History 22 of 24

22. French Tours

The club would like to thank Nick Slack for the below contribution.

Origin of tours with French clubs Gif sur Yvette and SGS Rugby.

A first trip to Paris for many of us to watch England take on France in the five nations at the Parc des Princes.
The game was everything we could have wished for excitement, colour, rivalry, passion all washed down with Ricard, England won 17-13 and went on to win the Grand Slam.
Six of us spilled out of the ground into the packed street all full of singing flag waving and very thirsty fans both French and English.
Taking the scene in we spied a bar, as you’d expect the bar was packed customers who were drinking in the street, we looked at each other and decided that one of us was to try and get the beers in. It was at that time I noticed two French guys standing close to us also debating whether they should join the scrum for a beer
Finally the beers arrived and I noticed the two French guys were still standing there, we offered them one of our beers said “sante” and carried on our revelry not giving it a thought.
Then one of them went into the bar and came out with not only their beers but enough for us too! We reciprocated and after about an hour of exchanging beers with a smile (we hadn’t said a word to each other as our school French was not up to scratch) the older guy Claude gave us a proposition.
He asked if we were to give him 100 francs each (about £10) he would take us to a bar in Montparnasse.
We looked at each other, some saying “he’ll do a runner!” others “go on, there’s more of us than them” “keep your bloody eyes on him” and handed over the cash.
As soon as we handed over the cash we were off, Claude and his nephew Pascal made for the Metro with the rest of us in hot pursuit, eventually we emerged out of the Montparnasse Metro station into Rue D’Odessa and stopped outside a small bar called “the Extra-/bar” it was shut!
We looked at each other a little confused until Claude put his hand in his pocket and took out some keys saying “my bar”! We went inside, the lights on we could see all the rugby photos and memorabilia. Claude told us to sit and proceeded take every bottle off the top shelf and put them in front of us and said “before we drink we sing God save the Queen!” and that was it, bread cheese smelly sausage and enough Pastis to sink the ferry we came over on.
What a night! Not bad for £10 each.
The singing and laughter went on until Claude stood up and said “we go now” having no idea what was going on we dutifully followed, we were all arm in arm holding each other up and went singing into the night until we arrived at the PUC rugby club, we went in to see pictures of Claude in the team photos as a hooker, what a great character.
One of the last memories I have of that night was of four of us carrying Claude shoulder high trying to take him home. Although there was only one problem, we didn’t know where he lived!
When we arrived back in England we started writing to each other and the Extra Bar became a very familiar place for many of Newcastle’s visits to Paris
Matches were organised over the years against Gif sur Yvette and SGS Rugby, the mini section took 3 coach loads of players one year. The friendship is as strong today as it always was, sadly Claude passed away but we always still visit him in the Montparnasse cemetery just up the Rue from the old Extra-Bar, which sadly is now part of an hotel, and no longer exists.