PAST EVENTS 2011
Sunday 18 December 2011 - The Cosener's House
The Christmas Lunch was held at the Coseners House. Unlike last year it was a sunny, clear day with no snow. The Lunch was attended by over sixty members and guests, and we had good food and service. (The shrieking balloons were very popular.) Many thanks to all who organised the occasion and the many other events throughout the year.
Churches visit Schongau
1 - 6 December 2011
Eleven members of the Church in Abingdon, travelled to Schongau to enjoy a long weekend with our friends in Bavaria. This was the famously "snowed - off" visit that was postponed from December 2010 when Gatwick was closed. Nine Christian groups were represented: St Michael’s, St Helen’s, St Edmund’s, All Saints, Friends, Peachcroft Community Church, Christchurch, Trinity and the Baptist Church. A full and enjoyable programme was provided. We visited three Christmas Markets, were welcomed at three receptions, attended two concerts and were shown round several churches, both in the town and in the local countryside. We experienced three seasons in six days as the weather went from warm and sunny on the Friday to autumnal with grey skies and finally on the last day we had snow.
We visited an elk farm, where we learnt that elk are nothing to do with deer, but provide excellent venison. The lady farmer told us she was also a hunter and the high ladder in her hide enabled her to get into a shooting position where she could pick off one elk - first having fed them to draw the herd near.
We also were taken to visit a charity trust village for disabled people that provides education for children and workshops for adults in a supportive and protective environment.
Our hosts were wonderfully welcoming and most generous in their care for us throughout our visit. We enjoyed Christmas lights and decorations everywhere and felt, when we arrived back in England, as though we had experienced Christmas already.
Pavlova visits Colmar
1 - 5 December 2011
The Pavlova Wind Quintet were invited to Colmar by Marc Lischer and the Wintzenheim DeSiDeLa choir. Two of our members travelled with them for a busy but enjoyable weekend that included collaborative Christmas Pudding performances in St Mathieu's church, Colmar, and the church of Notre Dame in Logelbach. See the local newspaper article, the Quintet's pictures and the report below.
Our trip to Colmar in Alsace at the beginning of December was lots of fun. Geoff and I were one of two couples accompanying Abingdon’s Pavlova Wind Quintet on a short concert visit. Marc Lischer of Colmar’s council met us at Basle-Mulhouse airport on Thursday afternoon and we all drove the 50 km north in three cars. Everyone was accommodated in Wintzenheim, a large village 10km from Colmar centre, and what a warm welcome we received! On Friday we were driven to Freiburg across the River Rhine in Germany to see their Christmas Market, and also understand how Alsace has changed from being part of France to being part of Germany, and back, many times over the years. Even now some laws of Alsace differ from those in France.
Back in Colmar we walked through their lovely, illuminated Christmas Market and attended the first 'Christmas Pudding' concert in St Matthews Church, where our Quintet performed with Colmar’s Choir De Si De La. Next day Marc took us all on a guided tour of Colmar’s picturesque centre with its tall timber framed houses, and Geoff and I were able to visit the Unterlinden Museum to see the spectacular early 16th century Isenheim Altarpiece by Grunewald.
On Saturday night there was another very enjoyable 'Christmas Pudding' concert in nearby Logelbach in the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, and on Sunday we were free. Geoff and I were lucky to be entertained by Felice Watteau and Jeannette Ruhlmann who had stayed with us here in Abingdon two years ago. Felice’s sister Christianne, who is president of Colmar’s Twin Town Society was there too, and we all went together, in late afternoon, to yet another picturesque village, Eguisheim, reputedly one of the most beautiful in France.
Monday was departure day. Some left by air, but Geoff and I took the TGV via Paris. It had been a very enjoyable visit which we thoroughly recommend to other Twin-Towners.
Evening Meeting - Any Questions?
Wednesday 16 November 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
This evening’s meeting consisted of ADTTS’s version of Question Time, with Mars Street taking the role of David Dimbleby. A distinguished panel had been assembled: Lorraine Oates, former Mayor of Abingdon, Michael Mathews, Freeman and former Mayor of Abingdon and Vice President of ADTTS, Stella Carter JP and Chairman of ADTTS and Sandy Lovatt, Leader of Abingdon Town Council.
The format was a mixture of pre-submitted and impromptu questions from the floor, covering a wide range of topics.
We were told how the Mayor’s Chain (worth in excess of £250,000) had made visits to a number of twin towns and how on one occasion it had been left in one town and sent back in an envelope by normal post!
Stella gave an insight into the work of the Magistrates, which involves not only a certain mandatory number of court sittings but also signing warrants and swearing in the nuclear police. (Whom we were informed do not need hi-vis jackets as they glow in the dark!)
Michael enlightened us on how Twinning worked in the 1960’s and how steep the learning curve was. He also told us that he has driven his sheep across Abingdon Bridge, as every Freeman of the city is entitled to do. Sandy Lovatt told us of his life growing up in the then Rhodesia on a Tobacco farm and also his ambitions to work closer with the Twin Towns in order to promote the business and social aspect of Twinning.
