34th Annual Business Meeting
France ~ Seine River Cruise ~ Paris ~ Colmar
President Tully Seymour (Jan)
Judge David Brickner (Leah)
Judge William E. Byrne (Berti)
Judge Dennis Choate (Colleen)
Judge Warren Conklin (Lora)
Judge Richard O. Frazee (Elaine)
Judge Margaret Hay (Ken)
Judge William R. Hollingsworth (Jo)
Judge Derek Hunt (Amy)
Judge William B. Keene (Pat)
Judge Malcolm Mackey
Judge Kevin Midlam (Cynthia)
Judge David McEachen (Judith)
Judge Thomas R. Murphy (Pat)
Judge Ronald Owen - Commissioner Cheryl Leininger
Judge Thomas N. Thrasher (Sande)
Art Martin, Esquire
Diane Bowen, Chief Executive Officer
Joining in Paris:
Judge Frederick Horn
Commissioner Jane Myers (Dr. Norm)
SUNDAY: The group arrived at the Paris Airport and was transferred to Le Havre for embarkation aboard the Viking Seine for a seven-night cruise on the Seine River through the “Heart of Normandy.” Following WWII, with the aid of the Allies, it took two years to clear destruction in Le Havre before reconstruction could begin in 1946. Today Le Havre is France’s leading commercial port. In the evening, there was a Welcome Cocktail Party aboard ship.
MONDAY: In the morning the group departed for a full day historic tour to the Normandy Beaches.
“The massive Allied assault on the Normandy coastline on June 6, 1944 aimed to liberate France and drive into Nazi Germany.
Before dawn on June 6, three airborne divisions - the U.S. 82nd and 101st and the British 6th - landed by parachute and glider behind targeted beaches. Allied naval forces, including the U.S. Coast Guard, conveyed assault forces across the English Channel. Beginning at 0630 hours, six U.S., British and Canadian divisions landed on Utah,
Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches in history’s greatest amphibious assault.
The U.S. 4th Infantry division pushed inland from Utah Beach. To the east, on Omaha Beach, the U.S. 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions battled German resistance over a beach bristling with obstacles. To reach the plateau where Normandy American Cemetery stands, troops fought across an open area of up to 200 yards, and attacked up steep bluffs. By day’s end, the Americans held fragile control of Omaha Beach.
On Gold, Juno and Sword, British and Canadian divisions forged ahead. In less than a week, the Allies linked the beachheads and pressed onward.
Over the next three months, the Allies battled German troops throughout Normandy, British and Canadians freed Caen. Americans liberated Cherbourg and staged a dramatic breakout near St. Lô. Allied troops, joined by French and Polish units, encircled and annihilated German troops at the Falaise Pocket while surviving units fled eastward. The way was now open to advance toward Paris and then to Germany.1
Beginning in Colleville-sur-Mer, the Academy judges viewed the panorama of Omaha Beach and the English Channel, and then toured the 172.5-acre Normandy American Cemetery Memorial, one of 14 permanent American WWII cemeteries constructed on foreign soil. Free use as a permanent burial ground was granted by the government of France in perpetuity without charge or taxation. The Memorial features a 22-foot statue “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves,” facing west toward the Graves area. The Graves area contains the remains of 9,387 servicemen and women, 307 of which are Unknowns, each marked by precisely aligned Latin crosses and Star of David headstones made from white Lasa marble. The next stop was the Utah Beach Monument, a red obelisk overlooking the beach which honors the achievements of the U.S. VII Corps forces that fought to liberate the Cotentin Peninsula. The group then visited the D-Day Museum in Arromanches, which depicted the Allied landings in Normandy beginning on June 6, 1944. A film of the landings was shown, and there were many displays and models of the beaches and depictions of the construction of an outer breakwater formed from old merchant ships, concrete boxes or caissons, to create a manmade harbour of floating causeways resting on pontoons. Pieces of this harbour are still visible today. The Battle of Normandy lasted until August 21, 1944 and was considered the Allies’ first victory on the continent. Three days later the Allies crossed the Seine and liberated Paris. There was a group lunch in Arromenches before returning to the ship.
TUESDAY: In the morning there was a visit to Honfleur, a harbour town which was an important port until the 15th century. Ginot-Paumier de Gonnville sailed from Honfleur to Brazil in 1503, Jean Denis, the first man to explore the St. Lawrence Seaway, and Samuel de Champlain who founded Quebec in 1608, all set sail from Honfleur. St. Catherine’s Church, built in the 16th century by shipwrights in a hurry to have their own church, resembles an upturned ship’s hull, all built from wood. Today, the town is a popular tourist destination, although fisherman still sail out each day for their catch.
