Due to the Covid-19 restrictions in place, the annual May Day walk could not take place and was postponed to 16th July when Tony Oakley, member and walk organiser, very kindly organised a walk for us around Mouliherne, a scattered village to the north of Vernantes. We set off to discover the local scenery around the picturesque, historic village, over half of which is made up of wooded areas on which the local economy once depended.
The village is criss-crossed with tributaries of the river Riverolle and these water sources powered mills for local industry, in particular for sawing wood, for tanning, grinding wheat and producing oil. Construction of the church started in the 11th century. It is a mixture of Roman and Gothic styles and boasts beautiful, vaulted ceilings. The thousand-year-old Carolingian sarcophagi behind the altar are evidence of the long history of life in the village. Several non-walkers joined the group for a picnic lunch during which our French members enjoyed their andouille and the British among us, their sausage rolls
The annual hog roast was attended by a total of 62 people, 46 members and 16 friends, and took place in the garden at the home of Julie Dufour, our Vice Chairman, in St. Lambert-des-Levées. The organisation of the meal was once again undertaken by the committee with the help of two cooks, Sébastien and Tim, who had valiantly arrived at the venue at 5.30am to light the fire and start cooking.
Following an aperitif and various nibbles, and an entrée of melon with port, the main course of pork or vegetarian quiche with beans and sauces was served. This was followed by a cheese course and a banana split. This novel dessert added to the fun by allowing everyone a choice of, or both, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, accompanied by various sauces and Chantilly cream. The party spirit was enjoyed by all. Even newcomers to our association were soon chatting freely to those around them. The jovial atmosphere and good-spirited help provided by members during the afternoon were remarked upon by many.
The annual car rally took place Saturday 11th September. The object of the treasure hunt is for participants to exercise their skills in identifying objects of curiosity and historical facts and to have fun in doing so. This year proved no exception. The circuit incorporated the communes originally named Avrillé, Cantenay-Epinard, Montreuil-Juigné, and Le Plessis-Macé, in areas north of Angers. As usual, the event caused a lot of arguing both between team members over the complex cryptic clues prepared by member Terence O’Hara, and with the organiser, Dorothy Morison, who delivered the answers. In all, a great deal of fun was had by all participants and an excellent meal was enjoyed in the friendly atmosphere of ‘Le Paddock’ in Cantenay-Epinard.
An Autumn Walk has become an established and well supported event on the ESU LV annual calendar. Tony Oakley kindly organised a walk on Saturday 25th September in and around Blaison-Gohier. The walk took us through vineyards and woodland and gave an opportunity for all to appreciate the lovely autumn colours in the countryside whilst chatting and sauntering along the way before settling down to enjoy a picnic lunch together. Following her day out, member Annie Guellaff wrote:
On our way, a few surprises:
First, a nest, not in a tree, its usual shelter but in the hands of a hiker
Unfortunately, Terence, our expert was not on the ground ….
Fortunately, Victor, an excellent birdwatcher, was not far and,
at first sight and with no hesitation, could tell us what kind of bird this nest and this empty eggshell belonged to ….
Then, a few metres further, we had the pleasant surprise to see,
under the canopy, in the greenery and among flowers ….
coloured garden gnomes of all sizes…waiting for Snow White probably ….
We passed a few houses “de caractère” with barns, stone stairs, a well and oven ….
We had at last our well-deserved “apéro” and picnic on real tables and real benches.
Café and “pousse-café” were cancelled because of rain!
28 members and friends enjoyed a mushroom themed lunch 9th October, at the Moulin des Saveurs, Distré, following which Dr. Laurence Laboutière gave a most interesting, illustrated talk about fungi. Dr. Laboutière has been passionate about mushrooms since childhood. She researched fungi at l’Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, a scientific and technical research centre run jointly by the Ministries of Research and Agriculture. She now has her own company, SAR Compost’elle, and produces ten different varieties of mushrooms which she sells in the markets of Saumur and Montsoreau on Saturdays and Sundays.
The next step on our journey of discovery was a practical session to help us distinguish edible from non-edible mushrooms provided by Malinda Crispin. 22nd October, Malinda kindly led members on a morning’s mushroom hunt in the woods near Breil-sur-Allonnes.
Malinda started the morning by talking about fungi in general and reinforcing several points that had been made by Dr. Laboutiere, before, armed with knives and baskets, we all set off along a footpath through the forest, often foraging into the undergrowth in search of various forms of fungi.
