Waiting an extra 27 hours for the announcement and loyally maintaining a membership to U.S. Soccer has paid off.
Kudos to the soccer gods for not scheduling this game the same weekend as an Ohio State home football game.
Our connection in Europe was at the Brussels airport.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the terror attacks that hit the airport just a few months prior, security in Brussels was intense.
Mercifully, we still had time for a snack!
Then we boarded our short flight to Lyon.
Catching the Rhônexpress tram into Lyon was no big thing, nor was catching a cab to take us to our hotel.
Then we had problems.
Smelly and tired and lugging suitcases that weighed as much as we did, we got to our destination to find that it was an apartment building. Which we sort of knew that it was going to be (we knew there wasn’t a front desk, for example) but didn’t really anticipate how difficult it was going to be to get in touch with the hotelier.
Because our phones didn’t work. Because there wasn’t an answer when a nice Frenchwoman called from her phone.
We dragged our suitcases to a restaurant a few doors down and plotted our next move.
Lauren tried sending a text message. Miraculously, it went through. Less-than-miraculously, we were told that check in wasn’t for another couple of hours. Somehow Lauren bargained the time down and, finally, we got checked in.
After dragging 200 pounds of suitcase up 4 flights of stairs.
(Factoid: in France, the first floor is more like floor zero so being on the third floor in France = being on the fourth floor in the United States.)
Having gained access to our accommodations and gotten in that day’s workout, we relaxed for a while. Then it was time to put on our Portugal jerseys and get on with the soccer!
We wandered our way to Lyon’s Fan Zone.
It was disappointing, as all Fan Zones are. Why we waste our time giving them a shot at being anything other than disappointing is anyone’s guess.
We stopped at the hospitality desk, where the nice volunteer lady thrust a map in our hands and urged us to get going right away or we were going to miss the start of the match.
Oh, so that’s why the Fan Zone was so empty.
Getting to the match, and taking our first ride on Lyon’s public transportation, involved some trial and error. Like getting on the subway. Then getting off. Then almost getting back on before a nice (drunken) British dude basically pulled us on another train and said to follow him.
He did get us to the stadium.
But by going an entirely different route than what the woman at the hospitality desk suggested.
Whatever. We made it.
Our seats were great: up high but very central. And the match turned out to be one of the most exciting of the whole tournament: a 3-3 tie where Christiano Ronaldo saved Portugal from elimination and scored some sweet goals in the process.
We got to experience flares in the stands for the first time (apart from local DCFC games, anyway). There’s nothing like the warm and fuzzy feeling you get while watching the fans go wild while smoke spreads across the supporter’s section and knowing that grown men smuggled those flares into the stadium via their buttcracks.
At the conclusion of the match, we stood in incredibly long lines to get back on the trams so that we could get back on the subway and then back into Lyon (the Stade de Lyon, just like every stadium everywhere, is actually in the suburbs).
We stopped for dinner on our way back to our apartment, settling on a restaurant called Hippopotamus mostly because we liked the name.
Horrible decision. Easily the worst food of our trip.
Sometimes, you’re just too tired to make good choices. We paid for that bad choice with very, very overcooked beef.
And then it was back to our apartment. Via a small detour because we got lost and frustrated and we were tired and we just needed some sleep.
Admittedly, it wasn’t the easiest first day. But our trip was about to get a lot better.
We had an early start on our trip to Lyon.
We had elected to fly via the Windsor, Ontario airport, which therefore required us to drive across the USA/Canada airport. On a weekday. During rush hour. With a major construction project happening on one of Detroit’s major freeways.
We left with plenty of time. And got over the border with plenty of time.
So we stopped for breakfast!
Then we headed to the Windsor airport.
Which is tiny. Any time that we might have lost at the border (where our wait really wasn’t long at all), we gained back in our two minute wait at the ticket counter and the 45 seconds it took to breeze through security.
Very painless. Free wifi. Would recommend.
We took a tiny plane for the short flight to Toronto.
Upon arriving in Toronto, we experienced our first mishap of the trip: we weren’t permitted to use the Air Canada lounge. Why? Because, though we had flown in on Air Canada, our flight to Lyon was via Brussels Airlines.
Damn fine print.
(Spoiler alert: we used the Air Canada lounge passes on our way home.)
Instead, we snagged a table at one of the airport bars and enjoyed Germany/Northern Ireland.
…and a plate of poutine.
When in Rome AM I RIGHT?
Turkey v. Croatia and Spain v. Czech Republic followed closely thereafter. We packed up, headed towards our terminal and settled in at another bar. And then another.
Thank goodness for the soccer and the alcohol and the poutine for distracting us from realizing exactly how long we were sitting around Pearson International Airport. Eventually, finally, we made it onto the plane.
Let’s pause for a second here and talk about the seats on Brussels Airlines. Awful.
Worst. Headrest. Ever.
It was a long flight.
(And we’ve been on much longer!)
We loved Nice.
We continue to love Nice.
Our thoughts are with the people of Nice in the wake of the horrible Bastille Day attack that killed and wounded so many.
We each left a piece of our hearts on the Promenade des Anglais. And those pieces of our heart are broken.
We are eating and walking our way through Lyon.
And drinking wine along the way.
While getting lost a little more frequently than we would like to admit.
Which may or may not have anything to do with the wine.
Highlights include: shopping for breakfast at the market, taking a pastry class, a traditional Lyonaise dinner that resulted in three new friends and a hike up the side of a damn mountain in Vieux Lyon.
Our first Euro match, Hungary/Portugal, was fantastically exciting (minus the last 10 minutes) and we’re looking forward to Switzerland/Poland this afternoon.
It’s been years since a not awesome incident at USA/Poland in Chicago, so we’re hoping that Poland’s traveling supporters are a bit more mellow than the Chicago contingent. We’re going to the stadium as true neutrals — no Swiss or Poland gear for us — so there shouldn’t be any issues. We’ll be cheering on the Swiss; if any country could appreciate our appearance of neutrality, it should be Switzerland!
Checked into our apartment, which has a view so quaint that we think we’re basically French.