14

No time to waste messing around as I had a full day ahead. My Airbnb contact was coming to the flat to retrieve the keys at 10:30. I hadn’t made it to the Palais des Papes and I wanted to at least see it from the outside since its considered one of the one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Since it was impossible to get it all into one shot I took a short video.

After taking some time for pictures and to take in the immenseness of the building I decided I should continue down the hill to see the remains of the Saint-Bénezet bridge. It is a perfect extension of the wall that encircles the city center.

On the way back to the flat I stopped at a patisserie for a little breakfast and coffee. The cafes assume you will be sitting to enjoy your food. I really should have taken it to go but the outdoor tables provided such a great atmosphere I took a brief pause from my rushing to enjoy.

As I approached the flat Sharron was standing outside waiting for me. I would have felt bad but I still had 2 minutes before she was due. I assume she hadn’t been there long. I collected my things and made my way to the train station. Across the street SNFC rail workers were gathering to protest. Of course it was far smaller scale than what is happening in Paris, but people are definitely unhappy.

I knew enough about the next leg of my journey to know I had to go to Lyon to get to Saint-Étienne. Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked the schedule or noted that I actually needed to take a train to the other Avignon train station first. When I checked the departure board I saw a train to Lyon that was delayed. I assumed I would hear some sort of announcement. That never happened. After sitting for some time the brain started to register than I was doing something wrong. I watched the board for the next train to Avignon TGV. That did the trick! Once I made it to the TGV station the timing of the rest of my journey to Saint-Étienne fell into place. I got off the train in Saint-Étienne around 3pm. I knew my host wasn’t going to be available until after 5:30pm so I made my way to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard to collect my ticket. While I don’t follow soccer at all I had somehow been talked into attending a EURO2016 match since I was in France. Even with the tram ride the haul to the stadium felt long with all the luggage in tow. I was concerned I’d be turned away from the ticket office because of the baggage, but they did a quick check of my stuff then let me through. Ticket in hand I headed toward my Airbnb rental. On the way off the grounds I was stopped by police and informed I would not be able to bring the luggage into the match that night. I’m sarcastically thinking “thanks guys, I would definitely have brought it along” and shaking my head that it wasn’t until I was leaving that I was stopped. He was adorable so I smiled politely, thanked him, then asked if he could point me in the direction of the tram. He wasn’t sure how to get me there so he called over another officer. Goodness, he was cute too. We all looked at the crappy tourist map I had and they decided it wouldn’t do. Officer #2 escorted me to the police vehicle where he pulled out a real map and provided me some good direction. I expressed my appreciation for the help and went on my way. I made it to the Airbnb and back to the stadium without too much trouble. They only had 2 security lines and they took forever. Once I was into the stadium grounds I was informed I had to walk all the way around to the other side. I was annoyed but I can’t imagine it would have been much different than stadiums in the US. No doubt a side effect of the constant motion I’d been in and the fact it was raining a little.

I was pleasantly surprised with my seat. Row 22 very near center field. I was close enough to see facial expressions and the slipping on the wet grass. I didn’t need the instant replays which is good since there aren’t many in soccer. It was Iceland vs. Portugal. Not being a fan I arbitrarily decided I would root for Iceland (check out this short video of what I can only describe as a Viking chant). Of course I found myself surrounded by Portugal fans. Figures! It was great fun regardless. The energy was pretty fantastic. Very memorable experience.

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