Yesterday morning I was thrust into purgatory, losing all of my Comcast services–phone, cable, and internet access.  Cable and phone service was not restored until that night and I only regained internet access this morning.  I felt much like Robinson Crusoe, marooned on that remote island with Friday! 

      I do have good news, though.  I now have all the information for the Eleanor of Aquitaine tour to France, including dates, the itinerary, and costs, etc, which I am now posting here.   It sounds as if it will be a magical trip, and I’d love the opportunity to meet some of my readers!   So I dearly hope this fits in with your calendars and budgets.   









































In the Footsteps of Eleanor of Aquitaine

An educational tour led by acclaimed author

Sharon Kay Penman

June 4-13, 2011

Join acclaimed author Sharon Kay Penman on a journey to France this June to

retrace the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine!

Eleanor—Duchess of Aquitaine and Gascony, Countess of Poitou, Queen of the

French and Queen of England, mother to future kings and queens—was one of

the most extraordinary women of her time, and continues to hold a fascination for

us today!

Ms. Penman, author of seven historical novels including the Henry II Trilogy:

When Christ and His Saints Slept


, Time and Chance and Devil’s Brood


four medieval mysteries surrounding Queen Eleanor, leads this exceptional tour.

Travel back into the French Middle Ages and imagine the life of one of its most

captivating royal figures.

Visit Paris where Eleanor married the French King Louis VII. Then travel into

Normandy and Anjou, domains of her second husband, King Henry II of

England. Explore the Aquitaine, richest medieval duchy in the south of France,

where troubadours originated the daring idea of Courtly Love, and where Eleanor

was born and raised in the court of her ducal ancestors. Finally, find Eleanor and

Henry in the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, their last resting place, where Ms.

Penman will read from her forthcoming book,




Day-by-Day Itinerary

Day 1, Saturday June 4

Depart the U.S. on independent overnight flights to Paris.

Day 2, Sunday June 5

Arrive in Paris this morning and check into the Hotel Trianon Rive Gauche, well

situated for exploring medieval Paris and the world of Eleanor and Henry. Enjoy

some free time to settle into your hotel. Meet fellow travelers at a welcome

reception and dinner. (R, D)

Day 3, Monday June 6

Begin exploring the Middle Ages in France with a full day in Paris. Included are

visits to the Louvre, The Cluny Museum and Notre Dame. At the Louvre see the

gift Eleanor gave to Louis VII on their marriage - the only artifact of Eleanor’s

known to exist. Enjoy free time to explore the world famous collections. At the

Cluny Museum, a Gothic mansion housing The National Museum of the Middle

Ages, discover a magnificent collection of tapestries, paintings, illuminated

manuscripts, stain glass and everyday objects from the medieval period;

conclude the day at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, one of the finest examples of

French Gothic Architecture. (B)

Day 4, Tuesday June 7

Leave Paris for Normandy this morning by private coach. Visit the Castle of

Falaise, ancient seat of the Dukes of Normandy and fortress residence of Henry

and Eleanor. Continue to Mont-St-Michel, a tiny tidal island just off the coast.

Home to the ancient Norman Benedictine Monastery, this UNESCO World

Heritage site was a major pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages. Check into

La Mère Poulard Hotel located on the island, just footsteps from the abbey. Visit

the abbey and church in the late afternoon, free of crowds, a rare opportunity. (B,


Day 5, Wednesday June 8

Drive south to Le Mans, where the Empress Matilda and Count Geoffrey of Anjou

were married and their son, Henry II was baptized. Explore the well-preserved

Cité Plantagenet


which is completely separate from the hustle of the modern day

town; walk through the cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses and

ornate stone façades, including the Maison du Pilier rouge, recognizable by its

red-painted wooden structure. Admire the Cathedral of Saint-Julien, built

between the 11


th and 15th

centuries, one of the largest cathedrals in France. See

also the Bishop’s House, the Town Hall, Notre-Dame-du-Pré and Maison-Dieu de

Coeffort. Leave Le Mans for Fontevraud, the royal abbey where Eleanor spent

her final years and is buried with Henry and much of her family. Check into the

delightful Hotel Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, situated on the abbey grounds.


