Last week friends and colleagues from decades past to present day gathered to wish our Chairman, David Parry, the happiest of birthdays on his 80th! It was a celebratory night and a wonderful occasion to commemorate a man who has inspired us all and continues to do so.Dave’s Birthday – 27
We first met Pamela Sheldon Johns, renowned cookbook author and gracious host, at a cheese maker in the Tuscan hills. After learning about the organic process, Pamela bought ricotta and pecorino which we would use to make our lunch. Armed with flavorful cheese and enthusiasm, we then sailed through rolling hills to arrive at Poggio Etrusco – the home (and kitchen extraordinaire) of Pamela and her artist husband, Johnny.
Our task…to make the famous Sense pici pasta and ravioli (with our ricotta) and then to enjoy our creations with some of Pamela’s homemade wine, olive oil, gelato, etc. Everything we consumed was from the land right underneath our feet. All vegetables and herbs from the gardens; olive oil pressed from their trees, and wine from their own vines. Just like Tuscan cooking – the most important component: fresh ingredients.
Join us this Fall in Siena on Smithsonian Journeys tour at: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/siena
Today on the Ancient Roman calendar marks the Quinquatrus – a celebration of Minerva. It is especially appropriate then to celebrate her here at Academic Travel Abroad where we offer educational tours and study abroad experiences because Minerva was a goddess of learning and scholars.
The festival commemorating Minerva continued in Rome for five days. The first and most important day, was the consecration of her temple on the Aventine and the following days consisted of gladiatorial contests, a display of wild animals, plays, orators, poets, and the consultation of fortune tellers.
Make sure to wish your teachers a very happy Quinquatrus today!
In our series, “Following the Soprano”, we trace the steps of our talented soprano, Diana Damrau. She will star as Violetta in La Traviata in Zurich during our Smithsonian Journeys’ opera tour http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/italian-opera-tour this May. (There’s still space to book!) But before seeing her in Zurich, Diana is taking on this famed role at the Met. It’s been a dream that she has had since she was 12 years old having seen Zeffirelli’s sumptuous production of the opera.
We can’t wait to see you soon, Diana!
Back in September last year, author, Sharon Kay Penman and I were talking about where she would like to lead a tour to next, for her loyal readers and fans. The hotel at the Abbaye de Fontevraud is currently closed for renovation and not being able to stay there we decided, would detract from the overall Eleanor of Aquitaine experience, that we had been planning for 2013. Sharon suggested we offer a Richard III tour, given that her highly acclaimed Sunne and Splendor about Richard is being republished (after 30 years!) in the UK this September. Little did I know (though Sharon seems to know everything about her characters…) that a skeleton would be found beneath a council car park in Leicester last October and yesterday it was confirmed to be that of Richard III. Historians, Richard III Society members, Sharon Kay Penman fans are ablaze with excitement at the news. This short-lived Plantagenet king who died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, has long been portrayed as a villain by his successors, now many are keen for Richard III’s story to be retold.
Sharon Kay Penmans’ fans have long seen a different side to Richard, than the official story. An exclusive group of them has signed up to join Sharon this September to follow in Richard III’s footsteps from York to Bosworth. This tour will allow the participants the opportunity to relive history and bring Richard’s story alive. Philippa Langley, originator of the search for Richard III said on seeing the reconstructed face of Richard “It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant.” Only time will tell how he is portrayed for future generations.
Senior Program Manager
Last week Academic Travel Abroad celebrated the 25th anniversary of our President, Kate Simpson. Under Kate’s tutelage and vision, she has led us through the most interesting and challenging of times.
We are all grateful for her inspiring leadership, her high standards and ideals, and her laser sharp focus and guidance that brings out the best in all of us. Thank you, Kate, and congratulations!
Verdi’s opera, La Traviata, consistently steals the hearts of millions as we inevitably become entangled in the complex yet spirited Violetta. As the main character of the opera, we watch as she finds her true love against all odds only to fall ill and then pass away in his arms. Violetta takes us on her journey of discovery and hope and while singing some of the most melodic arias the opera world has ever known.
