Academy Travel’s team of expert tour leaders offers genuine academic expertise, enthusiasm and the ability to communicate their knowledge to interested travellers.

Has a wide range of experience as an educator, and an archaeologist. Since 1994 Ben has led tours to Jordan, Greece, Syria, Egypt, China & Morocco.

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Ben Churcher is an archaeologist who works both in the Near East, as well as with Aboriginal archaeology in Australia. He has a strong personal interest in history and archaeology, primarily of the Muslim world, but not exclusively. Ben holds the position of Field Director at the University of Sydney’s archaeological excavations at Pella in Jordan.

Ben holds a BA (Hons) from the University of Queensland and a Dip. Ed from the University of Sydney. In 1983, Ben received a travelling grant from the Alumni Association at the University of Queensland to participate at the excavations at Pella in Jordan and he has been involved in archaeology ever since.

In between digs, Ben worked as a secondary teacher for five years at both public and private high schools and in 1993 he brought together his love of teaching and archaeology by founding Astarte Resources, a company producing and distributing educational resources specialising in history. While running Astarte Resources, Ben has been involved with adult education lecturing on a range of historical subjects and graduate teaching duties at the University of Canberra in their cultural heritage degree.

Since 2002 Ben has worked extensively in Aboriginal archaeology in Australia, working with a small firm undertaking heritage assessments and management. This work has taken him from western NSW, into the Snowy Mountains and onto the coalfields of the Hunter Valley.

Ben has continued his association with the excavations at Pella in Jordan throughout this time and he has participated in most seasons of excavation at the site. This work has involved excavating most major Near Eastern periods from the prehistoric Natufian period, through to the Islamic period.

Ben is a life member of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation at the University of Sydney and he currently sits on the board of the Foundation.

Ben has also travelled widely beyond the destinations to which he takes tours, has taught English in Japan for six months and has sailed on a dhow to Zanzibar. The consequence of this experience is that Ben is an adept traveller, unfazed by what the world may throw at him, and someone who has managed to amass a lot of information from various places and time periods that he is only too happy to impart.

Ben led his first tour to Jordan and Syria in 1993 and has gone on to take travellers to an eclectic range of countries including Mali, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Central Asia, China and Mexico. The common thread has been Ben’s interest in global history and the interconnections between both historical periods and cultures. How these interconnections are expressed in architecture, religion and governance is an abiding interest of Ben’s.

We asked Ben, what you think clients get from travelling with you?

“I feel the people I travel with enjoy the way I can place great sweeps of history into context for them. On tour people often want to know what was happening elsewhere while such and such a building was being constructed. Fortunately I can use the experience I’ve built up over the years to answer such questions and then tie the particular culture we are looking at into the broader picture so that it links with things already known by the people in the group.”

Upcoming tours led by Ben Churcher

"I cannot praise Ben Churcher highly enough. This amiable guy with his dry sense of humour and deep knowledge of his subject was one of the best parts of the tour for me. I hope to join him on tour again." - Iran in depth tour, April 2017 Ben Churcher - Iran in depth - April 2017-2017-11-10 14:38:23

Has an Honours and Master’s degree in archaeology and has recently completed a PhD. He has led tours to Central and South America for over 20 years.

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Christopher Carter is an archaeologist with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Central and South America, Spain and Ireland as well as within Australia. He is particularly interested in human interaction within landscapes and the formative period of cultural development.

Chris has a BA(Hons), MA and PhD from the Australian National University (ANU). He has worked as a tutor at the ANU and lectured at both the ANU and University of Sydney Centres for Continuing Education. When not leading tours, Chris works as an archaeological consultant and heritage advisor.

Chris’ research interests cover both Indigenous and Australian historical archaeology. He is also actively involved in research in the Atacama region of northern Chile and involved in a number of studies investigating the early settlement of this region. He has had a number of academic papers published in international journals.

As a teacher, Chris has always declared that archaeology cannot be learned in the classroom. Such statements resulted in him taking a group to South America in 1995. He has continued to lead several tours a year ever since. The areas visited have expanded to other regions that reflect the subjects he teaches.

We asked Chris, what part of tour leading does he find most rewarding?

“I love teaching and, as they say, ‘to travel is to learn’ and what better classroom than the wider world. Nothing satisfies me more than to lead people into new areas where they can see how humans have interacted with landscapes over the years –  to witness the evolution of both the people and the environments they occupy.

On a recent tour, one member of the group commented that they can now ‘see’ a lot more than they did before. In the past, they had taken so much for granted and never thought about how things changed through time. Their eyes had been opened and they began to think more about what they were looking at. To me, these are the statements that make my job worthwhile.”

Upcoming tours led by Chris Carter

Has an honours degree from Liverpool University and specialises in the history and art of North Africa and Arabia.

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Chris Bradley is a cultural historian specialising in the religion and art of the Middle East and North Africa. After many years of leading tours he has built up an enviable knowledge and personal photographic library that he uses to enhance the Academy Travel tours that he leads to Ethiopia, Iran and Central Asia.

Chris gained an honours degree at the University of Liverpool and spent several years working in Arabia, which gave him a good foundation for understanding the Middle East in general. The Arabic that he learnt through the 1970s proved invaluable for his own travels throughout the Middle East whilst researching, writing and photographing more than a dozen guidebooks as well as countless travel articles. For 30 years he has supplied international picture libraries with photographs that are used worldwide in newspapers, magazines, websites and museums, including the V&A and British Museum in London. This experience also led to his filming and producing credits on many television documentaries for the BBC and National Geographic TV.

