News from Abroad: February 2015

那智の滝(Nachi Falls)

ModelYSL in Paris

Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008, was one of fashion’s greatest icons, dressing Catherine Deneuve, pioneering the pantsuit, and introducing ready–to–wear. Watch the legendary designer at work in this excerpt from a recent documentary—and step inside his studio (normally closed to the public) on our upcoming trip to Paris and London.

Courtiers & Couturiers
A History of European Fashion
in London & Paris
March 13 to 21, 2015

Kate with TulipsKate Blooms in Bruges

Kate Klorer, one of our most popular tour directors, says she’s “absolutely thrilled” to be taking a group to Holland and Belgium during tulip season: “These countries are as filled with art treasures as the Keukenhof is with flowers!” Travelers will visit the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh, Frans Hals, and Kröller-Müller museums; the last is a special favorite, Kate adds: “I was blown away by its incredible collection and magnificent grounds.” Another must-see is the Ghent Altarpiece. Besides Holland and Belgium, in 2015 Kate will accompany our groups to Cuba, the Arabian Peninsula, and France.

Amsterdam & Beyond
Holland & Belgium
May 2 to 11, 2015

KoyasanCelebrate 1,200 Years with Kukai

Experience a temple stay at Koyasan, Japan—the sacred mountain and UNESCO pilgrimage site—founded 1,200 years ago this spring by the revered monk and scholar Kobo Daishi Kukai. The Buddhist monasteries of Koyasan and the sacred Nachi waterfall and shrine (pictured at top) are just two highlights on “Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan,” designed and led by John Carpenter, Curator of Japanese Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Way of St. James in Spain, a better-known UNESCO pilgrimage route, is also on our schedule this year!

Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan
May 5 to 15, 2015

Sea CloudPlato in the Google Age

Author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s latest book, Plato at the Googleplex, catapults the ancient Athenian into the 21st century. Dr. Goldstein will be lecturing on Plato during our summer Sea Cloud cruise,“Sailing the Mediterranean in the Age of Odysseus.” Read The New York Times review of her book here, watch Dr. Goldstein discusses the book at Google’s Silicon Valley campus, and join us in June to hear her speak live. Also on board will be her husband, Harvard professor Steven Pinker, and Joan Aruz, Curator in Charge of Ancient and Near Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sailing the Mediterranean
in the Age of Odysseus
Istanbul to Athens Aboard Sea Cloud
June 27 to July 5, 2015

Simon Bordwin CubaAn American in Cuba

Kudos to our own Simon Bordwin, whose Cuba slide show was recently featured on the Condé Nast Traveler website! The Brooklyn-based photographer and Arrangements Abroad sales associate took these images during his stint as tour director on the “Art and Architecture of Cuba” program with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has another Cuba trip coming up in March. Have a look at the captivating slideshow and consider joining us on a future trip.

Jose Fuster Jaimanitas photo by Simon Bordwin

CC_1_15_web_-1(1)Click here to read our Cultural Calendar of 2015 and 2016 travel programs.


1,200 years of walking with Kukai


Kongobuji : Headquarters of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism

“In 2015, Koyasan will celebrate 1200 years since its esoteric Buddhist dojo was opened by Kobo Daishi Kukai. In this memorable year, for 50 days from April 2nd to May 21st at Koyasan, we will hold a splendid memorial service in gratitude to the great heritage left to us by Kobo Daishi Kukai. Kobo Daishi chose Koyasan in the Kii mountain range, surrounded by great nature and far from the hustle and bustle of the city to build his esoteric dojo. Kobo Daishi was motivated by the desire to educate people who would work for the happiness of others and pray for eternal peace and security for the country and society. Reaching this great 1,200 year milestone, the door is now open to the a new era in the next hundred years or thousand years. We look forward to seeing you at Koyasan in 2015, with events that convey the history and appeal of this great memorial.”

Archbishop Matsunaga Yukei, 412th Chief Abbot of Kongobuji

Experience a temple stay at Koyasan, Japan — sacred mountain and UNESCO pilgrimage site (one of just a handful of UNESCO Pilgrimage Routes, the others are the Way of St. James in Spain, and the Birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem) —  marking its 1,200-year anniversary in 2015. This is just one of the highlights of Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan, May 5 to 15, 2015, designed and led by John Carpenter, Curator of Japanese Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Part of the living culture of Japan, Koyasan is a spiritual center and World Heritage Site, where you can stay in a 1,000-year-old temple, dine with monks, bathe in Japan’s oldest hot spring, stroll through a village, and admire a sacred waterfall, all evocatively set in a temperate rainforest on the Kii Peninsula (our equivalent would be Sitka, Alaska or Vancouver).  Not just a place for the ancient and religious, SANNA (aka Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa) built their first project, the very modern Kumano Kodo Kakahechi Art Museum, along the pilgrimage route leading to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto. UNESCO designated the complex of shrines, monasteries, and stone paths crisscrossing the mountain “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” in 2004.

Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan, May 5-15 2015. $11,995
Designed by John Carpenter, Curator of Japanese Art at the Met, this 11-day program includes a temple stay in Koyasan, and an overnight at a ryokan or traditional Japanese guesthouse in Kawayu Onsen, where pilgrims settle into hot baths along the geothermally heated Oto River. The tour also features private viewings, curator-led visits and hand-picked sites in Nara, capital of Japan from 710 to 784, and Kyoto, center of Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years. With a particular interest in ceramics, Carpenter opens doors for us too at workshops of modern artists. In addition to traditional Japanese accommodations, we stay three nights each at the historic Hotel Nara and newly opened Ritz-Carleton in Kyoto, set on the Kamogawa River.

sagawa art musejumAnother feature of the trip will be a tea ceremony in the tea room at the Raku Kichizaemon Pavilion at the Sagawa Art Museum on May 13, hosted by Raku Kichizaemon XV, 15th generation of a line of master ceramicists that goes back to the original 16th-century master Chojiro. Created to display his work, the Raku Kichizaemon-Kan (tearoom and gallery) at the Sagawa Art Museum on the shore of Lake Biwa outside Kyoto was designed by Raku with Japan’s oldest architectural firm. The Canadian garden photographer Allan Mandel wrote recently about the experience, “Sublime, the tea room and raku/weaving exhibit were nothing short of ethereal and transcendent, ranking among the best art museum experiences I’ve ever had.”



Images courtesy of
Koyasan Shingon Buddhism Sohonzan Kongobuji – 金剛峯寺



Meet Marisa Swope

Marisa in MiyajimaMarisa Swope began working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in September 2007. She started as an assistant tour coordinator before moving into program operations.

“I actually am just about to transition to our Sales Team,” says Marisa.  “It’s nice that there’s room for change and growth here.”

Hometown: Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley.  It’s a wonderful small city, though I’m biased!

City I would recommend to friends: I just got back from Tokyo and loved it, so that is at the top of the list now.  I also spent several months living in Buenos Aires, which is an amazing city, so that usually is recommended too.

City I would drop everything to see: I’d love to see Budapest, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Marrakesh, and Lisbon. The list goes on.  If I haven’t been, I want to go! (with a few exceptions)

Who would play you in a movie? I’m thinking. Stay tuned!

Marisa Luxembourg GardensWhich Academic Arrangements Abroad programs do you enjoy working on the most?

The ones that I also get to travel on as a tour director!  Getting to see a program come to life — so to speak — is very rewarding.  We spend a long time developing itineraries and coordinating all of the tour details, so it is satisfying to see the final product.  I also love getting to meet our travelers, and of course to see the incredible places included on our programs.

Marisa and Sarah Viera in CubaSpecial skills:

I’m working on them!  I’d like to be fluent in Spanish and Italian. I am not yet there in either, but traveling to Cuba for work and weekly Spanish lessons are helping!

Most visited websites:

New York Times,, Refinery29 and Facebook

Something that surprises people: I’m afraid of riding bikes, and I have a major sweet tooth

Three things I can’t travel without: Earplugs, an eye mask and my iPhone

Marisa with her sister in Costa RicaNumber of trips: I’ve been a tour director on 14 tours with Academic Arrangements Abroad. I can’t begin to count my independent travels!

If you like these photos of Marisa, please check out other images of staff members on our “Faces of Arrangements Abroad” Pinterest Board.

Meet Chelsea Bryant

Chelsea at VersaillesChelsea Bryant began working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in July 2012. As an Assistant Tour Coordinator, she focuses on facilitating reservations and helping passengers on the firm’s travel programs. 

Right now, she is working on programs to Thailand and Cambodia, Chile, and the Baltic capitals, among others.

Hometown: Amherst, Massachusetts

City I would recommend to friends: I know the most about Madrid as I lived there for several years, but I highly recommend Lisbon, Portugal, as well.  I didn’t know what to expect when I first went, but it enthralled me–the scenery, the food, the people.  It’s relatively cheap, many people speak English, and the Pastéis de Belém (egg tarts) are to die for.

City I would drop everything to see: Tokyo, Japan.  It’s #1 on my list!

Most recent tour: I traveled to Cuba in January 2013.  My next trip with AAA will be a cruise on Sea Cloud II from Rome to Naples in May.

Special skills: Playing the piano and speaking Spanish

Favorite travel book: It isn’t a travel book per se, but I love Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.  His stories about living abroad and learning a new language are hilarious, and I really identify with them, having gone through a similar situation.

Most visited websites: Tastespotting (looking for recipes is my guilty pleasure), Pinterest for inspiration, Buzzfeed for sloth-related posts.

Chelsea at Zion National ParkSomething that surprises people: I did not own a smart phone until three months ago.

Three things I can’t travel without: snacks, a journal, iPod

Number of trips: Many, especially in Europe, but there are large areas of the earth I have yet to cover…

Meet Christine Pagnani

Christine PagnaniAmong our most popular tour directors, Christine Pagnani has headed up tours to destinations including India and Burma. This coming year she’ll travel with Academic Arrangements Abroad on programs including Dutch & Flemish Landscapes,  Artistic Traditions of Korea & Japan, Sicily By Sea and Dukes, Popes & Painters.

Find out more about Christine below.

Hometown: Haleiwa on Oahu’s beautiful North Shore, equally known for Bonzai Pipeline and Matsumoto’s shaved ice.

Last book I read:  The Glass Room

City you most recommend to friends:  Just about any city in Italy.

City you would drop everything to go see:  Any city that presents a new experience.

Tour you were on recently:  Burma, where our Met group had the memorable opportunity to meet with and speak with Daw Aung San Su Kyi.

Special skill:  Bargain hunting, finding a truly local experience and connecting with people.

Your most visited websites:,,

Something about you that surprises people: Climbed the Great Wall of China when pregnant with my older daughter.

Three things you can’t travel without:  Electric toothbrush, an over-stuffed carry on and an open mind.

Number of trips traveled on: I lost count in 1977, but well over 100.