Always a highlight of the ESU Loire Valley calendar, the Autumn Walk 2023 was no exception. The weather was warm and perfect for the 8 km leisurely walk, planned carefully by member, Tony Oakley, in and around ‘Le Sale Village’ close to St. Georges-des-Sept-Voies.
The walk was full of surprises. The walkers followed narrow paths, passing by the Dolmen de la Bajoulière and two Menhirs, all tucked away in peaceful surroundings. Curiosity was aroused when the group stumbled across a somewhat isolated house and its attached troglodyte dwellings, all surrounded by bags of apples. A young lady appeared who was recognised as the former owner of a shop in Gennes. Striking up a conversation, the walkers discovered that she has undergone a complete change of lifestyle, and now produces cider for a living. She hopes to produce 2000 litres this year and most kindly offered a bottle to the walkers to enjoy with their picnic lunch back at Le Prieuré, the walk’s starting point.
Having enjoyed a convivial lunch accompanied by the cider, members were reluctant to leave after a most interesting and memorable walk on a warm October day.
In a change from tradition, the Treasure Hunt 2023 took place on the afternoon of Sunday 24 September after a convivial lunch at “Les Cathédrales de la Sauliaie” in Doué-la-Fontaine. The restaurant is situated inside the vaults of a spectacular quarry on the outskirts of the town. The menu consists of traditional Anjou dishes made from local produce, including galipettes, fouées and pommes tapées.
By 14h30 we were ready to put our brains to work and head for the meeting point for the rally: the car park surrounding the area that once housed the train station in Doué-la-Fontaine. 25 participants, including several newcomers, formed 7 teams. The hunt was on from the moment the clues were distributed. The weather was warm and sunny, and the clues led us through beautiful countryside from Doué-la-Fontaine via Soulanger to St. Georges-sur-Layon, on to Concourson, and finally to our destination in Les Verchers-sur-Layon.
We were welcomed by the owners of the Bar à Thym in the centre of Les Verchers and whilst relaxing over a glass of wine, Dorothy took us through the answers. The winning team comprised Julie, Paul and Nicole who each received a bottle of crémant in recognition of their success. Jos’ team took second place. Our thanks to Dorothy and Colin for a truly enjoyable afternoon, in particular for the time and effort they had spent planning a picturesque route full of interesting places and discoveries, and moreover for setting the tricky clues, often made more challenging by Dorothy’s love of anagrams.
August meetings always take the form of relaxed summer garden parties providing the perfect opportunity for members to mingle freely and to bring families and friends to share the afternoon’s activities. This year, to accompany a paella lunch, the theme ‘Viva Espana’ was in evidence throughout.
Members had been encouraged to wear red and yellow; tables were covered in red and yellow with matching bunting in the trees; sangria was served as an aperitif; paella was followed by red and yellow ice cream and sorbet and the Spanish themed quiz entertained and stretched the minds of all who took part. Everyone left smiling after an afternoon relaxing together in the beautiful gardens of a member’s family home near Saumur.
People gave generously to the raffle, profits from which will support the association’s aims and will contribute to the costs of the public speaking competition regional finals in Angers, the national finals in Paris, and the international finals in London 2024.
On Saturday 15 July 2023, a total of 36 members and friends of the branch gathered for a relaxed summer afternoon of fun and entertainment in the vice-chairman’s charming garden.
Following a short time socialising and chatting over a ‘verre d’amitié’, the group was entertained by singer Holly Marks whose lovely voice and varied repertoire covered many decades of music. Familiar songs enticed members to dance on the lawn, providing yet more entertainment when several attempted to master the Madison. During the interval everyone enjoyed the splendid variety of food that had been brought along to be shared and second helpings were enjoyed by many.
It was all we had hoped for – a relaxed, sociable summer afternoon in good company. Thanks to Holly’s singing and all those involved in the organisation, everyone left for home smiling and happy and looking forward to the next event, also planned al fresco, in Les Ulmes, 20 August.
PRIEURÉ DE BREUIL-BELLAY
28 members were welcomed by our hosts, Henry and Geneviève de Rivière, at midday 3 June, a wonderful sunny day, for a picnic lunch in the grounds of the Prieuré de Breuil-Bellay in Cizay-la-Madeleine.
