Our correspondent catches up on Love Island in the name of research during a heat-stricken week in France for the Womens World Cup
Sunday: Lille and Valenciennes
Game day is always the calm before the storm but I have had my better half and five-year-old out in France, first in Nice then Valenciennes (shout out to Mr Hanks for approving my son’s school leave request.) Walked them to the train station for the big goodbye, poetic. Nowhere has embraced the tournament quite like tiny Valenciennes, home to England v Cameroon. The match kicks off at 9pm in more ways than one – brutal, bizarre and sort of unmissable.
Monday: Valenciennes to Rennes
Writing on the train is rough. I get through it by periodically resting my eyes and head on my keyboard. The passenger opposite clearly thinks I am insane. Because of all the Netherlands fans, I’m staying in an extremely nice hotel. I answer a strange knock on the door at 7pm to be greeted by a small plate of meringues, then spend much of the rest of the day debating whether the entire British press is racist for criticising the Cameroon team.
I crash, spending the day catching up on Love Island (I know, I know, but with the England team all watching it I’m going to chalk it off as research) and napping. Everyone needs a wallow now and again and today is my wallow day. I pick up a fresh hire car because the media shuttle bus in Rennes is erratic at best and my last match at Roazhon Park results in a 40min walk home at 1am. The Netherlands beat Japan and it’s a little heartbreaking. I give lifts to various other journalists and get back to my room at 2am.
Wednesday: Rennes to Le Havre
I sleep in for as long as possible before meeting a friend for the drive to Le Havre, three hours away. We stop for some food. I am getting sick of bread and pastries. I thought about driving via Paris to catch Pierluigi Collina’s press conference on refereeing but decide that would be insane and watch it on Fifa TV. I slip off to sleep, wake up and he’s still going. My hotel doesn’t have air-con and the heatwave has hit.
Thursday: Le Havre
England’s first big knockout test, against Norway. Lose and the run will be seen as a disappointment; progress and the momentum will still be there. It’s baking and I go in search of a laundrette. I tweet a picture of the dryer. A chain of journalists all tweet photos from the laveries of Le Havre. For the first time at a match there’s butterflies but Jill Scott calms them quickly. I’m writing the piece to complement the match report and have to send it after 80 minutes. Early on I choose to focus on Lucy Bronze. I made the right choice. It doesn’t always work out like that.
Friday: Le Havre to Paris
England are now having a press session with players at 11am in Deauville, an hour’s drive away. Cue a flurry of calls and cancelled trains by journalists who had booked travel to Lyon. I drive a batch over, interview players, write, then set off to Paris. A group of us check in, then order takeaway fried chicken while we furiously write up England follow-up material before “the big one”, France against the USA. TV just cannot convey the noise and emotion in the stadium adequately. There’s nothing like it.
Saturday: Paris to Lyon
Up early for breakfast (I now hate pastries and bread with a passion and am craving Bran Flakes with proper milk) and to drop off the car. Thus far I have driven down a pavement, gone the wrong way up a one-way street and been stuck between two car park barriers, twice. Other than that I’ve adapted to the French roads. But I’m glad I’m getting the train to Lyon …
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