So we went to visit the Noz in Lyon, did Dom and I. We've both been so hectic that we hardly discussed it before we set off for the airport, let alone constructed an itinerary. It hadn't crossed my mind that the Rugby World Cup semi finals were on, and neither of us knew whether our newly-French chum would be into it or not.
Excellently, he was completely into it. We left Ms Noz and Noz junior (gorgeous little boy) at home and we headed off to The Smoking Dog in Lyon Centre Ville. Oddly despite being a "pub" and fairly British in feel, it also felt like a local creation - it was far more eccentric and individual than most British pubs.
I had absolutely no expectations of the match whatsoever, so was absolutely staggered to see Andrew Sheridan and his marvellous colleagues knocking lumps out of the Australians. Bit of a hair issue here - clearly that 'orrible tight-head prop of theirs has the worst hair of the tournament - a mullet so classic it would only meet its match in Hoxton, but our lot are a bit at sea too, I think. Most of the pack seem to be modeling their style on extras in Full Metal Jacket, and I ain't keen.
Half way through the match Noz's excellent friends Benoit and Raphael turned up. They were just brilliant people - funny, friendly, and generally top. Lots of banter and piss-taking, lots of beer too.
Having won. WON! We ambled back to pretend to be sober for a bit and then headed out again for a cracking dinner, followed by the second half of the France match in the bar downstairs. Needless to say the locals were ... ahem ... coq a hoop about it and one of 'em even bought a bottle of champagne and gave us all a glass. Marvellous.
Then, to my astonishment, we went to an nightclub. It's been years. It was fantastic. Tiny, packed little place where all you could buy was lager, in a big jug, with a stack of plastic glasses. Of course the critical thing is to share it out as fast as you can so you can ditch the jug. You're therefore incentivised to keep your chums well topped up.
When we weren't out getting minced and watching sport we hit the food market. Dom's been doing a lot of European travel for work so it had crossed my mind that he might have upgraded his usual "talk loudly in English" policy. I soon found out as Noz and I consulted discretely about the correct way to ask for a particular brie in front of the cheese stall. Dom barged through and, pointing clearly, annunciated "Hello I'll take that piece of brie please" as we stared at him, mildly aghast. The cheese man replied "yes", leading his colleague to comment "huh - bilingual".
We did get some damn fine cheese though, particulary this stuff called Cervelle des Canuts, which was local not just to Lyon but to the hill they lived on. It used to be occupied by silk workers who made this fabulous blend of cottage cheese, herbs, garlic (LOT of garlic) and white wine. Kind of a soft cheese rocket fuel.