Our Upcoming Tours & Retreats

Steinbeck's California
March 2-8, 2019
Monterey, CA
see the full itinerary

Jefferson in France
October 17-26, 2019
see the full itinerary

Canal du Midi
October 27 - November 2, 2019
see the full itinerary

Take a look at our upcoming tours, including Homeric Greece, Shakespeare’s England, Robert Oppenheimer’s Desert Southwest, and Rome & Italy. 

Please contact us with your questions or to make a reservation.
(701) 751-7060


John Steinbeck's California

Jackson Benson, in his preface to John Steinbeck, Writer, wrote:

This is the story of a man who was a writer. He cared about language, and he cared about people. He didn’t want to be famous or popular – he just wanted to write books. But he became both. From among the many serious writers of our time, he became for a great many people, here and throughout the world, the one writer who counted, the one who touched them. He made words sing, and he made people laugh and cry. He also made them think – about loneliness, self-deception, and injustice. And in all that he wrote, he testified to his belief that everything that lives is holy.


For almost 80 years now, John Steinbeck has remained among the most read and admired authors around the world, his works translated into more than 50 languages. Now you have the opportunity to join Clay in discussing and exploring some of Steinbeck’s greatest works in the very places that inspired them, the part of the world known as Steinbeck Country. You’ll spend a week on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, hiking along California’s rugged central coast and the dark and foreboding Santa Lucia mountains, exploring the stunning Monterey waterfront that stretches from Steinbeck’s famed Cannery Row to Fisherman’s Wharf and Monterey Harbor, and visiting the lush Salinas Valley, the “Salad Bowl of the World,” nestled into the foothills of Steinbeck’s beloved Gabilan range.


Clay has been portraying Steinbeck now for years, and your experience will begin with the chance to sit down with the reclusive author to discuss his life and work. You’ll also dine in Steinbeck’s boyhood home, and you’ll visit his beloved Point Lobos south of Carmel Bay. You’ll see Rocinante, the truck and camper that took Steinbeck and his poodle Charley around the country in 1960 in their effort to “rediscover America,” and you’ll climb to the top of Fremont’s Peak to stand on the very spot where Steinbeck saw his country for the final time. Other highlights include a visit to Ed Ricketts’ Lab on Cannery Row, one of the nation’s great literary landmarks, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the chance to explore the tide pools near Point Pinos Lighthouse where Steinbeck and Ricketts worked and played, discussing and developing their philosophy of the interconnectedness of life, the futility of man’s attempts to deny the dynamics of nature, and the way in which groups in the natural world have “purpose” that eludes the understanding of their individual members.

Clay believes that coming to terms with Steinbeck’s California landscapes requires a significant encounter with his prose, his powers of description, his imagination, his political and social concerns, and his capacity to create narrative. Each day Clay will lead daily discussions of some of Steinbeck’s finest works, and then we’ll venture out to explore Steinbeck’s world. In the evenings we’ll sit by a fire, sip the great wines of Monterey County, and watch central California’s amazing sunsets from the tip of the Monterey Peninsula. And throughout the week you’ll have first class accommodations, some amazing meals at outstanding restaurants, and lots of other encounters with Steinbeck’s world.


Jefferson in France

With an add-on tour for the Canal du Midi

Join Clay Jenkinson on a guided tour through Jefferson’s France. After exploring Jefferson’s Paris, we’ll visit Bordeaux, where Jefferson devised a wine classification system that was adopted by the region fifty years later. Enjoy tastings at vineyards with a family memory of Jefferson’s visit in 1787 and a visit to Montaigne’s castle, where the first great essays of modern history were written. Then to Nimes to see the Maison Quarree, what Jefferson called “the most precious morsel of antiguity,” the building that served as the model for the new state capitol in Richmond. We’ll visit Arles for time among Roman antiquities and make a brief stop at Aix-en-Provence, where Jefferson took the mineral waters to ease the pain in his wrist, damaged in a romantic escapade with Maria Cosway in Paris.


Add-on Tour

For those who wish it, spend five additional days afloat on the Canal du Midi (Canal Languedoc), where Jefferson in 1787 spent more than a week in his quest to learn the best technologies for canal development in America. Space for this canal trip is very limited!


Clay’s Notes

I have done this trip twice before, with my friend Michele Basta of the University of Nevada libraries. It’s a fabulous trip. We know a great deal about Jefferson’s time in France, and it’s possible to visit sites that were important to him. Don’t let your lack of French intimidate you. We’ll have good local interpreters to smooth our way. Jefferson said every man’s first country is of course his own, but every rational man’s second country must be France. If you are interested in the aesthetic side of Jefferson, this is your trip: music, architecture, painting, sculpture, gardens, and French salon culture. We’ll also talk about Jefferson and the French Revolution, which he (at first) thought of as the next logical step in the liberation of the world after the American Revolution. The Hotel de Salm in Paris became the template for Jefferson’s rebuild of Monticello (with the dome), and the Maison Quarree became the template for the capitol at Richmond. We’ll spend a good deal of time discussing Jefferson’s last love affair, with Maria Cosway, and visit places where their platonic romance unfolded.

I did the canal trip many years ago. It’s pure magic. It’s maybe the finest canal trip in Europe. You can walk along the tow path or ride a bicycle. The French essentially invented the farm to table movement. This is pure Enlightenment luxury.


Make a Reservation

We are currently taking reservations for Steinbeck in California and Jefferson in France. The Canal du Midi tour is sold out.

Please fill out the form below to notify us of your interest in any of the tours.

