The author at Hampton Court Palace.
Travel is always enlightening. Sometimes it is exceptional. But when all the stars align, it becomes extraordinary. My travels through Great Britain with author and historian Alison Weir have been extraordinary. Here is why.
Many geographic destinations may seem more exotic and I have visited almost all, from Easter Island to Antarctica to Borneo to Vladivostok. Many of the hotels I visited over the years were over the top luxury and the restaurants and the spas were exceptional. But this group tour, to many sites I had already visited, was hands down, the most luxurious and exciting I have ever experienced.
Alison Weir with Dr. David Starkey
As I look back over the past 4 years and indeed 25 years in travel, why was this “group” tour the pinnacle of my career? Simple — it combined my passions, with the best of everything — not the most luxurious, but the best and there is a difference.
Authors Nicola Tallis and Sarah Gristwood onboard H.M. Yacht Britannia
The “Six Wives of Henry VIII” tour traveled around Tudor sites in Great Britain and gave us access to sites few can ever experience. I am still awed by the chance to spend time with Alison and her friends, who number the finest authors and historians in the world. Sitting at dinner in Hever Castle’s (Anne Boleyn’s childhood home) private dining hall beside Alison and Dr.Starkey as they debate some new finds in Tudor history was a dream. The authors we met included the effervescent Sarah Gristwood, Nicola Tallis, Siobhan Clarke from the Historic Royal Palaces staff, Dr. David Starkey, Elizabeth Norton, Dr. Tracy Borman and Mavis Cheek. The privilege of meeting and dining with so many of the leading historic authors of our day was my ultimate luxurious experience.
Dinner at Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home.
The itinerary was carefully chosen and vetted by Alison who matched it to her own passion for sites that offer perspective and new insights. She discovered along with us. Hotels were appropriate to the theme. At Thornbury Castle, we stayed in the same hotel that Henry VIII had visited with his new bride, Anne Boleyn, and one of our group was honored to stay in their bedroom — which we all visited. Ghosts were not advertised as part of the experience but we all had high hopes which I think were fulfilled, but that is another story.
The gardens at Hampton Court Palace
The undeniable leitmotif of the journey was present day royalty compared to 16th century Tudors. The birth of the next heir to the British throne and the new legislation that would have permitted male or female first born to become the third in line for the crown was much discussed. Henry’s troubles would have been so different were this true in the 1500s. Prince George, born on the final day of the tour, illustrated Alison’s penultimate planning skills and our group joined all of London in celebrating.
But even this was trumped by Dr. David Starkey’s spot on comparison of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall with Anne Boleyn, who he much admires. I feel another BBC miniseries along the lines of Julie and Julia in the making. All that was lacking was a guest appearance by Jonathan Rhys Myers — sorry Alison, we all know your thoughts on this miniseries — but he was hot and the soft porn did add historically accurate color to the period — I think.
All of this was perfect (even without Rhys Myers), but what threw this tour into the stratosphere of amazing trips were my fellow travelers. It was the most diverse group I have ever joined, by nationality, age and every other measure. But we were all drawn by a shared passion for history, notably Tudor history and most specifically, awe for the research and writing of Alison Weir.
The Tower of London
This group now forms some of my closest friends. We have taken several tours with Alison since this tour and are all joining her for another Tudor expedition this coming May. My friends will regroup from the UK, US, Australia, Holland and Mexico and we will once again, take the trip of a lifetime….guaranteed.
In conclusion, in your search for the perfect, ultimate luxury travel experience — look no further than your passions, new or emerging. Make sure every journey you take touches or ignites some passion that is unique to you and you will have found the luxury we all seek.