Chris was invited by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to analyse sustainable tourism development, initially for Libya and later Egypt. His interest in Islamic and early Christian art is an underlying theme for many of his illustrated talks and lectures for the Arts Society (formerly NADFAS) in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and around the world. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and regularly gives lectures at their various locations. His study days on Islamic Art, The Silk Road, Roman and Islamic Art of North Africa are always over-subscribed.

In the 40 years since Chris started leading group tours in the Middle East he has worked in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Oman, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco and Tunisia. This experience has allowed him to design and develop his own itineraries to Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. His tours aim, where possible, to go beyond the obvious major sights and search for the hidden gems.

We asked Chris, what do you enjoy about tour leading?

“Because of the scope of my interests I enjoy making connections between countries and religions that are often not obvious and I am always searching for links along the lines of ‘where did that idea come from?’ Working with each country’s national guides (many of whom are now personal friends), I love to expand every aspect of the subjects that we cover for the groups, which could be the Queen of Sheba, Zoroastrianism or Shia Islam.”

Upcoming tours led by Christopher Bradley

A former Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia and previously a curator of decorative arts. He is also an experienced cultural tour leader.

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Christopher Menz is a former art museum director and curator and has been leading cultural tours in Europe, the United States and Australia since 2013. He has expertise and interest in the visual arts and music.

Christopher has a BA (Hons) from Flinders University. He is a former director of the Art Gallery of South Australia. Before that he was a curator, specialising in decorative arts, and worked at the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, and National Gallery of Victoria. He has published and lectured extensively on Australian and European decorative arts, notably on the design work of William Morris, and curated numerous exhibitions. Christopher is based in Melbourne where he is an art consultant and valuer, and Development Consultant for Australian Book Review.

Christopher has led cultural tours to Germany, England, the United States, as well as in Australia. He has also been a tour leader on European river cruises.

We asked Christopher, what do you think clients get from travelling with you?

“It is always a great thrill to be able to introduce clients to new experiences and to places they might otherwise not have visited or not have visited recently. I always hope to give tour guests something that adds to the experiences of the places, cities, museums and art galleries, and performances that they would not get if travelling alone.”

An archaeologist who has worked on site at Pompeii for seven seasons and has an international reputation for her research on the city's skeletal remains.

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Dr Estelle Lazer is an archaeologist with an international reputation for her work on the human victims of Pompeii, with more field seasons in the Bay of Naples than she cares to remember! Her PhD studied the site’s human skeletons, and her current project is to CT scan and X-ray the unique casts of these victims. Estelle’s book, Resurrecting Pompeii, was published by Routledge and her work forms a core part of the Ancient History syllabus for the NSW Higher School Certificate.

Estelle is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney. In October 2017, the University of Sydney and the Pompeii Archaeological Park signed an historic Memorandum of Agreement to partner in an important new scanning project led by Estelle. Her research has received considerable media attention in print, radio and television, with two documentaries (one for the BBC and Smithsonian, and another in production for Britain’s Channel 5) ensuring a wide audience for her fascinating findings.

Her other main field of research is historical archaeology in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic. Estelle spent four summers working on Mawson’s Huts, and has spent another summer studying evidence of the sealing industry as well as Australia’s first post-war Antarctic base at Heard Island. She has also worked on archaeological sites in Bahrain, south-eastern Italy, Cyprus, the UK and Australia.

In addition to her teaching work at the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney, Estelle gives frequent public lectures at the invitation of universities, schools and museums, such as the Australian National University, Oxford University, the British Museum, University of Trondheim, Norway and the British School at Rome.

Estelle has led tours to Italy and the Mediterranean for Academy Travel since the company’s inception in 2004, and also works extensively with our Academy Schools program for teachers and students. In addition to her obvious archaeological expertise, she particularly enjoys explaining the place of mythology in the landscape – especially in Sicily and southern Italy.

Has a wide-ranging knowledge of Italian history and cultural traditions. Jeni has a PhD focusing on Tourism, Heritage and Renaissance Studies.

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Dr Jeni Ryde is a linguist and art history specialist with over fifteen years experience leading tours to Italy, Spain and Portugal. She is passionate about art, design and architecture both ancient and modern and particularly enjoys how both complement each other. Her special interests are the simplicity of the Romanesque and the breadth and depth of the Renaissance. When she is not traveling with Academy Travel she is able to indulge her interests in drawing, music and teaching the less fortunate.

Jeni holds two undergraduate degrees with majors in Anthropology and French and Interpreting and Translation with NAATI qualifications, two Masters degrees in Italian Linguistics and TESOL and a cross disciplinary PhD in Renaissance Art History, Tourism and Museum Management.

After an early career as an assistant director in film and television both for the ABC and BBC, she worked as an interpreter and translator and then as a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University with a focus on Italian language, history and culture. She was also head of the postgraduate programs in Languages and Interpreting and Translation. Teaching in Adult Education has included several courses in Renaissance Art History, the Italian language and Italian Cinema for U3A and other community organizations. Jeni speaks fluent Italian and Spanish and has an understanding of French and Portuguese.

Jeni first began designing and leading tours to Italy with her own company in 2002 in response to requests from travelers searching for small group tours with specific themes. She joined Academy Travel in 2009 and has since led many tours to various regions of Italy as well as Spain and Portugal.

We asked Jeni, what motivates you as a tour leader?

