Visit to Longpré June 2005
set out from Eastry at 18:00 on Friday 24th June for our trip
through the tunnel to Longpré. Although the weather had been very hot in
England we passed through some spectacular storms on our way in France but
arrived in a dry and warm Longpré at about 22:00 to be met by our hosts
outside the town hall.
an official reception inside the hall our new Chairman Roy Marshall made his
introductions and Alain Defebvin, the Longpré Chairman,
welcomed us all. Over glasses of
wine and slices of cake we met old friends and made new ones. Guests and hosts
were introduced, some long established exchanges and others new, whether old
or new the welcome was warm and friendly. After the reception we were taken by
our assigned families to their homes for a much needed sleep (in many cases
the sleep was preceded by further offers of food and a little something to
following morning was bright and warm and after ‘petit
déjeuner’ we were driven to the nearby village of
Naours1 where we were visiting an underground ‘city’.
For the benefit of the guide, so he did not have to switch
between French and English for the tour, we separated into two groups the
French speaking group went into the underground city first while the Eastry
contingent travelled on a sightseeing train to the hill above the caves to
visit the windmills and enjoy the view from them. By the time we returned it
was our turn to travel underground. The site was originally a chalk quarry
from the 3rd century, and then used as shelter from invading armies, it is
classed as a real city and all dug by hand. In the 300 000 cubic meter area
there are 28 galleries (2000 meters long), 300 chambers, 6 chimneys, public
squares, and a chapel all at a constant temperature of 9,5°C (a welcome change
from the heat outside).
After our tour we were treated to an excellent
picnic in a canvas covered area set aside for just that. The hosts had
prepared a fine spread of food:- tarts and flans, salads, pies and cold meats,
not forgetting a large selection of wines and aperitifs and deserts, what made
it particularly enjoyable was that everyone shared whatever they had taken
along, making it a very convivial experience.
picnic finished, we returned to the cars and set off again, but after only a
few hundred meters we stopped in Naour village itself where we were given a
talk and tasting at a farm producing cider. From there we travelled to the
city of Amiens 20-30 km away. We spent the afternoon wandering around the city
with our own hosts, with a visit to the huge Gothic cathedral and of course
reconvened at about 18:00 at a pizza/pasta restaurant on the outskirts of the
city, where we were treated to another feast. We were able to help ourselves
at a large salad bar, followed by a choice of main course and desert from the
set menu, again a very genial time was had by all.
the evening was not yet over- we all returned to Amiens
city centre to watch a fantastic display at the cathedral. Not exactly a Son
et Lumiere, but equally spectacular. When it was sufficiently dark, the front
of the cathedral was lit by a series of laser lights, with the ornate carvings
which cover the cathedral picked out in the colours believed to have
originally adorned the figures and carvings. (During restoration work to
clean the soot blackened cathedral, traces of colour were found on the statues
and from this, the idea of the light show was conceived). It was an
amazing sight2 and one well worth a
visit if you get the chance. A late night stroll along the bar and restaurant
lined streets next to the river Somme in Amiens was a fitting end to a great
Sunday morning soon came around and this is the
traditional time for the Longpré-Eastry petanque match (the reason I first
became involved in the twinning was to play this match in 2000).
Eastry were short of regular players and had to draft in the new Chairman -
Roy and his wife, neither having played before. The match is taken seriously
by both sides and the winners (not surprisingly in this case Longpré, although
Eastry gave a good performance winning 2 of the 5 games which make up a match)
get to keep the Ashes until the next match.
exchange of gifts and medals, the teams and supporters visited a local bar for
refreshments before returning with their hosts to enjoy a meal before the
coach departed for the journey home.
The weekend was a great success and everyone had
their stories to tell, most of which were about the warm and generous welcome
they had been given, and a strong feeling that we would do our best to make
our Longpré friends as welcome when they come to Eastry in May 2006.