Tennis, Anyone?

The French Open is great.  You sit around and eat and drink while the tennis “just happens”.

A friend in London made this brilliant observation as we set out to Paris with Bob and Cassie Hopkins to enjoy the women’s and men’s semi-final matches at Roland Garros.  Over the course of three days, we discovered that the blasé tone of this remark was pitch perfect.

My only point of reference for a tennis tournament is the US Open, and there could not be more differences between these two Grand Slam events.  The obvious thing to point out is that Flushing Meadows is no Paris.  The people, the food, and the experience are all defined by location.

As I see it, there are three types of people who attend the US Open, all of whom are brash in their own way.  There are the over-zealous tennis fanatics fully outfitted head-to-toe in tennis gear who appear ready to jump on the court and fill in at a moment’s notice.  Then there are the corporate types in their sleek suits or preppy pastel collared shirts, shielded behind private boxes and designer sunglasses.  Last there is the boisterous breed of New Yorkers, a unique melting pot always ready to boil over with unsolicited, unedited jeers and cheers.

Les francais are more refined as they stroll the grounds in style.  Women wear their chic attire of heels and little leather jackets while the men favor dress shirts and straw fedoras.  No one seems rushed to see the tennis.  Half of the seats closest to the court remained empty as Nadal easily disposed of his opponent in the semis.  Lunch takes precedent, and people did not begin to find their seats until their meal was finis.  After all, the tennis “just happens”….

Food is not fast in Paris.  The massive Food Court in the U.S. overstuffed with unappetizing fast food is replaced in France by a small Dining Terrace stocked with delicious gourmet treats.  We dined on brie, fresh baguettes, poached salmon, sauteed spinach, pommes frites, and fresh salad made to order.  We washed this down with a refreshing bottle of rosé.  Just want a snack?  Saunter over to the bar offering Macaroons and Champagne.  And don’t forget your cigarettes.  Apparently les francais have never met the Surgeon General!

We discovered that the sudden rain during the matches was less of a disappointment and more of an opportunity to further enjoy the food, wine, and company that define the French Open experience.  By the second rain delay, we had our assignments clearly established:  Cassie hold the table, Cathy reserve seats, Jeff buy the chilled rosé, Bob queue up for champagne.  The tennis will “just happen”…

As it turns out, tennis was happening both on and off the court.  We literally rubbed shoulders with Nadal who bumped into Bob outside the stadium on Thursday.  We followed him to an outer court where he proceeded to spar with a young practice partner for about an hour.  We stood glued against the chain fence watching him crush every shot with his fierce velocity. Back in Paris, as we were leaving Hotel Costes after a late dinner, we passed Martina Hingis on her way out with girlfriends.  On the way to the loo in the George V on Saturday, we passed Steffi Graff having tea with her mom.  And best of all, while enjoying a fabulous dinner at the Cristal Room in the Baccarat Museum, we were seated at a table right next to John McEnroe and his family.  Everywhere we went, it seems that tennis “just happened”…

In the end, we shopped at La Boutique, we dined at La Terrace, we cheered at La Tennis, and we explored La Paris.

La pièce de résistance is that all this “just happened”  while spending time with the very best of les amis!

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