Building the Perfect Ukulele Adventure in Cuba!

First, let me introduce you to Frank Leto, who will be our musical guide, facilitator, and the lead instructor for our upcoming trip to Cuba with Ukulele Adventures.  We were looking for a musician who would be able to bridge the gap between us and local, Cuban musicians and a teacher capable of giving us practical, musical instruction in both ukulele and percussion, specifically based on the music we will be seeing during our stay in Cuba. Initially I thought I would need to hire two people to fill this dual role, until Daniel Ward recommended Frank Leto

Frank is a professional educator and a professional musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion, Brazilian percussion, Trinidadian Steel Drums, and the ukulele!  His love for rhythms has taken him to Brazil, Puerto Rico and Cuba, where he has studied soneros with Carlos Embale, tres with Pancho Amat and batá with Carlos Aldama and Regino Jimenez at the Escuela Nacional de Arte.

The tres will be of particular interest to us. It is a 3-string Cuban guitar (it actually has 6 strings, but only 3 pitches—the strings are tuned in either octaves or unison) and is  the prime string instrument in son, an African-based musical style from Santiago de Cuba, (where members of the Buena Vista Social Club hail from!) Son music, which also features bongo, upright bass, and singers, adapts itself wonderfully to the ukulele.  So, there is no reason we won’t have our own son band by the end of our trip!

 

But that’s not all.  As most of you know, the grandfather of the ukulele is the cavaquinho, a 4-stringed instrument that was introduced to Hawai’i by Portuguese sailors. Well, those Portuguese sailors also took the cavanquino to Brazil, where it became prominent in Brazilian music, most notably the samba! And Brazilian samba is another one of Frank’s specialties! So,by the end of this trip we should all just be bursting with Latin and Caribbean rhythms.

We really couldn’t ask for more in a facilitator for our group, especially for those ready to improve their ukulele skills, expand their music knowledge base, and soak up the local culture. And, don’t forget, Frank Leto is also a professional music educator.  

Our local travel pros in Cuba are on the ground right now looking for just the right venues for us in Havana, Trinidad, and Matanzas.  We’ll be able to confirm exact dates once we can confirm availability. For right now we have narrowed down the window for this Ukulele Adventure to 10 – 12 days somewhere between October 8 and October 18. Sp please save those dates if you think you’d like to join us!

And what do we consider “just the right venue?”  A small hotel or inn in a lovely neighborhood where we can occupy all of the rooms and have a common meeting area for ukulele and percussion workshops AND be close to the local musical action!

If you are not already on our Ukulele Adventures Mailing List, you should sign up now.  The folks on the list are usually the first to hear when registration opens.

Stay tuned!

Uke-ing, Biking, & Sailing in the Netherlands! Act now!

Back by popular demand!  Another Ukulele, Bike, & Barge trip!  But this time we’re going to the Netherlands during the height of tulip season, April 13 – 21, 2019.  And instead of a barge, we’ll be aboard a 3-masted barquentine!  ((I had no idea what a “barquentine” was and had to look it up.  It’s a sailing vessel with 3 or more masts: a square-rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main and mizzen.)

As many of you know, our Montargis to Paris and Mantua to Venice trips sold out very quickly.  So don’t put this on the back-burner!  If you’re interested, you need to act quickly.

Here’s the scoop.

Our home away from home will be the sailing ship Leafde fan Fryslân, with  twelve well-appointed twin cabins (about 107 sq.ft. each). (Triples are also available if anyone wants to take a top bunk and one single cabin will be available for now.) Each cabin has an en-suite bathroom with shower, toilet and basin; ventilation and heating; portholes and a hatch that can be opened; a hairdryer and a mini safe. There is a restaurant/dining room on the lower deck of the ship. The wheelhouse and a cozy lounge, with large panoramic windows, is on the upper deck, along with a well-equipped bar and Wi-Fi.

The maximum number of passengers is 25, which includes our ukulele instructional staff. In addition there are 4 crewmembers.

While the ship itself has a great deal of appeal, the itinerary is equally compelling.  (And remember, you can stay with the ship if you prefer not to ride your bike, and there are electric bikes available.)  Plus it looks as though there will be ample opportunity for ukulele camaraderie, instruction, fun, and games.

