Magic: The Gathering holds a Grand Prix, or GP, nearly every weekend in places all around the world including Japan. In this series of articles I’ll be discussing the various places around the world I go to for GPs. These articles will not only be about the Magic events themselves, but also the sightseeing and what I call the “Work While Traveling” lifestyle.
Do you guys even know where Lille is? Lille is city located near the border to Belgium in northern France. Since there’s no direct flight from Japan, we first flew through Charles de Gaulle Airport which is located on the outskirts of Paris. It was roughly a 13 hour flight with an hour long car ride from the airport to Paris. It was Tuesday evening when we landed, but the train to Paris from the airport was just as crowded as a train in Tokyo. As you can imagine, two people getting on a packed train with four pieces of luggage was pretty difficult.
Are They a Good Person? Or a Bad Person?
We stayed in Paris before GP Lille and walked around the city for a whole day. If you’ve used to living in Japan and the safety, you start to pay less attention to your personal belongings, you know? When you’re oversea however, it’s not easy to feel that at all. Especially in a big city or a crowded train, it’s important to hold on to your luggage and valuables so as to not be taken advantage of by a pickpocket. While I was walking some random person started talking to me.
“Excuse me. Hello?”
They felt sort of suspicious, so I just kept walking. Still though, this man kept talking to me.
“Excuse me, but it’s not safe to put your phone in your back pocket.”
And just then I remember that I had done just that; just had it stuff in my back pocket! That’s a pretty dangerous place to have it, honestly. The seemingly suspicious man was actually just being super kind to me. (Sorry for ignoring you!)
Paris, The Stylish City
When you’re overseas you need to be careful, but there’s so much to see outside of Japan. Going to the Arch of Triumph and The Louvre (just looking from the outside), a bit of shopping at the Champs-Élysées, and a walk along the Seine River. As expected, the birthplace of some of the most famous fashion brands was loaded with super fashionable people. We went to the Eiffel Tower around sunset in hopes to see the sparkling lights, but I guess they only do it once an hour so we unfortunately weren’t able to see it.
As the Locations Change, so does the GP
We took the train to Lille on Thursday. The event hall this time was about 15 minutes from the city center. I thought Paris was strict when it comes to security, but all of France is really. They checked our bags when we entered the event hall, the same thing happened when we went shopping or into a church in Paris. The garbage is even in see-through plastic bags; you can tell the measures they’re taking to combat terrorism. It was a little annoying to have my bag checked every time I entered the GP hall, but I definitely did feel safe.
All GPs are official events run by Channel Fireball, but the security and rules set in place can be totally different depending on the venue. At GP Hong Kong for example there was no food or drink allowed in the event hall. On the other hand though, GP Lille had a big cafe area in the hall, crepes and waffles made on site, sandwiches and hot dogs, and to my surprise, Japanese rice balls! I thought was pretty interesting so I figured I’d try one out, but they were €3.7! They looked like and were about the size of a normal Japanese convenience store rice ball. As for the taste though… There was vinegar on the rice which made it fairly sweet and sour. Sushi is becoming pretty popular overseas, so maybe this is part of the evolution of rice balls….
The Abominable Pillar
Our booth was placed in a pretty iffy spot this time. The event hall was loaded with tons of very large pillars, and we were in the shadow of one of these giants. To make matters even worse, these pillars serve as air conditioners and are constantly blowing out hot air. Staying at that booth dried out both our skin and out throats and we just kept getting more and more sick as time went on. It was so bad I wound up having to go to the drugstore to get some medicine. GPs usually lasts the whole day, morning to night, for three days straight. So you can imagine the amount of energy it takes to run a booth at an event. When it comes to overseas GPs there’s a lot of things you need to adapt to: long flights, jet lag, unfamiliar food, the hotel life, just to name a few.
The “Work While Traveling” lifestyle offers a ton of freedom and can be really refreshing, but you need to prepare accordingly to get the most out of it. This is something I’d like to talk about in my following articles.