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Montelimar "Town Twinning" with Aldridge
Walsall, WS9, West Midlands, England.
Town Twinning since May 1964
In May 2008 i discovered a small Aldridge handbook guide written in 1964-1965 which explained that Aldridge and Montelimar in Drome, France had formed a link as "Twinning Towns" in May 1964.
Sadly, with 44 years of Town Twinning, it was clear that over the years this cordial arrangement had been overlooked and forgotten, although there was evidence that the Town Twinning was still active in 1972 with a mention in the official guide to Aldridge of that year.
Montelimar is a very picturesque town with a world wide reputation for its nougat which is produced using local honey and almonds.
Montelimar is clearly an attractive location with lots to offer for visitors and holiday makers.
It has numerous fine buildings, chateaux and a castle. Local produce includes honey, garlic, olives, goats cheese, wine, black truffles and fields of lavender.
Historically, Aldridge was famous for its clay and brick works and I am not sure how well this would compete in attracting tourists against Montelimar, but perhaps our rain is better than theirs ?
I think Montelimar is a place i would very much like to visit, here is a link for you to explore and discover the treats they have to offer !Montelimar website
Below is the 1964 announcement for Town Twinning between Montelimar and Aldridge:
Click the image to see full size !
If you would like to see the Town Twinning of Aldridge and Montelimar become active again, or you have any information about this relationship over the past years, please contact me.
More information has been requested via the TownTwinning portal see Towntwinning website forum
Thank you, Alan.
Montélimar (Latin name: Acumum and Montelaimar in occitan) is the second largest town after Valence in the Drôme region of southern France, next to the Rhône river. The area of Montélimar has been inhabited since the Celtic era, with reconstruction during the Roman reign, including a basilica, aqueducts, thermae and a forum. The Adhémar family reigned over the city in the Middle Ages and built a castle (Château des Adhémar) which dominates the skyline. It was the birthplace of the French navigator Louis de Freycinet and the hometown of Émile Loubet, President of France from 1899 till 1906, who held the office of mayor of Montélimar. Montélimar is widely regarded as the world capital of nougat which is one of the 13 desserts of Provence.
Remember that old Monty Python sketch? Order anything you like so long as its spam, spam, spam. Well, a visit to the town of Montelimar, in the Drome department of southern France, is distinctly Pythonesque in that you try as you may you are unlikely to discover anything other than nougat, nougat and more nougat. Not that that is a particularly disagreeable experience. On the contrary, for gooey and sticky though the white aerated confectionery be, the combination of honey, sugar, egg-whites and nuts is a delightful treat indeed. Especially if you plump (and plump, I am afraid, is likely to be the word if self-discipline is not high on your list of priorities) for a particular variety made by Frederic Chambonniere, who prides himself on being a nougatier artisanal, which means that he shies away from modern, high-tech production techniques, favouring instead the same method in the same copper cauldron which his grandmother first used and marketed successfully back in the 1920s.
"I actually trained as a dental technician", the handsome 35 year old reveals, "making crowns, bridges and braces - but I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed the work. Then my father had to retire early on the grounds of ill-health and we were both keen for the family business to continue. And since then we have gone from strength to strength."
So what’s the secret of a good nougat then? Certainly the recipe has long been in the public domain - in order to qualify as Montelimar nougat there must be precisely 28% of peeled almonds, 16% honey, and 2% pistachio nuts. Frederic will even hand you a print-out of the procedure to be followed: mix the honey with water and sugar, stir the contents to 130c, pour the syrup into whipped egg whites, add the nuts together with a little vanilla, spread onto rice paper, cool, cut into squares the following day and then eat. Voila. Needless to say there is a lot more to it than that - and whatever it is Frederic is not saying. All he is prepared to reveal is that its a question of savoir-faire, hinting that both taste and consistency can depend upon factors as diverse as humidity and the direction of the Mistral.
