19 September 2007

Top Tips when going to Stade de France for Rugby World Cup

Firstly, before I detail my tips and experiences gained when watching the Rugby in Paris, I thought I ought to point out the following... Before you travel to Paris, be under no illusion, the beer is more expensive, the locals hate tourists and there is practically nothing written in any language other than French and finally, always have your passport in your pocket, if stopped by the Police, they will want to see it straight away. On the other hand, France is totally excited by the World Cup, has a fantastic public transport system and if you take something from my tips, you will have a great time.

The findings were all discovered on Friday 14th September, the day England seemingly surrendered their world crown at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

On match day, the streets of Paris are alive and buzzing with the fans of just about every Nation competing in the World Cup. Paris is known to be a city of cafe culture, you will not be disappointed, the streets are lined with tables and chairs outside, they normally are filled with smoking Parisians quaffing coffee, not during this Championship. The cafes are a mass of bright colours each one, the day I went it was mainly a sea of white and green, English and South Africans. The majority drink pints of cool lager and try to take in some of the heat from the sun, the atmosphere is electric. You will hardly hear a French voice, all English with accents from across the globe. There is zero trouble, everyone, regardless of team is talking together about the match.

Getting to the stadium is pretty easy, take the RER train directly to the Stade de France, it takes around 20 minutes from the centre of the city, very cheap and one train every few minutes. Outside the stadium you can sense a major event is about to take place, everyone is excited and on top form, people walk alongside opposing fans, chatting about who will win and why. All the way from the station at St Dennis to the Stadium the streets are filled with people selling merchandise, nasty looking kebabs and cans of beer from cool boxes. There are many bars en route and plenty of opportunity to buy tickets from touts. This walk takes around 10-15 minutes.

Arriving at the stadium you are thrust into a cauldron of noise and excitement, people singing, bands playing music, people dancing and fans of all ages from 3 to 90 years old (it seemed). There are plenty of Heineken stands and although really overpriced (7€ per pint) there are plenty drinking. Everyone is happy and there are a few bands playing tunes relevant to the fans surrounding them (although not sure about Tom Jones’ deliliah). TV crews interview people and the paparazzi will snap anybody wearing something unusual, the most popular when I was there were the two guys in South African kit wearing Nelson Mandela masks. One big tip outside, there are no big screens, do not arrive thinking you can watch a game before.

During the game and inside the stadium there are plenty of bars and food places, serving the usual fare, toilets as ever are a major problem as there aren’t enough.

After the game, all of the “beer tents” remain open, many were celebrating, many were drinking to forget. All in all, i’d summarise the atmosphere as being one big party, many fans left the ground through fear of not getting home and missing the last train, the woman I spoke to at the RER said that they run the trains until everyone is gone, I got the train at 12.30am (after shaking hands with a certain Martin Johnson outside the media zone)

Top Tips at a glance

  1. Get RER train to Stade de France
  2. Get there 2-3 hours before kick-off and enjoy the build up outside.
  3. Have a beer after the game and miss the rush
  4. If you want to watch a game before make sure you do it in a bar en route, nothing at the stadium
  5. Not got a ticket? Plenty are selling on behalf of friends that couldn’t make it, you will watch the game next to them but..?
  6. Go to toilet 2 mins before half finishes
  7. Take the whole family without fear, no trouble and great atmosphere.
  8. Instead of buying a program (€8) wait until after, loads are left under seats!

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