Villedômer, 24 to 27 May 2013
We have visited Touraine many times, but mainly heading to places either on or south of the river Loire. Having experienced French hospitality on many occasions in other areas of France, we knew that we would be very welcome and made to feel at home – our hosts were superb and even surpassed our expectations.
We were delighted to be ‘paired up’ with a family we had met the previous year when people from Villedômer were hosted in Stapleford. We had travelled the previous day (23 May) to Touraine staying at our house south of the Loire. Our hosts invited us for afternoon tea on the 24 as also gave us the privilege of meeting their two young children from school. The whole family proved to be superb hosts during our four day stay. A mixture of French and English was spoken as we wanted to improve our French and they wanted to improve their English. Their spacious home was/is ‘work in progress’ as they seek to fully convert an old smithy and clog-maker’s workshop. The whole ambiance of their residence was very welcoming and homely.
On Friday evening 24 May, we joined our counterparts from from Stapleford who had travelled either by plane or by car. We were given a very warm welcome by the Villedômer Twinning Association. At the reception, a variety of ‘nibbles’ as well as wine from the region were consumed. During the evening, we were handed our ‘welcome pack’ which outlined what we would be doing during our visit. Visits to Tours, Amboise and Terra Botanica (near Angers) were included in the itinerary and we very much looked forward to each visit.
On Saturday 25 May, our hosts took us to Tours where we visited Les Halles, a very interesting and diverse indoor market, and Place Plumereau in the old town of Tours where we had an aperitif before having a meal in a delightful local restaurant. In the afternoon, along with other members of the Stapleford group and their hosts, toured the two oldest streets in Tours which led to Place Plumereau.
As a couple, we had walked down these streets many times over the past ten years. However, we were delighted to have hidden ‘treasures’ pointed out to us by our French hosts – little gems such as the building/shop where Jean D’Arc had her chain mail made before creating havoc amongst the English in the 1400’s, vestiges of the Gallo-Roman period were pointed out to us, we met Fritz the elephant, we visited the cathedral of St Gatien and the Basilica of St Martin.
In the evening, hosts, their guests and other ‘Twinners’ from Villedômer, gathered at the Salle des Fêtes for a meal together. Whilst consuming excellent food and wine from the region, we were able to hold many interesting conversations, both in English and in French, as well as making many new friends. Towards the end of the evening, gifts were given to Villedômer on behalf of Stapleford Twinning Association, various speeches were made and the evening ended with a glass of Vouvray – better than Champagne!
The following day, Sunday 26 May, was a glorious sunny day which was spent at Terra Botanica just outside Angers. A coach of about 70 people (15 from Stapleford) were taken to this beautiful theme park which had something for every age-group. Inside the park, there was a whole host of themed gardens, activities, visual media and ‘rides’. Our hosts made sure that we enjoyed every moment of the day. At lunch-time, we were again treated to a delicious meal. Again, this finished with a glass of Vouvray – to toast the birthday of a member of the Villedômer group. After a fantastic day, we arrived back in Villedômer early evening and then spent the rest of the evening with our host family.
On our final day, Monday 27 May, we visited one of our favourite places – Clos Lucé in Amboise, the home of Leonardo da Vinci during the final three years of his life. Again, we were blessed by the weather. Within the chateau, there are numerous small mock-ups of his various inventions. In the extensive grounds, there are many replicas of his inventions as well as themed gardens. Our hosts were still able to point out some things that we hadn’t seen before. Once again, we were treated to a delicious lunch in a cafeteria close to the mill in the grounds of the chateau.
After lunch, we headed back to Villedômer where we had afternoon tea in the sale des fêtes. At this point, hosts and guests said their goodbyes and headed off in various directions – some to the airport (Tours, Val de Loire) and others via car to other destinations in France. Before we headed for our house south of the Loire, our hosts took us back to their house and then proceeded to give us a tour of their village which was approx. 6km south of Villedômer. We were shown beautiful carpentry in the local church which had been done by a close ancestor. We then headed off to the local school where we met the two younger children again. After a refreshing drink, we headed back to our house south of Tours in the knowledge that we had gained much information which we could pass on to those who would visit us in Touraine.
We would highly recommend this visit to everyone associated with Stapleford as it is an experience not to be missed and there are many new friendships to be made. We keep in regular contact with those we hosted in 2012 as well as those who hosted us in Villedômer.
Colin & Janet Jefferson