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May 2023

May Day Walk

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

April 2023

Annual General Meeting

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.   

March 2023

Regional Final Public Speaking Competition 11 March

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 Maine-et-Loire:

  • The Lycée St. Benoît Site Université and Lycée Joachim du Bellay in Angers
  • The Lycée Dom Sortais in Beaupréau-en-Mauges and the Lycée Saint Louis in Saumur

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.

Lunch and cinema visit 18 March

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. 

National Final Public Speaking Competition 25 March

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.

February 2023

What has become of the Habsburg family today?

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.

January 2023

Annual quiz and photographic competition

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.

December 2022

Christmas meal

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.

November 2022

Out and about in Angers

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.

October 2022

Autumn walk

On a crisp and sunny morning, Friday 7 October, members and friends of the association gathered in the car park near the Mairie in Saint-Melaine-sur-Aubance before setting off together on a walk that led down forest paths and through vineyards around the surrounding countryside.  ESU walks provide a great opportunity for mingling, chatting, and getting to know each other and this was no exception.  As always, the pace was somewhat slow and the chatter was loud throughout the 8 kilometres covered on the circuit. 

The leaders and the stragglers arrived back at the car park around midday to enjoy a picnic lunch in the sunshine together in the adjoining visitors’ area.  It was a perfect end to a truly lovely walk in the autumn sunshine.

Talk by Nila Jussien

Saturday 15 October the chairman welcomed 4 new members to lunch and introduced our speaker, Nila Jussien, a young lady who talked about her experiences at the ESU Debate Academy in August this year. 

After a two-year pause, the ESU’s Debate Academy returned with great success in August 2022.  The organisers welcomed 66 enthusiastic young speakers from around the world to Stamford School in Lincolnshire for a week of top-quality debate coaching and general enrichment.  

Throughout the week, students received expert tuition from some of the best debaters and coaches in the country, enabling them to discuss world issues, sharpen their analytical, reasoning, and public speaking skills, and spar with other students in competitive debates.

This was the first time that the ESU Loire Valley has sponsored a student to attend the Academy and we were delighted to learn that the week had been an incredible experience both in relation to the new skills acquired and to the new friendships established during the course of the week. 

For details of the ESU Debate Academy :

September 2022 - The Battle of Vieil-Baugé

On Saturday 24 September, Colonel Bertrand Chandouineau, a keen military historian, exhibited his passion for local history when he spoke to members about the Battle of Vieil-Baugé.  Demonstrating his excellent command of English, the Colonel’s detailed presentation to 26 fortunate members covered all aspects of this famous battle that saw the English troops routed by those of Scotland and France.  

Following an extremely enjoyable meal in the restaurant “Ö Coin des Baugeois”, the Colonel escorted everyone on a visit to the battle fields and the narrow lane where so many knights perished on their way uphill to the village itself. It was hard to imagine today’s peaceful valley as a graveyard for so many soldiers.  We look forward to following archaeological investigations planned for 2023 in the hope that they reveal more details of this famous battle of the 100 Years’ War. 

August 2022 - Hog Roast

On the afternoon of Sunday 28 August the weather was perfect, the food was superb, and the setting in the Vice-Chairman’s garden was simply lovely. All that was needed to make this a really great day out was a group of members and friends eager to be together and enjoy themselves.

In total, 55 people attended, among them many familiar faces and several new ones that we hope to see again at future events. All factors contributed to make this a truly memorable hog roast. In the days that followed, feedback from many of those present suggested that it was the best ever August barbecue the ESU Loire Valley has held.

Our thanks to all who made this possible: the chefs who had started work at 05h30 in order to light the fires and cook the two large legs of pork to perfection; to committee members and their partners who had worked hard shopping and preparing and ensuring that everything ran smoothly on the day; to those who transported the tables and benches; and to all who helped with and contributed to the raffle, the proceeds from which will go towards the aims of our association: to motivating young people to gain confidence and skills in verbal communication – skills that are invaluable in today’s world.

