Rotary visit to Meudon
As you can see Robert Louis Stevenson got to Barbizon village before we did.
International Meeting 24-26 May 2013 hosted by the Rotary Club of Meudon
Vendredi 24 Mai: Our French Rotarian friends were quick to point out that they had ordered British weather to make us feel at home. We emerged from the Gare du Nord into the cold, wet, windy Parisian day that David Graham had luckily warned us about. Suitably clad and armed with umbrellas we handed over our luggage to a Rotarian wonder woman called Catherine and another called Sylvie. (The next time we were to see our luggage was in our hotel rooms where we found, also, a beautifully illustrated book about Meudon, our name tags and a meticulously organised folder with all the details we would need of the visit. Of course some delegates forgot to put their names on their suitcases and didn’t get around to reading all the information but that was their problem. Poor Sandra found herself catering for the ‘nameless’ bags in her room.) I should also add that inside the book was a book mark on which was printed: FRIEDEN DURCH EINSATZ: PEACE THROUGH SERVICE: LA PAIX PAR LE SERVICE – symbolising the shared vision of and the special liaison between the Rotary Clubs of Celle-Schloss, Germany, Golders Green, London and Meudon, Paris.
Luggage taken care of, and free to sample the delights of Parisian culture, we headed for a long lunch, out of the rain, at a nearby restaurant where Annie had made a booking for the 19 Golders Green Rotarians and companions. The cuisine and wine were excellent, of course, and we had to fight off the desire to have forty winks; some headed for The Louvre and others to the Chagall exhibition at Musee du Luxembourg. Both visits were reported to be superb.
Back at the hotel, finally, after a few logistical problems, we changed and set off by coach, along with our German Rotarian friends, for a splendid gala dinner in the sumptuous venue, ‘Les Salons de la maison des arts et métier’, Alma Mater of President Cédric Turcaud of Meudon. (Dress was ‘chic casual’ as we had a private room.) Once again the champagne flowed so friendships were made and renewed and fellowship was enjoyed using varying levels of French, German and English until it was time to partake of the excellent menu, starting with a beautifully green mise en bouche; I believe we were seated on Napoleon III chairs. The customary exchange of gifts followed and welcome speeches by the three Presidents were succinctly translated by our Annie and President Frauke Betz of Celle, a lady fluent in many languages. Past Rotarians David Max and Klaus Neuberg were remembered with fondness. A little too soon, despite the shock of the much too early wake up for some of us to get on the Eurostar at St Pancras, we travelled back to Hotel Ibis, Meudon and collapsed into bed, hoping that we had got the one hour time change in the right direction.
Next day, Samedi 25 Mai, we set off by coach for ‘The true home of kings, the house of ages’ as Napoleon I described it, the immense, most fully furnished of the French royal châteaux, Fontainebleau. It couldn’t be said that ‘there isn’t much to see’ and in fact, we only had time and the mental capacity to take in a fraction of it. Highlights are too numerous to list and I’m sure, like me, many of us realised that there was still more to learn about the history of France. My thoughts turned to the revolution and how hard it must have been to empty the château of its contents!
Lunch was next at ‘l’auberge de la clé d’or’ (inn of the golden key) in the beautiful village of many artists, Barbizon. Although it was too chilly to have an aperitif in the garden, the sun did appear later, just in time for Brian and Adrian to have a much needed snooze on a comfortable bench. Again, after champagne and tasty canapés an exquisite menu was served, washed down by a selection of well-chosen wines - or soft drinks for those who wanted them.
A visit to the house of Jean-François Millet proved fascinating and a wander around the picturesque, unspoilt village with its traditional shops and bistros with bright geraniums outside revived us. President Howard found a nice bottle of wine to add to the gift for our French hosts who would entertain us at home in the evening.
Back at the hotel, there was time for a very English cuppa and a snooze before we were picked up and transported to dinner chez les rotariens. At this point, I can only speak for Howard, Brenda, Gerry and myself; we had a superb evening in the home of Jean-Michel Pras (in Central Paris)- an apartment which is packed full of large and old leather bound, mostly travel, books and his collection of giant maps and carvings from all corners of the world. The excellent meal was prepared by both Jean- Michel and our wonder woman Catherine (Munoz) and the wines and cheeses served were extra special! At one point we were on the floor, poring over ancient maps of Africa which, by this time, were in fact fascinating. When it was time to say bonne nuit, Catherine suggested a tour of Paris by night; we thought she was joking. Where she got her energy from I do not know but we did indeed see the sights including the Eiffel tower three times, once fully lit, then exploding into sparkles and finally shutting down for the night at ‘une heure et dix exactement’. As we neared our hotel, Catherine said she was going home to print off some award certificates. ‘Service above Self’, the Rotary motto, sprang to mind. I was glad I had rehearsed ‘Merci beaucoup pour cette très belle soirée’ though it wasn’t perhaps enough of a thank you.
Dimanche 26 Mai: With just enough sleep to refresh us and fortified by breakfast, we set off, plus luggage, by coach for the nearby Museum of Art and History of Meudon which has recently been refurbished and proved to be well stocked with landscape paintings and modern art. I was particularly interested to see a painting with a small section of the Eiffel Tower under construction on the horizon.
We then left for a prize giving, in the company of the Mayor and other local dignitaries, which was to take place in a large marquee near an octagonal lake in the Forest of Meudon. We were greeted by a small but loud brass band dressed in long, red, hunting jackets. The certificates, which Catherine had produced in the early hours, were then presented to some delightful young citizens of Meudon for special merit, courage or service to the community with the additional accolade of a handshake from Rotary President Frauke, Howard or Cédric. It was a heart-warming experience, especially for the proud families.
All too soon, after a buffet lunch, and a small tripartite business meeting in a corner regarding the International Meeting of 2014 in LONDON, we had to say good bye to our German friends as they left for the airport. We Londoners had time to fill so a few of us spent it admiring the work of the sculptor Rodin, in his beautiful Meudon villa, while the rest relaxed by the lake or (mostly the boys) played with remote controlled boats. The coach plus luggage transported us in good time to catch the Eurostar back to London by bedtime. Our French Rotarian colleagues had done a wonderful job of catering for us. Their programme heading ‘Seule l’action dans l’amitie peut donner la paix’ which I hope means, ‘Only action in friendship can give peace’ summed up the overarching ideal. We simply enjoyed the generally fun-loving ambience during the visit.
Many thanks to all who worked so hard to make this weekend happen for Golders Green, especially Rotarian David Graham, International Committee Chairman. I am sure we can look forward to an equally splendid weekend in London in 2014.
Those who attended:
President Howard Martin and Brenda, President Elect Kuljit Gulati and Satwant,International Chairman David Graham and Caronne, Past Rotarian’s wife, Sandra MaxPast Rotarian’s partner, Annie Morley-Slinn, Rotarian David Cohen and Judith,Rotarian Gerry Goés and Liz, Rotarian Sheila MortimerRotarian Tony Raab and Sue, Rotarian Adrian Simons and his son, Craig (our photographer),Rotarian Brian Wass and Rosa Berru Cueva
Liz Goés: May 28th 2013