Saturday 18 May 2013


Hungarian, Hungarian, French, Hungarian, French, Hungarian, British
Most Somerset towns are twinned with French  partner towns in nearby Normandy. Just pop across the channel and you're there. Not Bridgwater though. Oh no, we're twinned with a town in the South of France. Having said that, La Ciotat is just as easy, if not easier , to get to as any Norman twinning and , in fact, far more rewarding. While you're packing your car , driving to a Channel port, booking a ferry and driving off the other side, you can be popping up to Bristol airport, flying over to Marseilles or Nice and within 4-5 hours you'll be as much in La Ciotat as you would have been in Caen, Rouen or Bayeux. And it's sunnier.

La Ciotat was Bridgwater's first twinning. 1957 in fact. In recent years we've taken footballers and choir singers over there with the help of their Council and it's long established 'jumelage' committee. Lately, we've been trying to push the idea of 'triangulation', whereby Bridgwater has several twin towns, and our twin towns also have several twin towns, so why not introduce them all to each other. It can only be good for tourism, international friendship and economic development.

'a pretty balanced delegation'

Eszther on the Quayside in La Ciotat
So that's why in May 2013 we took across a group of people from Hungary. Zsolt Nemeth, a local councillor from Sarvar, his daughter Eszther, 'teacher of the year' Beata Kovacs,  from the Sebestien Tinodi High school and her daughter the lawyer Orsolya, seemed like a pretty balanced delegation.

Flying in to Nice from Vienna, it was less than 2 hours down the sunny coastal autoroute past Cannes and St Tropez to La Ciotat where gorgeous weather reigned supreme. The best hotel for us these days is the Croix De Malte, a delightful family run place that holds up to 70 people and a stones throw from the seafront in the centre of the town.  


Croix de Malte does great meals and we invited some friends from the local Partie Socialiste
Jean Louis and Zsolt share a toast
to join us to discuss current affairs and internationalism. And of course to make new friendships. Jean Louis LeSavre has been to Bridgwater many times and first came here in the early days of the twinning. "I don't speak English" he insisted. And then continued to speak near perfect English for the next 3 days.  Said Zenafi , known as 'the Capitaine' apparently because he owned a boat slightly bigger than himself, is the Chairman of the PS in La Ciotat and Laurent Karouby, a special needs teacher, the director of Communications, made up the host delegation who looked after us so well for our stay.

On Monday morning  we had a tour of the 'Route des Cretes', a spectacular cliff top road between La Ciotat and Cassis - temporarily closed due to the potentially incendiary nature of the flammable sagebrush  and high winds (le mistral was just dying down). But our buddies knew a different route and so we came at it from the Cassis direction first. From atop the cliffs - some of the highest in Europe, you can see azure seas as far as the eye can squint and tranquil bays either side of the massif.

Making Education links

Seeking out further helpful links we visited the newly established FRENGS language school, run by  Anglophiles Sebastien Lombardo and Gregory , who had met in Bournemouth and although not natives of La Ciotat, had moved there to set up their school. They helped us out for the afternoon with a guided tour of the city. They were particularly interested in our plans to take Media students to la Ciotat. After all, the first ever moving images were filmed in the town - the Lumiere brothers 'train entering a station' was filmed at la Ciotat station. Sebastian informed us of his own connection to the momentous event - "The railway lines came from St Etienne - and so do I!".

Their student Joelly was keen to practice her English on us and whisked away the Nemeths for a drive around the bay to Bandol and St Cyr Sur Mer, giving them a personalised tour.

'Keeping up Civic appearances'

Afterwards, it was time to meet some 'civics'. So it was off to the Town Hall where head of
Patzlaff and LeSavre-strong supporters of 'le Jumelage'
International Links Guy Patzlaff was waiting for us . He was very happy to welcome groups from any nation, and pointed Mr Nemeth in the direction of the Marseilles Chamber of Commerce in order to develop some of his ideas for business co-operation  between France and Hungary. With the involvement of our friends from Frengs, plus Mr LeSavre and Mr Patzlaff we had a general discussion about future link projects between our communities.

And so it was time for some Moules.  You can't visit France without trying some moules-frites. Mussels and chips. Yum yum i say.  Though maybe twice in a day is a bad plan. 

Vive les Moules-Frites

Zsolt & Said , while Francois Hollande looks on
On our last day we were invited by our PS friends for a little drink in their office to celebrate Europe , multi-culturalisme , le jumelage and to discuss the challenges ahead for us all. In Hungary they have neo-Nazis in uniform holding anti Jewish demonstrations openly on the streets of Budapest and in Britain we have the Europhobic neanderthals of UKIP  seeking to bring back smoke-filled pubs, put gay people back in closets and make sure migrant workers feel unwelcome, wreaking havoc in the polling booths and web forums. So any message that suggests that might be a slight step backward has to be a good thing. So we all drank to that.

Our informal visit had been a success, we had made some new contacts, spread a little international co-operation, contributed to the local economy and hadn't got drenched by the unseasonal rain. Until the last day in Nice...

No comments:

Post a Comment