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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?

Venetian Neighborhoods

Venetian Neighborhoods

Saturday-Sunday, January 2-3, 2016
Venice, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

Well not every day of the year can be as exquisite as the first one was yesterday…and Saturday the 2nd was rainy and gray, the kind of day that would be best to just stay inside by a cozy fire. But with only 2 days left in Venice, we venture out, hooded and umbrella-ed, for a bit of exploration nearby, frequently darting inside for a snack or a meal. We’ve never taken time to see the original Ghetto before…where that name was first used in the 1500s for the island on which the Jews of Venice were isolated. The rain was so heavy it was tough to get any photos  – so here’s our lone example, a door with Hebrew lettering,01021601 ghetto hebrew and menorah and a mezuza slot on the doorpost.
The rain finally lessened after dark, and we enjoyed a bit of window-shopping – intriguing antiques and objets d’art here,01021602 decor shop and fantastical wigs for upcoming Carnevale there. 01021601 order carnevale wig hereSunday dawned sunny and beautiful again, and we took a roundabout way, walking along canals where we haven’t been before, 01031601 dorsoduro bound through new to us areassuch as this one with FIVE bridges visible at one intersection, 01031601 bridges 5to the Dorsoduro sestiere. Venice is divided into six neighborhoods, called sestiere, and Dorsoduro, literally “hard back”  – the backbone of Venice along the Giudeca Canal – has always been a favorite of ours.
Looks like we’re not the only ones who like this neighborhood – there’s a traffic jam on that little bridge!01031601 jam traffic on a little canalAnd this harlequin seems to say “welcome to my shop!”01031601 welcome to my shopStopping to peer into artisans’ windows, some crafting paper, others silk scarves, others forcolas, the handsome wooden fulcrum for a gondola oar, we take in the open-air museum of Venice. Across the San Trovaso canal is one of the few squeros, gondola workshops, left in the city. 01031602 hats and gondolasSee the gondoliers hats hung on the wall? Satisfied customers, no doubt!
And on this side Bar Il Squero has just what we’ve been wanting – a mouthwatering selection of cicchetti, snacks, 01031602 il squerojust waiting to be nibbled with a glass of prosecco! In Budapest, we fit in a café stop every afternoon, with decadent pastries and coffee. Here in Venice, we go for cicchetti each afternoon or early evening…delicious bites (such as gorgonzola spread topped with walnuts or artichokes) with a glass of bubbly. LOVE this tradition!
We’ve made it to the Accademia bridge, an ideal perch for views towards San Marco,01031602 top of bridge view one way or, on the other side, the Grande Curva of the Grand Canal, 01031602 top of bridge view the other grande curva and 2 su paddlersthe most coveted palazzo real estate, we’ve been told.
A late lunch at always delicious Taverna San Trovaso01031603 always delish tav san trovasoa Venice institution where the food is still great, the service friendly and knowledgeable, and the prices quite reasonable, even though it’s made it into all the guidebooks.
Then our wander continues, along the Grand Canal, 01031603 canal grande vistasover to the Giudeca side of the neighborhood for a sunset view,01031603 sunset strolland the long way back to our apartment, to catch a view of the prettiest holiday decor in town, by San Barnaba.01031603 walk long way home to see lights by san barnabaVenice – you’re a delight in every season!

A Perfect Beginning in Venice

A Perfect Beginning in Venice

Friday, January 1, 2016
Venice & Murano, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