Day 6, Thursday June 9

Journey to Poitiers today, the heart of Eleanor’s domains. Follow in the footsteps

of the Duchess with a local professor. Begin at the Palace of Justice, the seat of

the Dukes of Aquitaine. Admire several churches that relate to major events in

Eleanor’s life, including the 12



century Cathedral Saint-Pierre, where Eleanor

and Henry were married; St Hilaire where Richard was invested as Duke of

Aquitaine and the Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-la-Grande which was part

of the palace enclosure during Eleanor’s reign. On the way back to Fontevraud

pause at a local winery: no trip to the Loire Valley would be complete without

stopping to enjoy the finest vintages this region has to offer. (B)

Day 7, Friday June 10

Begin the day with a reading by Sharon Kay Penman from her yet to be

published book,



, a very special treat for her fans. You’ll have free

time to explore Saumur on market day. Of particular note is the Château of

Saumur, a fortified stronghold above the town. Later journey to Chinon, to visit

the Château de Chinon, one of Henry’s favorite residences and the setting for

The Lion In Winter


. Henry, who later died here, was responsible for construction

of almost all of the massive structure. End the day with a special dinner in

Fontevraud and a private evening tour of the Abbey, and say a goodnight to

Eleanor and Henry. (B, D)

Day 8, Saturday June 11

Travel to Angers, once the capital of the historic province of Anjou, and the heart

of Henry’s Angevin empire. Explore the massive and ancient castle, the Château

d’Angers; and the Cathedral of St. Maurice a fine balance of Romanesque and

gothic architecture. The interior walls are decorated with a beautiful collection of

medieval tapestries woven between 1376 and 1381, the largest, The Angers

Apocalypse is on display in the castle. Check into the Hotel Mercure and enjoy

an evening on your own in Angers. (B)

Day 9, Sunday June 12

Bid Adieu to Eleanor and Henry before traveling back to Paris, stopping on the

way at Chartres Cathedral, considered one of the finest examples of the French

High Gothic style. Arrive in time for lunch before touring the cathedral on a

guided visit. Continue to Paris, returning to the Hotel Trianon Rive Gauche.

Gather for a festive farewell dinner in Paris. (B, D)

Day 10 Monday June 13

Transfer to Charles de Gaulle airport for individual return flights

to the United States. (B)

Tour Costs

Price per person in a double:



For a single room, add:



To reserve your place please call: (800) 556-7896


These costs include:


Full program of activities and events in France via motor coach, as

described in the itinerary


Group transfers to and from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport


Eight nights accommodation in France as described in the itinerary, based

on double occupancy.


Continental breakfast daily, five dinners and a wine tasting


All gratuities, taxes and porterage


Pre departure materials, including a reading list


Medevac insurance


Headphones for touring


Engaging readings and talks by Sharon Kay Penman


The services of an ATA tour manager throughout to handle logistics


The assistance of ATA’s professional Travel Services Department which

includes at Travel Communications Specialist and a Travel Counselor for

pre-departure customer service and individual requests.

What is not included:


Transatlantic airfare


Expenses incurred by Academic Travel Abroad in making individual travel

arrangements before or after the program


Passport photos and fees


Refreshments other than those offered as part of the group meals


Items of a personal nature such as laundry/valet, personal telephone calls,

alcoholic beverages, a-la-carte, room service, etc


Other items not specifically mentioned as included.

Single Rooms

A limited number of single rooms are available at extra cost on a first-come, firstserved

basis, but availability cannot be guaranteed. Academic Travel Abroad will

assist persons requesting a roommate. However, neither a single room nor a

share can be guaranteed. Participants will be notified if we are unsuccessful in

finding a suitable roommate. In this case, the single supplement will be charged.

