Finally we were off to Europe!!! Was so very very excited because, well, its our first time there and also because we were going to Roland Garros for both the mens’ semis and finals!!! I’m a huge huge tennis fan and my favourite player is Rafael Nadal! 😀
The one and only Rafael Nadal
This trip was able to materialise as I had to go to Prague for a conference and since the dates coincided so very nicely with Roland Garros, a trip to Paris became a must! It has always been my dream to go to a Grand Slam event in hope of watching Rafa play live (esp on clay since he’s a beauty to watch on clay!) and win it of course! So since the start of Roland Garros, I’ve been on the edge! Because dear Rafa was not playing his best with Isner taking Rafa to 5 sets. So our plane was due to depart on the day of the quarters and boarding started just after Rafa took the first set against Soderling. Really nervy on that flight because Rafa had only lost at Roland Garros once in his career and that was against Soderling! 😐
So upon touching down at CDG airport, I looked for free WIFI and yes, there’s a limited WIFI of about 10-15 mins. Enough for me to find out that YES, we were going to see Rafa play in the semis! In fact, the top 4 players of the world would be playing in the semis. LUCKY LUCKY us, to be able to get that experience on our first Grand Slam outing! 😛
If you have experienced the immigration clearance in United States and in Singapore, then that in Paris is really a very small piece of cake. There’s no scanning of particulars on the passport, no nothing except a quick stamp on the passport. I was a bit taken aback. Seems like this is the norm, cos on my flight to Prague, I didn’t have to go through immigration. Hmmm, I understand its Europe but still….. 😐
I think we collected our luggage within 45 minutes of the plane touching down.
So I had arranged for a shared shuttle van service to pick us up from the airport to an apartment I found on AirBnb. This apartment is in the 16th arrondisement, and conveniently located with a metro and a RER nearby. This apartment was chosen mainly because Stade Roland Garros is in the 16th, so I reckoned the travelling distance to the stadium would be shorter. Indeed it was!
But when we reached the street where the apartment was located, it was still too early to ‘check in’. The apartment owner had told me that the apartment would be vacated only in early afternoon. But the occupants were nice to accede to my request of us leaving our luggages in the apartment so we could explore the area. Still, 9 am was too early to disturb them so we waited until the arranged time of 10am. So what did we do while waiting for time to pass? Start living like a Parisian of course! 😎 😎 😎
People watching at Cafe Richardlieu
It was at this cafe we had our first ever Parisian pain au chocolat! 😀
After depositing our suitcases at the apartment, we decided to just walk along the main road and we came across this!
Now I remember, the statue of liberty in NYC was a gift from the France! So no reason why the French can’t also have her on their home soil. Although this one in France looks a bit smaller than the one on Staten Island.
And across the road, we could see the famous tower!
Hmmm, perhaps when we staying at the same apartment in June 2012, we could take a stroll here at nightime to see the lights of Eiffel Tower from a distance. 🙂
So, because it was our first time to RG, I went a bit nuts and got ground tickets so that we could walk around the grounds, to get a feel of things and maybe to check out the good spots to stalk Rafa. 😛
The second biggest court in RG.
Court Suzanne Lenglen
The most important court in RG!!
There’s a square between the 2 main show courts whereby there’s a big projection screen. More for people who have only ground passes, for them to see the action going on inside the courts.
Staff at RG enjoying the sun that came out. He sure reminded me of the Twilight vampires.
So that was RG for starters. I can’t remember how we ended up in a RER station. RER stations are indeed a lot more dodgy than the metro stations, as advised by the apartment owner.
The next day, we got ready for the semi-finals. First things first, breakfast! There’s a boulangerie just opposite Cafe Richardlieu and we headed there to buy a couple of pain au chocolats! And we popped those pain au chocolats in the oven and they were soooo delicious!
These make a breakfast complete
We love a good pain au chocolat
And we got some cherries from the supermarket yesterday. Add some hot tea to the mix and that’s a wholesome breakfast!
Breakfast to start the day
So our first stop was to Champs-Elysees as we wanted to go take in some sights before heading to Roland Garros.
Such a deep shade of blue the sky had! What a wonderful start to our day! Well, we didn’t go up the Arc although, on hindsight, we should have! Oh well, its not as if we are not coming back to Paris right?! 😀
Arc de Triomphe on a backdrop of a beautiful blue sky
And then we walked along Champs-Elysees and saw the Nike store, with Rafa as the main poster boy!!
Went into the Nike store, of course, and there’s quite a number of Rafa and Federer’s stuff available! I was so tempted to get Rafa’s blue jacket but even the smallest size was too big. Lapetitetraveller, remember? Nike really should make a version for the females as females make up a significant portion of the players’ fanbase, no? 😛
So we were kinda behind time while trying to figure what we wanted at the Nike store. We also wanted/ needed to go back to the apartment to put down some stuff and get the correct camera lens. We decided to take the RER back to the apartment and we were really running late, so we walked super duper fast. And I had thought everyone walks as fast as us in Paris, although there were only us and a few ladies behind us, because those ladies behind us walked as fast as we did, if not faster. Aha! When I turned my head to talk to my husband, I saw a hand on his bag, trying to unzip the small pocket on his backpack. Now, we are savvy travellers right? 😎 Of course we didn’t have anything in that small pocket and the main compartments of the bag was secured by velcro. But the famous Parisian pickpockets didn’t know we are savvy so they tried their luck of course. What did I do when I saw that hand? I slapped the hand away and immediately zipped up the small pocket. I didn’t even bother taking a look at those pickpocketing ladies because the instant they saw me react, they turned on their backs doubly fast. 👿 👿 👿 I must admit, I was also a bit worried of a fierce confrontation so I decided to slap the hand away and continue walking fast. We were still rushing for Rafa! Rafa’s more important! However, from then on, I always made sure I walk just a couple of steps behind my husband, just so that we wouldn’t have to keep zipping up that small pocket. (We had to zip the pocket up at least 3 times on our way to Arc de Triomphe).
