Jennifer Rowell-Gastard is Renestance’s Coordinator for Activities and Excursions. In this week’s Meet the Team entry we hear more from Jennifer about how she joined Renestance and her favorite secret spots in the area.
What brings you to Renestance?
Having known Dennelle since 2012 and followed the Renestance project from afar, I have always greatly admired my fellow American’s keen insight, enthusiasm and professionalism. And from a distance, although happily dedicated to my job at the time, I often confessed to my husband that I was secretly dreaming of working with Dennelle on this very cool project! And since things that were meant to happen, usually do, I am now working to help provide Renestance with an exciting and diverse program of Excursions and Activities!
What do you bring to Renestance?
With over 17 years of living, working and evolving in France, I have maintained the secret (not anymore!) objective to blend in with all of the other French people, and have my foreignness go unnoticed. This means soaking up as much information, culture and language as possible in both rural and urban settings. Although my accent can still betray me sometimes, I feel I’ve actually succeeded in not only fitting in but really carving out a space as an active member of the French community, all the while remaining a proud American truly attached to my biculturalism. I am very active member of several athletic, cultural and humanitarian organizations as treasurer, translator, or volunteer.
My professional experience ranges from International Coordinator for a Paris-based consulting group to Business Development Manager for the European branch of an American fair trade non-profit. Overall, I pride myself in being a dot-connector and greatly enjoy helping others discover the best people, places and things that France has to offer. Passionate about food and wine, music, hiking and intercultural exchanges, I look forward to guiding Renestance members through the abundance of cultural, historical and natural beauty that the Languedoc Roussillon has to offer.
Do you have family in the area ?
I live with my French husband and our two children in Junas (Gard), a town of 1000 souls, known for its ancient rock quarries and annual jazz festival. Being surrounded by caring and supportive neighbors and friends has made up for the distance that separates us from our families. My in-laws are in Brittany and my parents back in Vermont, so our community is really important!
What is your favorite thing to do with a free day?
Definitely a family hike at one of the numerous natural wonders in the Languedoc: “4000 steps” (Mont Aigoual), Pic Saint Loup, Cirque de Mourèze, St. Guilhem le désert… this outing of course usually ends with a very well-deserved stop at a café for a “Perrier Menthe” or ice cream and some people watching.
Where’s your favorite place in the region?
Besides our hometown, I have always been a big fan of Nîmes. This is most likely because Nîmes was the very first city I visited in the Languedoc Roussillon when I arrived in France in 1998. Offering 26 centuries of history, Nîmes is still filled with extremely well-preserved examples of the incredible architectural prowess of the Roman Empire.
My favorite sites are the Maison Carrée, the mysterious Temple de Diane and the Roman Amphitheater. Les Arènes de Nîmes are beautiful inside and out and make a very unique venue for different cultural events, especially the annual summer music festival – a celebration we make a point NOT to miss each July!
I’ve watched as Nîmes has changed over the past couple decades, and only for the better, with impressive urban renovations and extensive archeological research and discoveries. Not to mention the great shopping and the many sidewalk cafés and restaurants inviting you to sit back and relax in the sunshine.
Do you have any advice for anyone who is moving here or thinking about it?
Take advantage of each and every learning opportunity, new encounter and experience, whether it be tasting new foods or striking up a challenging yet exciting conversation with the Boulanger.
With patience, an open-mind, and a constant reminder to yourself that you’re “not in Kansas anymore,” France will quickly become a place you can sincerely call “home”.