A note on the author:
Janet Simmonds (nee Panagakis) is a British-born tour guide, writer and company director. Her company offers exceptional and unique travel itineraries in Italy, France, Swiss Alps, British Isles. Born in Liverpool with a slightly Greek grand-father and a very Greek great grand-father she has a special affinity with the history, culture and art of the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Trained as a Geographer and Art Historian at the Universities of Oxford and Manchester, Janet has spent most of her adult life running specialist travel companies and travelling extensively. Several times a year she leads small groups to different parts of Europe. Most recently to Venice and the Veneto, Sicily and Basilicata and Puglia. She writes about her travels and observations. www.educated-traveller.com . Her specialist travel company is www.grand-tourist.com
With special thanks to my friend and artist Mary Lou Peters for this delightful water colour. For more about Mary Lou Peters click here – Mary Lou Peters – the artist
AND IN MORE DETAIL………………..
My name is Janet Simmonds. I was born in England in 1960. I am a writer, thinker, tour guide, linguist and humanitarian. I studied geography at Oxford, later I went back to the academic world and did a Master’s in the History of Art. I’ve made my career starting and running very high quality, exceptional travel companies. I’m an expert in Italy, France, The Alps and Mediterranean Basin. I’m passionate about Venice and the Veneto region, I adore the Italians and love spending time in Italy – riding my bike or in my car!
I love the South of France too and usually spend the summer months visiting Provence, Cote d’Azur and the wonderful French Alps. I’m fascinated by nature and our natural environment, recently I took the train in Chamonix up to the Mer de Glace, France’s longest glacier. It is possible to walk inside the glacier, to see the ice and to marvel at this incredible natural phenomenon of ice, snow and rock. A few months earlier I hiked to the base of the Eiger Glacier in Switzerland, I wanted to see it, appreciate its size and fully experience the enormity of the mountains.
WG Sebald has been a massive inspiration to me. Sebald was born in Germany and came to live in England in the early 1960s. He wrote a wonderful book called ‘The Emigrants’ about people leaving Germany in the years after the Second World War and how they dealt with the events in their homeland during those years. Later Sebald wrote a book called ‘The Rings of Saturn’ where he walks from his home in Norwich through East Anglia and discusses what he sees. He ponders on the decaying country houses, assorted villages and interesting characters that come to mind as he walks. His style is both factual and somehow dreamy too. He writes in a gentle monologue, that reminds me of the philosophical meanderings of Rousseau. I strongly recommend both books.
At the end of 2014 I began to write and to start recording the experiences I have had over the years. I started the ‘educated-traveller’ blog to share these ‘pieces’, these ‘articles’ with readers. I regard myself as a true ‘European’ I feel that I belong equally in Nice, Lyon, Rome, Venice, Lucca or Matera. When I travel I don’t want to be a tourist I want to feel like a local. Which is interesting because I don’t want to actually be a local in the sense that I stay in that one place – I just want to feel like one. There is a difference. I like to think that I travel with authenticity, observing how people live, reporting back on what I see. Just recently I wrote a piece about The Biennale in Venice – a two yearly modern art event in the city. Last month I was writing about Tuscany and driving Alfa Romeo cars through the countryside south of Florence. A few months ago I was writing about libraries, and how for me the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford has always been a very special place – a place of great calm and peace ‘A Sanatorium for the mind’.
I started writing at home, in the Cheshire countryside or at the wonderful Gladstone Library in North Wales. Gladstone’s Library is a place of inspiration, learning and serenity. It was established by William Gladstone who was prime minister of Britain four times during the reign of Queen Victoria. As his life drew to a close he moved his personal library of books from his home at Hawarden Castle, to the village of Hawarden, for all to enjoy. The story is delightful, it is said that Gladstone and his valet moved the books from the castle to the village in a wheel barrow. I love the charitable ethos of the library, the not-for-profit status. For me it is a magical place. There is a scholarly air that pervades every inch of the building. Retired clerics come to research arcane elements of theological texts or labour for years on a re-interpretation of the letters of St Paul to the Corinthians. At a more practical level, they also have a brilliant cafe – appropriately named ‘Food for Thought!’ I have a penchant for their chocolate chip cookies. At the library I like to read, write and think. I’m similar to the character in ‘Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance’ constantly analysing my thoughts, motives and actions. I find myself obsessed with quality and the consideration of gumption. These are two of Robert M Pirsig’s perennial themes from his best selling philosophy book of the 1970s. I suppose my preoccupation is with living the best life I can possibly live, not just for myself but for those around me.
A few months ago my family and I moved to Oxford. We now live in a rented house in North Oxford. This is a period of transition for me. I tend to write at home or in the Bodleian Library in the heart of Oxford. At this moment I see myself as a tour guide, writer and travel company owner. I like to reflect my love of languages, culture, history, geography and art in my writing, tour guiding and itinerary preparation.
The photos below are taken from articles I have written recently. Lorenzo Quinn is the talented artist responsible for the art installation ‘Support’ in Venice at the moment. Quinn is the youngest son of the actor Anthony Quinn and is doing some original and thought provoking work. Hisham’s Palace is an amazing Islamic Palace in the barren countryside just outside Jericho (today’s West Bank) in modern day Israel or Palestine – depending on your point of view. Whilst the Greek Temples at Paestum, south of Naples are little visited and totally spectacular. I strongly recommend a visit. I mustn’t overlook Villa Angarano, my favourite vineyard in the Veneto – designed by Andrea Palladio – and now run with charm and aplomb by the charismatic Giovanna Bianchi Michiel. Nor must I forget the incredible Mandy Marshall and her Herdwick Hand Bags. From fleece to handbag without injuring a single sheep….
These are just a few snapshots of my journey over the past two or three years. Join me and explore via my blog and feel free to comment, I’m always interested to hear everyone’s point of view.
- Click here for more on: Venice – Lorenzo Quinn, Damien Hirst and the Biennale
- For more on Hisham’s Palace – I suggest you read Jericho and Hisham’s Palace
- To learn more about the spectacular Greek Temples at Paestum, Southern Italy. Just have a glance at Benvenuti al Sud
- For ideas of exceptional journeys in Europe go to www.grand-tourist.com this is my specialist travel company – itineraries for individuals and tours for small groups.
- To learn more about Giovanna Bianchi Michiel at Villa Angarano – Villa Angarano – Palladio and the Villa of the five sisters For a private visit message me.
- You might also like my story of Mandy Marshall in the Lake District and her unique Herdwick Handbags Mandy Marshall and the Herdwick Handbags
- Don’t forget to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for exceptional and fascinating travel advice and individual tailor-made itineraries.
- Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, observations, contributions.
- Janet at Educated Traveller
- By the way – any of the good photos of me are by Pete Corcoran – photographer extraordinario – others are by me and/or amateurs. He is a great photogrpaher and a lovely guy. Here is Pete’s web site: Pete Corcoran
Enjoy and most importantly – have fun!!