Lunch at « La Gogane », Andard, with Aymon de Boissieu

Michael & Irene Small

Saturday 17th October saw twenty five members and guests gather for what turned out to be an exceptional lunch and an after-dinner presentation by a remarkable teenager from the Lycée Saint Martin in Angers.

The day started with us gathering at the “La Gogane”, a smart modern restaurant in Andard, about 15kms East of Angers just off the main N347 road to Saumur. After the usual meet and greet with old and new friends whilst enjoying an aperitif, we then sat down to enjoy a memorable meal. We started with a choice of two entrées: either Émietté de Tourteau et pommes vertes or Terrine de Volailles fermières. For our main course we had a choice of either Dos de Cabillaud beurre blanc or Presa de Porc Ibérique. Then to end this sumptuous feast we again had a choice off two excellent desserts either Omelette Norvégienne flambée or Profiteroles au chocolat. I’m sorry, I know we are the English Speaking Union, but doesn’t food sound so much better in French than crab & apple or chicken pate, cod or pork, and baked alaska or chocolate profita rolls! "La Gogane" is certainly a restaurant worth returning to: the food was truly delicious, with generous proportions, well presented and served. Also, to go with the meal we enjoyed very good red and white wine. If you are travelling in the area or looking for somewhere new to go for a good lunch the writer can certainly recommend the “Menu du Jour”: at €17 for three courses or €12.60 for two without wine or coffee, it is a little more expensive than the usual “workers cafe”. However, the ambiance, service, presentation, quality and most importantly the taste of the food, more than justifies the extra cost. The €28 dinner menu is also excellent value on Thursday to Sunday evenings. 

The main reason for the lunch was to hear from Aymon de Boissieu, a young teenage student from the Lycée Saint Martin in Angers. In May 2015, at the grand old age of 16, Aymon travelled to London to represent the members of ESU Loire Valley, the department of Maine et Loire, and the whole of France, in London at the Finals of the ESU’s International Public Speaking Competition (IPSC). Aymon wanted to share with us his experience of the competition and what it has since meant to him. He was accompanied by his English teacher, Françoise Placé, who was assisted in preparing her students by our own John Barritt. This is the third time that St. Martin has produced a winner – and we have only participated for 4 years! The title of Aymon’s speech in London was “Let’s Defend our Identities”. It is based on the theme “Culture is Not a Luxury but a Necessity” set by the ESU HQ at Dartmouth House in Mayfair, where the finals took place. Irene and I, along with all the audience, were certainly enthralled listening to this young man as he presented the speech he gave in the competition to us. He spoke for a full 5 minutes from memory, without notes, delivering it with passion, authority and confidence, except for one small stumble when he lost his thread before quickly recovering his composure and confidence. It was amazing that such a young teenager speaking in a 2nd language, learnt at school part time, could deliver such a thought provoking speech with clarity, conviction, understanding and also in near perfect English with just a tinge of a French accent. Afterwards Aymon answered questions from the audience about what he called his “life changing experience” that gave him 50 new friends from all the corners of our planet and 100s of Emails a week. Pat Curd who escorted him to the event said we could not have had a better ambassador to represent us. Aymon was always polite, thoughtful and ever the Frenchman, he was soon greeting the other contestants with handshakes or kisses in a pleasant and outgoing manner. In the final photograph, ever the chivalrous Frenchman, he lifted a pretty young girl onto his shoulders so she could be included.

We think Aymon truly demonstrated to those members present what the ESU represents: “Creating understanding through the use of the English language”. We think he justly earned the right to represent our branch at the ESU’s IPSC. To repay the Branch’s trust and support in him, he is now visiting the local schools taking part in the elimination heats to find our representative for the 2016 IPSC. He will be talking to the candidates to outline his experiences and to encourage and inspire them to do their best.

All our best wishes go to this young man for a bright future.