Textiles of Bhutan

Weaving on loom in progress

Exquisite silk textile in progress; Bhutan.

Textiles, Temples and Tshechus: Bhutan

November 30 – December 16, 2019  (Fly home on December 17.)  TRIP FULL • See 2020 dates here soon.

Join us on a fabulous 17-night textile tour of Bhutan to see exquisite weaving, pristine wilderness and stunning Buddhist temple monasteries! We’ll attend festivals called tshechus where spectators show off their best traditional clothing, and costumed dancers wear carved wooden masks. And we’ll meet warmhearted people and eat delicious new foods.

Bhutan is a brand new destination for Behind the Scenes and we are very excited about it. Many people had asked me about a textile tour of Bhutan so I, Cynthia, traveled there with three friends in September to plan it. I loved everything about the country -the ultra-decorated buildings, the crisp air, the dark green forests, the kind people and the amazing handwoven clothing. I met charming guides and affable, professional drivers. Our guide was both funny and informative, and he will accompany us on this new trip. The amenable driver even hiked up to the Tiger Nest Monastery with us to help on the steep trail.

This trip reflects authentic Bhutan. The Bhutanese have safeguarded their Buddhist culture and ancient way of life, and it’s the traditional aspects that lend great charm and value to the country. The guide and I have coordinated this itinerary to begin travel in the less-visited and more rural eastern regions where the weaving and the festivals are spectacular. Later we’ll head for the capital and the west.

White house in Bhutan countryside.

Valley landscape in western Bhutan.

Beautiful Bhutan!

Bhutan is a tiny landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas, with a progressive young king, and a beautiful queen who promotes textiles and weaving. The country was closed to outsiders for centuries but now is welcoming travelers. The infrastructure of Bhutan improves annually, thus there are now better roads and hotels than in past years.

Traveling from east to west, our group will meet in Kolkata (Calcutta), and conquer our jet-lag with two nights there. We’ll have a city tour and see some typical textiles, then fly to Guwahati, Assam, India. Then the adventure begins! We’ll drive from Guwahati into Bhutan at the southeastern border town of Samdrup Jongkhar. Then we’ll go north to Trashigang and many other towns and villages where the art of weaving excels.

The whole eastern region is relatively undiscovered compared to the west, and it’s the area famous for the high quality woven textiles made here. We’ll visit several large towns and many villages in the area, and see fabulous festivals. Continuing west, we’ll see weavers, markets and typical villages and another festival along the way.  Many of these destinations also have spectacular dzongs or ancient fortress-type building complexes.

Dancer with wooden mask salutes the crowd.

Masked dancer at a Buddhist festival, Paro.

Dzongs are unique architectural forms in Tibet and Bhutan. Built mainly in the seventeenth century as fortresses and centers of religious authority, today they continue to serve as important administrative and monastic centers.

As recently as 1998 by royal decree all new and remodeled buildings had to be be constructed with multi-colored wood frontages, small arched windows, and sloping roofs. Architecture typical of Bhutan includes highly decorative window frames, carved columns, and painted beams. We will stay in hotels with this sort of decoration and will stop to check out other buildings with intriguing painted images.

After we have explored eastern and central Bhutan, we’ll avoid an 11-hour drive over rough roads by flying from Bumthang (Jakar airport) to Paro. In the nearby capital of Thimpu, we’ll visit the important and up-to-date Textile Museum. Then we’ll check out a weaving center, and the Handicrafts Emporium where they sell various crafts plus handwoven fabrics. Among other sights in Paro, we’ll see the National Museum if open. The day-trip below to the cliff monastery begins in Paro and we return to our hotel there for the night. After four days in the Paro-Thimpu area, we’ll fly back to Calcutta from Paro, and connect to home.

Tiger Nest’s Monastery

Monastery on the cliff near Paro, Bhutan.As we travel, you’ll be amazed at the lush paddies in the valleys, and the hills covered with thick forests. (Because of an avid Forest Management program, protected blue pine, spruce and cypress forests cover over 60% of the country.)
And this wouldn’t be a trip to Bhutan without the chance to see the famous Tiger’s Nest (Paro Taktsang) Monastery in the forested mountains outside of Paro. It was constructed on the side of a cliff in 1692, near the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated. It’s said that he’s the person who introduced Buddhism into Bhutan. A legend relates that Guru Rinpoche was flown from Tibet to this steep cliff on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name “Tiger’s Nest.”

Cynthia in Bhutan on horse.

Cynthia, riding to the halfway point of Tiger’s Nest.

The trek will be optional with the ascent either on foot or horseback. Horses climb only to the teahouse at mid-point up the trail. They are healthy and don’t have to wear a bit, so they can pick their way along the rocky trail to find the best route. Many people walked up trail as we walked down, so if you are fairly fit, it’s not at all impossible to climb up the trail on foot. For the last and steepest part all the way to visit the monastery, the guide will walk with those who want to climb.

The rest of us can sit below at the tea house, relaxing among the prayer flags, drinking milky chai tea, and staring upward at the beautiful buildings on the cliff. It’s necessary to hike back down on foot. The descent isn’t bad if we go slowly; some people might want walking sticks for this part. And if a mountain trek isn’t your cup of tea, you can relax at the hotel or explore Paro instead!

Textile Traditions

In 2005, the Queen of Bhutan  created The Royal Textile Academy, the Textile Museum that we will visit in Thimpu. She also encouraged weaving centers so that the country’s youth may learn to appreciate, conserve and promote the weaving and fabric arts done all over the nation. She writes that “…the thagzo or art of weaving is a symbol of national identity that continues to play a significant role in all religious, official and social events. Weaving represents the very heart and soul of the country…” It’s interesting to note that while the women weave the clothing and fabrics, it’s the men who embroider and appliqué items such as temple hangings, saddle covers, shoes, hats, and ceiling canopies.

Men in traditional gho.

The guys show off their typical gho.

In the past, Bhutanese citizens followed an imposed dress code. Everyone wore handwoven traditional clothing: the gho for men and the kira for women. Nowadays that has changed, and it’s required only for government and office workers, and for school uniforms. Some young people have begun to adopt jeans and sweatshirts, but most people still proudly wear typical outfits everyday. And for festivals and special occasions such as weddings, everyone dons their very best and latest styles of handmade national dress.

The gho that the men wear is a wrapped knee-length robe with long white cuffs, tied at the waist by a woven belt known as kera. The pouch which forms at the front traditionally was.used for carrying food bowls and a small dagger. Today men store their cell phones and wallets in the pouch; see photo at left of men in gho with bulging front pouches.

Detail of supplementary weft weaving of one kira panel, out of three.

Women wear the kira, an ankle-length dress made of handwoven panels wrapped around the body and pinned at the shoulders. Over the kira they add a satin or brocade outer jacket known as a tego, with an inner blouse or layer called a wonju. However, people of ethnic groups such as the Bramis and Brokpas of eastern Bhutan generally wear clothing that differs from the rest of the Bhutanese population.

Ladies Bhutan in traditional dress.

Women dance in traditional kira.

We’ll visit many weaving households and some larger weaving organizations in various towns and we’ll learn about the incredibly labor-intensive techniques used to make the women’s wrap dresses called kiras. The best place to see the women showing off their most exquisite outfits is of course at the three Buddhist celebrations that we will attend.

For the finest pieces, weavers use complex pickup techniques that sometimes involve wrapping the weft around the warp in specific patterns. This is called trima, and often looks like a chained embroidery technique. Because a finely detailed kira (right) can take almost a year to weave, a very intricate piece can cost several thousand dollars. Belts are stunning too, and quite affordable. As we visit the weaving centers, we’ll appreciate the huge variety of designs and color combinations, and perhaps find some textiles to buy!

TOUR COST:  $5820
Single Supplement:  $750
Minimum 8, maximum 12 travelers.

Green rice fields, Bhutan

Bhutan landscape with rice fields.

