The Rotary Club of Billericay, though small in numbers but large in heart, prides itself on doing something well.
This was the case when the club hosted a reciprocal visit from its twinning clubs in Europe Beausoleil (France), twinned with Billericay; Alba (Italy), twinned with Basildon Club; and Karlshamn (Sweden), linked with Basildon, from September 12-15. The Billericay club not only hosted its international colleagues but put together a wonderful programme of social and historical events.
The overseas colleagues were based at Greenwoods Hotel, Stock where the Friday night Gala Dinner was held. On arrival, they were met and greeted from Stansted and Gatwick by club members. Early arrivals had the opportunity to savour the delights of the local hostelry "The Hoop" for lunch, and passed the afternoon in Billericay.
A welcoming buffet dinner was held for all the visitors on the evening of Thursday 12th September at Pietro's in Stock, just across the road from their hotel. It was also a family occasion with the Beausoleil party including three young children and Albas president bringing his daughter.
Then Friday saw a full day trip starting at 09.15 with a private coach from the hotel to Greenwich. There the group was treated to a private tour of the Greenwich Observatory, followed by a visit to the splendour of the Cutty Sark and lunch at the Even Keel cafe in a stunning space under the keel of the ship itself.
Then on to the Painted Hall for a quick visit. The visit to Greenwich ended with a walk through the pouring rain back to the foot tunnel which runs under the Thames to the Festival gardens on the north of the river.
For the visitors, the day ended with a chance to purchase take-home gifts from a le shopping trip to the Westfield Centre at Stratford before the coach "whisked" everybody back to Stock (just) in time for the Gala Dinner.
The gala dinner was also an occasion to toast each club in turn and to exchange gifts. Basildon president, Ed Garner put everyone to language shame by proposing a toast to all three countries in their own language French,Italian and Swedish.
French president, Bertrand Favier, responded humorously and presented to each club a book to commemorate 100 years of Rotary, and a large commemorative volume on Monaco.
Saturday was another full day with another early start (who says this is a holiday!) by coach into the centre of the City of London for a guided walk through "The City" in the rain to St Paul's where we had a buffet lunch in Cafe Rouge.
Then across the road for a guided tour of St Paul's Cathedral which was organised by Jim McSharry, one of the official guides at the cathedral and a close friend of co-twinning organiser and past president, Malcolm Acors.
With the visit over we were coached to Westminster Pier for a trip down the river to Tower Bridge, and then back again to Westminster before being taken once again by coach to the Cote Brasserie for the final joint celebration meal of the visit.
And it was also an occasion to celebrate a special personal moment. One French couple were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary a case of champagne all round!
Have a look at this video (10 minutes) of the visit, which was taken by our colleagues from Beausoleil.
While a totally social visit, Billericay president, Keith Wood, chaired an international Rotary meeting where the three visiting clubs were able to hear Billericay's plans for a Big Project, scheduled for the next twelve months, when the club would be looking to raise thousands of pounds for Rotary through the staging of a star-studded outdoor concert, featuring a major celebrity with funds directed to international aid, providing fresh water and sanitation to an African village.
President Wood said: "It will be a life-changing event for many underprivileged people in providing what we take for granted. Our twinning clubs are looking at ways to join us in the funding."
All the visiting clubs expressed their appreciation and thanks for the programme put together for them and expressed the desire that the contact established would continue for many years.
President Wood added: "I was delighted with the response from our European friends " a total of 32 Rotarians and families. I think, while making the visit fun and relaxed " not least ending with a first evening of cultural singing! - we laid on the right degree of formality and hospitality. It was the best visit with which I have been involved."
Click on the icon here of our local paper - The Gazette - to read its report of the visit.
You can access Beausoleil Rotary Club website on:
And its Facebook page on:
You can access Alba Rotary Club website on:
You can access the two Swedish Rotary club websites on:
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