Day 1, Saturday.  We’ll meet the boat in Amsterdam which leaves the harbor at 2.30 p.m and sails to Haarlem. After dinner, and introductions, we’ll take a guided walk through the beautiful city center of Haarlem, known as “Little Amsterdam.” An easy day with ample time to get a little ukulele instruction and fun under our belts.

Day 2, Sunday. We ride our bikes through the oldest tulip fields in Holland, and, among other things, visit Keukenhof Gardens. This is the most beautiful bulb park in the world and features an overwhelming blaze of colors: seven million flowering tulips (along with hyacinths, daffodils, and other flowering plants) in a magnificent 80-acre setting of traditional and modern gardening architecture. In the afternoon, we’ll cycle back to Haarlem to spend a restful night in our floating hotel, after a little more time with each other and our ukulele facilitator.

Day 3, Monday. In the morning, the ship will take us to the Zaanse Schans, a unique hamlet next to the river Zaan where people still live and work alongside original houses and windmills (including one built in 1673), used for grinding mustard seeds, spices, and paint components; extracting plant oil; and for sawing wood into planks.

Then we’ll hop on our bikes, again to ride through colorful tulip fields to Limmen and Egmond-Binnen, where we’ll visit the Hortus Bulborum, a unique garden museum dedicated to the preservation of rare and historic bulbs. From there we’ll ride to the historical city center of Alkmaar, a “Dutch cheese city,” with well-preserved 17th-century buildings and narrow, winding canals. This is where we’ll meet up with our ship, make a little music, and spend the night.

Day 4, Tuesday. Today’s bike ride will take us through even more beautiful tulip fields as we make our way to the North Sea and the most beautiful long sandy beach in the Netherlands and the nearby artist’s village of Bergen. From here we’ll  bike through the North-Holland Dune reserve to Den Helder, a hunk of land wedged between the North Sea and the Ijsselmeer, home to the world’s single biggest flowering bulb field. Then we sail  to the island of Texel, the largest of the Dutch Wadden Isles.

Day 5, Wednesday. Today we have choices: a shorter route or a longer tour around the island through delightful natural parks, picturesque villages and landscapes, a seal sanctuary, and, yes, through even more fields of blooming flowers! At the end of the cycling trip, we can enjoy a locally-brewed beer at a small brewery near Oudeschild. Then, while eating dinner aboard the ship, we will return to the mainland and sail to Medemblik, while enjoying a little ukulele camaraderie on board.

Day 6, Thursday.  In the morning, we will set sail to Enkhuizen and those who’d like to can lend a hand during navigation and hoisting the sails or you can just relax and play your ukulele while enjoying the scenery along the IJsselmeer. Around lunchtime, we stop in Enkhuizen, an old “herring” city with centuries of maritime tradition. From here we ride through West-Friesland, another area with riotously-blooming tulip fields to the former Dutch East India Company town of Hoorn, which was, in the 17th century,one of the world’s foremost harbors.

Day 7, Friday. On this last day of cycling, we’ll ride our bikes to Volendam, a small and picturesque fishing harbor on the shores of Lake Ijsselmeer, passing Edam along the way, known for its famous Edam cheese, covered in red or yellow wax. While this lovely village is renowned for cheese, it was once an industrious shipyard and port. In the 17th century sailors would take wheels of Edam, which didn’t spoil easily and could be traded for spices and other riches of the East,  on their voyages, making itone of the most popular cheeses in the world. Our ship will be waiting In Volendam to take us back to Amsterdam, where we’ll spend our last night on board before disembarking on Saturday morning.

The total cost for those registering now and sharing a double room is $1798 per person.  (If you don’t already have a roommate, we can try to find one for you, but it would really be better to know who you will be sharing a cabin with.) There are a few triple rooms available (someone will have to agree to a top bunk) but you must have an entire threesome together before registering for this option. The cost for a triple is $1598/person.  And, for right now, we can make one single cabin available, first come first served, for $2,339.

