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Mont Saint Michel

Twenty miles across the sea is one of the leading nations of Europe and one which for centuries we either fought over or fought with. The French capital, Paris, is one of the continents leading cities, popular with tourists and pretty much known to everyone.

On the northern seaboard the easily accessible regions of Normandy and Brittany are frequent destinations for UK tourists and it’s there that you'll find most of the French twin towns for other towns around the south and west of England.

La Ciotat

Our towns first twin town was a French one. Like many other English towns. However, in 1957 the worthies of Bridgwater ventured a lot further south and chose a small Mediterranean seaside town with a large dockyard. Admittedly, not too similar to home. However, it proved to be an inspired choice as La Ciotat is one of the most charming locations on the cote D'Azur and within easy reach of Nice or Marseilles airports.

La Ciotat

Hot summers with shoulder months cooled by the mistral wind, La Ciotat is pretty much a paradise with its exotic location and Mediterranean climate combining with French cuisine, wine, le vrai pastis de Marseille and quayside bars and clubs offering nightlife for the rich and famous at affordable prices.

Nearby is the attractive village of Cassis and further along the coast you can even drop into the in dependent city state of Monaco for the day and then pop into Italy. To the north are the French Alpine ski resorts and to the west the Camargue region that tops off a relaxing visit to Provence.


It's October, it's La Ciotat and it's still summer. Hura pour Le Jumelage!

It's October, it's La Ciotat and it's still summer. Hura pour Le Jumelage!

Bridgwater is incredibly fortunate to be twinned with the French Mediterranean town of La Ciotat. Apart from both once having a bit of industry there’s not a right lot in common. However, this ‘jumelage’ has been in existence since 1957 so look ye not gift horses in mouths.

The La Ciotat jumelage committee sit in constant readiness for Bridgwater visitors to turn up to bestow upon them bundles of generosity, camaraderie, friendship and hospitality. Well, not just Bridgwater visitors, they also have twin towns in Germany and Slovenia and maybe Italy, although the Mayors apparently keep getting shot there. The French support International relations in a big way and councils have a budget to support this whilst in England ‘twinning’ is a scary word, little financial backing is provided by the councils, people ‘pay their own way’ and an increasing number of ‘little Englanders’ are voting UKIP. C’est la vie, we might say (unless we’re UKIP) (which we aren’t).

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HUNGARIANS DROP IN ON A SUN-DRENCHED LA CIOTAT

Most Somerset towns are twinned with French partner towns in nearby Normandy. Just pop across the channel and you're there. Not Bridgwater though. Oh no, we're twinned with a town in the South of France. Having said that, La Ciotat is just as easy, if not easier, to get to as any Norman twinning and, in fact, far more rewarding. While you're packing your car, driving to a Channel port, booking a ferry and driving off the other side, you can be popping up to Bristol airport, flying over to Marseilles or Nice and within 4-5 hours you'll be as much in La Ciotat as you would have been in Caen, Rouen or Bayeux. And it's sunnier.

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UNE BONNE WEEKEND AVEC LE GANG IN BRIDGWATER SUR MER

No-one quite knows why Bridgwater is twinned with the elegant Mediteranean yachting resort of La Ciotat - but thanks to whoever did that 55 years ago. Last year we kick started the link with a joint Anglo-Czech football invasion - successfully losing every game, and this year we took a multitude of choirs from the Bridgwater area to link up with a choir from La Ciotat.

The result was another well earned credit for Yvette Staellens and her globetrotting 'Voice of the People' team based at the Bridgwater Arts Centre. Each year they come with us to a different country, imprint Bridgwater culture with a dainty slipper mark on the hearts of all they meet, make a few friends and leave with a song on their lips. Even at 5am in the morning. And in this case, even when they were circling Bristol airport unable to land due to bad weather and having to be diverted to Cardiff.

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LA CIOTAT-BRIDGWATER'S FIRST TWINNING RE-VISITED

In 1957 Bridgwater set up its first ever twinning. In the style of the day this was with a French town in order to strengthen the 'Entente Cordiale'. Whilst most Somerset towns picked up twin towns in neighbouring Normandy (just across the Channel), Bridgwater ended up with a veritable Mediterranean paradise in Provence, slightly along the coast from St.Tropez, Cannes and Nice. So what became of the little town of La Ciotat in the years since the Lumiere brothers first shot the motion picture classic 'Train arriving in a station' there in 1895 and what imperative spurred them on to make that even more famous link with Bridgwater in 1957??

Well, we didn't know at all, so we decided to take a couple of football teams down there and see what the place was like anyway.

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