My début twinning visit to Crest, France by Andreas Yiasimi

"Embarking on a journey of 777.9 miles from Cromer to the charming town of Crest was an eye-opening experience. From immersing myself in the local heritage and staying with a hospitable family, I gained a profound sense of belonging and perspective. Through my unforgettable visit, I gained a deeper understanding of the significance of twinning, its cultural importance, and its potential for nurturing lasting connections."
Saou Forest and mountains

Cromer Twinning Association had always heard about twinning but it wasn’t until I had the chance to experience it for myself that I truly understood its value. Being able to read about something or attend seminars is great, but diving in and experiencing it firsthand is incomparable.

My eyes were opened to the significance of these links when I took my first trip with the Cromer twinning association to the enchanting town of Crest. Before setting out, my fellow members filled me in on Crest’s remarkable history, but it was still quite new to me.

During the 777.9-mile train journey, I took advantage of the opportunity to ask as many questions as I could. I wanted to be a good representative and align my expectations with the purpose of our visit. I was fortunate to have the former Vice Chairwoman, Mary Hill, and a longstanding twinner, Gordon, with us, and they were both incredibly helpful. Mary and Gordon were part of the original team that established the twinning relationship between Cromer and Crest back in 1980.

Four members of the Cromer twinning association, including Cllr Andreas Yiasimi and former chairwoman Mary Hill, stand on a train platform alongside other members, ready to embark on their twinning visit to Crest, France. The group is full of excitement for their upcoming journey, which marks Cllr Andreas's debut twinning adventure. The photo captures the anticipation and enthusiasm of the team as they eagerly await the train, all smiling and looking towards the camera
All aboard! Waiting on the train platform with the Cromer twinning team, buzzing with excitement for our epic journey to Crest. Photo by © Andreas Yiasimi

Our arrival in Crest was met with a warm greeting from the President of the Crest twinning committee, Jann White. She kindly drove us to our destinations, and as a non-French-speaking person, I was relieved to have Jann as an excellent interpreter. She proved to be a key player throughout our visit, making it an incredibly positive experience. Jann and her husband Patrick were even kind enough to organise for me to stay with them on a subsequent trip, which I will be sure to blog about soon.

for my debut visit, I stayed with a lovely family, Cllr Susanne, her husband, Arend, and two daughters, Isabella and Selina. They had a fantastic restaurant in Crest called, L’Etape Crestoise and It was wonderful to sample some of their fantastic food, I will never forget their overwhelming hospitality. More so I got to understand that the challenges, hopes, and inspirations were no different from our own back in Cromer. I began to see from the outset that this was one of many reasons how beneficial twinning is.

Cllr Susanne and Andreas Yiasimi meeting in Crest to discuss local community issues.
I had the pleasure of meeting Councillor Susanne during a meeting with the twinning committee in Crest, and it was a wonderful experience. Photo by © Andreas Yiasimi

I recall how excited I was the night before my first appointment. It was an unforgettable occasion that I had been eagerly anticipating for weeks. We were scheduled to gather in the bustling square to commemorate the historic Armistice Day, and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it all.

As I chatted with the locals who could speak English, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of belonging in this wonderful community. We spoke at length about what was to be expected during the event, and I made sure to take note of everything. It was important to me to follow the customs and procedures of Crest, so as to show my respect for the way they did things here. Although the message of the day was a unified one, I knew that the way in which it was executed might differ. But I was determined to do it right.

Delegates from Cromer, Nidda, Crest, and Pont St Nicolo gather at L'Etape Crestoise on the eve of Armistice Day.
On the eve of Armistice Day, delegates from Cromer, Nidda, Crest, and Pont St Nicolo come together for an evening at L’Etape Crestoise. Photo by © Andreas Yiasimi

Representing Cromer alongside Mary and Gordon for Armistice Day was an unforgettable experience that filled me with pride. As we joined other dignitaries from across Europe, the solemn atmosphere set the tone for a day of remembrance and celebration.

The warm greetings extended to twinning committee members from Germany, France, the UK, and Italy by local dignitaries were a testament to the power of unity and collaboration. The day was made even more special by the display of the children’s pictorial and written work at the school. Their talent and creativity shone through, and it was heartwarming to see teachers helping with translations to ensure that everyone could appreciate the beauty of their work.

