Magnifique! Visit marks 40 years of friendship
Published on: 27 Jun 2014
By Doug Daniels
Filton’s recent visit to its twin town – St Vallier in France – to celebrate 40 years of partnership, was an occasion to truly remember.
Commencing with a chance meeting of engineers working on Concorde at Filton in 1974, Roy Isaacs and the late Alderman Eric Smith MBE, began a relationship that was seriously meant to last.
With Filton believed to be the first UK parish – as it then was – to twin with a European town, it created a unique occasion that has stood the test of time.
With both towns decidedly differing from each other yet adjacent to principal rivers – St Vallier beside the River Rhone and Filton close to the river Severn – both had an attachment to the famous plane. One producing it while the other provided parts.
With an early 7.30am start Filton attracted 39 participants to make the journey via Dover to Calais with an overnight stop-over at Rheims in both the outward and return journeys. The group included nine young people from St Andrew’s Youth Club, with leader Debbie Teml. They were accommodated at a local camping park.
It was a well-run, orderly occasion. Shortly after a truly heart-warming welcome it centred on a meeting of twinning officials in the company of the town mayor, M Jaques Cheval and including M Yves Boutin – chair of St Vallier Twinning Committee – in the town hall.
Both St Vallier and German town Witzenhausen, Filton’s other twinning partner, had been affected by economic restrictions. Unemployment was a particular worry. Filton was no exception but was set to undergo change. The inclusion of Airbus at Filton will be to Filton’s advantage.
It was obvious from the outset that the instigation of twinning had been dramatically inspirational in creating true friendships replacing diversity. Whatever becomes of twinning in the future the friendship it created will steadily grow year by year.
I have no hesitation in this report in commending the work of twinning committees and Bernard and Carole Duckett in keeping twinning alive. It is no easy task, particularly when inspiring younger people to follow in their footsteps. It is proving difficult at times.
St Vallier contains traditional features within its original boundaries, particularly its church. A collection of guides brought this fully to everyone’s attention during a planned walk-about.
St Vallier is also set amid delightful scenery flushed with masses of trees. Through our varied exploits we were provided with lots of opportunities to explore and enjoy this landscape to the full.
Likened to our own recollections, St Vallier remembered the outcome of the wartime years with an appropriate ceremony on the war monument square. It vividly portrayed the togetherness twinning had helped to provide.
A visit to the nearby city of Lyon brought out prime examples of traditional architecture, particularly the Basilica of Our Lady of Fourvière overlooking much of the city. Comprising almost a million and a half inhabitants the view from the surrounding esplanade was truly breathtaking.
We had with us a new coach with an expert driver, Martin. It was airline comfort by road, particularly when we visited the Ardeche region, comprising cliff-like scenery and the winding river below. Described as a canoeist’s paradise it’s no place for an inexperienced driver along its winding cliff-edge roads.
Along with a thrilling visit to caves 25 metres below ground surface it was gratifying to learn that it was accessible by a lift, though quite a few of our stalwart Filtonians chose to access it by 700 steps. The way back up will undoubtedly be something they may wish to forget. Many legs will have felt the strain, though this visit was truly spectacular. Mother Nature at her very best.
Our extensive tributes must be handed to our generous hosts. They brought out in this visit the true spirit of twinning. Nothing was too much trouble. It was most certainly home from home. “I didn’t want to go back!” said one besotted traveller.
Much effort has been put into making this 40th anniversary occasion one we will long remember.
Culminating as it did with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne with everyone hand in hand at the finale of the visit in the town hall this surely described what twinning was all about. A friendship between European communities second to none.
Accompanied by a small yet lively band I acquired the title of “Mr Tambourine Man”. Who could not resist the temptation of beating out in rhythm with the band? I couldn’t.
Filton will face a real challenge when all three towns meet in Filton next year in July. I am sure we will meet it. We will do our very best. This twinning partnership is simply meant to continue. Again, thanks sincerely to all concerned – “C’est magnifique.” My French is improving every day!