Sterling Silver Tours: A Ticket to High Tea and a Day at the Races
By Elle Rahilly
London has long been a tourist magnet, with its storied history and royal top attractions. Most visitors to London have seen the monuments, Big Ben, Tower of London, etcetera, while listening to tour guides share their history. But few have scraped below the contemporary surface to peer into the historical and cultural roots that have laid the foundation for British society.
Sterling Silver Tours strives to provide just that: a unique learning experience for travelers. Founded by a group of journalists and teachers who share a thirst for knowledge and travel, the Seattle-based travel company provides an innovative approach to exploring London by combining a television program wildly popular in the US with tours of London’s greatest attractions.
Inspired by the PBS Masterpiece hit program “Downton Abbey”, lead creator Suzzanne Lacey believes that history is best understood not by text or visuals, but rather by dressing in costume and taking on the personas of bygone eras. Building on the popularity of the award-winning television series, Tracey ups the ante by “establishing a market for people who want an experiential trip that goes deeper than the surface obsession with Downtown Abbey.”
Launching in May of 2013, the seven-day trip to London allows participants to get a hands-on feel for the late 1912 society depicted through the show. Among many excursions, the tour features a crash course at one of Britain’s finest butler academies, a private tour of the costume shop used in creating the show’s fashions, and a trip to Highclere Castle, the setting of “Downton Abbey.”
Participants are even allowed a behind-the-scenes peek of what goes on in Downtown Abbey with Jessica Fellowes, author of “The World of Downton Abbey” and niece of the show’s creator, Julian Fellowes.
Feeling the Drama
Tracey explains, “It is interesting how people become connected to the costumes, history and manners [of Downton Abbey]. There’s something within all these three aspects that enables the travelers to really feel the drama of the experience.”
Tracey firmly believes Sterling Silver Tours Company has the whole experience covered in a week’s worth of travel for people who love the show, with a promise that participants “are made to feel like royalty on this first-class experience.”
For those with a tendency to indulge, brace yourselves for a tasting of the finest whiskey mentioned in the show, a day at the races of Royal Ascot Race Park, a swinging “Roaring twenties”-themed soirée, and of course high tea for two at the five-star Mayfair Hotel.
There’s more to be gained through the Downtown Abbey Tour than living in the lap of luxury. The company hired London-based masters of etiquette to teach tour members the proper manners of lords and ladies in twentieth century British society, even awarding each participant a certificate upon completion.
And what better way for tour members to put the high-class mannerisms into practice than attending afternoon high tea, dressed to the nines? This is the type of learning experience travelers can tuck in their back pocket and take anywhere across the globe.
All of the Downtown Abbey tour takes place in central London. While Sterling Silver Tours is intent on offering plenty of fine dining, performances and mingling, the company avoids strenuous treks for the comfort of all tour members. After all, Lady Sybil would perish at the thought of breaking a sweat. Why should travelers experience anything less on this five-star experience?
While experiencing the elite lifestyle in London for an entire week may seem pricey, the educational tour company has found a high-end/low-price way for members to travel like aristocrats. The group makes sure guests enjoy their accommodations in London with five-star lodging at the Hilton, substantial discounts at costume shops, luxury dining establishments and high-end department stores like the legendary Harrod’s.
Sterling Silver Tours worked hard to price the tour reasonably for travelers, and it’s the first tour of its kind. The creators looked to see what other people are doing in this realm, and are proud to find they are competitive in providing “a luxury experience for an affordable price.”
Hands On Approach
The Downtown Abbey Tour package includes hotel accommodations and breakfasts, daily tours, a gourmet dinner, etiquette courses and two afternoon tea parties, and an evening of heavy hors d’oeuvres and champagne. By rebuilding the past, the tour group provides a hands-on approach to learning that is both entertaining and enlightening.
Still intent to live in the lap of luxury both to and from London? Major airlines like British Airways drop flight prices to London three or four times a year, so catch the deals using fare alerts and other web tricks.
Registration for the tour is open to the general traveling public starting January 6, 2013, the same day as the new season of “Downton Abbey” debuts in the United States. $2695 per person, double occupancy, with a $150 discount before January 31, 2013.
For more information visit the Sterling Silver Tours website, where you can view the tour itinerary and register online.
Elle Rahilly is an editorial assistant for GoNOMAD and a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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