Read this blog: The one where we really wanted to take a dip
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th October 2023
The following day we drove to Reims, parked up in the aire by the football pitch and strolled into the city where we found Pub L’escale which would be showing the France vs Italy game. Locals were keen to befriend us as we had taken poll position at a table with a good view of the TV. Rugby fans are [almost] always good-natured but Matilda was unimpressed when a Frenchman challenged her for applauding some good play by the Italians. Where was his sense of fair play? It was clear quite early on in the match that France would win, and one try would not have had much of an impact.
We had originally planned to leave earlier in the evening but after a certain amount of beer the munchies kicked in and Robert ordered a little something extra at the bar. Matilda suggested we create a “Snack of the day” category in which case this would be the first entry. It may not become a regular feature.
The following day we drove to Roubaix, near Lille, and sought advice from the receptionist at the hotel we had booked about places to park a motorhome. She directed us to a free car park without height restrictions close to the hotel and the Hôtel de Ville. Robert was briefly worried as it seemed as though a large wedding party had turned up to park there but fortunately when we had collected the motorhome there was still plenty of space. We then caught the metro into the centre to meet our daughter, Ruth and niece, Catherine who were also in Lille for the match.
As we waited at a bar in the Grande Place, we were repeatedly asked for the seats which we had reserved for Ruth and Catherine but we refused to surrender them. Ruth had brought temporary England tattoos with her which Robert had ordered to her house before the previous England match but they had not been delivered in time for that one.
We realised that we had not planned to have the items necessary to apply them but an ice cube from Matilda’s tonic water proved surprisingly effective. Robert planned to put the tattoo on his cheek but was firmly told that it would not stick to his beard. The only space large enough to accommodate the England flag was therefore his forehead.
Once applied, and coupled with his RWC beret Robert seemed like a hybrid fan, channelling both an inner Englishman and an inner Gaul.
Robert kindly shared his fan merch with his niece so we could have a photo of us all supporting England. Robert planned to wear both his shirts from the hotel and then take one off to give Catherine but Matilda kindly prevented him from doing this and brought the spare one in her bag.
Having previously visited the amphitheatre in Lyon, we went to watch a modern day equivalent of gladiator fighting more commonly known as the Rugby Union World Cup.
Pitchside at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, Robert spent his time pointing out rugby personnel and past players to the young fans. Matilda was used as an excuse to capture photographs of some of them.
One of the fans [seen below] was himself a rugby player and his mother expected great things of him. We realised that we should have asked his name so that we would recognise him in the future.
Henry Arundell was also accosted for a selfie.
The England performance against Samoa was disappointing but did result in a win. With tickets to Tonga vs Romania the following day, Robert and Matilda went back to their hotel to watch Ireland vs Scotland; have a light supper [see Dish of the day] and an early night. It seems not everyone was so sensible.
Apparently the Tongan and Samoan teams were staying in a hotel close to ours and some of their families had rooms in our hotel. It was a pleasant surprise when one of the Tonga players came in with his family and stood to chat and watch some of the Ireland vs Scotland match.
The following morning Al the Motorhome was moved to on street parking by the hotel and provided we left before 09:00 on Monday morning we would have avoided paying for any parking, although as Matilda pointed out this would have been negligible compared to the cost of the whole trip.
Ruth and Catherine came out to join us in Roubaix for midday and we met them at the metro station. It quickly became apparent that they were in desperate need of rehydration. It transpired they had gone to a club and stayed out till 03:00. We tried to call Robert’s mother as it was her birthday but she didn’t answer so we ordered plenty of water in the hotel bar and watched some of the Japan vs Argentina game before we set off to visit Le Musée La Piscine, aiming to get there when it opened at 13:00. Our route took us past the very typical Hôtel de Ville.
Our route also took us past the Samoa and Tonga team coaches.
Matilda has been wanting to visit Le Musée La Piscine – an art museum in an Art Deco swimming pool – since her first visit to Lille when Robert told her that it was too far out. Indeed, it is quite a long metro journey from the centre, but well worth it.
Originally built in 1932, the public swimming pool was to be ‘the most beautiful swimming pool in France’. The design by architect Albert Baert was very enlightened for its time as it was built around a courtyard garden and as well as providing the opportunity to exercise it incorporated bathrooms for men and women at a time when many people did not have access to such things.
The pool was very popular and remained in use until 1985 when it closed due to chlorine in the water damaging the structure, particularly the roof. After a period when it lay empty an architecture competition was held to find a new purpose for the space and in 1994 Jean-Paul Phlippon [who had already designed the conversion of the former Gare d’Orsay into the Musée d’Orsay in 1979] was announced as the winner.
In 2001 an adjacent former textile factory was added to the museum and one wall and chimney stand as reminders of times past as you approach the entrance.
The building is so beautiful it steals the show and Matilda certainly spent more time enjoying the space than looking at the art.
The Art Deco interior is just stunning with the pool reflecting the coloured light from semicircular stained glass windows facing east and west representing the rising and the setting sun.
The olympic size pool has been made shallower and narrower to make room for the sculptures and art but it nevertheless made us wish it were still possible to swim there.
The ambience is calm and relaxing.
The original Neptune Fountain has been retained as has much of the ornate wave mosaic edge to the pool. The gentle sound of the cascade adds to the sense of peace here, that is until the first burst of sporadic recorded swimming pool noise suddenly shatters the quiet.
Matilda would happily have stayed longer but the rugby beckoned.
The atmosphere outside the stadium prior to the Tonga vs Romania game was quite a contrast. It seemed that the younger members of our group just needed a hair of the dog [see Video of the Day].
As we made our way home after the match, Matilda was embarrassed to hear Robert ask another metro passenger for his RWC2023 lanyard. He said that he was still working as the Samoan, Tongan and Fijian teams’ fitness coach. However, as we all got off the train, he removed his ID and kindly handed over his lanyard. Robert was delighted.
So that concludes the Pool stage of the RWC and after the England performance to date, Robert felt vindicated in the decision he made back in February 2021 not to buy tickets for the knock-out rounds.