Happy 2016, Venice! It’s a quiet sunny morning on “our” peaceful canal, 01011601 am venice video toothe church bells ringing a New Year welcome. Giovanna, our lovely landlady, left a holiday panettone on the table for us, with which Kirk made some delicious French (Italian??) Toast – yum!01011601 breakfast sizzlingAnd then we’re off exploring – walking by Madonna del’Orto, of the ringing bells. Could the sky be any bluer?!01011601 could sky be any bluerMust be a good omen to start a new year with a day like this!
Crossing the closest bridge (that’s our spot on the third floor across the canal),01011601 floor 3 we take our time walking through lived-in neighborhoods01011601 lived in neighborhood on our way to the vaporetto stop – today we’re visiting a new-to-us island, Murano!
From this part of Venice it’s a quick ride to the glass blowers isle, and we’re soon walking by examples of the art, such as this shimmering blue  “comet”, placed on the square during the holidays.01011601 quick vaporetto to muranoThe factories are closed today, but shops are open –01011602 craft shops how about a glass bustier?01011602 bustier –  and santa’s still leading his reindeer-hauled gondola.01011601 walk all over past santa gondolaAt one side of Murano is the museo vaporetto stop, and at the other the faro (lighthouse).01011601 walk to lighthouseThe glassblowers artistry fills churches as well as shops, elaborate chandeliers in San Pietro Martire,01011602 church murano chandeliers of course and a serene glass nativity in the cathedral,01011602 creche in glass in main church which was designed with this lovely exterior gallery 01011602 church with gallerythat could be seen by those arriving from the sea by boat.
Beside the church, these mourning maidens stand beside a war memorial.01011602 memorial beside churchWe stop for a canal-side snack as the sun sets,01011602 the sun setting and the holiday lights begin to sparkle.01011602 then lights come onDelicate chandeliers are the decor over the main canal,01011603 delicate chandeliers over canalwhere you can park your boat right in front of your home.01011603 parking reservedTinting the city in rose and coral, the sun sets behind Venice as we return,01011603 return and top off a perfect New Years Day with a great dinner at Paradiso Perduto and one of the best guitarists we’ve ever heard – Valter, from Vicenza,01011603 valter and fab dinnerabout 45 minutes inland. We have been listening to a CD of his at home and remembering the wonderful first day of 2016 – may the year continue to be terrific!

To Venice to Celebrate!

To Venice to Celebrate!

Thursday, December 31, 2015
Venice, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

I groaned when we decided to set our alarm at 3:45 am…ugh! But we knew our destination would be worth it! First leg of the journey – a flight from Budapest to Milan, then a train to the Central Station, then a leg to Bologna (only thing available was a connection because we couldn’t purchase ahead of time since we weren’t sure when we’d get to the Milan station), 12311501 business car to ourselvesthen FINALLY to Venice…good news was we had business class cars to ourselves!
Enchanting as ever, Venice greets us with a sunny welcome. 12311501 bus vaporetto to aptAlthough we’ve been here many times, this will be the first time we’ve stayed in an apartment rather than a hotel – we’re looking forward to LIVING here for a few days!
Giovanna, owner of Loft Casa Aurora, meets us with a smile at the Madonna del’Orto vaporetto (water bus) stop and walks us to the canal-side apartment. We’re off the beaten track, in a quiet Cannaregio (one of Venice’s 6 districts) neighborhood, and can easily walk to all we want to see. We’re just in time for a late lunch, and Giovanna’s husband has found a nearby place that’s open for us, so we sit down with an “aaaah” and order some delicious pasta and fish.  A few errands, then we unpack and plan our New Years Eve. My wish is some beautiful fireworks, and Giovanna let us know the best place to be to watch them at midnight.
We take the back lanes,12311501 dusk later than in budapest avoiding the crowds heading towards Piazza San Marco, then plunge right in to the revelry.12311501 marks masksLots of people are wearing masks tonight – all part of the fun,12311501 st marks lingering around the Piazza until the midnight show.12311501 st marks loggias We’ve read that the Piazza is the site of a  Bacio di Mezzanote – communal midnight kiss! But we’ll be out by the water, looking up at splendor in the sky. And the crowd gasps as the first explosions light up the water and San Giorgio Maggiore in the background. 12311501 terrific firewords riva schiavoniYes, this is a perfect spot – not far from Vivaldi’s church, along the wide Riva degli Schiavoni. Shimmers of gold fall like raindrops,12311502 gold shimmers then San Giorgio takes on a red hue at the next blast. 12311502 san giorgio changing colorsWe’re pleasantly surprised, after spending several New Years Eves in a rowdier Florence, at the reserved yet delighted crowds. No empty Prosecco bottles tossed in the air, no booming firecrackers in the lanes, just appreciation of the beauty and a seeming spirit of thankfulness for what we all hope will be a better new year. Auguri! Happy 2016!

Paris, from the Lido to the Pompidou

Paris, from the Lido to the Pompidou

Monday – Wednesday, March 30 to April 1, 2015
Paris, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

