A nine-member group of visitors from Gonzales’ sister city, Meylan, France, were in town in early April for the 29th annual cultural exchange program.

This year, the visitors came during the springtime, allowing for a different experience from those taking trips to Gonzales in 2013 and 2014. The French delegation is hosted by the Gonzales Committee on Cultural Affairs.

GCCA President Karen Hatcher said the program’s long history is unusual since the average sister city relationship last six years.

“We owe our long relationship to the members of the committee and to the city leaders who have worked to keep our friendship alive,” Hatcher said.

The visit included trips to Arnaudville, New Orleans and Biloxi.

Guests also enjoyed a day on the Diversion Canal thanks to the Gonzales Boat Club, bowling in Gonzales, a stop at Eatel Corp.’s Community Connection show and tour of the gardens of Houmas House Plantation.

First-time newcomers Yann Rivoire and Celine Valla said they loved the spicy food, bottomless drinks and rich culture of the area, saying they both wished to stay for another month.

“The weather is so beautiful here,” said Christian Gandy who sighed at the thought of the snow still falling in the Alps.

More important than the sightseeing, according to Hatcher and many in the French delegation, is the experience of staying in the home of locals.

“The program that you have prepared is very rich in culture, traditions, sightseeing — even in scientific domains,” said French committee member Mireille Adji-Anastasiou in a letter read aloud by another member at the city banquet on April 6 at Mike Anderson’s in Gonzales. “I am certain that our group will come back marvelling over all that they have seen, but what is most important is that they will have lived close to you, in your families, sharing such special moments as Easter celebrations.”

In 2016, the GCCA looks forward to travelling to Meylan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the twinning, Hatcher said.

For more information about the GCCA, email culturalaffairs@eatel.net.

Editor’s Note: This story was changed on April 16 to correct when previous trips were made and clarify that comments by two French visitors were not made during a television interview.