Rugby in France

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No response from any e-mails, but visited the ground of Lille Metropolitan rugby. No other grounds found on route through North France.

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A day and a night in France...

We arose early from our hotel, and in the pouring rain at Dover, Jodie hugged and said goodbye to her Dad at the docks. The ferry ride was fairy uninspiring, a handful of passengers looking to venture across to Calais despite the conditions. We had been advised by the captain, but despite this, the battering we took from the freezing northerly wind was enough to remind us of the challenge that lay ahead. The moment the ferry’s planks were lowered, two days of admittedly feeble “traveller’s beard” was immediately removed from my face. Against my better instincts, we ignored the signs for the Hypermarket and pleasures that lay within, and we instead fought on against the souring headwind for 30km. We made slow progress and silently wondered whether 500km a week was ever realistic. As it turned out, this was mostly an isolated storm and so when a little further inland, we made up time and pedalled into the early evening. We had a hysterical map, one of those “most of Europe on one page” jobs that you pick up at a Petrol Station, we had bought ours on the ferry! Despite this, once out of Calais, we picked the right roads and ended up on the correct path to Lille. This was to be our first night of “opportunist “ camping in Europe, we had only one night’s experience, and that had been one to forget! As it turned out, this wasn’t much better, only we were much better hidden, and enjoyed an undisturbed night’s sleep amongst our prickly, thorny friends. Day 3 – 110km – cash £

Tuesday May 4th

We arose at 6:30am to untangle ourselves from the brambles, and make off towards Lille, having achieved a far greater distance than expected on the previous afternoon, we naturally arrived before even a shop had opened, let alone the tourist information. We decided to be our own tour guides and so connected to the free McDonalds Wifi (from outside) and found a map to our first rugby destination in Europe, Lille Metropolitan Rugby Club. Easy to find you may have thought, we certainly did, but sadly not. This is after all, Northern France, not famous for its egg chasing culture, but more for its cheap hypermarches...

As we weaved out way through the South Eastern suburbs of Lille, only guided by our compass, we must have looked a strange sight. Strange enough at least, to a man called Pierre, who took it upon himself to invite us into his house for coffee and find out what all the confusion was about. Luckily for us, he was an experienced man of Lille, and a very friendly chap to boot. “We are cycling to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand” we told him, and here in Lille we wish to visit the Lille Metropolitan Rugby Club”. “Lille Metropolitan Rugby Club” he said? “You must mean the one at the University ground”, “er yes” we replied, “do you know where that is?”. He took out a map from under the table as if he had been expecting our arrival for years. He pointed to a green blob, promising, but unfortunately over the complete other side of town! “There’s only one rugby club in Lille” he added “it must be that one”.

After connecting to the internet in his house, we managed to establish that in fact, we were pretty much already next to the ground, and so he kindly cycled us to the pitch himself. I think he was as surprised to find the club as we were, and despite only finding a groundsman at the scene, Rugby Club 1 on the trip had been achieved. So what have we unearthed here? Well, as I write in 2010, France have just completed the 6 nations grand slam and are clearly a force to be reckoned with. What I can say is this; if they are to achieve glory in New Zealand, they will have to go there without the support of Pierre and his Lille counterparts.

We pedalled on from Lille, heading mostly East, mainly guided by fabricated road signs, “Tournai 8 km” great, nearly there. “Tournai 9km” Que? Are we going the right way? Yes it still says this way “Tournai 8km”, Ok right clearly progress now, “Tournai 5km” “Tournai 5km” “Tournai 5km” until we finally trip over the final batch from the “Tournai 5km” road sign Dutch auction and land quite literally in the middle of the town. You soon learn to ignore the distances, we judged how far we were away from town by assuming we were far, far away, until we were very, very close. Day 2 – 93.8km – cash EUR 3.68
 

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