Nancy Hecker - Travel Consultant/Travel Writer
Tours with a Theme
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Tours with a Theme

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TOURS WITH A THEME

Trip planning to me was creative and fun, especially when I had decided on a theme and began to work around it! The idea of a theme brought focus to the planning process and seemed to get my creative juices flowing.

I am often asked how I decided on a particular destination or theme for my tours? Sometimes it was as simple as a personal preference. If there was somewhere that I had always wanted to travel to and learn more about, I would do my research, take a site inspection visit to experience it first hand, and then come home and put together a tour!  If I was excited about a particular destination, I found that those who traveled with me picked up on my enthusiasm and got excited as well! 

One great resource for coming up with ideas for my tours was the annual American Bus Association Marketplace. Becoming a member of ABA was truly one of the best moves I made to grow my small company and enhance my tour offerings.  Marketplace was a weeklong event providing tour operators such as myself the opportunity to meet with representatives from Convention and Visitors Bureaus, hotels, restaurants, museums and other tourism attractions from all over the United States and Canada.  The networking possibilities were endless, and the relationships developed over the years with travel industry partners helped make my tours extra special.  Attendance at Marketplace kept me up to speed on what was new in our industry.  It helped my trip planning to know well in advance what special exhibitions might be coming to a museum, what hot new show might be playing on Broadway, or what neat new hotel was soon to be opening.  I give a lot of credit to ABA.

But sometimes the inspiration for a tour came to me like a bolt of lightning, striking the inner core of my imagination.  Like the time I went to the Phillips Collection in downtown Washington DC with two of my best friends.  We were going to see a special exhibition entitled:  Impressionists on the Seine.  When we started through the exhibit, a light bulb went on inside my head!  My friends actually saw it happen and marveled with amazement!  Wouldn’t this make a fantastic tour, to take our travelers to France and actually put them in the scenes that these wonderful artists had painted? This led to an incredible tour to France, where we stayed in a chateau near Monet's home in Giverny, traveled along the Seine all the way to Honfleur and Etratat, and had our farewell dinner at Maison Fornaise in Chatou, the setting Renoir used for his "Luncheon of the Boating Party" masterpiece! As an added touch (a little lagniappe) we took along a friend who was an artist. Out on the expansive lawn of the Chateau where we stayed Leanne gave us all lessons on watercolor painting!

The same thing happened after reading Frances Mayes popular book: "Under the Tuscan Sun."  The light bulb again went on, and I decided that this could make a great tour! My husband and I drove all over Tuscany on our site inspection visit, trying to find just the right villa hotel for my group to stay in on my "Foothills of Tuscany" tour.  I wanted my travelers to feel as if they were guests in Frances Maye's book, and I was delighted to find the Hotel Belvedere di San Leonino to fit the bill!  On the actual tour, we visited the town of Cortona, and hiked out past the park to find and take a picture of Bramasole, the home Frances had so lovingly restored.  We even had lunch at the Ristorante La Loggetta overlooking the colorful Piazza della Republicca described so vividly in Frances’ book.

The decision to take my group to Argentina resulted from my friendship with Patricia and Marianna, two great friends whom I had met on the tennis courts at Ft. Myer, Virginia.  Their husbands were the military attaches stationed at the Embassy of Argentina in Washington DC.  When their tours of duty ended and they returned to Buenos Aires, we stayed in close touch.  We made a few visits to their country over the ensuing years, and before I retired I wanted to share this wonderful friendship with my travelers.  I knew Patricia and Mariana would make the tour very special, as it is always an added benefit to get to know the people of the country to which you are visiting. 

A great example of how I played a theme was evident on this tour from the get-go. One of our travelers had also been a dance instructor. Jim generously agreed to give the group “tango” lessons as a precursor to our trip. We all had great fun counting out our steps and giving it a try!  When the group gathered at the Community Center prior to our departure for the airport, the tour leaders were dressed as gauchos. We greeted our travelers with a glass of Malbec wine and some delicious empanadas while we checked them in and tagged their suitcases.  In Buenos Aires, at our welcome dinner at Las Lilas, each tour participant had a gift on the table in front of their place setting.  Patricia had taken care of getting “mate cups” and “bombillas” (straws) to go with them.  Later on the trip we learned about this ubiquitous drink that is as common to the Argentine people as our lattes are to us. 

MORE TO COME..........

 

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It's all about the journey and the friends you make along the way!  
This website is dedicated to my best friends who have traveled with me on my many tours, and more importantly on my journey through life!  Each one of you is a treasure to me!