Space Available on our Uke, Bike, & Barge Trips

We’ve had a couple of cancellations on our Ukein’, Barge, & Barge trip in Italy, September 14 – 21, 2019 which has freed up a couple of cabins.  And, we are taking deposits for two trips in 2020:  France: Provence to Carmague and Germany: Koblenz to Merzig.

I can’t imagine a better way to enter the canals of Venice than aboard our own floating motel with a small cadre of ukulele-playing companions after a week of glorious exercise in the beautiful country-side.

Blending nature, culture and fine cuisine, this leisurely bike and barge tour along the River Po, with celebrated cities of art, one of Europe’s prime Nature Reserves, and a wealth of tucked-away rural hamlets.  After every day of cycling (or not!) we will be rewarded with authentic regional dishes back on board the Ave Maria, and some quality ukulele time with our esteemed instructor, Dave Egan, and each other!

The tour starts in Mantua – in its heyday a major city state crowned by the Italian Renaissance – then progresses to Ferrara and culminates in Venice. Along the way we’ll visit: Adria, once a key Roman port; the natural wonders of the Po Delta, famed for its bird life; and colorful Chioggia, gateway to the Venetian lagoon. Check out the detailed itinerary.

Recent cancellations have freed up one single cabin (which could be converted to a double with a bunk) and a double cabin. The total cost will not be more than for the single will not be more than $3,300 for a single and $2,500/person for a double.  We’ll be able to pinpoint the exact cost as we get closer to the trip. The price includes overnights on the barge, three meals a day, an English-speaking bicycle guide, bikes, helmets, guided tours of Mantua and Venice, a visit to a cheese factory with tasting, a tour of the Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum, a boat excursion in the Nature Reserve of Mincio Park, daily ‘ukulele instruction, play-a-longs, new friends, and tons of camaraderie.

Incidentally, you don’t have to ride your bike everyday.  On our last trip to France 4 people opted out of bike riding altogether and had a fabulous time onboard the barge as it cruised between moorings.

Please contact us if you are interested.  $500 secures your place until the next deposit is due in a few months. ($560 if you want the single cabin.)

If Italy doesn’t float your boat, or if you need a little more time you might want to consider the two trips we have on the books for 2020:

France: Provence to Carmargue, June 20 – 27, 2020.

From Papal Palaces to Pink Flamingos and a little Van Gogh in between, this spectacular journey from Avignon to Aigues Mortes will take us through some of the most beautiful parts of France.  And we’ve timed it so that you’ll have an opportunity to visit massive fields of blooming lavender, as well as the fields of sunflowers right along our route.  Days of scenic cycling will be followed by afternoons and evenings of ukulele instruction and fun with a professional and world renowned ‘ukulele “facilitator.”

Germany: Koblenz to Merzig. September 19 – 26, 2020.

Germany!  With so many exciting rivers and routes to choose from, it was difficult settling on one.  But one we did: a fabulous (and easy) ride through the majestic wine country of the Moselle and Saar River Valleys, from one picturesque village to the other, with unsurpassed views of fairy tale castles high on the surrounding hills, timbered houses dating back to medieval times, stone-clad fortresses, vineyards perched on impossibly steep slopes (which we don’t have to ride on!), picture-perfect wineries, and more. And, of course, our very own ukulele facilitator and lots of time for ukulele instruction and merriment.

We are currently accepting deposits of $100US/person for the 2020 trips which will secure your spot on the trip until everything is finalized. Should we not be able to run the trip as advertised, your deposit will be refunded.  But, once we have confirmed the trip (which should be by the end of March, 2019), the $100 is not refundable and another partial payment toward the trip will be due to maintain your place. Please contact me first, however, to make sure we still have space available and for directions on mailing the check.

I hope you decide to join us! We had a ball on our first trip to France.  But, you should know these trips sell out very quickly so you should act now to make sure you have a spot.

We’re on our way to Cuba!

Wow!  There is a lot of interest in this trip even though the details, including exact dates and cost, have yet to be worked out.   And this may be why!

A number of people have already sent in the $100US/person deposit (in the form of a check) to make sure they have a spot on the trip to Cuba in December, and since we will be limiting attendance to 14 people, I have a feeling that we will fill it very quickly.  If we do fill the December trip and I feel confident we have enough interest to support a second trip in January, we will offer one and those people who have sent in their deposits will have the option of choosing which trip they want to go on with priority based on the order in which their deposits were received.