The meeting began with a tour of the historic buildings, the origins of which date back to the 11th century. Henry was our guide and captivated all those present from the start with his detailed researched knowledge of the evolution of both the buildings and their former inhabitants.
Following the tour, an aperitif was enjoyed under trees overlooking the lawns, after which our group made its way to the picnic area in a shaded corner by the chapel for a convivial lunch together. Entertainment was provided by the “Swing Coleporteurs”, a group consisting of a singer accompanied by a pianist, a guitarist, and a bass player. The medley consisted primarily of American and French jazz and blues and was a perfect accompaniment to the lovely surroundings, the relaxed atmosphere, and the summer weather.
It was a rare sight indeed to see members taking to the dance floor – or to be precise, to the grassy area they shared with the resident hens.
A huge vote of thanks goes to our hosts, to the musicians and to all who contributed to this amazing day.
The May Day Walk 2023 was a great success, thanks to our organiser, Tony. 14 walkers clocked up over 8 kilometres whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery of the countryside around the village of Grezillé, situated between Brissac and Gennes.
There were bluebells and cowslips along the way, reminding all those present that spring had arrived. The walk was a great opportunity to meet and chat to new acquaintances. On arrival back at the starting point, the walk was followed by an aperitif and a convivial picnic next to the lake in Grezillé
The AGM took place the morning of Saturday 15 April in the comfortable surroundings of the Hôtel Saint Paul, Vivy. During the meeting, the chairman raised several issues currently proving challenging to the committee thus provoking an exchange of opinion and some lively discussion. Some good ideas were put forward by members and these will be investigated further by committee members.
After the meeting, the serious business over, attendees were able to relax over an aperitif before sitting down to enjoy an excellent lunch together.
The regional public speaking competition took place in the grand setting of the Salons de la Présidence at the Préfecture in Angers during the afternoon of Saturday 11 March.
The branch works in partnership with the Bibliothèque Anglophone in Angers and the Maison de l’Europe Angers et Maine et Loire to ensure the smooth running of this competition which is open to all students between the ages of 16 – 20. The organisers were delighted this year to welcome candidates from 6 lycées.
From the Val d’Oise, the Lycée Jacques Prévert in Taverny.
From the Vendée, the Lycée Léonard de Vinci in Montaigu.
The judges’ task was not an easy one, but after some deliberation they announced the winning candidates. Congratulations to Elise Dilé, Enimie Honoré and Aimen Mansoor who progressed to the national finals in Paris, 25 March, to compete against candidates from Marseille in the prestigious setting of the Assemblée Nationale.
Our thanks go to the Conseil Départmental for the use of the rooms, the Maison des Langues in Paris for their donation of books to the candidates, to the judges, to all teachers who trained and assisted their students, and to everyone who volunteered time to ensure the smooth running of the competition. Everyone involved would like to wish our candidates the very best of luck in the next stage of the competition.
22 members and guests enjoyed a relaxed meal and an opportunity for an informal chat over lunch at the “110 Restaurant et Grill” in Saumur before the short walk to the cinema “Le Grand Palace” for the afternoon showing of the British film “Empire of Light”. Written, directed, and co-produced by Sam Mendes, the film stars Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Monica Dolan, Tom Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, and Toby Jones.
Set in the 1980s, the film tells the story of Hilary Small, duty manager at a cinema in Margate, on the Kent coast. Hilary struggles with bipolar disorder and becomes involved with Stephen, a handsome and charming new employee. Health issues and her new man combine to unsettle not only her own life but that of several others around her.
Despite rail strikes that wreaked havoc with travel arrangements for all candidates, their parents, teachers, and organisers from the Loire Valley region to reach Paris 25 March, everyone arrived on time at the Assemblée Nationale for the grand final of the NPSC.
Whilst we were delighted that this year the competition has expanded into other regions of France, it was to be a disappointing afternoon for the Loire Valley branch. Candidates from the region were forced into 4th, 5th and 6th place by those from the Bouche du Rhône.
The winner, who will represent France in the international competition taking place in London during the week of Monday 8 May to Friday 12 May, is Timothée Demoustier, a pupil at the Lycée Georges Duby in Aix-en-Provence.
