Twinning weekend of celebration and drama

THE refugee crisis currently gripping Europe really hit home over the weekend, whilst a group of Thame residents were visiting the town’s twin town of Montesson in France.

The Mayors of Montesson and Baesweiler, and Thame's Deputy Mayor Linda Emery (in white) sing the 3 national anthems before the communal dinner in Montesson

The Mayors of Montesson (with sash) and Baesweiler (behind and R of him), and Thame’s Deputy Mayor Linda Emery (front right) sing the 3 national anthems before the communal dinner in Montesson. Montesson Twinning’s President, Anne Gillet, is front left. Photo by Michel Cojean.

Also visiting Montesson at the same time, to celebrate both the annual ‘fête du pâté à la Carmen’ and its own town’s 25 year-old twinning with Montesson, were visitors from the German town of Baesweiler. Suddenly, later on Saturday evening, after the three towns had enjoyed a communal meal and entertainment together, the Mayor of Baesweiler, Willi Linkens, received a phone call informing him that this town had been allocated a number of refugees by the German government. The shocked Mayor had to quickly give his apologies to his hosts and return home in order to organise accommodation for the refugee families – in a town with apparently only one empty social property; a challenge indeed for any Mayor.

In the footsteps of Rommel

Le Chateau du la roche Guyon

Le Chateau de La Roche-Guyon

Earlier that day, the Thame Twinning visitors had enjoyed a trip out to the fascinating Chateau de La Roche-Guyon, which had started out as a medieval keep hewn out of a rock cliff, gradually added to over the next few centuries to become a family home, until it was taken over by Field Marshall Rommel in 1944, as his head quarters. Here Rommel had rooms dug out of the cliff as a bunker from where he attempted to defend Normandy from immanent invasion by the allies. These days, the chateau’s state rooms and outbuildings, and the vegetable gardens have  been slowly restored to a semblance of their former glory after years of vandalism and decay.

Long lost gardens

Thame Twinning member David Laver,  by a derelect grotto once luxuriously fitted out for a duchess and her guests to rest

Thame Twinning member David Laver, by a derelect grotto once luxuriously fitted out for a duchess and her guests to rest in

As well as exploring the period furnished rooms of the chateau, which included four famous wall tapestries depicting the life of Esther, those fitter members of the group were treated to a guided tour of the steep footpath all the way to the top of the old tower. As they wend their way, they learned about the spectacular terraced gardens, now long over-grown, designed by Lancelot (‘Capability’) Brown and Alexander Pope, that once graced the route with views across the Seine. The way down was by way of 321 stone steps cut out of the rock!

Strolling in the Paris sunshine

Following torrential rain throughout the coach journey to France on the Friday, Saturday’s warm sunshine was repeated on the Sunday, the final day of the visit spent either exploring the famous street market at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, taking part in an out-door church service in Montesson itself or spending the free time before heading back to Thame, in other ways with host families. Heading off to meet the coach home, there was just time to wave off the ingenious and colourful floats of the Montesson annual carnival parade.

Drama at the border

David Jackson (L), Cynthia Jackson and John Francis at the top of tower overlooking the Somme

The journey back to Thame via a short break at the Baie de Somme service station and ‘Le Shuttle’, was not without incident, including a delay at the Calais border when one Thame Twinning member mislaid his passport, finding it in a forgotten pocket just before Passport Control was about to cancel his passport in case it had found its way into the wrong hands.

Luckily, the hour gained on their return from the time difference in France, meant that the Thame group arrived home laden with their wine, jams and other goodies, in time to be assured of a contented, good night’s sleep after a fun and interesting long weekend among friends.

Already plans are being hatched to recognise the 15th anniversary of the twinning between Thame and Montesson, when the Montessonaise come to Thame early in May 2016. Watch this space for a very special celebration.

Eeport and photographs courtesy of