IATJ ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING
At 2:15 p.m. the annual business meeting was convened aboard the Viking Seine, with all members in attendance. President Tully Seymour welcomed all Academy Fellows and expressed his appreciation for the good turnout on the trip, and hoped everyone was enjoying themselves.
Upon motion by Judge Frazee, second by Judge Mackey, the minutes of the September 23, 2006 to October 8, 2006 Annual Meeting in Northern Italy and the Adriatic Sea were unanimously approved as written.
The Treasurer’s Report submitted by Judge Keene reflected a beginning balance of $2,794.15 as of September 19, 2006. Income derived from dues, initiation fees and scholarship donations totaled $5,800. Expenses were $6,371.14. The balance on hand as of October 16, 2007 was $2,223.01. Upon motion by Judge Mackey, second by Judge Thrasher, the Report was unanimously approved as presented. The Membership Report as submitted by CEO Diane Bowen was discussed. There were nine new members, and nine resignations, mostly by long-time members who are now unable to travel out of the country, including former Academy President Edward Mulally from Minnesota. There are presently seven pending nominations. Pursuant to Academy Bylaws, two members were dropped for non-payment of 2006 and 2007 dues. Judge Keene, Chair of the Nominating Committee comprised of all former Academy presidents attending the meeting, Judges Seymour, Byrne and Murphy, met and unanimously presented the following recommendations. Judge Warren Conklin for 2008 President, Judge Dick Frazee for President-elect, and Judge Kevin Midlam for Chancellor. In the interest of facilitating the banking arrangements, Judge Keene will continue to serve as the Secretary-Treasurer. There were no further nominations from the floor. The nominations were moved closed by Judge Thrasher, second by Dennis Choate; the nominations were unanimously approved by acclamation.
Judge Conklin discussed plans for the 2008 trip. Presently he is considering a 7-night Holland America cruise aboard the ms Maasdam, which leaves Boston on September 27, 2008 and sails to Montreal on the St. Lawrence River. He is also considering a Canadian trip visiting the cities of Ottawa, Quebec and Montreal. He has contacted the United States Supreme Court Historical Society and has made plans for the group to attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court on October 6 and 7. He envisions the group spending 4-5 nights in Washington, D.C. after the cruise. Input was solicited from the group regarding travel plans. It was noted the 25% increase of the Euro versus the Dollar impacted this trip.
At the end of the meeting CEO Diane Bowen gave a tentative one-year resignation notice, explaining that the Academy duties, including dues collection, correspondence, and the planning and arranging of the Annual Business Meeting was becoming very time consuming. Various solutions to the alleviation of the workload were discussed. An increase in dues was considered, to be used to hire a professional mailing service. The matter was tabled for further informal discussion. The meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m. In the afternoon the ship sailed to Caudebec and passengers were able to visit the town before dinner. Members of the Academy enjoyed a private cocktail party in the lounge. Evening performances included a belly dancing performance by a member of the crew, who was joined by the Academy’s very own Commissioner Cheryl Leininger.
WEDNESDAY: In the morning the ship docked in Rouen, and members enjoyed a walking tour of the city center and old town. It was in Rouen that Joan of Arc, the patron saint of France, was imprisoned in a tower that still stands and now bears her name. Tried and condemned for heresy, she was burned at the stake by the English on the Place du Vieux-Marché in May 1431. Rouen prospered until the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) when, in 1419 it was taken by Henry V of England. The city was recaptured by the French in 1449 and for the following century was one of the main cultural centers of France. Due to threatened transportation strikes, including locks along the rivers, the ship sailed from Rouen at midday and the group enjoyed seeing the castles, homes and fall foliage along the banks of the Seine. After dinner there was a Liar’s Club performance in the lounge, in which the Academy’s own Berti Byrne participated as one of the liars trying to convince the audience of a wrong answer.
THURSDAY: In the morning the ship docked in Caudebec-en-Caux where Academy members could visit the St. Wandrille Benedictine Abbey, founded in 649, and walk around the town. After lunch aboard ship, the members were taken to visit Giverny, the town where Claude Monet lived and worked, and enjoyed a tour of the Monet Museum and gardens. Monet spent the last 43 years of his life in Giverny, where the Impressionist painter created many famous works. Beginning in 1899, Monet painted numerous depictions of the water-garden that he created, and which served as the theme for a series of paintings known as water lilies. These depictions grew to dominate his work completely and became a powerful influence on abstract artists at the time. One of the largest collections of his paintings is housed at the Orangerie in Paris.
