Travelling in cars we left early on the Friday morning enabling us to stop en route at the Abbey and Gardens of Valloire. The gardens are a wonderful display of plants and shrubs and we were pleased to find so much to view in Septembe, enhanced by glorious weather, and I recommend a visit.
Our pleasant journey continued, with time for a quick shop at the MSA Carrefour, before our rendezvous and dispersal to the homes of our French hosts with whom we were to stay our two nights.
The Saturday event was a visit to the city of Le Havre. Travel there was by a coach shared by the large group from both Twinning Associations.
We were aware that the town and port had been devastated by allied bombing after German occupation in the 2nd World War. However it became obvious that it had been completely rebuilt in a futuristic and original style which had been organised in the 1950’s by a group of architects led by the famous Auguste Perret, transforming the town centrefrom rubble to homes and offices.
And it was done entirely in concrete! Knowing how this material, fashionable in the 50’s and 60’s, has not aged well in the UK it was a surprise to see how good it still appears in Le Havre.
The urgent need for homes to be built to a decent standard, with reasonable interior space, but with little money and resources available at the time, resulted in using this material in various finishes made to a particular size. Every structure was based around a measurement of 6.24 metres and largely the buildings, including columns and beautifully adorned details in the concrete structures, were prefabricated on the outskirts of the town.
This was revealed when we were taken on a two hour walking tour of the centre of the town by an English speaking guide and included a view of the show apartment, now a museum and filled with furnishings of the time.
The public buildings continue the style but at no great height and laid out with tree lined roads between to give a wonderful sense of space.
Not to be missed, should you find yourself with time in Le Havre, is a visit inside the church of St. Joseph’s. Outside something akin to Gotham city but on entry the centre and lantern tower glow with 12,788 pieces of coloured glass and have been well described as a spiritual lighthouse.
In fact the town centre is the first mid 20th century urban settlement in Europe to be included in the World Heritage List and, although not to everyone’s taste, by understanding the thoughts behind the design it can be better appreciated.
After an excellent restaurant lunch the afternoon was spent at the Museum of Modern Art, which houses the largest collection of impressionist painting in France outside Paris. Our time there coincided with a special collection of paintings by Eugene Boudin on show to enjoy. There was even enough time to wander along the nearby seafront to view the boats in the harbour and enjoy the weather which our weekend was favoured before returning to Mont St. Aignan and our evening with our hosts.
On the Sunday morning some French hosts took their guests down into Rouen, others walked around MSA and a few to the local church before all met for refreshments together to say a fond farewell and thanks for a wonderful stay.
Having a few hours to spare we interrupted out return journey with a stop at the walled town of Montreuil-sur-Mer which, though not near the sea, overlooks the Canche marshes and has spectacular views. Visiting the Citadel we found an interesting display about its time during the 1st World War when it housed the communications centre of the British Army and was General Haig’s headquarters during the Battle of the Somme.
After a restorative stop at a café it was back to the cars and on to Calais for our ferry home where all agreed to having spent a very enjoyable weekend with our French counterparts.
News of our 2012 activities will be available soon so why not join us at the AGM and Social Evening at Bridges, Wednesday 24th November at 8pm to find out more or phone either the Chairman, Peter Stevens on 01732 865634. or myself, Jean Cust 01342 850249. Photos and other information can also be found on the website: www.edta.org.uk