Now with new blog series, “Follow the Soprano!” we take you on a journey to follow our own Violetta , Diana Damrau. She is the same soprano that will appear in La Traviata to be performed at Zurich’s Opernhaus during the Smithsonian Journeys Musical Masterpieces tour May 5-13, 2013.
http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/italian-opera-tour. The tour will immerse travelers in operas from La Fenice in Venice to La Scala in Milan.
What is Diana’s next role? She will appear at the Metropolitan Opera from January
to April in 2013 starring first as Gilda in Rigoletto followed by her role as Violetta in
La Traviata – the same role that we will see her in Zurich!
We look forward to watching this superstar in 2013! Her immediate next (and biggest role?) She will become a mother this month. Stay tuned for more as we follow
Boy, what a year it has been for travel! We close 2012 with our Highlights List of events and trends to remember!
So, here goes!
Cuba! In 2012 we were proud to work with 54 people-to-people and professional research groups in our role as a licensed Travel Service Provider to Cuba. The 900+ travelers and delegates represented a diverse group of Institutions, including The National Geographic Society, The Smithsonian Institution, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The American Museum of Natural History, The Colorado State Bar Association, The American Psychological Association, The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and others.
One-of-a-kind moments for travelers: Smithsonian’s German Cars travelers were treated to “the most tantalizing array of 300SLs, pre-war racing cars and other examples of the greatest Mercedes-Benz cars ever built.” We pride ourselves on these moments of behind-the-scene treats and special access —and they happened this year in places as diverse as Central Asia, southern Italy, the Swiss Alps, and Bentonville, Arkansas.
Exploring New Frontiers! Our team covered the globe in 2012! Senior Program Manager Chris Roper traveled to Namibia in March to ride the The Desert Express, a private train that links some of the world’s grandest national parks. In October, he joined a very short list of Americans who have “gone behind the iron curtain” to North Korea, the most isolated place on earth. (Yes, he has developed a cultural program there!) In addition, Senior Program Manager Janet Varn “saw the future” on her spring visit to Spaceport America, the New Mexico home of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space travel company. Along the way, she discovered New Mexico’s Space Trail, a route of 52 sites across the state related to space research and exploration.
Long Live Britannia! In this celebratory year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics, British literary themes were ever popular! Fans of noted author Elizabeth Chadwick traced William Marshal, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s greatest knight. Mystery lovers joined discussions and readings with authors Colin Dexter and Simon Brett, and Jane Austen fans depart this week for their Christmas in Winchester and Bath. We will continue all things Britain in 2013 (when we follow in the steps of the Edwardians) in our Downton Abbey tour with the Smithsonian Journeys! Visit and learn more here: www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/downton-abbey
Milestones: ATA’s Study Abroad Division, CET Academic Programs, celebrated its 30th anniversary in Beijing in June. In 1982, China was a very different place for these intrepid students, but their courage and foresight set in motion what has become CET’s flagship—with eight centers across China. CET truly is the “serious alternative” in study abroad.
New Faces: A great group of professionals joined us this year: MaryBeth Mullen as Director of Client Services, Francesca Baruffi as Asia Program Coordinator for CET, Meg Hannan as Tour Communication Specialist, Meredith Akery in her new role as Accountant, Wade Jennings as Graphic Designer, and Cherie Mason as HR Administrative Specialist (not pictured).
None of our successes would be possible without the partners and travelers we serve, and the dedicated tour managers and colleagues we consider part of our ATA family. We are grateful for all of you this holiday season!
