Riviera Reunion - Crossing Borders 2014
Thu 18th September 2014 - Sun 21st September 2014
Following our hosting of the twinning visit in 2013, Billericay Rotary Club enjoyed a wonderful programme in France this year, hosted by the Rotary Club of Beausoleil, along with Basildon, Alba and Ovada (Italy), Karlshamn (Sweden), from September 18-21.thumbnail view
A Riviera Reunion
Starting with Beausoleil in 1965, the Rotary Clubs of Billericay and Basildon have been very keen to foment fellowship and maintain international links with other European Rotary Clubs, including Italy (Alba) and Sweden (Karlshamn) in more recent years. Following the highly successful 2013 visit of Beausoleil, Karlshamn and Alba Rotarians to us, it was Beausoleil’s turn to host this year.
We were all based in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, between Monaco and the Italian border, Billericay and Basildon clubs in the Hotel Victoria in a beautiful location 30 yards from the beach, and the Swedish Rotarians in a hotel only two streets further back.
After a very early start (some of us having got up before 3 a.m.) members and their partners arrived safely in Nice airport where were met by Jacques Bernard, President of Beausoleil Rotary Club and his team.
After a coffee at the airport we were taken to the hotel and adjourned next door to the Fellini, an Italian restaurant next door to the hotel, for a very filling lunch. The afternoon was free to rest and recover from the early start at the hotel, to walk into Menton, or just have a swim and perhaps a drink.
In the evening, we split into threes and fours for the short journey in the cars of members of Beausoleil club to the local St. Louis Club for an aperitif, a game of ptanque and a meal - our first bonding event.
After the aperitif, everybody was so busy renewing friendships that we went straight to the meal, all seated on long tables to help with the mingling between groups and old friends. After the food, a huge Paella with more than enough for anybody, there was now time for the ptanque - multiple teams of three competed (with various levels of skill) and the winners were ..... Nobody seemed quite sure!
.... Finally, our exhausted travellers returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Friday saw a meandering file of Rotarians guided by the Beausoleil team walk to Carnoles train station for the two stops to Monaco. A full day included visits to the 700 year old Sainte-Dvote Church dedicated to Monaco’s Patron Saint, and then a trip on Monaco's “Little Train” - a sort of “Hop-On, Hop-Off” facility without the “Hop-Off” - for an enjoyable trip around the best sights of Monaco - the Harbour, the Casino, the Palace and the Cathedral, etc.
Then a very pleasant walk through the St. Martin Gardens, enhanced by views of the shore and small harbour, before walking up to visit the cathedral with the graves of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Finally, a wander through the narrow streets of the old town back to the Palace.
Lunch was at “Tony’s” restaurant, a “stones throw” from the Palace Square, and some of us adjourned there for a quick drink (not cheap at 6.50 a pint!!) whilst others wandered the lanes. Good food and wine, and more than enough of each awaited us there.
Then back by bus and train to the hotel. The Program said we had a free afternoon, but in France, these seem to start at 5 pm!
That evening was another highspot of the visit, when visiting members were allocated to individual members of Beausoleil club who hosted them in their homes for dinner. A chance to renew family links from previous trips for some, or make new friends for others.
No rest for the ... You know what I mean! Saturday, and a coach along the Autoroute to Nice. After a drive along the “Promenade des Anglais” we were on foot through the old town led by an English speaking guide.
It was so enjoyable to wander around the old town, drinking in the atmosphere and the quaint streets, even if the guide had difficulties making herself heard to such a large group. Oh for more hours in the day to explore the museums, art galleries & shops!
Lunch was in “La Maison de Marie”, a lovely cool restaurant away from the heat nad bustle of the town, but by the time we finished it was time for the coach journey back to the hotel along the coastal route. What a delight! Tremendous views, vertiginous drops, precarious buildings, huge motor yachts and large liners to delight the eyes. Unforgettable!
Another "free afternoon" starting at 5 p.m. - at the hotel, some retreated inside for a drink and a doze in the cool, while others (Patrick, Roger, Malcolm, James and wives) braved a swim in the Mediterranean. (Photo censored!)
That evening was the Gala Dinner for all the clubs, dressed up to the nines we were transported in Beausoleil club members’ cars in groups of 2 or 3, to the Restaurant St. Benoit in Monaco.
What a great evening. A fantastic position overlooking Monaco harbour and with views of the Palace lit up at night.
Then a massive display of Fireworks, rounded off by the yachts in the harbour all sounding their horns! And that was just the “extras”! It was so good to mingle with the other Rotarians, and to sit down for a most delicious food and drink, great conversation and, of course, the obligatory speeches and exchanges of presents between all the six club presidents.
President Mike Ginn made a very well received speech in French.
What a great evening - everybody dressed up - beautiful restaurant, great food, good service and the best of company. Everybody was unversal in their praise for the effort and organization by our colleagues in the Rotary Club of Beausoleil, who had laid on such a well-organized and interesting Program.
Sunday dawned far too soon. We packed and checked out ready for our return to England. While the Presidents and club Officers met for a working meeting, most of us had a short swim, a walk along the beach, or rested in the cool before the short walk to “l’Hippocampe”.for a great buffet lunch. What a spread! What desserts!
Finally back to the hotel, a coach ride to the airport and a last drink in France before boarding our plane for the trip home.
Reminiscing about the trip after their return, Billericay club members remarked on the success of the trip and look forward to next year's visit to Karlshamn.