Twinning visit to Chassieu - 2019

    Report by Brian Nicholson
Sunshine and showers in Chassieu

In early June, 28 members of the Twinning Association travelled to Chassieu (Rhône-Alpes) for a short stay, hosted by Dialogues Chassieu-Coleshill. We were warmly welcomed in the Salle Polyvalente by the mayor, Jean-Jacques Sellès, cultural assistant Michel Poët and Aline Duret, chair of Dialogues Chassieu-Coleshill. Aline mentioned the awful weather that they had been having in France until les Anglais arrived bringing sunshine: quite unusual!

The following morning, we gathered outside the Karavan Théâtre, over 50 of us, smiling, shaking hands and faisant la bise with the ladies - never quite sure which cheek to kiss first - to board our bus to Oyonnax, a town known for its plastics industry, 63 miles north-east of Chassieu. At the Musée du peigne et de la plasturgie our guide told us that in the 18th century the town was an agricultural village. In the winter the inhabitants earned their living by making boxwood combs. When boxwood became scarce, animal horn was heated and flattened to serve. The story continues from natural plastics – amber, tortoiseshell, horn – to the artificial plastics developed since the late 19th century that have created so much of our world.
For lunch, the bus set us down at the Belle Rive restaurant on the shore of the beautiful Lake Mantua where lunch includes Quenelle sauce Mantua. One ingredient was pike caught locally. It was served hot, delicious and to simply describe it as a savoury fish dumpling, doesn’t do it justice.

The afternoon found us at Abbaye Notre Dame d’Ambronay, an 11th century fortified Benedictine monastery that survived the border disputes between Savoy and Dauphiné and stayed intact through the Revolution. Since then it has been a prison, hospice, school, garrison and social housing. Today it is a centre of culture, hosting the Ambronay Festival of Early Music. Indeed, the sound of a baroque orchestra rehearsing, was the accompaniment to our tour.

Friday morning dawned wet and windy. Fortunately, we spent it indoors, in Lyon. (It is worth mentioning here that rush-hour car travel from suburb to city, is probably worse than around Birmingham. Chassieu-Lyon, about 9 miles as the crow flies, takes us an hour, Pierre, at the wheel, chose a route that included four-miles of tunnel).

Indoors, in the city Fire Service Museum, we divided into French and English groups and took the tour. We were proud to learn that so many of the early machines were made in England, at a time when we led the world in fire-fighting technology.

Before central heating, many call-outs were chimney fires. Our guide made special mention of the catastrophe of November 1930. One night heavy rain caused a land-slip in the city centre. Thirty-nine people lost their lives, including 19 firemen. The aftermath led to increased safety procedures. Nowadays, French firemen not only attend emergencies but also provide the ambulance service.

We lunched at the Auberge des Aqueducs, a country restaurant in the eastern outskirts. Through the windows we saw the rain had stopped. In the afternoon we strolled in sunshine with our guide, looking up at the high arches of the Chaponost aqueduct, one of four aqueducts built by the Romans over 2000 years ago to bring water to the city. As Lyon already had two rivers, the Rhône and the Soâne, one wonders why they went to the trouble to engineer these gently sloping channels, the longest, the Gier aqueduct, twisting and turning for 54 miles from the hills south-west of the Lyon. Oh! How those Romans loved their baths!


The Saturday night farewell party took place at the Flow Brasserie where 75 guests dined and then danced to the Madison Duo until after midnight. In the pre-dinner speeches, the Mayor Sellès and Councillor Poët wished us well and safe return. Aline Duret said that after all these years of friendship, we have gone beyond the normal bounds of town-twinning. She recalled members and friends who passed away during the year, and also mentioned the new grandchildren that have come along. With a twinkle in her eye she asks, ‘Who would have guessed your new royal baby would be called Archie?’

Replying for Coleshill, Malcom Butler thanked the Chasselands for another wonderful stay. He was sure that, if Brexit does come about, it will not affect our friendship. The expressions he saw on the faces of those marking the 75th anniversary of D Day helped confirm this.


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