Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Paris Journal: Tennis, n’importe qui?

Roland Garros (1888-1918), French aviator
and WWI fighter pilot [PD-US]
Tennis, anyone?

By Moristotle

I didn’t feel right about asking the wild-haired young man (30 to 35 years old, I guessed) if I might take a photograph of him, so I cannot share an image of the person with whom we had perhaps the most enjoyable encounter of our month in France (four nights of which were in the U.K., the subject of a subsequent entry). The young man had asked us for directions as we were boarding the metro at Boulogne-Jean-Jaures station late the afternoon of June 5, our first Monday in Paris.
    He spoke with a German accent, and he confirmed that he was from Germany, a kindergarten teacher. He was, “of course,” he said, familiar with Rosenheim, near Munich, where we had visited our friends Rolf and Susan Dumke in 2014, and, sensing our political leanings, he told us that our brain-addled president’s paternal forbear Drumpf was from a town about 20 miles from his own hometown, near Cologne. We smiled in wonder.
    What was he in Paris for? He said he was here for the tennis.

Well, of course, tennis! Soon after we ascended from the metro at the Porte d’Auteuil station three hours earlier, we were shocked by the throngs of people and dozens of police and private security officers we landed in the middle of. What was going on? I imagined a big musical concert at which was performing some huge celebrity we had never heard of. We just wanted to visit le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, which we missed in April 2016. But how were we ever going to get there through this crowd? It seemed pretty calm and orderly, though, so if we just headed the way our map said....
    We wended our way along and, after a U-turn at what appeared to be the crowd’s destination – some sort of stadium, we thought – we found the garden’s entrance 50 meters back and entered.

   In short order there, we found out what was happening from a security officer who was patrolling inside the gardens, adjacent to the boundary with the stadium. “It’s the French Open,” she said. The stadium was the Stade Roland-Garros, and “Roland Garros” is a synonym for the French Open, as you can confirm by googling the name. The French Open is a major tennis tournament held annually for two weeks between late May and early June (May 21 – June 10 this year), in the stadium named after Roland Garros.
    We admit without embarrassment that we had been clueless about the Open. But we have, now, at least experienced French Open cheering, which accompanied us throughout our visit to the garden, sometimes playing counterpoint or emphasis to our ooh’s and aah’s at flowers, bushes, cacti, trees,....

Rather than exit where we had entered Le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, we proceeded into the adjacent, connected Jardin des Poètes, a quiet garden, we discovered, with plaques and busts honoring a number of French poets. At the center stood a statue of Victor Hugo, created by Auguste Rodin.

    And, when we exited the Poets Garden at the far end from where we had entered, we found outselves very near where we had first encountered the tennis throngs, realizing that we could have entered Le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil here and missed our detour – but perhaps also have missed our chance encounter boarding the metro....

During our short conversation with the young German, before we had to switch to another metro line, our memories were jogged by our enjoyable chatter about John McEnroe, Billie Jean King, Björn Börg, etc., etc. When I mentioned McEnroe, the young man gestured to his hair and exclaimed, “I’m Johnny Mac!”

Copyright © 2017 by Moristotle


  1. What a magnificent garden, Morris! And I love the bearded mans statue a lot! Awesome pictures you took also, mate.

  2. Beautiful pictures of the gardens but I thought you were going to tell us you went to the tennis match. I ways almost impressed. (smile)

    1. Wait, Ed, are you saying that we would have to HAVE GONE TO THE TENNIS MATCHES for you to be impressed?! Surely I'm misunderstanding something here.