Despite their coach not arriving at Teignmouth until nearly midnight on Thursday 5th May, on Friday morning the newly arrived group of 49 citizens of our twin town of Perros-Guirec assembled on Dartmouth Quay in brilliant sunshine to board the MV Dart Explorer for a river cruise. They were accompanied by their Teignmouth hosts, bringing the total up to nearly 100 people. After a cruise up and down the river the group were shown round Dartmouth and its museum by guides dressed in period costume, before everyone headed home to Teignmouth to reassemble in groups of 10 or so for informal dinners with their hosts.
The more formal part of their visit took place on Saturday morning with a civic reception at Bitton House. The event opened with a welcome from Teignmouth Twinning Association chair Andy Benham, who introduced the Teignmouth Mayor, Jacqui Orme. Broad smiles broke out all round as the mayor explained, in French, that she was delighted to welcome the representatives of Perros to Teignmouth, and that as a fellow artist, she had been very impressed with the Anglo French art exhibition at the TAAG centre in Teignmouth, which she had visited the night before.
Jacqui was followed by the deputy mayor of Perros, Jean-Claude Banchereau, who talked about the relationship between the two towns, and then went on to explain why it was still important to both towns and how both towns could benefit from increasing awareness of the opportunities for growth in tourism in both locations.
There followed an exchange of gifts, with Mr Banchereau receiving a mosaic specially commissioned to mark the twinning exchange, while Mr Banchereau in turn gave the people of Teignmouth a piece of art, which can now be see hanging on the wall at Bitton House in the Mayor’s parlour.
At this point Jacqui Orme had to leave the proceedings as she was due on the beach to take part in the colour splash event, and a collection was raised for Rowcroft, Colour Splash’s main beneficiary. Her place was ably taken up by Teignmouth’s Deputy Mayor, Terry Falcao. Councillor Falcao started by welcoming people to Teignmouth and noted that, “while you can never be guaranteed great weather, you will receive a warm reception wherever you go.
“Teignmouth is a great place to meet charming, friendly people, many of whom have moved here from London and other frantic locations in order to enjoy a calmer way of life and to balance their work with leisure time.”
Much to the amusement of our French guests, he continued, in French, that “Once England had a reputation for tasteless food and warm beer. We still serve warm beer. But it is the best beer in the world and if you have not drunk some of it, do not go home without sampling it. If you have tasted it and did not think much of it, then you probably did not have enough as it is an acquired taste.
“In terms of food, we have now spawned a number of celebrity chefs who produce weird and wonderful dishes for worldwide consumers.
“We value the relationship with Perros Guirec and are proud of our lengthy association, which has continued because so many of you have felt it is worthwhile and have persevered to maintain friendships.
“Long may the friendships continue and I hope you will all have a very enjoyable time.”
At this point Councillor Falcao proposed a toast to Twinning, or Jumelage as it is known on the other side of the channel, and everyone raised a glass of Teignmouth’s own superb sparkling wine, a great sparkling pink from nearby Old Wall’s Vineyard.
The event at Bitton House concluded with a performance by Teignmouth Sings, a local choir, again much appreciated by the French and then a buffet picnic was enjoyed by all, made all the better by the fact that the crowds could spill out into the sunshine on the surrounding lawns.
After the official civic reception Teignmouth Twinning Association chairman, Andy Benham, commented:
“It was really great that both Jacqui Orme and Councillor Falcao chose to speak in French and it was very much appreciated by the large crowd of French people in attendance. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Jacqui in particular as she had to quite literally run off after the event to take part in Colour Splash, and it was great that we could have a collection for Rowcroft at the event to raise a bit of money for charity. “
After an afternoon visit to nearby Torre Abbey, it was soon time for the groups to reassemble. In the past, the twinning dinner has had to be held outside of Teignmouth because of the lack of suitable venues, but this year, it was different. Teignmouth’s new sea front venue, The Pavilions, hosted its biggest sit down dinner to date on Saturday night when 97 people thronged the main hall, the same space that during the week serves as the town’s cinema. With the seats rolled back, and some thoughtful lighting, it was turned into a ball room for the evening, and Steve Boricic and his highly skilled catering team swung into action to serve a four course banquet.
As the coffee and mints came round, Teignmouth Twinning Association Chair Andy Benham took to the stage to welcome his French guests, and delivered a speech in both languages about the importance of being good neighbours, particularly in this year with all the terrorist atrocities in Paris. There was then a further exchange of gifts, with French Twinning Association Chair Max Enard, receiving a hamper brimming with a wide range of Devon food goodies, including Shute Farm jams, Devon Chili Farm chocolates, Red Rock Brewery beers and further local delicacies sourced from Darts Farm. Mr Enard then took the stage, offered a return gift, and then delivered a speech giving some of the history of the association between the two towns, and mentioning that some members of the audience had been involved for nearly 30 years and were on their 15th visit to Teignmouth. He also noted that there were numerous new people involved this year, from both Teignmouth and Perros, and that such new faces augured well for the future of the relationship between the two towns.
The event finished with some energetic dancing to local band, Mooncoin. The band specialises in folk dancing, and Anne Gill was soon calling out the moves in both English and French to an enthusiastic audience. With our French visitors’ Celtic roots, they had no problem with the dance moves.
Max Enard, Chair of the Perros-Guirrec Twinning Association commented, “We really enjoyed our visit this year, there was a real team sprit to the event. We particularly enjoyed the chance to visit both old friends, and to make new friends, and it was great to see so many new members on both sides. This was one of the largest groups we’ve had the pleasure of bringing and thank you for organising such great weather for the week-end.”
On Sunday our French friends had a chance to explore Teignmouth, many attending the art exhibition at the TAAG centre, which features art from both local artists and also artists from Perros Guirec.
All too soon the French visitors were tucking into a traditional English carvery at the Smugglers Inn in Dawlish, before their coach disappeared off to the Plymouth Ferry terminal for their return to France. At this point there were many very tired, but very happy faces in the crowd and thoughts turned to next year, when the Teignmouthians will be heading for Perros.
Andy Benham commented, “we had a superb time this year having a lot laughter with our French friends, and managing to pack in a lot of what makes Devon great into a short period of time. It was great to be able to show off what Teignmouth has to offer, it such a great place to live so it’s easy to find great things to show the French.