ITV commentator Nick Mullins drops in to Roland Garros before the start of the French Open, and finds that although the weather hasn't met expectations, the atmosphere is still as special as ever.
If it hadn't been for the rather dapper gent diligently checking the covers for leaks, I would have enjoyed that special feeling of solitude that only comes along when you're on your own, alone, inside one of sport's great temples.
Big fat rain drops fell on my neighbour's umbrella as he went about his business, watery rivers of red streaking the folds in his green waterproof sheeting. The cover protected the most famous clay tennis court in the world - the French Open's answer to Wimbledon's Centre Court - and for a few brief minutes we were the sole guests in the court of Philippe Chatrier.
I visited Roland Garros at the beginning of the week, rounding-off my preparation ahead of a fortnight commentating for ITV Sport. I'd never been before and I was keen to get a first-hand impression before France's finest poured through the gates on Sunday.
Until then my only experience of the place had - like most of us I guess - been restricted to growing up with television pictures. The dry red dust of Paris before the lush green lawns of London. Except the day I chose to visit for the first time it wasn't so dry.
So I didn't get to see any of the players practicing on the outside courts. I didn't even get to see the clay. But I did start to get a sense of what makes the tournament so special and why a significant number of tennis folk think this is the one, the grandest of Grand Slams, even better than the cousin across the Channel.
History seeps through the netting at both events and the deeds of eminent national tennis heroes are duly noted. While Wimbledon has Fred Perry, Roland Garros has Suzanne Lenglen, the great ladies champion who reigned with style in the 1920s. Wimbledon gave Fred his statue, Suzanne has her own court, the second biggest in grounds that are much more compact than SW19.
Getting from one side of the All England Club to the other these days can sometimes take longer than the tube ride from Earl's Court to Southfields. Roland Garros is much more of a one-stop hop. Stretching west to east, Lenglen, half a dozen outside courts, Chatrier in the middle and then Court One are all in easy view.
In case you’re wondering, Philippe Chatrier was a prominent player and official in France’s post-war years and the stadium's elegant stands nod in the direction of four other greats gone by, the “Les Quatre Mousquetaires” . The names of Brugnon, Lacoste, Cochet and Barotra neatly stenciled on wooden plaques add much more romance than a simpler Nord, Sud, Est and Ouest would have done.
While the journey around the courts isn't so arduous, you won't end the trip wishing you'd passed more concrete. There is lots of it. The local florists will be on double time between now and Sunday softening the edges, but they'll need a hefty delivery of hydrangeas to outdo the Wimbledon Flower Show.
A little snapshot of Roland Garros then. Historic, atmospheric, compact, wet. But that was Monday and Sandra in the media office assures us sunshine's just around the corner.
There's still a bit more housework for us to clear before we start to bring you the greatest show on clay, first thing Sunday. The floor of John Inverdale’s rooftop studio could do with another lick of varnish, our commentary box overlooking Chatrier needs a bit more wiring before its up and running and somebody needs to kick the fridge to life in the production office in the TV compound. But with technical producer Jeff "Jazzy" Early (I might explain another time) cajoling his team of top technicians over the next few days, we'll be good and ready by playtime in Paris.