Travelers Circle Update – September 2020
Note: This special webpage is accessible only to Travelers Circle members, through a link from our September 5 email.
What a year this has been! We were looking forward to welcoming many of you in Europe this year… we never dreamed this year would be impacted by a global pandemic
One day we’ll be able to travel internationally again. And when you’re ready to travel, we hope you’ll plan to join us for another European Experiences trip.
We’ve followed the same approach for 15 years, one that is even more appealing for travel in the future:
- Small groups
- Mostly village or countryside locations
- One base for a full week in small, locally-owned hotels
- Immersive experiences, often outdoors
- A focus on local connections vs. busy tourist spots
Exactly what travel will look like in the future isn’t clear now. We’re carefully monitoring trends and participating in educational programs for tour operators. Please be assured that we’ll take every necessary precaution for the health and safety of our travelers. We’ll communicate more about what to expect after the first of the year when we know more, and we’ll share specific procedures for each trip at least two months in advance. We’ll work closely with our local partners in Europe to ensure that health, safety and cleanliness are top priorities. Given our small size, we can respond quickly as requirements change.
Our 2021 schedule was announced to the Travelers Circle this past February, before the coronavirus began spreading worldwide. We were over 40% booked by the first week of March. As this year’s trips were cancelled, many people rebooked their trip to 2021, and we’ve continued to get inquiries and take new bookings. A few 2021 trips are full.
You can see our 2021 schedule here. If you’re seriously interested in a 2021 trip but aren’t ready to commit with a deposit (we understand!), we can hold a spot for you until the beginning of the year. Hopefully we’ll know more then about the outlook for international travel in 2021. We’re also happy to place you on the waiting list for a 2021 trip.
Looking ahead to 2022
We’ll announce our 2022 schedule to the Travelers Circle this coming February and are already working on plans. We hope to offer 2022 trips in Cornwall (co-led with Charley), the Luberon, Chianti, the Périgord, and Puglia. We’d love to offer trips in the Cotswolds if there’s enough interest. (One week might be a Cotswolds Walking Week.)
Kathy is working with a fellow tourism professional—an American woman who has lived in Provence for many years—to plan a future collaboration beginning with our 2022 season. We hope to offer some all-women’s trips again. We’re also talking about some new Experience trips that she would lead… an “Insider’s Paris” trip (four or five nights), a week based in the hills above the French Riviera, and a week based in or near Aix-en-Provence focused on Mediterranean Provence. Shorter Experiences—four or five nights—would potentially be scheduled so travelers could combine them with a week-long Experience trip a few hours away.
If you’re interested in any of these possible trips for 2022, we’d really love to hear from you… your input will help with our planning.
Private offerings of our existing Experience trips are also possible in 2022 and beyond; these would be trips for small groups of family and friends. Any private trips would need to be confirmed before we finalize our 2022 schedule in early February. Please contact Kathy if you’d like to discuss this idea.
We had several people interested in our European Christmas Experience trip in 2021, but we’ve now shifted that 12-night trip to 2022 and are already holding spots for several people. Charley will also co-lead this trip, and we’ll confirm dates by June 2021. If you’re interested in the Christmas trip (it’s wonderful!), please let us know so we can hold a spot for you.
As many of you know, Kathy and our daughter Kelly have been planning to develop a new tour in Normandy and were scheduled to spend a few weeks there late this fall to do the research. We know there was a lot of interest in this trip. Given the disruption to this year and our inability to do onsite research, we need to defer our plans for Normandy. We hope to offer this new trip in 2023.
Francesco’s special wine offer
Many of you know our good friend Francesco Anichini and his family, owners of Vallone di Cecione, the winery outside Panzano we visit with our Chianti Experience groups.
Like so many small businesses dependent on tourism, the Anichinis have had a difficult year. Francesco recently ran a promotion and is extending this special offer a few more weeks for European Experiences travelers. He can ship wine to the USA: 12 bottles for 230-280 euro (depending on the mix of wines), including shipping costs. If you’re interested in getting the details, let us know and I’ll forward you the information.
It’s excellent wine—including his “Black Rooster” Chianti Classico—and you’d be helping a very special family!