FRIDAY: In the morning the ship docked at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, located where the Oise River meets the Seine. Members enjoyed exploring the town, walking along the riverside paths and visiting the outdoor markets. At noon the ship set sail for Paris. After arriving in Paris, the group boarded the Bateaux Mouches for an evening cruise through the heart of Paris on the Seine.
SATURDAY: In the morning the group took a guided city tour and then returned to the ship for lunch, after which the afternoon was free to explore Paris. In the evening Captain Davy Pontieux and Hotel Manager Marijan Kutnjak hosted a Farewell Cocktail Party and Gala Dinner
SUNDAY: In the morning the group Disembarked at the Quai de Grenelle, and was met by their dedicated tour guides who took the group for a guided tour of the Palace of Versailles. Built between 1631 and 1634 as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII, Louis XIV transformed it between 1661 and 1710 into an immense and extravagant complex surrounded by stylized English and French gardens. The additions were designed by renowned architects Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Robert de Cotte and Louis LeVau. Charles Le Brun oversaw the interior decoration. The symmetrical French gardens created by André Le Nôtre included ornate fountains with “magically” still water, expressing the power of humanity. Versailles was the official royal residence until the death of Louis XIV in 1715. In 1722 it was returned to its status as a royal residence during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. Following the French Revolution of 1789, the complex was nearly destroyed but subsequently restored by Louis-Philippe from 1830-1848. Though the Palace has been used for plenary congresses of the French parliament or for housing heads of state, by the 20th century it was primarily used for tourism. The most famous rooms in the palace are the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), and the Grands Appartements (State Rooms). The Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Allies and Germany in 1919 in the Galerie des Glaces. UNESCO designated the Palace and its gardens a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Following the tour of the Palace, lunch was served at the Le Valmont Restaurant in the town of Versailles, followed by a reception at the private residence of François-Henri Briard, a Lawyer who practices at the Conseil d’Etat, the Cour de Cassation, and the Supreme Court.2 Mr. Briard was instrumental in coordinating the meetings with Caroline Gorse-Combalat, Cultural Specialist at the United States Embassy in Paris. Thereafter, the group checked into the Le Jardin de Cluny Hotel in Paris.
MONDAY: In the morning the group left for the Palais de Justice to attend a reception at the Cour de Cassation and met with the First President of the Cour, Vincent Lamanda (Mr. “First”).3 He has been the First President since May. Prior to that Mr. Lamanda was the First President of the Courts of Appeal in Versailles from 1996-2007, and Rouen from 1992-1996. Mr. Lamanda met with Chief Justice John Roberts and other Justices during their visit in July, for the “Conference of the Network of Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union and the Supreme Court of the United States.”
There are two types of lower judicial courts in France, the civil courts (tribunaux d’instance, of which there are 581, and tribunaux de grande instance, of which there are 270), and criminal courts (tribunaux de police, tribunaux correctionnels). The function of the civil courts is to judge conflicts arising between persons, and the function of the criminal courts is to judge minor infractions (contraventions) and more serious offenses (délits) against the law. The most serious crimes for which penalties may range to life imprisonment, are tried in assize courts (cours d’assises). These courts do not sit regularly but are called in to session when necessary. Special administrative courts (tribunaux administratifs) deal with disputes between individuals and government agencies. The highest administrative court is the Conseil d’Etat.
From the lower civil and criminal courts appeals are taken to the Cours d’Appel, of which there are presently 35. Judgments of the Cours d’Appel and the Cours d’assises are final, however, appeals on the interpretation of the law or points of procedure may be taken to the highest of the judicial courts, which is the Cour of Cassation.
The Cour of Cassation is unique in that there is only one Cour of Cassation. The purpose of the court is to unify case law and ensure that the interpretation of law is the same throughout the whole Republic. The task of the Cour of Cassation is therefore to state whether the law has been applied correctly in the lower levels. The history of the court goes back to the way justice was practiced under the “Ancien Régime,” where the power to administer justice was held by the King’s Council or the King. The King let that power be exercised by courts and “parlements,” but the King could override them at will. After the French Revolution in 1790, the Tribunal of Cassation was formed and became the Cour of Cassation in 1804.