Perhaps the last thought is with Lorraine, who regaled us with the tale of how, when as Mayor she was due to meet The Princess Royal, only to find her self locked in the toilet. She was eventually released, (in time for the big occasion) by a burley solder who broke the door to the cubicle down!
The more formal session was followed by locally sourced cheese and pickles, wines from Brightwell Vineyard, Lemonade from Witney and beer from Loose Cannon, the new local micro brewery just off Drayton Road, which were greatly enjoyed by all.
Many thanks to panellists and caterers for a very enjoyable evening.
Sunday 13 November 2011 - 11am at The Square
We invited a representative from one of our twin towns to join us for the annual remembrance ceremony. Siegfried Waterschoot from Sint-Niklaas together with Maurice Armstrong from ADTTS laid wreaths at Abingdon's war memorial. Frank Allen also participated this year.
Town Twinning had its roots in the aftermath of World War as people sought ways to increase understanding and promote peace. So it is very appropriate that ADTTS now lay a wreath on behalf of our twin towns on Remembrance Sunday. This year the wreath was laid for us by Maurice Armstrong, a longstanding member of the Society, who, as a veteran himself of the D- Day landings, has his own special reason to remember fallen comrades. He was joined by Siegfried Waterschoot, a good friend of both Maurice and ADTTS, who laid a wreath on behalf of Sint-Niklaas. Sint- Niklaas hold their own remembrance services in September each year to mark their liberation in 1944 by British and Polish units. In 2009 our chairman, Stella Carter, laid a wreath there during our visit to that town.
Canoeists from Argentan
10 - 13 November 2011 - River Dart
Twinning visit of PL Argentan Kayak Club with Kingfisher Canoe Club
The twinning link between Kingfisher Canoe Club Abingdon and PL Argentan Canoe-Kayak was set up nearly twenty years ago. During that time we had arranged trips together not only on our respective home waters but also to the Alps, Scotland, North Wales and Dartmoor to take advantage of the best white water rivers.
Over the last eight or nine years the exchanges had become dormant, so it was great news to get a letter from Stephane to say that they would like to visit us. They had wanted to come and run the River Dart, one of this country’s classic white water rivers and reasonably located near the cross channel ferry’s docking point at Plymouth.
We now have a French member of Kingfisher CC, Ludo Letourneur, whom I managed to persuade to take on the task of organising and coordinating the 18 kayakers from Argentan and the 25 Kingfisher members who went down to Dartmoor for a long weekend.
The paddlers from Argentan arrived on the Thursday evening ferry and we met them at The River Dart Country Park, which is a major canoeing centre during the winter months. We stayed in accommodation there and the following morning we took the French party on the grade 2/3 section of the Dart.
On the Friday evening we were joined by the rest of the Kingfisher members after the long drive down after work. The following day we took four of the French team on what is probably one of the finest stretches of white water in the UK. The River Dart from Dartmeet provides exceptionally scenic surroundings and at Grade 4, continuously challenging white water. The rest of the group ran the previous day’s section, which due to overnight rain had become more interesting from a white water point of view.
We did our best to dispel preconceptions about English food by having a meal at the Church House Inn Holne, a traditional country pub with good food and proper beer. There was time for one more run down the river on the Sunday before we all departed mid afternoon. It was great to see them all again, many of the original members are still in the club, the young ones have grown up and got very good and the older members are still hanging in there!! They are intending to invite us back in the Spring, either to Argentan to run the River Orne when there is a release from the dam at Rabodanges or possibly to the River Dranse in the Alps which is situated conveniently close to Geneva Airport.
I have written a five-page article with pictures on the exchange, which is due to be published in Canoe & Kayak UK (UK’s top paddle sport magazine) in the March 2012 issue. It is available at W.H. Smith’s for anybody interested.
Evening Meeting - Tuscany
Wednesday 19 October 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
A glass of Prosecco introduced our Tuscan evening. Peter Dodd told us about the great annual Luminara procession in Lucca, with a very concise commentary explaining the origins and traditions of this festival in Lucca. He showed some photographs taken by Neil and Margaret Hancox who visited the city last month for this year's festival. (See report below.)
However, the main event of the evening was a presentation by Jill Carver from Added Ingredients, the lovely delicatessen shop in Stert Street. Jill educated us about olive oil, explaining that Italian extra virgin can range from dubious bulk imports to fine estate bottled and single variety oils. We then had the opportunity to compare the tastes of three rather good oils (blended, single olive and single estate) on the best chiabatta! More tasting instruction followed with a Tuscan red wine and some Chianti together with an explanation of IGT and DOCG labelling. These were accompanied by a very young pecorino dolce sheep’s milk cheese and an older peppered variety. Jill had put a great deal of effort into her talk and it was certainly a most enjoyable evening.
(Maggie Greaney contributed to this report.)