July 2022

During the afternoon of Sunday 24 July, 12 members met near the tower atop the hill at Candes-Saint-Martin for a picnic. Fortunately there were plenty of trees to provide some shade.

The weather was extremely warm and sunny, and it was a very pleasant and relaxing way to spend the afternoon, with good food and good company. The views from here across the Loire are spectacular.

Laure Chabenat

Laure is currently studying in Canterbury as part of a Masters’ Degree in Political Sciences organised in conjunction with Lille University. When a student at the Lycée St. Louis in Saumur, Laure won the National Public Speaking Competition 2018 and represented France in the International Competition in London the same year.

Laure has kept in touch with the Loire Valley branch and following an email she sent, the contents of which are featured on our Public Speaking page, she was interviewed by staff at Dartmouth House and has recently been featured on their website. To read more about Laure, follow the link Laure Chabenat

Debate academy

For the first time, the ESU Loire Valley branch sponsored a student this year to attend the Debate Academy 2022, which took place between 1 and 6 August in Stamford School, Lincolnshire, England. Nila, a student at the Lycée St. Benoît site Université in Angers, had a wonderful experience during her stay. She says:

I have just got back home from Debate Academy and I wanted to thank you and the ESU Loire Valley for having supported me in this journey.

“I had such a great time in Stamford. I really enjoyed learning how to argue, justify, organise, prioritise and debate obviously.  Thanks to the Debate Academy I have acquired skills in public speaking and argumentation that I will surely use in the future. It was such a great experience to get to debate and meet new people.

I have encountered people from multiple horizons who I would have never met if it was not for Debate Academy. I now have friends from the UK 8   

I had a wonderful time at Debate Academy ! “

June 2022 - Jubilee Garden Party

During the afternoon of 26 June, around 100 people gathered in the grounds of Anne Latrille’s family home in Les Ulmes to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the late Queen. This large number was made up of members, friends, teachers, and members of Loire Valley voices, a multi-cultural, bi-lingual choir based in Fontevraud who entertained us with a repertoire that had many feet tapping around the lovely, shaded gardens.

The afternoon featured a competition for decorated hats, a Jubilee quiz on aspects of the British Royal Family and a performance by our very own jester, Peter Clarke. Contributions to the buffet lunch were provided by all attendees and the resulting spread offered amazing choices to suit all tastes.

Particular thanks must go to all committee members who worked hard to ensure an enjoyable afternoon for all – the planning, preparations and hard work paid off and at the end of the day, all those present went home with happy memories of an afternoon full of fun and laughter in a perfect setting


The IPSC 2022 heats took place on Wednesday 11 May via Zoom. The 33 competitors had been divided into two groups according to the time zones they were speaking from. 

Six young people representing Canada, Romania, the Netherlands, the People’s Republic of China, Brazil and Hong Kong, were selected to progress to the grand finals Friday 13 May. They were:




Words of Wisdom




What makes a hero



The Netherlands

Who are the real heroes?



People’s Republic of China

A superhero movie that needs to end




No more heroes any more

Ching Ho


Hong Kong

“The Weight of A Cape”

The jury for the finals comprised

  • The Right Honourable Robert Buckland MP
  • Simon Bucknell, international speaker and coach
  • Pavit Coran, IPSC champion 2021 from Malaysia
  • Nadiya Ivanenko, associate professor of Comparative Linguistics and Deputy Dean in the Department of Foreign Languages at Kirovograd State Pedagogical University, Ukraine
  • Cristina Jeppesen, public speaking coach and teacher from Chile

The five judges had the difficult task of selecting an overall winner, but eventually Kangqi Yang, an undergraduate student from Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University was announced to be this year’s champion for her excellent speech about the myth of the idyllic state of motherhood entitled “A Superhero Movie that needs to End”. 

Congratulations from us all to Kangqi for her brilliant achievement.  Let us all hope that one day we shall be able to hear her speak live – maybe at the IPSC 2023?

The finals were recorded and the winning speech is available on YouTube here.

There is a also very informative YouTube video that is accessible here.