PREVIOUS A.H.A TRIPS
Established in 2012 Art Holidays Abroad started by taking a group of enthusiastic artists to the island of Rhodes in Greece. The opportunity to paint every day in a different location, enjoy the wonderful food, the sunshine (and the shade!), experience the local life and sleep peacefully at night, was a winning combination. The group got on well and the ethos of having fun was stayed with us the whole time.
With each holiday carefully researched in advance, the intrinsically planned programme includes visits to some of the best beauty spots, as well as to some virtually unknown places, offering a comprehensive view of the island. Care is taken to ensure there is a variety of scenes to paint too - far-reaching views, old villages, lush springs, beautiful beaches, all offering something different every day.
Our accommodation was beautiful, with various terraces to sit on, comfortable bedrooms, a cosy sitting room and a magnificent double height kitchen and dining area. Added to this delight was the bonus of a fully equipped ceramic and mosaic studio on the ground floor, allowing us to work whenever we wanted.
Our first trip was with Micheline and her husband in their large dinghy, across the waters to the nearby island of Ithaca to get inspiration from the stunning different rock formations to be found around the coast. Being a bit of a rock lover, I have to say these were some of the most beautiful rocks I have seen, with such variety in one place. The day was further enhanced by discovering one of the best restaurants ever! The restaurant they usually frequented was closed so we went to the one next door, called Ageri. Serendipity!! Here we discovered an amazing self-taught chef/owner who gave us a little of everything he thought we would like. The food was spectacular, wonderful combinations of flavour and beautifully presented, all at a very reasonable price. Micheline and her husband have now changed their allegiance for their future trips to Ithaca.
Equipped with photos, sketches and visual memories of the rocks, we spent the next morning planning our piece of work. We used a polystyrene base, to try and reduce the weight of the mosaic for transportation, which we primed ready for the cement.
We made many elements of the mosaic using porcelain, some people chose to make all of the mosaic with porcelain pieces, which we shaped and painted with oxides before firing and then added glaze for the next firing. We also had time later to make another mosaic using glass tesserae, learning different skills.
The atmosphere was very relaxed during the whole holiday. Tina became very inspired by the peaceful surroundings and took some time out to continue her writing, while the rest of us continued to mosaic at our own pace, interspersed with swims in the pool (unheated, so only for the brave-hearted!).
AHA is committed to ensuring everyone gets a good all round experience by organising private excursions to experience the fabulous scenery of the island, with plenty of opportunities for photo stops. We swam in crystal clear waters, sampled local food in beautiful surroundings and browsed the local shops, bakeries and ice cream parlours.
As well as visiting the popular beauty spots, AHA also likes to include the odd mystery trip to lesser-known locations and quirky little art installations en-route....... These are some of the extras that make AHA holidays so special!
A short questionnaire at the end of the holiday gave AHA a unanimous 'excellent' for just about everything. How very satisfying!
CORFU - MAY 2018
Our second holiday to the beautiful Greek island of Corfu was an absolute delight. Returning with excellent feedback from the group, this trip was even better than the last! This was, in main part, due to the stunning location of our accommodation in Notos, in the south of the island. The excellently cared for gardens led us down to the sea, which was not that cold considering it was only the beginning of summer. Swimming there is so easy, as the water slowly gets deeper, making it easy for slow immersers (like myself), but also deep enough to just launch into! The gardens also gave us plenty of scope for painting - whether it was close ups, landscapes, or still lifes, with an almost tropical feel.
We were well positioned to explore the south of the island, and had a great day out on the organic farm, where Agathi fed us to the hilt and Kostas plied us with wine! Of course, we also did some painting with many picturesque scenes to choose from, interspersed with the odd horse, pig, donkey, wandering around, as well as the dogs and the cats, and the cutest 6 day old little lamb, being hand-reared after having been rejected by it's mum.
