Last updated: 01:37 PM ET, Wed November 23 2016

What Is Twinning and How Does It Involve Mickey Mouse?

Destination & Tourism | Edward Roche | November 23, 2016

What Is Twinning and How Does It Involve Mickey Mouse?

PHOTO: Fireworks at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. (photo via Flickr/CandaceApril)

If you travel the world long enough, you’re going to find a concept or a historical nugget that you’d never heard of and would have never thought to have Googled.

For many of our reading, twinning is just that topic. While commonplace knowledge among many British pubgoers, twinning is a little-known thing among many U.S. travellers. So before you make that next trip across the pond, or in this case, to the land of Mickey, here’s a little primer.

The twinning of towns was a concept that first came to light in the aftermath of World War II in a bid to foster harmonious relationships between towns and cities that previously may have been on opposing sides. The twinning of Dresden and Coventry is a good example of where fellow suffering brought two communities together.

Other twinned cities come about because they are aesthetically or culturally similar such as the genteel French town of Aix-en-Provence and beautiful Bath, a haven for overseas tourists with its stunning Georgian architecture and Roman heritage.

On occasions though the twinning of certain towns and cities is a little less obvious, or simply laughable. For example, Voucherbox has uncovered an absolute gem in Wiltshire where Swindon is bizarrely twinned with Walt Disney World.

The unfashionable and oft-derided former railway town, a spillover town down the M4 corridor, did spawn British actress Diana Dors, pop star Billy and actress Billy Piper, who played the beloved Rose Tyler on “Doctor Who.” But it’s all a bit Mickey Mouse when compared to what Walt Disney created, surely?

With all due respect, the only magical thing about Swindon is its roundabout system – the one on the approach to the town’s dilapidated football ground which features a series of mini roundabouts that make no sense whatsoever. Whoever coined the phrase ‘Magic Roundabout’ is not quite the full circle.

Anyway, let’s soldier on and try and fathom out why Swindon and Walt Disney are partners. Could it be that the local water sports center – the one with the decent water slides called Oasis, reportedly named after the rock band which once performed there before they became megastars – prompted Swindon to get above its station?

How about the Moonraker pub, named after the locals who mistakenly thought that the moonlight shimmering on a pond was gold? Not even close.

Maybe it’s the relatively mild climate in Swindon? Even the rain can’t be bothered to fall there, and snow never hangs around long enough to be seen. Indeed, the only good thing to come out of Swindon is the M4 or the Bath-to-Paddington railway line. But even that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as, according to research by Voucherbox, Walt Disney World has twice the annual sunshine that Swindonians enjoy (3,200 hours) and the temperatures stand no comparison either.

For me, the relationship comes about because Swindon is the epitome of the faceless British town where Americanization and the sort of ‘forced’ fun you get in places like Walt Disney is at its most obvious. The place is crawling with out-of-town retail parks, multi-screen cinema complexes and well-known British chain eateries such as Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito.

While the coming together of the Magic Kingdom and the Magic Roundabout appears the stuff of fantasy, one fairy tale to come true is my marriage to a local Swindon lass some 16 years ago. I hope she forgives me for writing this.

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