The Crestview Area Sister City Program has made what its president called “the painful decision” to postpone its planned June trip to Noirmoutier, France, until May or June 2022.
“After much discussion, we feel that with the worsening COVID-19 situation and the continued restrictions in travel, it would be better if we were to visit next spring,” Brian Hughes, president of the Sister City Program, said.
“We hope by then our people in both countries will have received the vaccination and our borders will be open to welcome our friends on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said in an email to the officers of Noirmoutier’s Comité de Jumelage (Sister City Committee).
Citing reasons including “COVID-19 travel uncertainties,” the announcement was made to the Sister City Program’s membership at their recent midwinter dinner, hosted by its local partner, Northwest Florida State College’s Robert L.F. Sikes Education Center in Twin Hills Park.
“We had sincerely hoped that by some miracle, we would be able to return to our favorite island, ‘our home away from home,’ this year, but now we hear that Belgium and France, and other countries are shutting down again, cruise lines have cancelled their cruises through May and maybe longer, and travel is becoming more restrictive.”
In addition, Mr. Hughes cited the rapidly closing window to obtain advance airfare savings for late spring travel to Europe. Given the uncertainty in the travel situation in the coming months, after paying a huge amount of money for fares, it would be a financial misfortunate to find out the Sister City Program’s delegation couldn’t leave the U.S. or enter Europe.
Crestview’s French friends were understanding, particularly having received some questions from their potential host families regarding the safety of welcoming American guests in their homes. (One of the components of Sister City Program exchanges is hosting visitors from each other’s communities in local hosts’ homes.)
“We fully understand your decision, it is beyond your control and there are too many uncertainties linked to the presence of this COVID on both sides of the Atlantic,” Stéphanie Gallais, a nurse and one of the Comité de Jumelage co-presidents stated in an email. “We all hope that the year 2022 will make it possible to organize this trip in the best conditions, in any case in complete health security.”
“It is a very wise decision that you have made regarding the postponement of your trip to Noirmoutier for the spring of 2022,” the former (now honorary) president of Noirmoutier’s Comité de Jumelage, René Relandeau, said.
“Personally, for some time now, I have been wondering if it would be appropriate to carry out this visit in June,” M. Relandeau added. “It would have been more difficult to have host families because of the COVID pandemic.”
The Crestview Sister City Program and its Sister City Ambassadors student club at Crestview High School are still hopeful that travel between France and the U.S. will be allowed in time for a planned visit from 19 Noirmoutrin students and about 10 adult escorts in late October.
“As of now we are expecting to welcome another delegation of young visitors this fall,” Mr. Hughes said. “We are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation here and in France.”
M. Relandeau summed up the sentiments of Sister City members on both sides of the Atlantic, saying, “We are experiencing events that are very difficult to manage. Let's hope that the year 2022 will be a normal year so that we can again live wonderful moments together.”