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.

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!

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!

 

We need a little help from you!

The ball hasn’t even dropped on 2017, but we  are already looking ahead to see what kind of ‘ukulele mischief we can get into in 2019, primarily our next ‘Ukein’, Bike, & Barge Adventure.

With the exception of a shared cabin available for a man, our September, 2018 trip in France, from Montargis to Paris, is full.  However, there has been so much interest in it that we are planning to do another one to a different destination in 2019.

Belgium? Holland? Italy?

Spring? Fall?

There are lots of choices, which is why we need some help from you.

If you are at all interested in joining us on one of these Ukein, Bike & Barge adventures, please  take a moment to fill out the 2019 Ukein’, Bike, & Barge Survey.  This not only helps us create a trip that will work for you, it will put you on the list of folks who hear about it first. (That’s why our 2018 trip sold out before we even announced it to the public.) It just takes a moment, and there is no obligation.

If you’d like to share a cabin with another gentleman (and I can attest to his character!) on our 2018 trip from Montargis to Paris, please let us know and we will get you the necessary information.

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!

Our Kids in Ajijic!

10997514_10203554550601303_1007189091242818830_nAs many of you know, one of the missions of La Semana de Uke-Culinary Fiesta in Ajijic  was to establish an ‘ukulele program for the local kids in Ajijc.  And did we ever!

Kids 2Our role was actually quite small: Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward did a concert at a local school and each of the retreat attendees brought an Ohana ‘ukulele from the U.S. and presented it to the kids after the concert.  The looks on their faces were precious. And that was it…..but it was just the little spark that was needed.

Lalo and HeidiFrom there the budding (at the time) local ‘ukulele community, Club Ukulele Laguna (CUL), under the direction of Sheila Ruof, Judy King, and Kay Epps Headley, took over.  They interviewed and hired a director for the program, a young man whom we call “Lalo,”  a young man who, in addition to being a fabulous musician, has turned out to be a wonderful force in the lives of these young people–a stern, but loving task master.  And the members of CUL  continue to raise money so that Lalo remains gainfully employed by the program, while the directors keep a watchful eye on everything that goes on.

And this is the wonderful result:  the first-ever concert by the Academia de Ukuleles de la Ribera.  (By the way, tickets are 100 pesos, not US dollars–the kids are good…..but not that good!)

poster textura

We could not be any prouder!