Marathon Pasta Party
Saturday 15 October 2011 - St Edmund's Church Centre
Each autumn a party of runners from Abingdon Amblers athletics club goes over to Argentan to run in their half-marathon. In return, old friends in Argentan come for the Abingdon Marathon. This year ADTTS hosted the traditional pasta party before the next day's race for the visiting runners from our twin town and their hosts. The catering team provided three kinds of pasta and sauces, followed by deserts including apple crumble and custard.
Jacques Thebault always runs in fancy dress - this year as Caesar. (Photo: Alastair Fear)
Saturday 24 September 2011 - Market Place
When the large French market returned to Abingdon, Anne Dodd, helped by some members, set up a stand in the market place to promote the Society. Concentrating on our French connections, it generated interest from shoppers and stall holders.
Burgess Trust Project in Colmar
September 2011 - Colmar
The Burgess Trust is a Trust Fund established by the family of Burgess Printers and administered by the Town Council to support twinning activities for 16 – 23 year olds. Accepted applicants visit a twin town to undertake a project and write a report. Congratulations to Melissa Stewart and Lisa Phan who were awarded grants from the Fund to visit Colmar to compare antenatal care and postnatal care in Colmar and the Vale of White Horse District.
In her report on postnatal care (pdf), Melissa Stewart found that there isn’t a big difference in the quality of the care offered, however the approach to the care differs. The French postnatal system focuses much more in the medical well-being of the mother and newborn shortly after birth ... whereas the English system is ... also very much focused on the emotional well-being of the mother.
In her report on antenatal care (pdf), Lisa Phan concluded that there are many similarities between the two antenatal systems in Colmar and in the Vale of White Horse District ... the main disadvantage from each antenatal system is: Vale of White Horse District: shortages of midwives and in Colmar: the short maternity leave before birth.
AGM & Evening Meeting
Wednesday 21 September 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
The Annual General Meeting of the Society - see notice of meeting and agenda - included full reports from the secretary, treasurer and chairman. Stan Ponting, who was retiring as a long-serving committee member was warmly thanked. The officers and remainder of the committee were re-elected, along with a welcome to three new committee members. The Chairman of the Vale Council, Alison Thomson, who has been active in twinning in Faringdon, then addressed the meeting and spoke encouragingly about our programme. The AGM was followed by refreshments and a short talk by Ian Jardine describing the recent Society visit to Schongau. An overview of the year's events as recorded on the web site concluded the evening.
Tuesday 13 September 2011
The Lucca twinning society welcomes any visitors from Abingdon for the annual Luminara di Santa Croce festival and they may have the opportunity to join in the candle lit procession. Here is a report from two of our members who went this year.
Our Twin Town Visit to Lucca - 2011
On Monday 12th September, in a temperature of 30˚C plus, we threaded our way through the narrow streets of inner Lucca, crowded with pedestrians, bicycles, scooters and cars, and eventually found the relative coolness of the San Frediano International Hostel, where we were staying with our four fellow twin "towners" from Colmar, plus Margaret’s sister and husband. That night I cleaned my teeth with mosquito repellent – the tube looked very similar to the toothpaste one. It tasted horrible but at least my molars were bite free.
The next day we met up with Maria Curto (email@example.com), who informed us that there had been a corruption scandal in Lucca city council in the last year or two and that the city had decided to drop town twinning. (No, we don’t really understand either.) Fortunately Maria is very keen on the idea and was our delightful, if unofficial, guide for the next couple of days.
We started with a preview of the site of a Roman villa recently discovered in the foundations of an old building in Lucca. This will be opened to the public in about a month and we were privileged to have a preview. It was wonderfully cool inside. Afterwards we drove to Montecarlo (not the one where you break the bank) but the centre of a very good wine growing area and then on to lunch and wine tasting at the Trattoria di Foggia. This establishment can cater for up to 600 people at a time and such is its fame that parties are bussed in from cruise ships.
We sampled a delicious selection of meats, cheeses, pasta and salads all accompanied by the appropriate wine (local Tuscan of course). Maria pointed out in English and French that you sip wine, while nibbling some snacks. If you want to gulp something down it should be water. She felt that this lesson could not be over-emphasised, both for the French and British, as she stood at the end of the table, wagging her finger at us and saying, never, never, never, jamais, jamais, jamais, gulp wine – sip it! After a dessert of special ice-cream we went back to the hostel to prepare for the Luminara.
By now all shops, churches and public buildings had been decorated with arrays of plain light bulbs and thousands of candles. At 7.00 o’clock we walked to a piazza just off the city centre where people were assembling with huge banners bearing legends such as Toronto, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Scozia and many more, which were to be paraded through the streets later. Alas the Twin Towns’ banner for Abingdon had not been released from the Town Hall.
We met several Australians who had settled in Lucca and we were allocated with them under the banner "Foreigners in Lucca". Alongside us, waiting for the procession to start, were the various grades of police (there are a lot), firemen, ambulance staff and paramedics, as well as civilian volunteers for dealing with various ecological and natural disasters, all smartly outfitted. The Church appeared in the person of several priests and the local bishop (probably archbishop), who shook hands and blessed us.
