Friends of Montargis exchange trip

Councillor Greg Rose has recently been on his first trip to Crowborough’s twin town of Montargis.  Greg kindly agreed to keep a diary and take some photos (click to enlarge) for CrowboroughLife:

On the evening of the Election results this year, and after several glasses of wine my partner and I were coerced into signing up for the annual Friends of Montargis exchange trip. Three months later and not quite knowing what we had got ourselves into, we packed our bags for three days in the land of Sancerre and Roquefort and boarded the coach outside Waitrose at 6:45am!

2Immediately on boarding I was struck with a sense of fear, a vision of a cross between the TV programme Coach Trip and an OAP’s day out to the seaside, luckily enough neither of them turned out to be the reality and after several stops, a quick Eurostar hop and eight hours later and we arrived.

Our host Micheline was there to greet us, her English being significantly more refined than my French, but the language limitations really didn’t seem to be a problem at all.  A few glasses of Sangria, yes Sangria were consumed and we were whisked off to our host house where we were give the best room.

Our first day was the organised trip day, firstly off to the museum of Saffron, a pit stop for a leisurely lunch, wine, cheese, and onto a stunning rose garden and then back to Montargis for the official Town Hall reception.  Our hosts laid on a wide spread for the evening meal, ate outside in the summer evening sunshine.

The second day was the day with our hosts.  In the morning Micheline took us on a guided tour of the town.  Wow Montargis is stunning, it’s bigger than Crowborough 1(more the size of Tunbridge Wells), but it’s built on a series of canals, in fact it’s called the Venice of Gatinais.  I can’t emphasize enough how beautiful it is, the architecture is varied yet complimentary and there are numerous nooks and crannies to discover and get lost in.  I’m guessing their floral display budget is slightly larger than that of The Crowborough Town Council.

In the afternoon we were met some of our fellow coach trippers and their host José, and as a group we went to the Briare Aqueduct, where they had arranged a boat trip for us, interestingly the French bombed the Aqueduct themselves during the Second World War to halt the progression of the enemy, and after the war had ended the Germans came back and helped the locals to rebuild it.

That evening we went to José’s for dinner, which had a real party atmosphere.  Several other coach trippers from Crowborough were there with their hosts, the wine was flowing, the food was delicious and plentiful and the night was danced away under the stars, the circling bats and squawking geese.

Day three.  Our last day was once again jam-packed with things to see and do. In the morning we went to the local town of Villemandeur where they were having their annual fiesta. This was followed by the big Sunday lunch where all the visitors and hosts came together in celebration at the end of the trip, of course the wine flowed once more, and the eclectic mix of tombola prizes would put many Crowborough raffles to shame. This should have been the final event of the weekend, but our hosts had organized one more surprize, a horse and cart ride through the Forest of Montargis, this really was such a treat, and we got to see how green and beautiful the countryside is that surrounds Montargis, something that it obviously has in common with Crowborough.

3That evening Micheline took us to her in-laws for dinner, more food, more wine, more cheese. I was starting to worry about my waistline however dinner didn’t linger on like the other nights because she wanted us to see the fiesta fireworks at Villemanduer, which was a spectacular end to an amazing three days.

The whole experience of the trip was positive, all of our worries were unfounded and we really enjoyed the long weekend break. We intend on returning with the Friends of Montargis next year, and would urge others to do the same; it’s not just for OAP’s!  2016 is the 50th anniversary of the twinning of Crowborough with Montargis, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming Micheline into our home and awarding her the same kindness and generosity as she did to us.

Cllr Greg Rose

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The Friends of Montargis would welcome any new members and need additional people to host the French when they come to Crowborough next year, as record numbers are expected for the weekend of anniversary celebrations in May 2016.  For more information contact Hilary Lyon sofom1966@gmail.com.

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