An account of the trip from Mayor Cllr Steve Goodheart and the Mayoress, Mrs Andrea Goodheart:
My wife and I were delighted to accept an invitation by the Mayor of Saint-Maur-des-Fosses to visit his Town, a Twin Town of Bognor Regis since 1980. We were very lucky to be accompanied by Heather Perrott and Phil Butler from the Bognor Regis Twinning Association. We travelled on Eurostar which was an experience in itself and arrived at Gare du Nord, Paris, to be met by Nathalie Joret, the administrator in charge of international relations for the Town of Saint Maur. We were chauffeured to our hotel for a short rest before being taken out to La Table du Marche where we met Madame Dominique Soulis, Deputy Mayor and Florentine Raffard, Municipal Councillor. This was the first of many delicious meals we were treated to and a first chance to talk with Dominique and Florentine who were both fluent in English. We were able to find out more about Saint-Maur and answer some of their questions about Bognor Regis.
After a comfortable night at the hotel we were taken for a tour of the impressive Town Hall, built in the 19th century, and to meet Monsieur Sylvain Berrios who has been Mayor of Saint-Maur since 2016. We exchanged official gifts in the magnificent surroundings of a room in the Town Hall where weddings take place and then we also gave a few extra souvenir gifts from Bognor Regis- thanks to Darryl Hardy. There was much laughter and the buckets & spades will be enjoyed by grandchildren. The Mayor took us to his office and showed us photos of many famous faces! He is a Rolling Stones fan and had a poster of the tour from when he last saw them perform. We had also seen that tour so it was good to reminisce. The Town Hall was very large and very impressive. Red carpet, marble floors, crystal chandeliers and art on the walls. We were taken up to the fourth floor for a magnificent view of Saint-Maur and beyond to the skyline of Paris including the Eiffel Tower and the financial district similar to the city of London. Apparently they were able to view the devastating fire at Notre Dame back in 2019.
When our tour of the Town Hall was complete we were able to accompany Sylvain Berrios to the large Saturday Market which was lively and colourful! The fresh produce was beautifully displayed and our senses were constantly assaulted by new sights, sounds and (wonderful) smells! The Saint-Maur branch of Lions International were selling soup which had been donated by restaurants in the Town to raise funds for a local food bank. It was very well attended and they seemed very pleased to see both Mayors for a photo opportunity!
I was then very impressed to be given a ride with the Mayor in his hybrid car as we were chauffeured on a scenic drive along the banks of the River Marne which almost surrounds the Town of Saint-Maur. The waters were a mesmerising blue and the houses lining the Promenade des Anglais were all individual with their own character and surrounded by gardens. Lunch was a grand affair at Le Chateau des Iles on the bank of the river along Quai Winston Churchill. Being pescatarian we had a slightly different menu to everyone else and we absolutely loved the fish we were served even if we didn’t know what it was at the time!
After the meal and a particularly impressive cheese selection we said ‘au revoir’ to the Mayor, and were accompanied by Dominique and Florentine on a tour of the Town to take in the sights. First stop was the impressive ruins of the Abbay de Saint-Maur, built in the 7th century, which lay in a large open park where many events are held in the summer, after which we were taken to visit Square Bognor Regis! Of course we couldn’t resist taking many photos here! Next stop le Mediatheque which was so much more than just a library and very well used. It was wonderful to see the space being used by so many families on a Saturday afternoon. Our final visit that afternoon was a building close to the heart of Dominique being the Deputy Mayor (one of several) with responsibility for Sport and International Relations and a former teacher. It was the Saint-Maur sports centre and stadium - Centre Sportif Brossolette. Once again we were amazed at how many people were using the facility! We witnessed handball, basketball, gymnastics, fencing and weight-lifting. We even stayed to watch a weight-lifting competition and met a European judo champion and female weight-lifter who had placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympics both from Saint-Maur!
That evening we ate in La Cassolette with more delicious French cuisine and enjoyed the company of Dominique, Florentine, Nathalie, Heather and Phil by now chatting away as if we had know each other for years!
The next morning we had some free time so explored another local market and had the chance to walk along the River Marne before meeting up once again with our hosts and enjoying brunch in Bistrot Les Petits Plats which was a buffet with a French twist and very popular with the locals. It was also opposite the Town Hall, so we were able to see it for one last time before being taken back to Gard du Nord for our return trip.
We arrived back in Bognor at midnight on Sunday and have to say we had thoroughly enjoyed our weekend away, seeing Saint Maur and being treated like VIPs but it was very nice to be back home with a cup of tea.