Then there was drama. The ambulance suddenly backed towards the crowd, the paramedics leapt out with a stretcher on wheels and disappeared into the mass of people. Ten minutes later they reappeared with an elderly man on the stretcher and the ambulance roared off into the night with lights flashing and siren blaring. How it got through the crowds we will never know.
By now it was getting late, 9.30pm, and apart from a passing band there had been no sign of a parade. As we had no banner to carry, the weaker members of the party repaired to an excellent restaurant, recommended by Maria, for a superb sea food spaghetti carbonara. The others quickly followed and we ate and drank (sipped, naturally) to the accompaniment of fireworks.
On Wednesday, while most of the locals were busy taking down the light bulbs and candles, we went to the Puccini museum, which had just opened. This was fascinating with lots of letters and correspondence, the composer’s piano and, most incomprehensible of all, scribbled scraps and untidy notes in musical notation relating to various of his works.
The musical theme was continued in the evening when, under Maria’s guidance, we went to a piano recital in a secluded building that had once been set aside for monks and nuns to use for contemplative prayer. The Sicilian pianist played Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Chopin with such intensity that his hands seemed to melt into the keys. He also complained of the heat and had to remove his jacket half way through the performance! Afterwards a local soprano (who had visited Abingdon last year), with a wonderful voice, sang snatches of arias from Puccini operas. To round off the evening and the visit we took Maria for an aperitif, sipped, with plenty of nibbles. Long live twinning even if you don’t have a banner.
Margaret and Neil Hancox
Visit to Schongau
12 - 16 August 2011
The main trip for ADTTS in 2011 was a very successful visit to our twin town of Schongau in Bavaria. It was aimed to coincide with the local festival of Mariä Himmelfahrt. A party of seventeen members went from Abingdon. Our Bavarian hosts made sure they generously entertained all of us, both those staying with host families and those who had chosen hotel accommodation. As a result our time was equally divided between events for the whole group, joined by many of our hosts, and events provided for small groups by the host families.
On Friday August 12th a group of 17 arrived in Schongau and were met by a some of the host families.
Most of the group stayed with host families while five of us stayed in hotels.
Our Schongau hosts were quick to remind us that the idea of Twinning is the connection we have with our twin towns
and they would have liked us all to stay with a host families regardless of the language barrier
– after all we were meant to help each other with the use of an English/German dictionary!
Herbbunch - Schongau 2011
A description of the traditional bunch of herbs presented to each woman at the Feast of the Assumption of Mary
Different names Consecrated, fragrant or herb bunch or bundle are the commonly used names for the bundles or sheaves
that are brought to the church on 15 August Mariä Himmelfahrt to be blessed.
(Translated by Celia Smith)
Sunday 24 July 2011 - 22 St Peter’s Road, Abingdon
This year Lorraine and Tim Oates very kindly offered to host the annual Garden Party in their garden. With space more limited this year, we thought it would be nice to offer a traditional summer afternoon tea - a bit like the Ritz but at a fraction of the cost! Forty members were greeted with a glass of Pimms, followed by a generous buffet of sandwiches, scones, cake, raspberries and cream. (Thanks Nikki.) The glorious sunshine contributed to a most enjoyable afternoon.
Lucca Garden Party
Sunday 3 July 2011
Any visitors from Abingdon were warmly invited to the Lucca twinning society's Garden Party (pdf). Our representative writes:
I left Abingdon on the Friday morning to Lucca via Luton airport. On arriving in Lucca I was met by Adolfo and Claudio. I was then taken to a small village about 5 miles from Lucca to my host house in the country, Claudio and Maria. I was then taken to their apartment in Lucca (about 500 yards outside the wall). I was then given instruction to meet Maria in the evening at the shop she was working at which was on the other side of Lucca centre to where I was staying.
At about 1930hrs we had dinner. We then attended a concert in a small village just outside Lucca, in the church. A choir called Nova Harmonia which my host Claudio is a member. Didn’t start until about 2115hrs lasted for just over the hour.
Saturday I and Marie started the day with English breakfast together, she then went to work I had a cycle at my disposal so I made use of it and had a relaxing day going around Lucca seeing things that I had not seen before, Like a big street market. Had lunch with Marie. In the evening we had dinner at Claudio and Maria house.
Sunday Once again I had a relaxing day breakfast in the apartment sit for a while on the balcony over looking the hills around Lucca, then a wander around Lucca. Visited a clock tower a new attraction with about three hundred steps. I also visited bar owned by an English lady, which we had a couple of drinks in last September. I had a long chat with an Italian whose American girlfriend worked in the bar. Late afternoon Marie gave me a tour and a little walk in the country side and collect water from a spring. Then on to the garden party. Its was held in a large garden in a restaurant a few miles out of Lucca (near where Marie lives). Three different societies organized the party, about one hundred twenty people attended with me and one person from Sint- Niklaas. As usual the dinner didn’t start until eight thirty to nine. There was music, craft demonstration. The meal was buffet style of four courses, a mixture of food and plenty of wine. It was an enjoyable evening meeting some people I know and new ones.