Payment Schedule

$500 deposit upon application. Balance due upon receipt of invoice, 90 days

before departure. Acceptable forms of payment are personal check, Visa,

MasterCard, or American Express. If final payment is not received by 60 days

prior to departure, your space is subject to cancellation.

Cancellation and Refunds

All cancellations must be submitted in writing to Academic Travel Abroad, Inc.

(ATA). After confirmation on the tour, a nonrefundable processing fee of $300 per

person will be charged upon written cancellation. Written cancellation between

90-61 days of departure: full refund, minus your deposit (including nonrefundable

processing fee). Written cancellation between 60 and 31 days prior to departure:

50% refund of the tour price. Written cancellation within 30 days prior to

departure: no refund.


Cancellation on day of departure or after tour departs:

no refund. No refund for unused portions of tour, including, but not limited

to, missed meals, hotel nights and sightseeing. Cancellation of program by

ATA: full refund. Cancellation of the program after departure by ATA: full

refund of all land fees, less the cost of service up to the time of the group’s

return. NOTE: ATA does not accept liability for any airline cancellation

penalty incurred by the purchase of a nonrefundable airline ticket to the

tour departure city and return. We strongly urge applicants to consider

purchasing trip cancellation insurance.

A Note About the Itinerary

While every effort will be made to carry out the program as planned, the itinerary

as described is subject to modification and change by ATA. The program cost is

based upon current airfares, tariffs, and currency values in effect January 2011

and assumes that a minimum of 20 participants will join the program. While we

will do everything possible to maintain the listed price, it is subject to change. If it

is necessary to levy a surcharge, notification will be given before time of invoicing

(approximately 90 days prior to departure). In the event of cancellation due to a

surcharge, all monies are fully refundable except for processing fee.


We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance, which is

available for coverage of expenses in conjunction with cancellation due to illness

or accident. Baggage insurance is also recommended. In the event that you must

cancel your participation in a travel program, trip cancellation insurance may be

the only source of reimbursement. We will send you a brochure from our travel

insurance provider, or you may obtain coverage through a company of your


Health Recommendations

To enjoy your travels to the fullest you should be in good physical and mental

health. Any physical condition requiring special attention, diets, or treatment

must be reported in writing when the reservation is made. We reserve the right

to decline to accept or retain any person as a tour member should such a

person’s health, mental condition, physical infirmity, or attitude jeopardize the

operation of the tour or the enjoyment of other participants.


Read Carefully: Responsibility Statement and Liability Disclaimer

Academic Travel Abroad (ATA), a professional tour operator, acts only as an

agent for the respective suppliers by making arrangements for transportation,

accommodations, and other services. ATA shall not be held liable for personal

injury, death, property damage or accident, delay or irregularity arising out of any

act or omission of these suppliers. ATA reserves the right, without penalty, to

make changes in the published itinerary whenever, in their judgment, conditions

warrant, or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of

tour participants. ATA also reserves the right, without penalty, to withdraw the

tour announced, to decline to accept any person as a participant in a tour, or to

require any participant to withdraw from the tour at any time, when such action is

determined by tour staff to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general

welfare of the tour group or the individual participant, subject only to the

requirement that the recoverable portion of the total amount paid that

corresponds to the cost of unused services and accommodations be refunded, if

any. Participants are encouraged to purchase airline tickets no sooner than 60

days before the tour begins to avoid airline cancellation penalties if a tour is

canceled or otherwise modified subsequent to the participant’s purchase of those

tickets. ATA accepts no liability for the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets

to the tour departure city and return. Baggage and personal effects are at all

times the sole responsibility of the participant. Dates, schedules, program details,

and costs, although provided in good faith based on information available at the

time of publication of this brochure are subject to change and revision.



