Welwyn Anglo-French Twinning – Past Events

Welwyn – Champagne Twinning: the 40th Anniversary
by David Clarke

Early in the morning of Friday, 24th May, small groups of Welwyn residents were making their way towards local railway stations. They were heading towards St Pancras to board the Eurostar service to Paris for the start of a weekend of celebrations to mark the fortieth anniversary of the twinning of Welwyn with Champagne-sur-Oise. None of them knew what their French counterparts had arranged for them beyond the names of the French families with whom they would be staying.

Paris was reached by 11.30am and all luggage was safely stowed in the Left Luggage Office at Gare du Nord thus allowing free time to obtain lunch at a suitable café and to explore the capital city. We were given strict instructions to be back at the station in time to catch the 5.05pm suburban train for our onward journey.

Welwyn Anglo-French Twinning visit 2013

On arrival in Champagne, our hosts were waiting to take us to the Mairie for a reception led by the mayor, Joël Berniot. Our numbers were swollen to 33 by those who had travelled by car. We had brought gifts of London 2012 umbrellas for the French twinning committee and a glance outside showed that these were highly appropriate gifts! To show their appreciation there was an impromptu rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain’.

The following morning we were taken by the town minibus to Pontoise for a barge cruise on the River Oise. Our hosts were with us and they had prepared an excellent picnic to eat on the boat. Bottles of Champagne and table wines appeared and some of the group even attempted karaoke! The cruise was followed by a walking tour of Pontoise to see the ramparts, with fine views over the river, the Pissarro Museum and the Cathedral, where a wedding was about to take place. By bus back to Champagne and there was some recovery time before the evening party, ‘Fête de la Campagne’.

Welwyn Anglo-French Twinning visit 2013

It was pleasing that the evening event was open to all residents, not just members of the twinning association. The buffet was extensive and beautifully laid out. The band was English-speaking with a French chanteuse and music and dancing continued way past midnight, but with one interruption. For this very special evening, a spectacular firework display had been arranged. The sky above Champagne was lit up with rockets and exploding pyrotechnics.

Sunday morning was left free so that regular visitors could meet with old friends and newcomers could explore the neighbourhood with their hosts. The warmth of the welcome and the enduring friendships with our concitoyens makes me believe that, in our own way, we are doing our bit for European unity.

David Clarke
Vice-chair – Welwyn Anglo-French Twinning Association