Includes visa for Bhutan (see below), 17 nights in comfortable hotels in double/twin rooms with private bath, all meals (often buffets), all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, airport transfers for all flights, city tour in Calcutta, three flights from Calcutta (Kolkata) to Guwahati; Jakar to Paro and Paro back to Kolkata; English-speaking Bhutanese licensed guide during the trip, all in-country ground travel by private van with professional driver, tips for guide and driver, horseback transport to Tiger’s Nest Monastery tea house, entrance to all museums and  sites on the itinerary, and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip.

Not included: International airfare, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry charges and any between-meal snacks or drinks. A generous tip per person for the guide and the van driver has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping.

Travel Plans

Monks with horns in robes with hats in Trashigang, Bhutan.

Monks at a festival in Trashigang.

Fly round-trip from home to Kolkata (Calcutta) on December 17. Air India now has flights from Bangkok to Kolkata (CCU airport code) and this may be more convenient han going through Europe for California/West Coast folks. Plan your flights to arrive in Kolkata on November 30 and to return home on December 17.

Man and girl in traditional dress.

VISAS

We will arrange the visas for you; you will need to send a scanned colored copy of your passport to the agent handling the visas; it’s all safe and official. When you arrive, you will get a piece of paper that serves as your official visa until you get a small stamp in your passport when we enter.
More info about visas and how to apply once you have signed up.

All photos by Cynthia except festival shots (Shutterstock) and Tiger’s Nest by Sudhir Joshi.

Textiles, Blue City

Textile and Crafts Tour to Exotic Morocco
September 8 – 17, 2019  Depart for home on September 18.

Textile tour crafts art and architecture small group travel Chefchaouen Morocco

Lovely blue lane in Chefchaouen, the Blue City.

Highlights: This 10-night custom-designed textile tour to Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, culture, and cuisine in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohamed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on September 8, and you’ll fly home from Tangier on September 18.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality with a small group of friendly people. And we’ll take in five UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We’ll go south to charming Marrakesh and then north to the ocean at Tangier. Along the way, we’ll visit Fes and beyond, to meet many artisans: felt makers, metal workers, ceramic artists and more!. We’ll see the mellow blue town of Chefchaouen, famous for its stunning old city that is painted in watery blues, left. The far north of Morocco is not so often visited by tourists and with the help of our wonderful guide we will explore the northern regions. Exotic Tangier awaits our discovery too, and we’ll wend our way through the medinas to see mosques and madrasas, and find the most interesting textiles, jewelry. pottery and artwork.

Cooking class Maison Arabe Marrakech tajine lunch

Hand-painted traditional tajine dish. Marrakech.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. In a mid-morning workshop, we’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons, with a group of delightful ladies who will also serve us an amazing lunch! As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. In cooking classes we’ll put our spice knowledge to work and create a delicious lunch that will include tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat. Everywhere we go, our guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

Morocco cuisine textile tour food Marrakech souk medina 2019


Trip Details:
Arrive in Casablanca on September 8; depart for home from Tangiers on September 18. We’ll start by flying in to legendary Casablanca, check in to our hotel, and get a good night’s rest. Next day we’ll visit the fabulous Hasan II mosque, inside and outside, at seaside Casablanca, then we’ll head south to fabled and friendly Marrakech.

In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakesh was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in reddish sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Pink City.”

Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina. The Marrakech medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. Here we can meet master artisans at work, and wander the narrow, cobblestone streets of the market.  In Marrakesh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture, rugs, mosaics, and accessories.

Feltmaker of Fes; felted boots in foreground. 

One morning we will have a professional cooking class, then eat our delicious creations for lunch! We will also see the stunning Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the excellent Museum of authentic Berber jewelry, clothing and textiles. Lunch that day will be in the  garden patio of the museum.

In the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna, snake charmers vie for space between barbeque stands, musicians, and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, this central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping nearby is also good.

Next we’ll drive north to Fes which has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world. The old medina is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Fez was founded in the 9th century and reached its apogee as the capital of the Marinid Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. Major monuments in Fes date to that era. It also hosts the world’s oldest university, University of Al Quaraouiyine. We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area, and explore the mosques, madrasas and souks with their highly decorated mosaic walls. This medina is much calmer  than the one in Marrakech. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and like others, this medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, ceramicists and so forth.Wander in the medina to find the perfect carpet or pair of earrings.

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases. Other workers there paint tiles and cut the intricate tile pieces for zellij – complex mosaics composed of tiny geometric shapes – used to decorate walls, fountains and floors of mosques, madrasas (Koranic schools) and villas. (Photo below.)

On the route north, we’ll visit a family where they make the famous ‘laine de Habba’ or the natural white sheep’s wool yarn somehow hand-spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is used to add interesting texture to high quality djellabas for men. It defies the usual spinning methods!

Sleeping in ceramic couscous dish, Fes market

World Heritage symbol

Next, we’ll drive north to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco’s most picturesque towns. This is a holy city with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries, where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage. For other visitors though, Chefchaouen’s chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets with the white-and-blue-washed houses. Then we’ll drive Tangier. We’ll explore the Kasbah of this city and see St Andrew’s Church, one of Tangier’s most interesting sites. Completed in 1905 as a gift from King Hassan I of Morocco, the church is a fusion of different architectures and religions, reflecting Morocco’s multicultural population. Although the church is a focal point for Christians in Tangier, it also exhibits Quranic inscriptions on its Moorish interior and marks the direction of Muslim prayer to Mecca. A visit to this religious holy site gives a new meaning to the interfaith experience. “If only we could all just get along….!”

Morocco crafts tour, mosaic art architecture 2019

Intricate mosaic or zellij floor of palace in Marrakech.

 

After lunch, stroll around the kasbah-medina area, and have an afternoon break of mint tea.  One day we’ll see the Great Moque and explore the Kasbah, where the sultan once lived. The gate opens onto a large courtyard, which leads to the 17th century Dar el-Makhzem Palace and the modern-day Kasbah Museum. This Museum brings together an amazing number of exhibits from Morocco’s history and there is also a large section devoted to Moroccan arts, with silks and illustrated manuscripts as well as centuries-old ceramics decorated from golden yellow to the famous Fes blue.

The Dar el-Makhzem Palace was enlarged by each successive Sultan. The carved wooden ceilings and marble courtyard showcase the intricacies of talented Moroccan craft-work.

Kathy & Sue relax at the leather shoe souk, Fes.

Salima Abdel-Wahab, Moroccan fashion designer, has a boutique in the Tangier kasbah. Last year we found some interesting clothing here and unusual jewelry and gifts in shops nearby. On our last included night of hotel (September 17) at the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new, and pack our bags, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of September 18. Arrange your plane tickets to arrive on September 8 and to fly out of Tangiers on September 18, 2019. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip. We welcome your photos to add to the book, so after the trip, send us some great group people pictures to be included.

Tour Price:  $  3695 for 6-8 travelers; $3525 for 9-12 .
Single Supplement:  $ 700

Bowl piled with brightly colored agave silk for weaving.

Vegetal silk made from Agave fiber or rayon, dyed and ready for weaving, Fes medina.

Includes the following:

  • 10 nights hotel accommodations (Sept. 8 through 17), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1 lunch and 1 dinner on your own.
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver.
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional guide to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Transportation to/from airport on set arrival and departure dates.
  • English- and French/Arabic-speaking easy-going and professional guide to accompany the whole tour.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany itinerary.
  • A cooking class in Marrakesh to learn gourmet cuisine for your lunch.
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary.
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent once you get home, with group pictures, sites and recipes from our classes!

Not included: Personal items such as internet fees [our hotels have free/not-very-fast wi-fi]; laundry; overweight luggage; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van. Note that not all hotels have hair dryers. Bring a dual-current hair dryer if you need one.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the meal included during class time is on your own, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Please note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many others do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email * info@btsadventures.com if you have any questions.

