Sister Cities Association of Sarasota

Citizen Diplomats—Carving a Path toward Peace since 1963

Perpignan, France, Twinning History

From Perpignan, France, Alain Taulere, owner of the Cafe of the Arts (now defunct,) pushed for adoption of his birthplace which became our third sister in 1994.

A gorgeous town in southeastern France two hours north of Barcelona, Spain, Barbara Hopton and I had a “royal” trip there in 2003. Rugby games, meetings with university and business leaders, and attending cultural events kept us extremely busy. Welcomed and led around by Vice Mayor’s Maurice Halimi and Jaume Roure, we laid the groundwork for New College students Regina Morowati, Audrey Nicoleau, and Megan Pinckney to be the first international student exchange with the University of Perpignan. New College President Gordon Michalson was the key to organizing the exchange.

Halimi and Roure came to Sarasota the next year to seal several agreements and absolutely adored our community. One of the highlights of their trip was spending an afternoon in the French class at Venice Island Village Montessori School. Students had prepared colorful notebooks about France. Not knowing much about our sister city, they concentrated on photographs of the Eiffel Tower and not Perpignan landmarks. Instead of growling, the two men lowered themselves to the floor to autograph their documents and write each student a personal note in French.

An unofficial visit occurred a few years ago when my daughters, their husbands, and four grandchildren embarked on a Mediterranean cruise ending with a stay in Perpignan. Sarasota City Director Harry Dunn arranged for Maurice and Jaume to entertain us in great French style, but we also had the chance to drive into the Alps and spend time at the lovely Mediterranean beachfront nearby.

Invited to an annual “people pyramid” building contest in the core of the city, I was encouraged to stand on my head in the middle of the festivities which were televised that night. Am sure residents were scratching their heads wondering why they had ever partnered with that “nut” former mayor of Sarasota.

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