Friday 21 October 2016

The Green Army in France: Our ultimate Euro 2016 travel guide

Vive la France!

Conor Power

Published 15/05/2016 | 02:30

Euro 2016: How will the green army travel to France? Composite image.
Euro 2016: How will the green army travel to France? Composite image.
Chimera on Notre Dame Cathedral, overlooking Paris.
Bicycle in Bordeaux vineyards
Waffles from Meert
Grand Place, Lille
Ryanair: The airline released a photoshopped image to celebrate Jon Walters' goals against Bosnia in the Euro 2016 play-offs.
Republic of Ireland fans Shane Peppard (centre) with his son Clayton, aged 9, (left) and nephew Sean, 12, from Clondalkin during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Irish soccer fans. Pic: Sportsfile
Night view on The Pont de pierre in Bordeaux. Photo: Deposit
The Grand Palais, Paris, France and the Alexandre Bridge.
Paris Catacombs. Photo: Deposit

Going to the Euros with the green army? Our man has your travel to-do lists sorted in Paris, Bordeaux and Lille #COYBIG!

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What can you say of the City of Light that hasn't already been said?

The trick to enjoying Paris is to think like a centre forward: make space for yourself. Paris is so densely crammed that if you don't seek out some of the huge green areas of the city (such as the Jardins de Luxembourg and Jardin des Tuileries), it can all get on top of you. Then it's a case of not trying to take in too many of the sights in such a vast city, but simply savouring the atmosphere.

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The Opponents: Sweden

The Time: Monday, June 13; KO. - 17:00

The Place: Stade de France; Capacity - 81,000.

One of Europe's mega-stadiums, Stade was built especially for the World Cup in 1998. It was the scene of one of the greatest robberies in Irish/French footballing history, when Thierry Henry dropped his hand and broke our hearts in November 2009.

Web: Metro: St Denis-Porte de Paris. RER B: La Plaine Stade de France. RER D: Stade de France - St Denis.

Best Cheap Eats:

Before hopping on the Metro/RER to get out to St Denis, visit Paris' oldest covered market - Marché des Enfants Rouges (Metro: Temple). The place abounds with some of the most affordable quality eating in Paris.

Chez Alain Miam Miam (Rue des Oiseaux) serves incredibly tasty and filling gourmet sandwiches and crepes. Another cheap institution in the city centre is Au Bistro Beaubourg (25 rue Quincampoix. Metro: Châtelet). It serves hot, traditional Parisian food at its very best, with minimum fuss. Watch out for regular themed soirées where the bargains are even more enticing; €10 main courses such as a feed of oysters or gut-stuffing raclettes with cocktails at €5. Yum!

Best french fare:

"Le Hide" (10 Rue du General Lanrezac,, Metro: Charles de Gaulle Etoile) is a small traditional Parisian restaurant in the city centre just a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe. Owner Koba is a Japanese national who does French fare superbly and at exceptional value for the location - Plats du Jour from €19 and a set dinner menu from €27. The risotto with parmesan shavings is both exciting and comforting at the same time, perfectly matched with a Burgundy wine...

Best Drinking Spots:

The Marais district is constantly lively, particularly in the evening. Try the down-to-earth and always-overflowing Le Piment Café on Rue de Sévigné (Metro- Saint-Paul). Forget any fancy notions and go for the big €23 pichet (jug) of "ti-punch". Or hit up the Café Charlot on Rue de Bretagne (; Metro: Filles du Calvaire) with its abundance of Belle Époque zinc and wrought iron fittings. A demi (about a half-pint of beer) costs €3.20 on its sought-after sunny terrace.

Best Buzz in Town:

For an up-and-coming part of town, you won't find trendier and buzzier of a weekend night than South Pigalle (often referred to as "So-Pi") - a revitalised part of the City of Light once famous for low-rent sex shops and lurid cabaret shows.

Today's hippest spots include L'Embuscade - Rhumerie du Cap Vert (a replica of a Cap Verde rum bar, specialising in a superb range of… you guessed it). It's at 47 rue de La Rochefoucauld (; Metro: Pigalle). Nearby, Le Kremlin offers garish, retro Soviet-style décor with vats of fine vodka (6 rue André Antoine. Metro: Pigalle).

