It’s not unreasonable to assume that every Addick has by now got his/her plans for the play-offs sorted. The unlikely combination of results that saw us end up third and the change to expected dates that produced did prompt a quick assessment on my part: if I was in London (which I’m not) would I go to one or both games, and if ‘yes’ are there reasonable travel options (now that the home leg would be followed by a weekend, allowing flexibility on a return)? The answers proved to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’ (sorry but there proved to be a price limits).
Consequently, come Sunday lunchtime (and provided the wine is acceptable, ambience is good, and views of TV excellent also the following Friday evening), suitably clad in a Mesh shirt, I’ll be settling into what I trust will be a prime spot inside the Wallace bar in Old Lyon, just by the Saone and – I kid you not – opposite the Elephant and Castle. The former presents itself as ‘your everyday pub’ for beer/cocktails, fish & chips/burgers, and sport. But this is France, so while the menu offers standard British fare (along with the fish & chips perhaps chicken tandoori or crumble de saumon d’Ecosse) there are also the options of tartare de boeuf Francais or a fois gras maison burger. The latter says it offers a ‘real taste of England in the heart of Lyon’, being ‘particularly proud’ of their hand battered fish & chips. I went for the Wallace not least as the Irish guy behind the bar said in response to my inquiry about showing the game that he used to live a couple of minutes walk from The Valley.
I could have chosen the Smoking Dog, the ex-pat watering hole most commonly cited, which is just a few minutes away. But it is on the real main pedestrian tourist street in the old area and smaller. On a Sunday lunchtime I wasn’t confident of getting a good spot to watch (and scream during) a football match, surrounded by bloody tourists.
Truth be told, if the option was available I would have chosen my favourite spot in Lyon for a glass, just up the road from Wallace and the Elephant and Castle, La Cave des Voyageurs. But the chances of this establishment being open on a Sunday lunchtime (it is a bar au vin, not open at lunchtime, even at weekends), let alone it having a TV and being ready to show an English League One play-off match, should be considered not so much remote as non-existent. Really shouldn’t complain, this is after all not a venue which has in mind an Englishman in a football shirt; if it were it would not rank first equal in my list of favourite bars.
It has that status not for the views it offers (see photo) but because it continues to offer the best Rhone Valley wines, treats them with total respect/admiration, and offers the sort of education that most Englishmen (including me) badly need. When first taken there by my partner Suzanne not long into our relationship I was asked what I would like. I explained in best broken French the qualities that I most appreciate in a red wine. The guy had a Rene moment of introspection, came back a few minutes later, and said ‘try this’. It proved to be my first encounter with a good St Joseph. I thought then (and still do) that I could happily spend the rest of my life in the glass.
(For the record, the other first equal bar in my ratings is one that I shall have to try to find again, next time we’re in the area. It was called Bar St Joseph, along the road from Ecole St Joseph. I said I would like a glass of red wine and the waitress informed me ‘we only serve St Joseph’. I replied that therefore I am in my spiritual home, football aside. While we’re on the subject, in third place I’d have Cafe Le Saint Joseph in Tournon-sur-Rhone, to continue the theme, and, to please Suzanne, in fourth the small bar on the hotel in Venice on the Grand Canal where we stayed, where I was first introduced to Ramazzotti and Montenegro, and in fifth a bar at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome, which made a mean cocktail.)
I digress it seems. In addition to remaining in Lyon for the semi-final(s) I’m not going to make Wembley. It’s complicated, but having originally planned on returning to London in mid-April circumstances arose which meant extending my stay here until the end of May. A train back on 1 June still doesn’t rule out a quick return the previous weekend, but this is a no-win one for me. Some time back Suzanne booked a weekend away for us in Paris, for yet another Tutankhamun exhibition. Only recently did I start to think that this might be a problem. And it’s compounded by a niece choosing that Sunday for the christening of her second child. I have settled for Paris by default, but it will seem very strange to quite possibly miss, for what feels like the first time in my life, a pivotal Charlton game.
So please believe that during the week ahead there will be one Addick howling for victory from Lyon, then hopefully late in the month from Paris. Perhaps that might balance out having a moron still associated with our club sitting in Belgium.