All photos  © Cynthia LeCount Samake except Dreamstime.com:

 

Textiles, Tajines: MOROCCO


September 20 – October 2, 2019   Fly home October 2.
Our popular textile and cuisine tour is back!

Arrive on September 20; fly home on October 2 – 12 nights.

Highlights: This custom-designed textile and cuisine tour to amazing and exotic Morocco emphasizes not only the weaving and the food, but also the ceramics, architecture, and archeology. You’ll meet many charming and friendly local artisans and craftspeople, happy to show you the best of their country. Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors!

Morocco is an exciting and exotic country; remote kasbahs of striking architectural design contrast with the bustling cities of Casablanca and the chaotic medina of Marrakech. Our small group will marvel at FIVE stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites. We’ll go behind-the-scenes to experience traditional Moroccan hospitality! And we’ll meet Berber women who are excellent rug weavers and button-makers, and men who are leather dyers, felt makers and ceramic artists.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases, except for that night in a Berber tent on the sand dunes! In each town we visit, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. Everywhere we go, our delightful guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet.

DSC06533Trip Details:
We’ll start our textile and cuisine tour by flying in to legendary Casablanca. You will be met by Cynthia and the guide, or an official tour driver at the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) upon arrival anytime (preferably morning) on September 20. Then we’ll check in to our hotel, have lunch if the timing is right, then relax at the hotel, or wander in the neighborhood. Next day we’ll go inside the fabulous Hasan II mosque with a special guide, at seaside Casablanca.

Then we’ll drive south to marvelous Marrakech. In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakech was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in reddish sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Pink City. IMG_6439Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina. Here we will meet master artisans at work as we wander through the little stalls or souks.

In Marrakech’s medina, we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture, rugs and accessories. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys. The little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. A countryside setting will be the venue for our entertaining cooking class. We’ll create a gourmet lunch of a homemade bread, tajine, a succulent stew, and a couple of salads. Our culinary creations, seasoned to our personal taste, will be our delicious lunch. At some point we’ll visit the food and spice market to find specific ingredients necessary for the unusual flavor combinations that are now familiar to you in Moroccan cuisine. You can pick up some spices in a souk for foodie friends too.

We will also see the Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the Berber Museum. We’ll visit the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna where snake charmers vie for space between tiny barbeque grills and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, the central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping is good here too!

Next we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate, seeing the mystical ‘mud castle’ at Ait Ben Haddou. A striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco, the spectacular ksar or fortified city of Ait Ben-Haddou makes a perfect stop along the way.   This group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The earthen castle effect and the decorative motifs sculpted into the reddish adobe walls make Ait Ben Haddou an aesthetic wonder.
In Ouarzazate we can go through the Museum of the Cinema; dozens of ‘swords and sandals’ films have been made in this desert area. The most famous is certainly Ben Hur, but Cleopatra, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia were also filmed here.

And along the way, we’ll check out the glowing handmade carpets in a favorite shop, and meet some Berber weavers who will show us their techniques. We continue into the arid and spectacular eastern region. In the mid-afternoon, we’ll go by 4-wheel drive across the stark landscape to the golden-orange Saharan sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. Then we’ll climb aboard camels for the short trek into the dunes to watch the sunset. We’ll have a traditional couscous dinner and fall asleep in comfy Berber tents under the stars.

After breakfast next day, we head back in the Jeeps and then we’ll begin our drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains. Most of the day will be spent traversing beautiful forests, dramatic rock formations, and little villages on the route north to Fes, another UNESCO World Heritage site.  As always there will be stops for photos and bathroom breaks whenever desired.

Half way along this drive to Fes, we will stop in the town of Midelt for lunch. The town is famous for its minerals – geodes, trilobites and ammonite fossils and interesting crystals from the nearby mines at Mibladen. Beautiful mineral specimens are for sale in Midelt. Don’t you want to take home a few pounds of rocks?!
We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area. Wander here to find a carpet or a pair of earrings or a painted plate. Motorcycles are not allowed in Fes medina so we can relax here; shopping and visiting the mosques and madrasas is much easier than in Marrakech. Often referred to as the country’s cultural capital, Fes has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or ancient walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world  – and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and the medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, dyers, ceramicists and so forth. Both the guide and driver live in Fes, and they’ll make you feel at home in this fascinating city.

Next stop is to marvel at the detailed stone mosaics and ancient structures of Volubilis, another UNESCO World Heritage site. We may see the resident storks that make their nests high on the columns of the Basilica. Founded in the 3rd century B.C., Volubilis became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and had many fine buildings; extensive remains of some survive at the archaeological site. UNESCO says: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, [Volubilis] is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development, Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire, and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures.”

We’ll return to Fes for our for Farewell Dinner when we take leave of new and old friends, and pack our suitcases, ready for flights to Casablanca the next morning/day of October 2. October 1 is the last included night of hotel.

After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book that will keep you dreaming of Morocco and your new friends!

Tour Price: $3850 per person in a group of 9 -12 people; $4250 for 6 – 8 people in group.

Note that there is a minimum number of travelers for a trip to ‘go’ and that varies by country. Please don’t buy air tickets until you are sure the trip will happen; email us to ask.

Single Supplement: $  800     To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

  • Includes the following:

    Morocco textile tour Fes craft market

    Felt maker uses sheep’s wool to make dark red felted purses, right.

  •  UNESCO World Heritage sites
    12 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming riads (small private villas with central courtyards), a comfortable Berber desert tent [1 night], and centrally-located, modern hotel in Casablanca – 2 nights)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 2 lunches* and a dinner on your own (*depending on cooking class participation)
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional drive.
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport for arrival/departure.
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional guide to accompany whole itinerary.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Flight from Fes to Casablanca at end of tour
  • Cooking class with gourmet cuisine for your lunch
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent after you get home.

Not included: Tips to guide and driver (we’ll suggest guidelines for this), personal items such as laundry; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking class, the lunch included during class time is on your own that day, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many other countries do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email:  info@btsadventures.com if you have any questions, or call 925-957-6690.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

 

 

 

 

Textiles of India Tour

Our popular Textiles of India tour is back!
September 1 – 17, 2018

Family we met in Rajasthan on textiles of India tour.

A Rajasthani family. Women in this area are expert embroidery artists.

Come with us on the exciting Textiles of India trip, to the fabulous textile-producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, then finally relax in tropical Kerala!
• Print or dye your own fabric in three private textile workshops.
• Go on a desert Jeep safari to see elegant wild asses of Kutch.
• Travel with expert textile guide in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
• Visit our friends among the artists and craftsmen of the north.
• Meet Rabari women and learn their unusual embroidery stitches.
• Finally, head to Cochin and relax on a wooden houseboat in tropical lagoons.

This is a trip for creating, learning and observing the textiles of India as well as meeting the welcoming and wonderful Indian people. To start out, we’ll visit several museums to see historical textiles including the world-famous Calico (textile) Museum with its exceptional cloth and clothing collections. As we visit textile artists, we’ll learn the detailed techniques of the dyeing and printing processes, beginning with a visit to the place where slabs of wood are carved into intricate designs for the printing blocks. At the block-print studio, we will be welcomed to watch the artists stamping designs onto the cotton fabric to get the hang of it, before we start our own projects. After we have mastered block-printing, we’ll meet a Master dyer and he will show us how to make silk Bandhini-style dyed scarves. The Bandhini technique involves tying off or stitching the areas to be resisted from the dye, and results in exquisite scarves that you will be proud to wear at home. There may be an opportunity to purchase some of the Master artist’s beautiful work also, below.

Silk tie-dyed scarf before white threads were taken out.

Silk tie-dyed bandhini scarf before white threads were pulled out.