“I delight in being the catalyst for showing our travelers beautiful places and works of art and especially seeing their reactions – a tear in the eye before a moving painting, a sigh of wonder on entering a beautiful building, a gasp at the beauty of an exquisite landscape. This for me is the great privilege and reward of being an Academy Tour Leader.”

“Many travelers comment on my boundless energy and curiosity for paths less travelled. I like to think that people who travel with me are swept along by my waves of enthusiasm and are inspired to go beyond the obvious to explore and learn with me. I’m known for introducing many little surprises along the way! An added bonus for me is the shared experience of like-minded people enjoying each other’s company while traveling together.”

Has led tours to Turkey, Greece and Iran. Jenny has been awarded a Churchill Fellowship and a NSW Premier’s History Prize for her research and writing.

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Jennifer has led tours to Turkey, Greece, Crete and Iran. Her main interest in travel is history, both ancient and more recent history such as the experiences of Australians at Gallipoli. Other cultures – and in particular their food and wine – also rate!

Jennifer has co-authored over ten books on ancient History that are widely used in senior History classes and has been awarded a number of scholarships and awards for writing and research, including a Churchill Fellowship, an Endeavor Research Fellowship for Turkey, and a NSW Premiers Award for History. Jennifer has lectured in History teaching method at Sydney, Macquarie and Western Sydney universities and was the Board of Studies History Inspector for 13 years.  Her PhD concerned the experiences of the Australians captured as POWs during the Gallipoli campaign. This involved almost ten years of research and travelling over 8,000 kilometres through Turkey, locating the main POW camp sites. Ottoman documents that had never been translated into English before formed a solid basis for the research.

Upcoming tours led by Dr Jennifer Lawless

The former president of the University of Sydney's Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation, and a former lecturer in the Department of Archaeology.

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Dr John Tidmarsh is an archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Syria, Jordan, Greece, and Cyprus. He is currently Co-Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Pella in Jordan and also Co-Director of the Australian Mission to Jebel Khalid, Syria. He is an Honorary Associate, Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Sydney and was previously Senior Investigator of the University of Sydney excavations in Torone, Greece and Associate Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Paphos, Cyprus.

He has travelled widely in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East and since the 1980s has led numerous tours to Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Oman, and Greece.

His main interests are in the art, archaeology and history of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period in the east, and in the Islamic World. He has written many articles and conference papers on these areas and has co-authored several books on the excavations at Jebel Khalid in Syria. He is soon to complete his book on the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods at Pella in Jordan.

John has a BA (Hons), MA (Hons) and PhD from the University of Sydney where he was previously tutor, then part-time lecturer in Classical Archaeology. He is a former President of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation at that university.

He is also a Clinical Endocrinologist (MBBS, FRACP) who worked previously in private practice and at Bankstown Hospital in Sydney, and is now at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

We asked John, what motivates your passion for travel?

“Since I first joined the excavation team in 1978 at Pella in Jordan I have become addicted to travelling and working in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

Along with my fascination for the detective work and discovery which archaeological excavation entails, one of my greatest joys is introducing my tour groups to worlds very different from those they have encountered while travelling in the USA and Europe. It is a source of real pleasure for me to see those first-timers to the Middle East, who often approach the region with slight trepidation though they may have travelled widely elsewhere, become quickly entranced by the marvellous mountain and desert landscapes and monuments that these countries possess and, more importantly, by the unsurpassed friendliness and hospitality of both Arabs and Persians alike.”

Upcoming tours led by Dr John Tidmarsh

Has a PhD in Italian Studies, speaks fluent Italian and lectures on the art, history and culture of Europe. Kathleen has an outstanding knowledge of Italy.

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Dr Kathleen Olive is a literary and cultural historian with close to 15 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Japan and the United States. She has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, interior design, fashion history and contemporary fiction.

Kathleen holds a BA with first class Honours and a PhD, both from the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. For a number of years she worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney, teaching Italian language, literature and history. Kathleen continues to teach, as a national lecturer for the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society (ADFAS), and in adult education courses in Sydney. In 2015, her edition of the Codex Rustici (a 15th-century commonplace book that Kathleen worked on with Nerida Newbigin, for her doctoral studies and for publication) was presented to Pope Francis on his first official visit to Florence.

Kathleen’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through to the early 20th century. In Italy she has led numerous tours focusing on the medieval and Renaissance periods. In Spain she has a particular concentration on the “Convivencia” of Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures in the south, and on the medieval pilgrimage routes of the north. Her tours of the USA’s north-east have focused on American collectors and their Gilded Age reinventions of European glory days, and in Japan she is particularly interested in contemporary design, from fashion to architecture. Kathleen speaks fluent Italian, is conversant in Spanish and understands French.

Kathleen was first involved on a tour to Italy in 2003 and it sparked her passion for on-the-spot communication of art and history. Since 2010 she has worked exclusively for Academy Travel, leading 6 tours a year. She has designed a number of our popular tours, from the Florence residential, to surveys of the courts of Renaissance Italy and of central Italy’s villas and gardens, as well as “twin city” tours to Palermo and Naples and to Florence and Rome. Closer to home, Kathleen is leading Academy Travel’s inaugural tour to Japan and our popular tours to Tasmania.

We asked Kathleen, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?

“I really enjoy travelling with groups who share interests in the history, culture and even food of a destination. It means that those personal connections are there right from the beginning, just waiting to be made.”

