Dienstag, 31. März 2015

London Calling

London Calling!

If in Summer 2014, during the World Cup, someone, anyone had told me I would see Brazil play live three times within the next 9 months I'd probably have thought he - or me - had had too many Caipirinhas.
Yet, here I was, at the Emirates on Sunday March 29 2015 with my youngest daughter beside me, both of us yelling ourselves hoarse with "Brazil! Brazil!"
How did this come to pass?

First of all - I couldn't have done it without Denny's help, probably. So, here's, once again, a deep and thankful bow to my acquaintance Dennis Woods, fellow victim to the incurable but seldom fatal sickness of Brazilianitis who had made sure we, me and two of my daughters, could spend an amazing weekend in and out of London.

We flew in on Sunday morning with Ryanair from Frankfurt/Hahn, which isn't even remotely Frankfurt. In fact it IS remote from Frankfurt, almost 200 km. but an airport by another name is still an airport and while Lufthansa passengers at Frankfurt/International are strolling through air-conditioned halls, sipping wine, never getting a drop of rain on their suits, Ryanair passengers are huddling in  dilapidated halls, being ushered from one queue into the next never exactly knowing what they're queuing for and finally hustling through the rain across an airfield looking for the right plane like they would at a bus-stop.

Having gotten up at 3 a.m. (2 a.m. really, since daylight-saving started that night) we arrived in England bleary eyed but determined to make the best of it. At least I was. My daughters were content to let me be determined to make the best of it and stuck to a less determined but more thruthful state of tiredness and bad temper. They both had a "Why did I ever consent to do this?" clearly written on their foreheads once or twice.

Still, providence is in charge for me and Brazil. I went to see them play in Vienna and it was superb. I went so see them play in Paris only the other day and it was divine. I was going to see them play in London and it was going to be smashing. Watch me!

No trains from Stansted Airport? So, what! A bus is a fully equipped vehicle to transport people to London and once at Liverpool Street the smell of adventure wafted even through the drowsiness my daughters had succumbed to.

Liverpool Street. The magic that name evokes. Back in the good old days, when we had less than one smartphone each, dreams were found on DVDs and one of the most powerful of them was Les Miserables. The slightly different musical! The book that would capture me and my oldest daughter for hours! The reason we went to London five times, five solid times! to see it on stage at the Queen's theatre and haunt the stage door afterwards to talk to the actors. And each of these trips had started at Liverpool Street.

At the McDonalds, to be precise.

So that's where we went this time, too, and thanks be to God who doubtless is Brazilian still and was sitting on His favorite cloud decked with  things in yellow and green that day, McDonalds was open (it was Sunday, after all! Palmsunday!) and we had our breakfast after having been awake for about six hours, already.

In front of the McDonalds and before breakfast we said Hallo to the monument for the Jewish children sent to England to save their lives during the III. Reich.

Franziska had done a school report on that subject years ago, actually spoken to one of this children, now well in his eighties, and received praise and top grades for it. It was good to see the monument still there.

Tickets, trains - all were in our favour and we arrived at the hotel Denny had recommend  to us in a  considerably well shape and state. That it was all in purple - carpets, logo, cards, you name it - was soothing, somehow. Here is a business with a sense of corporate identity.
Stefanie, who hadn't slept a wink the previous night, decided to stay at the hotel and catch up with sleep. Her younger sister Rebekka and I met with Denny, though, and set out to do what we had primarily come for: to see Brazil play!

I had never been to an English football stadium before and I'm glad it was the Emirates I saw first. I might have preferred Anfield Road, but this will have to be a totally different story.
I come from Mainz 05, a quaint, little club in Germany, around tenth in First Bundesliga most of the time, with history going back more than a hundred years but a stadium so new and shiny it really resembles the furniture-shop it's often compared to. Tradition at "Stadion am Europakreisel" is still in the making.
Not so at the Emirates. Here, tradition lurkes in every corner, gleams in bronze from the pavement, seeps into my skin from every nook and cranny I pass by. Walking around the stadium I'm very much aware I'm at the birthplace of football.

