Parlez-vous français? You don’t have to in order to enjoy a wonderful weekend in Villedômer such as was enjoyed by a group of Stapleford Twinners. We went to stay with an assortment of very welcoming ‘Frogs’ who were just as keen as us ‘Rosbifs’ to take advantage of the entente cordiale. Among the Staplefordians there were some who could speak both languages and some who could get along very nicely with ‘Franglais’ or Anglais, body language and very wide smiles. We also appreciated the penchant of the French for kisses on the cheeks – lovely!
Us Brits had travelled by plane from Stansted or by car and arrived on Friday 22 May to be wined and dined by our charming hosts. I actually went to have dinner with the local lady Mayor, her husband and a mixed group of ten altogether. We ate very well and drank an incredible number of different kinds of booze : pineau – a kind of fortified wine like sherry – with the melon, white wine, red wine, dessert wine, champagne and, finally, cognac. Some people didn’t drink anything alcoholic, but I have to admit that I do love pineau and champagne – separately, of course!
On the Saturday, I visited the château of Amboise, and also the mother of one of my hosts before re-joining the group for another wonderful dinner, this time at the privately owned Château de la Noue – a mini version of a grand château but which is only two storeys high and with rooms that all lead one into the other without any corridors. We Staplefordians all received a mug decorated with a picture of our lovely venue.
On Sunday we all met up for a guided tour of the château of Chaumont followed by a self-service lunch. The system was great. After choosing a starter and drink we went to a table, drank and ate, then went to choose our main courses – no hanging about with a plateful of hot food going cold while a table was being looked for. The choice of dessert and coffee was next, then we went, at our own pace, round a marvellous selection of gardens. Chaumont was hosting the International Garden Festival – a bit like Chelsea but without groups trying to sell something at nearly every turn. That evening we had a get-together in the local Primary School hall and enjoyed a wonderful buffet supper prepared by our hosts and other members of their group who hadn’t had people to stay.
On our last day we went into Tours, travelling from a sort of park and ride site – actually it was a park and tram site – and a group of us visited one of the local museums where we saw a large variety of apprenticeship pieces ranging from small versions of iron gates, wooden staircases and, my favourites, the tiniest and most beautiful pairs of leather shoes. After lunch we took a return tram to collect the cars and then off to the airport and home. It was a hectic weekend, full of interest and bonhomie and a wonderful experience to be remembered with great pleasure.
An article about the visit appeared in the local ‘La Nouvelle Republique’