One afternoon, local women who are experts in intricate shisha mirror embroidery, one of the best-known textiles of India, will show us their secrets in our embroidery workshop. After shopping in the local market full of textiles, we’ll head north to meet the famous double-ikat weavers of Patan. They have organized an amazing private museum of the ikat technique with examples from all over the world. Seeing their own complex silk warp dyeing techniques and finished masterpieces is totally fascinating.

DETAILS:
During the trip, we’ll travel by private van and plane, and stay in fascinating Heritage hotels in towns, [even a Majarajah’s palace!]. A couple of nights we’ll sleep out in the country in new, traditional bunghas in the little-visited northern Gujarati area of Kutch. The round earthen bunghas with thatched roofs are embellished with floral scrolls of bas-relief mirror. Hand-formed mud decorations around the windows and doors add a charming touch.
We will visit many ancient temples and other architecturally fascinating sites such as the famous Adalaj and Rani Ki Vav stepwells. These ancient and elaborate fresh water wells were built between the 11th and 16th centuries, with carved marble columns and decorated niches.

Amber Palace carved and inlaid flower panel

Cynthia with flower panel at Amber Palace in Jaipur.

In Jaipur we’ll meet the director and the girls at a workshop and home established to help girls stay in school and learn skills. Experience in sewing and craft projects that they learn to make and market will eventually help the girls to make a living on their own. If you’d like to bring them some sewing or school supplies, they would be thrilled! They need good quality scissors like Fiskar snips, trims, cloth scraps, and so forth. And they can always use pens, art materials, pencils and notebooks.

Later, in Jaipur, we will also visit the excellent Anokhi Printing Museum for a great introduction into our next workshops of wooden blockprinting! In a nearby village, we’ll visit an expert block print artist for a complete introduction into block-printed or stamped fabric. At his studio, you can print 2 yards of light cotton cloth suitable for clothing or a tablecloth, or a cotton scarf.

Then when we have made some wonderful projects in our workshops, and have seen all the art and architecture that we can possibly absorb, we will fly south to the state of Kerala. We land in pretty coastal town of Cochin, and see the Chinese fishing nets at the beach, India’s oldest synagogue, and Mattancherry Palace. The palace was a generous gift presented to the Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma (1537–61), as a gesture of goodwill by the Portuguese in 1555. There is also an excellent privately-owned folk art museum that we will visit, and we’ll see traditional Kathakali dances.

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Cynthia dips her mud-resist stamped piece in the indigo dyebath.

Finally we’ll head to the gorgeous backwater lagoons and spend twenty-four hours floating on luxurious, private wood and wicker houseboats with our own chefs!

Smiling man holding Indian hand-printed fabrics

Deepak gathers up new block print cloth at his Gujarat workshop.

We will float by trees full of weaver bird nests, as we enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Bring a ‘real’ book or a book on your iPad or Kindle, your knitting, or your yoga moves! Thoroughly relaxed from our houseboat cruise, at the end of our great tour, we return to our modern hotel on the water,  for the Farewell Dinner.
Next day, we fly home from Mumbai on September 18th. Plan your flights to depart BOM anytime after 9:30 pm.

TRIP PRICE:  $4960    (Single Supplement: $875)    Maximum 12 travelers.
Includes:
17 nights accommodation (double rooms with private bath) in charming heritage hotels, modern hotels in cities, and clean local hotels in remote areas. On the houseboat, the comfortable, A/C cabins are double share (singles subject to availability).
The itinerary for the Textiles of India tour has been carefully planned to cover a lot of ground, but also not to move around every night. We spend 2 or 3 nights in each destination; for example, 3 nights in both Jaipur and Bhuj.

We’ll cruise tropical lagoons of Kerala in a lovely wooden houseboat!   

Finally, there will be a pre-tour of the Taj Mahal and SOS Bear  Rescue Center in Agra for those interested, at a modest extra cost. Info to come after you’ve signed up.

The following are included.

All meals and tea breaks, water/tea/coffee and soft drinks with meals.
Local transportation in good vans with professional, good-natured drivers.
Three interior flights to see as much as possible.
Bottled water on road trips and on houseboat.

All village visits and museum entrances as on itinerary.
All temple and cultural site visits as on itinerary.
Airport arrival and departure transport (on group arrival and departure days).
Luggage porter tips.
Professional English-speaking guides, with expert on textiles in India joining us for the Gujarat region.
American Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary
Plus a custom travelogue photo book sent to you after the trip.
Breakfast and Lunch only are included on September 18, departure day.

Not included: International airfare, visa for India, required travel insurance (recommend Travel Guard); alcoholic beverages, tips for guide and driver, laundry, between-meal snacks and water (although we will have bottled water in the van for all the day trips); internet charges if any, and camera/video fees if required. You will need a visa for India; information will be forthcoming for online application.
Tipping Guidelines will be sent with trip information.

Artist using small chisel to cut flowers into wood block for printing.

Hand-carving a woodblock to print Indian fabrics.

Indian Lord Ganesha elephant god of success and good fortune.

Fancy Ganesh, God of Prosperity statue at a temple in Gujarat.

 

Argentina & Uruguay

July 24 -August 5,  2018
(Arrive July 24, depart for home August 6.)

Knitting and Culinary Tour in Argentina and Uruguay
Knitting & Dyeing Retreat
with Joji Locatelli and Alejandra Pont

Main house of the Estancia.

Highlights of this summer’s trip include a visit to the Malabrigo yarn dyeing facility in Uruguay, five days in exciting Buenos Aires, a fascinating Street Art/Graffiti Tour, four nights and relaxing days at a traditional ranch (right) with an exclusive retreat/workshop with Joji Locatelli, well-known Argentinian knitwear designer (below), and a dye workshop with expert dyer Alejandra Pont. We will also go to the Malabrigo sheep ranch and meet the Merino and Corriedale sheep that produce the famously soft Malabrigo fiber! Of course we will visit charming Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO Heritage site across the river from Buenos Aires in Uruguay, and peek into the many shops on the “Yarn Street” of beautiful Buenos Aires. There in the capital city, we’ll also have some amazing typical meals and we’ll enjoy a flamboyant Tango Show with our Farewell Dinner.

Joji with Shawls 2016

Joji with beginnings of our lace shawls.

Details of flexible itinerary:
We land in Buenos Aires at the EZE airport where you’ll be met by Cynthia or her assistant for the taxi drive into the city. Check into our charming hotel in the peaceful and pretty Palermo section of Buenos Aires. Spend time settling into the Argentine rhythm of life and discovering typical foods. We’ll take a ferry north across the Rio de la Plata to Montevideo, Uruguay, and there we’ll tour the Malabrigo yarn dyeing mill where we will each dye a skein of the most lovely fiber; photo below.

Dyeing.Malabrigo 2016

Cynthia and Gerardo dye merino at Malabrigo.

We can’t miss the UNESCO Heritage site of historic Colonia del Sacramento, founded by the Portuguese in 1680, and one of the oldest towns in Uruguay. Lonely Planet calls this town “irresistibly picturesque.” We’ll check out the main sights, then stroll the streets marveling at the colorful old homes and pretty plazas. You can take photos, visit the cool shops and art galleries. We will meet up with some delightful Uruguayan women who have a knitting group, and see what they are working on! Lunch and dinner on your own in Colonia; it will be fun to choose some interesting places near the hotel.

After a couple of nights in this charming and colorful town, we take the ferry back to Buenos Aires to relax and see more of the city. Then we drive south to the most gorgeous traditional Estancia (ranch). During four tranquil days here, we’ll immerse ourselves in knitting, making the pattern created especially for BTSA knitters by Joji, using our own hand-dyed Malabrigo yarn. She has designed a pattern that uses the yardage in the weight of Malabrigo yarn that they will let us dye!