Of course, providence couldn't resist a little joke. While Rebekka and I walked in with the season tickets Denny had procured for us, he himself was denied entrance AGAIN. What was wrong with his ticket and how he finally managed to get in, we couldn't pick up in that moment, because  iron bars fell between us and all I could hear was his intent shout "Don't lose the tickets". As if we would!
Rebekka and I decided to worry later and give ourselves over to the atmosphere for the time being. This decision was helped by the necessity to solve an immediate problem: Rebekka's shoes were torn at the soles and her feet were very wet. Not an ideal condition for to sit through a football game, especially when the sky seems determined to pour down more water any minute.
I had bought her some dry socks at the Arsenal fan-shop, tried to dry her feet and together we settled into the situation.

What. A. Game.

It wasn't a bit like Thursday's game versus France. Might have been a different sport. Thursday was football. This was a clash of several things. Neymar compared it to wrestling afterwards, it certainly was, some of the time, and of more than two opponents.

There was Chile, of course, having lost to Iran two days ago (To Iran, I pray thee! Are they even allowed to play football there?) and eager to do better this time. Then there was another Chile, who had lost to Brazil at the WC's round of last sixteen in penalty shooting and was most eager to do better this time and level a score. Then there was Chile who had always been a rival to Brazil if not as ardent as Argentina, but still ... south-american teams HAVE to beat Brazil. Or die trying.
So, that makes at least three different Chiles.

Then there was Brazil who had won to France two days ago and thus secured seven wins since the WC. And they weren't nearly enough. Since they're all of them friendlies and you can paint them over the WC semifinal with a thick brush and it will still shine through. So,. another win was inevitable, if ineffective in the end.
Then there was Brazil who had won to Chile in the said penalty shooting but it hadn't been the triumph it might have been. For reasons best known to everybody who has ever talked football with me, I won't go into detail of THAT game, but one thing was clear: a defeat to Chile was absolutely out of the question. It would have turned THAT day's win into the loss it actually had looked to be THAT day in June.
And finally there was the Brazil who still proudly wears five stars on the jerseys, still is the world's champion N° 1, still means to win the Copa America, the WC 2018 and next weeks charity lottery if there is any. The Brazil who is THE champion. Still. Or why else do people in Germany talk more about the semifinal than the final they won? Because anybody can win an old WC but to beat BRAZIL is still special.

So, there were at least three Brazils facing three Chiles.
And that was what it looked like.

The English referee Atkinson (I do remember that name, but don't recall the incident) worked hard to keep the 66 players from ripping each other to pieces. He did it by means of yellow cards. Whoever dared stretch a leg in the direction of an opposing player got a yellow carton shoved into his face. Atkinson was very busy that way.
The player weren't. They couldn't. They had to pick up their bones and try to get into gear again. As has became a habitual occupation in La Liga the Chileans sent Neymar flying. I don't think he's a deliberate diver, it may be his weight and stature that make him fly where others roll. Fact is, he spent more time in the air and on the ground than on his feet.

My preferred focus of attention, Thiago Silva, preferred not to draw attention to himself too much this time. I hate so say it, since it's a pet ceterum censeo of mine that the three still looks wrong on Miranda, but the defence looked right on Miranda that day._There, I said it, and that must be the last of it.

On the pitch I liked to watch Coutinho. He obviously enjoyed playing on - more or less - home soil and wanted to excell. In the second half, when Dunga started exchanging players, that role fell to Firmino who equally wanted to shine and succeeded in scoring the day's only goal. To the public's surprise as much as to his own, it seemed.

Off the pitch I liked everything. The atmosphere was much, much more what I want football to be, than Thursday's had been and than the average Bundesliga game is. Rebekka, being used to Mainz games, was thrilled to see the passion of South-America weaving through the stadium in one La Ola after the other, she screamed and hollered like her mother and the group of Brazilians sitting behind us. The Chileans in the stands did much the same. It was much more being in it than watching it, being part of the game, what we ask of football in a way that head and heart cease to be separate entities in perceiving the game but emulsify into something different: passion.