The Cour of Cassation is located in the Palais de Justice, which has been used for courts since 1790. The Academy judges met in the First Civil Chamber, decorated in gilt paneling and containing paintings representing various provincial parlements. Some courtrooms and chambers still contain oak paneling from the age of Napoleon III.
The Cour of Cassation is organized into six chambers, five civil and one criminal. A case is heard by a panel of either three or five judges, depending upon the seriousness of the matter, or the chambers may also sit as a full bench in a case which could result in a reversal of case law. The Cour heard 22,000 civil cases and 9,000 criminal cases last year. All cases that are appealed are accepted, thus ensuring freedom of access to the court. The Cour has a legal aid office (Bureau d’aide jurisdictionnelle) to cover lawyer’s fees submitted by applicants or respondents in connection with appeals. There are 6 chamber presidents, 88 justices (counseillers), and 66 assistant judges (conseilliers référendaires). Each judge receives 12 cases each month. After an appeal has been registered it is referred to a particular chamber and a justice is appointed as a rapporteur. Appeals are screened and may be “fast-tracked” if inadmissible; 30% of appeals are inadmissible. Other cases warranting “considerations” are the subject of written proceedings by the justice serving as the rapporteur, and he will prepare a report to be considered by the other justices who will consider the case. The case is then deliberated upon with each justice stating his or her opinion, a vote will be taken and the majority vote will determine the outcome. The judgment will be prepared by the rapporteur, and there can be no dissenting opinion. Where a ruling to dismiss is delivered, the decision becomes irrevocable. When a judgment is quashed or set aside it is usually referred back to the court of the same level as the one from which the decision was originally rendered, or the same court with different judges. The aim here is to speed up the proceedings and ensure respect for one of the major requirements of a fair trial. Cases at this time are taking about 16 months.
The Cour of Cassation has a legal research department directed by one of the justices. It groups together proceedings raising identical or related issues and helps reduce conflicts. The creation of a database of European law provides a useful tool for the courts. The group also visited the Library, which dates back to 1868, decorated with oak paneling surmounted by a neo-Renaissance stucco ceiling.
The Academy group lunched at the Le Restaurant du Palais Royal with Mr. Briard and members of the French Judiciary, including judges from the Conseil Constitutionnel.
Thereafter, the Academy group visited the Conseil D’Etat where they met in the Salle de l’Assemblée Générale with President M. Jean-Michel Belorgey, Rapporteur Général of the Section du rapport et des études. The Conseil D’Etat is the highest administrative court in France with final jurisdiction over cases involving misuse of administrative power. It is the appellate jurisdiction for decisions of administrative courts (tribunaux administratifs, of which there are 37). It may also make recommendations on administrative reform and may be consulted in advance concerning certain types of legislation initiated by government for submission to parliament. Individual citizens have access to the Conseil d’Etat, providing a check on the use or abuse of discretionary powers.
The origins of the Conseil d’Etat date back to the 13th Century, where its function was to provide counsel to the King with respect to lawsuits and new laws. The decisions of the King’s Conseil d’Etat were regarded as being issued under “restrained justice,” i.e. the self-restraint of the sovereign. The current Conseil d’Etat was created in 1799 as a judicial authority responsible for lawsuits against the State and charged with helping to draft the most important legislation. It hears cases against decisions of the national government as well as matters pertaining to regional elections. It also examines regulations and administrative decisions with respect to the Constitution and general principles of law, international treaties and conventions. The Conseil has full latitude to judge on the legality of any decision from the executive branch and its decisions are final.
TUESDAY: In the morning the Academy group visited the American Embassy and met with Ambassador Craig Stapleton and Minister Counselor for Public Affairs James L. Bullock. Ambassador Stapleton was appointed on June 27, 2005. Previously he served as Ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2001-2004. His business career involved serving as President of Marsh and McLennan Real Estate Advisors of New York; he was a partner with President Bush in the ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and he served as Connecticut State Chairman for the re-election campaign of President Bush.
France is the oldest ally of the United States going back more than 225 years, from the American Revolution to the Allied landings in Normandy during WWII. Diplomats at the American Embassy and at the seven consulates and offices around France work with French counterparts in government and civil society on a daily basis. Consulates provide essential services to Americans visiting or living in France. France is an important U.S. partner in promoting such common foreign policy objectives as democracy, stability, economic growth and prosperity. The two countries cooperate on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation efforts and in promoting human rights. France and the U.S. maintain beneficial economic ties, and engage in approximately $1 billion of commercial transactions daily. French investment in the U.S. generates over 500,000 jobs for Americans, while U.S. investment in France provides nearly 600,000 jobs. The two countries work together to solve trade disputes and support trade commitments and common goals in the World Trade Organization.
