A multicultural lunch representing 80 different nationalities.

Blue balloons floated joyfully above the 17 tables set for 10 at the traditional Bienvenue en France international lunch.

The buzz of excitement was palpable as soon as you entered the Quai d’Orsay. Alongside our group leaders from Bienvenue, Laurent Huchet, deputy steward, and his team swiftly took charge of the puddings brought by our French members and the many savoury dishes decorated with the flags of our friends from around the world. They rushed them over to the buffets tables set out in the main dining hall and in the galerie de la Paix. There was no danger of them being empty thanks to the generosity of our guests representing 80 different nationalities yet united by their clothing that adhered to the dress code of “red, white and blue” and the badge they were given on arrival emblazoned with “40 ans”.

During this time, the choir (formed just six months ago) was being photographed in the salon de l’Horloge. The guests quickly filled the room to listen to Mme Vadillo Le Drian welcome her guests on behalf of her husband – “a multicultural lunch is a wonderful way to share our different cultures.” Our President, Amanda Gourdault-Montagne, pointed out that, “it is very fitting to come together and share these dishes from the four corners of the world on a day like today, on which we also celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. We have 80 nationalities represented in this room, symbolising the multiculturalism that forms the core of Bienvenue en France, as imagined by our Founding President, Marie-Thérèse François-Poncet.” She ended by thanking “those who are leaving our group. Without them, Bienvenue would never have been the resounding success it is today.” She also welcomed our newest members who will join us in September.

The choir, as multicultural as the wider group, was led by Onnick Adourian while it sung in harmony a collection of numbers including “Les amants de St Jean” and “Armstrong” by Claude Nougaro, rounding off with “Dona nobis Pacem” by Mozart. The performance soon got the audience involved!

Then we were able to turn our full attention to enjoying the “Struk eji” from Slovenia, the “Empanada” from Spain, “Heart of Palm Pie” from Brazil, fried Tofu from Japan and the “Pastel de choclo”, a corn pie from Chile. It would have been as impossible to taste every dish as it was to name them all, so we turned to the array of French puddings – almost as varied as the first course!

By Francine Boidevaix

La chorale de Bienvenue en France

Galerie photo