Annual meeting

In 2018, it was the turn of our English friends to visit us in Dourdan from May 3rd to 6th. Their delegation included about forty people, among whom the Mayor of Great Dunmow: Mrs. Danielle FROST and her husband, whom our mayor, Mrs. Maryvonne BOQUET will host at her home. Their bus was delayed by heavy traffic, due to train strike and it was not until 19:30 that French host families were able to welcome their guests.

After a first evening with the host families, the next morning, Friday, May 4th, was dedicated to the visit of the city of Le Mans, starting with its historic center: The Plantagenet City. It was indeed at Le Mans that Geoffroy Plantagenet, Earl of Anjou and Maine married, on June 17th, 1128, Mathilde, little daughter of William the Conqueror. From their union was born Henry, who became king of England in 1154 under the name of Henry II and thus founded the Plantagenet dynasty which reigned until 1399.

Arrived at Le Mans at 10:30 we met the three guides who lead us first to the imposing Gallo-Roman wall, the vestiges of which, very well preserved are visible at the bottom of the city. Built in the 3rd century, it surrounded the city on 1300 meters and included 26 fortified towers

We then went up to the St Julien cathedral, the more courageous on foot, the others with the coaches. Its construction, begun in the 11th century, lasted until the 15th century, after several destructions and reconstructions. Its architecture thus mixes the roman style, for the nave and the gothic style, for the choir and the transept. It should have been enlarged again, but the lack of money stopped the work in its present form in 1482.

The guides explained the most interesting parts, including the stained glass windows, the great organ and the chapel of the Virgin, which found again its original paintings in 1842 after removing the coatings. On the west side of the cathedral, one can see a curious stone: A sandstone menhir, placed there in 1778, from an ancient megalithic site.

After the cathedral, a short walk through the cobbled streets of the old town allowed us to admire some old medieval houses with timber-framed architecture, very well restored. Sculptures on some beams often indicate the occupation of the inhabitants. After a look at the palace of the Earls of Maine, now City Hall, it's time to go to the "Caffé Rossi" restaurant for a joint lunch. The room overlooking the main square Jacobins offers a nice view of the cathedral. The menu based on Sarthe specialties, including the famous rillettes of Le Mans was unanimously appreciated.

After lunch, our coaches took us to the famous Le Mans 24 Hours circuit to visit the brand new 24-hours museum. Built in 1991 and reshuffled in 2016, the museum presents the history of the 24 hours, its legendary faces, numerous collection cars, objects and archive photos.

Time passes very quickly and it is already time to take the road to Dourdan where our guests are again invited to a second dinner with host families. Many families had gathered to give a more festive atmosphere to this evening. The next day Saturday was left free, on the initiative of the host families. Many took their guests to the Saturday morning market, always very popular with our English friends. Then, the beautiful weather that reigned over our region enabled lovely trips to nearby areas.

In the evening took place the traditional official dinner, which was set in the restaurant Blanche de Castile in town.  In their introductory speeches, the two Presidents of the twinning committees: Wendy BARRON and Gérard PATURAUD stressed the pleasure of meeting again and the strength of the links between English and French families for 27 years. A project of exchange between the musical groups of our two towns is under study; Wendy and Gérard hoped it could materialize as quickly as possible

The musical entertainment during the dinner put a happy atmosphere maintained by the resumption in chorus of well-known English and French songs  (for example "Yellow Submarine" of the Beatles).

Sadly, the next day was already the day of the return to Great Dunmow of our friends, not without having, previously, satisfied with the traditional Sunday morning official reception in the Town Hall. The two mayors stressed in their speeches the satisfaction of seeing that our twinning is still very active and wished that it continues for a long time despite the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Then the two mayors exchanged gifts: Mrs. FROST gave Madame BOQUET two beautiful books about Essex County and a photo of the Great Dunmow Town Council and received from her a "Twinning Tree", a nice ironwork by a craftsman from Dourdan. The two mayors then signed the guestbook.

After a few glasses and a group photo in front of the Parterre Park, it was time for our English friends to get back to their coach for the return trip to Great Dunmow, where they arrived around 20:30. See you next year in Great Dunmow!

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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.

Lunch at "Caffé Rossi"


Le Mans 24h Museum

Official dinner at Blanche de Castille

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.

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Exchange of gifts