Shelford to Verneuil-en-Halatte
25-28 May 2019
On Saturday 25 May our coach journey through the tunnel, Folkestone to Calais, passed uneventfully. It was good to travel through the rolling countryside of the Baie de la Somme where we stopped for a break at the ‘Aire de Baie de Somme’ with an opportunity to stretch our legs, climb the viewing tower, walk out among the reeds and visit the café.
On arrival in Verneuil en Halatte, it was lovely to be greeted, with applause, by our hosts and by members of the Verneuil Twinning Association. The rest of the evening and the following day were spent settling in with our hosts. We visited local places of interest, markets, went for walks in the surrounding Beech forest, as well as making new friends and renewing old friendships.
The evening of the 26 May, we attended a reception for all visitors at the Salle de Bufosse with other ‘Vernolians’ – the customary ‘welcome party’: a most convivial event with speeches, a plentiful buffet and a competitive and enthusiastic game of Pétanque. Food was supplied by our various hosts and while the welcoming speeches were being made and reciprocated, the children, both English and French played ‘boules’ outside.
On Monday 27 May we visited three places of interest which were all very different! Firstly, a visit to the archaeological remains of a Gallo Roman villa – a guided visit provided by the ‘Friends of Verneuil Past’ (Amis de Vieux Verneuil) where we were helped to envisage life on a working farm from the first century BC.
The sun came out for our second visit to Chaalis Abbey with its great park (a perfect setting for our picnic lunches), a Chapel, rose garden (only the rose buds at this time of year!) and the grand furnished house (chateau), now a museum. Some of us enjoyed a coffee sitting outside with a view down to the ruins.
In the Abbey workshop, we had fun making up our own perfume from a range of scents displayed in the workshop.
A relatively new Brewery, Au Coeur du Malt, was the scene of our third visit. The Master Brewer gave a presentation, very ably in English, on the processes involved in producing their seven types of beer. We were all offered a taste (or two) after which not much encouragement was needed for us to make our own purchases!
Tuesday 28 May was the final day with our French friends. All the children spent the day at Jules Ferry, one of the two Primary Schools in Verneuil. This is an important and reciprocal annual arrangement, central to the ethos of our Twinning exchanges.
The rest of our group visited the Serge Ramon Graffiti museum in the centre of Verneuil which holds a wonderful record of events, historical and personal, through graffiti discovered by M Ramon on his travels through France. We think of graffiti as being paintings, drawings, etc by disaffected individuals, but this graffiti consists of engravings gouged out in stone walls. The graffiti reveals to us much of French character and events through the ages. M Ramon presented the graffiti in the form of plaques and drawings now on display in this museum.
A short distance away was the most pleasant Cora Hypermarket where we were met by the manager of the Centre Commercial. We were treated to coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat and doughnuts prior to engaging in the necessary, but therapeutic, shopping.
After a substantial picnic lunch in Salle des Fetes in Verneuil, it was time to say our farewells, but only until we would meet again in Shelford in July to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Twinning Charter in the Shelfords!