I write this article thankfully having a Monday off work as the amount of alcohol consumed over a weekend was nothing short of phenomenal and it is frankly how I would sum my weekend that has just passed in Lyon and Saint Etienne.
A strong squad met at Gatwick Aiport for the obligatory to early for drinking in any other occasion but as it’s a holiday beers and after two of those we were then called to the gate for a short flight to Lyon. There was a slight delay in setting off but that certainly didn’t dampen the anticipation.
After landing and everyone regretting wearing Jeans due to the already intense morning heat a tactical change into shorts was required by all and then it was time to get a bottle of water because hydration or would that be dehydration was going to be key this weekend
There’s then the weighing up of getting a train or a taxi to the accommodation, when you’re on holiday you just want to get straight there and get on the beers so 60 euros later although thankfully split by three and we had arrived at the Away Hostel & Coffee Shop – A hostel I couldn’t recommend highly enough.
If you end up Lyon then I would definitely check this one out http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Away-Hostel-and-Coffee-Shop/Lyon/267728
Checked in and ready to go it was time to go drinking, with no games on the Friday it was only going to go one way and that was boozy. Beers in the now even more intense 30 degree heat was the theme of the day and any plans of sightseeing were now fully out of the window
I could talk at length at the different bars we went to but a) it would get a bit samey and b) I couldn’t remember half of the names due to intoxication. A tactical mid afternoon nap was taken on board and then a few more drinks were taken on. But then there’s Jagerbombs…..always bloody Jagerbombs.
Back to the hostel around midnight because we had to be up out and early to St Etienne the next day and everyone is tucked in for the night. Only except me who had to make a quick dash to the toilet to meet those Jagerbombs again. Bollocks
Two hours later after I’ve passed out on the toilet floor using a towel as a cushion and I’m back in my bunk bed. But man I already know I’m going to regret this. The 8am alarm at the best of the times is tough but this one was awful and yes I regretted those Jagerbombs from last night
Switzerland vs Poland was on the agenda but first we had to get St Etienne and that meant a 55 minute train journey but not before a half hour walk to the station. It was going to be a bit arduous but one thing Lyon does have is loads of chemists
A well thought purchase of Paracetemol and a massive bottle of water got me slowly back in the game, there was a few others who weren’t quite as lively as the day before so it was a general rule of “On the train, don’t talk to me I’m having a sleep”
But we all arrived, I don’t know about in one piece but we had arrived. With three and half hours to go once again there was only one thing to do. Getting a hair of the dog in, I must admit the first one didn’t taste great but there was no way I was missing out on all the fun
We were in a bar with some raucous Poland fans and once the banter starts and the drinks keep flowing yesterday’s booze issues are long forgotten about. By the 5th beer I’m back at match fitness and ready for the game ahead
A relatively brisk 25 minute walk to the stadium and the excitement is building nicely. With the additional security measures in place at the ground I was cutting it fine getting to my seat. I just made it for the 10 second countdown and Poland vs Switzerland was nearly underway
I made it, my first ever major championship game and it’s perfect weather, the headache from yesterday has subsided and you couldn’t ask for anything more but perhaps a goal in this game. It took a while to get going and Jakub Blaszczykowski finally found the net after 38 minutes
Switzerland had to go for it in the second half and with time running out Xhedran Shaqiri pulled off a quite amazing bicycle kick from 18 yards to give Switzerland an equaliser with extra time beckoning. Extra time did indeed come and another 30 minutes couldn’t split the two sides
Penalties was indeed required and Granit Xhaka produced an absolutely awful penalty one that would prove to be the difference as Poland ended up winning 5-4 on spot kicks. Not a great omen for Arsenal fans, they will be hoping he is not on spot kick duties next season
After the game it was decision time, the original hope was that England would be playing straight after and we could go to the fan park near the ground but thanks to Roy Hodgson’s 6 changes that plan was blown out of the water
Therefore we could either stay behind and watch Wales vs Northern Ireland or head back to Lyon and watch Portugal vs Croatia in Lyon’s Bellecour fanzone. Our group got split so one half stayed behind to watch Bale and Co and I and 5 others headed back, but not before a McDonalds.
McDonalds was an incredibly constant theme throughout as was Carlsberg. I can do without Carlsberg for quite a while after this weekend. It’s obviously a necessary evil but it tastes awful, thankfully I didn’t bother with the 0.5% version in the stadium. 6.50 euros for that muck, I’ll pass thanks mate
But anyway I digress once the McDonalds was consumed and a mad dash to get a train ticket and a run to the train otherwise it would have meant staying in St Etienne for another hour which in all fairness I really didn’t want to do we were back on the train to Lyon.
There was nothing wrong with St Etienne but that’s the thing there wasn’t really anything there. Even the walk to the stadium felt like you were walking through an industrial estate at times. It really was a case of spending the minimum time required in the city.
