Day two – Yahoo!

By now we will have spent the first two nights of our Ukein’, Bikein’, & Bargein’ Adventure next September moored in beautiful Mantua in northern Italy. And now it will be time to head on down the. . . . .canal.

Day 2 – Mantua to Zelo

On this, our second full day aboard the Ave Maria, we “set sail” after breakfast and cruise through the lush wetlands that surround Mantua and head for the Governolo Lock, where Mantua’s River Mincio flows into the Po, Italy’s longest River.

Here, we “saddle up,” leave the Ave Maria behind, and peddle our way along the broad sweeps of the levee towards Ostiglia, another Medieval town, but one that also saw some of the fiercest fighting during the closing days of World War II.

We’ll also visit Bergantino, home of the Museum of Fairground Rides and see its fascinating collection of expertly restored street organs. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen one of these beauties in action.

And we’ll stop to visit a cheese factory, where we will have the opportunity to sample some well-seasoned Grana Padano, a well-aged cheese said to rival the “King of Cheeses,” Parmigiano-Reggiano. Gran Padano was created by the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle in the 12th century and, lucky for us, it is still made throughout the Po River Valley.

Then, after an active day of astonishing variety and contrast, we catch up with the Ave Maria in Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco, a waterway running parallel to the Po. Once back on board we can sit and relax, sip a glass of wine, strum our ukuleles, and wait for a delicious dinner to be served.

And, there will still be time after all of that to partake of a lesson or two with our resident maestro, Dave Egan.

Whew!  That’s a lot.  And it’s only our second day!

We’d love to have you join us!  Please contact me to see if we still have room.

 

Day 1 of our Ukulele Adventure in Italy!

With less than 2 months to go, I’m getting excited about our upcoming ukulele-bicycle-barge adventure in Italy!  I’ve been checking out the itinerary and wanted to share a couple of the highlights with you!

Day 1. Mantua

Mantua is bypassed by most travelers, but among Italians it is known as La Bella Addormentata, a sleeping beauty that hasn’t changed since the middle ages. For that we can thank the three surrounding lakes, an artificial fortification created nearly 1,000 years ago that effectively closed Mantua off from the rest of the world. As a result, it has been relatively untouched by urban development, and even the present population of about 48,000 is pretty much the same as centuries ago. It has been hailed by the Italian ecology movement as Italy’s most livable city.

Mantua is also famous for an architectural legacy that includes the Palazzo Ducale, the largest residence in Italy after the Vatican and home to the Gonzaga family for 400 years. It is a town within a town and includes a castle, basilica, courtyards, sumptuous galleries, gardens and more than 500 rooms!

Most of the rooms are closed off, but there is still plenty to see, from precious tapestries, a glittering mirror-gallery and masterpieces by Raphael, to a zodiac painted as a psychedelic 16th-century ceiling fresco by Lorenzo Costa. This imposing building houses the Bridal Chamber, decorated with Andrea Mantegna frescoes. The Gonzagas also built the Te Palace, known for the Chamber of the Giants, where every surface is painted with mythological scenes.

We’ll have two evenings and a whole day to explore the surrounding lakes, wetlands, and the town proper with a local guide…..and we’ll also find time for some ukulele instruction and fun with our ‘ukulele maestro, Dave Egan!

There is still space available aboard the deluxe barge Ave Maria and we can accommodate a single, duo, or triple.

Please contact me if you’d like to join us.

Grab your Uke and join us in Italy in September!

There’s still room for you and your uke aboard the Ave Maria!

“Stuff” happens!  (And keeps happening!)

Fortunately, most of it good: a first grandchild due in September for one couple; and grandchildren deciding to get married in September for another couple! And, that frees up a few spaces and cabins on our September Uke, Bike, & Barge trip from Mantua to VeniceSeptember 14 – 21. Which means there’s room for you!


Our last to trips to France and the Netherlands showed us what a great time can be had on these adventurous, ‘ukulele trips aboard our floating “inns.” (But don’t take my word for it, you can check out some of the photos from our recent trip to the Netherlands, here.)

If you should decide to join us, not only will you see some stunning parts of the surrounding countryside (often overlooked), but you will get a little exercise, as well!  And, since we will have the entire Ave Maria all to ourselves, there will loads of opportunities to make merry with out ukulele and make new ukulele friends. . . . . . . from all over the world!

Ukulele instructor extraordinaire, Dave Egan will be on board to offer workshops for players of all skill levels and private instruction for those needing it.  (His Ukulele Ergonomics workshop was a huge hit at the Ukulele Festival of Scotland!)

And if you (and/or your significant other) decide not to ride on one, or any, of the days, no worries.  Folks who stayed on board the Fleur in France and Leafde fan Frieslan in the Netherlands had just as much fun!


 

 

 

 

 


With the recent cancellations, we can make a number of configurations available:

  • Single cabin; $3,300 total; $1930 due now, the balance due by August 1.
  • Shared cabin for single woman; $2,500 total; $1,500 due now, the balance due by August 1.
  • Twin cabin for 2; $5,000 total; $3,000 due now, balance due August 1.
  • Superior Twin or Triple; $2,700 per person (must have pre-existing group); 60% due now, balance due August 1

If you don’t fit into any of those categories but would still like to join us, please let me know.  It’s a little like Rubik’s Cube and I can still move a couple of the little cubes around!

And don’t forget, we still have room on our June 2020 Uke/Bike/Barge trip to Provence.  (And. . . . .there’s a multi-sport/ukulele adventure in Greece and a hiking/barging trip in Croatia in the works, as well!)

So, even if you can’t join us this time, please stay tuned for these and more Ukulele Adventures to come.

And be sure to contact me ASAP if you’d like to join us in Venice!

Arrivederci!

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 was a lot of interest in this trip even before the details, including exact dates and cost, were worked out.   And this may be why!

We have now secured the dates, and a number of people have already sent in the $100US/person deposit to make sure they have a spot. . . . .And they do!  But we still have room for 3 more.

unnamedPlease keep in mind that this is not a “canned” tour that we have simply attached our name to.  This is a unique opportunity being carefully orchestrated by our facilitator, Frank Leto and our team on the ground in Havana, to make sure that this people-to-people experience fits all the necessary criteria and accommodates one of our missions: learning, enjoying, and sharing ukulele joy all over the world. Other details have yet to be worked out, including the exact cost, but right now it is looking as though it will be in the neighborhood of $4,000 per person.

In order to secure your spot, you’ll need to send in an initial $100 deposit.  Once we have the exact price nailed down, we will request the balance. If for some reason, we can’t pull the trip together, your deposit will be refunded.  Otherwise the deposits are non-refundable..

So, if you want to make sure you have a place on our ‘ukulele trip to Cuba, please contact me 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 Possible 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!