Bienvenue Honfleurais ! Burlington Welcomes Sister City Mayor and Citizens


 

Maire Lamarre presenting Mayor Weinberger with a watercolor painting of Honfleur

 

A gentle October breeze on the Burlington shores of Lake Champlain has carried with it
not only unseasonably warm weather, but also some distinguished visitors from across the
Atlantic.

At midday on Oct. 10, a ceremonial gathering above Splash at the Burlington Boathouse
on the waterfront welcomed Mayor Michel Lamarre of Honfleur, France who was accompanied
by a party of 12 of his citizens representing several Honfleur industries. “It’s one thing to talk
about the sister city of Burlington, but I want the people of Honfleur to really see Burlington,”
said Lamarre.

The ceremony was organized by Sister City Committee Chair and President Lise
Veronneau, and held to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Burlington-Honfleur Sister
City partnership, which began in 2009 under the leadership of former Burlington Mayor Bob
Kiss.

Lamarre and his delegation were amicably greeted by Burlington Mayor Miro
Weinberger, who took the time to strongly emphasize the importance of maintaining the strong
ties between Burlington and Honfleur. “At a time of national and global dissidence, it is more
important than ever to forge bonds like these,” said Weinberger.

As the sixth most visited city in France, bringing in over 3.5 million visitors per year,
Honfleur holds its own in the tourism industry. The old riparian port town located on the
southern bank of the Seine River was once a muse for artists like Claude Monet and Gustave
Courbet, among several others. With her chromatic waterfront architecture having appeared in
troves of Impressionist works, and her grounds protected from the ravishes of the Second World
War, the Norman city contains a well-preserved treasury of rich history and culture.

 

Claude Monet’s “The Lieutenancy at Honfleur”

 

Just over 400 years after French explorer Samuel de Champlain set sail from Honfleur on
the Don de Dieu with a trajectory for the Americas, the ties between France and the U.S. remain
ironclad. “France and the U.S. have a very long, old history and I think it is important to keep
that relationship strong,” said Lamarre. “I want people to mix, especially young people. I want
young people from France and from the U.S. to meet and form professional relationships for the
future.”

 

Don de Dieu Replica

 

In part, the Sister City partnership’s goal of promoting relationships among young people
has been realized. In 2014, a Burlington Boy Scout troop made its way to visit Honfleur. They
were followed there not long after in the summer of this year by two students from Champlain
College who collaborated with students from four other countries to make a video about
Honfleur.

Honfleur is set to inaugurate several new startup businesses next month and is on track to
becoming a site for ecologically-friendly development. “I want Honfleur to be a place that
attracts people because of job opportunities and quality of life,” said Lamarre.

One representative from the tourism industry in Honfleur, Frederic Lecomte, said that he
was eager to discover the way of life in Burlington during his visit. “Vermont is important to us
in building the relationship with Honfleur,” said Lecomte. “The presence of the French language will accommodate francophone visitors and be a good place for short stays and holidays. We see
Burlington as a laboratory for new experiences.”

In 2015, Weinberger and his family had the opportunity to visit Honfleur. In his formal
welcome to Lamarre, he discussed his experience there, recalling the generosity, hospitality and
respect he encountered. “Something I’ll always remember from that trip was seeing the way in
which many are committed to tending to the graves of American soldiers who died there,” said
Weinberger. “I came away with the sense that many of the people in Honfleur and Normandy
are more aware and more respectful of the sacrifices that prior generations of Americans have
made than we are ourselves, and I’ve tried to channel that sentiment in the ceremonies held in
Burlington since.”

 

Distinguished guests of the welcome ceremony

 

A newfound reverence for the sacrifices of brave soldiers is not the only product that has
come from the partnership between Honfleur and Burlington. Since the Sister City partnership
began, Burlington has been making the effort to become more accommodative to the French
language and culture. The International French Flag Raising Ceremony held annually in March
has been a Vermont Governor supported-and- attended fixture in Burlington’s repertoire since
2013, the Québec-Friendly Business Seminar was held in 2015 to promote the French language
in Burlington businesses, and the Alliance Française has increased their presence in the Church
Street Marketplace with their francophone welcome service.

 

The Alliance Française’s francophone welcome cart in The Church Street Marketplace

 

When addressing those in attendance at the welcome ceremony, Lamarre jokingly
remarked, “My dream was to have a sister city with New York City.” Now, Lamarre said that he
couldn’t wait to visit Burlington again. “I want to be free to see everything,” he said. “The
museums, the food, the people. Everything.”

Written by Emily Engott, volunteer for the Alliance Française.