Fontaine-Henry lays on a spread for Scoriton and Buckfastleigh visitors

Standing on the scales after the twinning biennial visit to Fontaine-Henry can be a sobering experience.

2018 was no exception. The twinning group from Scoriton and Buckfastleigh were entertained in great style by our French friends in Normandy throughout the weekend of May 28th.Group meal

After a smooth crossing from Portsmouth to the Port of Caen, we were billeted with twinning families around Fontaine-Henry before gathering on the Saturday evening for the traditional vin d’honneur at the local community hall.

The welcome speeches reiterated the importance of maintaining close ties with our neighbours in a world of increasing insularity. Updating our French friends on local news, we touched on Buckfast Abbey’s millennium celebrations, the success of local rider Bryony Frost in the Grand National and the ever more depressing problem of potholes (“chicken’s nests” as they are charmingly referred to in French).

We then set to the meal with gusto accompanied by two local virtuoso guitarists who played a medley of songs from the seventies. It’s not often you dig into a sumptuous tarte aux fraises to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” 

With barely a moment to digest, we were off to Falaise the following day for our traditional Sunday outing. Falaise was the seat of the Dukes of Normandy and birthplace to William the Conqueror, or William the Bastard as he was known before his makeover.

Group shotFalaise was decimated by intense Allied bombing during the Second World War but has since been restored. Its centrepiece is William’s magnificent fortress which itself underwent extensive restoration in the late 1980s. We were treated to a tour of the great keep, each visitor carrying a personal tablet as guide. At the touch of a button, the bare walls of the castle were decorated with virtual furnishings and scenes from history.

We also toured the vicinity of the castle. Our guide (flesh and blood this time) introduced us to aspects of William’s life and death. The latter took place following a battle at Mantes near Paris when William’s horse shied and he was skewered on the pommel of his saddle. After an excruciating death he then had to be crammed into his coffin due to sloppy funeral measurements. It led to the corpse exploding during the funeral service.

Then to lunch, luckily not Tripes à la mode de Caen, but a splendid 5-course affair.

On the Monday we were left with our hosts and entertained at their discretion. Being English, some plucky souls insisted on frolicking in the icy Channel in borrowed skimpy swim suits more suited to Saint-Tropez.

On arriving back in Buckfastleigh we found that England had lost the first test against Pakistan, Exeter had been routed in the Premiership Rugby final to Sarasens and Real Madrid had edged Liverpool in the  Champions League final.

Not a bad time to be away!