La Sererna sheepThere will be plenty of time to relax, knit, eat, walk or bike over the Estancia’s 250 acres, then drink some wine and relax some more! In addition to Joji’s workshop and Alejandra’s dye lesson, Cynthia will present an Update to Andean Knitting, Powerpoint showing examples of some of the new innovations and techniques done in nearby Bolivia and Peru. The estancia house has roaring fireplaces in the library and living room so it is very cozy for hanging out in the evenings. During the days, we can walk outdoors or knit or read a good book, between cold drinks!

Food at the Estancia is plentiful and delicious; we will savor the famous Argentine BBQ meats and sausages called asado; vegetarians will have other options. At the Estancia, we will enjoy some of Argentina’s most classic dishes and typical desserts. And one day we will make our own lunch of empanadas! People from last year’s trip are still craving the rich homemade caramel topping called dulce de leche! Every day we will have tea and cookies in the afternoon, then dinner later, as is the custom.

La Serena asado

BBQ and Picnic at Malabrigo Ranch.

After we return to the capital, we’ll enjoy the scene at the lively weekend art and antique market, then we’ll see the fascinating Recoleta Cemetery which contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles. Many Argentine presidents are buried here, as well as Eva Peron and other famous people. Then you can wander along the “Yarn Street,” within walking distance of our hotel; we found that the shops sold mostly synthetic yarns, but there are a couple that carry other fibers, and some of the synthetic is quite unusual and appealing. Dinner on your own tonight.

The next and final day is at leisure: shop some more, relax and wander around the neighborhood, then pack up your suitcases for the trip home! Lunch on your own this free day. Fabulous Tango Show and Farewell Dinner on last night.

Plan your plane departure time for the next day, August 6, but don’t leave too early in the  morning so you can enjoy the TANGO SHOW and Dinner and wine at Angelito’s the night before.

Street art Colonia 2016TOUR PRICE: $4350.
(Single supplement available for $725.)
Includes 13 nights accommodation in double/twin rooms in comfortable hotels with private bath, and at the historic estancia (with some shared bathrooms there); all meals except a few lunches and dinners on free days when the group is not together, soft drinks and water during all meals, dye and knitting workshops by Joji Locatelli and Alejandra Pont, taxi transportation into city from Buenos Aires airports on group arrival date, all interior transportation by private Mercedes Sprinter van and professional driver, city taxis, and modern ferry boats (BuqueBus) across the river between Argentina and Uruguay; Street Art/Graffiti Tour around Buenos Aires, Tango Show and dinner, skein of Malabrigo yarn to dye for workshop project, new unpublished knitting pattern by Joji, just for us.

Happy Knitters with Joji in blue, center; Cynthia and Alejandra at far right. 2015

Not included: International air fare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry charges, luggage porter tips, and between-meal snacks and drinks (if you haven’t eaten enough at our bountiful meals!).

We will arrange your airport departure transportation for you, but it is not included because everyone departs at different times/flights.

If you arrive at either Buenos Aires airport on a different date from the group arrival date, you’ll pay the taxi into town, but the hotel will arrange your pickup at the airport.

For more images, see the Argentine and Uruguay trip Photo Gallery.

Laos, Cambodia & Thailand

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

 (New 2020 dates coming soon!)

The best SE Asian Textile Tour! You’ll be met in Bangkok on June 15 at the airport, and we’ll all fly home from Siem Reap (REP) on July 4.  More flight info later.

Go Behind-the-Scenes to a fabulous festival in little-known northern Thailand. See the superb UNESCO site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos. This is more than a textile tour, but there will be plenty of textiles: We’ll watch weavers at work, and learn how they tie and dye threads to create exquisite ikat patterned fabric in both silk and cotton. We travel in a big loop, seeing the best of all three countries — the most interesting textiles, architecture, archeology and culture — including three UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Weaving with a complex system of pattern-keeping.

TRIP DETAILS: We’ll first go to the Phi Ta Khon Festival, in a little Thai village known for its raucous  parade of fabulously masked dancers. Phi Ta Khon, means “Ghosts Following People,” and the celebration commemorates a joyful event in young Buddha’s life, as a prince. Dancers create sensational costumes and masks, and cavort with  phallus-shaped swords, related to the fertility emphasis of the festival.

Dyeing with natural indigo.

Afterwards we’ll drive to Vientaine, Laos, then fly into Luang Prabang to see the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples, and you’ll be able  to explore this laid-back and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance: we will spend the afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll make natural dyes and dye silk scarves, and also watch talented silk weavers.  Dinner by the Mekong; see if you are brave enough to try the spicy fermented water buffalo skin condiment! The fried river moss is delicious.

The local market is interesting, and nearby there is an excellent new textile museum and shop. You can try shopping at the Night Market with all its handicrafts and art; although it is getting rather commercialized, there are still some interesting things to be found. Along with the magnificently decorated temples, a significant part of the old town’s appeal is the many French provincial style houses, the riverside location, and the tropical ambiance—Luang Prabang is a delightful place to relax and learn about Lao culture.

Then we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital of Laos – Vientiane – where we’ll visit the enormous textile/fabric market, and meet the weavers in a nearby weaving village with a Laotian friend. We’ll also tour an innovative silk weaving studio, and see the the famous Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas.

Angkor Temple-ROOTS

One of many overgrown temples at Angkor.

After Laos, we’ll drive south to Udon Thani, Thailand. Udon and our next few destinations are in Isaan or the northeastern part of Thailand. One article says, ‘Here is part of Thailand with all of the acclaimed Thai hospitality, culture, and food but none of the backpackers! Just south of the border with Laos, lies this entire region that has been little-visited  by outsiders. The area is rural Thailand at its best: farmland meets sleepy villages (and lots of textiles!). It’s proof that Thailand isn’t completely trodden with tourists.’

In Udon Thani we’ll visit delightful friends who dye natural cotton with natural indigo and use fermented fruits in the dye bath. We’ll see the entire process from tying and dyeing the weft, to weaving the cloth. Continuing south, we’ll visit the important ikat (mud-mee) silk weaving town of Chonnabot and marvel at the hundreds of  intricate, historical resist-dyed silk  in the Silk Museum there.

Cambodian silk weaver.

Next stop is the riverside town of Ubon Ratchathani, known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa. We’ll visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are preparing for the event next month; you can even make Buddhist merit by cutting around some of the wax shapes to decorate the floats! Then we head south by van, into Cambodia, to Siem Reap and the fabulous Khmer temples of Angkor Wat! A UNESCO Heritage site, Angkor Wat and the surrounding wats form a world-class temple complex, with sophisticated wall carvings.

“Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including the surrounding forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.” (UNESCO site info)

Cambodia also has some of the most intricate silk weaving anywhere in the world. We’ll go out of town to visit the premier silkworm breeding and silk reeling facility, then watch the weavers here to see how different their techniques are from the Thai and Lao silk mat-mi artisans.

We’ll stay 5 nights in this lovely hotel in Siem Reap, with refreshing pool (above) and have an optional hands-on cooking class to learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine (similar to Thai). We’ll also visit a fascinating, large, commercial but relaxed silkworm breeding and reeling facility, and watch the weavers work. Our Farewell Dinner will be followed by a performance of Phare, the renowned Cambodian youth circus – no animals – but great acrobatics!

Supplementary weft piece of silk weaving, Laos.

TOUR COST: $4395   Single Supplement: $775
Minimum 6, maximum 12 travelers.

Includes 19 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (a couple of the hotels have a pool), all meals except three lunches and two dinners in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang on days when the group is scattered (we will suggest possible places to eat), all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, round-trip flights from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, all in-country travel by private van with professional driver, three days of entrance fees at Angkor Wat, all transportation in the Park, entrance to the archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary, a Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap, the Phare Circus show and dinner, and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip!

Fly into Bangkok, and home from Siem Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Sim Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap.

Not included: International airfare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, several meals as indicated on itinerary, personal items such as laundry charges, luggage porter tips and between-meal snacks and drinks. A generous tip per person for the Angkor guide and the van driver(s) has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping!

