Driving from Brussels to Lille was not fun on four hours sleep. Mr Lane Change’s antics last night however, meant he was running on 45 minutes’ worth. Lucozade in one hand, DJ asleep in his passenger seat, and not a single regret from last night’s decision making: madman.
Today was an important day. Euro 2016, England vs. Wales, the reason for the whole holiday. We arrived in Lille behind Mr. Lane Change and followed our Sat-Nav right to the door of our hotel, which, to our disbelief and excitement, was a two-minute walk from the fan zone and looked down on the pubs and bars where everyone was congregating. We were welcomed by the sound of thousands singing ‘don’t take me home!’, hooliganism’s unofficial 2016 anthem.
I should mention that we had some issues parking. When I say we, I mean my car. The others were fine. And when I say my car had some issues parking, I mean my navigator had some issues following basic directions. However, after a near miss and many a wrong turn, we made it (third time lucky).
Once checked-in, we really got the day underway. We mingled with the fans, chanted something about ten German bombers, then got a McDonalds. The atmosphere was incredible; we marked our bars with St. George’s Cross, spilt beer and Stone Island; across the road, the Welsh hung their dragons and didn’t spill as much beer. Chant was met with counter-chant, and amongst it all walked French riot police, a reminder of the recent violence.
If we thought this was electric, the fan zone was another level. This was the time for the DJ and the until now unmentioned, but aptly nicknamed, Mr. England Till I Die (a politics student with a hint of Millwall). Behind them, the rest of us marched into Lille. Following their lead, we learnt which songs to chant when and how enthusiastically, when to clap, sometimes you clap, when it really goes off, or when you really want it to go off, and above all, how to mingle with the hooligans. We all watched the match, you know how it went: last minute winner from Sturridge, and mate, the place went off. After parting with €7 for a beer you’d think people would hold onto them, but no. Two seconds after Sturridge scoring I was wearing about 50 quid’s worth of beverage, although pricey however, my top was still no Stoney.
The Welsh, hugely outnumbered, joined in on the celebrations, singing English songs in the street, I can’t help but feel that it would have been different the other way around. The singing continued until at least 1am and was still going in the morning. The next day was rainy, we spent it indoors, recovering from the week. A supermarket shop furnished us with 120 bottles of beer, 6.5 pints each for £3.60, yes really. And then a night out, as always.