After arriving in Lyon and a short taxi to the fan zone it was time for Portugal vs Croatia. Which I’m not even joking is one of the worst games I’ve ever seen. The fact we left after 90 minutes pretty much says it all, our group were all bored into submission at the prospect of spending another 30 minutes watching that, although spare a thought for the guys who stayed on in St Etienne as their train back to Lyon broke down.
After wondering through the streets of Lyon and stopping for another McDonalds, yes that’s right another one it was time to try and find something a bit stronger to drink. Everyone had consumed lager fatique but that’s nothing a few Rum and Coke’s couldn’t sort out
The Wallace sports bar was our main base over the weekend and one that most fans seemed to head to, that was certainly the case on Saturday night as the Irish invasion was in full force. With them playing in Lyon the next day the city was now awash with Green.
A few more drinks and a lot more laughs and it was now getting on for 2am and with a hostel check out in 8 hours time it was time to call it a night for the second time especially as some of the group had also got tickets for the France vs Republic Of Ireland the next afternoon.
Another morning, a hot morning that is and it was time for more paracetamol but after a good shower and a croissant I felt a bit more human as we said goodbye to the hostel and killed the last few hours of our time in Lyon.
We wandered round the city taking in the sights of the city warming up in anticipation for the game just a few hours later. That sea of Green was now a literal army, to the point where it was hard to get a drink because every bar was wall to wall with fans
After having a quick pint and saying goodbye to the lads who were staying on to watch the game, we had time for a bit of lunch and probably the first non alcoholic drink of the weekend before heading into another taxi back to the airport
Due to our flight’s timing we couldn’t stay behind to even watch the game because we would have missed check in so I had the idea of us getting to the airport extra early as surely they would have a TV there to watch the game.
It was a gamble and one that had to come off as otherwise we would have had a 4 hour wait of staying of strained conversation due to fatigue and as much as I like my friends that was always going to be a big ask. So we arrived at the airport with 20 minutes to go before kickoff was the gamble to pay off
Lyon Airport is going through a rebuilding process so everything looks about half finished, we clear security and it doesn’t look like they are really getting in the tournament spirit. At this point it wasn’t looking hopeful
We spotted a TV, success?…..well not quite as it wasn’t turned on. The TV is situated in their food village, actually due to it’s size it was probably more of a hamlet. So I ask the person behind the counter whether they are showing a game. A gallic shrug and a blunt ‘No’ later and it looks like we’re doomed
But a minute later some absolutely hero in my eyes turns the TV on and we are good to go. A minute later and the Republic are in dreamland with Robbie Brady sending what is now a swelling crowd around this TV into a mixture of cheers and jeers.
The boys in green had an impressive first 45 minutes but you always felt as if they could have done with a second to really take the game to France. If it was Ireland’s first half then it was Antoine Griezmann’s second
His brace of goals within 3 minutes of each other turned the game on it’s head and once Shane Duffy was sent off for stopping what would have been a surefire hat-trick for the Atletico forward it was all but game over for Martin O’Neill’s side
France progressed to the Quarter Finals and we then progressed to our check in gate but not without one last piece of drama. As we got to the airport so early we thought we had plenty of time in the bag but we forgot about French airport security
What we didn’t know that is that they have an extra layer of passport control before the gate unlike Gatwick Airport and there was only one man working for what seemed to be the whole of Lyon Airport. It was going to be tight
That and also the French don’t seem to be a big fan of a queuing system. So people are being opportunistic and pushing in making us go further back in the queue. Some cross words and looks are exchanged as we indicate you are not getting past us and we clear it with 3 minutes to go before the gate closes.
Job done just. On the plane and thankfully it’s only a 70 minute flight back to Gatwick, although I still have to get back to East London so my journey is no way near done yet. It’s about 8pm on Sunday at this point and energy levels are low.
A delay getting through passport control as my passport chip now decides to stop working, but finally that has cleared and the goodbyes are said to the half dozen people that came back on my flight. They head off one way to the coast while I have to contend with the train and tube before I get home another two hours later
But I’m home and although I’m absolutely knackered I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world. Due to a mixture of age, commitments and were tournaments are being hosted I sincerely doubt that this weekend will be able to replicated so you have to cherish times like this
A weekend of Football, drinking, banter, McDonalds, Carlsberg and a crippling hangover but thankfully coming out of it the other side. To me it really doesn’t get much better than that and I now come away with so many memories and I thank everyone that was involved.
One of the best weekends I’ve ever had and for that I will be eternally grateful. I doubt I’ll ever go to Lyon again and if you asked me about the City all I could say is that is has some rivers and lots of bars as that’s about all I say but I had an absolutely amazing time.