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Best Local Parking Spot:

If you're planning to park close to the stadium, the best solution is the Q-Park Université-Saint-Denis ( It's a 24-hour car park that will have you at the stadium in 15 minutes by public transport and no après-match traffic jams.

Generally speaking in Paris, if you want to park for less than €1.50 an hour, you need to go to the outlying arrondissements (districts).

Quick Culture fix:

The Louvre ( will take you half your life to see in its entirety. If one must have art in Paris, then go to the Musee d'Orsay (; Metro: Solférino), where you'll have all the best Impressionists seen in an hour or so and can enjoy the ornate and reasonably-priced café on the top floor with great views over the Seine to boot. Full entry costs €12 with a reduced €9 rate after 6.30pm on Thursday or 4.30pm any other day. It's worth the entry price just to see Van Gogh's vivid Sunflowers and Manet's "scandalising" Olympia in the flesh.

Best Shopping & Souvenirs:

If it's a miniature Eiffel Tower you're after, then you'll certainly be spoilt for choice. What about a book of Baudelaire poetry from one of the booksellers along the Banks of the Seine? Just opposite Notre Dame Cathedral is the best spot. It's good craic strolling along looking intellectual anyway, even if you don't buy anything.

Local Must Do:


Exploring the Catacombs (above, Metro: Denfert-Rochereau) is something most visitors to Paris miss out on. It's a 1.7km-long ossuary set deep beneath street level where the spooky skeletal remains of some six million people are very neatly stacked (; €12).

Paris primer

Did You Know… the famously guillotined King Louis XVI is buried, along with several other French monarchs, at the St Denis Basilica, just a 20-minute walk north of the Stade de France (; €8.50, under-26s go free with valid ID).

The Fan Zone: Paris' Fan Zone is in the Champ de Mars (the enormous green lawn behind the Eiffel Tower) and can accommodate 120,000 fans (Metro: Ecole Militaire).

Getting to the Next Match:

Paris to Bordeaux is 590km.

The most direct route is via the A10 - a journey that should take less than six hours if traffic conditions are right. Poitiers is a lively enough city for a stop-off point.

If you've a mind to go to a theme park, Futuroscope is just outside the city (; €39 for adults or €180 for a family of five).

An alternative route that's not much longer is the A71/A20 followed by the N10. Much of the latter stretches are dual carriageway and the motorway tolls are about €20 - a good €30 cheaper than the first option.

Limoges makes for a nice overnight pit-stop. It's a grand mid-sized local capital and the home of the Limousin breed - imported into Ireland over 50 years ago!

More Info: See for tons of info and last-minute accommodation.



Smart, elegant and inviting, Bordeaux is arguably the location of choice for travelling fans this summer - just about shading it by dint of its sunny location.

With a booming student population, don't expect much sleep in La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty) - a city synonymous with faded glory in the late '90s, it has undergone a major urban upgrade and today exudes vibrancy and "oui, we can" attitude.

Forget boring old wine buffs. This is a thoroughly modern city bursting with things to do and places to see, perfect for chilling out in and all wrapped up in the largest urban Unesco World Heritage Site in the world.

The Opponents: Belgium

The Time: Saturday, June 18; KO - 14.00

The Place: Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux (Matmut Atlantique,; Capacity - 43,000. Opened just a year ago, this superb stadium has an unusual exterior, best described as a "messy white box". Use the tramway to get there, taking Line C to Parc des Exposition (300m from the stadium).

Best Cheap Eats:

Hit the quayside between Place de la Bourse and Place des Quinconces. It's close to the official Fanzone and you can get plats du jour in the middle of the day for about €10. Try L'Incontournable (, Via Luna (café or the Belle Epoque ( Another good area is the Saint Pierre locale. It's within the historical city centre and has a good choice of reasonably-priced restaurants. Give the local lamproie à la bordelaise (eel in Bordeaux wine sauce) a shot - or oysters from Arcachon Bay.

Best french fare:

L'Orangerie ( is not expensive and offers you a taste of the countryside within the city centre with its great garden terrace. The varied menu has a slight Mediterranean bent, combined with local favourites like foie gras. Mains are around €20 to €25.

