Thursday 21 September 2017

Where to eat, drink and be merry

... A guide to the Six Nations cities

England

Venue: Twickenham

Redevelopment of the South Stand has elevated the capacity to 82,000, making it the nation's second-largest stadium behind Wembley. Twickenham can be an inspiring place when fans are in full song, but long spells of quiet can dampen the atmosphere on occasion. Getting to the ground can be a nightmare as the roads become gridlocked while the all-too-infrequent rail service sees people herded onto overcrowded trains like cattle.

Where to eat and drink: There are bars and pubs around Twickenham that serve as reasonable pre-match rendezvous points, but nearby Richmond, just a short ride away by train or car, is the place to be after the match.

What to see: London has a host of tourist attractions, the pick of which are situated along the banks of the Thames.

Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are must-sees, as is the London Eye and the assortment of historical buildings situated around Parliament Square. If shopping is on the agenda, then look no further than Covent Garden or Selfridges on Oxford Street.

Wales

Venue: Millennium Stadium

Possibly the jewel in the Six Nations' crown, the Millennium Stadium is a magnificent ground that generates a level of noise rivalled only by Croke Park. Brilliantly designed and situated in the heart of Cardiff, it is a spectacular centre-piece for Welsh rugby. The only negative is the difficulty getting out of the city -- by car or train -- after a match, although given buzz that normally comes with a game it's a small price to pay.

Where to eat and drink: There are a host of rugby pubs close to the stadium while its situation in the city centre ensures there are no shortage of restaurants. However, the city tends to get a little rowdy in the evening after a match. Not a good advert for the government's 'stop binge drinking' campaign.

What to see: Cardiff Castle tops a list of favourite destinations that includes Castell Coch and St Fagan's National History Museum.

But the city is also surrounded by some beautiful countryside which is worth exploring.

Scotland

Venue: Murrayfield

The numbers visiting Murrayfield have declined in recent years, coinciding with the national team's slump in fortunes, though last autumn's victory over Australia has heightened expectations heading into the Six Nations.

Murrayfield is a magnificent stadium -- if only it was given something to celebrate on a regular basis once again. The atmosphere during the superb anthem 'Flower of Scotland', however, still brims with hope.

Where to eat and drink: Murrayfield sits to the west of the city centre and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants en route to the ground. At night the bars and clubs on and around Princes Street are an obvious destination for thirsty rugby fans.

What to see: The imposing Edinburgh Castle sits at the top of the town and has great views to all sides. The Old Town is fascinating to stroll through while the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre is also particularly popular among the rugby fraternity.

France

Venue: Stade de France

The Stade de France has had a difficult time winning over those fans who still have nostalgic feelings for the more gladiatorial Parc des Princes. It has not always been a happy hunting ground for French rugby either, with many preferring games to be held in the south of France. A short ride from Gare du Nord, the surrounding area of Saint-Denis can be dangerous after dark.

Where to eat and drink: Fans are spoilt for choice in Paris. Many congregate around Gare du Nord in the hours before kick-off for convenience, but after the game Montmartre is a worthy destination, packed with some great restaurants.

The flesh pots of Pigalle are situated nearby for the more adventurous.

What to see: The grandeur of Paris remains breathtaking for first-timers and veterans alike. Tourist staples such as Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and the Palace of Versailles are stunning and well worth a visit. The Eiffel Tower is spectacular at night while a boat ride along the Seine is a must.

Italy

Venue: Stadio Flaminio

Italy's stirring performance in the 2007 Six Nations led to reports the sport's growing popularity could force a move to a bigger stadium, but the Azzurri remain at the Flaminio, despite last autumn's experiment of playing

New Zealand in Milan. Although simple in design, the open bowl shape contributes to a rousing atmosphere when Italy are on top.

Where to eat and drink: The Stadio Flaminio is situated in the north west of Rome on the Via Flaminia, which gets busy on match days with throngs of supporters crowding the bars, restaurants and cafes that start on the square and flank the road.

What to see: The awe-inspiring Colosseum is understandably the first stop for tourists visiting Rome, while the Pantheon and Vatican are also high up on the list for visitors.

Rome's famous piazzas (squares) are a must-see and supporters are spoilt for choice with things to see.







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