Since 1996, when a Charter was signed by the respective Mayors, Trowbridge has been twinned with the French town of Charenton-le-Pont. The two towns had a similar population in 1996, though Trowbridge has grown faster. Charenton is situated on the south-east edge of Paris, where the Rivers Seine and Marne meet, and the centre of Paris is easily reached in under half an hour by metro or bus. It is very different from Trowbridge, being a mainly modern town where people live in apartments. However, there is also an old quarter and the town hall occupies a beautiful former hunting lodge of Henri IV, dating to the 16th century.
Groups from each of the twin towns visit each other in alternate years, staying in one another’s homes for a weekend. This offers a special opportunity to get to know people in a way that is not possible through an ordinary tourist visit. During the twinning weekends, visits are made to interesting local places. Some special interest groups from the towns have also made visits, such as rugby and tennis players and musicians – and school exchanges take place between The John of Gaunt School and Notre Dame des Missions.
Here in Trowbridge, TFTA offers regular social activities, many of which have a French slant – for instance, lunches and dinners with French menus, wine tastings, an annual boules match, quizzes, talks about aspects of French culture, a French conversation circle, and French films to promote language acquisition. These events are fun for our francophile members and also raise funds to pay for hosting the visits from our Charenton friends.
TFTA is an association for anyone interested in France and the French way of life. There is no need to be able to speak French, as our meetings are all conducted in English. However, anyone who does have a knowledge of French can certainly put it to good use through twinning.