Best Drinking Spots:

The "I Boat", Quai Armand Lalande ( is a moored boat that stays rocking and grooving into the early hours. Try a pint at the HMS Victory (

Although it's an English Pub, it does craic Irish-style, with former Irish professional rugby player Luagh Verling frequently pulling the pints. Elsewhere, the Saint Pierre quarter is the spot to hit for drinks with a charming, old-town atmosphere.

Best Buzz in Town:

It's hard to beat Bordeaux's historic centre - the Saint Pierre quarter. It has atmosphere and plenty of places to eat and drink that draw a crowd at all hours of the night and day. For a different vibe, there is the energetically revamped area along the quays by Pont Chaban Delmas. Plenty of choice!

Best Parking Spot:

The Jean-Jaurès ( car park is right in the heart of things under Place de la Bourse. With hourly rates of €2.40 and an overnight charge of €6, it's surprisingly inexpensive for the perfect location. The tram line C leaves from here every 10 minutes or so and brings you to Parc des Expositions (five mins from the stadium).

Quick Culture fix:

What about football stuff posing as art? The exhibition 'Football: at the Limits of Offside' runs from June 1 to the end of October at the Musée d'Aquitaine ( on Cours Pasteur in the historical city centre. It promises to examine the Beautiful Game through a series of installations and exhibitions.

13 NEWS irish fans to france.jpg  

Best Shopping & Souvenirs:

You have to bring back some nice wine. The Chartrons district has the best wine shops, or just pop into any standard supermarket - where you'll find a drool-inducing range of local favourites. Leave some room in your suitcase (and stomach) for canelés - fantastic little cakes of Bordeaux.

Local Must Do:

Many people don't realise that Bordeaux is now as bike-friendly as a Dutch city with over 200km of safe cycle lanes. You can grab a bike and wing it or you can follow a self-guided tourist route. Esprit Cycles (, 27 rue du Docteur Charles Nancel Pénard) offer sturdy bikes for €10 for half a day or €15 for a full day.

Bordeaux basics

Did You Know… When seen from above, the Grands Hommes district (also known as the Golden Triangle) looks just like the Masonic symbol?

The Fan Zone: It's on the Place des Quinconces and has a capacity of 60,000. Take tramway Line B or C to Quinconces. Several buses also stop at Quinconces-Munich.

Getting to the Next Match:

Bordeaux to Lille is 805km.

This is a long journey but you have three days, even allowing for hangover dissipation period. There's motorway door-to-door at 130kph so if you want to attack it in one burst, you could do it in eight hours or so.

Rather than overnight in some motel-type place, take a diversion to somewhere like Amboise. It's a small diversion to this pretty town, which boasts one of the finest châteaux in the Loire Valley and the local vineyards produce four official types of fresh, full-bodied wine. Leonardo da Vinci loved it too - he's buried in the local cemetery at the Chapel of St Hubert (

On the journey, expect motorway tolls to set you back approximately €72. Fuel will cost between €45 and €65, depending on whether you're burning petrol or diesel.

More Info: See for info and last-minute accommodation.



Lille is the latest city in France to get a vibrant makeover. It was once the dour capital of France's Grim North, but years of investment and no shortage of imagination have transformed it into one of the most sought-after places to live in the country.

Its image was helped in no small measure by Le Nord becoming cool again through the runaway success of hit comedy film Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenu chez les Ch'tis), painting this region as a place full of whimsical characters with amusing accents who just shrug and get on with enjoying life.

The Opponents: Italy

The Time: Wednesday, June 22; KO - 20.00

The Place: Stade Pierre-Mauroy (; Capacity - 50,200. The venue is another new one - built in 2012. It has a retractable roof and the ability for half of the pitch to retract and slide above the other half for certain events. Take Metro Line 1 to Cité Scientifique, from where the stadium is a 10-minute walk.

Best Cheap Eats:

On the same Metro line 1 as the Stade Pierre-Mauroy is the Rihour stop. Surface on Place Rihour and all around you are restaurants that won't break the bank. Another good spot to try is the student quarter (Metro: Republique Beaux-Arts/rue Masséna/Solférino), where there's an abundance of street food/fast-food outlets.

