|EVTA visits Beaujolais|
|Message from the Chairman|
|EVTA's fun quiz|
|The April Amble|
|Apologies to Caitriana Ritchie|
|Notices and thanks|
Representative members of the committee recently visited the Beaujolais, on behalf of EVTA to continue the process of exploring the potential new twinning opportunity. Our expectations and hopes were easily met.
From the minute we arrived we enjoyed outstanding hospitality from our new friends in the world of southern Beaujolais just 30 minutes north of Lyon. Everywhere were hills covered in manicured vineyards and buildings constructed from the local "pierres dorées" (a golden coloured limestone which apparently looks even more vivid when it rains and which compares strongly with the granite in northern Beaujolais).
On our first evening we met our hosts and other interested people in the Caveau de Cogny, a type of wine bar/cellar run by an association to sell local wine to take away or drink on the spot. The welcome we received clearly demonstrated their desire to build a relationship for the future. Among them were two English teachers and one or two Brits who have made their home in the region as well as locals from different backgrounds and ages all interested in discovering more about the Elham Valley and Kent.
We engaged in conversation well into the evening whilst sampling regional delicacies such as saucisson sec, goats cheese, bacon and cornichon terrine, walnut cake, pear tart and Beaujolais wine of course. The charming mayor of Cogny, Christiane Echallier, who welcomed us at this and other events was extremely enthusiastic and supportive throughout. We also met Guy Monnet who is leading the French group until a committee is formally elected.
As is the nature of our own association which includes all the villages along our valley, our new Beaujolais friends and hosts represented a number of local villages united in a "communauté de communes". They include Cogny, Montmelas and Rivolet where Debbie and I stayed with Christiane, Ange and their delightful children. The setting in Rivolet was a "picture postcard"; there was the tranquillity of a lush garden in which we sat with walnut trees rustling in the breeze, the nearby church and the contrasting background of hills covered in rows of vines climbing skywards, dominating the village and beckoning "les vendangeurs". The hospitality we were afforded was remarkable as was the enthusiasm, kindness and interest shown in us and the potential new association.
On the Saturday, some of us joined Gilles Carreau and his team in the fields for a casse-croute breakfast (cheese, saucisson and wine at 9am!). The vendangeurs were ready for this having started their grape picking at 7am. We "assisted" them for the rest of the morning. This is a very social occupation with people of different backgrounds, ages and nationalities all working the rows of vines together, talking, singing and the faster ones helping the slower pickers.
The less energetic in our group toured les Halles and its market stalls in Villefranche to sample and buy a few local goodies. A guided tour of "Caveau Carreau" and a talk about the wine making process preceded a splendid lunch prepared and served by Marie-Agnes (Gilles' wife) and a helper. Visitors and grape-pickers feasted together, exhausted after so much work (and shopping!). Anyone complaining about having to cook for a family every night should know that Marie-Agnes (and just one helper) cook three/four course lunches and dinners for some 25 grape-pickers throughout the vendanges every year (and the standard is better than many restaurants).
In the afternoon we went on an escorted tour of the local area, visiting a manor house undergoing restoration, an art exhibition in a hilltop chapel, another small chapel with beautiful wall paintings and a magnificent chateau where we were entertained with aperitifs by its English owner.
Tasting of "le paradis" (juice from the grape pressing when the early beaujolais wine is still only about 5 degrees proof and tastes halfway between grape juice and wine) took place at Gilles' caveau. The experts present told us that, judging by depth of colour and taste, 2005 would be a very good year. We were very pleased to receive a personalised presentation of Gilles' wine labeled especially for the Elham Valley Twinning Association. The label shows the steeple of Elham church painted some years ago by Hugh Buckhurst.
Saturday evening was spent in the Auberge du Rivolet where we enjoyed dinner, including Beaujolais ice cream and much singing in both languages!
Following a meeting of the joint French and English committees on the Sunday morning, there was an overwhelming feeling to progress our new friendship to the next stage with a view toward a more formal arrangement in the future (see chairman's note). Lunch on Sunday was taken with our individual host families before we all met at Cogny church for a final farewell and photographs.
The return home took just five hours and included a chauffeur driven minibus ride from Cogny to Lyon rail station where we took a comfortable ride on the TGV to Lille arriving less than 3 hours later. An easy change on to Eurostar and an hour later we were safely back in Ashford for our onward journey home.
Our collective thanks are due to Anne Leva and Catherine Robine for organising our excellent weekend, to Angus Fuller for the initial introduction and driving the minibus, Guy Monnet for his lead, his enthusiastic colleagues and all our host families for looking after us so well. A special thanks also to Gilles and Marie-Agnes Carreau for their precious time during the vendange and their generosity.
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I am pleased to report that we have made great progress in developing our new relationship with "Elham in Beaujolais". You will (or have) read elsewhere Mark Jenner's excellent report on your committee's visit to the area during the Vendanges (grape harvest). It was an opportunity for us to find out more about our new friends, to compare their aims and objectives with ours, to explore the region and, generally, to decide whether this new link could work.