Dec 20 – 28, 2012
Enjoy a unique holiday that blends the celebrated life of Jane Austen with English Christmas traditions
The recent revival of Jane Austen’s novels has created renewed interest in her delightful stories as well as English traditions. Next Christmas, join us for a unique holiday tour with a literary theme. Delve into Austen’s 19th-century world of English society as you explore the lovely cities of Winchester and Bath, where she lived and socialized. Travel in the company of Rosalind Hutchinson, a popular Smithsonian expert for literary and holiday tours. With Ros at your side, celebrate Christmas Day services in the sublime Winchester Cathedral, where a magnificent choir will sing sacred music accompanied by a historic organ with 5,500 pipes. Gather with new-found friends to pop a Christmas cracker, engage in conversation, and enjoy afternoon tea with Christmas mince pies and mulled wine. You’ll also follow the life and works of the English novelist, visiting Hampshire villages such as Steventon and Chawton, which shaped her life and stories, and residing in Winchester, where she spent her last years. Continuing to the World Heritage site of Bath, where Austen lived for five years, experience the epitome of Georgian society in such settings as the Royal Crescent and Assembly Rooms, which housed balls and public functions during Austen’s day. Literary fans will also learn more about the Regency period through a tour of the Fashion Museum and special meetings and events with experts from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and The Jane Austen Society in Winchester.
- Travel in the company of Rosalind Hutchinson, a perennial favorite among Smithsonian Study Leaders, whose expertise, charm, and humor make her a perfect Christmas companion.
- Immerse yourself in the bucolic Hampshire countryside, calling in at Steventon, where Jane Austen was born, The Vyne, a stunning country estate where she attended social events, and the villages that shaped her life and stories.
- Visit Chawton House, where Austen wrote three novels and polished others for publication. View original manuscripts, letters, and family memorabilia.
- Explore the village of Lacock, a National Trust property of timber and stone buildings that has featured in many film and television productions, including adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Emma.
- Discover Jane Austen landmarks in the lovely cities of Winchester and Bath, including where she lived, socialized, and was finally laid to rest.
- Delve into the elegance of the Regency period with several special arrangements, including a meeting with Elizabeth Proudman, Vice President of the local Jane Austen Society.
- Celebrate Christmas Day service at Winchester Cathedral, amid sacred choral music, and enjoy traditional afternoon tea, Christmas mince pies, and mulled wine.
- Tour the Roman Baths, and view some of the Bath’s most impressive architectural gems, including the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and the Pulteney Bridge.
December 20–21 — U.S., London, Winchester
Depart the U.S. for London, Heathrow on individual flights. Upon arrival the next day, take a private luxury coach to Winchester and check into the Hotel Du Vin. Gather with fellow Jane Austen fans for a welcome reception and dinner. (R,D)
December 22 — Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton
In 1809, Jane moved to the village of Chawton with her mother, sister, and a family friend. Here she wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion and revised her earlier works for publication. Of the house she wrote, “Our Chawton House how much we find already in it to our mind, and how convinced that when complete it will all other houses beat.” Their home is now a delightful museum, featuring a notable collection of personal artifacts, including her writing table, jewelry, and original manuscripts and letters, as well as family memorabilia. Return to Winchester for a festive Jane Austen evening featuring period music, readings and meet with Jane Austen Society members. (B,R)
December 23 — The Vyne, Hampshire villages
Transport yourself to the turn of the 19th century on visits to places where Jane Austen lived and socialized, where her observations of town and country society became wryly portrayed in her novels. Originally built for Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, and eventually passing to Austen family friends, The Vyne is a 16th-century English country estate now under the care of The National Trust. Jane, her sister, Cassandra, and brother James attended many social events here. Viewing the elegant rooms full of portraits, textiles, and sculptures, and the tranquil grounds and gardens, it is easy to imagine where Austen developed the sumptuous settings for her time-honored stories. Visit charming Steventon, the village where she was born and lived until the age of 25. The rectory, her birthplace, no longer stands, but you can explore other area landmarks of her time, including Popham Lane, the Wheatsheaf Inn, and former site of the Assembly Rooms, where she attended many balls. In Steventon Jane wrote Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. Learn more about her life on visits to the area towns and villages frequented by the novelist. (B,L)
