On Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the UEFA Super Cup, an annual match played between the winners of the 2 UEFA trophies, the Champions League (Barcelona) and the UEFA Cup (Shakthar Donetsk). My brother stays in Antibes in the south of France and the game is played just along the coast from him in in Monaco, so it seemed like a good chance to go out and see him for a few days.
The standard was quite a bit different from anything I am used to seeing in the Scottish Premier League. Barcelona in particular were superb; the way their players controlled and passed the ball was just incredible to watch. Despite their superiority, there was no scoring until late on in extra time, with the Barcelona substitute scoring the winner with only a few minutes left to play. We were very pleased it did not have to go to penalties, as the last train to Antibes was at 11.50 and we wouldn't have been able to stay for them. I had been in the stadium once before, when I finished the Monaco marathon there in November 2004, but even I have to admit that the atmoshere at a top football game was somewhat more impressive than the atmosphere at the end of the marathon.
I was in France for 3 days (Thursday to Saturday) and am pleased to say that I managed to do the following:
a) ask for a train ticket from the the man at the station ('un billet a Antibes, s'il vous plait'),
b) order a coffee in a town square cafe ('un expresso, s'il vous plait'), and
c) go out a 5 mile run each day.
c) was actually the hardest, because of the intense heat - somewhere around 30 degrees C every time I was out running. It was so hot that I had no choice but to go into the sea for a swim when I finished my run, then treat myself to a cold beer to help me cool down ('un bier froid, s'il vous plait'). Unfortunately it was about 15 degrees colder when I stepped off the plane at Edinburgh last night, and I must have looked like an idiot waiting for the car park bus in my shorts, t-shirt and sunglasses.
Today No 3 son and I wrapped up warm and went along to Gleneagles to watch the last day of the Johnnie Walker Championship. It was a good day out. We followed a Swede, Erlandsson, for a while, and saw him shoot a 62 - a quite incredible round, and one which could have been even lower had he sunk a couple of putts on the 16th and 18th. He eventually finished 2nd, one shot behind the winner. I'll settle for a performance like that at the Arthur Andersen reunion golf day this Friday.
Since arriving home I've spent large amounts of time in front of my computer screen watching to see how the guys were doing in the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc. I'm pleased to say that most of the WHW squad managed to finish - hugely impressive performances on what must be one of the toughest races on the planet. A big well done to those who made it; I can only imagine how difficult it must be to keep going for that long on such difficult terrain. The climbs look never-ending, and the descents don't look much better. Bad luck to those who didn't finish - I'm sure you will be back in future years, learning from this year's experience. I would love to give this race a go at some point in the future, but at the moment I don't have anywhere like the climbing/hillwalking experience that is needed. Until that changes I don't think any attempt would be realistic, and it will be a few years before I consider it.