Two years on hold due to the pandemic, the Mercer Island Sister City Association finally got its chance to locally mark the 20-year anniversary of the city’s relationship with Thonon-les-Bains, France, in a formal ceremony at the Oct. 18 city council meeting.
A 16-member delegation of Islanders — including then-mayor Benson Wong — journeyed to Thonon-les-Bains two years ago to initially celebrate the anniversary and sign a renewal agreement, according to local association member Jane Meyer Brahm. The two cities inscribed an official contract in 2000 at Mercer Island’s Summer Celebration to institute a partnership as sister cities.
At the council meeting, Brahm — who was joined by association member Kirsten Taylor — said it’s been copious “fruitful years — years of friendship between our two cities.”
While commemorating the cities’ relationship in France in 2020, the Islanders received an oil painting, “3 Sail Boats on Stormy Lac Léman” by artist Anne Foudral, which was unveiled in city hall on meeting night.
Mercer Island’s gift to Thonon on that trip came in the form of a circular glass sculpture featuring the engraving of water, a bridge and mountains designed by Jai Kumaran with a case constructed by Michael Jekubik.
“This piece symbolizes the bridge between our two cities — bridge of friendship,” Brahm said.
There are a host of similarities between the two cities, with each being located on lakes and near major metropolitan areas, along with showcasing an abundance of parks, gardens and more. Thonon sits on Lake Geneva, lies near the Swiss border and is situated 45 minutes from Geneva. It is home to about 35,000 residents and the Ripaille Castle, and numerous ski resorts in the French Alps are just a half hour away.
“It’s a very historic, beautiful area,” Brahm said.
Brahm also delved into the association’s upcoming activities, which include a French art lecture titled “A Romp Through the Louvre” and presented by Rebecca Albiani at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center; student exchange trips; Agnes Mallet-led gatherings to watch French movies and socialize; and hosting two French students/American football players, who were slated to attend Mercer Island High School and train with the team and participate in Halloween activities.
In closing, Brahm shared one of her favorite quotes regarding travel from Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
Brahm added a week later: “I truly believe that travel opens the mind and heart to other people and cultures. It broadens one’s perspective in every way.”
For more information, visit https://mercerislandsistercity.org/