Day One: Voyage of Vane, The Water Of The Bath
I was picked up at 2.45am by Ian. We travelled to Dover to make the ferry makes it seem real now that off to the World Cup after counting down and not sure if I was going to make it or not, but after some planning the next seven days will be an adventure and a half as we travel up and down France by car. We have three games planned in Spain vs China, England vs Japan and Netherlands vs Canada.
The early morning journey to the ferry went by fairly quick as we waited to board the Ferry to Calais, I wanted rough seas so I could pretend I was Captain Vane and ride the high seas, unfortunately, was like being in a big bath. We stayed over in Calais on the beach side as we watched the Ferry’s come in and out of port, also tried to watch the Sweden game but french tv and the awful wifi didn’t help after finding somewhere could stream the game.
Day Two: Losada de amor el mas grande de todos los tiempos
We woke up in Calais and went to go and pick up our hire car before the journey ahead. The first few minutes were interesting as Ian adapted to the French way of driving on the wrong side of the road and going around the roundabouts and such the wrong way. We travelled 3 hours into Le Havre, which was an interesting journey but was through some beautiful countryside with a couple of stops we made it to the game.
It was wild with Police everywhere and the roads closed off and we finally found a parking spot in the housing estate where we worried if it was ok to park, when we got back people were parked in the central reservation, in bushes and next to trees, anywhere there that your car could fit and that there wasn’t already a car.
Then onto the game, I can honestly say before the game this was the most excited I’ve ever been for a game as we walked up to the ground and waited for Fan Zone to open, we saw the China and Spain coaches pull up behind the blue material. The atmosphere was great as you entered the ground with all kinds of people and nationalities inside. The sun was blazing hot as we sat waiting for the game to start but this wouldn’t stop the fun and anticipation as we had the countdown on the screen. I’ll admit I was a little bit gutted when the teams were read out to see that Vicky Losada was on the bench (to which the conversation was so when are we going Barcelona). I was happy though because so many different Spanish players I wanted to see play meant that no matter what combination he put out the field I would be happy as would get to see people I like play. The ground was impressive and would end up being my favourite of the three we visited on our journeys. Le Havre got a thumbs up from me, but they got sunburnt.
You can read my report here. Even though I would have loved a Spain win, they did everything they could to score and win, but the Chinese keeper was in super form as she kept out the Spanish attacks. It was Peng Shimeng who picked up the Player Of The Match.
Seeing Leila Ouahabi play made me smile as she was injured in the game when saw Barcelona play Manchester City which was one to watch off my list. Same as seeing Jennifer Hermoso, Lucia Garcia, Virginia Torrecilla, Maria Leon play as well. I was gutted didn’t get to see Vicky Losada and Aitana Bonmatí play however I was happy that I got to see them warm up. I left smiling after this game and am still smiling now. I would have loved to have gone and spoken to the players but the World Cup made this very hard with the heightened security and the placement of fans. But away from Spain as well, I have to give so much respect to the China fans! They made a lot of noise and was so supportive and nice. The Chinese players did a lap of honour to thank their fans (which to me goes a long way) and took a well-deserved round of applause from both sets of fans.
We drove to Paris after the game to go and see the Effiell Tower. We arrived at 1 am and was going to park at the Iran Embassy but found a spot beforehand. As we walked up we expected it not to be so busy, but we were so wrong! We got to the steps to see it rammed. It was more impressive than the Tower Of Pisa. We left Paris for Soissons to go and lay head down for the night.
Day Three: Who needs rest to Infinity and BEYOND the castle, Nice.
After a few hours sleep, who needs rest it was time to spring up to go and defend the galaxy from Zurg, Infinity and Beyond was the destination as we headed for Disneyland Paris. I joked about how amazing it would be if we bumped into any of the Spanish players as they were travelling to Reims for the next game.
It was a great day walking around Disneyland Paris meeting Pluto and Micky Mouse. Looking at the attractions and sights while going on a few rides, of course, everything involved a hefty queue but as Brits, we love to queue. My favourite thing was seeing Toyland in Toon Land seeing the Toy Story stuff and going on Buzz Lightyear ride.
The parade was impressive as we decided to call it a day at 8 pm and make the 8 and half hour journey to Nice. We had a few stops on the way but made it to the hotel in Nice about 5.30am. A short while later our 8 am alarm went off. On the way through the toll at Lyon, we were pulled over by three police with weapons out and asked questions about why we were out and where we were going. They looked shocked we were driving so much and let us go on our way. As you can imagine the language barrier was something else.
Day Four; No Mead For Sleep. No Mead For A Hotel.
After waking up after a few hours sleep with hardly anything left in the tank from travelling the night before and the lack of sleep had before going to Calais. We made our way down the hill, the massive hill, the bloody massive hill (which we’d have to go back up) but as we got on the tram to the station where we was meant to go it stopped for construction work on line and turned the other way so we had no way of making it. After grabbing breakfast and getting out the baking sun we attacked the hill, the cliff, the mountain which nearly killed us. We rested up, went shopping to which I found Jim Bean Apple and dropped into KFC to kill a little time before we went and parked up out the front of the Stadium and counted down time till the gates would open and we could go inside.
