District 6760 Group Study Exchange Team Visits France
L to R – Charles Hord, Charles Wright, Lori Beth Jinkins, DG Jacques di
Costanza, Jim Johnston, Michael D’Orio
Jim Johnston, Past District Governor and Past President of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, presented a program on the recent Group Study Exchange (GSE) Team to Rotary District 1760, Provence area in the South of France at the August 3 meeting of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club. The GSE program is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for young business and professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 and in the early stages of their professional lives. The program provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits between paired areas in different countries.
For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country's institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas. During the exchange team members stay in the homes of Rotarians.
The team members consisted of Jim Johnston, Team Leader; Michael D'Orio, Marketing Director, Hardin County Medical Center in Savannah; Charles W. Hord, Jr., Marketing, Tennessee Department of Agriculture in Murfreesboro; Lori Beth Jinkins, French Teacher, Franklin Road Academy in Nashville; and Charles W. Wright, Tax Auditor, Tennessee Department of Revenue in Murfreesboro.
Atop 1300 ft. Cap Canaille overlooking Cassis
L to R – Jim Johnston, Charles Wright, Lori Beth Jinkins, Charles Hord,
The exchange began on May 15, 2007 in Gap, a village in the French Alps near the Italian border. During the four days of sightseeing in Gap, the team visited such places as Le Valgaudemar high in the French Alps, Mont-Dauphin by Vauban built by Louis XIV in 1692, Lac de Serre-Poncon, the largest manmade lake in Western Europe, and was treated to the best cuisine, cheeses, and wines of the area.
The next stop was in the Luberon region for three days and nights for a reception in Lourmarin, Rotary meetings in Apt, Cavaillon, and Gordes, visiting the Cistercian Abbaye of Senanque, a 13th Century church in Gordes, and walking tours of the medieval hilltop villages of Gordes, Roussillon, and LaCoste, the village of the Marquis de Sade.
On May 22nd the team moved on to Avignon for receptions and meetings with the Rotary clubs of Avignon, Sorgues, Carpentras, Vaison, and Orange. There the team visited the medieval city of Avignon, including the Pope's Palace which was built between 1335 and 1366. The team was treated to tours of Roman Ruins in the cities of Vaison dating back to 35 BC and the 2,000 year old amphitheatre in Orange.
Aboard boat for cruise of Fiords of Cassis on Mediterranean Coast,
L to R – Jim Johnston, Charles Wright, Michael D’Orio, Lori Beth Jinkins,
In Avignon, Jim and Charles Wright received two days of vocational training at the offices of the French Tressorie Generale (Minister of Finance). On May 25th the team was transported to Uzes in the Cevennes sector for a walking tour of the Le Pont de Gard, remnants of a 2000 year old aqueduct and then to Ales for a reception with the Ales Rotary Club. There the team was introduced to their Rotarian hosts for their three day stay in Ales which is the birth place of Luis Pasteur and Maurice Andre, the world's greatest classical trumpet player.
In Ales the team took in Domaine de Panory vineyards, a walking tour of Uzes, the Museum du Desert, a religious retreat, and an 18 kilometer steam train ride for a visit to 'la Bambouseraie". On the last day in Ales, the team did a walking tour of the city of Ales, to Ermitage for a bird's eye view of the city and to Fort Vauban, a fortress used by the Germans in WWII to torture and kill prisoners of war. In the early evening the team departed to La Calmette for transfer to the Nimes Rotary Club.
In Nimes, for four days, the GSE team experienced the Nimes Pentecost Feria Festival, a five day festival of bullfighting which takes place in downtown Nimes each May at the 2,000 year old Roman Arena. This annual event attracts close to one million visitors.
On the second day our team was hosted by the Sommierie Rotary Club and given a tour of DHL delivery terminal, lunch at the Nimes Golf Club, tour of a winery, and to the medieval city of Sommierie for a reception at the home of one of the members. On the third day in Nimes the team was given some much needed free time. That evening we were picked up by our host for dinner at a popular local steakhouse.
Our last day in Nimes was filled with events such as a tour of a biochemical company engaged in the development of medications for the prevention of heart disease, lunch at the Nimes Tennis Club, and a late dinner at the home of the Nimes Rotary club president. The following morning we were transported to Marseilles for four days and their district conference.
Avignon overlooking the Rhone River
L to R – Driver & Guide Robert, Charles Hord, Jim Johnston, Charles Wright,
Michael D’Orio, Lori Beth Jinkins
In Marseilles, the team experienced walking tours of the city harbor region and attended Rotary District 1760's district conference. At the conference we were reunited with our previous host families for lunch and did a presentation on our district to the attendees. During the presentation we presented the District Governor Jacques di Costanza with a coonskin cap and a personalized bottle of George Dickel Barrel Select signed by the Master Distiller.
We were treated to dinner one evening by two of the French GSE team members that visited our district during the month of April. The last two days in Marseilles gave us the opportunity for some much needed rest time and free time for such things as laundry, e-mail, phone calls, and journal writing.
