Overton visits La Murette 2011
This year just 9 of us made the journey to Overton’s twinned village of La Murette in South East France. If our French friends were disappointed that there were not more of us they were too polite to say and the huge welcome we got was big enough to have covered the whole village.
On arrival we’re always greeted by lots of friendly and excited people, some we’re meeting for the first time, most are old friends and we’ve known for 17 years. For every one of us though, it’s like staying with family or close friends. There’s lots of the inevitable hugs and kisses although most men make do with a hand-shake! Absent friends are asked after and the usual embarrassing remarks are made about how tall the young people have got since we last saw them. This year there was an extra hope that we had brought the sun with us from North Wales! Yes, rather amazingly, considering the village is just 3 hours from the Mediterranean, July this year had been very wet and the grass was a nice Welsh green to prove it! And though the week was maybe not as hot as usual, on the Thursday, the unaccustomed 35C degree heat had us all in a state of near collapse.
After the friendships, for many of us the food is often a highlight. Figs, peppers, grapes, aubergines grow abundantly in people’s gardens and were generously shared. The sausage made by Andre, a retired butcher, from pork raised on his sister’s farm was delicious. Andre and his wife Solange stayed down the Cloy several years ago and are very fond of Overton. Sausages were on the menu again when we went on a tour of a mixed organic farm, though this time they had been cooked on a bed of fruit in a still, something more usually used to distil alcohol! The still looked dilapidated but the farmer Jacques assured us that it was in fine working order and continued to be used regularly to convert much of the harvest of cherries, pears and peaches grown on the farm into delicious drinks, not just alcoholic either. Jacques and his dad forced us to taste them all and just to be polite we obliged. At the biggest Exotic Bird Park in Europe we had the extraordinary experience of having parrots, pelicans, vultures, cranes and other unusual birds flap and fly at high speed rather alarmingly just over our heads. A unique experience for us all. These birds are specially trained to respond to commands, lured by promises of tasty morsels. As well as providing a great destination for a day out, the park is also an important research and breeding facility.
At the International Shoe Museum in the town of Romans on the Isere River, we saw shoes from across the ages and our guide told us about the problems early shoemakers had trying to develop a heel which would allow the wearer to walk without falling over! We saw many designer shoes from the 50s and 60s and, from a much earlier time, thigh boots which doubled as handy (or leggy) places to stash an emergency supply of brandy. Later, at a local museum in a former monastery, we sniffed the essential oils of plants, learnt about the region’s flowers and had a short talk about the history of the area. After dinner we made our way into the chapel where we were entertained by small band of very talented international musicians.
It rained cats and dogs on the Friday night and it looked like our day lounging in the sun by the lake was in jeopardy but the luck of the Welsh was with us and the sun was peeping through as we piled into the minibuses on Saturday morning. At Charavines we laid our rugs and paraphernalia under the trees by the lakeshore. Some of us had a swim, most of us splashed our way in canoes across the lake and all of us helped the birthday boy celebrate with champagne and delicious cake thoughtfully provided by our hosts. When it comes to eating and drinking no one beats the French. That evening, the Mayor, Raymond, attended our soiree and his speech reinforced his Council’s commitment to the Twinning between our two villages.
We had a great week and yet again a wonderful programme had been laid on for us. We look forward to welcoming our French partners to La Murette next year for another enjoyable visit. Usually around 25 French come over. If you fancy playing an active role in proceedings do come along to our get-togethers in the White Horse or to our events throughout the year. See the Oracle and the Overton website or the Twinning website for details.