My husband and I are huge tennis fans, and one of the things we love most about living in Paris is the chance to attend one of the Grand Slams, the French Open. Of course, no one in Paris calls it that. Here it's strictly referred to as Roland Garros. Calling it anything else immediately gives away your tourist status, regardless of how great your French may be. The tennis grounds of Roland Garros are located on the outskirts of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, about a 15 minute walk from our apartment.
We were late to the ticket party last year and bought tickets just to the outside courts, but this year I logged on to the website the morning the tickets went on sale and....was 22,000 in line! By the time my turn came up, the only tickets for the play-off rounds were the very expensive package ones, and some of the other dates weren't available. We settled on purchasing one day First Round tickets for the main court, Philippe Chatrier. The tickets gave us 4 matches, two women's and two men's, but we actually got to see the end of the match between Andy Murray and Radek Stepanek that had been rained out the day before, so it was a bit of a bonus!
I enjoy attending the French Open because as a tournament, the grounds are fairly compact and accessible. The grounds are not gigantic, and the courts don't hold huge numbers of spectators either. We sat in the top row, but our view of the players and the court was quite good. A new stadium is in the process of being built, and I don't know that it will provide the same intimate experience the current stadiums do.
Gluten Free Options
The tournament grounds have several places to eat, with a few gluten free items. Most options are bread-heavy, with plenty of sandwiches, hot dogs, and waffles, but there was also a pretty good offering of salads (the French create meals out of salads, so not just a few leaves of lettuce and some anemic looking tomatoes), as well as fresh fruit, yogurt, smoothies, chips, and a variety of drinks. We didn't eat at the onsite restaurant, so I can't speak for the options there. The self-serve "epicerie" is where I found the most gluten free options.
I should mention however that there is no restriction on outside food at this tournament, so if you do plan to attend, feel free to stock up on food and bring along your own picnic lunch to enjoy. There is a huge Carrefour grocery store within walking distance of the stadium that has an entire section dedicated to gluten free food, so that is always an option.
The biggest change from last year was the increased security. Since the attacks of November, Paris has been in a state of high terror alert. Most of the time you only notice the difference when entering public buildings and getting searched, or the increased number of patrols around the city, but I really noticed a difference at the tournament. To begin, there was a line-up that spanned almost a full city block to enter the grounds, with security and police officers stationed at intervals along the line. Second, we had to pass by a metal detector security check before even reaching the tennis grounds, then we underwent a pat-down and a bag check just outside the grounds. Thirdly, our tickets were checked against ID to ensure that the name on the ticket matched the holder. This has always been a practice in theory, but last year no one checked our identification. It was reassuring to see the extra measures put in place, and I can't help but wonder what the measures are going to be for the Eurocup soccer tournament in June.
We started the morning watching Angelique Kerber against Kiki Bertens, with the Dutchwoman pulling off the upset. That was followed by the finish of the Andy Murray match, which was quite exciting! Third up was Novak Djokovic, who won in straight sets, followed by hometown favourite Tsonga, who also won in straight sets. Finally, almost as popular as Tsonga, came Serena Williams, who easily won her match as well. Not bad for a first round ticket!
For my husband and I, it was a great day out without the kids, and a chance to share one of our passions together. We walked from the stadium to the Porte d'Auteuil, where we had dinner at Les Deux Stations, a neighbourhood bistro that serves a small menu of simple, unpretentious food. Many of the tables are set up community style, but there is also a small back room and two large outdoor patios with heating. What I loved the most about the restaurant was the staff. Not only was the service quite friendly, it boasted one of the most diverse serving staff I have seen in the 16th, which was a breath of fresh air in an arrondissement that can sometimes be a bit stuffy.
If you have the chance to visit Roland Garros, buy your tickets online (you can't purchase them at the stadium), arrive early, pack a picnic, and enjoy one of the best tennis tournaments in the world! Oh, and drop me a line if you want recommendations on where to eat, where to stay, or what to see while in the city!