Well, we don’t encounter pickpocketing much in Singapore. So it was a bit of a worry in Paris. But at the end of it, I am comforted that all the pickpockets wanted was the valuables and money, not our lives. So you gotta be savvy too! Put nothing in that small pocket of your haversack where its so accessible. Carry a securely fastened bag and nothing in places where pickpockets can reach. Be as imaginative as you can, with regards to how the pickpocketers choose to do the deed. My husband is convinced velcro is one of the best tools to combat against pickpockets. They are so very skilled indeed! Stay savvy!
So, by the time we reached the Philippe Chatrier stadium at Roland Garros, Rafa and Andy Murray had already entered the court, meaning we missed Rafa’s entrance. 😥
Court Philippe Chatrier
That's Rafa! I was in the same stadium with Rafa!!
Argh, why was Murray in blue too? I had my nails painted blue and wore blue, only for Rafa! 😆
Picture taking before match starts
Backhand warming up
Our seats were quite high up! 😦
Our seats - pretty high up 😦
Ladies and Gentlemen, the defending champion, Rafael Nadal!
Warming up - serve
Murray warming up
Still warming up! A good warm-up is very important!
When you see two tennis balls on the court, this means its just warm up
I wonder if these seats are on sale and if they are, how much do they cost?
I hope to be able to seat in those green boxes some day
For photography’s sake:
Gotta stay hydrated
This is how they keep the clay court beautiful
Rafa always 'sweeps' the line clean
I like Team Nadal a lot!
More of team Nadal
Vamosing to his team
Start of service motion
End of service motion and getting ready for ball to come back
So Murray didn’t play that badly. In fact, he is one of the players who could trouble Rafa but Rafa’s level has really picked up ever since that first match against Isner. It was amazing watching Rafa play live. Watching live tennis means there is no commentators who sometime say the most ridiculous things. I love the quiet when a point is in play. Tens of thousands of people gathered in a stadium, and we could all stay quiet while watching beautiful tennis. And I love hearing Rafa sliding on clay, hearing his grunts, seeing his celebration of points and watching him win! If the world ends in 2012, I would die with one less regret. 🙂
I can’t imagine the pressure Rafa has year after year to hold on to the French Open crown. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, expects him to win it. I’m guilty of being one who also expects Rafa to defend RG year after year. That’s because I know that when Rafa plays his best tennis, he can win it all, especially on clay. I felt the stress in 2011 because I had a vested interest! Going to Paris to Roland Garros, to watch Rafa win the French Open again! Very stressed because we have tickets for semis and finals and if for some unexplainable reason Rafa didn’t reach the semis, I wouldn’t have fulfilled my dream of watching Rafa play live at least one. Which means I will die with one more regret should the world end in 2012. I know, I’m so melodramatic! 😛
And so, I was soooooooo happy to see Rafa win and become the first finalist! 😀 😀 😀
Where did that wristband go?
Love his determination!
Time to fulfill sponsor requirements!
Obligatory shirt to jacket change
On-court interview! Lovely smile!
Happy to be through!
Oh and 3rd of June is Rafa’s birthday. Of course we had to sing him a birthday song!! More than once! 😀
Very quickly, Rafa left the court and it was time for the next semi-finals. This time I saw Federer and Djokovic enter the court. I had rooted for Federer because I wanted to see a Fedal final! I think Rafa and Federer brings out the best in each other. I am forever in awe of the Wimbledon finals in 2008. How I wish I were there!
And that's the mighty Fed
But I snucked out when the match was to begin cos I thought I could go stalk Rafa. You know, maybe take a picture with him. 😳 But I really didn’t know where to begin the stalking at. There’s a media room underneath the stadium and I thought Rafa would emerge from there. But, no, he didn’t. Besides, I don’t know how long Rafa would take to wash up and finish his media commitments. So after like 15 mins, I gave up and returned the the match. Oh boy, what a match it was!
It was an electrifying match! Fed and Djokovic were both playing well. And with 2010 USO match between the 2 of them on mind, it was really difficult to say who would be the other finalist. But this is Paris, and the French LOVES Federer. The crowd really got behind him (me included!) and methinks the crowd actually helped Federer win the match! Every single point, the crowd rooted for Federer. When Federer was a point up, the crowd cheered. When Federer was a point down, the crowd encouraged and rallied behind him. So on match point for Federer, the crowd went crazy when Fed nailed it!! My husband and I jumped and cheered with the crowd. Btw, my husband is more a Fed fan than Rafa fan. It was really a good match!! Electrifying atmosphere and crowd!
Yeah! Federer beats Djokovic to give us Fedal! Woot!
It was late by the time we left Stade RG. But the supermarket near our apartment was still opened so we went in to buy some stuff to cook dinner. And dinner topic was of course Rafa and Federer! And our plans for next day at RG since I had gotten ground tickets so we could watch the women finals in a big screen in court 1. What a fabulous day and experience!! 😀