The party boarded the Glen Valley Tours bus outside the Besom on Friday night. The group were in high spirits for the first leg of the journey with refreshments flowing freely. We were entertained with a game of bingo, organised by Johnny Fulton, for the high stakes of a pound a book. Prizes were a pound for a line, three pounds for a full house.
We boarded the ferry at Dover early on Saturday morning; then back onto the bus at Calais for the four hour drive to Bennecourt. Johnny organised a quiz to test our knowledge of France for this leg of the journey, which was won by Rannock Daly.
We arrived in Bennecourt in the early afternoon and were introduced to our hosts. After a couple of hours rest, the Pipe Band were on parade to celebrate twenty years of twinning between Coldstream and Bennecourt. We were joined on the parade by a small party of Coldstream Guards, members of the local Fire Brigade, a detachment of the Garde Republicaine (now a unit of the French police but formerly part of the French army under Napoleon and therefore adversaries of the Coldstream Guards), loads of old Rolls Royce cars and Twinning enthusiasts from Bennecourt and Coldstream.
After the parade we had a quick rehearsal with the Philharmonie de Vernon before being fed in the village hall. Then, along to the football pitch where the Coldstream Guards and the Garde Republicaine were on parade and music was provided by the Philharmonie de Vernon and the Pipe Band, culminating in a spectacular joint rendition of Highland Cathedral. So popular that we had to do an encore (again, again was the call from the French!!). We finished about 11pm on Saturday night, approximately 28 hours after leaving the Besom, pleased that Sunday was a free day.
On Monday we visited the Benedictine Palace at Fecamp and sampled the famous licquer made at the Palace. The afternoon was spent at the seaside town of Etretat on the Normandy coast.
We went to St Germaine en Laye near Paris on the Tuesday for the shopping and expensive beer. The Band played outside the town hall in St Germaine that evening for some local VIP's. We then watched the Bastille Day fireworks at the castle.
Heavy rain on Wednesday morning could have cancelled the international football match between Scotland and France.We were, however, all disappointed to find out that the match would go ahead after all. Representing France was the Bennecourt second XI. Representing Coldstream were a group of overweight middle aged men supplemented with a Coldstream Guard (codename Middlesbrough), some youngsters from Coldstream and one Frenchman for added flair. The tactical genius behind the Coldstream team was Gerald Tait. Tactics were to kick the ball into the French goal as hard as possible, known as 'netting the leather' in football circles. Such tactics clearly unnerved the French with an early goal from Middlesbrough. A further stunning goal from man of the match Logan Parsons saw Coldstream 0-2 up at half time. French tactics were to rely on the continuing heavy rain and use football boots for added grip. Such shabby trickery allowing them to close the match strongly, eventually running out 3-2 winners.
Because of the rain the planned picninc on the banks of the Seine was moved to the village hall. The rain
On your head
However, with great food, wine and music the dancing began and the rain was forgotten.
The weather was much improved for the visit to Paris on Thursday. First stop ws a cafe near the Trocadero. 18 Euro a pint!! (and we had thought St Germaine expensive). We were kindly invited to a barbecue by the two Garde Republicaine who visited Coldstream in April (see previous blog entry). They put on a splendid feast washed down with lashings of beer and malt whiskey. However, the malt vanished early in the proceedings and was only spotted much later in the handbag of one of the Twinning ladies! We then returend to the city centre and managed to get a large beer near the Eiffel Tower for only 9 Euro (a bargain!).
Friday, the final day, was a day of rest. The farewell meal was held in the Village Hall, then it was back onto the bus for the journey home. Several hours of singing passed the time until Calais. The ferry sailed at 4.30am with many of the party devastated to find Duty Free closed - they should have bought their gifts in France. After some sleep on the bus, Johnny Fulton produced another quiz. A Scottish one this time, again won by Rannock. It appears that most of us know more about France than we do about Scotland.
We arrived back in Coldstream on Saturday afternoon tired, happy anbd glad to be home.