Her attitude after the game is possibly shown best in this picture:

With Brazil having won, a little bit worried by the sight of Thiago Silva lying flat on his back with what may have been a slight injury or cramps or both, and hungry to boot, we set of for Brentwood again, picked up Stefanie and dived into the experience of having Pizza, elation and a headache at the same time. At least I did.
If I had needed proof that there is something supernatural about me and Brazil it would have been the fact that this non-descript Pizzeria Denny had chosen served glutenfree pizza.
I repeat: I got a glutenfree pizza à la carte. Without having to pre-order. And a delicious one, too.
What a miracle this is only a fellow-coeliac con fully apprehend. All you gluten-eaters must take my word for it.

On Monday we did what we hadn't done for far too long - we slept. Till half past nine. Then had breakfast at the hotel, bought some shoes for Rebekka - with Denny's help again, this time seeing Brentwood's nicer and ligher side  it being daylight - and then finally followed the irresistible London calling!

We had two ideas about our approach to London. First, we did not have a lot of money. This is partly due to my stubborn refusal to use a credit card, and partly to the undeniable fact that a big family usually has less money to spend than a small one. Second we had discarded any sense of organization and wanted to leave it entirely to London what we were in for. It is this, according to our experience, the best and only way to get a new place to dance WITH you rather than FOR you.
We went to Liverpool Street again, first, and discovered the Candy Waggon we had missed on Sunday was back. It's a traditional stop for us and we did it credit. If you buy candy for more than 10 GBP you get something for free. Did I say something about not having much money? Now it was even less.
Then we went on the tube and while dangling from the handles decided to go to St.Paul's. Maybe we would even be able to go on top again.

Turned out that exceeded our budget but Millenium Bridge is free and features prominently in a book and film my girls know, so we crossed the bridge imaginging we were in that film, now.

 Speaking of films, on the other side we were greeted by an old black man playing an indefinable instrument which nonetheless made a strangely beautiful bell-like music. He pointed at my yellow beanie marking me as a Brazil-fan and hollered an approving "Brazil" thus earning himself two pounds rather than one as a bounty. Second we came upon Yoda.

We knew it was meant to be Yoda since we are all familiar with Star Wars but none more than Rebekka who is especially taken by Yoda. Afterwards we realized it must be annual Yoda-day because there were people all over London posing as Yodas, heavily made up and never moving a muscle. And getting money for it.
Having given Yoda his share we crossed back towards St.Paul and hopped on a bus that happened to stop beside us. Of course we went upstairs and decided on Trafalgar Square as next stop. I wanted to loaf on the steps under Nelson's Column for a bit.

To my barely hidden pride I managed to haul myself up to the lion-crowned fundament of the column without help by my younger and nimbler daughters. We posed with the lions, enjoyed the sight - after all, we were on a sort of holidays.

Our next idea was to pay the Queen's theatre a visit where we had seen Les Miserables five times. It was still there. Les Mis is still running. 30 years in a row, now. We did pictures of one another in exactly the same spot we had done them on  our first visit. Do you hear the people sing ... We still hear them!

Eating isn't that high on our priority list when touring a city but some drinks were welcome by then, so we entered a kiosk to buy some soft drinks. The cashier asked where we came from and when I started talking football he joined in readily and even stated he knew Mainz 05, asked how they were doing in the league. He said he had been to Hessen, Frankfurt, and liked Bayern München. Strange combination, but a pleasant encounter.

Since we still had to buy some souvenirs for our loved ones at home we next made a bee-line for one of the countless booths on Shaftesbury Avenue that sell cheap things for high prices to tourists. We were tourists, after all.
The booth we entered was occupied by a young guy who looked indian and had music playing that sounded indian - an irresistible mixture for Stefanie, who started dancing. And she does know how to dance, especially indian style.

