Members from the Franklin-Simpson High School travel club and community members just returned from an 18-day trip to Italy and Greece visiting the sights and taking in the culture.
"My favorite part was just seeing the kids excitement, seeing the different places we went, their smiles and laughs, that made it all worth it," said Allie Meador, the information and technology teacher and travel club sponsor at FSHS.
The group landed in Venice, Italy, on June 22 and went to Florence, Pisa then back to Florence, down to Sicily to Rome and Pompeii. Then the group took a night ferry to Greece to tour the Meteora Region went to Athens and ended with a three day Greek Island cruise where they left July 8 from Greece to travel back to Franklin.
"We had a whole itinerary," Meador said. "That is what these trips do, they give you a taste into the cities and you get to know if you want to go back."
She said they had a tour guide for their entire trip who helped organize extra side visits in the cities they went too.
In Venice the group went to a glass blowing demonstration and tour a lace factory, which is one of the premiere lace teaching schools in Europe.
"She talked about how they did it and how they actually do a lot of work for the royal family," Meador said.
She said the woman giving the tour and answering questions was showing them around wearing a lace necklace she had made. At the end of the tour, everyone walked away with a lace doily made by one of the students at the school.
Beth Anne Pardue, the physical education teacher at Simpson Elementary and one of the chaperones, said they went to a restaurant where they make their pasta is handmade every day. They even got to eat lunch there tasting the handmade pasta.
"We got a pasta demonstration by an 80 year old lady," Pardue said. "All of the vegetables were fresh from the garden."
Their tour guide liked to add in a few extra stops along the way like taking the group to a small hillside town called, San Gimignano. Meador said vineyards and olive trees surrounded the town.
The group even got to do a night walking tour of Rome where they happened upon an old building where a projection of the history of the building was being shown on the side of the building.
"That is something extra we got to see because we happened to be there," Meador said. "Our tour director did a really good job of adding in those extras and rearranging our schedule to make sure we got to do the extras."
Meador said their tour guide was from Naples so they ended up going through her hometown. They actually picked up the guides kids and hung out with the group until the kids father picked them up.
"Our tour director extended her family to us which made it an awesome experience," Meador said.
Pardue said when they were in Florence the people were celebrating Saint John the Baptist, their patron saint, by having a parade. They event got to see the Cardinal up close because he was walking in the parade.
She said they also got to see the unveiling of the newly restored ornate carved doors on the Baptistery.
Meador said their goal for Italy was to try a different gelato every day.
The best gelato Pardue said she had was in San Gimignano and it had orange zest in it.
In Greece during their tour of the Meteora Region they got to tour a monastery where nuns were living.
Pardue said the monastery was built on top of a hill and all she could think of was how did they get the materials to build it.
"It was way more beautiful than I thought it was going to be," Pardue said.
In Delphi they toured a temple and an archaeological museum, Meador said. They saw the big
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canal that was built through Greece so boats didn't have to go around it.
"It was like four miles, so they could go through instead of going around and they did it back in 1800's," she said.
Their tour guide even scheduled them an afternoon to spend at the beach, to relax and take in sun and sand.
"To see the kids faces in at the beach, the water was so clear, it was just so beautiful," Meador said.
While the group was in Athens they saw the Acropolis, the Parthenon and a tour of Epidaurus before they left for the three-day cruise of the Greek Islands.
"We stopped at all these places and got to see all these things that were totally different than what we had seen on the mainland of Greece, it was just really beautiful and amazing to be able to stop and see all those things," Pardue said.
What she loved about the trip was that it was planned for you.
"If I just went myself I would not have a clue of half of the things we do because I would not know how to get it organized or how much is it," Pardue said.
The entire group consisted of 36 travelers, 18 students and 18 adults. Out of the adults on the trip only five were chaperons with the other 13 adults participating as travelers.
Meador said even though it is a high school trip she wants it open to the community so they can explore and travel, they just have to abide by a few guidelines since it is a high school trip.
"We want everyone to have the opportunity to travel and see the world," Meador said.
Meador said shepartners with Kentucky Downs and Nissan Stadium to help participants who want to go raise money for the trip. Last year, she said they were able to raise $70,000 for the trip at Nissan Stadium alone.
"A lot of the fundraising I try to do is where you volunteer your time and then you get a return on that, you are not asking someone to buy something," Meador said.
She never wants finances to get in the way of someone being able to travel so if people are willing to work and give their time they can travel, she said.
"I have a mother [and] son who fundraised from August to May both of their entire trips that they went with me, they had to pay spending money, but that was it," Meador said.
Pardue said something else about the trip she loves is that it is mostly paid for except spending money and maybe a few extra stops that get added late.
The clubs 2020 trip will be the Treasures of Central Europe visiting Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Vienne, Salzburg, Munich, Lucerne, Zurich and Switzerland.
"So we do five countries Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Switzerland in 16 days," Meador said.
Their 2021 trips are for spring break partnering with Allen Counties travel club to go to Belize in Central America. In the summer of 2021 Meador customized a trip to Ireland, Scotland and the United Kingdom and Meador has partnered with Russellville High School and White House Trinity for that trip.
The cost for the 2020 trip is $4,600 for kids and $5,400 for adults. The 2021 spring break trip is $3,200 for kids and $3,600 for adults and the summer trip is $5,300 for kids and $6,000 for adults.
For more information on any of the trips email Allie Meador at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page, FSHS travel club.