- Marseille showed up on Saturday afternoon when it really mattered.
- The city hosts the Springboks for the first time since 2007.
- There were some sleepy parts, but it was also buzzing as it got ready for the Test, and the stadium itself is mind blowing.
This port city is deceptive and in every sense of the word.
If you go to one side of the city, especially the old port area with the old museum, nothing screams a big rugby game going on.
There were a few rugby jerseys, but of greater interest were the boat trips, the public displays of affection, the little picnics, the museum, the circus and, significantly, a gentle but immensely refreshing breeze coming off the Mediterranean Sea.
Near the Dockside Mall, the restaurants are all quiet.
Closer to the port, especially on Old Quay Port Road, is where things really get festive.
Since Marseille is a tourist city, expect rugby not always to be the biggest attraction.
After all, this is the place that is home to the only French team in the UEFA Champions League, Olympique Marseille, who lifted the famous European trophy in 1993.
There are a few soccer jerseys, but there are a lot more rugby jerseys in this day and age.
On one side of the port, with most of the restaurants, business was carried on in an orderly manner.
Conversations, mostly in French, were boisterous, but from time to time, Afrikaans and English pierced the air.
However, it was at Quinze’s and Murphy’s bars that things got hectic.
The patrons sang a song, and when the chorus came on, they sang it at the top of their lungs.
The two bars are just as popular as you’d find in the port district.
However, they occupy prime real estate being on the corner of a very busy intersection.
Since the nature of French bars is self-service and outdoor drinking, it’s a win-win.
The mild autumn weather also played a role, although from time to time there was a particular itch.
The Joliette subway station was abuzz with activity in a trio of languages.
The wagon was packed with capacity.
On the other hand, not everything is sport, but it must be said that the heat in the crowded carriage was the hottest since I left Johannesburg.
The arrival at the stadium was as chaotic as the carriage.
There was a drunken but suave rendition from La Marseillaise, but Nkosi Sikelela’s response was as disjointed as SA’s goal last week.
The stadium? Well, it’s a beauty that only the eye can behold.
It has a mall attached to it, plus a spectator bench where fans can sit and wait patiently before the gates open.
Its design is reminiscent of what Loftus Versfeld and the Cape Town Stadium are trying to be.
The place is crazy but also beautiful.
The neighborhood in which the stadium is located was a world away from the quiet routine of the port area.
If there’s one thing I’ve experienced in France over the past week, it’s that melodic chaos is not only acceptable, it’s a way of life.
9:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m. in South Africa) seemed too far away.