As a general rule, I hold on to the initial $100 deposits until I know for sure the trip is a go and have details to share regarding the exact dates and price.  I hope to have that information within a month. If for some reason, we can’t pull the trip together, I simply tear up the deposits and you are off the hook.  Otherwise the deposits are non-refundable and you will be asked to make a second payment.

So, if you want to make sure you have a place on our ‘ukulele trip to Cuba, please respond by return email as soon as possible and I will let you know how to go from there.

This is what the trip is looking like so far.  Please note that flexibility is going to be key in enjoying this trip because I understand from the folks who know, that things are somewhat spontaneous in Cuba. (I love it all already!)

Day 1 Group flight from Fort Lauderdale to Havana, arriving in Havana in the late  afternoon, in time for a welcome party and get acquainted string and sing along….and perhaps a little late night jazz club hopping.

Days 2 – 3 Will be spent in Havana with plenty of time to make music together, learn some new rhythms and techniques, take a ride in a vintage car, indulge in a walking tour of the four main plazas of Old Havana, visit the Jazz Club la Zorra y el Cuervo, the historic Hotel Capri, the National Museum of Music, the National Museum of Fine Arts, Callejón de Hamel, Jaimanitas, and Havana Compass Dance, and more. (Phew!) What we miss in the first few days, we can pick up at the end of the trip.

Day 4 We will make our way to Trinidad via the Zapata Peninsula with stops at Pálpite and the Corimacao Artistic Group, where we can share our music and instruments with local musicians. We’ll also visit the Bay of Pigs and the two beaches that served as the landing points for the 1961 invasion.  We’ll also visit beautiful Cienfuegos before arriving in Trinidad, a charming UNESCO World Heritage site and Cuba’s foremost colonial town.

Days 5 and 6 Will be spent exploring Trinidad with visits to the Plaza Mayor, the Museo Palacio Cantero, and the local artisan street market. We will also be able to visit some local artists and musicians gather with the locals at the Casa de Musica at sunset for a cocktail and some authentic salsa. While in Trinidad we might also visit Playa Ancon Beach and go snorkeling and/or hike to the waterfall at Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes.  So much to do here….we might add an extra day.

Day 7 and 8 We travel to Matanzas, a vibrant cultural hub that hosts one of Cuba’s finest theaters and is the birthplace of some of its most eloquent poets and writers. During our stay we will visit Ediciones Vigia, a very unique and creative book publishing house and partake in the local music scene that gave the world a number of Afro-Cuban musical traditions, including the rumba and an assemblage of instruments including conga drums, claves, palitos (sticks), marugas (iron shakers), and cajones (packing cases) and vocals alternating between the lead singer and an answering coro (chorus). Here too, we will have an opportunity to visit a number of local musicians and share a little ukulele joy.

Days 9 and 10 We return to Havana with a stop along the way at La Terraza de Cojimar, a favorite watering hole of Ernest Hemingway with a fabulous view of Cojímar Bay, where Hemingway would go fishing and from where he met the fisherman who was the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea. We’ll have more time to visit the sites and make music together, finishing off out journey with one last social and music-filled night together.

Day 11 We head back to the USA.

Remember, space is very limited.  If you want to make sure you get a spot, please respond by return email as soon as possible.

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 in December of 2019.

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!

Update on the Ukein’, Barge, & Bike trip to Italy 2019

Our new Ukein’, Barge, & Bike Adventures in Europe are proving to be very popular.  The trip from Montargis to Paris in September of this year filled right away and we have already filled the barge we were planning to take from Mantua to Venice in September of 2019.  So we are moving that trip onto the larger, “comfort plus” barge,  Ave Maria.

This not only allows us to take a few more people on the 2019 trip, but it opens up some additional options for folks who would prefer single or triple cabins.

The Ave Maria started its life as a sand digger sailing along the Po River in the 1970s. It has since been redesigned by a renowned Italian architectural firm and was rebuilt as a floating hotel  to “meet the most challenging clients’ requests.”

It has a restaurant and a lounge, two sundecks, dedicated bike parking, and 17 air-conditioned cabins with a variety of configurations, including more opportunities for single, triple, and even quad cabins, each with a large window and “en-suite” facilities. And, it will be ours…..all ours!

And while the Ave Maria moves from port to port during the day, we will be exploring the beautiful Italian countryside by bike.  (Electric bikes are available for those who are concerned their biking skills may not be up to par. And….you can always opt to stay on the barge.) There will be at least one world class ukulele instructor on board (and, possibly, a special ‘ukulele guest from Italy) in addition to the bike guide, chef, captain, crew, you, and nothing but ‘ukulele aficionados and their significant others!

