READER SHARES SISTER CITY EXPERIENCE
By Holly Williams
(Editor's note: For those who have heard about Albion's Sister City relationship with Noisy le Roi/Bailly, France and want to know more, here is a first hand report by Holly Williams).
Hello! My name is Holly Williams. I am 23 years old and I had the pleasure of spending the month of January in the French cities of Noisy le Roi and Bailly. I traveled with a group of five other student teachers from Albion, MI, Noisy's sistership committee. The purpose of our visit was to study the French education system and to compare French and American schools.
Suellyn Henke and Dianne Guenin Lelle, members of the Albion Sistership committee, planned our visit to Noisy. In Noisy le Roi, the comité de Jumelage de Noisy le Roi/ Bailly (CJNRB) organized our arrival, our stay with host families, our daily activities, and the return to the airport wonderfully. The trip was nothing but pleasure.
The communities of Noisy and Bailly are located in the rural outskirts of Paris in an area called l'Ouest of Paris which is just 22 km from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Located between the two large cities St. Germain en Laye and Versailles, Noisy and Bailly are truly a bridge to much of France and especially the city of lights, Paris. With the convenient bus and train stops right in the cities, downtown Paris is truly a hop, skip and jump away. Noisy and Bailly house about 16,000 middle class French citizens who are always willing to help and chat.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Noisy and Bailly. Staying with a host family and experiencing the town of Noisy first hand truly gave me an authentic French experience, not a touristy experience. I regularly walked to the local bread stores, grocery stores, and market to purchase a baguette, pastry, or general groceries. What an experience to stroll through an actual French market! The market, full of meats, produce, breads, fish, cheese, and clothing, acts as a meeting place for the people of Noisy and Bailly.
During my stay in Noisy, my English speaking host treated me with nothing but kindness and compassion. It was a pleasure to learn some French cooking techniques and chat around the dinner table every evening. Not only was the food and conversation excellent, I managed to make friends with a wonderful woman. The same goes for the other members of my group as well; all members were able to forge lifelong friendships. The sistership committee goes above and beyond to ensure each of their visitors has an amiable host and a comfortable lodging.
In addition to wonderful hosts, the other group members and I had wonderful "tour guides" who created our daily touring schedule to visit local schools and places of cultural interest. From the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame and Versailles, the committee ensured we saw "the must sees" of Paris. The sistership committee provided us with an experienced English speaking guide for each of the above destinations. What an honor to visit French landmarks with someone who knows the history of the landmark and can easily answer questions on the surrounding area!
As the purpose of my groups visit was to study the education system in France, the sister city tour guides did an exquisite job organizing our school visits as well. The committee's wonderful contacts allowed us to visit 3 different French high schools, 1 elementary, and do extensive research and study at a middle school for four days. I cannot stress enough how invaluable the sistership committee is. With them and their wonderful planning and contacts, I would have never been able to visit all these schools and meet so many great people.
Throughout my month stay in France, I was able to adapt and learn to love the French culture. At first walking to the French market or the local grocery store was somewhat stressful, after all who would talk to you, would the shopkeepers know what you wanted? I soon realized there was nothing to be apprehensive about! The French people are genuinely nice and caring. Shopkeepers are willing to help customers and willing to put up with the language barrier.
I cannot begin to express my appreciation for the French culture and the wonderful people on both sides of the Albion/ Noisy sistership. Both committees go above and beyond to ensure their travelers have the best possible trip. As a traveler associated with the sistership committees, I can assure you will experience an authentic France, a France that most Americans never have the chance to experience.
Looking into the future, I hope to return to France and thank all of the wonderful people who made my initial trip so enjoyable. Without them, I would have been a normal tourist who never experienced true French charm, atmosphere, and ambiance in the cities of Noisy and Bailly.