A quick flight from Toulouse to Paris Orly Airport, on the bus with other Rendezvous France participants, and we’re soon whizzing up to the top levels of our Seine-side hotel, with views to Paris’s own Statue of Liberty 30 plus floors below. 03301503 from 30 stories upTonight we’re invited to the Lido, a first for us….and we had no idea that these Parisian shows included not just those renowned high-kicking girls, but a sword-swallower, acrobats, ice-skaters, a playful mime,03301503 lido mime clowns, and more! In between bites of a quite good dinner we took it all in – a calliope rather like a one-man-band, 03301503 lido musicParis-in-the-rain sketches, 03301503 lido show all I knew about was can cansmiling showgirls03301503 prancing around with headressesstrutting around with head dresses nearly as high as they were tall,03301503 lido showgirls guess I knew about that tooand what had been billed as “an epic can-can” 03301504 can can at last – my favorite part of all!
The gorgeous dresses were lined with pink feathers!03301504 feathery skirts and high kicksAfter a full day of meetings with travel suppliers from around the country, we crossed the Seine at sunset for another evening of fun, 03311501 cross seine at sunsetthis time at the Pompidou Center – more dancing girls,03311501 dancing girls again and I love Pariscrooning “I Love Paris…”03311501 I love Parisand a private look at the Jeff Koons retrospective. Yes, we knew about his balloon figures, 03311501 koons

but not about this exotic mirror (his Antiquity series), 03311501 mirroror the Gazing Ball series – classical figures adorned with spheres It’s always a pleasure to view art in a quiet non-crowded setting. 03311501 reclining ballWe finished our Paris quickie with dinner with our dear friends from Virginia 04011501 better chef than photographer(the proprietor was a better server than photographer!) – we’ve enjoyed memorable meetings with them in Paris through the years. Perhaps my favorite was that November when we looked at the holiday windows of the Grands Magasins together. Kirk enjoyed his only snails of the trip that evening.04011501 only snails of the tripNext stop – back to our beloved Aix en Provence!

 

Goodbye Venice, Hello France

Goodbye Venice, Hello France

Monday and Tuesday, June 2-3, 2014
To France!

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our newest tour, a Fall Musical Houseparty in France! 

We wave goodbye to fish-shaped Venice (just like all the maps we’ve perused on the ground) far below as we wing our way to France. Can you see the squiggle of the Grand Canal snaking through the city, to the left? The “tail” on the right is beyond where most tourists spend their time, the far reaches of the Castello Sestiere (neighborhood) The big square of water on the upper part of the tail is the Arsenale, where super-power Venice built a ship a day at the height of its power.

Our next couple of days will quickly accustom us to driving rather than floating, with hours on the road on our schedule. We’ve landed at Marseilles, but our first task is two hours southwest, where the jasmine is threatening to take over the courtyard of La Belle Cour!

Kirk finds his garden tools and tames the jasmine (what a difference!), as I clean the house and greet our guests, Peter and Susan. We’ve traded houses with them, and tomorrow will drive to their Dordogne apartment about 4 hours north.

Our favorite Vias restaurant, L’Amandine, is closed tonight, but Peter and Susan have found a new little place right across from the church, and greet the owner like old friends. She quickly prepares some delicious open-face toasted sandwiches and salads, and we enjoy getting to know this interesting couple as we eat. Peter and Susan are Australian, but spend half of the year in France, and often swap their home. They’ve recently been in Sausalito, California, and Spain, and have come to Vias from the St. Remy area of Provence.  Eager to see their little village, we listen as we eat to tales of how they’ve restored their home over the years.

Tuesday morning finds us on the road again, keys to the apartment in hand, and we whiz by the turreted walls of Carcassonne as we make our way north.

We get just a quick look at the pretty village of Castillonnés, since we’ve got to meet some fellow Slow Travel Tours partners for dinner tonight. We unpack enough to pack AGAIN, and hit the road.

Next stop, Sarlat, one of the highlights of the Dordogne region, a golden-stone beauty whose warm colors remind us of Aix.

Instead of driving yet 1 1/2 hours more BACK to Casti (as Peter and Susan call their village) we’ve decided it’d be wiser to spend the night in this dreamy town, and check into a hotel that is rather the epitome of an old French auberge – no air conditioning (don’t need it today, fortunately), quirky stairs heading this way and that, creaky floors, a bit shabby, but full of character – reminds us of places we stayed decades ago when we first started traveling to France.Our top floor room has great views out over the lauze – stone roofs of town.

The evening flies by, as we meet Steve and Judi of Caves and Castles, who live north of Sarlat near Montignac, not far from the famous prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux. Their tour focus and expertise is in the fascinating prehistory of the region, as well as the beautiful fortress castles that dot the area. This is an absolutely gorgeous part of France, and it’s been over a decade since we’ve spent time here, so we’re eager to explore for the next few days in preparation for a special tour in September. 
Walking back to the hotel, we feel as if we’re in a fairytale,

walking between towers and quiet lanes, mullioned windows and ancient doors. We’ll be back!