The price includes:

  • At least one top notch, world renowned, ukulele instructor/performer/facilitator to enhance our musical experience.
  • 7 nights aboard the Leafde fan Fryslân with 7 3-course dinners, breakfast each morning, and a packed lunch.
  • Linens, towels, and daily cleaning of the cabin
  • Bike & Helmet use (electric bikes will cost extra)
  • Guided cycling and walking tours as well as time to explore on our own
  • Use of a waterproof pannier bag and Wi-Fi aboard the ship
  • A boat full of other ukulele players to enjoy the journey with (and no disdainful stares)
The price does not include
  • Travel and transfers to and from the docking place
  • Gratuities (at your discretion)
  • Entrance fees and excursions
  • Fees for ferries
  • extra charge for electric bike

If you are serious about joining us, you need to let me know via return email and mail me a non-refundable deposit in the amount of $100/person. I will not cash your check until the trip is confirmed, probably by the end of the month. Nor will I cash your check until your place on the trip is confirmed. (I’ll let you know, first, in any case.) The trip will be confirmed once a minimum number of people have sent in a deposit and I feel confident that we’ll have enough folks to fill every cabin on the boat.

Once the trip is confirmed, you will be asked to send in an additional payment amounting to 50% of the total (less the $100 deposit.)  The final payment will be due about two months prior to departure.

You can make your check out to me, Elaine de Man, and mail it to:

Elaine de Man
1113 Chiles Avenue
St. Helena, CA  94574
USA

Our other Ukein,’ Bike, & Barge trips, to Paris and Venice, sold out very quickly andwhile I wanted to give the opportunity to register first, I will be posting this on the website in a week or so. So, if you’re seriously interested and don’t want to be relegated to a waiting list, please don’t wait!

And thank you.  Thank you for your adventurous spirit. Thank you for your love of music.  And thank you for letting me do the work that I love. Together we’re going to make some wonderful memories.

Elaine

You Can Help Plan Your Next Ukulele Adventure!

2019 is Right Around the Corner!

And it’s not too early to start making plans for you and your ‘ukulele!  (Or you and your harmonica!  Or you and your bongo!  Or you and your spoons!  Or you and your significant other!)

So, please take a moment to help us help you by filling out our little survey.  Not only will it help us plan for the adventures YOU want to have, it will make sure you are among the first to know when we open registration for our most popular events.

Brand New for 2019!

How does 8 to 10 days in Cuba with experts in Cuban Rhythms and Ukulele sound?

While we are still working out all the details, here is what we have in mind: a musical journey exploring the unique cultural rhythms of Cuba with renowned musicians who specialize in ukulele instruction and percussion. This will not only contribute to our growth as musicians, but will help open doors to the local music scene. So, rather than see as much of Cuba as we can in as little time as possible, we will hunker down in a couple of cities and villages known for their musical heritage so that we experience Cuba and what it has to offer through interactions with local musicians and the music scene Cuba is famous for. We might even hop into a local recording studio and create a few lasting mementos!

We’re looking at January, February, or March of 2019 for this one, but much will depend on the amount of interest we can generate and availability.  If we can’t do it in the first few months of 2019, we’ll certainly be looking toward the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020.

So please let us know what you think and if you’d like to join us.  And remember, by responding to the survey, you’ll be first to know when we open registration for a very small group of people.

Still not convinced?  Perhaps Desi can help you decide!

But That’s Not All!

How about an 8-day Sailing, Biking, Ukulele-ing Trip to the Netherlands During Tulip Season?

This will be very similar to the other Uke, Bike, & Barge trips we offer (a small group experience with an internationally acclaimed ukulele instructor on board), except that we will be aboard a newly retrofitted three-masted barquentine!  (I get excited just writing about this trip!) It includes overnight stays in historic cities such as Haarlem and Alkmaar and daily bike rides that will take us through beautiful fields of blooming tulips, alongside working windmills and North Sea beaches, through small, dreamlike farm villages and “cheese towns,” and picturesque harbor towns.

On the sixth day of the 8-day trip we’ll sail along the IJsselmeer to Enkuizen, an old city with centuries of maritime tradition. Then we’ll hop back on our bikes and ride to the Dutch East India Company town of Hoorn where we’ll meet our ship, again. The next day we ride through Edam (home of, yes, the cheese) on our way to Volandam, before sailing back to Amsterdam.  I’ve been to the Netherlands a number of times (my dad and my sister were born there)….but never like this. I have to say, this one really sounds great!

But what will make this trip extra special, are the evenings we’ll spend on board playing our ukuleles with each other and with guidance and instruction from one of  Europe’s top player/instructors.

The ship only has 12 cabins, so space will be limited. And while I don’t have exact costs yet, it will be in the neighborhood of $1,800 – $2,000 dollars which includes all meals and lodging aboard the ship, plus group ukulele instruction.

