A pleasant hello from Sarlat-la-Canéda. It is a medieval fortress town of imperious beauty set in the heart of the Dordogne; its sedateness is in stark contrast this Welsh fan's experience of Bordeaux last Saturday (11 June). It would be understatement to say that the city located on the banks of the Garonne was a Welsh hive over the weekend. The events that occurred at the Nouvelle Stade de Bordeaux were incredible to have witnessed, experienced and cherished.
At some point during a Welshman's tenure in Bordeaux last weekend they would have passed or frequented the Charles Dickens pub on Rue de la Douane. It was probably the prime example of what went on around the city. Hundreds congregated on the streets outside its diminutive facade. Slovakian fans talked and drunk with Welsh fans; buoyant French locals were prolonging the party from their opening win over Romania. Meanwhile, Swansea City and Cardiff City fans were together, sharing photos and stories as they put aside rivalries.
Once you could utilise the Tramway de Bordeaux on the way to the match, the abiding memory of approaching the ground was two colours − red and white. The structure of the new stadium with its narrow columns appearing to prop up the whole of the roof and stands is imposing but purely decorative. The whole entity is awash in brilliant white. It is impressive and unique and you would expect nothing less for the French to sanction from its Swiss architects. The Gendarmerie were visible in the sight of the stadium but, thankfully, were merely bystanders.
Any concerns about the form of Chris Coleman's team, especially after the debacle in Sweden just days prior to the Slovakia match, were jettisoned. The efforts that the team exerted were super-human and reaffirmed the Welsh FA motto "Gorau Chwarae Cyd Chwarae" (which can be translated as "team play is best play").
The game demonstrated that we are no one-man team despite occasional observers believing Gareth Bale does it all. What a free kick though. It was wonderful that all our footballing prayers have been answered in one game from a tournament perspective. I have seen Wales score, win at a major tournament and top their group in the space of 90 minutes. After the result between England and Russia in Marseille later that evening, we remain at the summit of Group B for a few more days.
As we left Bordeaux, it was impossible not to think of the other kind of claret that was spilt in Marseille over the weekend and wonder how safe us real fans will be in the forthcoming games. I appreciate the intensity of the rivalry between neighbours will lead to a different dynamic come the afternoon kick-off in Lens. However, for the sake of the tournament, law enforcers must be seen visibly and in large numbers as a preventative measure.
The name of the game is to get in and out of Lens safely. Questions have been raised in my own mind about going, and despite not being entirely sure what we are going to witness in and around Lens once you arrive, you cannot let this deter enjoying what is possibly the only chance to see your nation at a major tournament.
The final word though should be dedicated to the 25,000 or so Welsh fans in the stadium for the country's first ever European Championship match. The scarlet sea that dominated views around the ground was incredible to behold. But this was usurped by the noise created by those same supporters. The tone was set with the singing of the national anthem and the booming chorus of "Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" was in effect 58 years of footballing frustrations unleashed within 60 seconds.
A fitting way of announcing to Europe that Wales are here.