The stadium in Nice was decent but not quite up to the standard of Le Havre (Spain might of had something to do with my joy on this as well). The band bored life out of me before the game and the cringe English build up before the game was quickly forgotten when the teams were read out, Neville having his pick it out of a hat technique it seemed. Was gutted was no Beth Mead but was happy to see Rachel Daly play. I kinda wanted England to win but really was open to just a good game as Japan had spoilt my friendly game against Spain early on.
England proved the point of winning ugly is still winning, as they can truly thank Ellen White and Rachel Daly for getting anything out of that game. Karen Bardsley early on pulled off one of best saves I’ve ever seen in FOOTBALL, men’s or women’s as she stretched full length to tip over Japan’s early effort. England scored at the right times but really didn’t impress on the pitch. It was a joy to see Japan play, so technical, crisp and creative just couldn’t get the goal they deserved. Shimsame was incredible for Japan, a player that seeing play off the ball is so amazing to see. She reads the game like you wouldn’t believe, you wont see it off the television but in person you see her constantly working the angles. Japan had the best chances of the game and just couldn’t beat Bardsley and England picked up the 2-0 win.
Japan’s players and fans gained so much respect from me and others in the stadium with walking around the ground on a lap of honour getting a very well deserved round of applause. Once again very nice and polite people supporting their nation.
We decided on no hotel as we had the 8 and half hour drive to Reims to get through to our final game. After the night before where we were in the hotel for like two hours, we decided to go and have a sleep in the service station on the way, this would have been a great idea but as I couldn’t really get to sleep but we carried on and got to our destination early in the morning in Guedelon Castle, Treigny.
Day Five: No Moat At The Castle But An Sea Of Orange For All To Sea.
We arrived at the castle after some off-roading going through vineyards and small towns to find the place we were looking for. Ian’s kinda thing but not mine I tried to get through it with a smile until it felt like the episode of South Park in the ye olden town where everyone in a costume. After seeing a pig, a cock and some donkeys it was time to look at the animals. Again maybe being too tired I didn’t get it, they are building a castle like the olden days and in 22 years they ent got very far. But all the “tourist bits” are very modern and new. But enough of that Ian enjoyed it so that made his day start well. With a 3 hour journey now to Reims. It was a battle on the road not to fall asleep for me and Ian who was driving we nearly made it but had to stop and get some shut-eye for an hour. We arrived at our Hotel for the night, checked in and got ready and headed up towards the stadium and found parking on the main road, where we saw the Canada players getting on the coach to go ground in distance. Looking up on the bridge there was a sea of Orange, the Dutch fans and as got closer to the ground it becomes more and more Orange. Anouk Hoogendijk was in the Orange Mob, for those who know my story into football and going abroad Anouk is a huge part of why both happened really, also to why I don’t have time for Scotland (long story don’t want to Kerr you). But by the time we got inside, after a lovely chat with a Dutch woman. I will say one thing off topic throughout the games everybody was very friendly, which for me is hard as I’m not usually. But I must admit we met a nice Canadian man, a nice Dutch woman and a nice Spanish woman. Also even though I’m not a big fan of the French or France, everyone actually seemed interested and proud to have it in their country.
Reim’s ground was different from the others we had seen and would be my least favourite out of the three. It was like an icebox as Ian said the pitch sunken in between 4 high sides straight up. We were high up and the view wasn’t too bad once had dealt with getting over the big orange hats and people walking around with no space. This was a game again very excited for with some of my favourites in the squad. But the second Jill Roord came out I was a Gunner, basically was smitten until the game kicked off with her warm up. The stadium filled up and as expected turned orange as the band kicked off the songs and the stadium joined in.
The game was fantastic both teams really went for it, a VAR decision turned around a penalty early on for Canada. An Offside goal and a few real chances for both teams saw a 0-0 at half time but you knew it would surely have a goal or two. Half time once again was Roord time. The second half started and once again was end to end stuff as was some great football was played but it didn’t take long for a goal as Anouk Dekker rose highest off a corner and headed it home to give the Netherlands the lead but 5 minutes later Christine Sinclair showed she still has it as she got the equaliser with a beautiful goal. The two 19’s came on as Jill Roord entertained me trying to work out whether she or Adriana Leon was coming on. Leon had a fantastic game and nearly gave Canada a lead but it was Netherlands’ other substitute Beerenstyen that got the winner using her pace and placement. A great game to finish on for us. Jill Roord was fantastic as always and it made my mind up for next season.
The game finished and so did the football for our journey but as we got back to the car we saw the Netherlands fans dancing on the side of the road waiting to get on the coach and having a bloody good time. As we got further up the road 3 police bikes pulled out followed by the Netherlands coach, 2 riot vans and 2 more police on bikes as the bus left the stadium. We went and got a McDonalds and headed back to the hotel to watch Sweden Vs USA. All That was left to do was to go to sleep, pack our bags and get to Day 6 and drive back up to Calais.
Day Six: I’m Going Back To Calais, Calais 4 A Toy Story and a Woody.
The travel back to Calais was a realisation that would be watching the rest of the World Cup on the television and that the amazing week was over. We made some great memories and saw some great football. To ease the sadness a little we went to watch Toy Story 4 and chilled out before we travelled home on.
Day Seven: The End Isn’t The End, It’s Just A Wait To Begin.
Making plans to go and see Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Montpellier so can see the Spanish players again as Euro 2021 is still a couple of years away and I cannot wait that long.