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The French Open – Introduction and Getting to Paris
Paris, the City of Lights, offers endless attractions and experiences. A sprawling treasure trove of history, culture, art, and cuisine, where every corner holds a discovery and every visit reveals that there is always much more to see. It is also home to the Grand Slams, the French Open, also known as Roland-Garros, a major tennis tournament played on distinct red clay courts in May-June every year. The Roland-Garros was the focus of my third visit to Paris, and to do it on points made it even more special.
I used 61,500 Aeroplan points (+ $65 in taxes) to book a Premium Economy Latitude fare from Toronto (YYZ) to Paris’s Charles De Galle (CDG). And I then used 11 e-upgrade credits to request a business class upgrade. However, my request did not immediately apparent, and I was waitlisted. Luckily, I was #1 on the business class upgrade list on the day of the flight, which cleared just before boarding began. My priority upgrade came from booking a Latitude fare in Premium Economy, Aeroplan status and e-upgrade credits earned through the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card.
For my 5-Night accommodation, I chose the Courtyard Paris Saint Denis, a 20-minute Uber ride or 1hr metro ride from the Roland-Garros. I booked a combination of cash and award stays and paid with gift cards bought at a 20% discount via Amex Offers.
Although I was not upgraded this time, the twin-bed room was spacious. The breakfast amenity as a Bonvoy Platinum Elite member was a decent treat to start the day. The hotel breakfast, as with most Courtyard’s globally, was a hot buffet including eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, cereals, cold meats, cheeses, juice, and coffee.
Overall, the hotel checked off all the basics required for a good stay, especially when the time spent at the property is limited. The restaurant/bar on-site, fitness centre, and good Wi-Fi connection make this a good location – from the airport and the French Open.
The French Open Stadium
Four two-week-long grand slam tournaments are played in Tennis – Australian Open in Melbourne, Wimbledon in London, US Open in New York City, and the French Open in Paris. Named after the French aviator, Roland-Garros is played on the distinct red clay making the ball move slower than the other three slams. This allows for longer rallies and points versus a point being won on a powerful 100 mph serve.
Tickets and Venue
At the French Open, the games are played on three main courts – Court Philippe-Chatrier Central Court), Court Simonne-Mathieu and Court Suzanne-Langlen. The French Open has its system to get tickets, unlike the US Open,n which uses Ticketmaster. Like my previous article on FIFA World Cup, the first round of tickets is about luck and where you get placed in the “virtual queue” when the ticket window opens. The first round of ticket purchases begins in mid-March and gives priority access to members of the French Tennis Federation, who can buy tickets earlier than the general public. When I got to the front of the virtual queue in the first round, no tickets were available for games I was in town for. The 2nd round of tickets opened in May, and this time I secured the Women’s Singles Semis and Finals and the Men’s Quarter Finals match.
Note: If you choose to re-sell your tickets, your fee is 5% of the original ticket price to re-sell the ticket. So a €100 ticket ( + €4 service fee) will get you a refund of €95. So you are out of pocket €9. Here is a link to current prices.
The Roland Garros Grounds Pass
Even if you are not a tennis fan, for €20 – €25 ( half price if you are under 25), you can buy a day pass to visit the grounds and still see some fantastic tennis on the outside courts and big screens. There are doubles and mixed doubles matches, the Teens and “Legends,” and wheelchair tennis playing on the “free smaller courts.”
Some seeded players competing also practice for an hour or more the day of their match. The court info they practise on is released on the App, so download it before you go. These practice sessions are on much smaller courts with limited seating (100 -200 people), so you need to line up as fast as the details get released, usually on the day around 10 am. After they finish their practices, many stick around to give autographs.
There is also a Legends Trophy Tournament, presented by Emirates, where former players play on the free courts—a great way to see some great tennis for free and get an autograph. Don’t forget your Sharpies!
Getting in/out of the venue
Use Line 9 (Green Line) with the Metro and get off at Michel-Ange Molitor station. From the station, it’s another 10 -15 minute walk. There are two security checks on any bags you bring. You are allowed to bring in outside food and drinks but no alcohol. Selfie sticks, drones, anything glass like a water bottle or even a cologne bottle, and professional cameras are a few of the items not permitted. Tickets have your name, so bring a photo ID, especially for the Finals.
One thing to note about the night games is that the Paris subway service often ends before the games conclude, so unless you have a hotel within walking distance from the venue, you must take a taxi or Uber home. The price does double, if not more, at that time, and many taxis only accept cash. Download the G7 Taxi app and compare prices to Uber.
While Uber is a little cheaper, getting one is the challenge as drivers often cancel the rides in an attempt to get higher fares in cash. I was told by a friend who attended a night game this year that ended after midnight that many Uber drivers cancel your ride, I am guessing in attempts to get a higher fare. So if you do come across last-minute night games, be ready to pay more for the ride back home. Or leave the match early, which in my opinion, would risk missing a potential 5-set memorable men’s marathon match.
The French Open Matches
On my first day, I lucked out and watched world # 1 Iga Swiatek take on 6th seed Coco Gauff in a rematch of last year’s Ladies’ Singles Final. Like the previous year, Swiatek won it easy in straight sets as she is 6-0 in their head-to-head matches. I saw three great games and over 7 hours of Tennis.
The French Open – Semifinals
My second day started with the Mixed Doubles Final, watching the Canadian Bianca Andreescu (former US Open Grand Slam winner) make it to the final with her teammate Michael Venus of New Zealand. One advantage of attending the earlier game sites is open seating so I sat in the 2nd row right as the players entered. I was so close I could hear player conversations on the court. Unfortunately, Bianca and Michael lost in the 3rd set tiebreaker. A personal consolation prize was that I got Bianca’s autograph on my ticket as she left the stadium 😁.
The French Open – Finals
It was a treat to watch the women’s World #1 Iga Switiek’s third trip to the finals in 4 years and Karolina Muchova’s 1st Grand Slam final, having won only one previous title before. It went three sets, a hard-fought battle, but Iga won her 3rd French Open title and fourth overall grand slam.
The French Open – Takeaway
Curiously, there were a lot of empty seats in the stadium, yet there were no tickets on sale on the site. Do people buy tickets and not show up? Perhaps corporate tickets? My overall experience, however, was positive. From the energy in the stadiums to the grounds themselves, an experience for a lifetime. My return to Paris for the 2024 iteration seems likely, as it would be Rafael Nadal’s final appearance at Roland Garros.
Since I was in the region, I decided to visit Disneyland and the Champagne as well, and that’s coming in a separate post soon 🙂
Are there any sporting events you would like to attend on your bucket list? Share with a comment below.
Bon Voyage ✈