Follow the Soprano!

D-090815damrauVerdi’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
our soprano!

 

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Academic Travel Abroad: Connecting to Cuba – Again!

Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana

Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana

Yesterday’s announcement by the Obama Administration easing travel restrictions to Cuba from the United States for Cuban Americans has sent a ripple throughout the travel community. It is ATA’s hope that educational and cultural travel to Cuba will also soon be restored. Airline companies are suddenly rushing to find small planes and potential carriers to fulfill the undoubtedly large upcoming demand for travel to the Caribbean island nation.

Here are just a few of the reasons why Cuba is a compelling destination for the intellectually curious traveler:

Cuba’s art and music beautifully reflect the Spanish and African influence on the island throughout its history. From native to contemporary art, galleries have become a popular venue for Cubans to display emerging styles.

Below are some recent articles related to Cuban art;
online.wsj.com
• cubancontemporaryart.com
www.nytimes.com

Cuba’s dynamic musical heritage ranges from Latin jazz to salsa to bolero, where dancing is virtually a Cuban pastime. Cuba is also home to a unique Spanish-influenced architecture ranging from the more urban and contemporary Havana to the colonial town of Trinidad, with cobblestone streets and red-tiled roofs. Read more about Cuban architecture here.

Between towns you’ll find the rolling hillsides of the Vinales Valley, the Valley of the Sugar Mills, and the historical tobacco farms for which Cuba has become famous.

Cuba’s history is portrayed throughout its cities and landscapes with Spanish fortresses, several UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ernest Hemingway’s home, 19th-century French settlements and local horticultural treasures like the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens.

As soon as political conditions permit, Academic Travel looks forward to re-entering the educational travel market in Cuba. From 2000-2002, ATA operated successful programs in Cuba for several organizations, including National Geographic Expeditions, The Bayly Art Museum, The Florence-Griswold Museum, The University of Maryland, and Vanderbilt University.

Academic Travel Abroad

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Academic Travel Abroad & Tourism Cares in Gettysburg

1Members of Academic Travel Abroad staff will volunteering their day on Friday April 17th, 2009 at the Tourism Cares event at Spangler Farm in Gettyburg, PA.

Tourism Cares was formed by the combining of the National Tourism Foundation, founded by the National Tour Association in 1982, and the Travelers Conservation Foundation, founded in 1999 by the United States Tour Operators Association. The resulting non-profit organization benefits society by preserving the travel experience for future generations through awarding grants to natural, cultural and historic sites worldwide; by presenting academic and service-focused scholarships to hospitality and tourism students; and by organizing volunteer efforts to restore tourism-related sites in need of care and rejuvenation.

Gettysburg, PA

A re-enactment at Gettysburg battlefields.

A re-enactment at Gettysburg battlefields.

In April, 2009 Tourism Cares will embark on its 7th Annual Tourism Cares for America project at Spangler Farm in Gettysburg, PA. Gettysburg and Spangler Farm are sites whose significance in US history cannot be overstated. Sitting on 80 acres in rural Pennsylvania, Spangler Farm was used as a field hospital for thousands of wounded soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg. Spangler Farm also serves as the sight of the death of Confederate General Lewis Armistead, who led the climactic event of the three day battle – Pickett’s Charge. Today, the property is one of the last field hospitals kept intact as it was in 1863.

Gettysburg is the place where 165,000 soldiers met to fight for their beliefs. It is the place where Abraham Lincoln helped mend a torn nation with his Gettysburg Address, and the place where millions have stood to reflect on the importance of the events that occurred there. Gettysburg was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War and is frequently cited as the war’s turning point. It is the place where our country was saved, and it has come to symbolize the utmost in patrotism. Gettysburg is our nation’s common ground.
Volunteers will be involved in painting, replacing fencing, demolition of modern structures, clearing brush, repairing the outbuildings, and much more.

So come join the ATA staff and the others in the tourism community at this event to help preserve some our greatest American history and meet new members of the travel and tourism in the area.

Visit Tourism Cares website here

Visit ATA’s website here

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Academic Travel Abroad Travel Tip: Consider Stopovers to Consolidate Costs and Travel Time

Mongolian Landscape

Mongolian Landscape

As we all continue to tighten our belts when it comes to spending on things we once considered necessary, travel is one of the line-items that can fall into a gray area of our budgets.  A little tweaking of the way we look at booking travel can help us justify what is feasible, and how we can make our vacations all the more memorable.

“Location, location, location!” isn’t just for real estate these days.  If you’re already halfway around the world, make it count!   Once you’ve already booked a trip to Mongolia, consider extending your vacation by stopping in Beijing or Seoul for a few days to a week before making your way back home.  Airlines often offer special rates for extended layovers, and hotel internet specials are becoming better and better, especially when you book 2 or more nights.  Try this strategy with a Paris vacation before your arrival in Morocco; a stopover in Munich or Frankfurt on your way to or from Italy; or spend a few days in Lisbon after you disembark your Mediterranean cruise.  It’s all the satisfaction of 2 vacations for a margin of the cost of doing them separately – plus you’ll be better adjusted to the time difference and won’t spend nearly as many hours in-flight.  So keep checking off those places on your bucket lists, or simply re-visit that city you’ve been dying to get back to for years.  Whatever your reasoning or motivation, now is the time to make your trips go further.

