Posts Tagged ‘holiday travel’

Little Known Facts about Geoffrey Chaucer

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, is best known for writing his works in vernacular English, rather than French or Latin, the languages used for most literary writing in the 1300s. Book lovers across the English-speaking world have Chaucer to thank for the widespread availability of all manner of literature in our native English. Here are a few things you might not know about Chaucer:

Canterbury Cathedral, destination of Chaucer's Pilgrims

Canterbury Cathedral, destination of Chaucer’s Pilgrims

1) Chaucer had at least nine other major works besides the Canterbury Tales, and wrote a number of short poems as well.

2) There’s a crater on the far side of the moon named for Chaucer.

3) Chaucer had a part-time government job collecting scrap metal for reuse and also worked as a diplomat.

4) He was a POW during the Hundred Years’ War, captured by France and later released after ransom was paid.

5) Though Chaucer died in 1400, more than 600 years ago, he has more than 2,100 fans on Facebook.

Chaucer’s most famous work, the Canterbury Tales, is a fictional collection of stories told by pilgrims traveling to the Shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Explore Canterbury for yourself and enjoy the magic of celebrating the holidays the traditional English ways on our Christmas in Canterbury tour.

What books are you reading now? Please share.

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!

New Year's Eve in Sydney, Australia

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

One of the first places in the world to celebrate the arrival of 2010 is Sydney, in eastern Australia. In honor of the occassion, they host a huge fireworks celebration, illuminating the entire city. Check out this video from last year. Happy New Year to all!

Holiday Greetings from Journeys Director, Amy Kotkin

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Amy Kotkin, Director of Smithsonian Journeys

Amy Kotkin, Director of Smithsonian Journeys

I spent Thanksgiving with my family in Connecticut — chilly, rainy, slate gray until it turned dark at 4:30 pm — in other words — perfect for that cocooning instinct that overtakes us this time of year. But besides the gut-busting foodfest, football, and scrabble games, what do you think the family wanted to talk about? Travel!

My brother and his wife are savoring their plans to travel with Smithsonian on their first-ever small ship cruise in June.  My 20 year-old niece, already an accomplished adventurer with serious stays in Tbilisi and Kathmandu under her belt, imagined herself in Dakar. My husband and I talked eagerly about Spain and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef  – our next planned destinations.

It struck me once again how often families plan their next year’s travels during the holidays. After all the anticipation of getting together, gift-giving, delicious dining, and story-telling subsides, our thoughts turn to “What’s next? Why lies ahead? What will we see, touch, savor, and learn during the coming year?”

If destination planning is part of your holiday ritual, Smithsonian Journeys is happy to provide you with lots of tools and options for choosing what’s best for you. Are you thinking about introducing your children and grandchildren to the pleasures of travel and discovery in 2010? Join us in the Galápagos, Tanzania, or Greece for memorable adventures in these spectacular regions.

Will you celebrate a milestone birthday this year?  Check out our cruises  — they offer great opportunities to celebrate! Are you an opera fan?  We’re offering special opera tours to Italy and the Metropolitan Opera  in New York featuring the finest performers and top productions.

Of course, if you’d like to do a little pre-holiday travel planning be sure to contact us. We’d be happy to provide you with a customized gift certificate for the trip of your choice, the perfect gift for anyone in your family!

I’ll spend the upcoming holidays here in Washington, catching up on Smithsonian museum exhibits, enjoying the city lights, talking with you about your 2010 travel plans, and cooking up a few of my own! I’m hopeful that our paths will cross somewhere in this vast and glorious world in 2010, on a Smithsonian Journey that will offer all of us insight, access, and understanding.

All my warmest wishes for the holidays, and for the year ahead!

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.