Exchange Visit to Verneuil 2014

Report of Visit to Verneuil 5-8 April 2014

We had an excellent varied and interesting weekend under blue skies.
We had a magnificent driver in Spike who made sure that we were in the right places at the right time – always going the extra mile for everyone. He had a good rapport with everyone he met and was very relaxed. His knowledge of Verneuil, its surrounding area as well as Paris helped the programme to run very smoothly.
The children were very well behaved and seemed to mix well and help each other out when the occasion demanded it.
We arrived in Verneuil, via Channel Tunnel, at 5.30pm. After the many greetings between the French and English groups, our hosts whisked us away for a short rest before we all assembled at Calmette school for the evening buffet. The room was buzzing with conversations in both French and English. Once again, the French had put on a good spread for the English, washed down with excellent wine.
This year, the children, adults and family groupings spent a whole day with their particular French hosts, and people did all sorts of different things. Some had quite a relaxing day, having a short visit somewhere before relaxing in the hosts’ garden before tucking into a sumptuous evening meal. Others had a very busy day –  visiting Senlis, Chantilly, Gerberoy, Pierrefonds Chateau, Compiegne ……
The next day the primary age children spent the morning at Ferry School in Verneuil accompanied by the English group leaders, whilst the adults were taken on a guided visit of Château de Montataire (a town not far from Verneuil) and nearby troglodyte houses. After lunch at Calmette School (also in Verneuil) the whole group had a guided visit of Clouterie Rivierre in Creil – the last remaining factory for making nails in France …. 2800 different varieties. The whole group had an activity workshop at the end of the visit which entailed decorating a polystyrene egg with a variety of different shaped/coloured nails and sequins. There some magnificent creations were made by members of the group.
The final day saw us visit Montmartre in Paris. The traffic on the way to Paris was just like the M25 on a bad day, but Spike managed to negotiate the route making sure that we arrived safely and ready for the final visit of the tour. After a picnic lunch outside the Sacré Coeur we set off on the return journey to Shelford. The weather was beautiful throughout the weekend.
As always we had a wonderful weekend with our French hosts, enjoying meeting up with old friends and new, and much appreciate their generous hospitality.

Many thanks to Sarah for all the organisation of the visit.
Colin Jefferson

Thanks to Dan for this contribution

“What on earth have you got yourself into this time?”
There was a small yet insistent voice in the back of my mind at eight o’clock on a sunny Saturday morning, as I sat with my ten year old daughter on a coach speeding down the M11. Joining the twinning trip to Verneuil had been a somewhat spur-of-the-moment decision, based on fond memories of twinning trips to Normandy back in the eighties, plus an enthusiastic endorsement of an earlier Verneuil trip by a friend down the pub. In the cold light of morning, the prospect of spending a weekend in a stranger’s house, speaking a language I’d not used properly in over twenty years, was filling me with a degree of misapprehension.
Thankfully, all such feelings quickly fell by the wayside as we sped through the tunnel and into northern France. From the fantastic spread laid on by the villagers of Verneuil on the first evening to the crowds of Montmartre on the last day, it was certainly a trip full of experiences to treasure. The weekend was made all the better by the fantastic hospitality of our host family who were unstinting in their welcome (and extremely sporting in their willingness to indulge me in my attempts to resurrect my rusty French).
It’s hard to pick out one highlight over another, but a few things stand out particularly. An impromptu card school with the kids sitting cross-legged on the floor of a EuroTunnel carriage, bellowing “Uno!” above the racket of the train. Racing around the Chateau de Pierrefonds, hunting for the location of Arthur’s throne room in Merlin. Testing my French to destruction discussing the finer points of Game of Thrones with my host. Relishing a typically Gallic approach to health and safety on a trip round the last nail factory in France. Counting all three hundred steps up to the dome of Sacré Coeur, and all the way down, just to make sure.
So, if you’re reading this, and a small voice is muttering that going on a twinning trip might not be a good idea – do yourself an enormous favour, and ignore it. I’m certainly glad I did, and intend to carry on ignoring that little voice next year.
Dan Staines


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