A Wilde Adventure Awaits

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday June 30, 2014

While many LGBT'ers are taking to the streets to revel in their rainbow pride at various celebrations across the country and around the world, there is a growing contingency of gay travelers who are equally as interested in our impact throughout history, literature and the arts. Enter Oscar Wilde Tours, a new company founded by Professor Andrew Lear, who plans to take a lucky group of Wilde enthusiasts on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Dublin, London and Paris. It is the first in a series of offerings that connect gay travelers with their own heritage.

Lear, who has been working as a tour designer and leader since 1976, says, "We're thrilled to provide gay travelers with the opportunity to learn about same-sex love throughout the ages, in different times and cultures. We've taken the concept of a typical cultural itinerary and given it our own twist: see the past from the gay perspective. Conventional tours tell us about our common heritage; Oscar Wilde tours will do the same, but also let gays and lesbians learn who we are and where we've come from."

The tour uses the life of Oscar Wilde as a way of examining the broader culture of homosexuality at the end of the 19th century, when the Victorian Era was giving way to the modern age and sexual attitudes were undergoing a revolution. It will take its guests on a journey through the capitals of Ireland, England and France to explore places of importance to gay history and illustrate the relationship between the cultural movements of the time and the birth of modern ideas of sexuality.

Scheduled for early October, the tour will initiate a set of offerings that will cover gay history throughout the ages: ancient Greece, imperial Rome, Renaissance Italy, Weimar Berlin and more. The company will ultimately boast a suite of tours that will cover gay history from ancient Athens to 20th-century America, and will even venture as far afield as Morocco and Japan to discover the history of same-sex love in other cultures.

"Until now, gays who wanted to discover their history had to do so through books. Finding the places where key things happened hasn’t been easy - and even if you could find them, you couldn’t always get in," continued Professor Lear. "Now we’re giving the gay community a chance to see the places where gay history took place. And we’re surrounding the experience with a high level of elegance and luxury."

While the final accommodations for the inaugural tour are still coming to fruition, the legendary Merrion Hotel has been confirmed for Dublin - reason alone to reserve your spot now. The five-star luxury hotel features elegant Georgian architecture and a staggering private collection of 19th and 20th century art.

Other tour highlights include a "gay" tour of Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, access to Wilde’s rooms at Oxford, and private guides throughout Paris - all meticulously curated by Lear, who brings decades of expertise to his company - both as a specialist in gay history and an experienced director of tours. By combining his skills as an educator and guide, he aims to provide a travel experience that is intellectually stimulating and culturally enriching.

"As a specialist in gay history I’ve long been able to view ancient Greek vases or Renaissance paintings and see the gay story right in front of me," says Lear. "But I realized that for so many gay people, that story is hidden. That’s when a light went off in my head. Gay history is so often "hiding in plain sight," and I wanted to bring it out in the open. I want to help gay people make that wonderful discovery."

In addition to differentiating itself with the thematic focus of its tours, the company will also distinguish its brand by offering special experiences that most other companies don’t match. On every tour, for example, it will bring in academics, authors and artists with a gay expertise to deliver lectures and talks that are related to the theme of the tour. Its aim is to deliver the ultimate goal in great tourism: experiences that are unique and truly memorable.

The inaugural tour, Wilde’s Dublin, London and Paris, is now on sale with travel dates from October 4 -13, 2014.

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Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.