"Le Welsh" is a local adaptation of the Welsh Rarebit, composed of layered bread, cheese, beer, eggs and accompanied by a true Flemish original - chips.

Best Dining Out:

Try Estaminet Au Vieux de la Vieille ( on Rue des Vieux Murs for some quality local specialities - eg pancakes stuffed with Maroilles cheese, ham and vegetables - in the heart of the Vieux Lille (Old Town). Mains are between about €12 and €18.

Best Drinking Spots:

The most happening boozing zone right now is on the long Rue des Postes. Try Le Pol'Art Café (No 135; southern end) - a place that used to be big on food but found that it does drink much better. La Boulangerie Bar (No 28; northern end), with its quirky former baker's décor and jazzy/funk music, is a convivial and busy spot for a drink with a mixed crowd. Lots of locals drink Pelforth - a big brand beer that's brewed nearby. To get even more local, try a Jenlain - sold in tall cider-like bottles.

Best Buzz in Town:

During the day, the Vieux Lille area has a great atmosphere, especially around the Cathedral Notre-Dame de la Treille (Metro: Gare Lille-Flandres). Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the liveliest nights of the week in Lille. In the evening, it gets busiest around Gare Saint Sauveur the Rue Royal in Vieux Lille (Metro: Lille Grand-Palais).

Best Local Parking Spot:

Underground car parks in town are quite expensive. A better option is to use the far cheaper Transpole ( car park and a Pass-Pass card allowing you access to the car park and travel on the efficient public transport system.

Quick Culture fix:

Visit La Piscine (, 23 Rue de l'Espérance, Roubaix). You're right - the name does mean Swimming Pool. Where else can you find an art deco-style public swimming pool transformed into a fine art museum complete with the swimming pool still in it? Nowhere, I'm guessing. The varied collection covers both art and industry and includes some stunning paintings - mostly impressionist and modern, sculptures from different eras, ceramic pieces from Marc Chagall and Raoul Dufy, as well as other designs and objets d'art. Entry is free.


Best Shopping & Souvenirs:

Don't leave town without visiting Chez Meert ( for a waffle (above) - a deliciously famous Lille institution. If you're a true football aficionado, buy a souvenir from the official LOSC (Lille football club) shop on 68 Rue de Bétune in the city centre.

Local Must Do:

Climb the Belfry of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) for a splendid 360° view of Lille. You'll even be able to see the stadium from here - off to the south-east. The nearest Metro stop is Mairie-de-Lille and the entry fee is €5.

Did You Know… The first fully automated metro line in the world opened in Lille in 1983? The platform is enclosed by a series of Perspex barriers and doors that open in the same spot as the doors of the train.

The Fan Zone: It's at Parc Matisse, beside Lille Europe train station. 25,000 capacity.

More Info: See for further info and last-minute accommodation.

Getting There


Last-minute options are still available but running out fast:


Going to press, Brittany Ferries ( still had availability for a return trip from Cork to Roscoff (June 11-24) from €826 for a car plus four people including cabin. Irish Ferries ( was offering a similar deal from Rosslare to Roscoff and Cherbourg-Rosslare (June 9-23) from €696, while Stena Line ( was almost completely sold out around the dates in question, with the option of a €1,117 Rosslare-Cherbourg return trip for a car plus four with cabins from June 9-24.


At the time of writing, CityJet ( had return Dublin-Paris (Orly) flights from June 11-23 from €462. Aer Lingus ( had seats from Dublin-Paris (CDG) on the same dates from €660. Air France ( had flights on the same route at €494, while Ryanair ( had availability on its Dublin-Paris (BVA) service on these dates from €313.


Abbey Travel (, the FAI's official partner, had day-trip packages from €459 (+ €69 tax) to the Sweden or Italy games and €499 (+€69 tax) for the Belgium match.

Marathon Sports Travel ( offers early bird rates of €429 + €70 for the Sweden game and €479 + €70 for either the Italy or the Belgium games.

As we publish, packages are also available from Stein Travel (, Club Travel ( and Killester Travel ( - without match tickets, of course.

NB: All prices subject to availability.

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