“There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding out the particular interests of my fellow travellers – an artist, a dish they love eating, their memories of a particular place – and finding a way to make an experience happen for them. That might mean recommending a particular wine bar, directing them to a museum that features artists they already like, or suggesting the best time of day for a view over a town. It’s so satisfying to be involved in making these kinds of memories for people.”

“Many of the people I travel with comment on my passion for the places I visit. It’s not just that I know my names and dates – it’s that I really enjoy bringing out the connections between history and art, for example, or between landscape and food. I never grow tired of injecting this kind of life into ‘dry’ academic knowledge.”

Is a historian and free-lance writer with Honours degrees from both Sydney and Cambridge Universities.

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Dr Matthew Dal Santo is a writer, historian and foreign affairs commentator who currently resides in Copenhagen, Denmark. Born in Sydney, Matthew lived most of the past fifteen years in Europe. The current focus of his interest is Russia. From 2014 to 2017, Matthew was Danish Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, with a grant to study how Russians think of themselves in the light of their history 25 years after the collapse of Communism and 100 since the 1917 revolution. He is particularly interested in how the revival of Orthodoxy has encouraged the return of the age-old idea of ‘Holy Rus’ as well as rehabilitation of the culture and achievements of Imperial Russia, as for example in the canonisation in 2000 of the last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family as saints. Matthew has travelled extensively in the Russian-speaking world, from Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus to Siberia and the Russian Far East. He is currently writing a book called The Romanovs and the Redemption of Putin’s Russia: Remaking Holy Rus. Before returning to academic work, Matthew was briefly a policy officer with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Matthew has a PhD in Ecclesiastical History from the University of Cambridge, where from 2005 to 2008 he held the Lightfoot Scholarship. In 2007 he was elected Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge’s leading college, and was appointed Associate Lecturer in the award-winning Faculty of History. Matthew also has an MPhil from Cambridge and a BA (Hons I) from the University of Sydney, where he won the University Medal in 2004.

Matthew is often asked to write on Russian and European politics by the Lowy Institute for Foreign Policy in Sydney and you can check out some of his writings for The Interpreter here:

In addition to English, Matthew speaks Danish, French, Italian and Russian.

We asked Matthew, what motivates him to lead a tour to Russia?

“I lead Academy Travel’s annual Russia tour. This is something I really enjoy. My aim with the tour is not only to provide people the opportunity to visit Russia’s famous historical sights and great collections of art in St Petersburg and Moscow, but also a chance to engage first-hand with the way the identity and world view of this most perplexing of countries has been transformed in the two and half decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union. My lectures take a close look at Russian history and politics, with the aim of showing how ‘Putin’s Russia’ (so-called) is still grappling with processes set in motion hundreds of years ago, often in ways that have a deep effect on Russia’s often difficult relations with the West.

Coming from a long line of teachers, I also find the training and development tours that I lead for the NSW History Teachers’ Association a great source of pleasure and inspiration. Of course, Russia is a very big country and my view is that too few people ever get to its vast reaches east of the Urals. In the future I would like to offer a tour of Siberia from beautiful Lake Baikal to Russia’s eastern capital and gateway to Japan and China, Vladivostok. I also have a budding interest in the naturally spectacular and culturally rich Caucasus…”

Upcoming tours led by Dr Matthew Dal Santo

Is a historian and political scientist with a PhD from the ANU. Matthew leads tours to the United States and Scandinavia and lectures for Academy Travel.

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Dr Matthew Laing is a historian and political scientist at Monash University who has led tours to the Americas and Europe with Academy Travel for five years. He has a strong personal interest in architecture, cultural history and modern art, with a particular expertise in the United States.

Matthew holds a BA and PhD from the Australian National University, and wrote his doctorate on the history of the United States presidency. He has worked as a lecturer and research fellow at the Australian National University, Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and now at Monash University in Melbourne. He is an accredited ADFAS lecturer and frequently holds public lecture series in Melbourne. He currently teaches United States history and leadership, and has published on both topics.

Matthew’s tours strive for intellectual engagement and to reveal the stories, both big and small, that can bring history to life. A voracious reader and traveller, Matthew strives to be a generalist and draws upon a wide range of subjects – from politics to architecture – to develop his understanding of a place. Matthew’s passion for the United States started as an intern in the United States Congress in 2007. Since then he has made dozens of trips across the country, for both work and pleasure, and is closing in on his goal of visiting all 50 states. He has lectured and written on a wide variety of US subjects, including the American Revolution, the Gilded Age, and American Modernist architecture. Matthew also lived in the Netherlands for two years and has travelled widely there, and has a particular interest in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Matthew has been tour leading for Academy Travel annually since 2013, with many tours to the United States and Europe, and is now taking on a greater role managing and developing further tours in these regions, including developing new tours to areas like the Southern United States.

We asked Matthew, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?

“As an academic, the personal joy of leading tours for Academy Travel is that I get one of the best classrooms I could ask for of intelligent and attentive global travellers who share my passion for learning about our world. And yet often I also find myself the student – with intellectually-engaged travellers from all walks of life, some of the most stimulating debates and discussions I’ve had are with my clients on tours.”

“I think those who come on tour with me benefit most from my enthusiasm, energy and passion – whether it’s a giving a morning lecture or having a causal chat at lunch, I’m always striving to draw out new insights and connections that can further understanding and increase engagement.”

A social and cultural historian who specialises in the field of modern France. He has published works on the French Revolution with Cambridge University Press.

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Dr Michael Adcock is a social and cultural historian with over ten years’ experience in leading residential study tours in Paris and France. He has a strong interest in the interpretation of the arts in the context of the political and social moment in which they were created.

Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts (Combined First-Class Honours in French and History), a Master of Arts (French History) and a Doctor of Philosophy (French History), all from the University of Melbourne. He has held a post as lecturer-in-charge at the University of Melbourne, where he presented courses on the French Revolution and on French society and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is currently Head of History and Head of Humanities at Melbourne Grammar School. In 2013, he was awarded the prestigious History Teachers’ Association of Victoria award for Excellence in the Teaching of History.

Michael led his first Academy Travel tour to Paris in 2006, although this had been preceded by some ten visits, many of them residential trips for the purposes of academic research. During this time, Michael came to know the city in depth, and has since found great intellectual satisfaction in introducing people to its treasures and, perhaps more importantly, in teaching them how to navigate the city so that they may return to travel independently on a future occasion.

We asked Michael what he enjoys most about leading tours?

“I love the feeling of a tour that unfolds with the regularity of clockwork. I like to see people swept along effortlessly on a seamless unfolding of vivid travel experiences. For me, tour leading is not hard work, but a real professional joy. I sometimes feel rather like the operators who provide the New Year’s Eve fireworks display on Sydney Harbour, in the sense that I carefully plan the sequence of spectacles, and then orchestrate them one by one until the whole makes up a dazzling display of French history.”

Upcoming tours led by Dr Michael Adcock

Is a former Professor at the University of New South Wales, where his work in urban history, specialising in Spain, has won international awards.

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Other areas of expertise include art, culture, and the environment.  He completed his PhD at the University of California at Berkeley focusing on Spanish urban history, politics, and urban planning. A Czech citizen whose first language was Czech and who speaks several other European languages, Michael has a wide-ranging knowledge of European history, art and architecture and taught and led projects in over a dozen European countries.

Upcoming tours led by Dr Michael Neuman

Has a University Medal and a PhD in History and lectures on European art. Nick is also a practicing painter and brings this passion to the visual arts.

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Dr Nick Gordon is a cultural historian and artist, with over 10 years of experience leading tours to Europe. He has strong interests in art, history, philosophy and architecture, from the ancient world to the present.

Nick holds a University Medal and PhD in history from the University of Sydney. He taught medieval and Renaissance history at the University of Sydney, the history of political thought at the University of Western Sydney, and architectural and Australian history elsewhere. He continues to teach at the Centre of Continuing Education, and gives occasional lectures on topics ranging from Classical Rome through to Australian and contemporary art. Nick has lead tours for Academy Travel since 2007, and designs study tours, residential tours and art-focussed tours, such as the Venice Biennale, Art Along the Rhine, Art Basel, and Amsterdam to Paris: Van Eyck to Van Gogh.

Nick is also an artist and his firsthand experience of art complements his academic expertise, through his knowledge of materials and the processes behind how an artwork is made, and his well-practiced eye for reading art.

We asked Nick, what do you enjoy most about tour leading?

“One of the things I enjoy most about touring is helping people understand more about what they’re seeing. This happens through a combination of background lectures exploring different contexts, cultural commentary on the road, and especially by being able to explain what is going on in an artwork with the artwork in front of us.”

“The aim of all of this is to help people see more for themselves, independently, both on tour and beyond. Some of the best moments for me on tour are when this happens, and you get to be part of something bigger as people start adding their own knowledge and experience to what we’re looking at. It makes each experience unique.” 

Is chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba and holds a PHD in Hispanic Studies.

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Dr Stephen Wilkinson is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Buckingham. Stephen first visited Cuba in 1986 and has been travelling to and writing about the island ever since. Now the Chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba, based in the UK, Stephen has a PhD on the subject of Cuban literature. He has written numerous articles on diverse questions such as the history of European and US – Cuba relations, Cuban attitudes and policy towards homosexuals, Cuban art and the nature of the Cuban state. Stephen’s book, Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture, was published in 2006 by Peter Lang.

A recent publication on the current economic and political situation in Cuba and its relationship with the United States may be downloaded for no cost here:

Among his other commitments, Stephen teaches at King’s College London, is Editor of the International Journal of Cuban Studies, is a contributor to IHS Sentinel Reports on Cuba and consults on a variety of media projects related to the island. He consulted on the film 638 Ways to Kill Castro in 2006:

Stephen is an experienced guide and tour leader to Cuba and frequently leads academic study groups and people-to-people exchanges to the island. In 2000 he led and designed numerous study tours for a number of US clients including the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institute. Between 2006 and 2011 he designed and led week-long study tours for MBA students at Cranfield School of Management in the UK. His other tour projects have included leading birdwatching and trekking tours. His wealth of contacts in Cuba adds greatly to the experience.

Upcoming tours led by Dr Stephen Wilkinson

Holds a PhD in history and has written extensively on classical music. Tom is currently PR and media manager (classics / jazz) for Universal Music Australia.

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He has written extensively on classical music, specifically Mozart. He has been a broadcaster on 5MBS Adelaide and 3MBS Fine Music in Melbourne, where he now works.

Gerald Deslandes is a former curator and cultural historian with a BA from Cambridge University, and has led more than 50 tours to Europe and the UK.

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His strong personal and professional interests in history, the visual arts, literature and music have led him to develop over 20 specialized tours related to each of these interests.

