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Column 2nd August 2017

With Brexit looming, a twinning trip to France was called for

I’ve recently been to Mably as part of the Twinning visit.

Mably is a small community in the middle of France on the Loire about half way between Vichy and Macon and about 80km north of Saint Étienne.

I hadn’t realised how far the Loire goes – at about 1000km it’s the longest river in France and is already quite wide when it reaches Mably. Because of the uneven flow rate a number of dams have been built to regulate the flow. These are also used to create electricity.

We spent a week staying with host families and visiting some of the sights in the area. It’s a great way to learn a little more French and about the way that the French live.

We were greeted by the Councillor responsible for Cultural Affairs in Mably and had a reception in their new Town Hall where the Mayor and some more of his Councillors welcomed us to Mably.

He explained a little about the plans for the future and the strong emphasis on sustainable development in the community with a focus on the preservation of biodiversity, protection of the community, its people and all of the resources in the area.

We visited a local winery and saw how they make sparkling wine by hand.

We learnt how to play Petanque (french version of Bowls) and saw the towering dams of local reservoirs blocking some of the valleys in the hills around Mably.

We visited Le Puy en Velay (the home of Puy lentils and a very striking Cathedral) and learned how herbs are distilled to make sweets, syrups, liqueurs and perfumes in the local area.

We explored some interesting Corbusier architecture near Saint Étienne including an apartment block where the school and shops are part of the block.

We learned how local cheeses are produced and explored a local market in Charlieu while listening to music being played on the bells of the local church.

In theory, you could do all of these things on any tour or holiday to France, but taking these visits with local families and sharing their lives for a week makes it much more personal.

Many of the families who take part in the twinning have become firm friends over the years and have learnt a great deal about how each other’s communities live.

With Brexit getting closer every day learning about our fellow Europeans will become even more important.


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