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

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.

Richard III Revealed

king_richard_dnaBack 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.

Emma Impavido
Senior Program Manager

Celebrate Jane Austen this Holiday Season

A Jane Austen Christmas A new Christmas tour featuring Winchester and Bath  

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 ParkEmma, 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)

December 28 — Depart Bath
Transfer to London for individual flights to the U.S. (B)



Doug Moe: Historical novelist to lead tour of England

The best thing that could happen to Margaret George in October would be for her to round a corner in Kimbolton Castle and find herself face to face with the ghost of Catherine of Aragon.

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.