The Ambassador believes that U.S.-French relations are very good, under former French President Jacques Chirac’s administration and now under newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy. In the months since President Sarkozy’s election the Embassy has welcomed numerous official visitors, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Recently in July Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Kennedy visited, the first time four sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justices had traveled to France.
There are continuing mutual crises and challenges in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Darfur and Kosovo, and on climate change, facing the two countries, and the Ambassador is optimistic about what the two countries can achieve together. The Embassy’s Public Affairs Section undertakes a range of programs to explain U.S. policies and broader American society to the French public in order to foster mutual understanding.
The series of strikes taking place in France during the Academy’s visit were discussed, which started with transportation strikes causing disruptions to trains, air travel, métro and bus lines, and electricity. The Ambassador explained the strikes were over President Sarkozy’s and Prime Minister Fillon’s attempt to reduce early retirement benefits for 500,000 public employees. France’s national labour law permits workers in certain professions to retire with full pension benefits after 37.5 years rather than 40 years, and allows some workers to retire as early as age 50, costing France $7 billion per year.4
Thereafter the Academy group visited the Conseil Constitutionnel and met with Mr. Olivier Dutheillet de Lamothe, Member of the Conseil Constitutionnel and President of the Cercle Jefferson, a group of French professionals who are former participants in the State Department’s prestigious International Visitor Program. The Conseil Constitutionnel, created by the French Constitution of 1958, is the only forum available for constitutional review of legislation. Challenges to legislation may be raised by the President of France, the Prime Minister, the President of the Senate or National Assembly, or the 60 senators or 60 deputies of the National Assembly during the period between passage and promulgation (signature of president). The Conseil must “take a decision within one month.” “However, at the request of the government, if there is urgency, this time is brought back to eight days.” Once promulgated, French legislation is not subject to judicial review. The Conseil also takes “care of the regularity of the election of the President of the Republic.”5
There are nine members of the Conseil, and each member is appointed for nine years, three new members are appointed every three years. Three members are named by the President, who also appoints the President of the Conseil, three members are appointed by the President of the French National Assembly and three members are appointed by the President of the Senate. In addition, former Presidents of the Republic are members of right. Presently, two former presidents of France sit on the Conseil, Valery Giscard d’Estaing (President of the Republic 1974-1981) and Jacques Chirac (1995-2007). The Academy group enjoyed a reception in the Palais Royal and enjoyed a tour of the rooftop walkways around the courtyard.
Next the Academy group left for the Université of Paris X - Naterre for a meeting with Directrice de I’Institut d’Etudes (Dean of the Law School), Jacqueline Domenach, and Professor Élisabeth Fortis, Directrice du Centre de Droit Pénal et de Criminologie (Criminal Law). The Academy also met with Professor Anne Deysine, who in addition to being a Professor of Law and English, is the Vice-President of MICEFA, a program enabling students and junior researchers to study in the United States for either one semester or a full academic year. It also provides American exchange students classes designed to familiarize them with European legal systems and legal thought, and offers free tutorial assistance from bilingual French doctoral candidates. Several law students also attended the meeting and reception.
The Université Paris X was started in 1964 and is located in the western part of the Parisian suburb called La Défense. This “pluridisciplinary” university has about 30,000 students studying Literature, Languages, Human and Social Sciences, Law, Management, Technology, Culture and Arts and Communication.
The Law School was founded in 1968, and is known for its emphasis on international and comparative law studies, and offers a special master’s degree in this “concentration.” All of the French students who complete this course are required to be fluent in English and to spend one year studying in a common law country. Through the MICEFA program, started three years ago, exchange students study the French legal system which relies on statute law and codes and the unique European legal system, which relies on treaty law as its primary source of law, and regulations and directives. Students also study the differences between the French Conseil Constitutionnel and the U.S. Supreme Court, and how they are integrated into the larger European system, including the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The course in European law also includes an understanding of the European legal system as a complex continuum in which domestic laws and courts interact directly with international laws and courts, the recent enlargement that brought ten new countries into the EU, the free circulation of goods and services which are two keystones of the internal market, and the European legal framework governing lawyers.
Academy President Tully Seymour presented a $1,000 scholarship donation from the Academy to Dean Domenach and Professor Deysine, who stated it will be used for research materials and access to Westlaw and Lexis. Thereafter, the Academy judges had lunch at the Université.
