An Australian Girl in Paris – Part Un
Readers of this blog from the January era may recall the thrills and adrenaline experienced every year by myself and my tennis-watching partners in crime, L and M. We stake our claim on Melbourne Park early in Week 1, and by the end of Week 2,we’ve camped out in style and made our way into every court, stadium, nook and cranny.
It’s the dirty time of the year, and I’m on Fabulous Tour of the Universe TM. Which meant only one thing: travel needs to be arranged with tennis in mind. While setting up shop in a sports bar to watch tennis with litres of beer and friendly bartenders has worked until now, for the final weekend of Roland Garros it was time to take it up a notch.
It was time to go to Paris, and view La Vie En Paree. I had to know the important things about the tournament: How much does a beer cost? How pretty are the uniforms? Where are the practice courts and which is Rafa’s favourite? Most importantly, where are the toilets?
One of the most striking things about attending a tennis tournament is the colour. Tennis has embraced fluero colours more than most sports – they’ve got the Day-Glo yellow tennis ball, the flashy fashions on the field – I mean, court – and the sweet hues that rival any Pantone book on the purple Hartru of Indian Wells, the blue Plexicushion of Melbourne Park, and of course, that glorious red dirt at Roland Garros.
The most difficult task, of course, was to attend a tennis tournament without constantly comparing it to my spiritual home and tennis birthplace, Melbourne Park.
Which didn’t suit me when I exited the train at Bois De Bolougne and was bowled away by the colour differences – instead of bright blue and orange, I was faced with luscious dark green, from the trees that line the streets leading to Stade de Roland Garros to the leaves that hang over the walls of the courts. Complemented by the Roland Garros red, the burnt orange clay colour that accents all the logos and shows up brilliantly on the court. The cream of the officials’ uniforms, the muted tones of the Haagen Daaz logo, all scream French, classy, cool and collected.
Arriving at Roland Garros on Friday, I noted the streams of people leaving the stadium but knew that there was still close to a set of tennis left to complete for Jurgen up against my boy Rafa. Turns out the ticket box was closed, tickets can’t be reused, and I was close to tears. Until some well-practiced high school French came to my rescue, and suddenly I had evaded several black suited security guards and was in the holy grail, the region of Roland Garros.
Passing by the Haagen Daaz girls selling ice creams and the everpresent gangs of roaming ballkids, I was in the main circle area between Court 1 and Phillipe Chatrier, where a big screen broadcast of Rafa and Jurgen was in progress. Let’s be honest. I can’t say I saw much of the tennis. There were French men in their jeans, blazers and loafers, lounging around with women in sundresses and cardigans. The volunteers and workers in their cream silky dresses with burgundy sashes and ballet flats stood guard at the entrance to the court with men in cream trousers (trousers are the only word for these) with very RogerWimbledonesque cardigans. Everyone in sight is eating a baguette or smoking a cigarette – usually both. The colours are vivid and dazzling. I’m stunned by the bright green and cream, but what I really want to see is a dark red clay court.
So once the match is over, and Rafa lets Jurgen know who’s boss, I’m negotiating the steps up to Court 5 and photographing the clay through the holes in the cyclone fence. I want to touch it, feel it, even taste it, Francesca-style. I’m in Roland Garros, babies.
Even the rubbish bins have my name on it.