Wrington Twinning Association              The French Connection                      Report on visit to Villeneuve 25th-28th April, 2014 Website homepage Organisations index page Twinning homepage Wrington website Twinning Association
Visit to Villeneuve-lès-Béziers 25th-28th April 2014                                        Report by John Adams FRIDAY Nine of us eventually set out for Villeneuve, from some 20 who had originally expressed an interest in the twinning visit, and following two  last minute withdrawals unfortunately due to illness. The main aim of the visit was to meet with the new village administration, following the French elections at the end of March, with representatives of local associations and interest groups and, of course, to take the chance to soak up the heady atmosphere of the Languedoc in the Spring. Rising early, our party met at Bristol Airport to catch the Ryanair flight direct to Béziers, departing at 06:50 hrs …  On arrival, we received a warm welcome from Mme Emmanuelle Nardini, one of the French councillors responsible for twinning, and Tim Wheeldon (English by birth but Villeneuvian by adoption). The drive from the airport to the village takes little more than 15 minutes and we were given a short time to drop off our bags and freshen up at out various B&Bs (this time Les Anges Gardiens, La Maison du Canal and Las Cigalas). Le Grand Café Over coffee at Le Grand Café in the delightful main square of Villeneuve we met up with other members of the twinning committee, including the Deputy Council Administrator M. Yves Blérard-Léglise - a good friend of many members of the association. Then Tim, Emmanuelle and M. Jean Bource accompanied us to the local junior school, dedicated to the singer Georges Brassens. The headmaster, M Laurent Fafeur, gave us a tour of the school, where we were invited to visit classrooms during lessons, and take a tour of other facilities, including the school garden and the impressive spaces for school meals! Ecole Georges Brassens The École George Brassens has established a relationship with Wrington school through Mrs Annabel Scott, and it is hoped that this will develop further through internet exchanges and possibly shared projects.        click to enlarge The visit was followed by an excellent lunch back at Le Grand Café – and, as usual, there were sufficient French / English speakers to negotiate language barriers. With fatigue beginning to set in we returned to our respective lodgings for a short siesta…. Later in the afternoon we met for a tour of the village, led by M.Jean Bource, who also organises the eleven youth football teams fielded by Villeneuve. Village tour                                 For more images of Villeneuve, see:     … and see the Villeneuve website for further factual information: Poetry reading The tour led seamlessly into the evening programme, which started with the opening of a children’s poetry exhibition at the library, where children from the Georges Brassens School read their own poems and presented poetry posters. Annabel, together with the Maire, was asked to respond to this excellent project with a short talk giving their impressions of the work.  This was followed by a wine reception and the chance to meet with teachers and parents. Dinner was at the restaurant Au Soleau in the newer commercial part of Villeneuve. We were joined by Mme Éléna Cros, the councillor responsible for communication and tourism, Mme.Annie Gourraud, who is a teacher with fluent English, and M. Marc Cianni, who played the part of the Mayor of Villeneuve in the twinning tableau of the 2012 Wrington pageant. And so, eventually, to bed after an interesting and convivial day… SATURDAY Following our respective breakfasts, which ranged from croissants and café-au-lait to a majestic spread of local produce, we were taken to the winery of the local co-operative in the nearby village of Cers where, as it is out of season, the winery was opened especially for our visit The Co-operative Winery We were accompanied by Cllrs Elisabeth Manetas, Norbert Manetas, Tim Wheeldon and other members of the Villeneuve twinning group, and the tour was conducted by a local wine producer, M. Phillipe Navarro. The wines, of excellent quality, are produced by the recently formed co-operative of 3 neighbouring villages (Cers, Portiragnes and Villeneuve), which has just announced that it will operate under the name of ‘Alma Cersius: vignerons entre terres et ciel’. They produce an impressive 9m bottles of good quality wine each year, most of which are sold by February. For further details see <www.almacersius.com> Wine tasting The visit was followed by a tasting of the Alma Cersius wines – rouge, rosé and blanc - back in Villeneuve at La Grappe Dorée, the newly-opened retail outlet in the former winery building. Everybody agreed that these were excellent… La Crémade Lunch was at La Crémade, a delightful pizzeria and restaurant that borders the Canal du Midi by the picturesque lock in the centre of the old village. Here we were joined by Cllr Lucyle Morgan, who has a particular interest in education and youth matters, for further discussion of possible plans and projects.   Again, following a short siesta, we were joined by other members of the Villeneuve twinning group taken on a tour to the 9 stepped locks on the Canal du Midi, and then on to the imposing cathedral at Béziers, with its magnificent views out over the plains of the Hérault countryside. Béziers and surrounding area For more pictures of Beziers see:  That evening we were taken down to the port and seaside resort of Valras-Plage where we dined at the seafood restaurant La Madrague with several members of the twinning committee, including Norbert, Lucyle, Elizabeth, Louis and Odette. Another lively and enjoyable evening… For pictures of Valras-Plage see: [For rugby enthusiasts, it should be mentioned here that the Villeneuve team, under Norbert Manetas’s management, had reached the final of the Languedoc regional championship – a great achievement. For the record, Villeneuve were leading at half-time 11-4 with the wind behind them. In the second half, against the wind, they were able to hang on to a lead of 14-11 until 80 + 3 minutes. However, in 80 + 4 (the final minute of extra time) their opponents, Alaric, managed to score a try with conversion and ran out 18-14 winners. No wonder the main square was so quiet that evening.]