11th - 14th May - Visit to our Twinned Club - Paray le Monial
Thirteen adventurers set off to visit Paray le Monial. Ray and Joan, Derek and Sue went by car and the other nine decided to go by train. After an early start we were soon boarding the 9:30 Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord arriving just after 12 noon. This gave us an hour to cross to Gare de Lyon. How best to do this was a a matter of some debate. Kash, his daughter Shefali and Karen went for a taxi whilst Martin, Jo, Lyn, Jonathan, John, and I opted for the Metro having bought tickets on the train. The Metro group arrived with plenty of time to spare. Meanwhile Kash’s party found themselves in a long queue for the taxi (his theory that it would be quiet as everyone would be at lunch didn’t hold out). We’re told they had to jump the queue to find a taxi amid protests from those ahead of them. They made the train with 5 minutes to spare. We all arrived safely at Le Creusot TGV station just after 3pm where our hosts were waiting for us. There were many familiar faces and some new ones. Thursday afternoon was spent with our hosts. The weather we very changeable, beautiful sunshine interspersed with black clouds and heavy rain. Lyn, Jonathan, John, and I were staying with Jean-Francois and his wife Genevieve. He had been a member of Paray Rotary for 6 years, but it was their first involvement with the twinning. We sat outside their beautiful country home having tea and cake. It was so hot that Genevieve provided us with sun hats. Thursday evening meals were spent with hosts and other Paray Rotarians. As is usual, those not having guests to stay provided an evening meal. We all ate and drank well. On Friday morning we all met up at Le Marche au Cadran de Saint Christophe en Brionnais. This is the market where the Charolais cattle are sold. There’s a market on Wednesday where approx. 1000 cattle are sold every week. We had a fantastic guide who explained the history of the market and how it was run, including how the bidding took place. As we finished our tour there was the compulsory tasting of the meat. Charolais beef was grilled and served for us to try along with wine of course. Delicious! No sooner had we finished when we were whisked off to lunch at La Belle Epoque á la Clayette. We had a room to ourselves in this quirky restaurant. After an aperitif we were treated to cheese, charcuterie, and bread for starters. As we ate this, we were asked how we liked our steak which came with salad and French fries. Just when you felt you couldn’t eat anymore dessert arrived. One of the biggest chocolate éclairs I’ve seen, filled with chocolate ganache, and served with cream and ice cream. After coffee we left for Château de Digoine. The rain was heavy now, so we were pleased our tour took us inside. We learnt about the history of the château and the people who’d lived there. The château even had its own beautiful little theatre. After our visit we went back to get ready for Friday night’s meal with different hosts. Again, we had an entertaining evening with plenty more food and wine. Saturday morning was spent with hosts. We went to a local goat’s cheese maker and bought some cheese. We then went to a mill where the owner makes quirky objects from wood, metal, old tools etc. After this we visited four Romanesque churches in local villages. Our host, Jean-Francois, was a retired architect specialising in restoring old buildings so was very knowledgeable and explained each style of building very clearly. Saturday lunch was with our hosts, in our case a four-course lunch with wine, before going to Sandrine and Fred’s house for the Ashes. The rain was heavy again, but we had a great variety of indoor games to play in the cavernous games room downstairs: cards, mini-pool, mini-table tennis, basketball, table football to name a few. There was a table upstairs heaving with cakes and patisseries for refreshment just in case we were hungry…. Saturday evening was our gala dinner at the Quarré de Verneuil à Paray le Monial. We were treated to Champagne on arrival, a three- course meal, and the speeches. Derek made a brave effort with his French and Sue gave a confident reading of a note from Peter Mitton. Peter and Barbara were much missed but always in everyone’s thoughts. Daniel Berland played the two National Anthems on his saxophone. Mark, Paray’s president gave a good speech and Jerome acted as interpreter a job he did brilliantly. After the Ashes were surprisingly awarded to Royston (Derek don’t lose them!) Khalid started some music. Before long there was a disco going on with many people dancing (all songs were English). A great night was had by all. Sunday was an early start. We had brunch at the home of Emmanuel and Edwige Buchet. The spread of food was amazing, croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche de praline, quiches, meats, cheese etc. After the normal compulsory kissing we left at 9:30 to be taken back to the station. The sun was finally shining as we left le Creusot. Unfortunately, half an hour 8into that journey we received a text saying that pour Eurostar was cancelled. I could write at length about what happened next. Our saving grace was having Pallavi (Kash’s other daughter) to help. She had come to Paris to meet Kash and Shefali and helped them get on the next train she stayed with us as we had lunch in a café opposite the Gare du Nord and accompanied us to Notre Dame where we wiled away some hours. Fast forward to Gare du Nord in the evening. We finally got on the last train which then didn’t leave until 10:15pm. The train went slowly at times, and it was touch and go whether we’d make the last train out of King’s Cross. Eventually we were so delayed that we had no way of getting back until it was announced that taxis would be provided. Fast forward again and we ended up with Jonathan, Lyn, and Karin in one taxi and Jo and Martin, John and I in another together with a young lady going to Cambridge and another going to North London. John and I finally arrived home at 3am exhausted and we went away to Dorset that morning! The train debacle was a frustrating end to our trip but didn’t detract from the wonderful few days we’d had in Paray. The hospitality and friendship of the Rotarians and their partners is exceptional. We are so lucky to have our twinning arrangement and we look forward to hosting our friends from Paray next year. Words by Clarice. To see photographs of the visit (in random order) click here
President: Peter Mitton
Club of Royston
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