About the Author

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

A girl on a bike......
A girl on a bike……

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


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.


Enjoy and most importantly – have fun!!

7 thoughts on “About the Author

  1. Congrats on starting the new blog! Love this guest posting & teaching us about this family opened biscuit shop in Italy. Would love a pic or two of the biscuits inserted in the middle somewhere to break up the text. It’s on my ” to do” list before I start long term travel! BTW, I was looking for more so I clicked on Menu & the Home & About were greyed or blacked out but clickable with no additional results. Recommend a short paragraph about you & pic. I have been a web manager & usability expert for over 15 years so feel free to test anything with me & I would love your feedback when I start my blog too! Kudos to you for starting your blog!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good Morning Darlene – just thinking about you and your mum. I hope you have a good day today. Remember that every day has a beginning, middle and end. Later today it will be all over and you’ll be so relieved. Very best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have just returned from a month’s holiday to Britain, Italy and France, and are now back in Cape Town. On our travels we met fellow travellers Sue and Graham Rennie, who spoke of you, hence finding you on the internet, and have enjoyed and been interested in your writing and travel experiences. Best wishes, Lew Rood & Barry Strick


    1. Hello Lew and Barry – thank you for your kind message. Sue and Graham are a fantastic couple – I have known Sue for many years. It is wonderful to hear from you in Cape Town. Do please follow my blog and if you have any questions about UK, Ireland, Italy, France, Alps then drop me a line. Kindest regards, Janet Simmonds


  4. “I find myself obsessed with quality and the consideration of gumption.” Please explain this sentence to me. I miss our intelligent conversation that we had at the end of each day on our tours of Italy and Sicily!


  5. OMG – to think that we used to call you “Janet The Planet”, and you’ve made a career of it! What a great online discovery…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s