He holds a BA from Cambridge University and an MA from London University. He spent 20 years as the director and exhibitions director of five contemporary art galleries in the UK, during which time he organised early-career shows of work by artists such as Antony Gormley, Andy Goldsworthy, Cornelia Parker and Damien Hirst. He also exhibited work by artists from France, Germany, Latin America and the U.S.

In addition to his work as a curator, he has lectured at art colleges throughout the UK, and for Art Society groups in the UK, Australia and Spain. He is currently a tutor in the history of art and visual studies at the Open College of the Arts. Gerald speaks some French, Italian and Spanish.

We asked Gerald, what do you enjoy most about tour leading?

“I enjoy meeting people with an interest in the visual arts and introducing them to places that may be new to them. I like leading thematic tours that allow time for travellers to link what they see and experience to the history and culture of a location.”

“Most of all, I enjoy learning from clients, sharing their enthusiasm and adding some of my own.”

Upcoming tours led by Gerald Deslandes

Has a degree in South Asian History. She has a lifelong passion for travel and over 30 years experience as a tour leader on the sub-continent and in Asia.

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Judy Tenzing is a historian with a passion for all things South Asian – India, the Himalaya, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Her deep knowledge and love for the history, music, textiles and literature of these regions adds a rich dimension to the tours she leads.

Judy has a degree in South Asian History as well as post graduate qualifications in secondary teaching. She has taught at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Continuing Education – offering courses in the histories of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Myanmar, as well as courses on the religions and cultural traditions of these regions.

Judy’s main passions are India of the Raj as well as the Mughal period in India. This naturally leads to a deep interest in the histories of surrounding cultures and nations, notably Tibet, Myanmar and Bhutan – all of which are intricately entwined with that of India. In addition, Judy had taught World Religions at senior secondary level for over a decade and this enables an even deeper understanding of the great subcontinent, where faith and history are inseparable.

Judy led her first tour for Academy Travel in 2012 and has been a regular leader since then, accompanying groups to India, Myanmar, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Judy is also a regular presenter for Academy Travel at the Nicholson Lectures at the University of Sydney.

We asked Judy, what do tour members take away from travelling with you?

“I think the one element most people enjoy about the tours I lead is my passion for the places we visit. Nothing is more infectious and my groups seem to absorb this love for the people and places we encounter. I love travelling and I love teaching – what better way to share this than guide a tour for a company like Academy.”

Upcoming tours led by Judy Tenzing

A graduate of both the University of Sydney and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she taught musicology for 13 years.

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Lindy Montgomery is a music educator and performer with over twenty five years’ of experience in her field. She has been involved in a number of school tours throughout Europe and the United States and has led groups to Germany, Canada and the USA for Academy Travel. She has also toured widely throughout Australia, Europe and Asia as both a soloist and as a member of various choral groups.

Lindy holds a Bachelor of Music Education, majoring in piano from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as well as a Bachelor of Music (Hons), majoring in singing from the University of Sydney. She has taught all age groups, from primary music, through high school and including thirteen years in the Musicology Department of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, tutoring in Aural Perception, Solfège and Harmony. Lindy currently holds the position of Co-ordinator of Vocal Studies at Ascham School.

As a soprano, Lindy has made many solo appearances with the Sydney Chamber Choir, The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Pinchgut Opera, Cantillation and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. She is also a regular performer with smaller ensembles such as The Marais Project, Synergy Percussion and Halcyon.

Lindy’s first tour with Academy was to Germany, focusing on cities with particular significance to the history of western music – Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and Munich. She recently returned from Canada and the United States, where, among other musical delights, her group was treated to a private chamber concert in beautiful Quebec City, the mighty Boston Symphony and, naturally, The Metropolitan Opera. Future destinations include the sublime beauty of Prague, Budapest and Vienna.

For Lindy, the opportunity to lead an Academy Tour combines all her passions in one, immersive experience:

“I love to perform, whether it’s singing in front of an audience, or holding forth on an upcoming concert or opera. Preparing a lecture and sharing my love of the repertoire with an attentive group really enhances the concert-going experience for me as well. Knowing that I have illuminated the music and provided informative context for my group is deeply satisfying. A music tour with Academy Travel is exactly the kind of holiday I would choose for myself so there’s a lovely sense of community and connection from the very start.”

Upcoming tours led by Lindy Montgomery

Is a UK-based Egyptologist with a wealth of experience as an educator, researcher, archaeologist and museum curator. She has lead regular tours to Egypt since 1994.

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Lucia Gahlin is an Egyptologist based in the UK with over 20 years experience of leading tours to Egypt, and to collections of Egyptian antiquities in museums around the world. She has a strong personal interest in the art, archaeology, literature and architecture of ancient Egypt, and is the author of chapters and books, such as ‘Egypt: gods, myths and religion’.

Lucia holds a First Class Honours Degree in Egyptology/Ancient History from University College London. Her postgraduate research took her into university teaching, curatorial work in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London, and archaeological excavations in Egypt. She has taught Egyptology for the Continuing Education departments of a number of universities in the UK, and has taught undergraduates at University College London and the Universities of Warwick and Bristol. Lucia is an Honorary Research Associate at University College London’s Institute of Archaeology. She continues to teach occasional continuing education courses in Bristol, and lectures widely. In 2017 she will do her third month-long lecture tour in Australia for ADFAS.

Lucia continues to teach classes in the Petrie Museum, one of the world’s most important collections of Egyptian antiquities. As Chair of the Friends of the Petrie Museum she is deeply ensconced in museum life.  Lucia is also Co-Director of Bloomsbury Summer School, based at UCL, organising short courses and study days on Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East.

