ON Friday, October 19, 15 members of Salisbury Folk Dance Club set off for Saintes, France.

This was following an invitation by Bridget Brennan, chairman of the Saintes twinning association, as part of the celebrations to mark the association’s 21st year.

Any apprehension about the ability to converse with their hosts was quickly dispelled by the friendly welcome and prompt switch to English when necessary.

Saturday was spent exploring Saintes on foot, visiting the colourful market, the Germanicus Arch, Abbaye des Dames and the folklore museum as well as discovering many small streets and shops.

That evening we met our hosts and members of the twinning association at a hall for a dance and meal.

On Sunday afternoon and evening we met again and were joined by two local folk dance groups.

Each group took it in turn to organise the dances.

French folk dancing differs from English in that they have to learn their dances while we simply follow the caller’s instructions after a walkthrough.

Other differences are that they wear traditional costume and they dance in couples, usually in a circle, while we dance as couples in sets, circles or squares and couples dance with a different couple for each turn of the dance.

The mood was very informal and the French dancers soon had us dancing with them. They were clearly intrigued and enjoyed our dances. On Tuesday morning, it was time to leave and we were waved off by our hosts in warm sunshine.