It’s been a year and a half since the word Staycation became one of the words we use and hear the most as everyone talks only about it when they want to have a different topic other than Covid. The media writes countless articles about staycations giving tips and recommendations of all sorts and for all budgets, but when you look a little bit closer to all that, it turns out everything is simply about booking hotels so we might wonder if going away to stay in a hotel for the weekend is a real staycation? Is that our only option?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a Staycation is “a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions”. So indeed, booking a hotel in our home country match that definition but is that a real and meaningful holiday? I wonder.
While working with Ariodante, I’ve seen how amazing vacations can be and how little we usually discover when we travel (at home or abroad) once we fully embrace the concept of Experiential Travel and how far we can go when we think outside the box.
For us, what really matters isn’t the destination or even the hotel where we will be staying. What matters is tapping into each person’s passions and interests to create an authentic travel experience where each person travelling can learn and discover incredible things (places, cultures, activities, people etc.) that will truly enrich their lives. This is why for us, a staycation is no different than an international trip.
Of course, one can easily argue that being ourselves locals in our own country, there’s nothing we can experience other than local gastronomy or sightseeing and, therefore, booking a hotel is more than enough. Still, again, this is entirely false, and this is why we wanted to share with you a different approach to enjoy incredible and meaningful vacations… at home.
Even before the Covid pandemic started, our team was already creating several thematic trips within a single country for the handful of ultra-affluent clients we work for and later, we used the same approach to create outstanding trips for ‘locals’ within their home country.
For example, for a client passionate about history and literature, we created a memorable 10 days trip to England to dive into English history and explore the Tudor Dynasty. So, instead of simply making a list of famous Tudor sites and then take him and his family to visit them, we decided to ‘turn the table’ and craft a truly extraordinary and refined trip where we approached this formidable chapter of history through the work (and life) of William Shakespeare.
By doing so, we brought together two of our client’s passions allowing him and his family to see things differently, learn from some of the best historians and experts in the world, and, most of all, give them a once in a lifetime vacation away from all they’ve ever experience.
During this trip, not only we visited some famous landmarks privately (always opening doors that usually remain closed for everyone else), but we also created some unique experiences such as a private performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII in a Tudor Palace and even an unexpected private visit to the Tower of London to search for the Princes in the Tower where the client’s teenage sons were able to embark into a memorable treasure hunt mixing history with ghosts while their parents spent more time seeing the Crown Jewels.
Of course, a trip like this is the privilege of the ultra-wealthy as it takes a highly skilled team with rare know-how, months of careful planning and enormous resources to be able to pull this up, but you don’t need to be a billionaire or even hire an upscale agency like Ariodante to be able to travel in a meaningful way. All you have to do is to think outside the box and challenge yourself.
So, do you think it is worth doing staycations?
The answer is a million times yes because staying in our home country doesn’t mean you can’t have the most extraordinary vacation of your life, and this is why we want to show you a glimpse of some of the staycations we’ve created, all focusing on Modern and 20th century Art so you can use this as inspiration when planning your next staycation.
When we think about art, most of us often think first about the Italian Renaissance or the Impressionists and then, out of nowhere, a name pops out in our head: Jackson Pollock.
When we first came up with the idea of creating a Pollock trip in the US for one of our dearest members (who is an art collector always curious about everything), we knew he would love it, but we needed to come up with something unique that will get him really excited. So, after some weeks of brainstorming and research, we came up with the idea of broadening the experience and focus instead on the whole Abstract Expressionism movement to exploring its origins and the influence the movement had on many contemporary artists.
We used New York as our base and, from there, we organised nine short trips (3 to 8 days) to follow in the footsteps of some of the abstract expressionists leading figures like Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchel and many others. It was also the perfect opportunity to make him discover other artists of other disciplines that gravitated around those painters and to open some secret areas of famous museums around the country exclusively for him. It turned out we were right, and from the moment we pitched the idea, he loved it.
Among the trips we created for this experience, one started in Wyoming, where Pollock was born in 1912 and then took us to Los Angeles and other places in California to discover the origins of Pollock’s work by learning about the Native American culture Pollock explored while travelling with his father and the influence the Mexican muralists such as José Clemente Orozco had on him.
Another trip took us to Texas to visit the Rothko Chapel guided by a renowned artist Rothko profoundly influenced and then to Harvard to discover some unknown works of the master.
Each of our nine trips was meticulously crafted to make sure there was always a meaningful surprise waiting for him, and each trip was intertwined with the others to make it all even more unique and exciting.
Usually, when we think about art, we think about museums as the most obvious places to learn about art, but there are many other places out there full of art, especially when you are passionate about Impressionism. So, when we started creating a several-week-long vacation in France to explore this well-known artistic movement that revolutionised art in the second half of the 19th century, we focused on all these places we often don’t consider when we think about the Impressionist painters.
Although museums were an essential part at the beginning of our trip in Paris (then at the very end when we came back), what we wanted to achieve was to explore how some of those famous artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Pizarro, Bourdin, and Renoir saw the world and how their vision that human beings do not see objects, but instead see the light itself forever changed art and cleared the way for the Modernism and inspired the 20th century. So we created a trip we called ‘en Plein air’ echoing one of the main characteristics of the movement and carefully crafted every step to use the changing lights of the day to show how these artists perceived the world.
