Annual meeting
This year it was our turn to visit our British Friends, at Ascension week-end from May 25th to 28th. Unfortunately, a few days before our departure, a terrorist attack hit Manchester, making the mood of our trip, usually joyful, somewhat gloomy.

Having left Dourdan at 7:30 a.m., we reached Great Dunmow around 5 p.m. where our friends were waiting for us. Our delegation included 38 people, of which our mayor Mrs Maryvonne BOQUET and two Councillors : Mrs Marie-Ange ROUSSEL and Mr Farid GHENNAM.

Host families welcomed their guests and everybody proceeded to their accomodations for a first evening together.

Next morning our friends had organised the visit of the historic town of Saint Albans (Hertfordshire), located about 40 miles south-west of Great Dunmow. Originally it had been occupied by the Briton tribes (whose name is at the origin of Britain), then by the Celts, then the Romans and finally the Normans. After the Norman conquest, a huge abbey was built there as from 1077, which had been, for some time, the biggest in England. After the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIIIth in 1539, the abbaye had been dismantled and its church degraded to the rank of simple parish church. During 300 years, due to lack of money, the church suffered from many damages, until, in 1877, it was made a cathedral and entirely restored.

Conducted by English and French speaking guides (among whom a Canadian priest very knowledgeable), we visited the cathedral, in beginning by the chapel of the Virgin, added at the XIVth century, which has still got some original stained-glass windows. A roman catholic office was celebrated there that particular day. Orthodox or Lutherian offices are also regularly celebrated there. We then saw the chapel of Saint Alban, first christian martyr of England, in which stands the shrine of the Saint, built in 1308 and sheltering some bones supposed to belong to him, donated by the town of Köln (Germany).

In the side aisles, we were shown some tombs, in particular the one of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, buried in 1477, and also the watching loft through which the monks were able to watch the pilgrims praying in front of the shrine. Some huge puppets were stored there which are shown in procession outside from time to time, one of them being a roman soldier with a fierce face.

We then admired the choir, the organs and the altarpiece, erected in 1484 but including statues dating XIXth century. Passing through we raised our eyes to the gorgeous ceilings, some of them having been unharmed since the middle age.  We ended the visit by the nave (the longest in England), its beautiful jube dated 1360 and its medieval paintings, disclosed in 1862 under chalk coating.


St Alba&ns' cathedral


The retable and main altar

Wendy Barron's speech

After the visit of the cathedral, it was time for lunch, in restaurant Loch Fyne, at the city centre. After lunch, we had some free time to glance at the town main streets, under a bright sunny weather, before returning to our coaches for a trip back to Dunmow and an evening with our host families. Most of them had gathered so as to offer to their French guests delicious dinners.

Next day, Saturday, was left to the initiative of the host families who took their guest to the surrounding villages and country, still under bright sun despite a short rain shower early in the morning. Some went to Cambridge, others even to London. The village of Hatfield Broad Oak where a beautiful flower festival was held in the church, certainly was worth the visit.

During the evening, our British friends took us to the traditional official dinner at the Foakes Hall. Before the speeches, a minute of silence recalled the recent tragic event in Manchester. During their speeches, the two presidents Wendy BARRON and Gérard PATURAUD, outlined the necessity to resist and remain unified in front of terrorism. They also told their confidence in the long life of our Twinning and mentioned forthcoming project for an exchange between musicians of our two towns

Mrs Danielle FROST, new mayor of Great Dunmow was present and had been able to talk to her opposite number Maryvonne BOQUET about matters of common interest, in a perfect french.

Our stay, unfortunately, reached its end. On Sunday, the traditional reception at the town hall of our twinned town took place. The two mayors wished long life to our Twinning and exchanged gifts. Maryvonne BOQUET gave Danielle FROST a nice desk lamp made by a craftswoman of Dourdan and received a nice pictures frame with photographs of Great Dunmow in ancient and present times.

It was already time for farewell. Our return to Dourdan took longer time than expected, due to long delays at the Shuttle and wa have returned home shortly after one a.m.

Dear British Friends, see you next year in Dourdan.

See more photographs on our photos album

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Exchange of gifts