Club of Royston,Herts, UK
President: David Blundell
23rd to 26th May - Visit to Paray le Monial
Boats   and   planes   and   trains   -   and   indeed   cars   –   were   the   various   ways   in   which   14   intrepid   Royston   Rotarians   and   partners/daughter travelled   to   the   41st   get   together   with   our   now   well   established   friends   in   Paray   Le   Monial.      Apart   from   a   few   fraught   moments (nearly missing trains and - fortunately - just missing a rather large lorry) the journeys seem to have gone well. Once   there   and   after   a   short   rest   we   started   the   usual   ritual   of   eating,   and   eating,   and   eating,   and   late   nights.      At   various   very   large and   beautiful   houses,   which   if   transferred   to   Royston   would   be   spectacularly   expensive,   we   were   treated   in   separate   groups   to   some wonderful   appetisers   followed   by   lovely   meals.      Amongst   much   broken   French   and   English,   jolly   conversations   were   held   with   only   a few mentions of the B word. The   next   day,   just   about   managing   to   fit   in   some   sleep   before   an   early   start,   we   were   off   to   Beaune   for various   attractions,   starting   at   a   cooperage.      Now   if   you   thought,   as   I   suspect   that   many   of   us   did,   that making   barrels   wouldn’t   necessarily   turn   into   a   barrel   of   fun,   then   we   couldn’t   have   been   more   wrong.      Our guide   (the   business   owner)   spoke   superb   English   and   was   audible   (mostly),   despite   the   loud   hammering   that is   an   integral   part   of   cooperage,   and   really   fascinating.      We   were   taken   through   the   whole   process   starting with   the   250   year   old   oak   woods   that   were   originally   planted   to   supply   warships   but   which,   because   of   the advent   of   metal   ships,   became   an   excellent   raw   material   for   barrels.      The   trees   are   carefully   grown   to   meet the    specifications    required    to    produce    the    best    barrels.        The    manufacturing    process    is    highly    labour intensive   but   with   hints   of   automation,   including   lasers   burning   customised   information   and   patterns   into the lids.  At 700 Euros per barrel they are only used in the production of top end wine.                                                                             From   here   we   went   off   to,   inevitably,   eat   again,   followed   by   a   tour   of   the   beautiful   Hospice   built   in   1443   by   Nicolas   Rolin,   the   very enlightened   and   philanthropic   Chancellor   of   Burgundy,   although   there   was   an   element   of   booking   his   place   in   heaven.      The   roof   of part   of   the   hospice   consisted   of   beautifully   coloured   and   patterned   tiles,   but   the   star   was   actually   the   uniformly   grey   slate   tiled   roof.     While   everyday   roofing   material   nowadays,   apparently   slate   tiles   were   ridiculously   expensive   in   the   15th   century   and   hence   a statement of enormous wealth.                 The   trip   was   finished   with   a   visit   to   a   vineyard   where   most   descended   into   the   basement   and   subsequently   from   where   the   sounds   of slurping   of   wine   emanated.      As   we   boarded   the   coach,   a   few   unsteadily,   a   substantial   number   of   boxes   of   wine   appeared   and   were placed in the luggage hold, suggesting that our hosts had taken full advantage of the visit. Back   to   our   hosts   for   a   rapid   change   of   clothes   before   departing   to   yet   more   wonderful   houses   for   large   quantities   of   food   and broken   but   fun   conversations.      With   many   of   us   not   getting   home   until   the   early   hours,   luckily   Saturday   we   were   allowed   a   slightly longer   sleep   in   before   some   of   us   visited   the   museum   in   Paray   Le   Monial.      One   thing   that   is   really   striking   is   that   P-le-M   is   of   similar population   to   Royston   but   has   a   wonderful   shopping   centre   with   lovely   looking   shops   and   hardly   a   sign   of   a   chain   shop.      Who   is   the nation   of   shopkeepers   now   one   wonders?      Also   the   museum   was   splendid,   a   wonderful   building   with   some   stunning   exhibits.      Helped by   an   English   guide   we   were   treated   to   full   explanations   of   his   5   chosen   best   pieces,   the   highlight   of   which   was   a   truly   spectacular marble   sculpture,   modelled   by   Joseph   Chaumet   at   the   very   beginning   of   the   20th   century.      It   tells   the   story   of   the   life   of   Jesus   and   I would   defy   anybody,   religious   or   not,   not   to   appreciate   this   incredible   artefact.      Were   there   a   ‘7   wonders   of   the   sculpture   world’   then this   would   surely   be   amongst   them.      You   will   not   be   surprised   to   hear   that   we   then   had   lunch!      Those   who   chose   the   light   salad option were presented with enough food to feed a cow for several days. The    afternoon    inevitably    featured    the    famous    ashes.        This consisted   largely   of   10   pin   bowling   where   it   was   surprising   that the   alleys   still   functioned   after   our   attack   upon   them.      Some launched    the    bowls    high    into    the    air    to    land    with    earth shuddering   bangs,   while   one   who   shall   remain   nameless,   Mr President,   managed   to   bowl   over   the   partition   into   the   next   lane and   then   nicked   some   goes   from   a   fellow   bowler.      Also   there was   table   football   and   a   kind   of   shove   football.      The   latter   was hilarious,   fast   and   furious   and   in   which   Ray   managed   to   score about   11   goals   and,   most   being   in   the   wrong   end,   still   lose   11-2 to   Kash.      On   the   billiard   table   Chris   Richmond   didn’t   quite   get   the hang of the technique and the green baize looked alarmingly at risk at times.                                After   the   games   many,   particularly   those   who   took   part   in   the   shove   football,   needed   showers   before   the   evening   dinner.      Here   we were   honoured   with   some   very   nice   food   and   the   usual   speeches.      Already   aware   that   Pallavi   was   a   fluent   speaker   of   French   she   now came   into   her   own   by   keeping   those   monolinguistic   English   visitors   informed   of   what   was   going   on.      President   David’s   speech   was delivered   in   what   sounded   like   excellent   French   and   accent,   and   was   extremely   well   received   by   our   French   hosts.      We   look   forward   to reading   the   English   version   in   the   Rotarian.      Gifts   were   exchanged,   including   a   Cambridge   scarf   and   mortar   board   from   us   and scarves   of   the   local   football   team   to   us.      Also   Paray   presented   us   with   a   replacement   for   the   lovely   40th   twinning   anniversary   glass plaque   that   was   unfortunately   broken   during   their   journey   to   us   last   year.      The   results   of   the   ashes   were   then   revealed   and   to   our intense   surprise(!)   we   triumphed   by   a   score   of   8   hundred   and   something   points   to   7   hundred   and   something,   thereby   alleviating   the trauma of the Eurovision song contest.                Sadly   the   next   morning   we   had   to   leave   on   our   boats   and   planes   etc   (well   actually   no   boats   on   the   return   journey)   but   only   after   a spontaneously    organised    breakfast    at    Khalid    and    Samira’s    maison    where    an    amazing    spread    of    bread,    croissants    and    cakes materialised.      Our   hosts   were,   as   usual,   incredibly   generous   and   friendly,   putting   on   a   great   programme   which   everybody   thoroughly enjoyed. To see the (English) text of President David’s speech, click here. Words and pictures by Ray Munden,  To see all the photos of the visit click here.
Hammering a unique serial no. into the barrel
The pretty coloured tiles, superior to the modern type
The slate tiles indicative of 15th century wealth
More food!
John about to launch  the bowl
The intensity of the table football
President David with his well-received speech
President Gerald with his Cambridge scarf & mortar board
The 40th anniversary plaque is presented
The group photo