The undersigned has read carefully the Responsibility Statement and Liability

Disclaimer set forth above, the schedule of activities for this tour, as well as the

terms and conditions of application and participation as set forth in the tour

literature, and recognizes and accepts any risk associated with the tour and the

conditions, including the refund policy, set forth in the tour brochure(s). The

undersigned further acknowledges that there are many risks and uncertainties

inherent in any travel tour, including but not limited to the hazards of various

modes of transportation, forces of nature, acts or omissions of foreign

governments, terrorism, war or insurrection, theft, illness, and damage to person

or property due to the negligent acts or omissions of tour staff or others. In

consideration of, and as part payment for, the right to participate in the tour, the

undersigned, on behalf of himself, his dependents, heirs, executors,

administrators and assigns, agrees to release (Client organization), its Regents,

officers, employees, representatives or agents, the United States, and ATA and

its officers, employees and agents, from liability for personal injury, death,

property damage or loss suffered by any person in connection with this tour,

even if caused by the negligence (but not the reckless, willful, or fraudulent

conduct) of tour staff or other related persons or entities. In addition, by

registering for this tour, the applicant certifies that he or she is mentally and

physically capable of full participation in this tour.




In the Footsteps of Eleanor of Aquitaine

An educational tour led by acclaimed author

Sharon Kay Penman


First Traveler Name Email Address

Second Traveler Name Email Address

Street Address City/State/Zip Code Country

Home Telephone Work Telephone

Method of Deposit

[ ] Check. Please make deposit check payable to Academic Travel Abroad.

[ ] Credit Card. Please charge my [ ] Visa [ ] MasterCard [ ] American Express

Card Number: __________________________________________Expiration Date: _ _/_ _

Name as it appears on credit card (please print) Signature


[ ] Single Occupancy

[ ] Double Occupancy

[ ] I plan to share a double room; my roommate’s name is ___________________.

[ ] I hope to share a double room and ask you to select my roommate.

Signature Signature Date

Please mail this completed form with deposit to:

Academic Travel Abroad, Inc.

1920 N Street, NW

Suite 200

Washington, DC 20036

You many also call (800) 556-7896 or send via fax to (202) 342-0317 to reserve your space.

Sharon again.  I have been so impressed in my dealings with Academic Travel, and I think they have put together a truly memorable trip for Eleanor’s many admirers.  

January 4, 2011



  1. Yvette Says:

    I did my own Eleanor tour last year with my husband and loved it! Your books and blog inspired me to visit Fontevraud. It was the best holiday ever, not only because of Eleanor but also because when I got home I found out I was pregnant :-) So that holiday was about my favorite ancestor but brought about my favorite descendant!

  2. Sharon K Penman Says:

    If you had a daughter and named her Eleanor or Alienor, Yvette, that would be completing a perfect circle!

  3. Paula Says:

    I have booked a spot on this once in a lifetime tour. I just have to figure out now what else I want to visit while I am there. I hope I get to meet lots of other Sharon fans on the tour!

  4. Yvette Says:

    @Sharon K Penman
    It did cross my mind but I had a boy so I thought it would be a bit awkward to call him Eleanor :-)

  5. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Good call, Yvette, saving him lots of counseling later on.

  6. Koby Says:

    That sounds like a great tour. Unfortunately, I’ll be having my semester tests then, so I doubt I’ll be there.
    In any case, today, Edward the Confessor died, leading to the events which would result in the Norman Conquest, Richard of Cornwall, son of John I and Isabella was born, and Margaret of York’s husband, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy was killed in the battle of Nancy.

  7. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Wow, Koby, what a treasure-trove of important anniversaries. I’d posted on Facebook about Catherine de Medici dying today, but had totally forgotten that Charles the Bold died at the battle of Nancy in January.
    I wish you could come on the tour, but maybe if Lionheart does well, they’ll want to do a tour of Outremer next time! The travel agency hires local guides for all the sites to be visited, and you’d be a natural for that role!

