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Students finally take long-planned trip abroad

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Almost a year and a half of waiting patiently for the departure date to Europe set for Monday July 9, 2012, came to a close as students from Colleton County High School and chaperones met at the Charleston International Airport to board one of the two airplanes within which their adventures would begin.

Colleton County High School French teacher Sharon Courtney had planned the long anticipated trip through the travel company ACIS in the fall of 2010 and had a total of eight students sign up. The participants included rising junior Thomas Hiers, rising seniors Alondra DeSantiago, Jakob Hahn, Miranda Saunders, Samantha Light, and recent high school graduates Bailey Stone, Camden Wiggins, and Melissa Weber.  The chaperones were Sharon and Tracy Courtney.  Adult participants were Queenie Crawford from Colleton County and Susan and Rein Mungo from Conway. 

The participants arrived early on Tuesday morning in the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, France and many of them received their first stamp in their passports from a foreign nation.  Paris greeted them with chilly weather and busy streets as people made their way to work.  Regardless of the fact that it was past midnight back home, everyone was excited and looking forward to what the city of Paris had in store.

Soon after dropping off their luggage, the students, recent graduates, and chaperones passed the beautiful Arc de Triomphe which was very near their hotel and headed to Paris’ most famous icon: the Eiffel Tower.  “We have all seen the tower on TV, in magazines, and in history books, but seeing it in person is like nothing else,” said participant Alondra DeSantiago.  “Due to technical issues, only one elevator was functioning, yet we continued to wait eagerly in line for four hours to climb to the summit.  The breathtaking view from the very top of the Eiffel Tower overseeing the “La Ville-Lumière”, the city of light, left us speechless, definitely making it worth the wait.”

 One of the main things the participants were all looking forward to, of course, was an authentic French meal. The first meal they ate included salad, quiche, chicken, mashed potatoes, and to top it off, a delicious crème brulée.  Participants were also treated to a riverboat tour on the Seine at sunset and saw the enchanting Eiffel Tower light up the Paris night sky.  The remaining time in Paris allowed the students, graduates, and their chaperones to enjoy and shop on one of the most famous streets in the world, lesChamps-Élysées; visit the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral while mass was taking place; visit Place de la Concorde; see Les Invalides; and enter the Louvre, home to the famous Mona Lisa. “Also in Paris, we visited and ate dinner in the charming neighborhood of Montmartre by walking up the countless steps in front of the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur.”

Day four of the trip began with a cooking lesson at the L’atelier Des Chefs in which participants learned how to make local dishes including crêpes and soufflé.  They later departed Paris in love with the city and with a new favorite song, “Aux Champs-Élysées” aboard the TGV to Provence in Southeast France.  In Avignon, a beautiful town surrounded with fields of lavender, participants got the chance to see the Pont St. Bénezet, enter the majestic Palais des Papes, paint a canvas of Paul Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire, and later headed east towards Nice.  Located beside the beautiful Mediterranean Sea with its light blue waters, Nice la Belle is a charming city with colorful buildings and shops of all sorts.  Participants shopped, swam, and ate ice cream of all flavors such as lavender, rose petal, and cactus.  “We visited the nearby city of Eze, where we made our own perfume at the famous Fragonard perfumery. We were fortunate to be in France during its Independence Day, Bastille Day, since we got to witness the celebration with fireworks over the Mediterranean shore,” DeSantiago said.

After a bittersweet farewell to France and a long bus ride, the participants arrived in La Bella Italia making their first stop in Pisa to see its well-known Leaning Tower. It is a miracle that it is still standing and seeing it so near truly is breathtaking.  Continuing on, participants arrived in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, where they entered the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio which housed centuries old Italian frescos, saw the incredible Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria, and many other astounding buildings and statues on a guided tour of the city.

The Eternal City, Rome, was their last destination.  The participants began by entering the splendid Vatican, home to the Pope, and after years of studying Michelangelo in history class, they finally saw one of his most famous works, the beautiful Sistine Chapel frescos. They also entered St. Peter’s Basilica and saw another of Michealangelo’s works, The Pietà.  While in Rome, participants got to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, walk around the Colosseum, see the Pantheon, walk up the Spanish steps, and eat authentic Italian pizza.

Participants departed Rome on Wednesday July 18th with new ideas, information, memories, friends, and stories to tell their families back home. Within a total of ten days, they got the chance to explore two beautiful countries and their cultures, speak words and phrases in two beautiful languages, and see places important to history.  Within ten days their lives were completely changed and none of them can wait for the day in which we can return and live it all over again.

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