Stack of wax decorations ready to adorn float figures.

Anyone who helps transport your bag should be tipped the local equivalent of about $1 per bag.

Textiles and Machu Picchu

 APRIL 8 – 18, 2019     Sorry, this trip is full; check back next year.

Textiles and Machu Picchu Tour

Knitting, Weaving, Machu Picchu, and Lord of the Earthquakes Procession in Cuzco.

(Arrive on April 8, fly home late on April 18 or early April 19) This exciting 10-night textiles and Machu Picchu adventure goes from the superb museums and gourmet restaurants of Lima the capital city, to the Andean highland villages – with the jungles of Inca Machu Picchu, and beautiful colonial Cuzco in between!
TRIP DETAILS
Either Cynthia, or BTSA assistant Gerardo, or the hotel driver if after 10 pm, will meet you at the Lima airport upon arrival, on April 8. Check into the Hotel El Patio, below, for a good night’s sleep in this charming and cozy place that is overflowing with flowers and greenery, in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood.

EL PATIO-LIMA

El Patio Hotel in Miraflores, Lima.

In the morning, after breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs breakfast room, we will have a brief orientation about seeing textiles and Machu Picchu logistics. A friendly money-changer will come to the hotel lobby to change our crispy clean, new dollar bills to soles, the Peruvian currency. Cynthia will hand out currency conversion charts to use until you get used to the money exchange. The van driver will pick us up at the hotel to begin our adventure in Lima, Peru’s bustling and prosperous capital city.

Lima has world-class museums, flowery parks, interesting architecture, a fabulous crafts market, and great restaurants where we will sample typical Peruvian cuisine. We’ll spend a very full day in Lima, first seeing the wonderful ceramic and textile collections of the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, housed in a beautiful old mansion with flowery gardens. It has just been renovated and the presentations are superb, but we still love the storage section with the floor-to-ceiling glass shelves of mostly Moche ceramics, like a huge library of pots, all carefully arranged and grouped by subject, crab pots, squash-shaped pots, llama pots, etc.

Cynthia at Machu Picchu

After lunch, we’ll go to the recently revamped Amano Museum which has one of the world’s best Andean textile collections; there we will meet the Curator if he is in town, and hear his story of the museum’s evolution to its present glory! Our Welcome Dinner will be at one of Lima’s many excellent restaurants.

Machu Picchu LOW

Machu Picchu from the back left side.

Next day we fly over the Andes to Cuzco, and from the airport, drive to lower altitude. We’ll spend the night in a pretty hotel in Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley. In the little shops and the handicraft market there, we can look for interesting textile finds or you can climb to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Early next morning, we’ll take the train to the incredible, mystical site of Machu Picchu. The ‘Sanctuary’ site was overgrown by trees and brush but known by the local people, when American Hiram Bingham re-discovered it in 1911.

An expert local guide will accompany you as you walk around the site, and will explain the Inkas and their culture. Machu Picchu (now a National Park) and Cuzco town itself are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Machu Picchu is lower than Cuzco and the environment is very different. Rock cliff faces bristle with bromeliads; orchids and begonias line the sinuous road to the site. That night we’ll sleep to the roar of the Urubamba River and visit the Inka sanctuary again the next day, if you wish.

LosMarqueses CUZCO-low

Patio of our heritage hotel in Cuzco.

Our return train journey to Cuzco will be in the afternoon on the second day. Upon arriving in town, we’ll check into our historical hotel, a beautiful stone Colonial mansion built in the 17th century, and restored in 2004. The hotel is in the perfect location, on a quiet side street two blocks from the central Plaza de Armas, and close to many other historical sights.

Peru - Bolivia

Weaver picking up warp patterns with llama bone.

Cuzco was the center of the Inka Empire and you’ll see Inka stonework at every turn around the central Plaza de Armas. We’ll take it easy the first day in the altitude, walking nearby to have lunch. Then we’ll visit the good exhibition at the small museum of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco (CTTC), founded and managed by dynamic Peruvian weaver Nilda Callañaupa [English-speaking]. Cuzco is safe and easy to walk around in, mostly flat cobblestone streets, with some hilly areas. From Cuzco, we will drive to several remote Andean communities on day trips (coming back to our wonderful hotel, above, to sleep).

Sacred Valley of the Inkas with terraced hillsides.

In the villages, you’ll meet textile artists and will be welcomed to learn some new weaving or knitting techniques from these masters. One day, we will have a dye workshop in a village with the  women there. You’ll buy white alpaca yarn at the Michell Alpaca store, close to the hotel, and we’ll dye it with natural dyestuff such as cochineal, yellow flowers, green leaves, and more. (You can buy/dye as much yarn or as little as you want.) This day is market day in the village too, so you can check out the little local market, now as full of tourist souvenir textiles as local produce. We will also visit Nilda’s brother’s studio; Angel paints charming watercolors depicting various animals from local myths and legends, such as foxes and mice. These sweet and original souvenirs are for sale at his studio.

Causa, typical yellow potato cold dish with crab, peppers, avocado.

Monday afternoon is time for the fabulous procession of the black statue of Christ on the cross. We will have good seats in a restaurant above the plaza to look down on the celebration, take photos, and to toss the symbolic red flowers onto the statue as it passes below (for blessings and luck). Note that in the photo at top, the base of the figure is covered in red flowers.

Feeding some very hairy creatures!

The procession includes several priests, deacons, and perhaps a cardinal, military marching men in uniform and brass bands, city dignitaries, school children, and college students. By the end of the long celebration, the participants are all sprinkled with red flowers thrown from balconies along the route. We’ll have our Farewell Dinner in Cuzco the last night, then next morning on April 18 (breakfast only included today), we fly to Lima, and either connect onward to home that afternoon/evening, or go to the Hotel El Patio to rest and perhaps shop in the neighborhood until time to go to the airport. We will suggest convenient flights for arrival and departure.

Typical Chinchero hand-knit cap.

Price:  $3400 for 9 – 12 people

Single Supplement: $440 

* To sign up, click this Sign Me Up! link and follow instructions.

Included in the Textiles and Machu Picchu tour:

  • All meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner– except two lunches and one dinner on free days, when group is scattered.
  • 10 nights accommodation (April 8-17) in beautiful, small boutique or heritage hotels, all locally-owned, safe, and friendly. Private bath, double or twin occupancy.
  • Two interior flights (Lima to Cuzco round-trip) one hour each.
  • Day Room on April 18 until you depart for the airport which may be in the wee hours of April 19.
  • Explanations by Cynthia, on woven ancient/pre-Hispanic and contemporary knit/woven textiles.
  • Knitting workshop to learn ingenious knitting techniques; yarn provided.
  • Dye workshop with Nilda, and natural vegetal dyes, cochineal, etc. (Fiber not included; you’ll decide how many skeins you want to dye and we’ll go together to Mitchell alpaca store near hotel to buy yarn for dyeing.)
  • Peruvian Master Weaver, Nilda Callanaupa to accompany group for Andean village visit.
  • All interior transportation by private van with professional, known driver.
  • Bottled water on van rides (please bring a refillable bottle for personal use, or re-use one there).
  • Visits to typical, remote Andean highland villages to meet the textile artists; picnic lunch in a village.
  • Entrances to all museums on itinerary of Textiles and Machu Picchu tour.
  • Licensed, professional English-speaking local guide and guide tips for Machu Picchu.
  • Airport arrival and transportation on group arrival date
  • One-day Machu Picchu entrance, and shuttle to the site—(2nd day about $75 optional)
  • Andean textile expert Cynthia LeCount Samaké and a Spanish-English-speaking assistant to lead tour and accompany entire itinerary.

Cynthia and Claudia in a kiwicha field, Chinchero highlands.