December 24 —Christmas Eve in Winchester
It was here in Winchester that beloved English novelist Jane Austen came in July 1817 and spent the last of her days. On a walking tour of this ancient city, stop by the humble house where she died and visit her burial place in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral. Although her original memorial stone doesn’t note her literary achievements, a brass plaque was added in 1872 to redress the issue, and a stained glass memorial window was installed in 1900. This evening enjoy a festive Christmas Eve reception of mulled wine and traditional mince pies before dining in the hotel this evening. There is the option of attending Midnight Eucharist at Winchester Cathedral, if you wish. (B,D)
December 25 — Christmas in Winchester
Celebrate Christmas Day at morning services in the sublime Winchester Cathedral. From its humble beginnings in the 7th century as a small, cross-shaped church to the grand design it is today. The cathedral was once the most important royal church in Anglo-Saxon England. It is the burial place of early kings and bishops, once the priory church of simple monks, and a place of pilgrimage for fifteen centuries. Listen to the magnificent choir sing traditional sacred music, accompanied by the 150-year-old organ—5,500 pipes! A special Christmas Day lunch is served at your hotel. Gather with new-found friends to pop a Christmas cracker, engage in conversation, or take a walk. (B,L)
December 26 — Winchester, Lacock, Bath
It’s Boxing Day in Britain, and we journey from Winchester to Bath, stopping to visit the charming rural village of Lacock. The National Trust property dates to the 13th century and features lime-washed, half-timbered, and stone houses frequently used as settings for many television and film productions, including Pride and Prejudice and Emma. The abbey, founded in 1229, has appeared in Harry Potter films. The village remains unchanged over the centuries—you won’t find telephone poles or cars—and thrived on the wool industry during the Middle Ages. Meander through its picturesque streets and learn about the abbey’s monastic history, as well as its most famous resident, William Fox Talbot, whose experiments in photography led him to discover the photographic negative. Experience the tradition of a full afternoon tea, featuring delectable cakes, biscuits, finger sandwiches, and, of course, freshly brewed tea. Take yours with a spot of milk, the perfect soothing beverage for a winter’s afternoon. Continue to Bath and check into the Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel. (B,D)
December 27 — Jane Austen Sites of Bath
Your discoveries of Jane Austen continue on a private tour of Bath, where she lived from 1801 to 1806. Both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were set in this ancient Roman spa city, now a World Heritage site. Learn about and admire the Georgian architecture of Gay Street and the nearby Circus, a set of curved townhouses inspired by Rome’s Coliseum. Stop by the house on Gay Street where Jane and her sister lived after their father’s death and Sydney Place another Austen residence. Other architectural highlights include the Royal Crescent—with its uniform façade but mixed roof heights, angles, and fenestration in the back—and Pulteney Bridge, a splendid landmark that arches over the River Avon. At the Bath Abbey discover the history of the parish, from Norman roots to its present 16th-century construction, one of the region’s largest examples of perpendicular English Gothic architecture. At Bath’s Assembly Rooms, designed by architect John Wood, admire the elegant Georgian rooms that hosted balls and public functions during Austen’s day. These Assembly Rooms featured in two of her novels as the place where parents brought their daughters to meet eligible suitors. Also housed here is the Fashion Museum, a fantastic collection of clothing dating from the late 16th century to the present. Conclude the day at the Jane Austen Centre, where her legacy is kept alive by authorities on the writer’s life. This evening, celebrate your explorations of the life of Jane Austen among newly made friends at a farewell reception and dinner. (B,D)
Catherine, who died in 1536 and is said to haunt the castle north of London, was once married to Henry VIII, making her a member of a not-very-exclusive club.
More than a quarter-century ago, alone in a room in her Madison home, George wrote a novel, her first, in the voice of Henry VIII. It created a sensation in England and was a best-seller in the United States as well.