A weekend of ‘jumelage’ culture and friendship
By Sonja Francis, editor of Thame.net
BREXIT may be on the lips and minds of many Europhiles but a group from Thame, who regularly exchange visits with Thame’s twin town of Montesson, have just spent a very convivial weekend across the Channel.
The group of 17 members from Thame and District Twinning Association, left Thame very early on Friday morning, September 14, arriving later that evening to a warm reception from their hosts. The next morning, they were treated to guided tour of one of the most important collections of sculptures and other works by Rodin – him of the famous ‘The Thinker’ and ‘The Kiss’.
After the tour, the ‘twinners’ ate a splendid picnic lunch in the beautiful grounds of the Rodin Museum, formerly the Hôtel Biron, a mansion which Rodin used as his workshop from 1908 and subsequently donated his entire collection of sculptures (along with paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir that he had acquired) to the French State on the condition that they turn the buildings into a museum dedicated to his works.
Paris was looking its very best in the Autumn sunshine, with its many public and historic buildings open for free on this special Heritage weekend known as the Journées du Patrimoine – a sort of annual ‘open doors’ which includes the Élysée Palace if you don’t mind queueing for four hours!
The Thame group forewent that experience but went their separate ways exploring markets, art galleries, beautiful public gardens and for a lucky few, a peak inside the historic monument and art gallery, the Petit Palais (small palace). As well as exhibiting some amazing works of art, the building itself is spectacular, including a guilded, domed central porch and a triple arcade.
That evening was the first event of the annual annual festival of the pâté à la Carmen, which has run for around 140 years – the eating of a special, small pastry encasing a kind of sausage meat, with a particular Creme de Cassis based punch. From the festival marquee in the Parc des Sophiras, it was hone with hosts for dinner, before rounding off the evening with a spectacular firework display.
Because of the need to leave Montesson in the early afternoon to take the tunnel back to England, the Thame visitors were unable to stay for the grand finale, a street carnival, but spent Sunday morning either visiting the traditional street market at St Germain, shopping for wine or exploring the evocative ‘île des Impressionnistes’ at Chatou, the village near Montesson, where the Impressionist painters, their friends and followers, would meet regularly to eat, drink, socialise, go boating and of course, paint.
The famous ‘Restaurant Fournaise’, the balcony of which features in the famous painting by Renoir, ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’, has been completely restored and there is museum at the rear dedicated to the site’s history.
In the same location is a traditional boat yard where a group of dedicated craftsmen rescue ‘from the fire and the saw’ old wooden, traditional boats that have been replaced by glass fibre and carbon. One couple from Thame were lucky enough to have a ride in a steam-driven launch built in 1882. Througout the day, local people stroll about wearing replica costumes in the style of days at the height of the Impressionist period.
The Chair of Thame & District Twinning Association, Linda Emery, who gamely drove her happy band of travellers in a minibus, said afterwards: “Lingering over one or two ‘pate de carmen’ in a park in Montesson; relaxing after a day of strolling around the Rodin museum and marveling at icons like “Rodin’s Kiss” … ..the perfect Montesson experience combines leisure and liveliness with enough time to savor both an exquisite meal and fireworks at the park.
“We take away so much from this weekend, including memories of the fun people we met – and the lovely wine we shared.”
Despite arriving back in Thame just before midnight because they missed their slot for the Eurotunnel, the Thame Twinning group agreed that this visit, made during what is the 16th year of the Twinning charter, had been one of the best.
MORE pictures from the Montesson visit HERE