Since my first report of the experience of exchanging I have been back to Chartres and also hosted some other delightful Chartrains.
On my second visit to Chartres to stay with Chantal I was much more relaxed as I knew what to expect. This time the main day out was to Chateau de Rambouillet which is about 30 km from Chartres, towards Paris. A very typical large Chateau, it once hosted the G7 summit and our Queen has also stayed there. We had an interesting guided tour which included a rather surreal art exhibition. Following this we were taken by coach to a Centre Commercial for lunch. This seemed a strange place to find an excellent restaurant and I think tourists would miss it completely. That is the beauty of being hosted by residents… they know the places to go! We had a delicious meal and then returned to the Chateau grounds to see a hunting lodge completely decorated with shells and the very luxurious dairy.
The following day we visited a fabulous private garden. In the evening there was a wonderful “bring and share” supper in a community centre where we were entertained by “Les Sept Alex”… seven men called Alex who sang us French popular songs. The wine was flowing but I seem to recall some of us anglais even joined in with Frère Jacques!
Sadly the weather on the free day, Sunday, was rather cold and miserable but I was taken to an interesting garden show and foire brocante at a former chateau which was now a conference centre. Rather confusingly the car park attendant was one of the Sept Alex! We were able to tell him how much we had enjoyed his singing the night before.
If we thought the weather was bad that day then it was nothing compared with the day we drove home! We had snow in Normandy as we approached Caen and the wind was lashing the coach. As we waited to embark on the Mont St Michel we could see the white capped waves growing ever larger. This precipitated the exchange of many horror stories about very rough crossings until I had to beg everyone to stop… I really did almost decide to get off the coach and stay in Ouistreham! However, once on board I booked a cabin – the only way to go if you are prone to mal de mer and I lay horizontal for almost the entire voyage. The Isle of Wight was a welcome sight!
So another successful exchange came to an end. Since then I have hosted Dominique for the Easter Weekend of 60th Anniversary celebrations and then more recently two sopranos from the Grand Choeur du Conservatoire de Chartres… but more about that in City Link.
Rosie Speer July 2019