The young guy was enraptured. He repeated the song for her and urged her on to show some more of her talent. Stefanie absolutely enjoyed it, let him take a video and a selfie with her and earned Rebekka a free plektron for her guitar that way. Just by creating an atmosphere of pure bliss out of music and talent. We were four persons feeling the better for that incident when we finally left. And this is something guided tours not always provide.
The day still had to offer: looking for something to relieve Rebekka's blisters, find cigarettes for Stefanie and a coffee for me, haunting a crypt at Picadilly's McDonalds and being envolved in a conversation with a German lady who lives in London at Cafè Nero, before we finally set out for the last highlight of our stay: Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre.

It was - well, phantomenal. That plush luxury of the nineteenth century (or even earlier), that music, that special effects, those voices - and it didn't really matter that I neither knew nor understood the story line. Stefanie filled me in, later, she had read the book, of course.

Need I mention that never-sleeping London presented us with the streets still crowded afterwards, the tubes still running every three minutes and even the train to Brentwood ready for departure and just waiting for us to board  it at Liverpool Street? Divine Brazilian travel agency still running the show.
We went to bed almost immediately but still the fact prevailed that our alarms would ring at a quarter past four in the morning. Time to catch Ryanair again.
I lay awake from three o'clock on, worrying. First that my mobile wouldn't ring, second that the rising and soon howling wind would pose a problem to the plane.

The first problem was solved that way that I didn't go back to sleep, anyway. At least the taxi arrived dead on time, the taxi driver proved to be a nice chap who brought us to Stansted with plenty of time to spare and the wind was still howling. It probably identified with Chile.

At Stansted we were greeted by queues all over the place. You weren't always told why you were queuing, nor if it was the right queue at all. You just let yourself be pushed on and hoped. At security the dark-skinned security woman probably was as tired as we but unlike us she could vent by bullying us. Rebekka and I sent the metallic rod going and had to empty all our pockets. I heeped spare coins in two different currencies, paper tissues, train tickets and pictures of Thiago Silva on a tray and thought to myself: you want it, you deal with it, my dear friends at security! But of course they had the whip-hand in the situation. I tried to keep an eye on my things, another one on Rebekka who was struggling to understand what Mrs. Security-woman asked her and a third one on Stefanie who was busy picking up everything else that belonged to us and came rumbling on in those grey tray-sleds they had presented us with.

And all the time the feeling of being in a hurry itensified. It emenated from the security people and was totally pointless, since on the displays hanging all over the place most of the flights, including ours, were labelled "Gate will open in 40 minutes".
Having scooped up what we hoped were all our belongings, we went to Starbuck's. Take that , Mrs Security-woman. But the queues and the hurry were there, too, and we nervously watched the display counting down our flight to "Gate will open in 20 minutes". Mind you, they still didn't announce, which gate.

When they finally did, they proceeded without unnecessary hesitation to "Final call", so we hurried again into another queue that resulted in dropping us at Gate 30. We were queueing patiently through urgent "final calls" while absolutely nothing happened due to a total lack of staff at the gate. Finally, ten minutes before scheduled departure time, Ryanair staff began to arrive and slowly started boarding passengers.

Then the wind got his appearance. It was blowing so hard that I had to hold on tight to the rails while climbing on board the plane and through starting the plane shook precariously, but that was nothing compared to what it did when landing.
After 55 minutes above the clouds in blissful quiet the captain informed us that due to strong winds we were not yet able to descent.  I swear, all the passenger had a blin king red "Germanwings" on their foreheads that moment. Only my daughters giggled happily when the pilot finally decided to try a landing. I even heard one or two small screams from somewhere on the plane. The wings were tilting, the whole plane was shaking, two or three times it suddenly lost hight - that's when the screams occured - and when we finally touched ground the habitual round of applause for the pilot was  more spontaneious and heartfelt than usual.
So, Germany got us back in one piece and immediately threw storm and rain in our face as if she was all but happy to get us back. Jealous of Brazil, I expect. And with the weather like that has reason to be.