The boat trip to Paxos was perhaps the one thing we may not repeat - trying to get information regarding the schedules at the start of the season was pretty stressful - ending up with us only having an hour and a half to explore the island - plus the boat was late, and docked 20 minutes walk away from the town. Next year, we will just take a local boat trip, less stress!
In the first week we also had a great day out at the Achilleion Palace, offering a chance to draw and paint some of the great statues of the muses, and Achilles, along with some other great views.
We ended the first week with an excellent meal at Archontiko on the hilltop of Chlomotiana, as the clouds sank and darkened around us. We were royally looked after by the owner, who came and chatted with us, telling us how he had come to build his restaurant there. He conceived and built it himself from the intriguing circular design, to the beautifully finished woodwork throughout. That's just the location; the food was absolutely perfect - "very sophisticated in every sense" as one of our group said. A really good end to the first week holiday!
In the second week, we were back at the beautifully kept St. Nicholas apartments in Dassia, where we could swim both in the pool and in the sea.
We were expertly guided around Corfu Town and had the extra excitement of being able to kiss the feet of the mummified body of the island's patron Saint Spiridon (the reason most men in Corfu are called Spiros). We sat in a few cafés and sketched, as well as taking numerous photos around this wonderful town, all of which is a National Herirtage site. A mystery tour in the evening took us to the ancient fort where we were escorted in a minibus to the old stone steps, that led us down to The Corfu Sailing Club, for a sumptuous meal, tucked away between the sea and the furtress walls.
We also visited the Paleokastritsa, where our bus driver Sprios took us up the mountainside for coffee, with a fabulous view of the clover shaped harbours. We spent rest of the day in a taverna by the sea with some beautiful views to paint.
Visiting The White House in Kalami, where Lawrence Durrell once lived with his family, we again found a perfect spot to paint, tucked away in the Taverna grounds right by the sea.. The food was a little on the pricey side, but the painting spot made up for it!
In Perithia, the oldest village in Corfu, we were made very welcome at the Taverna Capricorn, using it as a base for those who wanted to paitn from there and those who ventured off to find different viewpoints. Normally, a delightfully quiet place, completely off the beaten track, I was suprised how many visitors passed through - good for the tavernas though!
Sinarades is, by contrast, on a main route but totally lacking in tourists! On our visit there, we were adopted by a beautiful, large mountain dog who came everywhere with us, even waiting for us when we visited to the little Folklore museum.
Finding a lovely viewpoint to paint the houses in the village, we settled under the shade of the umbrellas in the forecourt of the local shop, where the owner and her husband plied us with fruits from their garden - mulberries both black and white and nozperos (loquats) which are soft and sweet and can be eaten with or without the skin. After a very pleasant day, we left Sinarades laden with fruit.
Our last day was spend in the picturesque fishing port of Kassiopi. Here, we were made very welcome at the Wave Bar, a snack bar jutting out into the sea and a wonderfully relaxing place to paint - perhaps enhanced by the lovely exotic cocktail! After a good days painting, we had the opportunity to finish off our photo challenge list and have a wander around the shops. We ended our day with a fabulous meal at 'The Old School' - a taverna run by the sons of 'The Three Brothers' (as it used to be called) who ran it back in the days I was a Thomson tour rep there. Lovely to touch base with them again - and all so handsome!
All in all we had good weather throughout - a comfortable warmth, plenty of sunshine and occasionally a bit of a rain, mainly at night. We had plenty of wonderful painting opportunities, ranging across some very different landscapes and themes. It was a real pleasure to meet all the people who came along and I thank them for their kind and encouraging feedback.
RAVENNA - OCTOBER 2017
AHA's second trip to Ravenna had the added bonus of a few days in Venice at the end of the trip, rounding off a fantastic holiday.
On our first day we were joined by the very knowledgeable Elena, for a tour of the Basilicas of San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, the Galla Placidia Mausoleum and the Neonian Baptistry. To see so much mosaic magnificence in one day is quite breathtaking! And this continued throughout our holiday as we discovered more mosaics on a daily basis, both modern and old. On one visit to the Archiepiscopal Museum, we discovered that one of our group may have been St. Peter in a previous life - the resemblance was uncanny!