Please visit the website to learn more about this unique ukulele opportunity and find out how you can get involved. And remember, these trips fill quickly. So even though 2019 might seem like a long way off, you should secure your spot now to make sure you and your ukulele are not left behind!

 

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!

Day 4 – Another Tequila Sunrise

Sunrise is going to offer some amazing views at Lake Chapala and its environs for the photographers willing to hit the road with Jordan at 6:30 am and still be back in time for breakfast at Casa del Sol.  But today’s Palabra del Dia will be with reporter Judy King, who has lived at Lake Chapala for 25 years and will give us the inside scoop on life as a Gringo in Mexico.

lady-organic-marketThen we’re heading out with our local chef, Oscar, for a quick visit the organic farmers’ market to learn about some of the fresh produce that may be new to us, to shop for the midday meal, and sample some of the other wares. (You might also want to pick up a few snacks and drinks for yourself!  It all looks so fresh and delicious.) Then it’s back to Casa del Sol for a couple more workshops with Heidi, Daniel and Oscar before we eat!

This time Oscar will be working with the more beginning ukulele students, while Heidi, and Daniel take on the rest with a choice of Finding and Freeing your Voice or Bossa Nova Training Wheels, followed by Spooky or Tuesday’s Just as Bad.

Plaza band stand gazeboThat midday siesta will be pretty welcome today, especially since we’ll be following it up with another band practice before heading out to the Plaza Band Stand, where we will be the featured performers! Heidi and Daniel have put together a Songbook of Tunes for us to play from and some of the songs will come right out of the workshops, so you’ll have a chance to practice and play before the really big sheeeeeew!  If you’re serious about performing…that will come later.  This event is really just about participating and letting anyone passing by see just how much fun a bunch of adults can have with an ukulele in their hands.  (My teen-aged son calls us “Old People Gone Wild!”)

Then we are in for a special dinner treat as Sheila Ruoff, our boots on the ground in Ajijic, will take us to her very favorite “hole-in-the-wall” (not its official name but the only one that has stuck over the years) for an authentic, and oh-so delicious, Mexican repast of tamales, empanadas, and more, produced by three local and charming women in a rustic village dwelling.  Despite its humble surroundings, this is a favorite among the gringos who live in Ajijic. But if the rusticity makes you squeamish, there are plenty of other fine dining establishments for you to try.

By the end of this day, I think we will be thoroughly pooped, and a quiet evening back at Casa del Sol will be just the thing.

Here’s the scoop on the day’s ukulele workshops:

BOSSA NOVA TRAINING WHEELS

keep-calm-and-blame-it-on-the-bossa-novaLike champagne, the Bossa Nova goes with everything and gives it a little class. . . . .not to mention sex appeal.) And, it’s  not that difficult to learn, either. For this workshop Daniel Ward has put together a series of simple, but sexy plucking patterns that will give all your uke-playing a Brazilian Wax!  And you’ll be astonished at all the music it works with: jazz, folk, and tons of other songs you already know!  And when you start getting all that attention when you get back home, you can just “Blame it on the Bossa Nova.”  (Daniel Ward – Level 2 – 4)

FINDING AND FREEING YOUR VOICE
It turns out, that if you can speak, then you can sing and in this workshop Heidi Swedberg (who doesn’t seem to have any trouble being heard) will teach you some well-honed techniques and exercises to help you raise your voice.  Come on!  You know it’s in there somewhere!  (Heidi Swedberg – All Levels)

SPOOKY: Playing in the Minor Leagues

Let’s get down and dark and expand our musical repertoire by pulling up some possibilities from the minor keys. In this workshop you will learn a little about the Circle of Fifths, but more importantly you will learn how those eerie minor chords not only add interest to the songs you are playing, but are (and can be) used to alter the mood and meaning, entirely. And you thought “You are my Sunshine” was a happy song……..wait until you hear it played in the minor key. (Heidi Swedberg – Level 2-4)

AND TUESDAY’S JUST AS BAD

This is a continuation of Daniel Ward’s Stormy Monday workshop where participants will have already learned the foundation of playing the blues and will now have an opportunity to expand on the lessons learned with an even more advanced set of skills so Wednesday won’t be worse and Thursday won’t be sad.  Check out the video with T-Bone Walker to see what we’re talking about.  (Daniel Ward – Level 3 – 4)