As I reflect on our three-day stay, I can say with certainty that this was one of the most important moments. Witnessing the coming together of different countries and communities to honour a historic event and celebrate the spirit of cooperation and friendship was truly uplifting. This part of my story deserved a page of its own, so you can read more about it and experience the warm camaraderie that I felt that day here: Twin towns across Europe join in remembrance.

In a touching tribute on Armistice Day, Mayor, Hervé Mariton of Crest braves the rain to lay a respectful wreath in honor of the fallen
Amidst the rain, Hervé Mariton, the Mayor of Crest, pays his respects on Armistice Day by laying a solemn wreath. Photo by © Andreas Yiasimi

I had the chance to attend a very constructive twinning committee meeting in the town Hall Chamber the next day. I noticed that the foundation and structure of the council were familiar with proceedings back home, however, It was the combination of ideas from communities working together that was the most rewarding. There is none more empowering and inspirational than learning from each other. It is only then, can we truly profess to embrace friendly relations. I have always maintained that listening is a virtue, in all walks of life.

I especially loved the variable ways Crest organised their events and I picked up on so many things that we could add to our procedure in Cromer. In return, I told them all about our amazing events, including Cromer Carnival. It was to give birth to a twin visit to Cromer by our twin towns at Cromer Crab and Lobster Festival the following year.

My Takeaways: Some of the Notes from my debut Twinning Meeting in Crest

  1. “Why Twinning Matters: Benefits for Cultural Exchange, Education, Social Connections, and Collaborative Partnerships”
  2. “The Power of Twinning: A Pathway to Inclusivity, Lifelong Learning, and Community Development”
  3. “The Harmony of Twinning: Creating Stronger Ties Between Towns across the Globe”
  4. “Joining Forces: How Twinning Can Encourage Positive Change and Ideas”
  5. “The Value of Twinning: Building Bridges Across Cultures and Enriching Lives”

Exploring Saoû Forest: A Journey Through History and Inspiration at ‘The Inn of the Dolphins

A view of 'The Inn of the Dolphins' nestled in the picturesque Saoû Forest, a popular destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Located in the heart of the awe-inspiring Saoû Forest, ‘The Inn of the Dolphins’ is a charming and historic building that has inspired travelers for generations. Photo by © Andreas Yiasimi

Crest and its surrounding areas are such an enchanting place, and I was captivated by their scenic beauty and rich history. This was highlighted by an unexpected visit to the Saoû Forest on the third day of our stay. I had the pleasure of meeting local archaeology enthusiast, Mirielle, who kindly offered to drive me there. It was one of those moments I’m glad that happened. Both because of the passion I have for photography and our natural environment.

No words could describe the stunning Saoû Forest that flourishes in the village of Saoû and extends for miles beyond. The forest climbs up nearby mountains and continues until it reaches the highest summit, which is part of the renowned Trois Becs peaks: Rochecourbe, le Signal, and le Veyou. Mirielle explained, how valuable this place was for archaeology enthusiasts. She told me how the forest is full of prehistoric remains and artifacts, which give us a glimpse into the lives of people who lived there long ago.

Panoramic view of rugged limestone mountains in Saou forest, France, home to exceptional biodiversity. Rocky peaks, green slopes, and dense forests create a stunning natural landscape.
A panoramic view of the rugged limestone mountains in Saou forest, France. The mountains cover 2,500 hectares and are home to exceptional biodiversity. Their rocky peaks, green slopes, and dense forests create a stunning natural landscape. Photo by © Andreas Yiasimi

As I gazed upon a charming building nearby, Mirielle enlightened me that it’s known as “l’Auberge des Dauphins,” which translates to “The Inn of the Dolphins.” She went on to explain the building has been around since the 18th century and quickly became a favoured destination for adventurous travellers seeking inspiration from the stunning natural surroundings. With its tranquil atmosphere and breathtaking views, this place was an ideal retreat for artists and writers looking for their creative muse. Throughout the years, the building has welcomed a diverse array of guests who come to bask in the serene atmosphere and unleash their artistic potential.

My visit to France has been truly a memorable experience that has expanded my perspective. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the twinning program and to forge lasting friendships with people from different parts of the world. Going forward, I am committed to doing my part in promoting the success of the twining organization and fostering a spirit of collaboration and mutual respect among its members.

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