In about 1974, we recieved a call from some French Rotarians asking if they could visit our club on Friday evening. Apparently, they were coming over to watch an England V France rugby international at Twickenham Rugby Stadium on the Saturday. The arrangement was made and we eventually hosted a small mixed group. It was a very successful visit and from this event our link was forged. We made our first visit in 1976 which consisted of a long weekend, arriving on the Friday and coming home on the Monday.
Originally, the visits were made every other year, but in the 90's it was changed to a four year cycle which meant visiting or hosting every two years.
In 2014, it was our turn to host and we received 15 guests. Members of our club provided the accomodation and the International Committee organised a programme of visits and days out.
On the friday morning, the French were picked up from Heathrow Airport and chauffeured to their hosts. They were then taken to the Palmers Arms in Dorney (ajacent to the Olympic Rowing Lake) for lunch and for an opportunity to meet some of our Rotarians and their partners.
In the afternoon, they were given a conducted tour of Dorney Court, the country house, where the first pineapple in the UK was grown. The evening was spent having dinner at Rotarians' houses.
On the Saturday morning, a coach trip was organised to show some of the sights of London terminating at the Tower. After a tour and lunch, other sites were visited on the way home. The club had organised a Asian themed charity evening with a meal, dancing and singing.
Another coach trip was organised for Sunday morning to Bletchley Park where the war time code breakers worked. After a buffet lunch, the coach returned the group to Richings Park for a garden party hosted by one of the Rotarians. After an afternoon of fellowship, food and wine, the guests returned with their hosts and prepared to travel home. On the Monday morning, they were taken to Heathrow and a fond farewell was given to our French friends.
This link has lasted for 40 years and to date, has given a great deal of pleasure and knowledge to many Rotarians and their partners. We hope to be invited to Villemur in 2016 and look forward to many years of fellowship.
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