THERE is somewhere in France where you are never just a tourist. In our twin village of Mornant, near Lyon, you are a 'member of the family' and the community will welcome you with open arms.

If you are going to France for your holidays, it is well worth making a detour to Mornant especially if your children have been involved in a twinning exchange and you already have someone there you know. Equally, if you live in one of the roads in Hartford which have been named after Mornant or one of its associated villages, you really ought to find out more about your namesake. But even if you have no links with the town, go along and who knows, you may make chance acquaintances there who will become friends for life. Wherever you go, say you are from Hartford - you are almost certain to receive a heart-warming response.

Mornant lies between the city of Lyon and St Etienne, and many residents commute to jobs in Lyon and its suburbs. Others have lived in Mornant for generations and are skilled local craftsmen or farmers.

The administrative region of Mornant starts 13 kms south west of Lyon and covers 15,800 hectares over the plateau and spur of the Monts du Lyonnais. The altitude ranges from 200m to 934m at the "Cret du Signal." This side of Lyon offers a kaleidoscope of seasonal delights:

The region, which is also called the Balcony of the Lyonnais, has panoramic views of the Alps in the East, with Mont Blanc towering above them, Mont Pilat in the South, the Monts du Lyonnais in the West and the mountain range of the Mont d'Or in the North. In the foreground is the River Rhone, which after joining the River Saone on the outskirts of Lyon, cuts through the landscape beside the plains and terraces of the Dauphine area.

A large variety of crops is grown here, ranging from cereals and grass, to berries, peaches, pears and apples. The fruits are sold all over France through the co-operative SICOLY, based at St Laurent d'Agny. The vineyards belong to the Coteaux du Lyonnais, which obtained the AOC seal in 1984. Treat yourself to a "degustation" and bring home some of the delicious local wine. Another notable local industry is the making of traditional sausages - why not sample some?

The communities in the Mornant district have got together to form an organisation known as COPAMO (Communauté de communes du pays Mornantais), in order to improve their public amenities and transport as well as their schooling, sports facilities, cultural activities and small businesses. The area is now well-endowed with public assets including community halls, camp sites, fishing ponds, a swimming pool, sports-grounds, picnic areas, marked walks, parks and boules courts. The Mornant library has been converted from a beautiful old house and has an elegant modern interior, while the Town Hall and Post Office also combine classical exteriors with the best of modern interior design. A superb new cultural centre with a theatre was opened in September 1994. There are hotels, restaurants and shops - large and small. Mornant is still self-contained and has many specialist shops plus a thriving Thursday market. Farming has been improved with the help of an irrigation system and businesses are growing in the special industrial estate. All these achievements, together with improved housing, have led to several awards being presented to the area, for the best floral displays and for the "Villages que j'aime."

There are a number of interesting historical monuments and sites, such as the remains of the Roman aqueduct and the public laundry building in Mornant, the 11th century St Vincent's chapel at St Laurent d'Agny, the priory of Taluyers, mediaeval churches galore, old mansions and fascinating fortified villages.

Mornant itself has a medieval heart with a fascinating collection of old buildings including the beautifully-restored Maison de Pays, which acts as a museum and art gallery and is open at the weekends, staffed by volunteers. The church is 15th century and has many interesting features including the local version of a "Lincoln Imp" type of gargoyle called "Caremi", tucked away above the main doorway.

The municipal camp site is open from May 1 to October 1. It is ranked at 2 stars and contains 60 spaces - 40 for caravans and 20 for tents. It is shaded and in a pleasant part of the town near the Mornantet river and the local swimming pool. There is also a public park nearby.

The Hotel de la Poste offers comfortable accommodation and good food, while there are a number of auberges serving excellent meals. You can buy produce direct from the farms if you wish to cater for yourself.

Neighbouring villages worth visiting include:

THE RHONE DEPARTEMENT

Lyon, capital of the Rhone Departement, is a thriving European metropolis with its trading routes going back many centuries. Its early prosperity was based on the production of silk, now it has technology parks where higher education, medical research, hospitals and international organisations rub shoulders with hi-tech industry. There is a busy centre, a modern shopping mall and a prosperous business quarter, plus a very large livestock market. The chemical industry dominates part of the riverbank. There is an international airport at Lyon-Satalas with regular flights to England. Two thousand years of history are remembered in Gallo-Roman remains, a Renaissance district with a rabbit-warren of interconnected buildings, an imposing basilica at Fourviere and the Croix-Rousse, scene of the silk weavers' rebellion. The home of good food since the days of Rabelais, the Lyon region is still the mecca of haute cuisine. Tuck into a hearty meal in a country inn, try traditional dishes in a local cafe, or patronise one of the top starred restaurants featured in all the guides. The departement's wines need no introduction - they are Beaujolais, Coteaux du Lyonnais and Cotes du Rhone.

USEFUL NUMBERS AND ADDRESSES

Mairie de Mornant  04 78 44 00 46
Hotel de la Poste, Place de la Liberte  04 78 44 00 40
COPAMO, clos Fournereau, Route de St Laurent d'Agny  04 78 44 14 39
Municipal camp site: La Trillonniere  04 78 44 16 47

NB. from the UK drop the leading zero and dial 00 33 so 04 78 44 16 47 becomes 00 33 4 78 44 16 47.


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