Posted by Kirk Woodyard of Music and Markets Tours
Ten days ago and again just last night Anne and I met friends from home in Paris for dinner. They are returning to Virginia tomorrow after a three-week stay in a lovely apartment on Rue des Ecoles near the Sorbonne and the Pantheon. They’d never stayed in a European apartment before – in fact though they’re in Europe each fall for a six week driving vacation, they’ve never stayed ANYWHERE more than three or four days.
I won’t say that it was our influence that converted them from their fast traveling ways – there were several factors contributing to their decision to explore just one place for three weeks. (And even their new approach to discovering Paris in three weeks was a little more ambitious than many contributors and visitors to this blog and website would find acceptable. Though three weeks in Paris sounded like it should be just enough to cover it, they’re now considering making just one arrondissement the focus of next spring’s three week stay in Paris.)
But WOW! Was that a light we saw in their eyes as they are beginning to turn the corner? Or was it the giddiness of being high on slow travel? We heard them say more than once that was the best of their many trips to Europe – ever. Ed told us about the bartender who would begin making his regular drink each morning when Ed came through the door for a coffee – without asking Ed what he wanted. Sandy told us about a figurine she saw in a shop window and after chatting with the owner the first time she saw it, finally bought it because she’d established a relationship with the friendly owner over several days of stopping in. They found out which outdoor market was their favorite and kept returning to greet the same vendors again and again and received in return a smile or a wave. After a few days of relentless walking, they weren’t using the city map anymore – and when Ed got on the wrong RER to Versailles, he found out how to walk the 15 minutes to the Rive Gauche stop. But their sincere expressions of deep happiness were the most significant. One of the things they’re happiest about is that they aren’t tired now and they won’t be exhausted tomorrow when they get back home.
Anne and I do not take it slow on all our trips to Europe. The ten-day one from which we’re flying home now was partly to research upcoming Music and Markets tours and it included lots of traveling by train to different departments of France and staying in many hotels. It’s hard to become a regular at any cafe on this kind of trip but we “endure” them so we can provide our Music and Markets client/friends the full context of the local culture surrounding our classical and jazz music festivals.
In contrast, during our week at the Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and the Prague Spring Festival in Prague, Czech Republic we don’t even leave the city limits. And in Provence, Amalfi, and Cremona, after a day trip and a concert nearby, we usually come back to the same place every night. In addition to making classical music accessible by focusing on the stories and places related to local composers, we also explain, experience, and enjoy the local food, wine, and culture through stories and meeting local friends.
We’re getting home a day before Ed and Sandy and will make a point before the week is out to get together with them to see if they still think this was their best trip ever.
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The best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive. We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe. Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the Languedoc in the south of France. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests. While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.