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As always, the Bedford International Alliance held its annual Bastille Day picnic on the Saturday evening closest to the French holiday. Bastille Day, celebrated on July 14, marks the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 when Parisians stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress in Paris.
This year, they were joined by Manon Tiphaine, Lea Vally, Stanislas Bruder and Maxime Quièvre, four students from Normandy. At one point the two groups sang each other’s national anthems. The French students sang La Marseillaise and the Americans sang The Star Spangled Banner. Although both anthems have multiple verses, only the first verse of either anthem is normally sung.
Bruder and Quièvre both spoke excellent English.
“It’s a very good experience,” said Quiève, who plans to become a lawyer.
The two are familiar with D-Day.
“It is our duty to commemorate the sacrifice of the American soldiers,” Quièvre said.
“We are very proud to represent France and Normandy,” said Bruder
Saturday was their first day in the Bedford area and it poured rain.
“It’s Normandy weather,” commented Quièvre, with Bruder adding that it was much warmer here.
A Thaxton couple, Timm and Cindy Ridgeway, attending the celebration, have a French connection. Cindy, despite her name, is French. She’s from Strasbourg, a city in the Alsace-Lorraine area in the north of France.
“We met on-line,” she said.
It was a site called Interpals and Cindy was looking for native English speakers to practice her English with and found Timm’s profile.
“There was something about him that was different,” she said.
They started with e-mails, then began Skype chats. This contact turned into a relationship and Timm traveled to France to visit her in December, 2009. For the next three-and-a-half years, the two alternated visits with one traveling to see the other every four or five months. These visits were typically for one or two weeks, although Cindy stayed here for a month one time.
Language was a problem for her at first. People, here, had trouble understanding her and she had trouble understanding them. Now, she’s fluent and, although she has a foreign accent, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. One man attending the picnic, who did not know the couple, thought she was from Australia or New Zealand.
They got married in a civil wedding at the Bedford County Courthouse on Jan. 4. and are planning a church wedding at Holy Name of Mary which, according to Connie Messier, is “The best Catholic Church in the town of Bedford.”
The reason for the hurried civil wedding was because Cindy’s visa only gave her 90 days to get married. She didn’t want to miss the deadline and become an illegal alien. She said it took her a year to get the visa and it was very expensive.
Cindy Ridgeway has a degree in biology from the University of Strasbourg and hopes to become a biological research assistant.
The Bedford International Alliance has planned a trip to France in 2014 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The group will leave Bedford on June 4 and arrive in Paris on June 5. They will spend June 6 and 7 with host families in Normandy. They leave France on June 10 and return to Bedford on June 13, after a couple of days in Iceland.
The estimated cost of this trip is $2,995 per person, payable in three payments. The first payment of $1,000 per person is due at the time you reserve your space. The due date of the second payment of $1,000 per person has yet to be determined. The third and final payment will be adjusted, depending on the final cost of the airline tickets.
Tom Messier, the Alliance’s travel committee chairman, expects the seats for the trip to fill up quickly. For more information, call Messier at (540) 586-3059.
They also plan to take some high school students from Bedford County with them. The students can come from any of Bedford County’s schools. They must have completed three years of French in school in order to be eligible for the trip.