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Twinning Association Visit To France May 2012

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Over the May Bank Holiday members of the Upper Culm Twinning Association made their biennial visit to our Twinning partners in France.  For those of you who are not familiar with the association, we are twinned with a group of villages in the LoireValley about halfway between Nantes and Angers.

Forty one Upper Culm residents, including several new members, enjoyed a superb weekend of French hospitality. Thirty seven of us travelled aboard our coach, hired from Redwoods, whilst four members travelled independently.  We left Hemyock on Thursday evening for the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff arriving in France at around 8a.m.  We followed the coastal route down through Brittany, heading for the harbour town of Vannes on the Gulf of Morbihans.  We had plenty of time in Vannes to explore the town and take a leisurely lunch before continuing our journey south towards our destination in the Loire Valley.

Our hosts had arranged a traditional welcome reception at the community hall in the village of St.Herblon.  Thanks to our driver Jon, we arrived on time and were served with a snack of chouquettes accompanied by local wine.  After the usual short welcoming speeches everyone met up with their host families and then dispersed to spend the evening with them.

The following morning we all met up for a day trip to Nantes.  Our day started with a guided visit to “Les Machines de L’ile de Nantes”.  It is difficult to describe this surreal and spectacular experience!  The district of Ile de Nantes is the old shipbuilding and warehousing area of the city, which is undergoing substantial regeneration.  The central feature of this regeneration is “Les Machines”, gigantic sculptural automatons constructed in metal and carved wood.  There are sea monsters, giant birds, carousels and perhaps most spectacular of all, a huge mobile elephant, 12 metres tall and weighing 50 tons.  Many of the designs are inspired by the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and the fantasies of Jules Verne.  Everyone found the visit fascinating. After lunch we were free to explore the city with its attractive medieval quarter, castle and cathedral.

On Saturday evening we were treated to a celebration dinner with music and dancing at the hall in the village of Pouille les Coteaux.  A significant feature of the meal was “fougasse”, local, rustic flat bread served with a variety of fillings such as pates and vegetable dishes.  Perhaps for some of us, the local wines served with the meal were more significant!

On Sunday during the day we enjoyed the hospitality of our host families.  A wide variety of activities had been laid on for us.  For example, some of us were taken to Angers; others went to local markets, went walking along the banks of the Loire and took in local sporting events. Our return journey on Monday was via Caen and Portsmouth.  On the way to we stopped for the customary visit to a Carrefour hypermarket.  We had a very smooth crossing to Portsmouth and despite the efforts of the UK Border agency to demonstrate their staff shortages we were not too badly delayed.  Everyone had enjoyed a superb weekend and we look forward to welcoming our French friends on their visit to us next Spring.