The College of Wooster Men’s Basketball French Journey with Managing Director Jeremy Walker

Saturday October 8th

After their overnight flight the group arrived at Paris CDG airport full of excitement for the next 8 days journeying through France. Myself and our partners in France were ready and waiting when they arrived at the airport. Some delays at the airport due to computers being down at customs didn’t dampen spirits as the group caught their first glimpse of Paris driving in from the airport. A quick drop of bags at their hotel and everyone gathered back on the bus to head into the city for the first time. France had been experiencing a fuel shortage recently due to strikes at refineries and on the way into Paris the group got to experience the queues that this was causing at some stations. With only so much time before dinner I shared some local knowledge of the area around The Louvre, where we parked the bus, and sent the group off to explore. Many made their way into Jardin Tuileries, while others ventured into the 1st Arrondissement and explored rue de Rivoli. After returning to the hotel to get settled in it was time for dinner. Just a short walk down the street was Restaurant l’Adresse where everyone shared an excellent meal and a true welcome to France. A welcome bedtime waited after the meal as everyone was excited for their first full day in Paris tomorrow.

Sunday October 9th

Sleeping in a little this morning was a welcome start to an exciting day. After breakfast at the hotel everyone boarded the bus for the first stop of the day, La Tour Eiffel! After a brief history by yours truly, and some photos, the group prepared for their climb up to the second floor. Yes you read that right the CLIMB up, because did you even go to the Eiffel Tower if you didn’t take the stairs? After climbing to the second level most of the group made the decision to continue all the way to the top. Fortunately the only way up to the top is by elevator. Once at the top the incredible views of the city continued to awe everyone on this picture perfect blue skied day. Once back on solid ground it was time for lunch. As we were in my neck of the woods so to speak (while living in Paris from 2016-2020 we lived just across the river from the Eiffel Tower) I walked the group through the winding streets of the 16th Arrondissement to where we were having lunch. The staff at Le Rallye Passy treated everyone to a wonderful classic French lunch before it was time to head back out for our next activity of the day. After a short bus ride it was time for a ride on the famous Bateaux Mouches Seine river cruise. These cruises take you on a ride up and down the river allowing you to see all the famous sites and providing wonderful historic knowledge along the way. After the cruise the remainder of the day/evening was free to explore the City of Lights. Many of the group made their way to the Champs Elysees for some shopping, while others took the time to explore other parts of the city.

Monday October 10th

From the beginning of planning for this trip today was the day I think most people were waiting for. Today the group headed north to explore the D-day beaches of Normandy. An early morning meant some sleep for most of the bus ride, but for those who didn’t take the opportunity to sleep they enjoyed the rolling hills and farmland of northern France as we drove. Our first stop of the day was the Utah Beach Landing Museum. In my opinion the best of the Normandy museums in terms of learning about the entire D-day operation. After taking some time to explore and learn in the museum a local guide joined us on the bus to drive through Normandy. The next stop along the way was The American Cemetery. Some took the time to walk through the museum for a bit, while others wandered through the cemetery itself in what can only be explained as an awe inspiring experience. If you ever find yourself in Normandy and have the opportunity to be at the American Cemetery at 4pm you will be able to experience the lowering of the flags, an experience you will never forget. After the lowering of the flags our guide walked us down towards Omaha beach while trying to help everyone understand what it would have looked like nearly 80 years ago. Back on the bus for one last stop of the day in Arromanches. Arromanches is where the Allies built one of the most amazing modern engineering feats in the world, a floating harbor. It was low tide when we arrived so it allowed not only for a walk on the beach, but also it allowed you to see some of the sunken pieces that allowed the harbor to be built all those years ago. After saying goodbye to our guide we had dinner at a typical Normandy restaurant, Bar du Six Juin. The long ride back meant a late arrival at the hotel, but a day that I don’t think will be forgotten in a long time.

Tuesday October 11th

After a long day on the road yesterday today was a day spent in and around Paris. It started with a trip to Musée d’Orsay, a museum famous for its impressionist art and the fact that it was built in a former train station. Its famous clocks on the upper level look out over the river Seine and parts of the city to the north and are enjoyed by millions yearly. After grabbing a quick lunch wandering through the streets of the 7th Arrondissement the group gathered again on the bus for the short drive out to Versailles. At just 12 miles outside of the city the Palace of Versailles was built as a residence for Louis XIV where he even moved the seat of government to eventually after completion. Today its lush gardens and incredibly kept rooms and halls are one of the most popular places to visit in France. The group split up and took their time roaming the grounds until it was time to depart and head back into the city for their first pre-game meal. The Monte-Carlo restaurant was not far from the location of the game and provided an excellent meal for the group. Now it was time for what The Scots came for, basketball. Tonight’s opponent, Metropolitans 92, has recently become a big name throughout the world of basketball due to their likely 2023 #1 NBA draft pick Victor Wembanyama. Upon arrival to the gym their top level pro team was practicing and the group was allowed to watch Wembanyama and his teammates finish up. The Scots fought hard in their first game in which they cut it to 4 in the second half, but ended up coming away with the loss in the end. After the game was over everyone headed back to the hotel and tucked in after another long and exciting day.