Monday I again had a relaxing day in Lucca walk around, visit the bar, lunch with Marie. Late that afternoon I was collected by Claudio who took me to his house, then we had a small tour around where he lives and collect water from two springs apparently the water taste different between them.
That evening I had dinner in the garden with lots of drink, Adolfo and his wife, Claudio son and two other friends with Maria doing all the food. Once again it was late eating.
Tuesday I had to make my way home but before I left Claudio and
Maria gave me lunch then took me to the airport.
A thank you to Claudio and Maria for being such good host. The hospitality and friendship was very good. I will never forget my weekend in Lucca. I hope to return.
Argentan Cyclists Visit
24 - 27 June 2011
Twelve of them arrived in a minibus and car with a trailer at 5.00 pm on Friday 24th June at my house and within minutes of their arrival it started to rain hard. This was not in the plan at all. I had specifically asked fate for good weather as I had planned a BBQ with boules, darts, pallets, table tennis and table football. As it was, twelve French cyclists and twelve host families had to crowd under my awning and in my kitchen while we tried to organise the next two days. Eventually the host families took their guests away and we had agreed to meet the next day at the rugby club car park at 10.00 for a sixty-mile bike ride with Wantage Cycling Club.
Everyone was on time and off we went with me bringing up the rear, easily the slowest person there but I WILL NOT BE RUSHED hence the late completion of this report. It was a great ride under an overcast sky but no rain. Perfect cycling weather. We got to Grove at about 12.00 where we were joined by members of Wantage cycling club and ADTTS had laid on a delicious lunch, many thanks to the Dodds, the Jardines and ADTTS. After lunch we followed a scenic route through quaint villages such as Uffington and lovely countryside until we reached ????????? a National Trust property whose name I do not recall but where ADTTS had paid for much needed tea and cakes. After that we made our way to the Red Lion in Drayton for a pint of beer before making our way home and to host families where everyone had made their own dining arrangements. I had dinner with the Milwards, the Dodds and our respective French guests.
The next day we met at 10.00 at the market square for another sixty miler organised by Abingdon Freewheelers and pre-ride refreshments provided by the Patisserie Pascal. The plan was to get to Woodstock via Witney by 1.00 pm for a picnic lunch. We actually got there I believe at 4.30 pm exhausted but happy having seen some beautiful countryside and had our lunch in the grounds of Blenheim Palace while watching the Argentan comedian, Pascal, entertain us with his attempts at swimming in the shallow stream running through the grounds. We returned via Oxford where our guests had a brief look around and David Wynn showed his group the grounds of OUP. In the evening we had a bring-and-share meal at the Queralts and our guests showered us with praise and gifts. The evening ended with the French version of Auld Lang Syne (Ce n’est qu’un au revoir), a promise that we will go to them next summer and lots of hugs and kisses.
The next day the French made their way home.
It was a great weekend and particular thanks should go to the host families, the Wynns, the Queralts, the Dodds, the Milwards, the Patissons, the Smarts and the Barrons. Further thanks are due to ADTTS, especially the Jardines, Wantage Cycling Club and Abingdon Freewheelers.
This was our first involvement with the twinning scheme and so we had no idea what to expect, and were a little apprehensive. On Friday night there was a barbecue to welcome our guests from France - 12 members of the Argentan cyco randonee cycling club, who were a lively and friendly group - and we met too members of the Abingdon twinning group who made us very welcome.
On Saturday some of us joined them in a lovely 60-mile cycle ride in Oxfordshire, during which lunch and tea was provided (and very welcome!). In the evening 12 of us enjoyed a convivial evening together and the following morning the group went out on another ride to Woodstock (unfortunately Charlie and I were unable to join them in this). Sunday was very warm, and in the evening we all gathered together again and enjoyed a bring and share meal al fresco, during which there were many expressions of thanks and appreciation on both sides, and which ended with us all singing a French /English version of auld lang syne together. Our French guest, Pascal, was easy company and very appreciative of our hospitality. We very much enjoyed our hosting experience, and our French really came on!
The weekend was a great success, and we are delighted that already a return trip to Argentan is planned for 2012. It was for us a wonderful introduction to twinning; we have already made many friends from the Abingdon group, and look forward to meeting our French friends again next year.
Cycling with you was a great pleasure and we thank you for helping and accompanying. We where also exactly pleased with the tour, the small roads, the sights and your kindness.
On behalf of the Freewheelers thank you, it was a real pleasure. It was very different to our usual rides, certainly a lot less brisk, a definite randonnee. I have been asked if there is an email address for the Argentan cycling club and if they have a website for the cycling club, we would love to keep in touch.
