Tour Diary 28 April- 1 May, by Simon Osborne, our U14s Paris Correspondent
Ealing under-14s have rounded off a tough season with a memorable tour to the French town of Montigny le Bretonneaux to the west of Paris.
Loads of fun and lots of laughs – plus some brilliant rugby from the boys – made the trip a rip-roaring success which was enjoyed by everyone who took part from start to finish.
For Eurostar first-timers it was an exciting high-speed journey into France followed by a mad dash around the Paris Metro before we caught our overground train to our Montigny base and the town’s comfortable Hotel Campanile.
Wagers had been placed on tour manager Sean F’s non-appearance in Paris due to his global work commitments but to general astonishment he was waiting at the grand Gare du Nord to welcome the Ealing party having just jetted in on a red-eye flight from Shanghai.
Jet-lag inevitably took its toll and he did experience periods of confusion, drowsiness and disorientation over the next few days but he did manage to retain the presence of mind to get us in and out of the French capital by train, up and and down the Eiffel Tower, round and round the Arc de Triomphe and along a rain-soaked Champs Elysee pretty much in one piece.
The tour quickly got into full swing once we arrived on French soil and Friday night saw the consumption of industrial quantities of steak, chips and red wine followed by some dodgy dancing then a good old early-hours singalong back at the hotel.
Those tourists not used to late nights struggled to make breakfast the following morning while those made of sterner stuff were up and at ‘em early doors with fruitful visits to the town’s market and supermarket.
Saturday gave us a fabulous afternoon of rugby hosted by the small local Montigny club.
Some found the four-quarter format a little confusing but the Ealing boys dominated and won three out of the four sessions and played some eye-catching rugby along the way.
Our forwards and backs were happy taking it in turns to run the show, particularly in the first match against a very good visiting side from the nearby town of Montesson.
None of the players should be singled out for special praise because they all played so well and in the true spirit of an Ealing touring side but it was great to see Jamie R score two terrific tries and add some points with the boot before he and his dad Graham leave us for sporting pastures new. Both have been great stalwarts of the club for many, many years and it was a great pleasure to spend time in their company on this tour.
The whole party thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts at Montigny who treated us to an after-match reception where gifts were swapped, speeches were made and thanks were given.
We were made to feel extremely welcome in Montigny and were happy to tell our new friends we would very much like to see them at Vallis Way for a return fixture some time in the future.
Avance! And onward to the infamous Kangaroo Court.
An unholy mash-up of stand-up comedy, talent show and I’m A Celebrity-style food trials, the Kangaroo Court is always the highlight of our age-group excursions and this year was no exception with His Worships Sean M, Dennis O’S and James G ensuring Tour Law was upheld with their own brand of shambolic justice.
Crimes and punishments veered from the sublime to the riddiculous and some of the sentences handed down were often harsher on the jurors than the defendants themselves with traumatising renditions of the English and French national anthems plus a few inexplicable Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars leaving innocent parties wondering what they had done to deserve it.
But as usual everyone thoroughly enjoyed what was a raucously funny and fun-filled night with the whole touring party getting involved and taking part in great humour.
The sporting side of our wonderful trip complete, it was time to hit Paris with some setting their sights on the summit of the Eiffel Tower and others opting for the splendour of the palace and gardens of Versailles.
Sean F’s tour management credentials came to the fore as he managed to shepherd his party up and down the tower and then led a walking tour which took in Trocadero, pavement cafes, the Arc de Triomphe and a bedraggled yomp along a soggy Champs Elysee down to Les Invalides where with minutes to spare we hopped on the train to Montigny in time for a buffet supper back at the hotel.
All tourists owe special thanks to Gilles B who grew up in the Montigny area and paved the way for our visit as well as acting as official tour translator when it came to restaurant bookings, menus, rail fares and generally making sure we got to where we supposed to be when we were supposed to be there.
Indeed, he ensured we all got back to London safe and sound, in various stages of exhaustion for sure, but all vowing to sign up for next year’s trip, with Berlin, Rome or southern France already being seriously considered for our 2018 adventure.