We arrived home tired but happy, the girls indulged in turning on their familiar fore-noon sitcom and I busied myself in the kitchen which clearly hadn't seen one cleaning touch since I left on Sunday.
Since I WON'T go to see Brazil play IN Brazil I should have plenty of time to clean up my household before the selecao might come back to Europe in September. But if she does, I'm quite sure I'll go again, and am equally sure it will still be a different game I'll get to watch. DFB is still an open invitation from Brazil's side. The cowards won't accept of course, but maybe Holland will.
Let's se.
The adventure continues.

Samstag, 28. März 2015

Le Voyage

Le Voyage

What is more natural for a football fan than to follow the team over hills and mountains and through raging waters, sticks and stones, thick and thin, to an away game? When have distances, expenditures, things like reason and common sense ever kept a fan from following the team?
Exactly! So Brazil plays France in Paris? Excellent, Paris is just 537 km from Mainz, a big sign at the Pariser Straße says so.
At least, it's nothing compared to the 9231,85 km that separate Mainz from Brazil.

I set out in the morning to Rüsselsheim. Not because it's on the way to Paris, which it isn't, but because common sense kept control in so far I was going to teach two hours of school before boarding the train to Paris and I'm proud to be able to state: my students never noticed anything wrong with me this morning.
I was fully my usual un-orthodox self (easy to say for a catholic teacher).
Nervousness set in when I had dropped my pen, chatted with a student a bit about the life and death of Terry Pratchett and then closed the school's door behind me.
Time to change planets.

I set off with a rather good feeling about this. I had never been to Paris before and first times to Paris are Hollywood-material with happy endings inevitable.

Changing trains at Mannheim made it real, at last. I was going to Paris!!!!

By way of Kaiserslautern (anathema sit to any self-respecting Mainz 05 fan) – well, a minor amount of negativity a.k.a. bad guys is part of every Hollywood movie.

Germany rushed by drowning in sunlight and prosperity. By the time we crossed the no longer existing border the sky had clouded and thus ruined an otherwise appalling joke. As I thought.
France from my train's window tended to look a lot like Windows XP.

The only sign Schengen has left us of the thrilling feeling of crossing a border into another country I remember from my childhood holidays to Austria, were people hecticly probing their smartphones which had lost contact with the internet simultaneously. For a couple of minutes from every row of seats one could hear mumbling and swearing until some had found their roaming settings and others, like me, had just given up and resolved to reading. And looking how France rolled by.

As the clouds were rolling over the countryside with astonishingly wide fields the size of which I had only seen in not so good old GDR before, we finally approached the city of love and music, wine and baguette and away game.
Ici c'est Paris! Inspite of all my well aired critique of PSG I couldn't resist speaking this phrase loudly several times in the hours to come.

So, this was Paris and I had to find my way to my hotel. Following a lengthy exchange of twitter direct messages the evening before with Jon, a very helpful member of my social-network tribe, I had decided to brave the rush-hour traffic and take a taxi.
First challenge – will the taxi driver understand my French?
He might have, if he had been French. As providence willed it he was Portuguese.
I didn't have the nerve to try my Portuguese on him which is a lot more shaky than my French, but he got the destination info alright and I was in for my first sightseeing tour.

At first glance Paris looked like … well, like a real big city. Like Vienna only with streets more narrow. Like Berlin only with more people „living in a dark skinned manner“ as my former choir director once put it with no intention to be witty or racist or sarcastic and ending up being all three.
Like Frankfurt minus SGE – which can only be a good thing.

At second glance it was really, really crowded. With cars. When my driver informed me he was going to have to take a detour „because of the football game“ I finally had found something to chat about in halting French. Of course, he supported Brazil – atta boy! - and he didn't seem to find it peculiar for a German to also do so. I've come to a happier place.
The driver did apologize several times, though, for the way St.Denis looked. I didn't tell him I felt quite at home with my surroundings reminding me stronger than ever of Berlin-Kreuzberg.

The receptionist at the hotel was absolutely charming. Not surprising in a Parisian, maybe, but he added to his natural French charm by speaking a flawless English. I checked in as if I did such things every other month (which seems to become the case since I caught this Brazilian bug, last year) and set out for Denny's hotel to meet for a drink before proceeding to Stade de France. Although much bigger and more expensive his hotel was within walking distance and for all its shininess also situated in St.Denis. I liked that.
We had our drinks – me wine (Sauvignong. Almost as good as Rheingau-Riesling, ha!), him beer, as we had plannend to do weeks before and then made for the stadium in what we thought was plenty of time.

