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.

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.

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!

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!

Viva Mexico y los Ukuleles!

Do you want to see how much fun you can have on an ukulele adventure with us?  Then check this out.

If you want to keep abreast of future Ukulele Adventures like this one, be sure to follow our blog.

And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.