The afternoon was free. The group enjoyed a Farewell to Paris Dinner at Lé Coupe Chou.
WEDNESDAY: On this date Judges Seymour, Frazee, Keene, Mackey, Midlam, Murphy, Owen/Leininger, and CEO Diane Bowen continued on the trip extension to Strasbourg via the TGV fast train. The remainder of the group departed for home.
In the afternoon the group visited the European Court of Human Rights and met with Mr. Michael O’Boyle, the Deputy Registrar. Mr. O’Boyle indicated that of the 600 people who work at the Court, 250 are lawyers. The European Court is an international court, and consists of a number of judges equal to the number of member States, of the Council of Europe, that have ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. There are currently 47 member States. The judges are entirely independent of their country of origin and do not represent either the applicants or the States. Their task is to determine if a complaint (known as an application) filed against a member State for human rights violations is valid, and if so, render a judgment. The countries concerned are under an obligation to comply with judgments of the Court.
The European Convention on Human Rights is an international treaty which only member States of the Council of Europe may sign. The Convention establishes the European Court of Human Rights and governs how it must function. The Convention also lists the rights and guarantees which the States have undertaken to respect, including rights to liberty, life, prohibition of torture, right to fair trial, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and many more.
Some cases presently pending before the court include Polish nationals filing an application against Poland for right to liberty and security; applicants against the United Kingdom for protection of property and right to respect for private and family life; applicants complaining about the excessive length of non-criminal proceedings by Poland; Palestinian nationals who were detained in the transit zone of Brussels airport following their unlawful entry into Belgium; and a French national complaining of being subjected to acts of violence by French police officers.
The Court is divided into four Sections, and chambers of seven members are constituted within each Section on the basis of rotation. Judges are elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for a term of six years. They may not sit after the age of 70. The caseload of the Court continues to climb, and the number of cases pending for execution in 2007 is 6,017, however, similar cases are grouped together, and some cases have come to judgment and are awaiting final resolution. Responsibility for supervising the execution of judgments lies with the Council of Europe.
After the meeting at the European Court of Human Rights, the Academy group toured Strasbourg’s cathedral, built around 1230, and then continued to Hotel Le Columbier in Colmar, also known as France’s “Little Venice,” because its Renaissance heritage and canals.
THURSDAY: In the morning the group left for a full-day tour of the Alsace Region’s famous wine route which meanders through the eastern slopes and foothills of the Vosges Mountains, passing through picturesque villages with half-timbered houses dating back to Medieval and Renaissance periods. Views of vineyards and castle ruins were visible on the hills. The group visited Kaysersberg, birthplace of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, then the village of Riquewihr where lunch was at the Sarment d’Or, a 17th century restaurant with an Alsatian interior. After lunch, and free time for shopping, the group continued to Chateau Du Haut-Koenigsbourg, a castle built in the late 11th century and fully reconstructed by the Kaiser Wilhelm at the beginning of the 20th century. The castle was impressive with a huge central keep, dungeon, thick walls, drawbridge, machicolations and turrets. Inside were period furnishings including cannons and suits of armor. The final stop was Cave Allimant Laugner for a wine tasting with kougelhopf cake.
FRIDAY: In the morning the group enjoyed an escorted walking tour of Colmar with guide Thierry Haettinger. Colmar is an old town which is particularly picturesque, steeped in art and history with narrow cobblestone streets flanked by 16th and 17th century half-timbered houses. Churches, cloisters, balconies, facades with ornate wood sculptures, paintings, gables and edifices from the Renaissance are in the city center. The colors and atmosphere of streets and alleyways have been well preserved since the Middle Ages and the ancient houses are reflected in the water which passes through the city. The group enjoyed a tour of the Unterlinden Museum housed in a 13th century Dominican convent, displaying an important collection of Rhenish sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, including the prestigious Issenheim alter piece painted by Grünwald in 1510. The afternoon was free.
In the evening the Farewell Dinner was held at the renowned La Maison des Tetes, a residence dating from 1609 and classified as a historical monument. Since 1898 La Maison des Tetes has been a restaurant and meeting place.
SATURDAY: The group was contacted by our travel agent, Gabriel Haigazian at Creative Travel Planners and notified that all the connecting Air France flights were being cancelled due to more transportation strikes. Gabriel re-routed the entire group through multiple airports and carriers, enabling everyone to arrive in Los Angeles as planned. It was later reported that thousands of people were stranded in the Paris airport for hours and days.
Written By Diane Z. Bowen, Chief Executive Officer
Tully H. Seymour, President