  8. Koby Says:

    One can only pray and hope so, Sharon. In any case, today Harold Godwinson was crowned King of England, Richard II of England was born, and this is also the legendary birth-date of Jeanne La Pucelle, known as Joan of Arc.

  9. Joan Szechtman Says:

    Wish I could afford this tour–it sounds so delicious.

  10. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am beginning to suspect an insidious Tudor plot to stage a coup here, but on January 7, 1536, Catherine of Aragon was finally spared any more of the misery Henry VIII was heaping upon her. I’ll be back with more news about Eleanor’s tour, and also some very interesting (at least to me) news about Here Be Dragons.
    PS Drat, it is snowing again here.

  11. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Here is the news about my favorite of my books. I have optioned the film rights to Here Be Dragons to Derek Lynn John, a Welsh-born screenwriter who currently lives in New Zealand. He has an amazing resume, with a film coming out this year about Mozart, and he is presently planning a scouting trip to Wales. We know the odds are not in our favor, but if anyone would do right by Llywelyn and Joanna, this is the man. He told me he read it this past summer and was captivated by their story, so he has the requisite passion, the experience, and the love of Welsh history, of course. So all we really need is a bit of luck, right? And Llywelyn Fawr was always lucky, unlike his less fortunate grandson. Meanwhile, we can amuse ourselves by casting the film for him!

  12. Emilie Says:

    I really want to go on the trip to France. I’m waiting for my friends to let me know if they would like to come with me. If not, maybe I’ll be lucky and the travel agency can find me a roomate! I’ve never been on an international trip by myself so I’ll look forward to meeting nice and interesting people.

    Here Be Dragons the Movie…that would be so fantastic! It is my favorite novel of yours Sharon. You have set the bar very high but it sounds like you have found a screenwriter who would do justice to your novel. Would you prefer a television series or a movie?

  13. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Julia Markowitz, one of my many brilliant readers, has taken the Eleanor trip itinerary and added photos. I think this is truly awesome.

  14. Dave Says:


    How about Ioan Gruffudd as Llywelyn Fawr, and Catherine Zeta- Jones as Joanna. At least they’re both Welsh. Ok, technically Joanna is norman, but Catherine just seems perfect. Opinions anybody?


  15. Sharon K Penman Says:

    It would be nice to have Llywelyn played by a Welshman, Dave, and I love CZJ–but she’s too old to play the young Joanna. They have practically cast the whole movie over on my Facebook page!

  16. Dave Says:


    Sorry, I don’t do facebook. But if you’re looking for a slightly younger welsh actress than Catherine Zeta-Jones, why not try Eve Myles. About 10 years younger, and not a blonde which you specify in Here be Dragons that Joanna is not. As for Joanna as a child, and teenager, I’d like to hear any suggestions.


  17. Emily Says:

    Dear Ms. Penman,

    Just made a reservation for the tour today. We’re looking forward to it very much!


  18. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I’m so glad, Emily. I think this is going to be a memorable trip for us all.

  19. cindyash Says:

    Damn, I wish I could go. The price is really good, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. But we can’t spend that kind of money right now, not with our jobs on shaky ground. I am really bummed. Just promise me a day by day blog, with photos! (Please :)

  20. Emilie Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I made my reservation yesterday morning. ATA is being very helpful and trying to match me with a roomate. Regardless of the outcome, I am looking forward to my first trip to France and seeing the sights associated with Eleanor and Henry. I will now spend the next 5 months reading your Eleanor and Henry trilogy as well as any other reference books I can find in anticipation of what promises to be a great trip. As a Christmas gift to myself, I even purchased the movie “A Lion in Winter” and am looking forward to wathching it. This will be my first trip to France and I can’t think of a better introduction to the country of my ancestors.

  21. Susan Flantzer Says:

    This sounds like a wonderful tour, Sharon. Unfortunately, I have to teach school until at least June 20 (looks like a snow day tomorrow).

