Monday, July 25, 2011

Live the Tango in Buenos Aires

Yes, it does take TWO TO TANGO as we discovered on a recent couples 10 day tango tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Four experienced dance couples from Saskatoon met their match with this precise, intimate, dramatic dance! Baleos, ganchas, flicks and figure eights were the challenge over the 10 days of instruction with Argentine tangueras and tangueros. Repeat, repeat, repeat and finally that euphoric moment of " I think I've got it!" The Argentine Tango is probably one of the most difficult dances to lead with precision and grace. The female partner? All she has to do is be on her toes and patient, waiting for the subtlest indication from her male counterpart as to where to flick and turn. Sound easy?
This fun group from Saskatoon rose to the challenge and by the end of the tour were naturally taking up the tango position in the streets of La Boca and San Telmo! Besides particpating in late night tangos in some of the most famous milonga halls in the world such as El Beso and Salon Canning, this group discovered the European flavour of Buenos Aires through its culture and food! La Boca, San Telmo market, Recoleta, all interesting barrios to visit!

Leaving the tango they flew to spectacular Iguazu Falls and to colourful Salta for a wine tour. With Natascha at the wheel they navigated the bumpy, gravel roads to the highest vineyard in the world, Bodega Colome! A one night stay was not nearly enough at this exquisite resort but somehow they fit in a visit to the James Tyrrell light gallery and a horseback ride through the "colorado" river bed, not to mention the gourmet meals, lovely wines and 5 star accommodation. Really worth the ride!
One thing is for certain, Argentina is worth several visits if not only to master the tango, but to discover its beautiful and diverse landscape! European culture - great buy for Canadians and a great escape to summer in our cold months. Bienvenidos!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sketchbook Tour of Greece

Dear Traveling Friends,

We are pleased to announce that we have had a busy spring! This year our fellow travelers had us visiting Argentina, Italy, France and Greece! The Sketchbook Artist Tour of Greece was a highlight, as our weather was perfect in each exquisite destination!

Our two week tour of Athens and the Cyclades Islands started in the Capital city of Greece, surrounded by ruins and antiquities in the Plaka district. Cecelia Jurgens got her group of sketchbook artists together for yet another amazing art experience in her traveling classroom! It was so nice to re-acquaint with our group of artists, photographers and adventure seekers at the Athens airport, and what a wonderful time we had!

We wasted no time getting acquainted with Greek culture and food! We toured the Plaka district on foot, then were greeted at one of the best restaurants in the heart of the ruins for a welcome meal. Those Greek salads with the authentic feta cheese became an irresistible part of every meal!

The next few days were spent studying the ancient sculptures and temples, all within walking distance from our centrally located hotel. The Temple of Zeus, the Botanical Gardens and the Stoa of Ancient Agora were preferred places for painting, some sketchers concentrating on columns and statues, others being inspired by Mediterranean flowers and foliage! The view from the top of Lycabettus hill was worthwhile after quite a workout and the changing of the guards is always a special experience as one views the unique attire and deliberate manner of the uniformed soldiers. We were fortunate to have Sofia, our very informed guide of the Acropolis and New Acropolis Museum sites. She was so thorough in her explanations of the Parthenon, the temples and the other ruins that we all finished the day having become experts in the history of Ancient Greece!

Next thing we knew, we were boarding a flight to the island of Mykonos. Our lodging on top of the hill gave us some spectacular sunset views from the pools and patios! We enjoyed every minute of the time we had sketching the windmills, shopping in Little Venice and following the island's mascot, a pink pelican with a peculiar personality! As enhancement to the sketching experience we did an excursion by boat to the island of Delos, the ancient free port of Greece next to Mykonos. Others got around to see the island on scooter and some got lost in the winding streets on foot! Remembering this island experience will surely bring some to recall the tantalizing breakfast laid out by the Semeli Hotel - everything from sweet to savoury - salads to cereals!

After a week of sketching, Cecelia gave an encouraging critique of the sketcher's work. We were all proud to see the new artists expressing themselves so freely and the experienced artists fascinate us with their splashes of colour!

Our next adventure had us boarding the hydrofoil rapid ferry past islands and outcroppings too small to be inhabited, venturing deeper into the Aegean Sea. Our next port of call was the island of Thira, or Santorini. We were awed at the steep winding roads to bring us up to the hotel in Firostefani from the port! Our view from the Villas of the Caldera and the Volcanic Nea and Palau Kameni Islands was spectacular, the sunsets even more memorable. We had a sketching session on the black Kamari Beach followed by a nice lunch. We stopped to see the impressive Red Beach, taking the rocky path to see where the crystal waters met the rocky red soil. This particular day ended with a visit to Ia, which was made special as our terraced restaurant was home to the best sunset view on the island. We dined and drank in the magical fading light, perched on the cliff, surrounded by beautiful flowers, culture, antiquity and the tranquil Aegean sea.

We shopped, sketched, ate, drank and were merry during this whole trip to Greece, it was an unforgettable time with special traveling friends, and thanks to Cecelia, we will be able to do it again in the future to other specially chosen destinations.

"Efharisto" for reading our blog!  We love hearing your comments, and if you would like to receive regular blog updates by email, please enter your email address in the box at the top of the page!

See you again soon!! Life is too short not to have this much fun!