A special tour round Sicily

The highlight of my autumn months was certainly a delightful trip to Sicily as I had been engaged to be a lecturer for Academic Arrangements Abroad onboard Sea Cloud II, a wonderful three masted barque built about 10 years ago, on the model of the original 1930s Sea Cloud. The guests were drawn from the Friends of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Friends of the Smithsonian and members of the Royal Oak and were a wonderfully warm bunch with an enormous enthusiasm for knowledge and good company. The company would emerge from the well-run luxury of the boat to long tours of the cities of Palermo and Syracuse, the ancient sites of Segesta and Agrigento.
I was invited to lecture by the Royal Oak, the US supporters of the National Trust, and my fellow lecturer was Barbara Drake Boehm, curator of medieval art at the Cloisters in New York, who gave two especially inspiring lectures on mosaic decoration and King Roger of Sicily. I lectured on British travellers: firstly, the 1790 tour of Sir Richard Colt Hoare in Sicily, illustrated with images of his own sketches of the famous sites which is kept at his home in Stourhead, and secondly, on the many British architects who travelled to Sicily in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century especially to study the ancient Doric temple sites, Soane, Cockerell and Smirke among others, visiting very much the same sites we were visiting on the cruise.
Being on the boat was a really amazing experience, especially the period under sail, watching the well-drilled deck hands at work, looking at sails against the blue skies. The hospitality on the boat was really memorable, and the food and wine of the very best. The tour manager, Tom, is a talented pianist and entertained the guests every evening on deck or in the saloon. I especially enjoyed the tour of the Palazzo Gangi with the Princess Carine Vanni Mantegna. I also shall never forget sailing into Valetta at dawn, recalling my late grandfather’s service on the Malta convoy.

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