AYCH Coordinator French Visit Odyssey

Every day we work interactively and collaboratively as an AYCH partnership, its vital to our mission. Our partners and their hubs are in four countries and stretch from Belfast in the north to Santo Tirso, near Porto in the south. We use interactive technologies regularly to reduce distance and keep us all working together. But sometimes nothing is better than meeting face-to-face to discuss things in depth, to experience the local environment and culture, and to build strong enduring relationships. We are careful to use this precious time wisely. This week I have visited our AYCH Partners in France.

Sunday 16 December – Exeter, UK to Brest, France

A day of travelling, thinking about the week ahead, chance encounters and practicing my school girl French.

  • Paris was fog-bound, every passenger had to switch-off their electronic devices, the pilots relaxed and the plane landed itself. Where would we have landed without this technology?
  • On the flight to next flight to Brest made a new friend from Germany, who like me has a role working for young people and loves German Christmas biscuits. Like a magician she produced a packet of Gewũrz-Spekulatious from her bag and gave them to me. Perhaps we will work together in the future?
  • Jumped in to a taxi, practiced my French and the driver practiced his English whilst we somehow managed to talk about the France v Russia handball match. Wondered if the taxi driver enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.
  • Later that evening ate on my own, ‘watched people’ at the Christmas Market and thought ahead to the business of the next day.

Monday 17 December – Brest to Rennes, France

A day of meetings, exploration and travel.

  • Met with the project partner from Brest Metropole and discussed in depth deliverables, commissioning, reporting, budgeting, working, problem solving, translation, meeting protocols and more. Agreed the steps we need to take.
  • We were joined by another Brest team member for lunch. We shared and reflected on the mornings discussion and talked about our different cultural approaches to lunch! Reminded myself that I need to think about what the working day looks like across AYCH.
  • Explored Brest and visited some of the facilities available to AYCH. Peered down on the ‘traditional’ industries around the shipyard and looked in to the future from the state-of-the-art cable car.
  • Settled on to the TGV to Rennes and typed my notes from earlier in the day.
  • Arrived in the hotel in Rennes but discovered my laptop did not like the insecure WiFi on offer. Read my paper notes and prepared for the next day.

Tuesday 18 December – Rennes to Nantes, France

Another day of meetings, exploration and travel.

  • Met the new project partner from Atlantic Cities for the first time and travelled by metro from the city centre to the University area of the town.
  • Enjoyed presentations from the talented team members, discussed AYCH values and plans for future delivery and was surprised that Papa Noel had included me in his deliveries to Atlantic Cities.
  • Ate in a busy local restaurant whilst we discussed AYCH, the locality, tomorrow’s meeting in Nantes and our different Christmas customs.
  • Explored Rennes, talked about the juxta-positioning of old and new architectural styles, employment and skills, cemented our relationship and got very wet.
  • Took the train to Nantes, returning to this city after only three months, arrived in torrential rain and took the tram for a few stops before using Google maps to find the hotel. How the city seems to have been changed by dark short days and Christmas activities.
  • Noticed the moon which looks as if it were suspended from a crane in the night sky.
  • Logged my phones and laptop to the hotel’s WiFi and caught up on the messages I had not been able to receive that day or the evening before. Checked AYCH progress on reporting. Thanked colleagues in Brest and Rennes for their warm welcome and their work.
  • Read John Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charley’ in a quiet corner of a nearby restaurant whilst eating something simple and tried to ‘switch off’.

Wednesday 19 December – Nantes, France

Another day of meetings but no travel and an enjoyable stroll across the Loire for work.

  • Set off early to meet our partner at L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique and arrived at the door with students and felt immediately welcomed in to a creative space.
  • Enjoyed presentations from students of two tools developed for AYCH – QUEST puzzle for facilitating discussion and planning participant journeys through AYCH options and Bright Mirror an ice-breaker ‘plus’ activity. So stimulating to work with creative, agile and enthusiastic young people.
  • Discussed L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique’s AYCH experiences and their discoveries about how AYCH has become embedded in the approach.
  • We were joined by the Chef de póle from the Pays de la Loire, and the Directors from L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique’s Care and Nouvelles Practiques Alimentaires Design labs, and colleagues from Atlantic Cities in time for diverse, informative and stimulating discussions over lunch.
  • Resumed the afternoon with discussions about Work Package 3 which focuses on the Capitalization of AYCH. Discussed how we could maximise the particular expertise and connections of the three key partners and the best way to utilise opportunities for all partners.
  • Travel arrangements for the following day were reworked in response to an unavoidable change of plans.
  • Said farewell to guests and partners before working with our host to complete our follow-up our Work Package 3 activities and briefly discuss workshop options for the second transnational Creative jam in Gijon next April.
  • Enjoyed the walk across the Loire back to the hotel reflecting on the day and thinking ahead to Thursday’s visit to Angouleme.
  • Worked through emails/messages and thanked colleagues and students in Nantes for their warm welcome and their work.

Friday 21 December – Paris to Exeter, UK

Flight to UK

  • Arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport with thousands of other passengers, some travelling for Christmas holidays and others diverting because of the closure of Gatwick, UK airport. Eventually arrived at the departure gate two and half hours later and ten minutes before boarding.
  • Continued reading John Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charley’ with occasional views through the clouds to the English Channel/Le Manche below and eventually the rural landscape around Exeter.
  • Sent emails to thank colleagues in Angouleme for the meeting and to send promised follow-up information and took a quick look at AYCH Basecamp to check if anything needed urgent attention.
  • Completed the post-trip administration.
  • Unpacked the Gewũrz-Spekulatious and began to feel a bit more Christmassy!

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