www.barrowvoice.co.uk First Publised 1975
Barrow Voice
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Marans 2018

This year, thirty four members of the Barrow and District Twinning Association travelled to Marans for our bi-annual visit. Nineteen of us flew from Stansted Airport and the rest travelled by car, camper-van and car/caravan.

Three couples who were new to the group stayed with French hosts who were also new twinners, so it was a learning curve for them all. Jasper the dog also made his first visit, generously allowing his owners to accompany him. It was also the first time for his master, but his mistress had been before, so they received a warm welcome from their French friends, as did we all.

A varied programme had been arranged for us. Our first full day found us taking a twenty minute ferry ride to the Ile-d'Aix. This is a small island with a fortified village and coastal forts that were created in the 17th century due to the conflicts between France and England. An excellent lunch was provided for us at a local restaurant, with time in the afternoon to explore the island. The following day we were taken to the delightful Chateau de la Roche Courbon, the origins of which began in the 15th century, but in the 17th century it was 'modernised' turning it into a comfortable home. After the tour of the chateau, conducted by an entertaining guide who spoke perfect English, we had a picnic lunch under the trees to protect us from the hot sun.

There are 6,000 hectares of marshland around Marans so on Sunday we were taken to see how the marshes were managed. This is done by a network of dykes, ditches and canals. In the past there was an elected Master of the Dykes, who was provided with a house for himself and his family. The position often passed from father to son. There is no longer a Master of the Dykes and the house is now a museum. After the visit we had a bring-and-share lunch provided by our French friends at the beautiful home of Mauricette and Daniel. The final organised trip was to the port of La Rochelle, where the director of the port told us its history. He used an excellent diorama to point out the positions of the various piers where grain, fuel and wood were offloaded and also where the large passenger liners docked. We then boarded our coach and were taken on a tour of the docks. The most interesting part was driving around and actually entering one of the huge submarine pens that the Germans built during World War 2. These were so strongly built that, despite the RAF dropping numerous large bombs on to them, they were unable to penetrate the pens. They really are a sight to see.

Each evening was spent with our hosts, sometimes quietly in their homes, much appreciated after a busy day or joining forces with other twinners and their hosts. The last evening was spent in what is now a traditional way, all of us sharing in a bring-and-share supper at the home of Colette and Didier. This ended with a singsong of English songs, and perhaps for us some not so well-known French songs. We will have to get some practice in! Regardless, they were all sung with gusto.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to our friends, some of whom we have known for 22 years. We now start planning for their return visit to us next year. If you are interested in joining the Twinning Group please contact our secretary Helen Duxbury on 01509 552867, or come along to one of our social events. It is not necessary to speak French - those in the group who don't always seem to manage.

Val Gillings