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

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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.

Boomers and the future of the travel industry.

It would appear that the troubling economic times we’ve all recently experienced may well be in our rear-view mirrors now, but the road to the top is still steep, and frankly a bit foggy. So what now?

baby boomersWell, welcome to a new market!  A market of boomers seeking out unique travel opportunities in which their sense of independence, desire for immersion, and quest for a deeper sense of cultural education and awareness is in focus. Although boomers may not identify themselves by their given name, they are a distinct market segment that those in the travel industry will want to take heed of.  Those within the designated birth dates between 1946 and 1964 fall into the market-derived name of “Boomers.”  The indicators stress that they are more independent both in thinking and in action.  They seek travel opportunities that offer a unique angle, more cultural immersion, and meet their high demands for value and experience.  Many boomers are already well-traveled and now seek unique destinations, possible “voluntourism” opportunities where their sense of community and altruism can be met with rewarding results.

Our friends at myitchytravelfeet.com , heatheronhertravels.com, and holeinthedonut.com have recently expressed how boomers seek travel opportunities in a more frugal way then the preceding generations. Focusing more on the value of travel (where cost in not a focus), but where amenities should provide rewarding results.  They seek upscale accommodations, but no longer see the value in extravagancy. Their focus has now shifted to real value.  Instead of just enjoying a rare bottle of wine, they now wish to meet the owners of the vineyard – even have dinner with them even.  Instead of donating their money to a cause, they now seek tangible interaction with those they seek to help.

All this parlays into the fact that those in the travel industry should rekindle their understandings and interpretations of adding true value into their offerings.  Strong amenities, well-appointed accommodations, interaction with locals in given destinations and an educational element can offer a resounding value and mental enrichment to those seeking a true experience abroad.

Group travel can render significant rewards for those seeking to meet new people while absorbing cultural experiences.  This often translates to new friendships among boomers of like interests, further enhancing their desire for connecting with others. Adding an educational element, via an accompanying  tour expert or location historian can bring new appreciations to otherwise mainstay destinations.  These elements remove the “tourist” aspect to travel and brings a deeper focus to interaction and participation while abroad.

So, we at Academic Travel Abroad are eager to hear more!  What do you seek in your travel experiences?  What destinations entice you the most and why?  Tell us more about your travel aspirations and where you find specific value when traveling.  What has been your most rewarding experience so far?

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Rememberance of D-Day sixty five years later.

Remembering and honoring an event such as D-Day is a much larger task than I had ever imagined.

It has been about a week now since my return from the Normandy beaches with a group of UVA Alumni travelers (with Cavalier Travels) where so many American, British, Australian, Polish and even French troops had landed on June 6, 1944 and I have a very profound new appreciation for their service and sacrifices.

A small German bunker at Utah Beach

A small German bunker at Utah Beach

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history, consisting of an armada of ships numbering over 5,000 and a total of over 175,000 troops who stormed Omaha, Utah, Sword and Juno beaches covering a 50-mile long stretch of the Normandy coastline.  These ships approached these shores on the morning of June 6th in miserable conditions, with rain, wind, and low visibility and were asked to do the seemingly impossible – to take these beaches back from the Germans and initiate the liberation of mainland Europe.  As their amphibious barges dropped their gates and the men jumped into the murky Channel waters, they were immediately met with German gunfire.   Losses began to accrue immediately and continue at an alarming rate throughout the assault.

To walk these beaches in similar conditions to the day of their landing (cloudy and rain) really helped us all envision what these soldiers had gone through.  Utah beach was calm, almost silent as I walked along the sandy shoreline, imagining what it must have been like.  Omaha was different, but only because of the driving rain and high tide.  The new memorial sculpture jutted through the breaking waves almost seemed to be reaching out to the boys who had fallen on “that” beach on “that” day.  Sword and Juno also invoked the same kinds of thoughts of the great losses and the valiant efforts of so many.

Rommell's headquarters at La Roche Guyon

Rommell's headquarters at La Roche Guyon

We began in magnificent Paris, visiting many historical spots long the way, learning about occupied Paris and the French Resistance during occupation.   We then drove from Paris to Normandy, stopping along the way to Visit La Roche Guyon where Rommell set up his Atlantic Wall headquarters and a brief stop at Giverny, the home of Claude Monet for a tour of his home and colorful gardens. Once in Normandy,  we visited the small town of St. Mere Eglise where the predawn 505th Airborne parachutists had dropped into the awaiting hands of German soldiers, many being killed before touching the ground.  Others drowning in the nearby marshes due to a missed drop point.  We walked across the embattled stretch of the Pegasus Bridge, a key target that the Allies needed to secure before the first men hit the nearby beaches that morning.  We drove across terrain riddled with hedge groves thick enough to stop Sherman tanks in their tracks and where German gunneries had used these thick natural boundaries as camouflaged gun sites.

Mr. Hausermann speaks to us at his Chateaux in Vierville-sur-Mer

Mr. Hausermann speaks to us at his Chateaux in Vierville-sur-Mer

But one of the most rewarding and thought provoking experience we experienced on this tour was our lunch invitation to the Chateaux of Mr. and Mrs. Hausermann in Vierville-Sur-Mer.  Mr. Hausermann had lived in this chateaux during the German occupation and shared with us his memories of those days while offering a lunch only to be found in the French countryside.  His stories helped us all understand that the young German soldiers were just as anxious and fearful of their fate as the Allied armies.  His memories truly helped us all realize that there really are no winners when it comes to wars of this scale.

Sixty-five years have passed but walking the American, British and German cemeteries made it feel like it was still fresh in many minds.  Their struggles, their sacrifices and their service are all things that we can only remember in our own personal ways.

Watch a slideshow of this tour here

Steve Muth
Tour Manager
Academic Travel Abroad

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Group Travel Still Makes the Most Sense

Even in tough economic times, people are turning to group tours as a reliable way to travel that provides value and peace of mind. Tour operators negotiate group discounts, plan activities with smooth logistics in mind, access unique venues and draw on well-connected contacts in destinations around the globe. With years of experience under their belt, tour operators offer travelers the most value and security for their dollars.

Here are ten pointers from the National Tour Association’s latest newsletter that reinforces why Academic Travel Abroad is proud to be part of this organization of tourism professionals who share our common goals.

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Excerpt from the NTA's "Trip Planner" for August 2009