Jon had advised us to be there early and Denny and I had sort of scorned that advice backed up by the official information on the internet of the gates being opened at 7:00 p.m.
We arrived at Stade de France at about a quarter to seven and were greeted by the sight of an immense queue patiently snaking around fences and sign-posts. Being the well-behaved German-woman and English-man we were we filed in and waited. It moved at a considerable pace, though, and so it was still only about a quarter past seven when we were refused entry. Something, anything, was not working with our tickets.

Denny was mildly irritated (see characterization above), he had, after all, paid to become a member of French NT Supporters to be able to order tickets for this game. The orange clad stewards at the entrance spoke rapid French in their mics and finally decided to hand us over to somebody else to solve the problem. We were told to walk about a mile and a half to the other side of the stadium to meet someone official in charge of maverick tickets.
I'm exaggerating of course, we only had to go back halfway to the Metro station, squeeze through the crowds arriving now by the hundred and then meet another charming French guy who obviously insinuated we wanted to buy or exchange tickets and told us they were sold out several times. Denny told him in polite but certain terms he had payed for these tickets and absolutely intended to see the game, but it may have been my offer to show him the original pdf of the tickets on my mobile that made him give in.
Maybe he knows something about mobistel F3 that made him rather not try to make it produce a saved file.

To tell the truth, I rather enjoyed the whole thing. The morning's optimistic attitude prevailed in me, I was sure we were going to get in.
And we were.
It just took a short conversation with a police man, another chat with the men in orange who had promised we would not have to queue at the entrance again and in we went.
Match, here we come.

What stunned me again was the atmosphere. Why are supporters in other countries so FOND of their national teams?
Okay, I know why. I had history lessons galore.
Like in Austria French fans even produced some elements of Ultrà support like drums and cantors, who would even start them on the antional anthem later through the game. At a very voiciferous „Allons enfants de la patriiiiiie ...“ the whole stadium would launch into „...le jour de gloire est arrivé!“ Thrilling. Big screen, absolutely.

I took the warming up before the game to take some pictures of randomly chosen players.

Okay, maybe not quite that randomly …

During the game I did not take pictures unless it seemed to be interrupted for a couple of minutes. I was not going to Paris to see my team play life for then to watch it on a screen AGAIN and one much smaller than my PC at home, for that.
There's one, though, that so perfectly fits a game played in Paris, I'll include it here.
Who needs Moulin Rouge, after all.

All through the game I thought France was putting up more pressurer in the direction of Brazil's goal, but were terribly unlucky in some instances and terribly clumsy in others. And chances don't sum up to goals as no-one knows better than a more-or-less-willing novice at supporting that bebothered and confusticated PSG-team this season. Brazil was much more placid and effective right in front of the goal and they had an almost unshakeable defence (cough,cough) despite the deplorable lack of David Luiz and Marquinhos featuring in it (to be rectified in future). So, the 3:1 win, one goal more than I had predicted and thus surprisingly high to me, was absolutely deserved in the end.

Leaving the stadium proved to be much easier than entering and since it had been, after all, a friendly, the loss produced no visible ill feelings on the French fans's side. When entering Denny's hotel again we were hailed by a guest who wore the French flag still painted on her cheeks with a smiling „Congratulations!“ Worth another drink, in any case.

Being the gentleman he is, Denny walked me back to my hotel a bit later, but St.Denis sulked and refused to live up to the grisly picture people had given me. Not a single dealer or molester showed up. Another chance lost to show the Krav Maga tricks I have been watching on YouTube.

The next day I had dedicated to exploring Paris. You can't go to Paris just for a football match and leave again. I had done this insult to Vienna because I had been there before, but I absolutely wanted to see a bit of Paris.

