In this most unusual year, the members of Slow Travel Tours members are focusing on the future. We’ve all had to cancel our tours for at least part of the year, since international travel has been restricted. (Our Europe-based members have had more flexibility than those of us located in North America, since some travel within and between European countries has been possible.)
It’s been a tough year for everyone, and the travel industry has been one of the hardest hit. But with unexpected free time at home, we’re all working on plans for the future and making improvements to our businesses for that day when we can all travel again.
In this special post we want to give an update on each member’s special projects and offer a preview of future plans when international travel is safe and possible again. All our members are small businesses– owner-operated small-group tour companies– and we very much appreciate your support of our approach to travel.
As disappointing and difficult as this year has been, Slow Travel Tours members are focused on the future. Visit each member’s website for information on their schedule for 2021 tours. We’d all love to welcome you when when you’re ready to travel again!
Just a month away from beginning their first tour of their 15th year, European Experiences owners Kathy and Charley Wood found their plans derailed by the global pandemic. Kathy returned home early from their second home in Provence the day France went into its strict lockdown, and they’ve been at home in the USA ever since. This is the first year since 2003 that they haven’t spent most of the summer in Europe.
Although all their 2020 tours were eventually cancelled, Kathy continues to be very busy focused on European Experiences and making plans for the future. She especially enjoys staying in touch with their many friends around the world.
Creating ways for travelers to enjoy “traveling from home,” she posts daily photos and stories on Facebook, and daughter Kelly has re-activated the European Experiences Instagram page to share regular photos of beautiful and inspiring places. Kathy and Charley have also been cooking delicious meals featuring the cuisine of the areas where they lead trips. Kathy’s last blog post Traveling At Home through Memorable Meals showcased this project, and she also posts about these meals on the European Experiences Facebook page.
They’re very excited about their newest initiative, Virtual European Experiences, weekly webinars on Zoom on a variety of fun and interesting topics related to the places where they host their groups. Most of the sessions will be presented by European Experiences co-leaders and partners in Europe. The schedule for the next four sessions in early October is posted on their website and anyone interested can register there. There isn’t a charge to participate, though small donations for the presenters are appreciated. Future sessions will be announced through social media and on their website.
The October 1 Virtual European Experience, presented by Kelly Wood, will focus on Alsace between France and Germany and the unique history and culture of this beautiful region (pictured above). Other upcoming sessions focus on gardens of the Cotswolds, the French approach to food, and the wine harvest in Chianti
European Experiences announced their 2021 schedule early this year; some of the 13 trips are already full. They realize many people may be hesitant to commit to 2021 travel at this point, and they’re happy to hold spots in open trips without a deposit until early 2021. They’re now planning for 2022, including some exciting new trips, and will announce their schedule on March 1, 2021.
And stay tuned by the end of this year for a new and improved European Experiences website!
Anne and Kirk Woodyard have been keeping in touch with existing and prospective clients to “keep the dream alive” until we’re all able to travel again. They post photos and intriguing thoughts on their Instagram and Facebook pages to keep people engaged….such as this lovely vista on the island of Capri (from their Wonders of the Amalfi Coast tour).
The major event in Anne and Kirk’s lives this year has been selling their home in the USA and preparing to move to their home in Aix-en-Provence, France…when it’s possible for them to go! They’re looking forward to having a more “on-the-ground” perspective when they’re able to live full time in France.
And meanwhile, they’re making plans and looking forward to their 2021 tours.
Photography Travel Tours and their clients– many of them now “repeat offenders” and friends– have been disappointed about not being able to travel and photograph in Europe as they have done over the past 10 years. Owners Jim Nilsen and Magrit Baurecht Nilsen are trying to make lemonade out of this huge lemon by staying in touch with current and prospective clients via social media (Instagram and Facebook), their blog, and their electronic newsletter.
Jim and Magrit have had a great responses to their creative “Virtual Photo Tours” to the Cinque Terre, Tuscany, and Venice, and lately they’ve had fun with their first two photo assignments: Doors and Windows and What the… is this?, an invitation to their followers to send in abstract photos. The response has been delightful and has encouraged them to come up with ongoing photo assignments.
They’re also offering a new service for photographers who would like to learn how to improve their photos in post-production through personalized Skype lessons with Jim Nilsen.
For more travel/photography stories and tutorials, visit the Photography Travel Tours blog by clicking here.
Photography Travel Tours has made all their reservations for spring, summer, and fall photo tours in 2021 and are ready to roll as soon as the gates open. They recommend that anyone interested in a photo tour in 2021 make reservations soon to secure their spot. Tours will be intentionally small and spaces will run out quickly. The required small down payment for a reservation will be reimbursed if it’s still not possible to travel safely.
Jim and Magrit report that the rest of their time is spent tending to (and eating from) their victory garden, going on daily long walks or bike rides, offering Campari Spritz and cappuccinos to socially distanced visitors on their cozy porch, and hiking in the beautiful mountains of the Pacific Northwest. And Magrit tells us that Jim looks quite handsome with his newly sprouted COVID beard.
Tim Harrold said it’s surprising how much there is to do with the his classic motor barge, the Randle, even without passengers. Tim did one trip this season with some Brits who managed to get out between lockdowns and quarantines. There was as much work to prepare the boat for one trip as there is for the whole season– about three weeks’ work. Tim had hoped to be able to cruise this autumn, but that’s not happening now. He reports that most boats have written the season off completely; the costs are too great for most small operators.
