Linlithgow Twinning Association is inviting readers to sample a taste of France this Easter by joining its biannual trip to Guyancourt.
After World War Two, twinning was promoted as a way of building bridges between the UK, France and Germany.
It proved hugely popular and, even as memories of the war faded, more and more successful twinning partnerships were forged.
Next year, Linlithgow Twinning Association will celebrate its 30th successful year with its French counterpart, Guyancourt.
And as that anniversary approaches, members of the association are hoping more people will join their ranks.
Each Easter weekend since 1989, parties from both towns have taken turn about to visit , enjoying hospitality from their respective hosts in their own homes.
Hundreds of individuals, couples and families have forged lasting friendships as a result.
This year, a party from Linlithgow will visit Guyancourt from Friday, March 30, to Monday, April 2.
The group will include several members of the town’s Folk Festival team who have taken twinning to their heart.
Last year, Linlithgow Ramblers also hosted a group of Guyancourt walkers over the twinning weekend for the first time.
Seven local ramblers are heading to France this year, where they will take part in joint walks with their Guyancourt counterparts.
And an invitation has also been extended to readers to consider their own French adventure.
Fiona and Rod Aird have been association committee members since moving to Linlithgow in 2001.
And Fiona is keen for others to enjoy the hospitality and friendship offered by the group.
She said: “Participation in our twinning visit is open to everyone – it is not limited to those living in Linlithgow.
“People from surrounding areas are also more than welcome!
“The association is very inclusive –individuals, couples and families have all enjoyed being part of our twinning weekends.
“The French twinning committee organises accommodation over there, matching people with a suitable host.
“Two years ago, for example, a Linlithgow family with three boys were hosted by a French family and they got on so well that the French family came over here last year to stay.
“The local family are now going back to France to see their friends again this year.
“If you hit it off with your French hosts, you want to go every year – it’s amazing how many lasting friendships have been forged over the years.
“People from Linlithgow also strike up friendships with members of their own group – it’s a great way to meet new people.
“I can assure anyone who is considering joining the twinning party that they will have a lovely weekend.”
Linlithgow visitors pay for their own flights to France.
But accommodation, entertainment, food and trips are laid on by the Guyancourt hosts.
This year, a reception and welcome event will be held on the Friday night.
There will be a group outing on the Saturday and in the evening the French hosts will lay on a dinner for their guests, followed by a Spectac – a fantastic evening of entertainment for all.
On the Sunday, hosts take their guests out for the day and in the evening a buffet and entertainment is laid on, courtesy of Linlithgow Folk Festival members and their French counterparts.
Fiona said: “It’s a very busy but fun weekend, with group activities as well as events for just the hosts and their guests.
“One of the cornerstones of our twinning is being hosted in French families homes and vice versa.
“You get to meet and make friends with people you would never meet otherwise.
“You usually have to know someone very well to be invited to stay for the weekend with them.
“The hosts really want to look after you and are so welcoming – it really is lovely.
“If we were staying in hostels instead, we wouldn’t have the same chance to talk to our hosts.
“And that would be a great shame – sitting sharing breakfast together, you really get to know people.”
Such close connections are the reason why the goodbyes on the Monday take quite some time.
Fiona added: “Everyone gathers to say goodbye so it usually takes ages for us to get on the coach...and some don’t want to leave!”
For more information on joining this year’s visit, email email@example.com.
Or attend the association’s next French film night at the Barony Theatre, Bo’ness, for a screening of Mon Meilleur Ami on March 1 at 7.30pm.
Friendships forged for 29 years
Linlithgow and Guyancourt have enjoyed a successful programme of exchange visits for 29 years, following the signing of an official twinning agreement in July 1989.
That document was signed by then president of Linlithgow Twinning Association Ian Donaldson and his French counterpart Roland Nadaus.
Guyancourt is situated about 20 kilometres south-west of Paris, close to the Chateau of Versailles.
The main annual twinning event takes place over the Easter weekend when exchange visits are organised between the two towns.
Twinning is open to anyone living in Linlithgow and surrounding areas and individuals, couples and families are welcome to participate.
All that is required is an interest in France and the French way of life.
The ability to speak a little French can be useful but is not essential as most French twinners speak some English.
It can, however, be an excellent means of practising your own French skills.
In order to experience French culture first hand, Linlithgow visitors stay with host families when they visit Guyancourt and French guests are hosted in local homes when they visit Linlithgow. People who have been hosted in France are not obliged to host Guyancourt visitors but many choose to do so as lasting friendships are often forged.
* Members of Linlithgow Twinning Association were saddened to learn of the sudden death last week of Georges Sweitlik, president of the Guyancourt Twinning Committee. Georges was a friend to many in Linlithgow. His funeral was held on Friday and members sent condolences to his wife Catherine and family.