Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Two Cities

To Paris – the only place in the world where you can sit for hours doing absolutely nothing except perhaps drink a beer, just pretending you're doing people-watching research - and not feel guilty. It’s only a 2½ hour train trip – but it's another planet away. Now that daughter is no longer Parisienne, we’re starting to stay in different parts of the city – this time, around Opéra. But wherever we stay in Paris, one of us is sure to say ‘I could easily live around here, could you?’ There are, of course, undesirable areas, but it seems Paris has managed to keep the structure of fairly self-contained ‘villages’ that it always had, and everyone sings the praises of their 'quarter'. You don’t need to charge off to the grandes surfaces – the disapproving term they use for super-markets – every day, because you never seem to be more than 100 metres from a street market, a grocer, a butcher, a baker… Yes, we could live here – and almost did once, then realized that we would be moving to a place that, for all its charms, had about the same climate as England. That’s how we finished up on the Côte d’Azur – it’s our little Paris in the sun.
The excuse for this trip was tennis. Roger Federer (Swiss) played Rafael Nadal (Spanish) for the French Open championship, played on the sort of gravel we use for garden paths. Federer does not like this surface, and even though he won the first set 6-1, youth won out over age in the end. Well, you can’t expect to be still at your peak when you’re 24.
But it was good to see that style and guile have come back into tennis, and to see every inch of the court being used. I never liked the ‘serve-and-volley’ game, that used only the few inches behind the base line, and whose rallies were only three shots long. But then I also wasn’t tall enough for it, so it could be sour grapes. Trophy presented by Stefan Edberg – whom I last saw winning the NY Open in ’91.

Up early next morning for Eurostar then straight from Waterloo station to take advantage of son’s present: a day at London’s Queens Club, the Wimbledon warm-up tournament – this time played – of course - on pristine, manicured grass. Don't wish to sound anti-progress but the game is called lawn tennis. A moment of nationalistic joy watching our unseeded Tim (Henman) beating Andre Agassi (with Agassi getting more vocal support from the crowd than Tim – what can this mean? That we are becoming outnumbered?) A promising newcomer called Monfils. An interesting men’s doubles duo pairing French star Grosjean with Scottish prodigy Andy Murray – how do they communicate? - the latter of whom I find it hard to support vocally because he refuses (despite the fact that Scotland failed to qualify) to support the footballers of England (the country in which he gains much of his living) in the World Cup.
We had worried we might not be able to catch England's opening match - against Paraguay - in Paris on Saturday afternoon. As it turned out it would have been impossible to avoid it!
Home late Monday suffering from travelfatigue, sunstroke and tennis exhaustion – and happily so. Only hope your weekend was this good.


gillie said...

yes, my weekend was equally sublime (see Writer's Moll) but you can slap my wrist next week
for not watching The Match.

Jude said...

Do you like sport by any chance? Sounds like you had a hectic but fun time. I could do with a bit of the latter.

riviera writer said...

gillie - can't wait
jude - Wife almost didn't marry me because she thought sports fans were thick. (I've cut down a lot since then.)

Ed R said...

I have a friend whoi lives on Clifton Road, about a imle or so from the Stadium.

If Paris's climate is much like London's, how do the Londoners grow the grass for their courts so well while the French as so bad at it it's like playing on clay?

Ed R said...

OH, and I watched neither TEnnis NOR football this week.
Maybe I shouldn't have said that out loud...

riviera writer said...

I've wondered the same thing Ed, and hoped no one would ask. Don't think it's maintenance, 'terre battue' needs more TLC, cleaning, sweeping, watering... Could be honesty - ball leaves mark in sand so ref can see if in or out. I'll ask Google. Don't know stadium area myself but CJ will.
Shame on you - and gillie. She went mountaineering. Tennis difficult up there on account of sloping courts.