Our Laguna: Laguna says 'bonjour!'

October 27, 2011|By Barbara Diamond
  • Students from Menton, France, sing their national anthem at Laguna Beach High School Artist's Theatre, where they were greeted by French class students from LBHS, school officials and hosts.
Students from Menton, France, sing their national anthem… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

The youth of sister cities Laguna Beach and Menton, France, cemented relations this week.

The Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. entertained students from Menton and their two chaperones with dinners at local restaurants, field trips, some free time to browse downtown stores, a pumpkin-decorating party — introducing the kids to American Halloween customs — and joint classes with Laguna Beach High School students.

"The association has had the vision for just this kind of educational and cultural exchange from the very beginning," said Karyn Philippsen, president of the Laguna association. "We look forward to having our students have a similar opportunity to visit Menton."

The students have actually been connected for about 18 months, via real-time Skype in their foreign-language classes: English in Menton, French in Laguna.

"But it is the first time students from the Lycée Pierre et Marie Curie have come to the USA and the first time people from the Association Menton-Laguna Beach have come to Laguna," said Florence Lagache at C'est La Vie for dinner Sunday.


Lagache is one of the two teachers who accompanied the French students to California and the president of the French association.

The dinner was attended by students from both countries, local families whose children are in Odile Dewar's French class and members of the education community and the Sister Cities Assn.

Laguna Beach High School Principal Joanne Culverhouse welcomed the group, speaking in French, the words spelled phonetically for her by Dewar.

"I am sure my students will tell me tomorrow how I butchered this," Culverhouse said.

Mayor Toni Iseman also welcomed the group.

"We call it sister cities. You call it twin cities, and they really are," Iseman said.

She compared the coastline location, the hills and the scenic beauty of the two cities, echoed by Lagache.

"Laguna Beach is in Orange County, while Menton is called the City of Lemons," Lagache said. "You live next to the Pacific Ocean and we live next to the Mediterranean. You have hills and mountains, so do we."

Another connection: a museum featuring Severin Wunderman's Cocteau collection.

Wunderman lived in South Laguna for years. He wanted to open a museum in a building now occupied by a rug merchant on Ocean Avenue, but was denied because the street is reserved for resident-serving businesses.

He split, and he and the museum ended up in Menton.


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