Once again we left Chepstow at 4 am in the pouring rain and, unusually, it didn’t brighten up much for our arrival and en route stop at St Pierre sur Dives. But we managed to see the ancient market hall and abbey without getting too wet, and then were on our way to Cormeilles and the warm welcome of our hosts.
The next day, Thursday, was also dull and drizzly but our host families took our minds off the weather with various activities culminating in the customary Vin d’Honneur, this time in the evening. Being the 40th anniversary this was an extra-special occasion marked by the exchange of plaques (see photo). There followed an enjoyable evening of revelry accompanied by live music and dancing.
The following morning the sun shone and the temperature rose as we all gathered at Avenue de Chepstow for the unveiling of our plaque. This was hung next to the one, also made by Ned, commemorating the 20th anniversary in 1995. We then moved on to the nearby village of St Pierre de Cormeilles for a typically French style picnic and a very interesting talk in the church which has ancient links with our St Mary’s Priory church. On display was a model of our own church, painstakingly created by someone from our community some years ago… but who? If anyone can shed light on this, please do contact us, we would love to know.
On Saturday we rose early to board the coaches for the visit to the Château de Martainville where we were given a guided tour of the fascinating museum of art and Norman tradition. Sadly there was not time to linger in the lovely gardens as the next stop was for a ‘déjeuner Guinguette’ by a canal next to the river Seine near Rouen. Even some of our French hosts were not quite sure what this would entail, and it proved to be an interesting mix of eating, drinking and dancing between courses, accompanied by an indefatigable accordeoniste and singer. By now many of us were flagging from the heat and chose to walk by the canal or cross the bridge and watch the unbelievably huge barges make their way through the lock. Definitely experiences we would not have at home, which are, after all, part of the fascination of travel to foreign parts.
After spending a sultry Sunday (31°) with our hosts, we bade them farewell on Monday morning, by which time the weather was already turning more British, and boarded the coach for home . Our stop in Caen was distinctly damp. We were very thankful to have reserved seats on the ferry which was absolutely packed, being Bank Holiday Monday… Brittany Ferries’ policy of letting coaches off last was not appreciated by any of us, least of all poor Phil. But we are very grateful to him for getting us safely back to Chepstow, albeit in the same pouring rain with which we had left.
We are all very grateful to our French friends, especially the ‘bureau’, for the great effort they put into making the 40th anniversary visit so memorable for us.