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Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mt. Vesuvius

 

Karl Brullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830-33)

Karl Brullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830-33)

In just two short days the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum lay in ruins and partially covers in a thick layer of volcanic ash.  In AD 79 Mt. Vesuvius erupted and caught the citizens of both by complete surprise.  Now excavated and a remarkable sight to behold, one can envision the likes of what these cities might have been in their prime.   Bustling city-towns of trade, large agoras and markets, amphitheaters, forums and baths where frescos and unique tile work still remain today.

The area today stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has become one of the most visited location in Italy.  The region around Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, is dotted with quaint pastel colored villages that scale volcanic cliffs and are surrounded by turquoise seas.  Positano and Amalfi are two of the areas fascinating towns, situated along the beautiful Mediterranean waters.  Sorrento is yet another seaside gem which was once a cherished retreat of poets like Byron and Keats.

Ruins of a forum in Pompeii

Ruins of a forum in Pompeii

Smithsonian Journeys offers a unique tour to this area that is unmatched.  Tour the archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum and witness their story, walk the sun drenched streets of seaside towns, take a tour of Naples and its inner old city, and take in a wealth of information from Study Leader Federico Poole, an archeologist who has worked on a variety of sites in the Campania region.  Stay in four-star accommodations in Naples with views of the Castel dell’Ovo and the Mediterranean.

 

To find out more about this tour, please visit Smithsonian Journeys website for full itinerary, accommodations and tour pricing here

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Bermuda – A North Atlantic Historical Gem

The historical home of Bloomfield.

The historical home of Bloomfield.

Many think of Bermuda as a subtropical island get-away in the north Atlantic, where sun, pink sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters of the Sargasso Sea can wipe away the ever-present stresses of our hectic every day lives on the main land.

But there is so much more to these tightly clustered islands then meets the eye. Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by a Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermúdez., then was permanently settled by the British in 1612 as they sailed to Virgina. Bermuda’s town of St. George (originally named New London) has now been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its depth in world history and culture.

St. George is rich in historical homes and gardens, seaports, quaint lighthouses and museums of the likes one could not find anywhere else in the world. Beautiful gardens surround private white and pink-washed Georgian houses of Bermuda coral limestone, furnished with Bermuda-made cedar furniture and still owned by the original families.

The Royal Navy dockyard has attracted visitors with specific interests military history as it was the acting principal base of the Royal British Navy in the Western Atlantic between the periods of American independence and the Cold War.

Should you be thinking of visiting these islands, it is worth mentioning that the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be hosting a terrific tour to Bermuda November 1-6, 2009.

Specialists will join in for visits, discussions and receptions to share their expertise on such topics as architecture and decorative arts, British forts and native and resident artists. Time to simply relax and absorb the gracious atmosphere of this enchanted island are ample – where narrow lanes, winding roads and well-tended gardens blend easily with pink sand and that famous turquoise sea.

Highlights of this journey include a tour of Verdmont, the “crown jewel” of the Bermuda National Trust; a walking tour of Hamilton and time to explore the famous Front Street; and a visit to Tucker House, home to Bermuda’s most famous families.

Inside the Bloomfield home.

Inside the Bloomfield home.

Bermuda holds a special interest for National Trust members because of the programs of our sister organization, the Bermuda National Trust. Since its establishment in 1969, the Bermuda Trust has acquired more than 60 historic properties and open-space areas in Bermuda, and is a formidable force in the preservation of this fragile island. Hosts from the Bermuda National Trust’s Cultural Tourism Office share their experience and knowledge of preservation issues of their well-kept monuments. To learn more about his tour, download this brochure from the National Trust for Historic Preservation or visit their website here or contact the tour operator, Academic travel Abroad for more information about Bermuda and this one of a kind tour.

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Ballooning over Egypt with Smithsonian Journeys

 

A view of where the desert meets the greens of the Nile basin.

A view of where the desert meets the greens of the Nile basin.

Last Sunday, I was on the Nile with the Smithsonian Journeys “Egyptian Odyssey” tour group. It had already been an exciting day since five of us started the morning with a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings. Delightful. Then the whole group toured Karnak Temple together, led by our guide Jihan Hussein. Magnificent!  This was my fourth time through Karnak and I never cease to be dazzled by it. Then we spent the afternoon cruising upstream on the Nile on the M/S Tamr Henna toward the Esna lock.

The tour is over now and I am relaxing with friends in Cairo. This latest Egyptian Odyssey group was, I have to say, quite wonderful. Despite being focused on Pharaonic Egypt, they were very curious about contemporary culture.   In the short couple weeks in this country, they started to really “get” modern Egypt. During the

Aloft over the Valley of the Kings

Aloft over the Valley of the Kings

 last few days of the tour, many of them expressed surprise, satisfaction, even joy at realizing how rich and varied is the culture of this crazy, gritty, delightful place.

When you first get under the surface a new culture, there is always a little bit of that feeling Howard Carter must have had when he first looked into the tomb of Tutankhamun.  “Yes,” he is reported to have replied to Lord Carnavon’s eager queries, “I see wonderful things.”

Andrew Simon
Tour Manager
Smithsonian Journeys Egyptian Odyssey