Friday, 25 June 2021

Sonning Common Twinning Group

ON Friday, June 12, a total of 11 Sonning Common residents made their way to Guichainville

ON Friday, June 12, a total of 11 Sonning Common residents made their way to Guichainville in Normandy for the annual village twinning gathering.

It was our turn to go to France as last year we entertained visiting French families to historic tours of Reading, trips on the Thames in Henley and a ceilidh evening.

We left Sonning Common on Friday lunchtime in a minibus and headed for the ferry crossing from Dover to Calais.

After a smooth crossing, we drove a couple of hours to our newly twinned village of Guichainville, near Evreux, and were given a warm welcome by our host families. Before leaving home we had all been allocated a family to stay with and they would become our hosts for the weekend.

On our arrival at the family homes we were able to swap gifts. We all took copies of Sonning Common magazine to catch up with what had been happening in both villages since we last got together.

The following morning we elected to undertake a variety of activities.

Options included canoeing along the River Eure, a local hike and/or a stroll around the town of Evreux to see a traditional French market. Nearer to lunchtime, the villagers organised a picnic for us on the banks of the River Seine with traditional French cuisine including local cidre and, of course, wine.

We were fortunate the weather was so good that we were able to just bask in the sunshine and try our “best” French on our hosts while the children played.

After lunch we were taken to Giverny, the home of Claude Monet, the famous French painter and gardener. He lived there for more than 40 years until his death in 1926.

The gardens were spectacular in full bloom with the lily pond just as he painted it.

The house was also full of replicas of his paintings and lovingly restored. This was a fantastic treat for us from our French friends.

The sun continued to shine all afternoon so we all stopped for a cool drink/ice cream in a traditional café on the Giverny estate.

We then returned to our respective French homes for a rest and change of clothes ready for the soirée.

This was held in their village hall where all the hosts had made something towards the dinner.

We sampled local drinks, Kir Normande, which is Cassis with cider, and wines from the region and further afield.

The feast continued for a couple of hours during which we took part in an Anglo-French quiz about literal translations of sayings from both countries.

With dinner finished, we embarked on a karaoke session which was good fun and the children enjoyed it too.

At the end of the night the French hosts thanked us all for coming and continuing our support twinning with them.

For our last day in Guichainville we were able to enjoy a long, leisurely breakfast with our host families, sampling the fine Norman breads and pastries from the local patisserie.

We all met back at in the village square at lunchtime, said our goodbyes and headed back to Calais for the ferry home.

This was the third such exchange visit and the great camaraderie continued, especially now that we are becoming good friends, both with our French hosts as well as among the Sonning Commoners.

The few children who went had a fantastic time trying out their French and meeting new friends and came away with pen-pals (well Instagram pals, the modern  equivalent!).

I can highly recommend getting involved in the village twinning group. My children love it and we have made a lifelong friendship with a family in France, not to mention the friends we have made in Sonning Common as a result.

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