My final full day in Paris took me to Saint-Cloud and an eight race all-flat card on the grass. I’d been to St.-Cloud on previous visits to Paris but the weather was beautiful Monday so I couldn’t resist going back.
With schoolkids in France on a two-week Autumn break, there were a lot of adults with their children on hand to see the horses. It was a more festive vibe than on previous visits. Just five euros to get in. I don’t bet on the French races given my unfamiliarity with the sport there but I love how they’re presented. At St.-Cloud, big fields of classy horses bred mostly in France, Ireland and the UK (with a few German-breds too) are paraded in two separate walking rings in advance of the race – and then unsaddled and inspected afterwards in a small, enclosed space near the grandstand afterwards. Jocks, trainers, owners, grooms all converge in this space while horses circle in tight quarters. Watching this play out while attempting to eavesdrop on the interactions was great fun. The jockey Sophie Chuette was especially animated and appeared happy describing her two notably strong closing rides for the Mikel Delzangles barn.
Italian apprentice jock Andrea Cottu won the second race with a big late rush aboard Port Au Prince for Delzangles. It was the second race in France ever for Cottu. He’s just sixteeen years old.
Old pop music played between races on the sound system. The Robert Palmer tune “Johnny and Mary” came on between the 5th and 6th. I hadn’t heard it in forever. “Mary always hedges her bets, She never knows what to think…” It sounded perfect. A race track song, for sure.
The ham and cheese on a baguette from the track concession was great.
Rain started on the way back to the hotel. It was the only time the weather was anything other than great the entire 11-day trip.
I abandoned my plan to take an RER train to the airport for my Tuesday morning flight home. I saw a tweet from RATP (the public transit operator in Paris) Monday night about overnight construction on the B line and stewed about it as I laid in bed in advance of an early wake-up to make the 518 AM train. Even if the train was on time, it could have been a scramble to make the 920 AM flight home. The RATP tweet suggested possible delays coming out of the overnight work. So, when I checked out of the hotel at 415 AM, I asked the clerk about lining up a taxi.
My driver looked fatigued on arrival and he was driving a little erratically on the highway, so my anxiety kicked in hard. I asked him if he spoke English. He said no. So, I threw down some basic questions in French purely to promote alertness, engagement and my own sanity. He became animated. He was fine. My desperate attempt to gauge his fitness worked almost immediately. He said he had just started his shift. He discussed a recent trip to the states which included a visit to see a wealthy sister in California. I became completely comfortable.
The fare was 62 euros. I gave him 75. We shook hands.
The airport process was a piece of cake. No lines at any point. Flight was good. Back to work on Sunday. Gotta pay the piper now, keep the head down with hopes of a return to France in late 2023. For those going to Paris anytime soon, I offer this tip. Take a stroll down two great streets in two distinctly different Paris neighborhoods: 1. rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th (especially the stretch near Passage Brady – and especially at night when it’s totally jumping) and 2. rue Daguerre in the 14th.