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Twinning Visits

Ann’s Diary of our visit to Neung, April 2011

Monday

What a wonderful start when, on arrival at Danesfield, Kate informed me that “Despite my email, she hadn’t checked her passport and it was 5 weeks out of date”. Oh well, let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Barely had we got out of Williton ie the top of Tower Hill, we realised there was a problem with the coach. We “limped” (can a coach do that?) to Cartgate Services, Yeovil, emptied all our things and put them on a replacement coach, which unfortunately didn’t have a toilet.

On arrival at Portsmouth, we met up with our main driver Ian and his daughter Niamh and headed to the terminal. As I started collecting passports John said “Let’s hope I picked up the correct passport.” He hadn’t! He’d brought his daughter’s which was 3 years out of date and unfortunately it was this latter fact that the official noticed, not the name! So John and Lyn returned to Williton with the original coach driver, to start their journey again the following day!

The rest of the day passed without incident, which was quite surprising given the amounts of drinks consumed by some!

Tuesday

Eiffel tower

Up early for disembarkation and our drive to Paris.

After a tour of Paris including a drive round l’Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees, round Place de la Concorde, past le Madeleine, l’Opera and le Louvre, we crossed the Seine and got off the coach at the Eiffel Tower.

Paris photo

We all went in various directions. Many went on boat trips on the Seine, including Keith and Kate, who celebrated their wedding anniversary with champagne (thank goodness the officials didn’t notice her out of date passport!). Marilyn and I went to see Napoleon’s Tomb in les Invalides.

Martyn, Eleanor, Bryan and Linda went on a massive hike to Ile de la Cite to visit Sainte Chapelle. I had made the recommendation but meant it for another day! The queue was so long they didn’t have time, so they had another long hike back to the coach!

Paris photo

Paris photo

Nancy and Becca braved the metro but found that it wasn’t always reliable and arrived back at the coach 20 minutes late! At least we had given ourselves plenty of time for the journey to Neung!

We still arrived at Neung ahead of schedule and enjoyed our customary welcoming refreshments. It was good to meet many new people including some from Wulften.

Most of us were very happy to spend a quiet night with our hosts and be able to go to bed fairly early.

Wednesday

Graham and Sheralynn arrived next morning “not looking (or smelling!) their best” as they had left their overnight suitcase on the coach the night before!

As the sun was shining and the sky was blue, on went my shorts and flip flops. Little did I realise the temperature was 2°C! I was laughing by the afternoon though!

Indoor market

We spent a very pleasant hour wandering around the weekly, indoor farmers market at Romorantin looking at (and buying) the fresh meat, fish, vegetables, flowers etc.

We then went to the Leclerc supermarket. Some just shopped (I just had to buy some posh sandals!) while others met the Manager. They were told how the shop sells many locally sourced products, and were even able to taste some of them, much to the disgust of the others!

We then went to the football hall back in Neung for our picnic, for many a 3 / 4 course meal with wine/beer. We couldn’t use the Salle des Fetes as they are building a new kitchen there. John and Lyn finally arrived!

Cows!

In the afternoon we visited 1 of 3 farms. Many really appreciated La Petite Riviere Pheasantry where Sylvianne has had several major disasters to overcome in the last 6 months, including the snow causing the netting to collapse and release many pheasants and the sudden death of her husband. Those of us who visited Jean-Vincent at Chemignon dairy farm heard of the same issues facing him as our dairy farmers experience here. Due to time travelling to the farms, those visiting Arnaud and Isalyne at La Valliere sheep farm only had about 15 minutes there! Ian showed an amazing knowledge/memory of the country lanes as he drove around the area.

La Petite Riviere Pheasantry

We went back to the football hall and looked at the exhibition on agriculture in the area. Dominique and Tony then introduced 2 local VIPs to describe local issues including their proposed farmers market. Graham was invited to speak too, to compare their situation with ours!

We finished with a glass of bubbles, Vin d’honneur! Graham was nicknamed “Peanuts”!

Agriculture discussion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday

1st stop was Le Cadran de Sologne, the strawberry market; an association of 27 growers sell their strawberries by auction daily during the season. Tony did some great translation for us during the morning.

La Gaucherie, strawberry farm

Next to La Gaucherie, strawberry farm, where we saw the plants growing in grow-bags, 4 foot above the ground. We heard how new varieties were cultivated and how the young plants were kept cold before planting to lengthen the picking season.

We had our picnics in the Salle des Fetes in Fontaines en Sologne, where Jean Michel Villain is mayor. After lunch he showed us around the village church.

