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Masked Marketing

Masked Marketing

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!

Season after season, rain or shine, the open-air markets call our name….and they’ve continued strong even through the months of Covid. What’s different about the markets during these times? We’ve noticed a barrier here or there, less pinching and testing of the fruits and vegetables allowed, but the constant is masks.
Our journey took us first to Croatia last fall, where the market felt like a step back in time…with vendors pricing our purchases with little weights in their scales, masks firmly in place.
We added to our mask wardrobe as Covid progressed and they became an essential accessory, frequently washed and then dried on our balcony.
Creative types added masks to their inventory of crafts, and we sourced Croatian flag masks for our grandchildren and their friends.
Thrilled to return to our Aix-en-Provence home earlier this year, we didn’t lose a minute before returning to our favorite markets, choosing a bouquet for the mantel, planning a menu from the seasons best.
Even if I don’t need anything, I love walking through the clothes market on Cours Mirabeau. But from the beginning of April to mid May all clothing and other non-essential stores, including open air market stalls, were closed as stronger anti-Covid measure were put into place in France. The flower and food markets remained open. What a delight when the Cours was again lined with color – now spring clothes fluttering in the breeze!
Just today I blitzed through the stalls, finding a few necessary things to get me through the heatwave coming this weekend – spring has definitely transitioned into summer, masked marketing still required!

Slow Living

Slow Living

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – perhaps Amsterdam this year?

I recently read something that truly resonated:  “Slow travel was a trend before Covid hit, but it’s savored travel I’m seeking now—enjoying everything to the very fullest.”
Savoring, as far as I’m concerned, takes time, and that’s where Slow Living comes in: staying in a place long enough –  in a home, not a hotel –  to savor details, daily life, off-the-beaten-track spots, local tastes, a leisurely stroll, one sunset after another….what would you add to the list?
We’re savoring life in Split Croatia at the moment, in a marvelous apartment with the most fabulous view, drawing me again and again to the balconies or windows. One evening we both stopped what we were working on and just stood and watched the blazing orange ball of the sun slip into the western sea – priceless!
Over the years we’ve savored life in a Cambridge flat, a Parisian pied-a-terre, an Amsterdam canal-side townhouse,

or a Barcelona apartment, shopping the local markets, becoming a regular at the café, riding a bicycle to the park, or just sitting in the sun on a balcony.
Long before Airbnb, VRBO was our go-to site to find homes in the places we wanted to spend time in. Seduced by the idea of a place of our own, we then bought a village house in the south of France and that led to another way to live like a local in a desirable spot: Home Exchange! Years ago these sites offered only the options of Reciprocal (exchange at the same time) or Non Reciprocal (exchanging at different times) house trades, but now have a Guest Points program, which is working well for us during the time we are not allowed entry into France and can’t enjoy our places, La Belle Cour and Ambiance d’Aix  for ourselves. Several European families or couples have been in our homes for a week or more, seeking a more inviting place to socially distance, allowing us to build up our Guest Point stash for when we can travel.
Savoring life allows time to try all the bakeries in town, we hear from our renters and exchangers at La Belle Cour in Vias, to find the BEST croissant!
Living in our home in France, home exchange or rental has allowed us time to feel like a local while in a Venice apartment in a totally untouristed part of town,

to learn from a neighbor in Vias how to make a south-of-France specialty, Petits Farcis (meat-stuffed vegetables), to sample how the local wine tastes with the local food, to get a tip from a gowned student near our river-side Cambridge apartment  to try the corner coffee shop, to keep looking up and around on our daily walk and discover a new-to-us sight, to connect the dots in our current city – oh, THAT is what we see from our window!
Several things top our list of requirements in places to settle for a while: a well-equipped kitchen, a view, walking distance to sights, transport, shopping and markets, a comfortable bed, and of course good wifi.
Our top floor apartment in Split has met all of these requirements and more…I wonder where will we savor life next?

A Tiny Island in the Adriatic

A Tiny Island in the Adriatic

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Since our first glimpse of Trogir, as we came in for a landing (yes on a prop plane – how often does that happen?!) at the Split airport, we’ve wanted to explore this intriguing barely-an-island. Just steps from the mainland, it’s connected by a couple of short bridges, then further bridged to a larger island, Ciovo.
It’s an easy 30 minute drive from Split, our home for two months, and like all of the places we’ve visited this Covid-changed fall, it looks much different, with just a few locals out and about, than the Youtube videos we’ve watched, when each square, promenade or bridge is jammed with people. Imagine standing in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, or in the middle of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, alone, just taking it in at your leisure…it’s a pleasure!
We choose a couple of pastries at the first bakery we pass, then settle in with our cappuccinos at a main-square cafe, enjoying the view of Trogir’s showpiece – the Cathedral of St. Lawrence. That gorgeous bell tower alone took 200 years to build – the entire edifice was built from the 13th to 17th centuries. Gothic arches on the first level, then Venetian Gothic (a taste of what we’ll continue to spy along the twisting lanes of the interior)  topped by Renaissance – an architectural lesson in stone.
Across from the cathedral is the 15th century St. Sebastian’s church, topped by the town clock, added in the Renaissance era. Beside the church, the Town Loggia hides behind cafe umbrellas.
The town hall anchors another side of the plaza, inviting a peek into its Gothic courtyard. One of the many Venetian-style wells on this coast, this one is carved with the winged lion of St. Mark, the symbol of the Venetian Republic, which ruled the area in the 1400s. On the walls are coats of arms of noble families of the era.
Tiny though the island is, we have no trouble filling a day with wandering its maze of marble streets, enclosed by sturdy medieval walls. From small details to intricate carvings, our eyes dart from one intriguing sight to another. We pass an elegant entry into a palace courtyard, now a vacation rental and keep looking up to take in the Venetian gothic windows scattered through the lanes. Not many places are serving meals in the off-season, but after walking across a bridge to Ciovo island to appreciate the views of Trogir, we return and find a picturesque spot by the old fish market, with our always-a-prerequisite view! Any self-respecting Dalmation Coast town MUST have it’s Riva (seaside promenade) and Trogir’s is wide and welcoming,

popular with young and old. A bulwark of a fortress, Kamerlengo Castle, another Venetian addition, anchors one end.Turn right at the fortress, and a soccer field fills the space between it and a later tower, St. Marks. This must be the most fabulously located soccer field in the world!
As the sun sets, we take in the views from one end of the Riva to the other, and take a final stroll inside the walls. The ancient town hall twinkles with fairy lights, and we stop for one more look before driving back to Split. Yes, we filled the whole day with the delights of tiny Trogir!