Our seventh stop on our journey was in the Aubagne region where we were given a luncheon reception at the Hotel du Parc by the Gemenos Rotary Club. After lunch we were given a driving tour of the mountains for a grand view and on to the harbor city of Cassis for a boat ride on the Mediterranean for a view of the Calanques Bateau Fiords. The evening was topped off with a meeting with the Aubagne Rotary Club.
The next morning we all met at the French Foreign Legion Museum for a personal guided tour by the director-curator, Legionnaire Captain Douty. Our second day we were taken to the beach at La Ciatat for a reception with their Rotary Club and then a drive over the 1,300 ft. cliffs for an amazing bird's eye view of the Mediterranean, the Calanques Fiords, and the port city of Cassis. We stopped at a winery for a tour and wine-tasting and then back to Aubagne for a meeting with the Rotary Club of Carnoux/Roquefort.
On June 6th our team was transported to Aix-en-Provence for three days, hosted by members of the Aix-en-Provence Rotary clubs. In Aix we were given receptions, lunches, and dinner Rotary meetings by the area clubs. Our stay also included a picnic at the foot of Mt. Sainte-Victorie Mountain, which was the subject of over 80 paintings by the artist Paul Cezanne.
We also did a couple of walking tours of the old city, a tour of Mas Negril Cadenet Winery, an evening with the Aix-Cezanne Rotary club, and a dinner hosted at the home of my host family, Dr. Pierre Jacqueme. We were also given some time to relax and sunbathe on one of the beaches on the Mediterranean coast.
The third evening we attended a cookout at the home of the president of the Gardanne-en-Pays D'Aix club. The dinner started at 8:00 pm and lasted past 11:30 pm. We were all very late getting back to our host homes to pack and get ready for another move to another region.
On June 9th our 9th stop on our exchange was in the Etang de Berre region where we were driven to the home of a member of the Martiques Rotary Club. There to meet us for a luncheon was over 30 couples, some of which would be our host families for the four days in the region. It was overwhelming to be greeted by over 60 people. The host was very generous with his 1976 vintage wines.
After lunch we were divided into several 3-person teams for a patanque (Bocce) tournament. Each member was introduced to their host family, loaded their luggage, and off to their temporary homes for dinner.
Day two was a day trip to Camargue, a national park and wetlands on the coast of the Mediterranean and back to Martiques for a poolside meeting with member of their club, a whole lamb roasting on an open fire. A great evening.
On the third day we were taken to the home of one of our hosts for a traditional French breakfast and then to the Shell Refinery on the Etang de Berre for a guided tour of the facility. Afterwards we took a drive around the lake for a view of several Roman ruins dating back to the first century BC.
Our last day in Martiques was a free day starting with some relax time at the home of our driver and into the city center for some shopping. Afterwards we headed to the beach for the afternoon of sunbathing and sun burning. The day ended with a dinner hosted at the home of a team member where we exchanged gifts and was entertained by team member Lori Beth Jinkins, a talented singer/songwriter/guitar player.
Our 10th and final stop in the Apilles Region began on June 13th with our team being driven to Fontvieille to meet our host. We were driven to St.-Remy for lunch and a tour of the Le Cloitre St-Paul de Mausole, a XIIth century monastery turned mental institution. This facility accommodated Vincent Van Gogh and is now an academy for young aspiring artists.
Then to Cathedrale D'Image, a quarry of audiovisual shows and on to a tour of Chateau Les Baux which dates back to 1000 A.D.
That afternoon we were driven back to Fontvieille for transportation to Arles. In Arles we checked into a hotel and met our Arles hosts for dinner.
The next morning we did a tour of the Museum de l'Arles which opened in 1995 and holds one of the world's most famous collections of Roman Christian sarcophagi dating back to the 1st to the 6th centuries A.D. In Arles we visited the 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheater, which is the largest of its kind north of Italy and holds up to 25,000 spectators. We were treated to lunch by the Arles Rotary Club president.
After lunch we did a walking tour of the city and back to the hotel to check out, load our luggage, and drive back to Martiques for dinner and transportation to the airport hotel for an early morning flight home.
After the end of the GSE tour our team went off in different directions. Lori Beth Jinkins took a train to Madrid, Spain for a week and then to Paris for a week. Michael D'Orio flew to Istanbul and did a road trip to Bulgaria and Athens, Greece before returning home. Charles Hord returned home following the GSE tour.
Charles Wright remained in Paris for two days and I met my wife, Marilyn, in Paris for a five day visit to Paris. While in Paris, Marilyn and I visited the Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles, Montmartre, the Beaches of Normandy, a river cruise on the Seine, and the late show at the Moulin Rouge.
During our GSE exchange our team was hosted by Rotarian families who took Southern Hospitality to a new level. Our hosts were very special people who opened their homes and hearts to total strangers and made us feel very special and part of their families. In each of the ten regions we visited our hosts made sure we experienced the best of their cuisine, cheeses, desserts, and wines. We each have come away with life long friends and an extended family that stretches across the beautiful Provence Region of the South of France.