The visit started with an evening collection of our guests from Gatwick. Seven couples travelled from Aalborg to continue the long series of international exchanges between our clubs. The early arrival of the flight almost caught out some hosts but, in the end, we were saved by slow baggage delivery. Some well-timed entrances were made as our visitors walked through the arrivals doors!
On Friday, an early start and uneventful coach trip into London left us fit and fresh in front of Westminster Abbey, where we commenced our walking tour of Westminster. A short walk around the back of Whitehall took us to the entrance to the Cabinet War Rooms and Horse Guards. From there we ambled across and through St James' Park to St James' Palace and then up the Mall to Buckingham Palace. We had just enough time to see the march of the Guard up the Mall, followed by the Horse Guard for the start of the changing ceremony, before a brisk walk back to the visitors entrance to the Palace of Westminster. En route Stan Evans led us in a verse of "The Grand Old Duke of York" at his monument.
We were greeted at the Houses of Parliament by local MP Chris Heaton-Harris, who hosted us for lunch in a private dining room on the embankment level. A well coordinated, excellent three-course lunch with a mystery element was followed by a guided tour of both Houses. Serving staff identified the mysterious, odd-tasting, shining, green material served as an accompaniment to the lamb main course as a mint mousse. (Other suggestions are probably best left to the imagination!). Our tour started and finished at the oldest part, Westminster Hall, the scene of a recent address by President Obama of the USA.
There were many high points in this interesting and event- packed day. Who will forget the embarrassed looks on the Rotarians stopped for trying to enter the Houses of Parliament with offensive weapons? Thankfully, no conspiracy was detected to prevent the return to us of those Rotarians sharing a Christian name with an early, infamous monarch and even their penknives were returned after the tour. King John also had his disagreements with the Barons and we stopped at a copy of the Magna Carta, which holds a special place in our parliamentary history.
Saturday continued the walking and parliamentary themes with a tour around Northampton starting from the Guildhall, led by John Brown. He highlighted several local connections with major events. Our guests were both surprised and pleased to learn more about the heavy Viking influence in and around the area.
The afternoon was free and spent in various ways: tea, shopping and more local sightseeing featuring prominently among them. We gathered again for an evening of traditional pub games and a fish'n'chips supper at the Royal Oak, Walgrave. After a closely contested set of events, and against the historical pattern of events, Northampton emerged as victors.
Sunday morning was unscripted and again spent in diverse ways. Some intrepid guests visited Silverstone for a taste of Supercar racing. The driving technique would have proved useful for the later trip to Gatwick, which made a tense end to a relaxing afternoon involving a guided tour and cream tea at Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral home of George Washington.
The manor dates from Tudor times: Lawrence Washington bought the estate from Henry VIII in 1539 but after the Civil War it went into decline. It was virtually derelict by 1913, when it was bought by a trust as a suitable site to celebrate 100 years of peace between Britain and the USA. It was restored and opened to the public in 1921. Both the house and gardens feature events covering their history, with a focus on George Washington's era and family connections. Our guide described the social history of the period. We learned that Tudor babies were often swaddled tightly for up to six months and placed in hangers on the walls to prevent rats eating them, and that 'medicine' often involved mice and perhaps a spider in butter for a tickly cough!
However, all good things come to an end. Our guests were extremely grateful for the extensive programme and all hosts were really exhausted after a hectic, action-packed weekend. All participants expressed their great enjoyment and enthusiasm to mark the forthcoming 50th anniversary exchange visits in similar, memorable manner.
This was my first experience as a Rotary International Exchange Host and I can thoroughly recommend the experience. I know that I speak for all hosts when I state that the weekend was made easier by the extensive programme of activities, and we thank Clive Fowler and Lesley Allitt for their hard work in bringing this to fruition.
more A visit to Pirmasens in Germany to meet old friends for Rotary Fellowship
more President John invites Club members, their partners and our friends from the Rotary Club of Pirmasens to join Cindy and him for a short break in Norfolk
more Members of the Rotary Club of Aalborg Oestre will be joining us to celebrate 50 years of Rotary fellowship.
more This was another chance for Rotarians and Partners to enjoy Fellowship with our twin Club members on a home stay in Pirmasens
more A Report on our 2013 twinning visit to Denmark
more Once again we had the opportunity to host our old friends from our twin Club from Pirmasens, together with other friends from the Rotary Club of Kiev Centre, with whom we have carried out two projects in the recent past.
more A very enjoyable trip to Berlin, to meet and spend time with our friends from the Rotary Club of Pirmasens.
more Another great visit to meet our friends from our Twin Club in Aalborg, Denmark - May 2009
more This time we entertained our friends from Pirmasens in Sussex, based at Battle, and enjoyed visits to Castles, Gardens and Canterbury.
back We have been twinned with two other International Clubs for many years and enjoy regular visits to each others countries.