The Jury is out but the tour is on!

Where should Richard III be buried?
While the court continues to decide where Richard III should be laid to rest -York or Leicester, one thing is for certain…  Sharon Kay Penman will lead an exciting tour in the Footsteps of Richard III this September.  If you would like to join the tour, please visit HERE.

The Greatest Knight


This coming October 2014 (6th-15th), ATA will offer a tour to Southern Wales and England that focuses on the life of medieval knight William Marshal. Accompanied by award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick, the tour will provide a snapshot of what life was like in the Middle Ages, especially for illustrious knight William Marshal. Though the lives of knights are frequently depicted in both TV and films such as The Tudors or Game of Thrones, there are many interesting, unknown facts about knights. We discuss just a few below for your knowledge and enjoyment!

Generally, the process of becoming a knight took approximately 14 years, and required both extensive training and “paying your dues”. A young boy would start his training as a page, primarily acting as a “servant boy” to his lord or master with training more so in the form of games. After completing 7 years of being a page, a boy would then move on to become an esquire. A sense of servitude still existed during this stage, but an esquire was also responsible for maintaining his master knight’s weapons and armor, and training was much more dangerous. Finally, at 21 he would be knighted.

As with William Marshal, many knights  participated in jousting tournaments. Originally, these sporting game events began as practice for warfare but, after the end of the Crusades, they evolved  into sporting tournaments as knights were not actively fighting in wars.

Perhaps one of the most fun and interesting facts concerning knights has to do with the attempts taken to curb attacks by knights during a siege. As can be seen in many medieval castles, staircases are narrow and winding. This was purposefully done so that it would be both difficult and time consuming for knights, who wore up to 50 pounds of armor, to get up the stairs. Additionally, the clockwise rotation of the stairs forced knights, most of whom trained to be right handed, to advance with the left side. Ultimately, though, what caused the demise of knights was the invention of the crossbow and gun powder.

So there you have it; some interesting facts on knights during the medieval times. If this has peaked your curiosity to learn more about (or even visit!) the places that knights lived and breathed during the Middle Ages, be sure to check out the “In the Footsteps of William Marshal” tour accompanied by Elizabeth Chadwick.

For more information, just click on the link below!

Works Cited: P. Poisuo (2013). Ten Fascinating Facts About Knights. Retrieved from

Made in Italy

Italian Design

Made in Italy: Fashion and Design
in Milan and Como

May 31 – Jun 8, 2014

Tour some of Italy’s most renowned areas of applied arts on this new tour to Milan’s trendy design districts.

CALL 855-330-1542


Made in Italy: Fashion and Design in Milan and Como

Italy has long been a trendsetter in fashion and automobile design. When you add architecture, furniture, and interior spaces to the already rich creative tableau, you have the hottest, most sought-after design in the world. “Made in Italy” is not just a label, but a statement of where function meets fine art. Join us for an exclusive look at some of Italy’s most renowned areas of applied arts on this new tour to Milan’s trendy design districts and Como, located in the stunning Lake District.

milan_duomoYou’ll explore Italy’s world of fashion on visits to Missoni and Dolce & Gabbana, yet discover interior spaces and furnishings at the showrooms of Artemide (lighting), Alessi (utensils), and Boffi (kitchens and baths). Come to understand the sweeping designs of aerodynamically inspired racing cars at the Zagato headquarters. At the Triennale Design Museum you’ll learn about the history of Italian design and see the most significant objects from across all design fields. Our Smithsonian expert, plus industry professionals and artists in Italy, will guide our explorations, discussing the evolution of post-modern Italian design.

2013: The Year in Review

Another whirlwind year has come to a close. While we welcome the adventures that 2014 will inevitably bring, we want to reflect on 2013 with our annual Highlights List  featuring the events, destinations, and people that made this year so incredible.

Spanning the Globe: Several education and law groups enjoyed professional exchanges with counterparts in Myanmar, and demand remained strong in Cuba, where we facilitated over 50 people-to-people and professional groups to Havana and points beyond. Europe was bustling with a renewed interest in the prehistoric caves in southwestern France, an exploration of Downton Abbey film locations, a family adventure in Switzerland, and a look at the legacy of Olympic Park in London. Close to home, art lovers descended on Seattle’s rich art scene and enjoyed visits to private collections.


Giving Back: Staff volunteered their time and talents this year in a variety of ways, and for two charities close to our hearts. The Fund for Education Abroad ( benefited from Team CET’s run in the Cherry Blossom 10K in the spring.

Meanwhile, five ATA staff members volunteered for Tourism Cares ( joining 600 other tourism professionals to clean up Coney Island, New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


We share our story! ATA produced a new corporate video this year. Partners shared their experiences working with ATA and their stories of meaningful and engaging travel that the trips brought to others.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

New Faces:  We welcomed a great group of professionals this year!