Lucia’s knowledge of Ancient Egyptian history and culture extends from the Predynastic Period through to the Roman Period. In Egypt she has lead tours visiting funerary, religious and settlement sites spanning several millennia of ancient history, from Alexandria in the north to Abu Simbel in the South. Her areas of special interest are Ancient Egypt’s social history, settlement archaeology and the rituals and beliefs of daily life.

Lucia led her first tour to Egypt in the mid 1990’s and has continued to lead countless popular tours to sites throughout Egypt. She has designed most of the tours she leads.

We asked Lucia, what motivates her to continue leading tours?

“As a freelance Egyptologist, I am lucky enough to lead a varied life as an educator, researcher, archaeologist and museum curator, but my greatest passion is discussing and sharing my knowledge of Ancient Egypt with interested and like-minded travellers, as we explore Egypt together.

Travellers often comment on my enthusiasm when I talk about Ancient Egypt. If I inspire others to delve more deeply into this extraordinary civilization, and perhaps re-visit this vivid and fascinating country, then I will continue to lead tours to the places I love.”

Upcoming tours led by Lucia Gahlin

Michael Turner is a garden and art historian. The former Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney (2005-2016).

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Michael Turner is a cultural and garden historian. He has a strong personal and academic interest in the art, history, literature, and mythology of the Classical past and how these have shaped the gardens and landscapes of Britain and Italy – from the Renaissance, to the Grand Tour, to the present day.

Michael holds a BA (1st class Honours with University Medal) from the University of Sydney. In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London.

In the early 1990s, following a high-profile career in women’s fashion in London, Michael returned to Australia to pursue his long-held passion for all things Classical. In 2004, he was appointed Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum, home to the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern hemisphere. On his arrival, the museum had less than 10,000 visitors a year; when he left in 2016, annual attendance figures were in excess of 100,000. Michael, now a regular on radio and television, curated over twenty exhibitions on everything from Sigmund Freud’s collection of antiquities, to the Grand Tour, to the hugely successful series of Lego creations: the Colosseum, the Acropolis and Pompeii.

Michael returned to England the better to pursue his interest in garden history. He now lectures in London for the Garden Historians, is researching the collection of Roman sculpture at Hever Castle in Kent, and working on his next book on the most delightful and largest of all English gardens, the humble hedgerow.

Michael lives in Sussex from where he is ideally based to design and develop new garden tours for Academy Travel. To date, these include ‘Gardens of a Passionate Mind: The Great Gardens of Southern England’ (2016 and 2018); From Yorkshire to the Lake District: The Gardens of the North (2017 and 2019); ‘The Great Gardens of Italy’ (2018); ‘The Gardens and Castles of Scotland (2018); and ‘From Bath to Land’s End: The Gardens of the South West’ (2019).

Upcoming tours led by Michael Turner

One of Australia’s leading literary figures, Peter is an award-winning poet, memoirist and novelist. Since 2001 he has been Editor of Australian Book Review.

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Peter Rose is the Editor and CEO of Australian Book Review. His books include a family memoir, Rose Boys (2001), which won the National Biography Award in 2003. He has published two novels and six poetry collections, most recently The Subject of Feeling (UWA Publishing, 2015).

Is one of Australia’s leading music tour leaders and music educators. He has designed and led more than 80 performance based tours to Europe and the US.

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Since 1987, Robert Gay has managed to combine his passion for music and his love of teaching with his enthusiasm for travel. He has visited the great opera houses and concert halls of Europe and America and heard most of the great singers and instrumentalists of the last half-century. Robert was President of the Sydney Schubert Society for eighteen years, and for several years was a guest lecturer for ADFAS.

After gaining a BA, Dip. Ed. from the University of Sydney, Robert trained as a lyric baritone in London and Munich before turning to the field of music education with a position at 2MBS-FM. He has taught music history courses at Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education since 1985. Robert’s musical expertise ranges wide, from baroque to modern. He particular enjoys placing works in their larger contexts – musical, biographical, social and historical.

In the early days, Robert always designed his tours to include a visit behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ – whether it was Berlin, Dresden, Prague or Budapest – thereby providing fascinating insights into a world which has now largely disappeared. His tours, which total nearly 90, have regularly featured the great musical cities of Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Russia, as well as Scandinavia and the United States of America.

“It has been an enormous privilege to have travelled the world for the last 30 years taking groups of music lovers to the great musical and cultural cities of Europe and America,” Robert says. “There is something magical about music – an art form which only truly lives as it is performed – which seems to bind people together so effortlessly and harmoniously.”

“I have always been a great believer in ‘the spirit of place’,” says Robert. “You can read and research and google all you like, but it cannot for a moment match the thrill of standing in the beautiful villa on the shores of Lake Lucerne where Wagner and his beloved Cosima first lived together; or of hearing a service in Bach’s unassuming St Thomas’s church in Leipzig; or seeing a performance in the old Paris Opéra, the auditorium ‘crowned’ by its superb Chagall ceiling celebrating both opera and ballet. Such experiences are treasurable and unforgettable!”

Holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Education. He is a director of Academy Travel and leads tours to Europe, Scandinavia, the US & Australia.

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Robert Veel is a cultural historian with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, the USA, Scandinavia and Turkey. He has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, architecture and music, and is a founding director of Academy Travel.

Robert holds a BA, Dip. Ed and M.Ed, all from the University of Sydney. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney before a long stint at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, lecturing in Italian history and culture and working as Assistant Director.  Robert continues to teach occasionally in Continuing Education courses.