The Notte d'Oro, marking the opening of the Mosaic Biennale, was incredible. Blessed with good weather, we wandered around the town taking in a choral concert at the Basilica San Vitale, an outdoor enactment of Dante's Inferno and meeting the international mosaic artists at various gallery openings throughout the night.
We were amazed by the micro mosaics of SICIS at the Palazzo Rasponi and loved the quirky little mosaic exhibition at the local bookshop. We also saw the fabulous permanent and temporary exhibitions at MAR, the international modern mosaic artists' exhibition and the young mosaic artists' exhibition nearby - as well as all the small gallery exhibitions we kept coming across.
Our accommodation was perfectly situated in the centre of town at the Hotel Centrale Byron. The rooms were comfortable, the enormous choice at breakfast was fantastic and the concierge most welcoming. We had wonderful food at the local restaurants, all a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Our second visit to the SISAM mosaic school lived up to our expectations from the previous year. Although we were only there for 5 days we still managed to complete 2 mosaics each. This was down to the kindness of Valentino and Deborah, who allowed us to stay on extra hours some of the days. The standard of the work made by our group was very impressive - congratulations are due to all! I was delighted to be asked to help Deborah with the design and execution of a mosaic triangle, which is to be installed in the town as part of a grand Labyrinth design. Triangles were given to mosaic artists who had graduated from the schools of mosaic in Ravenna and also to all teachers in the smaller schools. So I am very honoured that my design will be a part of the new permanent public mosaic in Ravenna.
As in the previous year, the final highlight left a lasting impression with everyone. A visit to the pretty town of Faenza and the large collection in the Ceramic Museum there, was followed by an evening in the quaint Medieval town of Brisighella and ended with a fabulous meal at La Grotta restaurant.
We ended our trip by taking the train to Venice. We arrived to beautiful sunshine and blue skies - the colourful city reflected in the water of the Grand Canal. But then our luck ran out and the skies turned grey for the remainder of our stay. However this made for some very atmospheric photos with the buildings disappearing into the mist! Again we had some great accommodation in the centre of town, close to both the Rialto bridge and San Marco square. We were stunned at the magnificence of the gold mosaics in the Basilica of San Marco and also had a great boat trip out to the islands of Murano and Torcello, We all felt we could have spent a few days just looking around the shops in Murano - so much glass and so many different designs!
I was delighted that everyone who came on this trip marked the feedback questionnaire with excellent for everything - and I am sure we will manage the same high standards again on our next trip to Ravenna in 2019.
RAVENNA - OCTOBER 2015
AHA's first mosaic holiday was a wonderful feast of mosaics! The Roman and Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna were awe inspiring. We visited many of these with the lovely Elena, who shared her vast knowledge of the history of these mosaics with us, in perfect English. As planned, we were also there for the opening night of the Mosaic Biennale. Sadly it was raining all evening, which rather restricted the desire to move from one exhibition to another, however we had plenty of time to return on other days. We started the Notte d'Oro at MAR, where we saw some brilliant large interpretations of paintings, as well as the insprational Young Mosaic Artist Award exhibition, and a couple of pieces by one of my favourites, Luca Barberini. Some of us managed a visit to his studio at Koko Mosaics too. Later in the week we visited the multiple exhibitions in the Palazzo Rasponi, where we were again wonderfully inspired and where we were all moved by the fabulous UK artist, Gary Drostle's work. We visited many other places too and one of the highlights of the Biennale for me was the bookshop with its mosaic interpretations on books - fabulous!
So apart from all the lovely mosaics to see, we also immersed ourselves in making some Roman mosaics, learning hammer and hardie skills to cut the marble rocks into small cubes. Studying at the SISAM mosaic school with the kind and extremely knowledgeable Professor Valentino Montanari and his English speaking assistant Deborah, we thoroughly investigated the methods used in Roman times. We each made an exact (or tried to be exact) copy of a Roman mosaic, tracing out the shapes and positions of each tesserae and working into a lime bed as the first step of the reverse method used. When we had completed our first project, we had the chance to make our own mosaic, having a choice of using one of the studio's stock prints, or creating our own design.