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Our cultural tours manager Cassie will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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Cassie Jeter

e-mail: tours@cstravelplanners.com
Telephone: (701) 751-7060

PO Box 3026
Bismarck, ND 58502

For Cassie, traveling is more than just ticking destinations off a list – it’s about learning to appreciate and love other places, people and cultures. Her company CS Travel Planners focusing on curated travel itineraries infused with culture and adventure. Favorite Travel Tip: Combine good organization and structure of the travel basics with plenty of time for spontaneity, as some of the best memories come from the unexpected.


Traveling single? We can match you with a roommate or ask us about our single room supplemental fee.

Please read our Terms & Conditions and Frequently Asked Questions. We recommend that you purchase travel insurance for your protection in the unexpected event you many need to cancel. Travel insurance can be provided by your local travel agency or by contacting our office.

Clay S. Jenkinson is onboard for the duration of all tours and retreats.


Homeric Greece

Our journey will take us to places important to the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. These include Athens, Delphi, the Mycenaean palace cultures of the Peloponnese; and several of the Greek islands, Crete and Chios, which is traditionally said to be the birthplace of Homer. We will then visit the coast of Asia Minor, including Ephesus and Troy. Greece is magnificent no matter what takes you there, but a journey through Homeric sites is particularly delightful. We will have extensive discussions of the Homeric epics (I prefer Lattimore on the Iliad and Fagles on the Odyssey), and also the pioneering work of Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890), who revolutionized our understanding of Homer because he, virtually alone in his time, believed that the epics are based on actual historical events. The journey will take about twelve days. Watch for pricing and more specific details soon.

Clay’s Notes: I’ve done versions of this trip twice before. In fact, in a previous visit to Troy I emulated Achilles in “running three times around Troy walls.” If I were wealthy I would spend a month per year in Greece, which is my favorite European country (excepting only Britain). At Oxford long ago I read Homer in the original Greek. We’ll discuss various translations of Homer, beginning with Chapman’s version in the Age of Shakespeare and culminating in the new postmodern slang translation by John Dolan. You should expect to be overwhelmed by the Acropolis museum in Athens and the National Museum where the “Mask of Agamemnon” is kept. We will consult the Oracle at Delphi. I don’t know that I have ever seen anything more purely impressive than the Cyclopean walls at Mycenae, traditionally the home of the Greek war leader Agamemnon. But for all of that, much of our time will be spent gazing at the wine-dark sea, eating Greek salads and fresh seafood, and exploring the foundation culture of secular western civilization.

Shakespeare’s England

Four days in London, with several plays at the reconstructed Globe Theater, three days in Stratford, with several plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company theaters. Of course there will be plenty of talk about Shakespeare, but we won’t fail to explore the larger theater of the English Renaissance, with emphasis on Clay’s favorite English poet John Donne, and also Christopher Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, and much more.

Clay’s Notes: I lived in Britain for four years, where I studied at Oxford and explored the British Isles as often as possible. During my time at Oxford I was able to see 34 of the 37 Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet nine times. Although I spend a great deal of time studying history, my actual fields are English literature and classical culture. My daughter Catherine recently completed a degree in early modern history at St. Andrews University. My favorite English authors include Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dr. Johnson, James Boswell, Dickens, John Donne, John Keats, and of course Milton.

Cuba with Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemmingway. A full week in Cuba before it gets destroyed by American-style development. We start at Key West visiting Hemingway’s house there, then fly to Havana, where our Cuban explorations begin. Part of the time we will tour Hemingway’s Cuba, and the rest of the time we will re-live the Spanish American War, including, of course, Theodore Roosevelt’s heroic assault of San Juan Hill in July 1898.

Clay’s Notes: I’ve never been to Cuba, but my friend Wayne Fairchild, the outfitter of my Lewis and Clark cultural tours, has been several times and he is most eager to take care of our hospitality needs there. Roosevelt is one of my principal historical interests. I so want to see Cuba before the Costco imperialists take over. And Hemingway? What could be better than that?

Robert Oppenheimer’s Desert Southwest

My favorite historical character is J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic Bomb. He’s truly a tragic figure, the one who built the bomb (flawlessly, on time, under budget, in time to affect the outcome of the war) but said, at the first test, “I am become Death, shatterer of worlds.” Los Alamos is endlessly interesting, but we will also visit Alamagordo, where on July 16, 1945, the first atomic device in human history was detonated. Much of our exploration will be Oppenheimer’s desert world (he said his two great loves were deserts and physics, pity they could not be combined!), but we will also talk about morality and technology, appropriate technology, and the world of weapons of mass destruction. This journey will require about six days.

Rome and Italy

Clay has been spending approximately six weeks per year in Rome teaching for a Catholic liberal arts university. This trip will require about 11 days: four in Rome (ancient Rome, Renaissance and Baroque Rome, Enlightenment Rome, Mussolini’s Rome), three in Florence and surrounding territory, two days in Naples (including, of course, Pompeii), and two more days in north central Italy where we will visit several of the Palladian villas in Vincenzo. Wine, pasta, architecture, history, music, and more. Clay will be joined by his Italian-speaking friend Thomas Schulzetenberg, who spent four full years in Rome for the University of Mary.

Clay’s Notes: I’ve fallen in love with Italy in the last few years. Jefferson only saw a bit of northern Italy, but he would have been so smitten with the Pantheon (in my view, the world’s most beautiful building) that he might never have returned to Virginia. I cannot get enough of Bernini’s sculpture or Caravaggio’s painting, but these are just a couple of my Rome passions. My intellectual passions include the classical world, the emergence of Christianity as a world culture, the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and more; and I have a strange special fascination with Mussolini, whose “footprint” in Rome is huge. We’ll read Vergil’s Aeneid together and some of the lives of Plutarch. Mostly we will just luxuriate in a world that never ceases to intrigue us.