Claudia dyes alpaca yarn with rock lichen. Chinchero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arts and Culture: Ghana

February 7 – 20, 2019  (Depart for home February 21)

Ghana is sometimes called “Africa for beginners” because of the ease of travel, the friendly, welcoming people and the relative level of modernity compared to other West African nations. This arts and culture of Ghana tour includes three workshops of traditional crafts, an enormous bead market, fantasy coffins, a school visit, and the biggest fabric market in West Africa!

Ghana is safe and politically stable; best of all, the people have retained many cultural and artistic traditions such as the patterned ‘kente’ weaving and Adinkra cloth – and have created some others, such as the fairly recent mode of fantasy coffins. This is not only a textile tour, but also an arts and culture tour of Ghana that explores the creative aspects as well as the historical and ecological features of this fascinating country.

Led by Malian Barou Samake, this adventure includes the very best of Ghana! Barou is an upbeat leader with a positive, can-do attitude to ensure that your travel experience enchants and enriches you.  Our friend and Master weaver Jeff Ahiagble will accompany the tour in the kente cloth weaving centers and arrange a typical music performance. Professional English-speaking local guides at historical sites will add depth to your knowledge by explaining the historical context and background of the sites. Expert Ghanaian artist-friends lead the three exciting workshops: batik stamped cloth, adinkra-printed fabric, and glass bead-making. There will also be time to  make a necklace or bracelets with your beads. You can also try your hand at weaving on a double-heddle kente strip-cloth loom if you like.

Elsa stamping her batik fabric with wax.

We’ll go from ocean beaches to forest canopy, with lakes and traditional villages in between!  On this wonderful adventure, we will cover as much as possible of the fascinating southern part of the country. We’ll spend several days in specific areas such as Kumasi, so that we get a good feeling for Ghanaian life away from the busy coastal areas. You will be met by the trip leaders at Kotoka International airport, in the capital city of  Accra on February 7 when you arrive.

First we’ll head west to tour Cape Coast Castle with a licensed local guide. This important UNESCO World Heritage site was one of thirty large commercial forts built by European traders on the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana). Originally it was built by Swedish settlers to trade timber and gold, but later used in the tragic trans-Atlantic slave trade. The historic town of Elmina is believed to be the location of the first point of contact between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans.

Barou Samake, Ghana tour leader.

Now the town is a fishing village with colorful scenes of fishermen and boats on the beach. We’ll also stop in the fishing town of Jamestown, with its fresh fish market, tuna smoking ovens and fishing scene on the beach. We will meet with a friend who works there. He will show us the boats being crafted by hand, and will explain how the community/communal fishing works. He will also show us the school for the fishermen’s children and you can donate school supplies here if you wish.

The famous Ghanaian kente cloth is still woven in several places; we will see the beautiful patterns of both Ewe and Ashanti versions. We’ll meet the weavers in individual and coop settings, see their weaving demonstrations, and be able to buy their work directly from them. Hand-printed batik cloth and other arts such as music, dance, and bead-making are all thriving, alongside the modern aspect of the city of Accra.

We’ll try our hand at some traditional crafts in several half-day workshops mentioned above. We will print adinkra motifs made from sections of hand-carved dried gourd to embellish cloth. Another day we’ll stamp hot wax on cotton yardage for a gorgeous batik and also we’ll make recycled glass beads. At a fabulous weekly Bead Market, dozens of stalls hold an amazing variety of handmade beads, available for great prices. Later we’ll create  necklaces and bracelets from our handmade beads and newly acquired ones. These workshops represent typical arts and culture of Ghana that are being both maintained and re-invented by the artisans.

Fantasy Coffins

Powdered glass beads made by Cedi, available at his shop.

We will visit a coffin carving workshop, to see what they are working on. These wooden, custom-made coffins reflect the career or aspirations of the deceased, for the Ga ethnic community. Fishermen might be buried in a huge colorful fish or a carpenter in a big hammer-shaped coffin! Ghanaians can request burial in a carved wooden version of their favorite automobile, or airplane. Farmers can order cocoa pods or chili peppers for the journey to the other life. Some men choose a beer bottle or an over-sized Coca Cola bottle. Popular women’s coffins include huge chickens, with smaller wooden “chicks” at her feet, one representing each of the lady’s children. We’ll see the coffin construction and carving process and different models. ‘Fantasy coffins’ have become art pieces in America, bought by galleries and collectors. See our friend Eric’s fantasy coffin creations here.

Ashanti Kente cloth in progress on strip loom.

Kente strip loom, showing the foot pedals.

We’ll also stop at the rural school that we have ‘adopted’ to give them school supplies. These kids are adorable and have almost no school materials, but the principal is wonderful as are the hard-working and very appreciative teachers.

Quilters and other fabric enthusiasts, bring an empty suitcase to hold all the amazing roller-printed fabrics you’ll discover in the overflowing markets! We will go on a special market tour in Kumasi with a friend who knows the labyrinth of stalls and where to find the best fabrics – and whatever else you may need – great fun!

Arrive on February 7 and fly home from Accra on February 21. February 20 is LAST included night of hotel but you may leave your bags, and hang out at the hotel, until time to go to the airport. Many flights leave Accra late at night.

Behind the Scenes Adventures IN ACTION:
We have a project to help local schools where we travel; we’ll visit an elementary school in a remote area in Ghana and offer school supplies.  BTSA travelers have been wonderfully generous about donating pens, pencils and notebooks during our visits, and the children are so sweet; this is really a heart-warming experience!!  See the BTSA Helping page here.

Price: $4195 for 4-6 travelers for Arts and Culture of Ghana. (Arrive Feb. 7 and depart Feb 21.)
$3950 for 7 – 12 travelers
Single supplement: $550

Girl selling fish takes a break to flirt!

Includes:

14 nights accommodation in comfortable local hotels (double rooms), transportation by private vehicle, all meals, except one lunch on last [free] day in Accra, all soft drinks and water with meals, bottled water in the van on the road; airport transportation on group arrival and departure days, all entrances to historical sites and museums on itinerary, professional guide at Elmina Castle, expert shopping guide for Kumasi market tour, Master Kente cloth weaver guide, three workshops: glass-bead making, Adinkra stamping, and batik printing – 2 yards of cotton cloth are provided for the batik printing workshop.

Not included:

International airfare to the capital, Accra; visa for Ghana; personal items such as laundry, massage, between meal water and snacks, and the cloth to print Adikra on. There will be a group market outing in Kumasi to buy your choice of cloth for Adinkra printing. Batik cotton included.

NOTE #1
If you arrive or depart on a different day than the designated group arrival/departure date, you will need to pay the taxi from airport to hotel, and any additional nights of hotel. Plan flights to arrive after 10am or before 8pm if possible. Barou will meet you at the airport, with the driver on the group arrival date. Otherwise, we will arrange for the hotel to send a known and safe taxi driver for you. The Ghana airport is enclosed and fairly un-chaotic.

Fishing boats in the harbor.

NOTE #2
After you have paid the $500 deposit for Arts and Culture of Ghana, and several months before departure, we will send you the form to fill out for your visa to Ghana, and an information packet with lists of what to bring, heath and cultural info, maps, etc.

NOTE #3
It is impossible to plan attendance at traditional musical or dance events or even holidays and festivals, from afar. We love these events, and we’re happy to be flexible and spontaneously attend traditional performances in villages along the way, if the chance should arise.

See the Ghana Image Gallery here. 

 

 

Textiles + Carnival: Bolivia

February 19- March 4, 2019

OVERVIEW: This is a fabulous 14-night Textile Tour of Bolivia, an amazing country little-visited by North American travelers. Bolivia is not only famous for textiles, but also for the exciting Carnival event in the otherwise sleepy mining town of Oruro. We’ll first see the intricate weaving and the amazing knitting, sleep in a peaceful rural hacienda, visit historical places such as colonial Sucre, the famous silver-mining city of Potosi and the enigmatic city of LaPaz. Designed to be the highlight of our Carnival and textile tour, the celebration in Oruro will thrill you with the villagers’ handmade outfits and textiles on Thursday and the elaborate satin and sequined costumes, masks and brass band music on Saturday.