We stayed at the Columbia Hotel in Marina Romea, near the mosaic school but about 20 minutes bus ride from Ravenna town. The lovely old world charm of the hotel was very relaxing and the rooms were comfy and quiet. We had a secret key to put in the lift to allow access to the third floor, where we were all staying. This felt quite special as we also had access to the beautiful reading room where we could meet up together.
Unfortunately we had a fair bit of rain while we were there, and the restaurants and beaches were closing up for the winter - so, ever resourceful, we all piled into the car and used the nearby ferry for a 5 minute crosssing of the channel to a more lively area with our favourite restaurant just on the other side. The Sirenetta Bagno restaurant looked after us at lunchtime every day, staying open for us as everything else around closed up. The Ritrovo restaurant were also equally helpful, offering to open for us whenever we wanted and serving up lovely fish and pasta dishes.
The final highlight of the holiday left a lasting impression with everyone. Our visit to the beautiful town of Faenza and the vast Ceramic Museum, was followed by a trip to the quirky Medieval village of Brisighella, with its bizarre little streets and great views. A super day was topped off with the most delicious meal of the holiday at La Grotta restaurant, each of the four courses superbly cooked by owner and Michelin starred chef Mirko Conti.
So what next? Will we return? Definitely!! AHA will be organising a holiday to coincide with the 2017 Biennale, but this time we will be staying in Ravenna town and driving out to SISAM mosaic school for the course. We are even thinking of taking a bus from England to Italy, thus saving a little on airfares, having transport for everyone all the time and alleviating the problem of excess baggage on the return journey - just fill the bus up with marble and glass!!
CORFU - MAY 2015
A.H.A's trip to Corfu was another resounding success! Again we were lucky with the weather, the sun shone every day with a clear blue sky!
Our group of 7 artists started their holiday with visits to some of the better known beauty spots of Corfu, commencing with, arguably, one of the most fantastic views in the whole of Greece - Paleokastritsa. Our superb bus driver, Spiros (of course!), took us up to a fabulous viewpoint at the top of a hotel where we savoured the view with coffee and cakes, before descending into one of the bays to paint for the rest of the day. The rest of our stay in the North included visits to Kalami, where saw the Durrell's family home, and Kassiopi - where we arrived to a fanfare of drums and dancing - what a welcome! Actually we had arrived just as the half marathon runners were finishing their race! We also visited the amazing rock formations of Sidari before spending a wonderful day in Perithia, high up near the summit of Pantokrator (the highest mountain). This was a beatufiul peaceful day in one of the oldest villages in Corfu, with amazing tavernas!
We later visited the highest village in the South, Chlomos, which was also very endearing and had excellent views. Peaceful and picturesque villages always prove to be very popular painting sites, so we also went to Sinarades. Here we had an inpromptu visit to the lovely, quaint Folklore museum, which was a nice surprise. The Achilleion Palace, and the tragic history of the Empress Elizabeth, was also a popular visit - next year we will be spending more time there to paint and sketch as well.
We were luckly with the weather for our boat trip to Paxos, which ended up taking us into a scenic cave and to Antipaxos for a quick look too, We stopped for lunch in Paxos which meant we ended up with too little time to paint there - so next year we will ensure the boat only goes to Paxos, or take a packed lunch with us! However everyone enjoyed the day, we had an hour or so to wander around the small town. and the island itself was very idyllic.
Our accommodation in Dassia exceeded everyone's expectations and we were rather spoilt with above average accommodation and a very serene setting. Boukari was also very peaceful and the accommodation here was more in keeping with the usual Greek style. Our situation in Boukari was perfectly placed for the wonderful fish tavernas along the coast there and we eat healthily and well every day!