Colmar Twinning Weekend
16 - 20 June 2011
COLMAR TWINNING WEEKEND – JUNE 2011
Colmar beckoned. Although we have paid visits to twin towns before, this was our first experience of a twinning weekend. Having ourselves just welcomed visitors to Abingdon’s twinning weekend a fortnight earlier and enjoyed three days of visits, meals and new friendships, we were full of anticipation. We were not to be disappointed!
Thanks to an early start and Stan’s professional driving, we arrived at our hosts late Thursday afternoon. We stayed with Odile and Yves in Horbourg-Wihr, a farming village five kilometres west of Colmar. Odile spoke no English, so we managed in rough French until we realised that, as a local girl, Odile also spoke German, with which we were much more comfortable. Our hosts were most welcoming and we soon became good friends.
Friday started with a guided tour (in English for us) of the picturesque centre of Colmar with its half-timbered buildings and pretty waterways. The welcoming reception in the ancient Koïfhus was by Delphine Mann, the vivacious deputy mayor. After the official photograph we enjoyed local wine and kugelhopf cake. (Google it!). We took the opportunity to get acquainted with the guests from the other twin towns – for most it was their first twinning experience. A leisurely four-course lunch all together at the restaurant du Théâtre set the pattern for splendid food and wine throughout the weekend.
For the afternoon, Odile took the two of us to see her childhood home of Eguisheim. Her guided tour of this lovely village included tales of children’s games. Nearby, we visited a stork colony – storks’ nests are now a characteristic feature of Alsace.
Enterprisingly, the programme include a night’s stay for guests, hosts and helpers at le chalet des Amis de la nature du Schnepfenried. One thousand metres up in the Vosges mountains, this is essentially a youth hostel – small dormitories and wonderful self-catering by our hosts. Saturday was devoted to a “wide” game. Split into competing teams of mixed nationalities, we were sent off into the surrounding fields and woods with tasks to do and clues to find. This was all thoroughly enjoyable – an inspired idea! Back in Colmar, the day ended with a great communal meal at the Italian club.
Sunday morning was devoted to a tour of Haut-Koenigsbourg. This imposing castle, dating from the Hapsburgs and the Thirty Years War, was restored and rebuilt at great expense at the start of the twentieth century by the Kaiser Wilhelm II. It is now a major tourist destination. For lunch, we visited an auberge in Kintzheim where we were treated to the famous Alsace tartes flambées, shared amongst us in an almost unlimited supply of platters. Another delightful wine-route village, Riquewihr, allowed an interesting visit to the postal museum to conclude the weekend programme.
So, many thanks to Présidente Christiane Wagner and her many enthusiastic helpers in les amis du jumelage de Colmar for all their efforts in making the whole weekend such an enjoyable success! We had fun, learned of the culture and, above all, made new friends.
Susan & Brian Read
Sint-Niklaas Dancers Visit
17 - 19 June 2011
Adult Twinning Weekend
2 - 6 June 2011
Wednesday 18 May 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
Dragon Boat Races
Sunday 15 May 2011 - River Thames
The annual dragon boat races drew the crowds to the river. ADTTS was present promoting interest in twinning with a stand organised by Anne & Peter Dodd.
Monday 9 May 2011 - Kitsons Restaurant
Forty-seven members celebrated Europe Day with dinner together at a local restaurant.
Argentan Quasimodo Fair
30 April - 1 May 2011
Wednesday 20 April 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
Colmar School Visit
Friday 15 April 2011
A coach party, led by Madame Murfitt, of fifty pupils and four teachers from the secondary school College St Andre in Colmar visited Abingdon. Members of ADTTS took groups of them for a tour of the town and river in the morning, a civic reception at lunchtime (in the Long Gallery) and a visit to White Horse Hill in the afternoon.
On the following day they looked round Oxford and went to the Cathedral for Evensong.
Madame Murfitt writes:
Thank you for everything you did for us while we were in Abingdon. The kids were very appreciative. Here is my report.
A French Party of 50 pupils accompanied by 4 teachers: Mesdames Mottin and Murfitt, Messieurs Faller and Tansley, went to Abingdon for three nights. The Twinning Association led by Mrs Stella Carter, the excellent organiser, Mr John Smith and their team welcomed them there. After a one hour and a half tour of Abingdon, 4 groups of 15 pupils were shown around the town and its surroundings by some efficient and erudite members of the twinning association giving all the necessary information about the foundation of the Benedictine Abbey, walking alongside the Thames and its lock, waiting on 50 pupils and teachers with drinks and hot cross buns.
This tour was followed by a warm reception where the young Mayor and madam Chairman of the Vale of the White Horse were present. They were presented with a book on Alsatian head-dresses by Mrs Murfitt, on behalf of M Gilbert Meyer, mayor of Colmar. The French pupils and teachers enjoyed the drinks and buns very much, sitting behind the remains of the Benedictine Abbey, near the river, in beautiful spring sunshine. Then the party proceeded to visit the 3,000 years old prehistoric horse, on Uffington Hill. Although the weather was cloudy, everybody enjoyed themselves, climbing hills, playing football or leapfrog on the green hills.