Our thanks go to Estelle Folest, Deputée du Val d’Oise, for the use of the amazing venue; to SIDE Attica for their donation of books as prizes; to the judges, Edward Archer, Thérèse Hogan, and Declan McCavana and to the chairman, Roy Powell; and timekeeper, Yolande Powell, for giving their time to support our young people.
A very special ‘thank you’ must go to all teachers involved, who spend their time and energy preparing students to take part in this competition that lies at the very heart of the aims of our association.
To answer this question for our members, George Habsburg-Lorraine was our guest of honour at lunch at the Acropole, Saint-Sylvain-d’Anjou, 18th February 2023. Hungarian ambassador to Paris since 2020, he is the grandson of the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, Charles Habsburg-Lorraine, and holds many titles within the dynasty, including “Imperial and Royal Highness”, “Archduke”, and “Royal Prince” of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia.
The ambassador talked about his family’s history from 1918 to today, about the challenges and positive experiences of his current position, his identity as a member of a multi-national dynasty, and his relationship with Hungary. Before joining members for an aperitif and lunch in the restaurant, he invited questions from the audience relating to his family and the lives they lead today.
Our thanks to George Habsburg-Lorraine for giving his time to travel from Paris to deliver an informative and most interesting talk and also to honorary member, Balint Ordody de Ordod, a founder member of ESU France and a personal friend of the ambassador’s late father, Otto Habsburg-Lorraine, for proposing this enriching event which was greatly appreciated by all those who attended.
A great deal of fun was had by all those who attended our first meeting of 2023: the branch annual quiz and photographic competition, which took place 21 January over lunch at the “Auberge de la Rose” in Doué-la-Fontaine.
Whilst relaxing over an aperitif, 34 members and friends cast their votes in the annual photographic competition. The aim of the competition is to select several scenes that reflect the beauty and history of the area we live in, to be featured on our website and Facebook page during the course of the year. The winning photograph, entitled “Waiting for Halloween”, was taken by Anne Latrille.
It was soon time to settle down in teams at table to enjoy the excellent meal and answer questions that would tax the brain cells of everyone present. The questions, which covered a variety of themes, had been set by the branch Treasurer, Roy Powell, who was unable to join us on the day. Inevitably noise levels rose, particularly when the answers were revealed. Question master, Terry Orner, ably assisted by Pat Nickels, managed somehow to control the noise and the inevitable haggling and arguing over the allocation of marks.
Our thanks to all concerned for their hard work and patience and to the proprietors for allowing us sole use of their restaurant.
Date 12 December
Our Christmas meal is always a relaxed, enjoyable event, and this year was no exception when 50 members and friends gathered at the restaurant l’Escale de la Gare in Saumur to join in the fun. Committee members had arrived at the restaurant early to ensure tables were suitably decorated with traditional greenery, fir cones and baubles. Once the aperitif had been served, the crackers had been pulled and the paper crowns donned, the entertainment got underway under the direction of our master of ceremonies, Terry Orner.
Our thanks go to John Barritt who disclosed the true stories of several well-known children’s tales and nursery rhymes, including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Jack and Jill. Our thanks also to Tony Oakley who played his guitar and sang for us, and in addition this year displayed his prowess with the harmonica.
It wasn’t all a case of sitting back and enjoying the entertainment. Terry wanted ideas for a new version of the well-known poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas….” Each table in turn contributed to Terry’s final unique and humorous rendition of this much-loved poem.
A big thank-you to all who generously donated prizes for the raffle, and who contributed to the Christmas carol singing. The meeting was a great start to the festive season and couldn’t fail to awaken the Christmas spirit in all who were present.
Date 12 November
On a beautiful sunny morning, ESU members and friends went “Out and about in Angers”. Led by our tour guide, Liz Hanaway, we were initiated into the history of La Doutre, south of the river Maine in Angers, hence its name: “d’outre Maine”.
The area has a rich history. From a Gallo-Roman roadway to the beautiful modern tapestries in the Musée Jean Lurcat, evidence of the intervening years is everywhere. Today a popular residential area, it was once home to several religious orders, members of which along with local benefactors helped care for the many poor and needy.
Following an enriching morning packed with details from our knowledgeable guide, the walkers were joined by several members for lunch at the ‘Acropole’. It was good to welcome amongst those present several members from pre-Covid days. The relaxed convivial atmosphere continued throughout the meal and the consensus was that an extremely enjoyable day was had by all.