By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 23 2015 02:00PM
If you are a Janeite with no 2016 Christmas plans – and a whole wad of cash left over from this year’s gift shopping – the New York Times has a trip for you.
Its suite of fabulous, and fabulously expensive, vacations – they call them “journeys,” natch – which take well-heeled Times readers everywhere from the Panama Canal to the Great Pyramids of Egypt, now includes a week-long tour to Austen sites in England. The trip, “A Jane Austen Christmas,” runs from December 23-29 of next year.
For a mere $7,000 -- not including airfare! -- participants will visit Steventon, Chawton, Winchester and Bath; lunch at The Vyne, in Hampshire, where Austen attended neighborhood balls hosted by her family’s friends the Chutes; and visit Lacock, the picturesque olde tyme village where a host of British costume dramas have been filmed. The itinerary also includes a Christmas-themed musical performance and “a Christmas Day luncheon, complete with Christmas crackers.”
Now, far be it from me to slag off any money-making venture the New York Times uses to subsidize its still-the-best-in-the-world news operation. But: really? A thousand dollars a day for a UK trip that includes both Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when – let’s be honest – the entire country will be completely closed down, sealed off and settled in front of its collective TV set with a giant box of Quality Street chocolates? And all this for Christmas crackers, which you can buy at Target for $8?
The annual summer tour run by the Jane Austen Society of North America (the 2015 one is described here) is a far better value -- more sites, less money. And you won’t catch JASNA committing a howler like the Times’ promise that its Janeite tourists will “visit the rectory where [Austen] spent most of her first 25 years.” That would certainly be quite a draw -- except that the rectory was razed in the nineteenth century. All that remains is an empty field.