The next day, they spent the day in Oxford and the day ended in the attendance of a magnificent Evensong sung by the Royal School of Music at Christchurch Cathedral.
Finally they came back to France, very pleased with all that they had seen, shared and experience, and expressed their thanks to Mrs Carter, Mr John Smith and their team for having organised the stay so well.
Saturday 9 April 2011 - Abingdon Market Place
Thursday 7 April 2011 - Abingdon College, Northcourt Road
At the annual joint meeting, ADTTS members joined the local film society for a showing of "The Singer" (in French with English subtitles). Originally released as "Quand j'étais chanteur" in 2006, it stared Gérard Depardieu as a provincial dance hall singer in a subtle, always engaging, love story. See flyer (pdf). This was followed by a convivial cheese and wine party.
Colmar School Visit
Thursday 31 March 2011
A group, led by Catherine Schultz, of forty-eight school children (aged 14-15) and their teachers from College Pfeffel in Colmar visited Abingdon. Members of ADTTS took five groups of them on guided tours of the town. Then at lunch time they were greeted by the Mayor and the Chair of the Vale in the Long Gallery and enjoyed a picnic lunch with hot cross buns.
Evening Meeting - Abingdon History
Wednesday 16 March 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
Instead of featuring one of our twin towns, this evening meeting gave us an opportunity to learn more about the history of our own town. Jackie Smith, Honorary Archivist to Abingdon Town Council and to Christ's Hospital of Abingdon, shared her expert knowledge in an interesting overview of local history.
After answering questions from the large and appreciative audience, Jackie joined us in refreshments with a local theme: Abingdon Bridge beer, local mead and apple juice, with cheese and biscuits, plus the popular gooseberry tarts as mentioned (obliquely) in the diary of Samuel Pepys on his visit here in 1668.
Jackie kindly gave our members a most interesting talk on 16th March, together with slides. We all learned a great deal about our town and in many instances most of us were hearing facts not previously known.
It is thought that Abingdon became a settlement due to the confluence of the Thames and the Ock, thereby providing fertile ground for farming. It was also a garrison town during the Civil War, the King at that time holding his Court in Oxford.
Abingdon is thought to be the oldest town in England and at one time was the County town of Berkshire, hence the County Hall in the town. Christ’s Hospital Foundation was a major benefactor in the town and many of the older buildings owe their existence to this charity.
The evening concluded with some local produce; apple juice and mead. Double Gloucester and ewes cheeses and gooseberry tart – all very welcome. Many thanks go to the committee for producing, as always, such tasty food.
Community Shop Week
28 February - 5 March 2011 - Abingdon Town Centre
Evening Meeting - Lucca
Wednesday 16 February 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
A packed meeting of the Society enjoyed an evening devoted to our twin town of Lucca in Tuscany, from where we welcomed two old friends as our guest speakers.
For the February meeting we had two welcome guests from Lucca, Maria Curto and Omar Coloru, who presented different aspects of their home Tuscan town in a very interesting manner. Omar showed the depth of nineteenth century immigration by the Luccese from Lucca to far flung parts of the world; this was mainly to the United States (both east and west coasts) and particularly to New York while Brazil and Argentina also featured strongly. He also had pictures of how the Italian immigrants were, literally, packed to the gunwales aboard the SS Dante Alighieri that regularly sailed from Pisa across the Atlantic carrying poor immigrants to a new life. The current President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, a supermarket tycoon, is the son of Italian immigrants from Lucca.
Closer to home, Omar also mentioned Saffron Hill, or ‘Little Italy’, a nineteenth century street in Camden packed with Italian immigrants. According to Wikipedia, in 1850 it was described as a squalid neighbourhood, the home of paupers and thieves while Fagin’s den (Oliver Twist) was the southern extension of Saffron Hill. The Italian diaspora (migration of people from their homeland) between 1874-1900 and 1905-1915 doubled in size. Their love for Italy and their home town brings immigrants back each year for the 13th September Luminara celebrations.
Of Lucca itself, Maria, a certified guide for the town, described the early industry where hundreds of small industrial units toiled to make Lucca a rich industrial town and where the production of domestic paper was a major item. Earlier, between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, silk and velvet weaving for robes made the town the first in Europe for such articles. Later, olive oil, pasta, ladies boots and hand-rolled Tuscan cigars were some of the many items produced leading to the creation of many banks. Rich immigrants returned home to build large houses outside of the town walls to flaunt their wealth.
Maria spoke of the five kilometre long aqueduct that collected water from the many small streams in the area and supplied the twenty-five fountains in the town; the Festival gardens that are now open, and the grand show of camellias. The oldest small theatre in the world is found in Veciano, some fifteen kilometres from the town, having ninety-nine seats; to get to the balcony one must go outside to climb up! The building was once a barn but now has silk decorations around the interior walls.
DIARY OF A JOURNEY: Lucca – Abingdon – Lucca: February 2011
Well, well, well, this was quite an occasion that I wouldn’t want to miss.