If you missed out on either the Paris or Venice Ukein’, Bike and Barge Adventures, this could be the only other opportunity you’ll have to join us on board in 2019. So please, respond to the survey so you can be among the first to know when we open registration for this one.

And don’t forget!

You can still join us in 2018 at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat in Hawi, Oct. 14 – 20 or the New Uke-Culinary Fiesta in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Nov. 7 – 11. Registration is open for both of these events and spaces are filling quickly.

Please visit Ukulele Adventures (and subscribe if you haven’t already) to find out more.

That’s it for now!  Looking forward to seeing you and your ‘ukulele soon!

Three Down and Three to Go!

The first half of Ukulele Adventures 2018 has been nothing short of stellar.

Our first Kernville ‘Ukulele Blues and Harp Fest was a resounding success and reinforced the value of small-group retreats.  Plus, Catfish Jack!  What a great addition to our ‘ukulele family.  You’ll be seeing more of him, for sure. We already have dates for the 2019 Kernville event (March 7 – 10, 2019), so mark your calendar now! We’re committed to keeping it small and we expect to sell out, again.

And…then there was the “Love-in” at the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat at Asilomar  in May.  Wow! Just Wow!  Sonny Bono rose from the dead to do a tune with Cher. Grace Slick dazzled us with “White Rabbit.” And the ghost of Janis Joplin was lurking in the sidelines.  Plus, it was fun to see some of our favorite instructors sporting full heads of hair…..long, beautiful hair. According to Jim D’Ville (and he’s only missed one or two of them), this was the best one yet.

And how can you not love summer camp? Especially if there’s an ‘ukulele involved? Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay gave us all a chance to explore our inner muse and child craft on the shores of beautiful Lake Berryessa. Next year’s dates are all set up, so please mark your calendars: June 19 – 24, 2019.  Again, it’s about keeping it small, personal, and manageable.

Next stop: Paris and the Ukein’ Bike & Barge Trip with Phil Doleman. We are all sold out except we do have a shared cabin available . . . . . with a man you are sure to like.  So, if you’re interested, please let me know ASAP.  This is going to be so much fun….I have wiped all the dust and grime off my bike, put air in the tires, and I take it for a little spin each day to make sure I’ll be ready. And Phil and I have been conferring on the ‘ukulele portion…..full of surprises…..it’s going to be great.  If you didn’t get signed up for this (or the 2019 Italy Ukein’ Bike & Barge Trip) in time, I am sorry.  But stay tuned (by making sure you havesubscribed to the website), I will be adding another.

We still have room for a few more at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat in Hawi and have just added Fred and Lynn Sokolow to an already stellar line-up that includes Brad Bordessa, Kaliko Beamer Trapp, Robyn Kneubuhl, Kona Bob, and Lehua Ahsam. There will be a healthy mix of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music, along with a whole lot of Tin Pan Alley, Blues, and Swing, and all the assorted skill sets necessary to play them well.  Robyn will also be teaching hula, Fred will be adding some slide ‘ukulele instruction, and Lynn will be offering some classes for bass players. In addition, attendees will have some unique opportunities to practice and perform with professional musicians. Registration for the Hawai’i Retreat is still open, but if you’d like to check to make sure there is a room available at the Kohala Village Inn first, you can visit their website. The last time I checked, they still had the following available: rooms with a single queen or two queens, or the Ohana suites (two rooms with a shared bathroom, suitable for 2, 3 or 4 people.)

And last, but in no way least, you should think about joining those merry ‘ukulele pranksters and practitioners, Daniel Ward, Heidi Swedberg, and Craig McClelland for our second installment of the New Uke-Culinary Fiesta in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, November 7 – 11. . . . .a chance to hone your ukulele chops while chopping onions for some delicious southwestern-inspired cuisine.  If you’re not sure what this might look like, you should check out the schedule.  We  still have room, but enrollment is limited to the capacity of El Paradero, our lovely ukulele home in Santa Fe.  You can register here.

That’s it for now! Hope you can join us on one our remaining Ukulele Adventures in 2018.  If not, perhaps we’ll see you in 2019!  We’ve got lots more ukulele fun in store for you in 2019!

Just One Room Left!

That’s right!  There is just one room left at Kernville’s iconic Pine Cone Inn for the 2018 Ukulele Blues & Harmonica Fest.  And while there are one or two other places to stay in Kernville if you miss out on this one, the Pine Cone is where it’s at!

