- 24 Sep 07, 10:25 AM
Montpellier - I’d heard Marseille was a bit on the grim side, so when The Bloggernaut snaked round one last mountain bend to reveal the salty old Madam in all its glory, I was more than a mite surprised.
Stick a giant statue of Chrissy Waddle, arms outstretched, on one of the hills overlooking France’s second city, and you’d have a pretty close approximation of Rio.
The local legend and shambling old step-over merchant even had a similar haircut to Jesus, although I’m sure the son of God would have baulked at the idea of luminous socks.
So cocky are they about the weather in Marseille that they’ve only bothered putting a roof over one of the stands, and it was another rip-roaring evening on Saturday as we watched Argentina give our old friends Namibia a damn good thrashing.
Fans of the Pumas, out in force at this World Cup, clearly know how to tear a place up, and even a few of their journalists joined in with what we were reliably told is an old Mexico ’86 classic, If You’re Not Singing and Dancing, You’re English.
Similarly, the French public cannot be praised highly enough for the way they’ve embraced this event, the colour and vibrancy of which is making the cricket equivalent look more and more pathetic by the day.
Tommy and I thought England looked better in holding off Samoa in Nantes, although the Aussies we watched it with weren’t exactly blown away by the display.
The consensus among most southern hemisphere fans we’ve met is that, frankly, Six Nations rugby is a load of old cobblers. I’m beginning to think they’re on to something.
Watching Australia defeat Fiji at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, I decided it had a lot to do with personality.
This Wallaby side is packed with players with ‘rascal’, men such as Chris Latham and Matt Giteau, who not only like winning, but like making opponents look a bit silly in doing so.
Matt Dawson, Neil Back, Austin Healey – they had rascal in spades. But the current England outfit has less rascal than the Pope during Lent.
Thanks for the texts chaps, the knowledge that I resemble three of the most average-looking humans on the planet has buoyed the spirit no end.
Calvados – what’s that all about? Like a doting mother serving her son up some medicine before bedtime, Tom insists I have a tot every night. I haven’t the heart to tell him it tastes like Domestos.
Talking of Tom, the silly sausage has decided to pedal up Mont Ventoux on Monday, scene of British cycling legend Tommy Simpson’s demise during the 1967 Tour de France.
He assures me he’ll be dosed up with nothing more potent than Evian and muesli, so, fingers crossed, I’ll still have a chauffeur for the next four weeks. If he is still around on Tuesday, I’ll get him to tell you all about it.
Later this week we head to St Etienne, where we will join up with Scotland’s fans for the first time ahead of their crunch clash with Italy on Saturday.
The Lonely Planet reckons it’s a bit of a poxy little city, but we intend to give it our best shot. Any suggestions as to where to stay and where to head for a few scoops would, as ever, be much appreciated.
PS. Many thanks to Patricia and Dave, who sorted a sad cigarette addict out with a pack of fags last night and without whom this blog would never have been written.
PPS. About that weather, I can’t promise anything, but I reckon we might be able to tie the sun to the back of The Bloggernaut and tow it home at the end of the tournament.
Ben Dirs is a BBC Sport journalist travelling around France in a camper van with Tom Fordyce. Click here to search for all of Tom and Ben's blog videos.