September Visit from Rennes to Exeter

Long-standing member, Jack Thompson, gives his take on the visit from Rennes.

What Do the French Really Think of Our Much Loved Mushy Peas?

Imagine, if you will, the following scene: a lovely cliff-top hotel, views across the bay, good friends around, lots of laughter, fish and chips served properly with (wait for it!) mushy peas. That was how the day ended after we had taken our French twinners to visit that lovely ‘art deco’ house, owned by the National Trust, Coleton Fishacre, near Kingswear. This was followed by a walk in the sunshine around Brixham harbour which really raised our thirst for a cup of tea, then on to the delightful ‘Berry Head Hotel’ for our supper.

For Brenda and me this French visit was extra special as, not only did we have the lovely Therese staying with us, but Chantal and Denis from Rennes. They were new to the Rennes group and had never visited Exeter before. They had even sent us a photo by email before they came, and we reciprocated, which made our first meeting so easy and friendly.

On our first morning we all went to the St. Nicholas Priory for a most atmospheric tour and an excellent picnic lunch. (Note to Exonians: the ‘Priory’ is a real hidden gem in the city)

The flexible programme – and the sunshine – then allowed us to show them Exeter at its best. During our city tour we, luckily, found the Guildhall open and our friend Ron Crabb, one of the longest serving Mace Sergeants, was only too happy to give two foreign visitors a personal tour of the building – and even we learned something new!

On the free Sunday we opted to take our guests to Knightshayes. It was a long time since we had visited ourselves and we had forgotten what a wonderful example of a high Victorian mansion it is. It so often takes a twinning visit to remind us of the good things to see and do that are all around us.

On this evening we had our grand ‘farewell’ dinner at L’Estuaire restaurant on Topsham Quay and were honoured to have our Lord Mayor, Percy Prowse, his wife and some council officers as guests and some of our non-hosting members as well. The camaraderie, with so much chatting, laughter and obvious enjoyment by all, was a pleasure to see.

The following morning our French twinners were officially, and very warmly, welcomed to Exeter by the Deputy Lord Mayor, Rob Newby, at a reception in the Guildhall and this still left time, on this last day of a busy long weekend, to fit in a guided tour of the Cathedral – conducted in French by our member and Red Coat guide, Leslie Moss – and a visit in the afternoon to the Bill Douglas Film Museum at Exeter University (that was a very interesting first for a lot of the hosts as well).

All in all this was surely twinning at its best? (everyone shout…Yes!)

Lots of thanks must go to all the hosts for their generous hospitality and, of course, thanks to John and his committee for all the planning, preparation and out-of-sight work that facilitated this whole event.

However (yes, there is a slight ‘however’), it is this. “What do the French really think of our much loved mushy peas?”

Jack Thompson. (Sigh.)