Everything we found went into our baskets. Some unfortunately had to be thrown away, some were kept as exhibition pieces, but a lot were returned to our baskets to add interest to our diet over the following days. Malinda offered suggestions for suitable menus. We learned that some fungi are rather spongy on the palate and that these are better when put into soup, often with crème fraiche added; others are better tossed in butter; others are excellent when mixed with vegetables or meat.
Before returning home to prepare the morning’s harvest for supper, several stayed to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a relaxing picnic lunch together.
Following the disappointment last year when the live Annual General Meeting had to be replaced with an email version, it was good news that the AGM 2021 could go ahead as planned 6th November at the Hôtel du Parc, Saumur. 29 members attended and 29 apologies and 13 proxy votes were received in advance of the meeting.
It was a particularly animated meeting with questions from the floor and plenty of opportunity for discussion which highlighted the fact that the association is truly back in business after the uncertainty of the past two years.
The traditional ESU English Christmas celebration took place at the Hotel Mercure Angers Lac du Maine Saturday 4th December. For many it marked the start of the festive season ahead. Committee members had arrived in time to ensure that the tables were festively decorated, and that raffle prizes were labelled before the 45 attendees arrived to enjoy an aperitif, pull the crackers, and don their paper crowns.
Michael Small was master of ceremonies with entertainment provided by Tony Oakley, John Barritt and Roy Powell. Several members assisted with the very successful raffle which raised 275€. In all, a very fitting, enjoyable end to the association’s activities in 2021.
Saturday 19th February, 31 members and friends gathered at the restaurant “Le Siècle d’Or” in Saumur, for a meal. It was a celebration, not only to greet the Chinese Year of the Tiger, but also of our first meeting together in 2022. We were welcomed at the door and shown to an area of the restaurant which had been set aside for us.
The food on offer at the buffet was of excellent quality and we were certainly spoiled for choice. It was a very enjoyable occasion that offered plenty of opportunities for people to interact and catch up after the sporadic meetings of the past two years.
On leaving the restaurant, 13 of us made the short journey to the Grand Palace Cinema to see the mystery thriller “Death on the Nile” which was directed by, and starred Michael Branagh. The scenery was stunning and caused many to comment that our next meeting should be on a cruise ship on the Nile (without the excitement, of course!).
During the morning of Saturday 19th March, 17 members visited the Cligman Exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in the splendid setting of Fontevraud Abbey. This exhibition was officially opened 19th September 2021 by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, and the Minister for Culture, Roselyne Bachelot.
On display are 20th century paintings, sculptures, glassware, and drawings from Europe and around the world. Whilst it was generally agreed that not all the 900 pieces on show would be welcome in our own homes, the collection is a superb representation of artwork and warrants being featured high on the list of places to visit in our region.
Following the visit to the art exhibition, the group was joined by ten more members and friends for an excellent lunch in Parnay at “La Gabelle”. People were unanimous in saying that the restaurant deserves another visit, and it will most definitely be featured in our programme of events at a future date.
The ESU public speaking competition in English took place in the grand setting of the Salons de la Présidence at the Préfecture, Place Michel Debré, Angers, during the afternoon of 26th March 2022.
12 candidates presented their speeches on the theme “We expect too much from our heroes”. They represented 7 lycées:
Yann Semler-Collery, Président of la Commission Culture du Département de Maine-et-Loire opened the proceedings and welcomed the audience made up of parents, teachers, and colleagues of the contestants.
The jury comprised three judges: Veronica Dubois and Frédéric Chotard, both inspectors of English teaching at the Académie de Nantes, and Lucia Dumont-Renard, an ESU member with many years’ experience judging ESU competitions in France and abroad.
The winner was Constance Madrid-Caillaud, shown in the centre of the photo below, representing the Lycée Dom Sortais, who delivered a speech entitled “Not Spiderman or Hulk, but our Parents”. Constance received a voucher for 50€ and will now represent France at the ESU International Public Speaking Competition 9th – 13th May.
In second position was Suzanne Gentils, a student at the St. Benoît site Université, whose speech entitled “The Beaver”, won her a voucher worth 30€.
In third place was Edwige Dupré, from the Sacré-Coeur la Salle, who received a voucher for 20€ for her speech entitled: “Words, the Key to Life!”.
Our congratulations to Constance and also to her teacher, Charlotte Julliot.
It must be emphasised that all the candidates are winners. Not only did they represent their schools in a public competition. they had worked hard to prepare their thoughts and arguments and they overcame nerves to address an unknown audience. We hope that the skills and confidence they have gained will be of benefit to them all in their future lives.
All ESU Loire Valley members join in wishing Constance ‘good luck’ with her preparations for, and her performance in, the competition in May.