Some personal Twinning experiences

With acknowledements to Harlow Town Twinning Association

Two short articles depicting different aspects of Town Twinning. One describing a first experience of hosting, the other showing that once a link is formed any further contact does not have to be within the confines of the official link.

New to Town Twinning.

Being a bit of a gambler, I offered to take part in the Vélizy - Harlow twinning and to host two visitors.

Fortunately my guests were two lovely friendly ladies of a certain age, retired but by no means retiring. Though I expected we would speak English, they gave me to understand that they were not really up to it and would prefer French. That suited me fine, because I welcome the chance to hear real, genuine French. They taught me a few new words and some phrases, e.g. "I slept like a log", which turned out to be a direct translation of the French. Which came first ? Who knows ? Who cares .?

They managed to make themselves at home and tried to fit in. They were even willing to sample my cooking and kept saying I was spoiling them (another word new to me : chouchouter). One evening when we were left to our own devices I tentatively broached the subject of music. Yes, they were very fond of it. Opera ? Yes. Eventually they opted for the only French opera video in my possession : Carmen. We knew it well, and we all joined in the singing. Though the two ladies had not met before they got on very well and had a lot to say to each other. They both said they had really enjoyed the visit to Greenwich and were impressed by the welcome they had on their first visit to this country.

Next year I hope to return the compliment at Vélizy. The two ladies said they would have to fight over who would host me. As for me, "Ça m'est égal". (It does not matter).

© Vivien Ash 2003

Our Vélizy Odyssey  Due to the fact that our friend's dog is getting old and they had no one to leave it with, it was decided that we should visit them, instead of them coming to us this year. So on 16th May, together with our two (not so) old Harlow friends, we headed for Vélizy.

As there is a new motorway, which deposits us very near to Versailles, we thought it would be a lot easier than usual, and we would not get lost! Wrong! Why is it that the French have to drive as if they were at Le Mans or that they wanted to get in our boot! Anyway to cut a very long story short, we ended up at the other end of Vélizy instead of Trappes where we were supposed to meet our friends. The firemen at Vélizy were very accommodating; knowing how we Brits get confused on their roads they offered to send one of the men in front of us to make sure we got to our location.

Once in Trappes, our old friends left us to go back to Vélizy with their host and we set about settling in. In the evening we went to one of the nicest fish restaurants I have ever been to - not fish and chips - proper fish. The highlight of that evening was the arrival of a fire engine - we thought it came to welcome us to France, but no, there was an electrical fire in the flat above the restaurant.

The Saturday dawned - wet! We did the usual shopping and then joined our other friends for a visit to Fontainebleau. Not the abbey, but for a trip on an extremely old train. In the evening, after negotiating the Paris traffic and the extremely heavy rain, we went to a bistro near the Pont du St Cloud. If you saw the film the Moulon Rouge you will have seen places like this. Packed to the gunnels with tables, a piano in the comer and a 'loo' that you had to climb up to via sheer stairs. (The fire service in the UK would never have passed it - fire risk and extremely dangerous). Still we had a wonderful time, eating, drinking and singing. We helped to put the Brits on the map when we sang, together with an American Nurse and two very French ladies who sang just like Edith Piaf. Smashing night.

Sunday and it was still raining - rather like an English summer! We want to a local market. Our host bought us about £30 worth of cheese to bring back. This market was great it had meat, fish, fruit, cheese, vegetables, flowers and clothes, much like any market here, but the atmosphere was totally different. There was a small Portuguese band playing local music, and everyone was so friendly. Still raining, in the afternoon we had a BBQ!!! Our host put up a 'sun' parasol and got to work. The food..... Well BBQ's here will never be the same. He even managed to provide snails.

Monday, they had to go back to work, so we headed back to Blighty. The time it took us to get from Trappes to Vélizy (usually only 15 minutes away) was 2½ hours. Back here and reflecting on our weekend I would like to thank Harlow TTA and the 'old boys' of the Essex Fire Service for introducing me and my friends to such wonderful and caring people. Who says the French don't like us.........

©Margaret Lupton 2003


Read these and more at the travelogue pages on the Harlow Town Twinning Association website


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