Bonjour, mes amis! I’ll be 100 with you all, this blog post about our Parisian/World Cup excursion for BTW is incredibly daunting to write. How in the world do I even begin to put into words the magic of experiencing a World Cup in the most beautiful city on the planet? A written testimony will never do it justice. Alas, I will do my best. Might need a few Heinekens to help me on this one, ha.
First of all, I will tell you that my adventure did not begin on the best foot. A passport debacle nearly squashed this shoot entirely. Shameless plug alert — you can hear me extoll on how to avoid an international travel disaster on the latest episode of my podcast “The Call Up”. All I will say is when it comes to European travel, make sure your passport doesn’t expire within three months. Lesson learned. You’re welcome.
Susannah Collins with Florian Valot at Sacré-Cœur
Travel woes aside, from the moment I stepped off the airplane, Paris was a dream. Our first day began by meeting Florian Valot of the New York Red Bulls in his hometown, just a few miles outside of Paris. Florian is recovering from his second torn ACL, and while his injury is a huge bummer, it did allow us the opportunity to utilize his exceptional skills as a tour guide for this shoot, and he could not have been more gracious. An inside look at his old training grounds and family home led into what can only be described as the quintessential Parisian excursion: taking in the stunning views of the city from Sacre Coeur, having our, ahem, portraits drawn on the streets of Montmartre (I use the term “portrait” lightly here. Just watch, you’ll see lol), beholding the Eiffel Tower in all her magnificent glory, and ending the day with one of the most decadent, delicious meals I will likely ever have. Seriously, I am now addicted to escargot and crème brulee. Thanks a lot, Flo. And for him, it was a chance to be a tourist in his own city and showcase exactly why Paris is the ideal World Cup host.
Susannah Collins with Florian Valot check out the Eiffel Tower
As close to perfect as that first day was, day two was even better. Match day. The World Cup. In Paris. Truly, the stuff dreams are made of. Before we made our way to Parc de Prince, the site of the USA vs. Chile match, we took a boat ride to an absolutely charming restaurant on a tiny island in the middle of a hidden lake that looked like something out of a fairy tale. Over a few Heinekens, Flo and I could hardly contain our excitement for the day. Neither of us had ever experienced a World Cup and the enormity of what we were about to witness was almost overwhelming. And although Flo’s loyalties naturally lie with his home country, on that day he was all aboard the USWNT train. In fact, his knowledge of the women’s game was beyond impressive, dropping stats and facts that showcased the immense amount of respect he has for women’s soccer.
The day also provided an opportunity to get to know Flo and the awesome human that he is. His story is unique and inspiring; from almost walking away from the game entirely, to his decision to attend college in the States, working his way through the Red Bulls system to become a standout on the first team, overcoming not one but two knee surgeries ... he exudes tenacity and positivity in all he takes on. The BTW crew all agreed — we couldn’t have asked for a better host and also we all want to be BFF’s with him.
We made our way to the stadium and I had to stop and allow myself to simply take in the atmosphere. The US and Chile fans taking selfies together, young children — boys and girls — rocking Rapinoe jerseys, the undeniable air of excitement and anticipation pulsing through the streets ... there’s a reason this sport is called the beautiful game and everything I experienced in those moments exemplified that moniker perfectly. It was all just ... beautiful.
Susannah Collins with Florian Valot at the USWNT match against Chile.
Once inside my emotions got the best of me. The US and Chile teams marched onto the field armed with determination and passion in every step they took. I started to cry. And even though Flo made fun of me (deserved, tbh) the moment wasn’t lost on him either. We cheered on the US to a 3-0 victory over an outmatched but unrelenting Chile side. When the match was over, Flo & I tried to articulate just how special the experience was, but much like me right now, struggling to put sentences together, words escaped us. It was truly THAT incredible.
I’m tapped out, guys. I hope this provides at least a taste of the extraordinary few days we had in Paris. Thank you, Florian, for being a part of what was an unforgettable memory that all of us will treasure. Thank you, Paris, for being well ... Paris. You are perfect. And as always, thank you, the readers and viewers, for going on this ride with us. And last but not least ...
LET’S GO USA!!!!