TRIP DETAILS for Textile Tour of Bolivia:
Arrive in La Paz from home in the morning of February 19. (Depart for home on March 5.) We’ll plan our flights to arrive, and meet at El Alto International Airport in La Paz, literally ‘the Heights!’  To acclimate as soon as possible (with the airlines’ new schedules) we’ll descend to the hotel in La Paz and stroll the nearby shops and markets for the day. We’ll spend the night of the 19th in La Paz then fly the next morning – 1 hour – to the beautiful city of Sucre where we will spend the next few days at lower altitude. Check into our lovely hotel, in an 18th C mansion, with terraces full of flowers, below; take a city tour and visit a fascinating handmade felted Hat Factory! Sucre is one of two capitals of Bolivia (with LaPaz) and despite its population today of around 300,000, the historical center with its notable colonial architecture is pleasant to stroll around in. Sucre is also the center of expert textile production.

History of the city of Sucre is interesting. In 1559, the Spanish King Philip II established the Audiencia of Charcas (high court of justice) in Sucre. It had authority over an area of present-day Paraguay, southeastern Peru, northern Chile and Argentina, and much of Bolivia! In 1624 St. Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca was founded here. It is one of the oldest universities of the New World, housed in a stately building.

We’ll visit the University’s Anthropology Museum, with good folklore and ethnography exhibits, and the local market with crafts, textiles and produce.  We’ll also see the superb textiles at the excellent ASUR Textile Museum, in a 17th C colonial home. This small museum and the museum shop show and sell traditional pieces from the towns surrounding Sucre: Ravelo, Potolo, Tarabuco, and Candelaria. Watch weavers at work in the courtyard, using different techniques and oblique looms. Later, relax on the hotel’s rooftop terraces or walk around Sucre’s pretty central plaza, only three blocks from our Hotel.

After a couple of days in Sucre, we’ll drive by private van to the historical silver mining city of Potosi (3 hours, with interesting stops along the way). It is known as the world’s ‘highest city’ and is notable for the riches (and tragedies) of its mining history. In the mid-1500s, the founding of the city and the discovery of fabulously rich silver veins went hand in hand. By the end of the 18th century, Potosi had grown into the largest and wealthiest city in all of Latin America. Many beautiful colonial churches and buildings still hint at this former splendor. We’ll visit the Carmelite Santa Theresa Convent that dates from the late 1600s. The convent has amazing art and artifacts, and shows a sad but interesting part of old Spanish-Catholic-influenced history. Visit the Royal Mint (Casa de la Moneda) if there is interest, where colonial coins were produced on a variety of machines.

141-400x400Then we’ll drive a short ways outside of Potosi, through a dramatic agricultural valley to our rural Hacienda (left), arriving in the afternoon. We’ll spend two nights at this peaceful retreat, relaxing and reading, knitting, hiking, etc. The farm and mansion date from colonial times. The hacienda was an encomienda (grant by the Spanish Crown to a colonist in America) whose title dated from 1557, making it the first hacienda in “New Toledo,” or present day Bolivia. The rural hacienda remains a working farm, producing vegetables and dairy products for its own guests, and to be sold in the city. Staying there is like relaxing in a comfortable, antique-filled home of a gracious friend. The library, private chapel and museum are fascinating. The focal point of the living room is a cozy fireplace, and we’ll have delicious and typical meals in the dining room.

If possible, we’ll drive out to accessible weaving villages (last year the road was too muddy so we found weavers in town). Potolo-Ravelo LOW

In this rural area, local women weave the well-known red and black textiles (right) and men weave brilliant tapestries full of animals and birds. These indigenous communities that belong to the Jalq’a ethnic group maintain their traditional culture in the architecture of the houses, the agricultural techniques and especially in the handmade textile production, which is totally unique. Knitting is also fine and detailed in villages around Potosi; we will see examples.

We’ll return to Sucre, then leave early on Sunday for the town of Tarabuco and its weekly market full of textiles and all the usual garden produce. People living in this area maintain their traditional culture, evident in their unusual dress, interesting customs, and Quechua language. Men typically wear rounded, black leather helmets, called monteras, reminiscent of the conquistadors’ helmets, with colorful hand-woven ponchos, pants and sandals. Women also wear hand-woven clothing with boat-shaped hats, and adolescents and some women wear yet another type of hat, a tightly crocheted, black version called a “tadpole” hat because of the tail in back.

Apple AnataThe fabulous ¡¡CARNAVAL!!
We’ll drive to Oruro, arriving in time to see the indigenous people’s carnival called Anata Andina. Invited groups of villagers from far and near converge in Oruro, wearing their very best, newly hand-woven clothing and hand-knit caps. Their brilliant outfits are often adorned with bundles of greens or strands of fruits and vegetables, as symbols of fertility. The musicians play wooden flutes and handmade drums. Llamas or sheep sometimes accompany the groups. On Friday at mid-morning we’ll go to the main market for the delicious treat of Api, the hot, sweet corn drink and fried Pasteles with powdered sugar – yum! We’ll visit the Bolivar Markets with stalls of brilliant Anata costumes and accessories, and perhaps watch some Carnival preparations.

Go to bed early in preparation for the big event tomorrow: Saturday Entrada, or grand opening of Carnival. There are approximately 50 groups with hundreds of dancers each, so it is a huge event. The goal is to dance the whole route, right up to the church on the hill, three kilometers. These groups are different Bolivians than the villagers. The Saturday performers are apt to be system programmers or teachers, taxi drivers, or doctors and lawyers. They dress in masks and costumes that are intricate, expensive and often heavy and uncomfortable, as in the case of the girls dancing the entire 3 km. parade route in tall boots with platform heels! The main day, the Entrada of Carnival, is an all-day event, often ending at 2-3 am. We will have bleacher seats and simple box lunches.

DSC04350_1You may watch as much or as little as you like, of course. There is a huge variety of costumes including Devil dancers, furry bears, Morenadas in huge embroidered cardboard outfits, Caporales with bells on their boots, and so forth. There are five devil groups called Diabladas with both men and women performing various roles in the dance. Cynthia will explain the groups and offer hand-outs about the many groups, so you will know a bit more about what you are seeing! The whole event is really spectacular. You might want to watch from the bleachers for a few hours, then relax at the hotel for a while, then go back out to watch the night-time displays.

One Devil group that performs late has light-up masks and pipes that shoot out propane flames! Finally, drive back to La Paz with time to visit the town. Check into our sweet hotel, have lunch, then walk down Sacarnaga, the street of textiles – and spend the rest of the day exploring La Paz on your own. Next day is a free day in La Paz; you could take an optional day trip to the archeological site of Tiawanaku. Our hotel’s tour department has convenient and good Tiawanaku guided van tours which include lunch, for a nominal cost. The Museum of Ethnography and Folklore is very interesting with drawers full of very accessible textiles to admire. We’ll have our Farewell Dinner, saying goodbye to fellow travelers on our Textile Tour of Bolivia! Get a good night’s sleep for early departure the next morning, March 5.

CARNIVAL and TEXTILE  TOUR of BOLIVIA

PRICE:  $4125  Single supplement $535

INCLUDES:

  • 14 nights accommodation double/twin rooms with private bath, in boutique hotels where available, historical buildings, and a rural hacienda with modern plumbing
  • All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 2 lunches and 1 dinner on your own)
  • Air flight from LA PAZ to SUCRE
  • All transportation by private van to textile villages
  • Bleacher seats and box lunch during two Carnival days
  • All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on itinerary
  • Visits to textile-producing villages near Sucre and Potosi
  • Spanish- and English-speaking tour leader/local textile/festival experts to accompany the tour
  • Specialized local English-speaking guide for village tours
  • Airport departure on group departure day