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Article and photographs supplied by Phil Hopkins.
 
I know that there are other branch members who, like me, went to the Euros, but I thought that I would share some memories of my once in a lifetime trip.
 
FRANCE BECOMES A CORNER OF WALES – UEFA EURO 2016My son Gareth and I had decided to make the trip to France soon after Wales secured their qualification last autumn.   When the draw was made in December, his planning went into overdrive.  I had seen on the television that Lyon would be a central location on which to base your trip.  We therefore booked four night’s accommodation, bearing in mind that at that time we did not know what matches we would obtain tickets for.  What was known was the location of the Wales matches, so accommodation was booked in Bordeaux for two nights.  These bookings were made within minutes of the draw was made – less than three hours later, the prices of some hotels in Bordeaux had tripled.
 
As you may recall from my notes in a previous newsletter, I travelled to Brussels to watch Wales play Belgium in a qualifying match.  That trip was enough to secure two tickets for the opening Wales match against Slovakia.  Gareth managed to obtain tickets for the Portugal Iceland match at St Etienne, and then just a few weeks before our trip, he drove to Gillingham from Oxford, where he was on a course, to collect tickets for the Italy Belgium match at Lyon.
 
Tickets for the Wales England game at Lens, a small town less than an hour’s drive from the tunnel, were like gold dust, but three days before we left, Gareth managed to obtain one ticket for the match.  Despite my (admittedly minor!) protestations, he insisted that I was to have the ticket.
 
As I said, I left all the planning to Gareth and he came up trumps – everything ran like clockwork – even arriving at two restaurants for pre booked meals en route, on time.  The only glitch was beyond our control – a tram strike in Bordeaux making Plan B necessary for travelling arrangements around the city. 
 
FRANCE BECOMES A CORNER OF WALES – UEFA EURO 2016The view from the stand at Bordeaux as the players line up before the Wales v Slovakia match
 
We went to the fan zone in Bordeaux for the opening game – France against Romania – an amazing experience, with all nationalities represented.  The singing of La Marseallaise by the French contingent was something else!  The French winner two minutes from time sent almost everyone home happy!
 
The atmosphere at Bordeaux on the day of the match was absolutely tremendous.  Fans of both teams were mingling together, without a hint of any trouble.  I am a proud Welshman, and the singing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau on this occasion was, I think, the most emotional of the countless times I have sung it.  I don’t mind admitting that I had a lump in my throat and felt close to tears.  Gareth Bale’s goal set the scene, and Hal Robson Kanu’s winner was the icing on the cake.  Gareth was wearing a Hal Robson-Kanu Tee shirt which was rather appropriate.
 
FRANCE BECOMES A CORNER OF WALES – UEFA EURO 2016
Hoppy Senior enjoying a pre match aperitif in the sun at Lyon
 
Onto Lyon for four days and two more matches.  While we were at St Etienne watching the game on the Tuesday evening, Gareth received a text from a friend who was in Paris – the same person who had sourced my ticket for the England game.  He had managed to obtain a ticket for Gareth for the England game, at face value.  The trip had suddenly got even better.
 
We had a free day on the Wednesday, so did the cultural thing of sightseeing in Lyon, taking in the regulation boat trip!
 
We had a long drive on Thursday, the day of the England game, so started off at five o’clock, to ensure that we were in time for Gareth to meet his mate and collect his ticket.  I spoke to several England supporters in Lens, all of whom had been in Marseille.  They were all mature people, who had followed their national team for several years and all stated that the whole experience in Marseille was the worst they had encountered – invoked mainly by Russians – I won’t call them fans or supporters. 
 
FRANCE BECOMES A CORNER OF WALES – UEFA EURO 2016Gareth (Hoppy Junior) proudly holding the Wales flag at Lens before the match against England.
 
For 92 minutes of the game, we hoped for a result of some sort against England, but it was not to be. Although obviously disappointed, no one seemed to be disheartened – upwards and onwards seemed to be the philosophy.
One story from the hotel where we stayed for the final night of our trip – midway between Lens and Calais.  We were talking to a couple and it turned out that she is the daughter of Ted Jacobs – ex Sergeant 663, whose police house I moved into in Llandrindod Wells in 1978!   Ted, who joined the Breconshire Constabulary, is still going strong.  Small world!
Just a few thoughts to finish.  The total distance travelled in our eight days was 2,214 miles.  The Slovakia game was the seventh time I have watched Wales away – the previous six consisted of five defeats and one draw.  What a match to break my duck!  Throughout our trip of three bases and four matches, we did not see any trouble whatsoever – everyone was extremely good natured.  Since we have returned home, Wales have beaten Russia and Northern Ireland.  In fact I am writing this the day after the Northern Ireland game. We are on holiday in Italy for the quarter finals, but I have already checked that there is a room showing the match in our hotel!
My son has composed a blog of our trip, which I would thoroughly recommend to you if you have any interest in football and / or have a sense of humour. It can be found at www.euro2016roadtrip.blogspot.co.uk