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Trip to France a feast for the senses
By Kathy Erickson and Beth Brennen
Seven Mercer Island High School students recently returned from a student exchange tour to Mercer Island’s sister city, Thonon-les-Bains, France.
Their experience began on April 1. After arriving in Geneva, the Mercer Island students — along with Mercer Island Sister City Association chaperones Beth Brennen and Monica Howell — were warmly greeted by Thonon-les-Bains Sister City Association members. They were then introduced to the families with whom they would stay until their departure on April 9.
The exchange visit is an annual event.
“I really enjoyed staying with my hosts throughout the week. The food, people and places were fantastic,” said Annalise King, a MIHS junior.
Students attended the local high school with their host students and experienced everyday Thonon life. Of the school experience, Islander sophomore Liem Tu said, “I really enjoyed going to the school and meeting a lot of new people. The trip was great, and I can’t wait to go back.”
Students were hosted at a reception in their honor at the Thonon City Hall, featuring a speech welcoming them to the city by Thonon’s mayor, Jean Denais. They enjoyed lunch in the city’s old port area on Lac Leman, visited Thonon’s Thursday market, and were treated to a boat ride across Lac Leman.
At an evening band concert, King accompanied the band with a borrowed trombone.
The students toured the Haute-Savoie region, including nearby castles, Chateau de Ripaille and Chateau de Chillon, as well as the town of Evian, where students visited the famous water plant and the Charlie Chaplin museum. Other places included the medieval village of Yvoire.
One excursion took the students to visit a local goat farm that produced goat cheese. The students milked the goats, learned how cheese was made and purchased many pounds of cheese that they took home to their families!
And yes, not surprisingly, as the students spoke of highlights, the subject of food came up time and again.
“The food was to die for. Why can’t we make bread like that here?” asked freshman student Margaret Seaton.
“Oh, la vache! What a wonderful trip! Great food, people and places,” wrote freshman Madison Nimmo.
“I loved making cakes every two days or so,” Daniel Shen, also a MIHS freshman, exclaimed. “La Raclette and Tartiflette were cheese-awesomeness.”
The group visited the local lycee hotel school, where French high school students study for positions as chefs and hotel managers.
This coming October, the Thonon student hosts will visit Mercer Island and stay in the homes of the Mercer Island students who stayed with them in April. Mercer Island students look forward to introducing their new Thonon friends to Mercer Island and Seattle, and new friends here.
More on the Mercer Island Sister City relationship:
Thonon-les-Bains, France, and Mercer Island, Wash., are both lakeside cities located close to major metropolitan areas.
The Mercer Island Sister City Association is a nonprofit, community-based organization promoting educational, cultural and other exchanges between the citizens of Thonon-les-Bains and Mercer Island. Community members are invited to become involved in the sister city organization and enjoy its many sponsored events.
For more information, contact Linda Todd, 232-4570.