Twinning visit to Saint-Maur-des-FossÚs May 2010
This year it was the turn of the French Adult Education group to visit Saint Maur for five days and stay with host families.
Our group left by coach from the London Road Coach Park early in the morning on the 12th May to catch the Sea France Ferry from Dover at 8.55. We were lucky to have a smooth crossing and after altering our watches forward by one hour to French time, arrived in Calais. We stopped for refreshments after about one and a half hours and then continued on to Saint Maur.
We arrived in good time to be met by our hosts, some hosting the same English friends for many years, and some for the first time. It is always a little daunting to stay with someone in a foreign country who is new to you. Luckily over the 29 years we have not had too many disasters. That evening was spent with the hosts.
The next day we left to spend the day in Paris. Everyone split up into small groups according to their interests. Visits were made to the Grand Palais, the Rodin Museum and the Pantheon. One group took the Batobus on the Seine, which is a very good way to see the sights of Paris, as a ticket enables you to get off and on again at any of the seven stages.
The following day we went to the Chateau at Fontainebleau, followed by a visit to a small town called Barbizon. Six of our French friends decided to come with us as we had some spare seats on the coach. The Chateau is very beautiful and interesting and audio sets had been ordered in advance, enabling us to listen to a description of each room. We then drove the short distance to Barbizon, a lovely little town with many small museums. One of these is particularly interesting, with writing and drawing on the walls from the time of the Impressionists. Before exploring the town, about 22 of the group enjoyed a very good leisurely meal in an obviously very popular restaurant. Luckily this had been booked in advance from the coach by one of our French hosts.
Following the visit, we made our way back to Saint Maur for a very quick change to attend the reception at the Town hall. The building is very impressive, and a good time was had by all with more food and dancing.
Saturday was a much calmer day spent with the hosts. Several people visited the local markets in the morning, with its beautiful displays of fresh fruit and vegetables. A favourite with many visitors in the afternoon was the Medieval Fair that was organised locally. Many locals were in costume and there were plenty of interesting stands and exhibits. One section had an enormous live bear performing in a small ring with no muzzle. Health and safety in England would have been horrified!
Sadly the following day we had to return home. We visited Arras and also Vimy Ridge on the way back to Calais. Vimy Ridge memorial was built and is maintained by Canada, in remembrance of Canadians lost in the wars. It is a very sad but impressive place.
After a smooth crossing back to Dover we travelled back home to Bognor Regis.