I also absolutely wanted to meet Jon, the world's only decent journalist. So, Paris had to wait for another two hours, which it ...no, SHE … patiently did.
I had known Jon for a couple of months from his articles on French football – made all the more attractive to me since they are in English – and the occasional banter on twitter and I'm a total fan of this guy. I considered it an honour to meet him in person and as it turned out it also was an absolute pleasure. I hope, he thinks so, too.
We had two solid hours of football-banter rarely interrupted by breathing and drinking (coffee) and I set out to the rest of Paris in a mood as positive as the weather.
To be in Paris for the first time on a day full of sunshine and flowers blooming and trees trying to keep up with the flowers after a successful game – what more could I wish for.

Denny had given me his spare Metro tickets which was a very good thing, since it spared me to get into conflict with a French ticket machine (the German ones are awkward enough) and by the time I reached Gare de l'Est again I felt quite at home with the Metro.
Which involves outbursts of frustrations, naturally.
Why do the French hang the maps of Paris and her Metro at knee level?
Probably out of consideration for wheelchaired people or people like Lionel Messi who are growth retained but what about those of us who are slightly myopic?
And why do the French hide the Metro? I fondly remembered Berlin where big, lightened blue sings with white letters U show the entrance to the nearest tube station in an almost beckoning way. I learned to look for something that looks – and smells – like the entrance to a public toilet over the course of the day, though, and in the end felt I had mastered the secrets of Paris Metro quite well. I even fell for its rustic, industrial charme.

Above ground it blew me, of course. No, SHE blew me, Paris did. Despite the fact I was not able to find an entrance to Notre-Dame and thus couldn't keep my promise to my son to light a candle there for his important exam on Friday, despite aching feet after walking round a park three times looking for La Maison Victor Hugo – a MUST SEE for a Les Miserables addict – and above all despite the fact that the french seem to live on baguette and croissants and thus aren't in need of supermarkets where I might have found something glutenfree to eat (I didn't dare brave a restaurant and explain to a French waiter what glutenfree means) I was walking on air rather than pavement. Ici c'est encore Paris!!!
I had to keep in mind my schedule, though, and knew that after visiting the Place de la Bastille and Maison Victor Hugo, I had time for one more destination only and as much as I would have liked to take the tour to Parc des Princes, I decided on the Eiffel Tower. You simply CAN'T go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower.
And I decided to go there by bus. I had been to so many of the famous places, already, or rather been under them, that when a bus just stopped beside me and it said „Champs de Mars“ on the screen, I hopped on and enjoyed half an hour of authentic sightseeing. No gabbling guide, no japanese tourists flashing their phones, no predictable oohs and ahhs, just locals discussing their knee-joints and neighbours, school girls exchanging photos on their mobiles and the bus weaving through the traffic and the narrows at Louvre I'd never have thought it would squeeze through. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Of course, I did a selfie with the Eiffel Tower. Who wouldn't. And isn't it a sweetheart to stand there and indulge in it all the time? Not like some players I've heard of.

And here it is in all its glory! So proud to actually have been there!

It took me some time to find the Metro again, but, then, experienced candidate for a prominent chapter in „Paris pour le Nuls“ - a book that probably exists or ought to exist – I am, I had no trouble finding my way back to Gare de l'Est within minutes, meaning I always during my stay took the Metro IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION! Ain't I smart?

I picked up my backpack from l'Espace baggage again, spent half an hour on a fruitless – in the true sense of the meaning – search for something to eat, finally resolved that eating is overrated when it comes to visiting Paris on a football mission, found out in a mixture of English and French where the TGV to Stuttgart was bound to leave („Does it leave onze ou douze?“)and finally settled in my seat with the comfortable feeling of having been gifted with another insane, wonderful, thrilling, totally enjoyable adventure by the grace of Brazilian football. If I ever had been tempted to doubt that God is Brazilian – which I wasn't – I'd be converted, now.
Deus é brasileiro. He told me so.

P.S. Proof, if any is needed: ALL my trains were on time on both journeys.

Insanity to be continued in this day's sequel. Watch out for "London Calling!" by Angela Roemelt.