We’re not in Brussels anymore. We’re in Paris—and do you know what that means? A lot of really, really drunk German and Irish people, apparently. Forget your crêpes, baguettes, vins fins and all that. It’s UEFA season, baby.
France is hosting the huge European soccer tournament this year, so I am not the only, or even most obvious (the hordes of men with the German flag painted on their face probably share that accolade), foreigner piling into the City of Light this summer. Paris plays host to some of the matches in one of the city’s stadiums, bringing fans in from across the continent to come see their motherland play. Some fans, it seems, don’t need an actual game to justify a jump across the pond/Rhône/Alps/whatever: they’re in Paris even if their national team is playing elsewhere in the country.
So when I wandered toward the Eiffel tower on my first day in Paris, I was greeted with—you guessed it—an enormous crowd of jeering and cheering German and Irish (for Northern Ireland) soccer fans that took up almost a full block. We weren’t even in the “Fan Zone,” that oh-so-French areas of Paris that play host to massive viewing parties. After several chants of “Olé Olé Olé Super Deutschland” and “We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland, but it’s all the same to me,” this crowd, with several hundred French police officers and a pseudo-monster truck called the “Fan Club” as its guide, began to move towards the stadium in Paris.
What do you get when you mix day drinking and national pride? A lot of peeing, mostly. Not a quarter mile into this raucous route, men from German and Irish backgrounds alike began peeling off to the side of the road and, yep, just letting it go. In broad daylight. With children around. With very serious—all-black uniforms, assault rifles, riot shields and all—French policemen right next to them.
I was shocked, confused, and enormously excited all at the same time. Again: when I was in Brussels, two police officers threatened to fine me when I heeded nature’s call in what some would call a public place (it was nighttime, to be fair). Now I watched as German and Northern Irish nationals stood side by side and peed on the afternoon streets of Paris while French policemen pretended not to notice. In a time of “Brexit” and strife in the E.U., it was a heartwarming display of European unity.
Tagging along on this parade for more than a mile, I probably witnessed hundreds of people—including women; those national flags come in handy—empty their bladders on Paris’s famed streets. Coincidentally, I am almost exclusively Irish and German in ancestry, and after all of that walking and enough proper hydration, I began to feel the urge, too.
Swallowing down the stresses of Brussels, I found a bush on the side of the road, and, with hundreds of people around me, relieved myself. What better way to leave your mark on beautiful European capitals, anyway?
A couple of minutes later, one of the French policemen, an assault rifle in his hands, smiled at me and just said “le bière”—beer—as we watched a pack of German fans mimic my act.
And to think I was warned that Paris could be stuffy or snooty or snobby. It’s been quite relaxing so far.