  22. Maritza Says:

    Sharon, your trip sounds wonderful. As a travel agent, I’m impressed with the itinerary and its focus on sites not normally visited on tours of France. I think your readers will find even more insight into the lives of Henry and Eleanor by immersing themselves in these historic places where the monarchs actually lived. And, of course, sharing this experience with you is even better.
    The reading of passages of “Lionheart” among the sites will be amazing. I visited Israel once and among the many, many inspiring moments of this trip, the one I most remember is visiting the Mount of Beatitudes in the Galilee where our very excellent Israeli tour guide had us sit on a hillside while she read the Beatitudes directly from the New Testament. It was a magical moment.
    I would so love to go on your trip. Unfortunately, my daughter is leaving for Europe on Jun 12 and I have to be here to see her off. Plus, the economy has not been kind to travel agents the past couple of years so I just can’t afford to go at this time.
    One more thing–anyone who wants to extend their trip and see something interesting, might want to cross the Channel from Calais to Dover (ferries are fine) and visit the tower of Dover Castle which has been restored to look just like it was during Henry’s lifetime.

  23. Koby Says:

    And today, Abbot Suger, one of Eleanor’s fiercest opponents died.

  24. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby! I’ve been very impressed with Academic Travel, Maritza. I was able to choose the itinerary so we’d be sure to visit those places that were most important in Eleanor’s life. That is an excellent suggestion about Dover Castle–thank you. I’d love to see that myelf, as it has been done since my last visit.

  25. Brenna Says:


    Great news, my mom is going on the trip!! I can’t go because of work (because of my job, I am not allowed to vacation in June). Anyway, since I had the pleasure of meeting you at your book signing, I thought it only fair Mom get the opportunity to meet you! I’m super excited for her and Emilie, I think you might have the opportunity to room with her.

  26. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Brenna, I am so glad to hear your mother is coming, but I wish you could, too. Maybe if we can do it again.

  27. Brenna Says:

    I wish I could too!! I think it is going to be a little hard on my mom because your books and the love of history is something special she and I share. However, I already told her that maybe while on the trip, she can convince the company to do a Wales trip (not in June) and then we will both beable to go! I’m still hoping you will be able to blog so I can follow the adventures!!

  28. Emilie Says:

    I have been thinking about extending my trip and one of the things I would like to do is take the ferry from Calais to Dover. Going back to Dover Castle now that the Great Tower has been restored to look like it did during Henry II’s lifetime would be fantastic. Planning a trip is the next best thing to the trip itself. Thanks to Sharon and Elizabeth Chadwick, my list of sights to see and places to visit just keeps expanding!

  29. Mike John Lennard Says:

    This is a bit out of sequence but I have only just signed up, although I have read all your books Sharon.
    Ever since I read my first Penman masterpiece, ‘When Christ and His Saints Slept’, I have wondered why no film producer had seen the potential. The writing style gives the story and its era so much reality that it must be an easy task to create a film script.
    Every time I pass Wilton House, I think of William Marshall! I can’t wait for ‘Lionheart’, when does it hit the shelves in England?

  30. Marcy Parks Says:

    I would love to go on the tour…but it’s still the school year and I can’t, in good conscience, leave my students for, what for me, would be the height of bliss. Duty calls. Dare I hope you will do another one sometime?

  31. Victoria Says:

    Oh how I would love to go, but unfortunately I’m no from the US so it makes it that little bit more difficult costs not withstanding. I also have the problem that I think that’s deep in the middle of the school term and I doubt the headmistress would let me have the time off work, more’s the pity. I have just returned from Paris today (a school trip so unfortunately little time for “proper” sightseeing) so I readily recommend the medieval quarter, and of course Mont St. Michel in Brittany. Fantastic itinerary and how I wish I could join you!

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  36. Linda Says:

    I’m so disappointed that I didn’t learn about this tour until it was over. Any chance you’ll run the same tour next year? My best friend from high school, Ann, introduced me to your writing and it would be so wonderful if she and I could travel together on this tour!

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