Posts Tagged ‘England’

Book: A Traveller’s History of England

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

A Traveller's History of England - Cover ImageIf you’re planning some travel to Great Britain, a great companion for your trip is Christopher Daniell’s A Traveller’s History of England. Historian and archeologist Daniell delivers a comprehensive history of the region since the time of the hunter-gatherers in this compact volume. The book takes you through the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, and Medieval monarchs to the Reformation, Renaissance, the world wars, and the modern state of things. Handy reference tools include a list of rulers, prime ministers, major battles, and important buildings. Take this on your plane ride “across the pond” and you’ll be even more prepared to enjoy England.

England is a wonderful place to go for the winter holidays—enjoy perennially popular Study Leader Rosalind Hutchinson on a uniquely British celebration on our Christmas in Canterbury tour. If you can’t travel this December, we have other tours to England here.

Five Things We Didn't Know about Santa Claus

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
12th-century stained glass from the Canterbury Cathedral

12th-century stained glass from the Canterbury Cathedral

We all know Santa. He’s the big guy in a red suit, has a white bushy beard, laughs a lot, and likes the occassional plate of cookies and milk. But even those of us at the Smithsonian don’t know everything about this magical man, and we do research here all year round. So we decided to go a little deeper to find the things we didn’t know about Mr. Kris Kringle.

  1. Santa has more than one home. Americans know about his headquarters at the North Pole, but others in the Scandinavian region know Father Christmas has a home in the mountains of Korvatunturi in Lapland Province, Finland as well as other secret locations in the region. He is also known to use vacation time in North Pole, Alaska, where there is a Wendy’s restuarant with a reindeer “fly through”.
  2. Santa Claus owns suits in other colors besides red and white. As a saint he has worn religious robes and clothing in a variety of colors through the centuries, particularly his favorite green cloak. It is widely believed it wasn’t until the 1930s when artist Haddon Sundblom created a new public image of Santa for Coca-Cola that the red and white suit became iconic with the man. But the Coca-Cola Company wasn’t the first to use his image to sell a drink. White Rock Beverages also used his image to sell mineral water and ginger ale about fifteen years before the Coca-Cola Company did.
  3. The idea that he gets stuck in chimneys is an urban myth. Originally, he would sneak into homes to leave coins and gifts for the family. But when people locked their doors, he went through the window. When they locked their window, he threw coins down the chimney. Part of what makes Santa so special is that he is, at heart, an elf – which makes him small enough to fit down the chimney to leave his gifts.
  4. Santa enjoys other foods besides cookies and milk. Although that is his known favorite when he is traveling in the United States, he also enjoys rice pudding in Sweden, sherry and mince pies in Australia and Britain, and a pint of Guinness in Ireland. Most children in a variety of countries also leave a nice snack of carrots for his team of reindeer.
  5. Officially, Santa Claus is a Canadian citizen. His North Pole home and headquarters, according to the Canada Post, lies within Canadian jurisdiction and has a postal code of H0H 0Ho. On December 23, 2008, Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, formally awarded Canadian citizenship status to Santa Claus. In an official statement, the minister said “The Government of Canada wishes Santa the very best in his Christmas Eve duties and wants to let him know that, as a Canadian citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete.

You can read more straight from Santa Claus himself in his autobiography.

Where will you be celebrating the holidays this year?

May we suggest Canterbury, England? This tour provides an authentic English Christmas experience and the cathedral is beautiful!

Photo: Don’t Stay Home for Christmas…

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

…spend it in Canterbury with us instead. The ancient cathedral city of Canterbury, England, really comes to life at the holidays. Explore the medieval city known to Chaucer’s pilgrims and join today’s pilgrims in town to celebrate the holidays. Experience the cathedral during the festivities of Christmas, attending the traditional services, including the Christmas Day service presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the frost-covered landscape of Kent, visit Rochester, once home to Charles Dickens, and Leeds Castle, one of the loveliest castles in England.

12th-century stained glass adorns the Canterbury Cathedral

Now is a great time to find your red scarf, your mistletoe, and your wassail and make plans to get out there! Click for our holiday tours.

Q&A for Mystery Lovers

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Rosalind Hutchinson is a perennial favorite with Smithsonian travelers. A veteran Blue Badge Guide, she is adept at interweaving layers of English history, architecture, and literature. Here, she talks about the educational philosophy with which she approaches her role as Study Leader for Smithsonian Journeys. Click here to read more about Ros and traveling with her.

Smithsonian Journeys: Ros, you have been leading Smithsonian travelers in England for years. In your mind, what distinguishes the Smithsonian Journeys travelers from others?

Rosalind Hutchinson: It’s the way that everyone becomes so interactive with each other. With Smithsonian groups, there is rediscovery of oneself and getting to know like-minded people. It’s the learning and the pleasure of the learning experience that brings everyone together. There is great mutual respect among our travelers. I particularly enjoy meeting the Smithsonian travelers and being the catalyst for their enjoyment of the experience. And together we enjoy spontaneous humor!

SJ: How do you make your tours come alive for our travelers?

RH: You have to assess your audience and select material appropriately. I use visual dissection. For example, take a Canaletto painting of Venice. We analyze it, divide it, and explore its texture, form, and balance (of the people and buildings, the space of sky and water). I awaken the senses, especially the visual. This and other techniques facilitate interaction and allow the travelers to experience intellectual companionship.

SJ: You have led our Mystery Lover’s England tour for many years. What is it about this combination of mystery novels, art theft, and the 1920s era that makes these tours so successful?

RH: People who read mysteries wish to submerge themselves into the problem of the mystery and are also wishing to get out of and beyond themselves and use their own imagination. Similar to the C.S. Lewis Narnia Chronicles and Harry Potter, they are transported to a different world. They rediscover and develop their imagination and are inspired to become writers in their own right. Part of the mystery tour is asking the authors about how they got the ideas for their books and the answers often inspire the travelers to go home and write their own! Once, several travelers produced a quiz on what had been learned on the tour and had meetings late into the night to plot their own books. It became very club-like and they were very excited. For those who aspire to being writers, this is an inspirational trip!

Who is your favorite mystery author? Share  below.

Love mysteries? Join our next tour - space is still available!

Click here for all tours to England.

Video: Goodwood Festival of Speed

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

People have been racing cars at Goodwood, in West-Sussex, England, since 1936. In 1948, the Goodwood Motor Circuit hosted the first British post-WWII racing event. More than 15,000 spectators and 85 drivers took part; racing had been sorely missed in Britain during the war years. In 1966, Goodwood stopped hosting public competitions, but remained in continuous use as a testing and track day circuit.

In 1993, the Goodwood Festival of Speed began at the historic track, and 1998 saw the inauguration of the Goodwood Revival, when the circuit was restored to its original glory and only pre-1966 vehicles are allowed. Here, check out some footage from the last year’s festival. Hope you’ll join us for the next one!

See the competition for yourself during our 2010 British Cars experience. Visit the Daimler Jaguar Heritage Collection, walk the floors of the Aston Martin factory, and celebrate the history of British Motorsport at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.