Montelimar has been associated with the production of nougat since the 17th century, when the first almond-trees introduced some years earlier by Olivier de Serres started to bear fruit. These almonds mixed with the honey produced both in the Alps and Provence soon replaced the walnut cake known as Nux Gatum or Nougu, first known in the old southern provinces of France and, according to local legend, introduced by the Greeks in Marseille. And everything remained hunky-dory, a nougatty-ever-after story for the next couple of hundred years. But things only really began to take off in terms of local production between the 1930s and 1960s, when a combination of the introduction of paid holidays, the understandable desire of the majority of the nation to head south towards the sunshine during the summer months and, most importantly of all, the fact that the N7 route nationale happened to pass right through the centre of the town. Unable to cope with the huge volume of traffic - it would on average take between 3 to 4 hours to get through the ensuing chaos and congestion - the happy holiday-makers would stop and sample the delicious regional specialty - a short and sweet delay an integral part of any respectable journey down towards the Cote d’Azur, with additional supplies being purchased for family and friends en route. Those were the good old days, la belle epoch, as they refer to it in Montelimar.
Then, in the May of 1968 disaster struck - and the town has never really been the same since. This was nothing whatsoever to do with les evenements - the student inspired rebellion which in due course toppled the French government. No, nothing so grand as that. It was simply that the new motorway linking Paris and Nice was opened - and, at a stroke, the entire raison d’etre of Montelimar disappeared. Over 150 retailers and manufacturers went bankrupt, their services no longer required as motorists by-passed their town and sped towards the sunshine. Only 15 major producers managed to survive the slaughter, with even the city’s largest and best known factory, Chabert & Guillot, founded back in 1848, likewise almost going to the wall. The following three decades saw not only much wound-licking, but more practical measures such as rationalization and modernization too. How very appropriate then, that Didier Chabert, should be at the forefront of the fight back, his firm investing heavily in new machinery in 1988 and now able to produce no less than 10 tons of the sticky substance per day. This has meant that his company has been able to hold onto to its prime position not just in Montelimar, but in the whole of France, churning out over 50% of the town’s entire output.
"Just because we use modern techniques doesn’t mean that our product is inferior to the old-fashioned, home-made artisan style of production. It all depends upon the quality of materials that you use - and we use the very best. In fact since we work by computer and under controlled conditions you can be sure that our nougat is always the same and not dependent upon the such factors as humidity."
Chabert’s masterstroke, however, came in 1992 when he in effect invented a new product - his Montelimar Nougat Cream, which he was shrewd enough to patent and acquire and exclusive right to produce for the next 30 years. This has ensured the survival of the company which his great-great-great grandfather founded and means that future Chaberts, sons and daughters alike, probably need not worry unduly should they happen to run into trouble with the dreaded baccalaureat. For he has been able to market his product successfully with patissiers, chocolatiers and glaciers alike lining up to buy his nougat cream, present customers including multi-national giants such as Nestles. He must be doing something right, for he was recently invited to accompany President Jacques Chirac (a self-confessed nougat addict) on a tour designed to promote French regional specialties in Argentina and Brazil. So successful have been his present endeavors that his is one of the few firms in France to be taking on employees rather than laying them off.
"The Phoenix is rising from the ashes", he asserts with great conviction. And it is certainly undeniable that there is a buzz about Montelimar, as the city’s dynamic young major sets about putting the finishing touches to his project rather grandly entitled Montelimar 2010, designed to develop the city as the heart and soul of the entirely Rhone Valley.
"We are nougat", he confirms, "and we are proud of that reputation. But there is more to Montelimar than nougat - we now have to think ahead to the next century too. We do not want to be have to face another disaster as we did in May 1968, so we are determined to diversify as much as we possibly can."
And no doubt in so doing to avoid the sticky predicament of his predecessors who were voted out of office before the latest batch of nougat had even had time to cool.
The article above is one of many written by English freelance writer Jeremy Josephs who kindly gave permission to reproduce it on the Aldridge website. Discover more about Jeremy Josephs at Jeremy Josephs website where you will find many examples of his work and details about engaging him as a writer.
© Copyright Alan Neath. 2005 - All Rights Reserved
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