Tim is now busy getting the Randle ready for an Instagram shoot for hello_france, (462K followers) and super_france (346k followers), a project organized by the Burgundy tourist office.
Soon he’ll take the Randle to dry dock, a six-day journey each way, beginning the process to get ready for 2021.
Edge Charter is holding bookings for 2021 without a deposit until the beginning of the year. They’re very flexible about rescheduling due to travel issues. Perhaps it’s a ideal time to dream of this very unique vacation on the rivers and canals of Burgundy– and then make it a reality in the future.
Owner Malgorzata “Sarna” Rose joins the other members of Slow Travel Tours in focusing on the future.
Poland Culinary Vacations launched a new online Boutique during the pandemic, offering visitors unique “Made in Poland” PIEROGI (stuffed dumplings) Christmas ornaments, as well as cooking aprons and cloth shopping bags with their logo. Additional, carefully-selected, handmade-in-Poland products will be added to the Boutique before Christmas.
Sarna started a new tradition at Poland Culinary Vacations in 2019, gifting each guest on the Magic of Christmas Markets in Poland tour a high-quality, handmade-in-Poland, glass Pierogi Christmas ornament. These are now available in the Boutique in three colors: red, gold and green. There are discounts for volume purchases.
Because she has dual citizenship in the USA and Poland, Sarna was recently able to travel to Poland and is there now. She’s doing site inspections in Poland, meeting mountain guides for a new hiking trip, and sourcing additional products for the new online Boutique.
Start your Christmas shopping early for unique gifts from Poland including the PIEROGI Christmas baubles on the Boutique and/or make your reservation on the 2021 tours.
Michelle Logue, owner of Adventures in Italy, is looking forward to a time when it’s safe to travel together again.
The next Adventure in Italy trips are scheduled for May and September of 2021. Trips focus on creative classes, art, culture, food, and wine, all based in the inspirational setting of Orvieto in Umbria.
Michelle has several projects underway. The Adventures in Italy website is now faster, allowing visitors to instantly see upcoming workshops and artists. A new gallery of photos and videos is coming soon, so visitors can imagine themselves on the streets of Orvieto and on one of the adventures.
2021 trips are now open for registration, and risk-free reservations can be made with no payment until January 1, 2021.
After a summer spent without the joy of guiding their Cotswold Gardens tour and Scenic Guided tours, Cotswold Walks is excited to introduce their one-day small-group guided walks in collaboration with their sister company, Hikes and Bikes. These walks are ideal for people on an independent trip, taking a short break in the Cotswolds, or even coming out from London for the day.
Andrew Guppy, the owner of Cotswold Walks and an expert guide who lives in the Cotswolds, will lead these walks to uncover the hidden treasures of the Cotswolds. Walks will begin in the beautiful towns of Chipping Campden, Moreton-in-Marsh (with convenient train connections to London Paddington), or the village of Broadway. Of course, they are following enhanced health and safety procedures.
The goal of Cotswold Walks is to help everyone who visits the Cotswolds to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of this corner of the world, and to “get away from it all” on a walk off the beaten path.
Andrew and Cotswold Walks look forward to welcoming visitors on their guided walks this autumn and in 2021. Check out their 2021 schedule for guided walks here.
Owner Sue Aran lives in the small village of Ayzieu in Gascony in southwest France. She has scheduled two of her five-night Eat, Drink and Be Merry Armagnac Adventures for late November for guests within France and from other European countries. She tells us the local mayor is now considering cancellation depending upon the virus surge and new restrictions that have been put in place in some departments in France. She’ll know more soon if these tours are able to continue as planned.
Sue is also looking to the future. She’s working on joining/partnering with an association called Cittaslow, a network of cities committed to slowing down the place of life for their citizens. There are 168 cities in 25 countries who have joined and are following their charter. Five villages in Sue’s tour areas have joined.
Sue has now added new 12-night tour for 2021, a women’s tour to the Tarn, Gard and Bouches-du-Rhône. The tour begins in the beautiful town of Albi, on the Tarn River, pictured below.
Sue is also exploring adding an e-commerce page on her website. When she lived in the USA and traveled to France twice a year, she had a French Trunk Show called Crème de Gascongne in Seattle. She sold everything she brought back, from art to pottery to linens, new and antique. She also recently became an affiliate of the Book Depository, an international online bookstore… watch the French Country Adventures website for more information soon.
Owners George and Linda Meyers were at their home in Montefollonico in Tuscany earlier this year when Italy was locked down due to the coronavirus. All their 2020 classes were eventually cancelled, but they were able to open their lovely hotel and restaurant La Chiusa to Italian guests and guests from other parts of Europe later in the year, and we’re delighted to hear they had successful July and August.
Most of their clients rebooked their cooking week to 2021, so most of the Cook in Tuscany classes next year are already sold out. Check their calendar to see what openings remain. They’re also now booking for 2022 and 2023!
George reports that they’re now planting their lavender for next year. They had 825 lavender plants arrive from France and hope their field will be bright purple next spring. The lavender field sits between the sunflower field and the vineyard so the colors should be amazing.
They will begin their olive harvest in October, and their 1000 trees are doing well—though George says they could use some rain.
When you’re ready to travel again, the members of Slow Travel Tours would love to welcome you on our small group tours in Europe!
Kathy Wood of European Experiences is a founding member of Slow Travel Tours and has played a leadership role with the group since its beginning in 2007.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.