Plus, it’s unlikely you’ll find another opportunity anywhere to get your blues on with your ‘ukulele and/or harmonica under the tutelage of two finer instructors and musicians than Kevin Carroll and Catfish Jack. And, you’ll have a chance to hone your skills on either or both instruments, regardless of your level of skill with either one.

So, please, Register now, and don’t miss your chance to be part of the inaugural Ukulele Blues & Harmonica Fest and what promises to be another stellar Ukulele Adventure.

There’s a Little Backwater Blues for Everyone!

No matter what your skill level (or instrument of choice), we’ll have you covered at the Kernville ‘Ukulele and Harp Fest, March 1 – 4, 2018, where everyone will have a chance to learn new skills on the ‘ukulele, bass, or harmonica.  And don’t worry that you may not be not up to the task;  Kevin Carroll’s original ‘ukulele arrangements have a little something for everyone, from beginners to pros.

And if you are ready to stretch (or just need a little fine tuning) you can take a couple of workshops with Catfish Jack and hone your harmonica skills on the same tunes.  At the very least, you’ll leave Kernville as a “double threat.” (And don’t forget, we’ll be looking for a few vocalists, as well.)

Then we’ll put it all together in small groups and/or big ensembles and work ’em ’til we have ’em down.

Registration ($439) closes February 15, 2018 and enrollment is limited. So don’t wait a minute more.

Register now!

“Those backwater blues done calling you to pack up your things and go.”

Still not convinced?  Here’s a little Bessie Smith.  Maybe she’ll help get you in the mood.

Let’s do it again!

We had so much fun at the first New Uke-Culinary Fiesta when we did it two years ago, we’re thinking of bringing it back in 2018!  

Here’s the teaser for the first one.  (The next one will be just as good…..if not better!)

saint-francis-cathedralIt’s a winning combination: ukuleles, food, photography, and overall merriment!  Add to that a stunning location, and it really can’t get much better!  So we’ve decided to take the Uke-Culinary Fiesta on the road and our next first stop is beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, in November, when the crowds have dissipated, the winter chill still has not yet settled in, and the sky and surrounding countryside may still be  awash with color.

mainhouselivroom_003And we have found the perfect place to host us, the Don Gaspar Inn, intimate, somewhat secluded, and yet within walking distance of the world famous Plaza and Canyon Road. It’s a perfect venue, where even those travelling alone will soon make long-lasting friends and everyone who attends will be connected by the simple bond of wanting to learn and make music (and fabulous meals) together.

10653609_10203445335831002_8538508260021329759_nAnd the staff!  Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward are an ukulele match made in heaven. Talent, experience, diligence, generosity, creativity, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. And they cover all the bases–fabulous teachers with years and years of experience in a broad range of skills and genres. In a field full of rising “stars,” these two really shine!  They love to cook and are every bit as much fun in the kitchen as in the classroom.  And, Craig McClelland has just joined the staff, as well, and is bringing a pocket full of fun and informative workshops, including, “Uke Can Be As Cool As Craig.”  Rounding out Smoking Jackets quartet for our evening at Tiny’s,  is John Bartlitt. I can’t tell you how much fun he is……you’ll just have to come see for yourself.

We’ll also spend an evening with Rolling Stone Magazine’s first chief photographer, Baron Wolman.  Boy, does he ever have some great stories to tell.  Jimi Hendrix. Frank Zappa. Janice Joplin. And yes, Tiny Tim! Baron took pictures of them all!

And how are you going to get there?  Fly into Albuquerque on Day 1 and join Heidi and Daniel on the Rail Runner Express for a beautiful and musical ride through the stunning countryside of southern New Mexico.  We’ll pick you up at the train station in Santa Fe and a traditional Chimayo cocktail will be waiting for you at the Don Gaspar Inn.

10400802_10203255627168404_4420817113877618347_nUkulele workshops will be available for those on beginning, intermediate, and advanced tracks. Those wanting to cook will learn all about Southwestern cuisine, barbecuing techniques, and a few tricks from behind the bar. In addition to cooking workshops, for those who don’t play the ukulele, there will be plenty of opportunities to explore beautiful Santa Fe and its environs.

If you haven’t done so, already, be sure to Follow the Blog or Subscribe to the website so we can be sure to keep you posted!