Beaulieu Twinning Association visit to Hautvillers

France December the 7th to Sunday 9th December 2018  Report from Jenny Graefe


After an appalling drive through mostly sheeting rain and gusting winds starting at six in the morning from Beaulieu and not ending until our arrival in Hautvillers in the late afternoon, our delegation of six were greeted in the early evening by Catherine and Patrick, who then accompanied us to Marie-France and Dany’s home, where we spent a jolly evening together and enjoying, of course, much champagne and tasty canapés!
On Saturday morning after breakfast at the Campanile Hotel, we returned to Hautvillers to the school dining room where we were given our name tags and introduced by Patrick and translators to the members of the other Twinning towns and villages and to drink more champagne!
We were then all invited to sit at long tables and enjoy a very well organised and delicious picnic lunch with much red and white wine! Fortified against the cold, grey weather, we walked back to the “Mairie “where Patrick, in his official capacity as Mayor and attired accordingly, asked the six official delegates to join him in laying a wreath at the memorial cross in the courtyard accompanied by a fanfare and followed with a minute’s silence to honour those fallen in the two wars. I also planted the poppy made by the children of the Beaulieu School behind the wreath.
At 2pm we all boarded a bus and were driven to the War gravesites of the English, German and Italian fallen soldiers. In quite emotional ceremonies, each representative of the Twinning towns laid together with Patrick a wreath in the respective colours of their nation at the foot of their memorial stones. After a minute’s silence and subsequent fanfare, I read out the short poem in both English and French at our memorial and then signed on behalf of the BTA a golden book. This procedure was repeated at both the German and Italian War graves.
On our return to Hautvillers we had time for a short rest and change of clothes before being collected by the bus in the evening and driven to Ai where, in a beautiful Art Nouveau hotel building, we enjoyed a fantastic five course celebratory meal. Each Twinning partner contributed a local speciality, for the most part wines and champagne but our hand made Beaulieu Chocolates supplied by Trevor in the village were greatly appreciated. The evening was a huge success and, luckily for us, we had the pleasure of Veronique on our table to aid communication with the Italians!
Sunday morning was an early start, meeting at the Sal de Fetes to set up our stands for the Marche de Noel before opening to the public at 11.00 am. Despite the continuing bad weather, the market was quite busy and we managed to sell most of our produce.
During the afternoon, two of the German delegation came over and asked if I had time to talk to them. They thanked me for the reading at the War graves which they found quite moving and were obviously surprised at my being able to speak fluent German. They presented me with a bottle of wine and extended an invitation to the BTA to join them in Kiedrich next year at a time to be decided. Patrick heard of this and later in the evening expressed his joy at a possible deepening of ties between us.
At 6pm the rain, as if on cue, stopped for a while allowing us to enjoy the most magnificent firework display, choreographed to jolly Christmas music and carols and signalling the end of the Christmas market.
After packing up the stall, we all remained in the hall and enjoyed a rustic pizza supper on long tables and discussed with hands and feet the events of the day! All totally exhausted but happy with the success of the market and the whole weekend, we said our goodbyes to the other Twinners and returned to the hotel.
On Monday morning after an early breakfast, we returned to Champagne Lopez-Martin, loaded up with champagne, said fond farewells to Catherine and Patrick and set off for Calais!
I think all of us who took part in this weekend would agree that it was a huge success.