Plan B – Not bad at all!

Plan B – Not bad at all!

Plan A: Sell our US home in 2020, move to our much-loved apartment in Aix-en-Provence
Covid derailed that plan for sure – no Americans can enter France since March! So where to live now that all of our belongings are in storage after the sale of our home? We’ve got to live SOMEWHERE – but where?
Plan B: Fly to the ONE European country allowing Americans to enter – Croatia! So here we are, in a wonderful 8th floor apartment in Split, chosen for its view of the sea as well as required comforts for an extended stay. Split is Croatia’s second largest city, after the capital, Zagreb, and is located on the gorgeous Dalmatian coast, facing Italy. 
For those who may be interested in spending time in this beautiful country, here are the ABC’s:
There are specific requirements for entering Croatia as an American: proof of lodging, and a 14 day quarantine, unless you present a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of landing in the country. Of course we chose the test route, although we continue keeping to ourselves, as we did when living in Virginia. Finding a facility that promises a 48 hour turn-around was a challenge – and since we were not symptomatic, but were getting the test for travel, costly as well! We chose My Doctor’s Pharmacy, not far from our northern Virginia home, and took our self-administered tests 2 days before our entry into Croatia, driving to the rear of the pharmacy and following the instructions of the pharmacist who handed us the tests.
Before traveling, we made sure to print out transit requirements for Germany, since that was our route – Washington-Munich-Split, in case we were asked to show permission to transit. We also printed out the Croatia entry requirements, and receipt and appointment verification for our PCR tests.
Our entry requirements were confirmed at check-in in Washington. Before landing in Germany entry forms were handed out to all to be completed – we asked if we needed them as we were transiting. The flight attendant did not know, and said to fill them out to be safe. As it turned out there was no need for the forms – we walked off the transatlantic flight and directly to our gate for the Split flight. No questions were asked as we boarded.
When we arrived in Split we went through passport control, and at that time were asked from where we originated, where we had been living, for the address of our lodging (although we had been told we would need a receipt proving payment for lodging, that was not requested), how long we were staying, and test results – well, the emailed results had not yet arrived! The kind and helpful agent asked for our phone numbers and emails, apologized and said we’d have to quarantine until we received the (negative!) results, and we said no problem. He gave us a phone number to call – a health agent for the Dalmatia region – with the results. Once the negative results were confirmed, we would be taken off of the list of people who would be checked on to make sure they are quarantining for the required 14 days.
We called an Uber to take us to the apartment, met our host, Boris, elevatored up to the 8th floor, and were immediately drawn to the view – isn’t it spectacular? We certainly wouldn’t mind self-isolating here while waiting for our test results! We asked Boris if he would make that call for us when we received the results, and he did so when they arrived within an hour or two.
We were free! So walked downstairs to a nearby market, bought a few supplies, and made a pasta dinner to enjoy on the balcony, toasting the sunset and our safe arrival – hooray for Plan B!
Coming up – the ancient center of Split, island visits, and more, as we revel in the beauty of daily life in Croatia.

Let’s Go for a Walk!

Let’s Go for a Walk!

TOP 8 PICKS: BEST SHOES FOR WALKING ALL DAY IN EUROPE

Anne’s walking flats on Gaudi-designed sidewalk in Barcelona.
We never quite know what a day will bring as we explore Europe with our tours, but one thing’s for sure, there will be LOTS of walking! We’ve clocked over 20,000 steps in a day more than once, and oh, do we miss it! So we’re always looking for great shoes that we can walk in all day. For us, the holy grail of shopping is a pair of shoes that look cool and feel comfortable for a full day of walking. It’s taken many years of experimentation, and our closets are full of wannabes that don’t quite cut it, but we’ve managed to find 8 pairs that we can wear walking all day without pain.
Kirk and Anne at a Slow Travel Tours gathering.
Our daughter, Sunshine Woodyard, is also a travel writer, and we collaborated with her on this story about the 8 Best Shoes for Walking in Europe. Kirk is devoted to his Mephisto shoes for travel, and I also love wearing flats by Me Too, Aerosoles, and Allbirds  – their Treebreezers are pretty, comfortable, and great for walking.
It’s a long walk to Capri’s Arco Naturale – wear good shoes!
We’re still dreaming of travel past and future, and we’d like to share the story of one of our favorite walking destinations: The Eternal City. A couple of years ago, we spent just one day in Rome and managed to squeeze in many of our favorite spots. Perhaps you’ll find inspiration for your next Italian journey! Italy is always captivating, and we are planning our return in the Spring for our Wonders of the Amalfi Coast tour. Perhaps you’d like to join us!
Our Wonders of the Amalfi Coast tour takes us all around the Island of Capri.
If you have a particular travel bucket list item to fulfill, there’s no time like the present to create a grand plan! Our custom private tours can make your dreams come true. If you’ve got an idea for a European destination to explore, and you’d like some personal guidance, we hope you’ll connect with us at info@musicandmarkets.com