NOIRMOUTIER, France —Visitors to Crestview’s sister city can expect red-carpet hospitality from big-hearted host families.
Some visitors, however, receive a bit more.
Jocelyne and Gérard Pontoizeau have welcomed more than 50 guests from Northwest Florida since Crestview and the French town Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile formed a relationship through Sister Cities International.
Gérard — known as “Pompom” to friends — and his father-in-law built the couple's six-bedroom, two-bathroom and three-water-closet stone house nearly 30 years ago.
The Pontoizeaus are well-known among Northwest Florida State College show choir students, who perform every two years in Noirmoutier.
“Older students pass the word, ‘Stay with Pompom,’” said Montavius Diamond, who is with the 22-person Crestview contingent that recently returned from visiting the island
Guests become part of a large, extended family. Chris Embree and Marie Anne Fella, members of the current Crestview group, stayed with the Pontoizeaus.
“We had shrimp and crab for lunch today that Pompom and I caught this morning,” Embree said. “We went out in his boat, pulled the traps and got the crabs.”
“Jocelyne made us quiche with herbs from the garden and eggs from their hens when I stayed here,” Diamond said. “Everything is always fresh from the sea or the garden.”
Jocelyn Pontoizeau prepares meals that include regional dishes and treats, like homemade pizza, that are popular with student palates not adjusted to French country cooking.
“I like staying with people instead of hotels,” Embree said. “People who stay in hotels miss out on this,” he said, waving his arm around the sunny courtyard. He and Fella sat drinking coffee from cups that were more like small bowls.
“I can sum it up in one word: awesome!” Fella said. “I feel like I’m family here.”
Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian