In 1965 when the family had grown to eight children we all embarked on a trip to Europe for the best part of a year to live in Italy and connect with my father’s Italian heritage – still strong after three generations in Australia. This was the trip that truly qualified Mum as the superb logistics organiser that she became. We left Sydney in five different deployments governed by school terms, exams and Dad’s business commitments. We traveled by ship and some by plane, meeting up in Northern England, traveled around Europe in a VW combi van, settled in Florence where some of us went to school or university and then returned to Australia in five different dispatches.
Some of us sailed home on the brand new stylish Italian Lloyd Triestino ship – the Guglielmo Marconi – sister ship to the Galileo.
Mum came home to more TV work and babies number nine and ten in quick succession.
The early years
And then in 1969 Mum was approached by the Lloyd Triestino owners’ representative in Australia – Captain Moscatelli – to see if she would agree to lead a tour to Europe visiting places of significance to Christians. Mum said yes provided that the family could come…
And so the business began. Paxtons Travel in the city packaged the tour. A big glossy brochure was produced and the tour was promoted throughout 1970. The first tour was 15 weeks fully inclusive of all meals – ship over via the Panama Canal and back via the Suez – and a 6 week coach tour from Lisbon to London via Rome – less than $14 a day!
The tour was promoted extensively throughout 1970. Mum made a big commitment in time to ensure that the tour received as much exposure as possible. Even the family got involved, driving Mum to speaking engagements all over NSW and pinning up posters in church halls.
The 1971 Catholic World Exploration Tour was an outstanding success with over 300 people travelling on the first tour. As well as the major European highlights such as Madrid, Paris and London they also visited Lourdes and we organised a Papal Audience in Rome.
The 1972 tour was being advertised before the first one had even returned and by 1973 we were running 2 tours a year. By this time I was working in the business with Mum, having taken leave of absence from my Science degree at Sydney University. I completed all the airfare and travel agency training that was available at that time.
In 1972 we started a program which we named “In the Steps of the Master” which was an air tour from Australia to the Holy Land (Israel) via India and Thailand. I escorted the 2nd tour which was advertised as Christmas in Bethlehem. I was 19 at the time.
In Israel we were accompanied by an acclaimed archaeologist who lived in Jerusalem. He was a great character and on his days off he took us on walks to hidden monasteries in oases in Wadi Rum on the way to Jericho – not far from where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. I loved my three weeks away on this tour and what I learned about my fellow travellers, the fate of a city that is sacred to three powerful religions and how relatively few Christians there actually are between Australia and Europe!