In France: A World Cup Story
France, 2006. My sister and I were on a we’re in our early 20’s so why the hell not? adventure, back before either of us had been bitten by too much cynicism and the economy was still friendly enough toward young ladies in college with part-time jobs. It was totally by accident or serendipity that we arrived and exchanged our dollars for euros during one of the most thrilling times to be in the country.
We had heard the buzz of the World Cup during our week in Paris, but the excitement didn’t ramp up until the final 16, when we were on the Côte d’Azur. Games were on in every café, crowds stuffed onto the famed sidewalks as men smoked and drank Pastis or beer or wine, commentating on every move in a language that I was only beginning to understand. Certain words popped out, like marquer and stupide and allez!, but it was easy enough to follow what was going on because it was, after all, soccer. My sport.
I hadn’t watched a soccer game in years. It was still painful to me; I wanted to jump through the screen onto the field, not passively sit and watch players do something that came so naturally to me way back when.
However, sitting in that café the first night in Nice, after a pizza and cappuccino, my sister and I caught the enthusiasm. We stayed well into the evening to watch the game. The U.S. had been disqualified almost from the beginning, and shame over our country’s disdain for the sport seeped through us. It was obvious who we would root for, even before the U.S. was eliminated.
After Brazil won a huge victory while we were in Cannes, the tiny wedges of streets packed fully of yellow and green jerseys, of gorgeously tan men and women shouting in Portuguese. Since when did so many Brazilians decide to hang around the South of France? One of the Brazilians Emile and I met grabbed my breast while we were talking, then suggested I go to bed with him that night. Not only had that thought never crossed my mind, but fortunately I had the presence of mind to smack him in a way that said “touch me again and next time it won’t be the shoulder I hit.”
Despite that lone foreign victory and subsequent celebration, it was the other red, white and blue team that held the everyone’s heart. Maybe mine, too.
After Emile left, I spent my days wandering the country on my own. I passed lunches by myself with a book, and evenings in restaurants and cafés watching whatever game happened to be on. Instantly, I felt companionship with everyone in the restaurant as we watched offside calls, injuries, yellow cards and the rare goal scored. The knee injuries of youth rotated quietly around to the back of my head and the aching to be on the field transmuted into something I didn’t recognize at first. I yelled in French and sat at the edge of my cane chair just like everyone else. No one would even know I was an American if they didn’t stop to talk to me.
By the final game against Italy, I had rambled into Tours, a smallish-city in central France that boasted a medieval town and a central location for châteaux-visiting tourists. That night, I wandered into the town square and a buzzing din greeted me.
Though I was thousands of miles from home, I had never belonged somewhere more.
What a great story. I’ve always wanted to travel there. I’m told regular every day French people are a joy and not rude and so forth. True?
Lance recently posted…Do The Right Thing
I love the last sentence. I always struggle with endings, myself. I could care less about the World Cup but I could totally feel your enthusiasm, reading this!
Pam recently posted…I didn’t have dental work, I have Bell’s Palsy
I love that nobody knew you were American. The first time I went to France, for business, I had too many people come tell me that either they loved or hated Americans. It was when Bush was pres so um, yeah. What an amazing trip and I so miss the days when I was able to eat and stuff without any money…
Kristi Campbell recently posted…My Appliances Hate Me
Ice Scream Mama
you were totally immersed in their culture. sounds fabulous!
Ice Scream Mama recently posted…Here’s the pitch…
Great storytelling. I could feel you getting more and more immersed in the culture. Loved the ending.
Marcy recently posted…Fitbit to be Tied
ahhhh how freaking AWESOME for you to be so emerged during a final game in one of the teams homelands!! i’m so very jealous (huge soccer fan).
christina recently posted…the big day
Aww I LOVED Paris. How cool that you went when such an event was going on. It sounds amazing!
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Cindy - The Reedster Speaks
Oh, to be in one’s twenties wandering around cafes in France, speaking the language. Great evoking of the sense of independence and camaraderie.
Cindy – The Reedster Speaks recently posted…My doctor refuses to prescribe fancy Cokes for my broken foot.
Samantha Brinn Merel
I absolutely love your travel stories. This is such a great one. It’s amazing how you can sometimes feel so at home, so far away from home.
Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…Today Is Somebody’s Birthday…
Ditto Cindy’s comment! What an awesome experience at the perfect time! Young and World Cup action!
Gina recently posted…People Who Spoil All the Fun: Yeah Write
Great story. Loved the last line. Made me want to travel again!
Sounds amazing! I want to go to France someday.
Linda Roy recently posted…The Tale of the Neon Vagina
How exciting and wonderful! You had me at pizza and cappucino! Viva le france!
christie recently posted…Lapsed Catholic Mother With Kids In Jewish Summer Camp
Sounds like it was a wonderful trip.
Jack recently posted…Ten Minutes On A Saturday Night
Come back my friend! Come to dinner!
Lady Jennie recently posted…Eight Takeaways from BlogHer ’14
I was in France during this year’s World Cup and I must say I enjoyed it! I was on the Cote de Granit Rose and the Loire Valley and it was pretty awesome!
Jen recently posted…A Blogher 2014 Re-Cap
Ooo, love both of those places! I think I visited every major château there was…well, almost. 😉
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type in google for – wcnu traffic increase
Kellye recently posted…Kellye
Just discovering your blog thanks to a comment you left on Pam’s Whatevs blog. 🙂 I love this post, especially because I spent almost 20 years growing up in France, as a British-American. I love your conscious and brave decision to leave the comfort of your book and delve into community life, which allowed you to go from a foreigner to one who belonged in some way. You remind me that belonging is so often about our own attitude.
TCKmama recently posted…Inside the frame