Arriving in Mirande was like travelling back in time. This fortified town was captivating with its historic buildings including an old 15th-century cathedral and quaint town square where the community connects and celebrates all year long. We were greeted by the Mayor who was so proud to be able to host this assembly, which would virtually double the population for a few days.

That evening we went to a hidden gem called O Chateau with new friends from the US and Australia, where we ate a family style French meal and shared Cittaslow stories and ideas.

On Friday, we got to see just how much Cittaslow has become part of the community’s thread and what an impact it has made for them.

Our first stop was to a housing complex where everything is built around a common area featuring gardens, recycling, and more, and where young families reside alongside retired locals. They interact and share meals together, and the young look after the elderly, assisting with things like grocery shopping and errands. It was inspiring to see this full circle living, and we even got a tour of one of the units from a widowed senior who was so proud to show us her home (which is set up with things like higher electrical sockets so she didn’t have to bend, sightlines from bed to door, and room for a wheelchair).

Our second stop was to a solar panel “farm”, where they gathered almost enough energy to supply to the town. We learned about how this has benefitted the area, keeping costs for energy down for all.

That afternoon, a special Cittaslow market was set up at the local hall where we were able to support local producers and surrounding Cittaslow towns with their products, visit information stalls on the area (tourism, biodiversity, local actions, slow mobility and more) and enjoy a welcome ceremony complete with traditional music and dancing. This was amazing and so many proud people showing off food, wine and other local products. We had a large, and I mean large bowl of snails cooked in garlic butter with a baguette for just 7 euros.

We also kicked off the official program for the Cittaslow assembly with the following presentations:
– “The bio-districts in Italy and in Europe: a new cultural model for the organic agriculture”: from the field to the table, health and taste
– The Proposal of a new updated Manifesto of Cittaslow 2018
– Cittaslow presentations (best practices and tourism) from:
– China, South Korea,France,Spain, Italy and Poland

The day finished with a traditional music fair in the town square where the new Cittaslow International Hymn was played by the Mirande Philharmonic Orchestra (intergenerational orchestra), and was followed by a locally sourced and prepared dinner.

Cittaslow is really becoming much more of a regional organization as the borders of Cittaslow towns start to spread out to the geographic region. That was clear in locations as diverse as Japan and Australia and even us here in Cowichan.

That evening we had our wrap up gala at the town market where the delegates were served a local feast featuring duck in many ways. The entire town it appeared helped serve us. So much fun as we sat with a group from Japan, Denmark and Australia – lots and lots of toasts!

The trip was amazing, the level of congruence between the Cittaslow communities and their representatives from around the world was so wonderful as, while we celebrated what was local, we were also truly global!

I heard a quote recently which sums up cittaslow perfectly,
“An organization will be most effective, if it is globally connected, and locally committed.” Cittaslow International

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