The afternoon was spent at La Grande Brosse Vineyard and Wine Cave. After an introduction we were taken to the tasting area 40 metres underground. It was lovely; each round table, with candles on, set out for 10 people.

Wine tasting

We tasted 7 wines. Our table had a small amount of water in the slops jug, we couldn’t believe the large amounts of wine in the jugs on other tables; and wine still in the bottles! Marie and I quickly drank some more, Lois just took the bottle with her! Lyn enjoyed her ride in the electric buggy.

The evening was spent in the Salle des Fetes in La Ferte Beauharnais. As well as a buffet, the presidents speeches and the swapping of presents, some of us took part in “silly games”, men v women. Unfortunately Bryan, Graham and Rob could not do enough for the men to win; Katherine, Bryony and myself played our part in achieving victory for the women.

Silly games!

More silly games!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday

Cathedral

We were up and out early to spend a day in Bourges, a city about 60 miles SE of Neung.

We split into 2 groups for guided visits round the Cathedral or Jacques Coeur Palace. Both were extremely informative and enjoyable.

We then had a short coach journey to visit Le Marais or marshland gardens. Here we wandered past many allotments and gardens surrounded by many waterways, in fantastic sunshine.

Then it was back into town for lunch and a free afternoon.

Le Marais or marshland gardens

Some shopped (and bought chocolate!), some visited one of the many free museums and some of us visited the Cathedral Crypt. Five of us then climbed the 396 steps up the Cathedral tower to get a very rewarding view over Bourges, and beyond.

It was then the coach journey back to Neung and an evening with our hosts.

Saturday

Day spent with our hosts

 

Sunday

Palm Sunday church service

Another glorious, sunny day. Quite a few of us attended the Palm Sunday church service. No sign of palm crosses, just branches of Box. It was not the normal Mass service but the reading of the Passion Story. Claude Henry was one of the readers and Marie-Therese Legourd led the singing. A very interesting experience.

Many of us then went to the football hall for a BBQ lunch. A very relaxing time spent chatting in the sunshine and eating some tasty food.

Later in the afternoon we had a joint committee meeting. Seven of us met with 9 members from Neung and 2 from Wulften. It was agreed we had had a great visit and we started discussing the future of twinning between the “Three of us”, future visits etc. It was quite difficult with translation etc but good that we had a chance to meet all together.

Evening meal

In the evening, we all met at the restaurant in La Ferte Beauharnais. There must have been about 100 of us! There was lots of wine and wonderful food, finishing with a mushroom made of ice cream, meringue and chocolate sauce! It was a fantastic way to finish our visit.

Monday

Everyone arrived on time at la Forge. As usual it took a long time to say “thank-you” and “goodbye” to our wonderful hosts but we were only 5 minutes late leaving.

The journey to Caen went very smoothly, except 1 toll booth which didn’t like Ian’s money! We spent an hour at Mondeville for lunch and final supermarket shopping.

Some slept during the crossing whilst some ate and drank. Guess what I did?!

Getting through passport control at Portsmouth took quite a while (at last someone noticed Kate’s passport was out of date, at least he let her back into England!)

Playing boules

We said “thank-you” and “goodbye” to Ian (and Niamh) at the services en route and eventually arrived back in Williton at 1.30am. Heather gave us the news that the strawberry plants we’d been given, were still in France!

Although we had had a great time, I think we were all pleased to climb into our own beds.

The following week

The strawberry plants arrived. Thanks to Helen for planting them in little pots and distributing them. They’re looking very good at the moment; more news on the strawberries (hopefully) later in the year.

 

PS by John

Having arrived home at 1.30am and not wanting to be left out of things, I was up at 6.30 after a very short night to get onto the internet. First to advise my hosts that we had missed the boat but would be still coming, by car, although a day late. Then I got in touch with LD Lines to arrange for the next available overnight ferry, which was successful but there were no cabins left. Then the car was prepared for the dash across France.

We arrived in Cherbourg around 8am and then drove across to Neung where we arrived just in time for lunch. What a welcome we got from some of the other twinners. We then joined in with friends and enjoyed the rest of our stay.

But would like to forget the episode regarding the strawberries as it was our host who said he would take charge, but in our haste to get off on the Monday morning, it slipped our attention until we got to Blois, by which time it was too late to return to collect them, but once we were home we made contact and they turned up a little shrivelled due to the time in the post as the Bank holiday cut 2 days off postal deliveries.

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