Trip to stop in prisons across France and Italy

They've taken local teens abroad, now two Del Norte women hope to show correctional officers how prisons as far away as Australia and Europe operate.

Patti Rommel and Cheryl Simonson's new business, World Edventures and Service Tours, specializes in overseas trips for service organizations and school groups. But, they say, they really want to reach employees at Pelican Bay State Prison as well as local police and California Highway Patrol officers. Their website,, went live Dec. 1.

Starting next summer, the two women are offering trips to Paris, Normandy and the Loire Valley in France and Tuscany and Umbria in Italy. Travelers can work with them to see Germany, Scotland or Spain. Each trip will feature a visit to at least one prison, Simonson said.

"It gives them something that they can justify going on a trip like this," said Simonson, whose husband is a correctional officer. "They would really like that. They know they can use it as part of their education."

For the past two years, Simonson and Rommel have worked with Education First Tours to offer trips to Del Norte High School students via the travel organization European Edventures.

Through the same company, Rommel and Simonson are able to offer packages to adults that include round trip airfare, lodging, transportation and breakfasts and many other meals. The tour packages include local expert tour guides as well as interpreters, Simonson said.

As a security feature for correctional officers, the tours are completely private, limited only to their groups and any family members they might bring with them, Rommel said. They also decline to reveal the tour's specific date of departure. Most tours cost about $4,000.

The officers will also visit that country's monuments, museums and other sights, Rommel said.

"It gives the officers a better feel for the culture so they can get an idea of what elements and challenges prison guards have to (deal with)," she said.

Rommel and Simonson hope to show correctional officers the different ways each country approaches its prison system. For example, those who sign up for the A Taste of Tuscany and Umbria tour will have lunch at the Fortezza Medicea, a 700-year-old maximum-security prison.

According to Rommel, Fortezza Medicea was once a monastery. Now it's a 5-star restaurant run entirely by prison inmates, she said.

"That's an example of their rehabilitation," she said.

Another planned trip next year is a visit to La Sante prison, one of France's most infamous, which once housed resistance fighters during the Nazi occupation.

Future trips may also include a visit to the "most humane prison in the world" in Norway, which operates an open campus and gives its inmates freshly brewed coffee and waffles with jam, Rommel said.

Correctional officers may also be able to travel to Australia and visit Port Arthur, which housed Britain's hardened criminals from 1833 to 1835, Rommel said.

Rommel said her and Simonson's ultimate goal with World Edventures and Service Tours is to offer trips to correctional officers from facilities outside Del Norte County. Already, officers from Folsom State Prison and the facilities in Vacaville have expressed their interest, she said.

"We hope to create a global network of correctional officers just like in Rotary," Rommel said. "I don't think there's any downside."

Simonson said she has had her husband spread the word about her new business at Pelican Bay. She also has information into the Crescent City Police Department and plans to reach out to the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office to make a presentation.

For more information about World Edventures and Service Tours, visit

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