Anyone who read my very first blog will recall that France was one of my original Flamingo destinations. Because life is topsy-turvy I have not been to France yet, but in February France came to Edinburgh for the Six Nations Rugby tournament – and because life is topsy-turvy I wound up spending a weekend with a bunch of French Rugby enthusiasts on their once a year wife free jaunt across the Channel.
Most Six Nations tourism is about drinking and laddish behaviour, the group I spent the weekend with embodied that perfectly- but they also came to play Rugby.
The Six Nations France v’s Scotland game was due to be played on Sunday afternoon, and on Friday night the Currie Rugby Football Club agreed to host the visiting Frenchmen for a friendly game under lights.
Everyone I spoke to in the lead up said that in the official tournament France would walk all over Scotland, because of that, and possibly because of other Channel rivalries that a colonial like me could not possibly understand, the Scotts did not want to loose to the French at the beginning of the weekend.
The Frenchmen were not exactly an intimidating opposition- they first played together in the early 90’s and along with their football boots they travelled with a lot of wine and and a lot of pork. The Currie team fielded some token older generation players amongst the forwards, but the backs had skill, speed and youth on their side.
six packs vs. beer bellies would not be an inappropriate description.
Having grown up watching Aussie Rules I am a long way off understanding the ins and outs of Rugby, but I love to watch a local game and Friday night fitted my yearnings for a home game nicely.
Supporters at a local Aussie Rules game
There was a good crowd, I had a drink in my hand and there were men running about after a ball in front of me. So far so good. Even without having a clue why there were so many group hugs on the field and why they don’t kick the ball more often I could easily tell which team was superior: the Scott’s are lithe, fit, strong and co-ordinated and the Frenchmen were worn out by the end of the warm up.
The Scrum (or so I am told)
This is entertaining for a little while, but nobody likes a total walk over- not even the winning side, so at half time the locals did some jumper swapping, lending some young blood to the Frenchmen to even things up and really gave the French spectators something to sing about.
Thankfully, although the scores did not even out the joie de vivre of both sides was evident throughout and the happy mud splattered faces in the joint team photo showed why sport is so often the thing that obliterates borders and brings people together.
Back in the rooms after the game things were a little different from a post-game gathering in country Victoria- the French players knew not to keep the red wine in the fridge and had BYO’d their own butcher, prosciutto and sausage, and the Scots had a bagpiper to entertain the crowd. Despite the many differences the atmosphere had familiar elements as well: there were very few females, everyone made a beeline for the bar and the two teams started the evening out on different sides of the room and were gradually induced to mingle by the sharing of wine and food and tales of the game just passed. I felt quite at home.
the French butcher, his produce and wine
Friday left memories of on field heroics, new comrades and sore bodies- but Sunday was the reason for it all. We did the long slow walk to Murryfield Stadium with all the other supporters and arrived early enough to picnic outside the ground- cue more meat and wine and some French bread sticks to soak up the alcohol and grease. Drinking red wine out of a plastic cup and trying a slab of Foi Gras for the first time at a French picnic in Edinburgh is not easily forgotten- nor is the Foi Gras itself as it repeats on you throughout the afternoon. For a Scottish February day it was pretty mild and when the sun came out briefly I turned my face to the warm glow and wondered how on earth I had come to be right here right now.
Foi Gras by the slab
This was my first large scale European game and going into the grounds with Scottish drums and pipes blaring, fancy dress raging, crowds thronging and excitement building felt a little similar to arriving at the Quidditch World Cup- at least that was the closest parallel my brain could draw.
Flamingo Rover and the men with cockerels on their heads
Despite what many had predicted the game was a close one, with Scotland leading much of the game. This unprecedented occurrence made for a highly watch-able game, and even with my lack of Rugby nous I happily cheered myself hoarse. In the end the French were victorious- but the Scotts could stand proud – the game was no walkover.
The weekend the French came to town was filled with rugby, wine, meat, smoking, singing and speeches. Being a solo girl amongst a group of French men meant that I got rather bombarded with French chivalry, seeing as how the Australian form of chivalry is to let the girl go to the bar for you, this was quite a pleasant change.
I definitely still have France on my rover list.
With thanks to the Frenchmen and Walkabout Scotland for letting me tag along on this boys own adventure.