Seeing again all those that had come to Lucca last September for the Luminara, saying hello to those that had not come and meeting new friends was absolutely an excellent reason to organize a trip on a cold, windy and rainy season, for which no sensible Italian would ever move from his home.
But I’m not that “sensible”, nor that “Italian” and so here I was, the day before my departure, packing my tiny luggage after a severe selection of nearly nothing to bring with me, that Ryan air was forcing me to do.
The trip to London Stansted had only 4 hours delay! This did not keep me from joining Omar at Luton airport on due time heading for Oxford via bus.
Finally at 3:00 pm we arrived and Saint Michael rescued us, bringing us quickly at home to serve us a wonderful afternoon tea with thousands of calories hidden in some French fancy cakes.
Luckily the day before I had been at the swimming pool for 2 hours!
Dinner was magnificently served at Madonna Stella’s house, who was also my host for all my stay at Abingdon.
I must say that for chance or not, during the whole period, I ate always English food and dishes and everything was simply delicious!
I want to high light this thing against all the malicious rumours that say in England you do not eat well or that there is not a national cuisine. False! Probably for some people it is too fat, but my God, it only happens to go to UK some times during one’s life and not certainly every day.
I must say that the Italian Evening was fantastic.
People started to arrive at 8:00 pm sharp, relaxed and in good mood.
They listened attentively to both Omar and me. Nobody ever stood up to go to drink or somewhere else. I love the English for this! I was quite nervous and was grateful that there were people smiling at me while I was speaking.
There were two other experiences that made my stay even more interesting.
A morning at Court is one.
Stella Carter gave us this unusual opportunity showing us how the judicial system works in Britain.
Six cases debated in 90 minutes, I will have to tell some lawyer and some magistrate of ours about this. I will do even better; I will stay a morning in an Italian court and see what happens!
A second morning was organized: following Carol Davis on her Friday tour to the supermarket with 10 old people needing to be taken. Appointment after an hour at the cafeteria of the supermarket for a tea and some gossip. We all had fun on the minibus back at home.
This makes me think how small gestures may change a day to a person.
Well, I wish to thank first of all Stella and Howard Carter, Michael Matthews, Rosemary and Ian Jardine, Stan Ponting, Carol and John Davis for dedicating their time to Omar and I.
They made my brief holiday special and passed me lots of positive thoughts and ideas to realize.
What can I say more? I have plenty to talk about at our next twinning meeting at Lucca.
I hope to see lots of Abingdon friends coming here very soon and if not I will keep in touch with most of them.
GOD BLESS THE QUEEN…and the ADTTS!
Maria's preamble is valid for me too, so please forgive my mistakes. :-)
Every time I come to Abingdon it is just like if I were home. Being offered a cup of tea and pastries while strolling in a quiet street... it happens only in Abingdon. Abingdon is where I find my old friends and every time I find new ones.
Since many years I have been visiting the oldest town in England, but that was the first time I was invited for giving a "speech" at the Italian evening together with Maria. On 15th February I left Paris, where I live at the moment, in a cold and windy morning and met Maria at Luton airport in a cold and rainy afternoon, but we did not mind because rain is a distinguishing symbol of the UK, like the Queen, the Big Ben or the Beatles and any tourist would be disappointed if he could not experience it.
We spent our first afternoon in Abingdon having a good chat and a typical British tea with pastries in the cosy living room of my friend and host Michael Matthews. In the evening we were guests of Stella Carter who prepared us a wonderful dinner where British and Oriental flavours mixed harmoniously together. To sum up, one of the best dinner (I think Maria agrees) we have ever had.
We are grateful to Stella also for giving us the opportunity of assisting to 6 hearings at Didcot's Law Court. That was indeed an interesting experience which not only provided us with a close insight of the British legal system, but it also offered a vivid portrait of the society and its problems as well.
The Italian Evening exceeded our own expectations. The atmosphere was warm and friendly. It was such a pleasure to see how many people were interested in Italy, its culture and its wine as well! The audience was very attentive and both Maria and I were very pleased to being asked so many questions about Lucca.
Unluckily I had to leave the day after, however in the morning I could still enjoy a guided tour of Oxford with Stan Ponting, our "Cicerone" (I will let you guess the meaning).
I wish to thank Michael Matthews, Stella and Howard Carter, Stan Ponting, Rosemary and Ian Jardine, and all the other friends of the ADTTS for making every my visit to Abingdon a special one.
Evening Meeting - Twin Towns Quiz with tasting rounds
Wednesday 19 January 2011 - Preston Road Community Centre
Peter Dodd offered us a different type of social evening. Assisted by the delightful Samantha, our host Peter treated us to novel quiz questions, all with a twin towns theme. The programme included tasting rounds - inviting the teams to identify the appropriate twin town for an anonymous selection of different beers, wines, biscuits and cheeses. We enjoyed a fun evening of light-hearted (and possibly educational) challenges.