From top left to the right: Tim Ambrose,

Top left to right: Tim Ambrose, Sales Director; Megan Horrigan, CET Intern; Stacie Kellerman, Tour Communications Specialist; Joan O’Neill, Tour Communications Specialist; Kara Nichols, FEA Fundraising & Admin Coordinator; Kevin Hoercher, Reservations Specialist; Kimberly Sine, CET Middlebury in China Programs Manager; CET Hector Cruz-Feliciano, Brazil Programs Manager. Bottom left to right: Natalie Pascale, Tour Communications Specialist; Shelley Jessee, CET Director of Marketing; Allegra O’Donoghue, CET Middle East & North Africa Programs Manager; Leya Brown, Reservations Specialist.

Significant Milestones: In January, President Kate Simpson celebrated 25 years at ATA. Overseeing a company engaged in constant evolution, she reminisced about the many companies she has served, all while working at ATA. Never a dull moment, even after 25 years!

Kate Simpson

In May, we celebrated Dave Parry’s 80th birthday. The party was an extended family reunion, a real who’s who of ATA staff and clients who were here in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and in more recent years.


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!


Happy Holidays!
Chase Poffenberger
Executive Vice President

Tribute to Amy Kotkin

photoI am very lucky to have spent so much of my career with Amy Kotkin, Smithsonian Journeys’ Director since 1995. She retired last week after a brilliant career at the Institution, where she held several important posts during her decades-long tenure there.
Amy was at the helm of the largest, most comprehensive museum-based travel program on earth, through good times and challenging ones. She rode the wave of the economic boom of the “go-go 1990s” and bore the shock of 9/11 and Americans’ ambivalence to travel at all for some time afterwards. She helped open up destinations previously off limits to Americans, like Saudi Arabia and Cuba, and pioneered new ways to see the world, whether by private jet, chartered train, or small ship.

She challenged us to scale new heights of creativity with the types of programs we proposed to Smithsonian Journeys each year. She allowed us to contribute our talents to the Smithsonian brand, which has always been an honor and a pleasure for our staff.

We will sorely miss our smart, funny, fair-minded, forward thinking, passionate, practical, kind colleague in travel! Our gratitude and best wishes, Amy! We are excited to hear where you will travel next.

Chase Poffenberger

The Middle of Modena, Masserati, and More


Pagani_Race_CarHow could we top a visit to Ferrari? 

800px-Drawed_Pagani_ZondaPaganiDay two and we found ourselves in the middle of a small industrial park outside Modena visiting the most exclusive car maker – Pagani. Argentine by birth, Horatio Pagani has been interested in Italian cars since a boy, designing small models at the age of 10. Having worked for various big names in the field he founded his own company in the 90s and presented the Zonda in 1999. Since then he has produced a mere 130 cars, each one is beautifully crafted with love and care, using unique materials created by himself. From the small showroom showing the Zonda cinque (meaning 5 – as only 5 were produced) we were taken into the atelier and saw the small workforce paying meticulous attention to every detail. Pagani claims that Leonardo da Vinci was his inspiration and he admires the Renaissance attitude to fine art.

maserati_logo This afternoon we visited the Maserati factory. Here we were back to a production line with about 20 minutes for each station before the car moves on to the next stage. Maserati produces about 21 cars a day. The workers were much more laid back than Ferrari and the whole operation was much less slick than Ferrari. Our group enjoyed watching a team of inspectors deal with a misaliged door. They appreciated the checks and controls taken to ensure that the final model leaves the factory floor in perfect condition.


Tomorrow we’ll visit some car collections before moving onto Turin to the great designers of these elegant machines.

Zagato Design and Beyond

Zagato_logoFrom Turin we headed to Milan. Our first stop was at Zagato design. Hidden away in the outskirts of Milan we toured their car collection showing some cutting edge design for top brands. One of their latest models with its wrap around panoramic windows received mixed opinion from the group. Jonathan had warned us on the bus about their designs – you either love it or you don’t.


We paused for another hearty lunch in the center of Monza. I was very happy with my enormous plate of cured Italian meats. I can’t get enough of it when I’m in Italy (along with gelato!) In the afternoon, Francesca, a motorbike racing journalist gave us a tour of Monza race track, including the hospitality suites, the media rooms, tv monitor room, the office of notorious Bernie Ecclestone and we all got to stand on the podium. Pretty exciting stuff even without the roar of the Formula one cars in action. In the parking lot we spotted a few more Lamborghinis and then a fleet of historic cars drove by.

22Our final visit of the day was a private car collection on the outskirts of Milan. The owner had told us not to expect much – a few cars in a garage and I’d asked him to have some water ready for our thirsty group. When we arrived we were blown away by the collection and the owner had laid on a party. He’d invited some key people in the car world and a beautiful reception with (more) food and prosecco. Yet again j had to be mother and drag them away from their fun!

Two hours later we arrived at Lake Garda. The sun was setting over Sirmione, our final destination, it was beautiful. Our bus could not enter the historic city but a short walk provided yet another car viewing opportunity – several cars in the Mille miglia were doing manoeuvres in front of us!


Now we are on the bus returning to Sirmione after a visit to the Lamborghini factory this morning. Due to the 50th anniversary celebrations last week we’d not been able to visit.

Tomorrow is our final day and dedicated to the Mille miglia. Lots of fun things are planned, I just hope the weather holds.