We began our trip in Paris with a private visit to the famous Musée d’Orsay as a prelude to the trip. Here, with the help of two of the most renowned experts, we chose several paintings we wanted to use in the following days and showed them to the couple travelling. Thus, what seemed like a simple luxurious visit soon became like an open window into the world of the artists.
After a few days exploring Paris in the footsteps of those artists and the art world that preceded them, we opened the Paris Fine Arts Academy (Ecole des Beaux-Arts) for an incredible visit guided by an art historian and some (now famous) former students to understand the birth of the Impressionist Movement.
After Paris, we started travelling through France to search for those incredible artists by visiting the places they loved and those where they found their inspiration. From the little town of Pont-Aven in western Brittany where Paul Gaugin and Émile Bernard developed their style best known as Synthetism (combining different images to produce a new result) to Honfleur and then Etretat in Normandy and its breathtaking white cliffs painted by Eugène Boudin, Paul Signac and Claude Monet (but also Gustave Courbet). From there, we went to Rouen to see how Monet painted the light changing through the day over the facade of the city’s majestic Gothic cathedral in the 1890s.
On our way to the South of France, we stopped in the charming village of Morestel near Lyon. An ancient fortified town that inspired one of the precursors of the movement: François-Auguste Ravier.
We then spent an entire week in the region of Provence, following in the footsteps of Van Gogh and Cézanne, exploring the places they loved and see how the incredible light of this region inspired them before finally heading to the French Riviera to discover the village where Renoir painted some of his greatest masterpieces (including his first sculptures) and where he passed away in December 1919.
After some relaxing days in a beautiful private villa near Cagnes-sur-Mer, we went back to Paris to the exact place where we started, the Musée d’Orsay, to see the same paintings (after visiting the reserves of the museum). Surprisingly, our client’s wife emotionally thanked us because we had succeeded in making her discover those artists in a completely different way. Now, she could see beyond the immediate beauty of those masterpieces and feel “their soul” (her own words).
When one of our members called asking us for a memorable short trip lasting a few days for his wife and himself in Germany, we put several ideas on the table until one quickly appeared to be the right one as it combined our client’s passion for modern art and music and his wife’s interest in design and architecture. In no time, our team started researching the Bauhaus and finding the right experts to help us deliver an outstanding vacation for a highly erudite couple. This was a difficult challenge because the client already knew a lot about this topic, and we had to find a way to surpass his expectations.
So our trip began in Weimar, in the first Bauhaus model house, the Haus am Horn.
When the client arrived in the evening, we started our private visit (of a place he already knew) while three outstanding and renowned experts joined us (they came in one by one as a surprise). A German artist, an architect and a composer. In this historical site, we organised (with the help of the team of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar) an intimate gathering for the couple to meet with our luminaries before finding out they will be travelling with us to Weimar, Dessau and Berlin to show us the different facets of the Bauhaus and how the movement shaped their respective art.
On our second day in Weimar, we visited the Bauhaus Campus to see the Van de Velde and the main building, two surviving original buildings where Walter Gropius founded the school in 1919 and later, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy taught. That evening we used the Liszt House for an intimate dinner to discover how the Bauhaus and Paul Klee influenced musicians in the 20th century, including the great French composer Pierre Boulez.
In Dessau, we organised several visits to the most iconic buildings with our experts, especially those designed by the school founder Walter Gropius. This was an incredible opportunity to discover the essence of the movement and its philosophy. Then, we visited the meisterhäuser (Master’s houses) where Klee, Kandinsky and several other prominent teachers lived and work.
Our last stop was Berlin, where the Bauhaus school moved in late 1932 until it was pressured to close in April 1933 as it was seen by Nazi supporters as “degenerate art”. This was a stop dedicated to art with an incredible private visit to one of the city’s most important art museum (and its reserves) to see some of Klee and Kandinsky’s masterpieces.
When we think about Barcelona, we obviously think about Antoni Gaudí and his Sagrada Familia but usually forget about one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, one born in Barcelona: Joan Miró.
So when we were asked about a short Spanish staycation in April involving art and magnificent landscapes, we immediately thought about Miró.
We created a ten-day-long trip to discover the life and work of this outstanding master and understand his universe and his inspiration by visiting the places that shaped his life in Spain.
It all started in Barcelona, the city where he was born in 1893, precisely on 20 April (it was impossible not to use this historical wink to begin our trip on Miró’s birthday). After a walk through Miró’s childhood neighbourhood, we opened The Fundació Joan Miró privately to see their extraordinary collections (Miró’s and other contemporary artists) and some treasures that are kept away from public eyes.
Our second stop took us to the picturesque village of Mont-Roig del Camp, where Miró lived in 1911 while recovering from typhoid fever in a house his parents had bought. Here, it is said, he truly felt in love with the location and the surrounding nature, and this is why he came so often and even said that all his work was conceived in Mont-Roig.
Then, after a stop in Madrid with an exclusive private visit of the Reina Sofia Museum, we flew to Mallorca to spend the last days on the island Miró loved so much and where he died in 1983, aged 90.