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Local students entertain the Swiss, take gondola ride in ‘Floating City’

Local students entertain the Swiss, take gondola ride in ‘Floating City’
By KATIE DONALDSON
Messenger Intern
They did not eat hotdogs and hamburgers or see the night sky light up for the Fourth of July.
Instead, local students sang and danced their way out of Switzerland, enjoyed good Italian food, took a Venetian gondola ride and saw a man create a horse.
Obion County Central High School students Lindsay Castellaw, Matthew Kegan Tittle and Allison Wicker; South Fulton High School student Zack Vaughn; and Union City High School students Macie Britt, Destiny Powers, Garrett Ransom and Grant Ransom are on the fourth annual Union City Rotary Club 12-day, all-expense-paid trip to Europe.
Student travelers and their chaperones — Union City Middle School teacher Mary Hellen Johnson and her husband, David — started the last leg of their trip Tuesday when they left Switzerland behind and entered Italy.
The Rotary Club supplied the group with $50,000 to cover the Cosmos Co. trip “St. Paul’s to St. Peter’s” along with their transportation, meals and other expenses. Travel One in Union City booked the four nation trip for the Rotary Club, which started in London and will end in Rome.
For their last night in Switzerland, the group ate a traditional Alpine folk dinner comprised of veal served with mushroom gravy.
“It was delicious,” Zack said to his mother when he called home Tuesday.
Each day, a different student phones home to report the day’s adventures. After the call, the family relays the other students’ families the report through a “calling tree” system set up with emails and phone numbers.
Zack said their “after dinner entertainment” came from several members of the group, including himself. Lindsay led the way by climbing on stage and trying her hand at playing the long Alpine horn, which can measure up to 20 feet and is used by the Swiss to call sheep. Kegan followed with a yodeling performance.
Zack, Macie and Destiny introduced the audience to some American culture and made themselves very memorable when they performed “The Chicken Dance.”  
 “Zack said it was some of the most fun that he has had on the trip,” his mother said in her email.
After a night of laughs and good food, the group set off the next day for Italy.
They made their first stop in Verona, where Shakespeare’s famous “Romeo and Juliet” was based. It has never been proven that the two star-crossed lovers existed, but the lack of proof does not hinder people from traveling around the world to glimpse the House of Juliet.
The students and the Johnsons saw the balcony Juliet supposedly stood on while Romeo declared his love for her.
After viewing the romantic site, the group enjoyed fresh Italian bread dipped in olive oil and some sweet, Italian ice cream, or gelato, before journeying east to Venice.
Once they arrived in “The Floating City,” the travelers took showers and a short break before attending a formal Venetian dinner at their hotel.
“Zack said that everyone is doing great,” his mother added at the end of her email. “They are all having the time of their lives.”
Wednesday afternoon, Grant made the call home to report what the group did on the national holiday.
Though they missed the traditional July 4 celebrations, the climate in Italy made them feel at home. Grant said it was 39 degrees Celsius, or 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
The feeling of home stopped with the temperature as their second day in Venice unfolded with more wondrous sights and experiences.
The travelers took a proper, Venetian gondola ride Wednesday. A couple celebrating their 39th anniversary shared the ride with the group, and all the passengers listened as the couple was serenaded.
“Sounds like a TV commercial,” Ransom’s mother said about her son’s call.
After leaving the gondola ride and the couple behind, the group visited a Venetian glass-making workshop, where they watched a man make a glass horse.
The students and chaperones took another crafty tour on a small island off Venice, where they visited a place that made silk articles.
Though Grant did not buy any souvenirs from the glass and silk workshops, the prices ranged from 90 to 20,000 euros or about $113 to $25,000, he got his money’s worth in pictures.
“He has already taken over 600 pictures,” his mother said in her email to other parents. “And [he] still has three days left of sightseeing.”
The group will finish off its last three days in Florence, Pisa and Rome. Today, they will make the long haul to Florence on their tour bus.
Look for a continuation of their travels in Friday’s edition of The Messenger.
Editor’s note: Katie Donaldson, daughter of Jim and Cindy Donaldson of Union City, is a rising senior at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Published in The Messenger 7.5.12

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