Fundraiser for the Bonnieux École Élémentaire and the Cotswold Wardens
In May 2012 we started a philanthropic project to support the elementary school in Bonnieux and have given a 500 euro donation every year since. The school has about 80 students in six grades (four classrooms/teachers). Our daughter Kelly attended the school the year she was 11, and it was a life-changing experience for her. We’re the only major benefactor of the school, coordinating through the mayor, and we’ve enjoyed our annual visits to talk with the director and teachers about their activities.
Our support provides discretionary funds to the teachers for special projects and also supports fees for field trips for students who might not otherwise be able to participate. The village is heavily dependent on tourism, and many families are struggling. We have gained so much through our involvement with Bonnieux—and we know it’s special to many of you too. This is one way for us to give back to the village that’s given us so much joy.
We’ve also made a smaller annual contribution to the Cotswold Wardens, a voluntary organization of local people who take care of the footpaths and carry out special projects in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They also lead walking tours in Chipping Campden for groups like ours. We appreciate their efforts, and our annual donations go to support some of their projects.
We want to give to both groups again this year, though European Experiences is not able to give our normal gift. If any of you would like to contribute, we would gladly accept any donations for one or both groups. Since a GoFundMe fundraiser would involve fees and we’re only looking for small contributions from people who know us, we’ve decided to ask for direct contributions, perhaps $5 or $10. You could contribute by check, Pay Pal (please send to firstname.lastname@example.org as a friend to avoid fees), Transferwise for international payments (email@example.com), or Venmo (Kathryn-Wood-50), by September 15 please. Please note if you prefer your contribution to go to the Bonnieux school or the Cotswold Wardens. We’ll report back in our next newsletter about how much was collected; 100% will go to these two groups. Contact Kathy for more info.
Staying in Touch and Plans for Virtual Experiences
Facebook and Instagram
Social media has been a great way to stay in touch with our travelers. Many of you have been following along with our daily posts on our European Experiences Facebook page, and we especially appreciate your comments and memories. We recently started a weekly discussion topic on Tuesdays and hope you’ll join in. Kelly is handling our Instagram account, about 20 posts a month, which is another way to enjoy beautiful places in Europe.
Virtual Experiences… coming this fall!
Beginning in mid-September, we plan to hold some “virtual experiences” as a way for you to travel from home. These will be 45-minute programs on Zoom, interesting topics that will involve some of our co-leaders and others who help with our trips. We’ll follow up separately with more information about sessions in September and October. We’d love to have you join us.
Our Return to the Luberon group from May 2018 recently organized a reunion on Zoom and enjoyed catching up. If anyone else is interested in re-connecting with fellow travelers, we just need an organizer; contact Kathy and she’ll be happy to re-send you the contact information for your group. We could also host your session on Zoom if no one in your group has a Zoom account.
A possible Book Club
Kathy is also considering hosting a European Experiences book club on Zoom, a more interactive session. The group would read a book set in Europe and meet virtually to discuss the book—another way to have a travel experience virtually. Please let Kathy know if you’re interested in being involved… we’d like to know how many are interested and get your input before making specific plans.
Kathy’s blog posts
If you haven’t seen our most recent blog posts on the Slow Travel Tours blog, take a look… we think you’ll enjoy them.
We’ll be keeping busy in Knoxville this fall. In addition to future trip planning, educational webinars and zoom calls, and the projects described here, Kathy will be working on a major update to our website—stay tuned! In her spare time she’ll continue to enjoy cooking and gardening, activities she normally isn’t able to pursue very much. Charley is working on two different book projects and continuing his volunteer work for Mobile Meals. We’ve also been doing some day trips around East and Middle Tennessee… a chance to get out of the house and learn more about our own area.
Kelly arrived here Wednesday night after a long drive from New York to spend 10 days with us; she hopes to get her visa approved soon for a year-long stay in Paris to complete research for her PhD dissertation. She brought her cat Rambo who will live with us for this year, so we’ll have two cats to keep us busy! After most of this year at home, we hope to able to travel to France in December to visit Kelly in Paris and spend Christmas together in Bonnieux.