Wednesday October 12th

Today is the last full day in Paris and the morning started with another trip to a museum, but this time it was one of the most famous in the world, The Louvre! Seeing the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and many other world famous paintings was an incredible morning for everyone. Afterwards everyone met at Enza Famiglia Trattoria for a wonderful lunch before again hoping on the bus for a guided tour of the city. We met our guide who took us all throughout the most famous sights of Paris and provided everyone with an incredible amount of historical information. After dropping the guide off we made our way back to the hotel for a bit of resting time before another game in the Paris region tonight. Tonight’s matchup was against AS Meudon Basket, in the southwest of the capital region. The Scots came out fighting this evening and were relentless in their defending all the way through coming out with a great win. After returning to the hotel most called it a night to get ready to head to Lyon tomorrow, while some explored the area around the hotel for some food and everything else.

Thursday October 13th

After an amazing and jam packed 5 days in Paris the group got to sleep in a bit this morning as we did not have to depart for the train station until mid-morning. For many this was their first time on a high speed train as they made their way to Gare de Lyon for their TGV ride south through the French countryside to Lyon. What makes travel on TGV trains through France so great is that you can make the trip between these two great cities in just under two hours. Upon arrival in Lyon we made our way to meet the bus before driving to the top of the hill of Old Town and to La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière perched high above the city. Here we met our local tour guide who provided the group with an overview of Lyon and the cathedral. After walking through the cathedral it was time to head back down the hill on the bus as we learned a bit more about different parts of the city before hoping off in the center of Old Town. This area of Vieux Lyon is an area which can only be explored on foot as you wind your way through the historic streets, as well as one of Lyon’s most notable features, its hidden passageways “Traboules”. These passageways were originally created for residents to more directly travel from one side of town to the river instead of having to go around all of the buildings, but more modernly became popular for their role in helping local residents fight off the attempt of German occupation during WWII. Once the tour was completed we bid farewell to our guide and made our way to our hotel for the next two nights. With some time to settle in the group re-gathered again for our bus ride to the next game to the north of Lyon. Tonight’s matchup was in the town of Le Coteau near Roanne against Le Coteau Basketball. Upon arrival we found out that they had essentially invited the entire town to come as the game was after their youth practices. The packed crowd did not disappoint, and neither did The Scots defense yet again from the start. Le Coteau did fight back in the second half to make it close, but The Scots pulled away again at the end for another victory.

Friday October 14th

Today was another exciting day in the itinerary as we were headed to the foothills of The Alps and the town of Annecy. Annecy is known for not only its lake and canals running through old town, but also known as an adrenaline sports mecca thanks to its vast amounts of hiking trails, bike paths and perfect paragliding winds. Upon arrival the group went off in their separate ways exploring the winding streets and enjoying some of the local cuisine, most notably a warming and tasty tartiflette. After lunch we met up with our local guide who took us on a tour through old town, then up to the chateau for some incredible views. After the walking tour most went off to find some gelato and/or waffles, while others did some shopping before returning to the bus and returning to Lyon. A wonderful team dinner at the hotel was enjoyed by all before the remainder of the evening was free to enjoy on their own.

Saturday October 15th

As the trip winded down, and we closed the book on our last day in Lyon, the group had a free day to explore the city. Many took the morning to relax and walk along the river, while others went into the city to explore areas and see museums that we hadn’t seen on Thursday. Personally I went for a wonderful run along the river as Lyon is one of the best towns I have had the joy of running in. We all met up for a typical Lyonnaise lunch at Le Condé in the heart of the city. Lyon is certainly a “foody” city in my opinion and with open minds, and hungry stomachs, everyone got to enjoy something they have never had before. After lunch we all went our separate ways to continue to explore Lyon. By the looks of the number of bags returning to the hotel later in the afternoon there was a good amount of shopping done. Unfortunately it was now time to say goodbye to Lyon, and in fact almost to France itself. An evening TGV back towards Paris was in the cards for the group, and although it was a bit hectic boarding the train everyone settled in for the two hour trip back. Since the group had a flight early tomorrow morning we took the train directly back to CDG airport in order to be closer in the morning. With such a late evening arrival we made sure everyone was checked in and then I gathered everyone in the lobby for a quick yet fond farewell.

Sunday October 16th

As I stated it was quite the early morning, even with staying out at the airport, but after such a wonderful trip everyone was eager to get home after 8 incredible days. Although there was a slight delay in their flight the remainder of the trip home went as planned and they arrived back at school ready to tackle the upcoming season. I wish The Scots a great season, and consider myself lucky to have met all involved with this journey. Until next time!