Caen, the capital of Lower Normandy, is located a few miles inland from the D-Day beaches. It was one of William the Conqueror's capitals and near the departure point for his invasion of England. Caen was Nashville's first active sister city with the relationship originating nearly thirty years ago. It became an official sister city in 1991. Programs have included annual delegation visits, academic exchanges, programs for students and lawyers, and even basketball games between local teams.
Gail Ashworth (email)
Caen was Nashville’s first active sister city relationship. The chair of the mayor’s sister city committee had spent five months in the city some years before, and U.S. Ambassador to France Joe Rogers had become friends with the Senator and Mayor of Caen. Both the Senator-Mayor and university contacts of the chair were enthusiastic about the possibility and made it clear that any interest by Nashville would be reciprocated. Because of contacts between Nashville universities and the University of Caen and between the Bar associations in the two cities, by the late ’80s, there was already a vigorous, on-going relationship.
The Senator-Mayor led a delegation to Nashville in 1991 and an official relationship was soon established. Mayor Bill Boner later journeyed to Caen to sign the charter in France and an already active program was made official. In the next few years, a wide variety of exchanges were organized. The Bar associations continued their annual visits with comparative legal seminars and wonderful cultural programs. Student exchanges took place frequently with the opportunity for young people from both cities to practice their French or English and get a taste of life on the other side of the ocean. Other professional exchanges took place within the medical community and others.
But everything was not business or educational. The professional basketball team of Caen came to Middle Tennessee and played Vanderbilt and several other university squads. Musicians from Nashville played many concerts in Caen and elsewhere in France promoting country and pop music, and we have benefited by the chance to hear their artists here in Nashville.
At an official level, a delegation from Nashville headed by Mayor Bill Purcell joined world leaders at the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Civic leaders and Mayor Karl Dean participated in other celebrations in Caen including the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. Visiting the landing beaches, particularly Omaha Beach, is a moving experience particularly on momentous occasions such as these anniversaries.
A variety of these professional, educational and cultural exchanges continue to take place annually, but the best thing has been the opportunity to create lasting friendships. The custom of housing visitors in private homes has led to friendships which have lasted more than 30 years and are still creating new experiences for both sides. The personal ties are the most important but the existence of these friendships has helped overcome problems between our two countries when foreign policy differences have led to tensions. Those who have stood together in the cemetery at Omaha Beach will simply not permit differences of the moment to overshadow two centuries of friendship and shared sacrifice.
City population: 108,365
Area: 9.92 square miles
Country population: 66,627,602
Mayor: Joél Bruneau
Abbaye aux Dames
Abbaye aux Hommes
Chateau de Caen (home of William the Conqueror)
Eglise St. Etienne
La Colline aux Oiseaux
La Maison des Quatrans
Jardin des Plantes
Musee du Beaux Arts
Maison a Pans de Bois
Normandy American Cemetery and Omaha Beach (short drive from Caen)