Our reply, and theirs, is a resounding "YES"! The people we have met are dynamic and determined to work hard at this new partnership. We met folks of all ages and all walks of life including wine growers, teachers, business people, doctors, families with children, a few expats who live and work in the area, people interested in music, in cultural exchanges, in promoting their region and in learning English. They have the impression that we are all perfectly bi-lingual (!) and are determined to make an effort to learn English with some of their local English residents. You have until next April to brush up your basic French conversation skills and prove that they are right. However, sign language can work very well too.
Communicating with our new friends is so much easier now thanks to E-mail and internet. For those of you familiar with modern technology, they have set up a "BLOG" (a type of internet diary) to keep their members (current and potential) informed of progress in setting up their new association. So, there is nothing for it, we will have to set up our own EVTA BLOG too .... watch this space.
Their enthusiasm and dynamism must be matched on our side with renewed vigour in recruiting new members, especially younger families with children. You can all play a part in this. Do you have neighbours and/or friends who would enjoy visiting Beaujolais and/or hosting a family or couple for a weekend? This could lead to new friendships and the opportunity for young and not so young to improve language skills both during the visits and by E-mail communication.
The next big date for our diaries (in addition to events organised purely for EVTA members) is the weekend of 22/23 April, 2006, when members of the new Beaujolais association will be paying us a visit. An EVTA sub-committee is working on organising an interesting programme of events which will include some time to relax with the host families. We hope many of you will join us for some or all of the weekend. We don't yet know how many will be coming but, judging by their enthusiasm, it could be quite a few. So, please, consider being a host. It is great fun, and the best way to get to know the French. If you are not yet on our accommodation register, please contact Betty Doy giving her details of what accommodation you are able to offer.
The future looks bright - it is red, rosé and white for the beaujolais wine and golden for
the Beaujolais' famous "pierres dorées". VIVE LE JUMELAGE!
On the 8th October, EVTA ran a fun quiz at Kingston Barn which entertained 59 members and friends. The team who came top and therefore entitled to be called "Smarties " of the month came from Barham. A small profit was made to boost the funds which will help in the entertainment of the French visitors.
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It was strange to be travelling to France for a day without the familiar excitement one usually experiences when one drives up the ramp from the Eurotunnel Shuttle. We were a subdued little party and the weather echoed our feelings and remained misty and overcast all day. Anne, Yvonne and I had made the unexpected trip to la Vallée de la Course for the funeral of Jeannine, the companion of Jean-Claude Delattre. The Vallée did not let us down; even under this sombre sky it looked as beautiful and serene as ever.
The service was held in the church at Montcavrel where we met with Pam, Mike, Jane, Gerald, Melanie and Chris. None of us (apart from Anne) had attended a French funeral before so we were interested to note the differences and anxious not to do anything wrong. We were lucky to arrive in time to get a seat inside the church as many people had to stand outside and the church itself was full. We managed to follow the service fairly well (with the help of a dictionary) and then joined the other mourners as they formed a queue and passed the coffin to pay their last respects.
There was a huge number of floral tributes outside the church, which was apparently just as Jeannine wished. Everyone who knew her agreed she was much loved and held in high regard and the attendance on this day was testament to the great respect this little lady commanded.
We will all miss a kind friend and a very welcoming hostess and we send our deepest condolences to her family and friends in la Vallée de la Course.
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This aptly named outing took place on April 17th and was superbly organised by Debbie and Mark Jenner. About forty of us, including, we were pleased to see, some of our French friends from la Vallée de la Course, gathered in the sunshine in the car park of the Black Robin for a pre-amble fortifying glass - or two - of mulled wine, and even mints to give us energy.
It was thus, with an already healthy-looking glow, we set off on the walk at an ambling pace through the countryside around Kingston and Barham We made such good progress that we had time to stop and admire the views and chat.
The organisation went like clockwork and the walk brought us back to the Black Robin in time for lunch where we were joined by some more members. The lunch was excellent and rounded off a very enjoyable and convivial outing.
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Apologies to Caitriana Ritchie whose most interesting report on a visit to Rouen in the company of Jean-Claude and les Amis du Kent was overtaken by events. This will appear in a later issue.
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We welcome to the management committee Mark Jenner who has taken over the role of publicity officer from Robin Blount who, due to the onus of ever increasing commitments in his work, has had to relinquish the post. We are pleased, however, that Robin has agreed to remain on the committee.
21st January, 2006, Members' Lunch
22/23 April, 2006, Visitors from Beaujolais
May, 2006, Robin's Ride
Heartfelt thanks are due to Robin Blount, Diana Forrest, Mark Jenner, Anne Leva, Andrée Sladden and Mary Smith for their contributions to this issue.
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