Robert’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. In Italy he has led many tours focusing on the Medieval and Renaissance periods.  In the United States he likes to focus on the founding of the Republic and the Gilded Age of the early 20th century. In Scandinavia he is particularly interested in national identity and its role in Scandinavian literature, design and architecture. Robert speaks fluent Italian.

Robert led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and has not looked back! He has led more than 50 tours and designed many of Academy Travel’s most popular tours, including Sicily, New York, Rome and Venice residential tours, and our Scandinavia tours. More recently Robert led the first offering of Academy Travel’s tours to Tasmania and New Zealand.

We asked Robert, what do you enjoy most about leading tours?

“I really enjoy travelling with like-minded, interested travellers who are up for a bit of an intellectual adventure. It’s often the unexpected things that create the ‘shared joy’ of group travel”, says Robert “a wonderful, but little-known painting, a great performance or a fabulous meal. These are the things we travel for.”

“Over the years travellers have commented on my seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It’s true that I am curious about most things – people, places, history and artistic expression. There’s a kind of alchemy when this enthusiasm rubs off on others – hopefully with a bit of useful information as well!”

Upcoming tours led by Robert Veel

Has been a professional photographer for more than 30 years. He is well known through his regular classes and photography tours.

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Robin’s good sense of humour and approachable style has made him a popular teacher and tour leader.

Is a director of Academy Travel and has over 20 years' experience in travel, including leading groups through western Europe, Russia and the United States.

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Stuart Barrie is a social historian with strong interests in modern history, and in particular Europe and the USA in the twentieth century, and lately modern architecture, especially the residential architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. The development of his latest interests arose from the intersection of the Bauhaus Movement and the Prarie style of architecture developed by Wright.

Stuart has a BA from Macquarie University and a MComm from the University of NSW and has been leading tours for over 30 years. He started working for a leading coach tour operator in the mid 1980’s leading tours throughout the UK, Western Europe and into the then Soviet Republic and Eastern Europe. His passion for tour leading led him to be a founding director of Academy Travel and he has led over 20 tours for Academy.

A particular interest has been observing the radical changes that have occurred in group tourism over the past 30 years and the changing landscape of cities. His favourite city is Berlin, from his first visit entering East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie and being forced to exchange West German Marks into virtually worthless East German Marks, to visiting the vibrant city that Berlin is today with the ironic focal shift from the former “1960’s modern” West Berlin central area to the preserved, through neglect, historic Museum Island area.

His latest passion has been the modern architecture movement of the mid twentieth century in America, primarily of Frank Lloyd Wright, but also of Meis Van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Richard Neutra and Albert Frey. This has led Stuart to develop and lead several architecture themed tours throughout the USA following the “Frank Lloyd Wright Trail”.

Upcoming tours led by Stuart Barrie

Holds degrees in Near Eastern history and archaeology, South Asian studies and interpreting. Sue has led tours in India, Central Asia and the Middle East.

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Sue Rollin is an archaeologist, historian and linguist with 30 years’ experience in leading tours to Central Asia, India, the Middle East and countries around the Mediterranean. Her personal interests include art and architecture, comparative religion, gastronomy and walking.

Sue has a BA and MA from the University of London, a Diploma in Conference Interpreting from the University of Westminster and held a 2-year research scholarship at Heidelberg University.  She has worked as a tutor and lecturer in Ancient Near Eastern history at both Cambridge and London Universities and continues to lecture on a variety of topics for the Art Fund, Arts Society and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s adult learning programme.  In Australia Sue has done 3 lecture tours for ADFAS, with a fourth one in the pipeline for 2019.  She speaks French, German, Spanish and Italian (and a little Russian, Arabic and Turkish) and works regularly for international organisations such as the European Union, Council of Europe and United Nations.

Sue’s historical knowledge covers a long time frame, from the ancient world to modern times. She is particularly interested in cultural interaction as she and her group explore the rich legacy of ancient Greece and Rome, visit the splendid monuments of the Arab and Berber dynasties of North Africa, Andalusia and the Middle East, admire the glittering mosaics of Norman Sicily, delight in the superb architecture and decorative arts of the Ottoman empire and Central Asia and experience the colourful diversity of Mughal and Hindu India.

Since Sue led her first tour of Classical Turkey in 1987, she has designed and led over 60 cultural tours in 10 countries and 3 continents and travelled in many more.

We asked Sue, what motivates you as a tour leader?

“I enjoy meeting adventurous and open-minded travellers and renewing old acquaintances, sharing my knowledge as we visit interesting sites, travel through beautiful landscapes and chat and exchange ideas over a drink or a delicious meal.  It is a privilege to be able to introduce others to some of my favourite places,” says Sue, “and to share some unforgettable experiences.”

“My fellow travellers often comment on my energy and enthusiasm and I hope that when they return home they take back with them positive memories of the places we have visited and the people we have met.  Prepare to be surprised, feel inspired, learn something new, relax, have fun and make new friends – these are just a few of the benefits of our travels.”

Upcoming tours led by Sue Rollin

Holds a degree in art history, specialising in the architecture of Berlin, the art of 18th-century Germany and the Bauhaus. He has led many tours in Germany.

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Thomas has lived in Germany since 1988 and has led many cultural tours throughout Germany with leading UK and other organisations, specialising in the architecture of Berlin, the art of 18th-century Germany and the Bauhaus.

Upcoming tours led by Thomas Abbott


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