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2018 Band Tour of England and Wales

Saturday, July 21 to Saturday, August 4, 2018*

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*Dates and route to be confirmed.
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ayrparisband@hotmail.com to register or for more information.

 

2014 European Vacation & Band Tour

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This page was last updated June 06, 2017

 

Czech it Out!
2010 Tour of Ayr-Paris Band

Ayr-Paris Band, Budapest Hungary, 2010

The following article is reprinted with permission of the Ayr News.


From July 17 to 31, the Ayr-Paris Band marked their tenth International tour with their most ambitious, interesting, and adventurous trip yet. The tour was mostly centred in formerly Eastern-block countries. Today, they go by the names of Czech Republic, Slovenska, Hungary, Poland; as well as stops in Germany and Vienna, Austria.

On Saturday afternoon, the group had a soggy start from the Ayr News parking lot. Fourty-four band members, their spouses, parents, and guests, totalling 70 in all made trip down the highlight to Pearson’s new Terminal One. After the usual (complicated) check-in of instruments and baggage, it was easy to navigate the new terminal and find a very comfortable hospitality zone to toast the adventures to come. We were surprised to be greeted personally by our pilot as he boarded the plane, Roger Allison. Roger is formerly of RR 3, Ayr and the son of well-known Paris area couple, Jack and Pansy. Jack and Pansy have been seasoned travelers in past years with the Band. By the smile on Roger’s face and his friendly greeting, it would be suspected that his parents had nothing but good things to say about their previous trips with Band members. Roger has been flying for Air Canada for 32 years and gave the group and smooth ride into the Munich airport.

First stop, Hofbrauhaus, Munich
We were on schedule and met our guide Aachim Koenig and driver Hermann (the German) who introduced us to our home on wheels for the next two weeks. It was a brand-new double decker bus complete with luggage trailer. As we would find out very quickly on our tour, the double decker allowed all of us (group and Band) to enjoy each other’s company together; however, there were many logistic challenges of such a “monster” bus.  Lots of adventures including missing permits, missing spare tire when there was a flat, toll charges, low bridges, police stops, roads missing from GPS, roads missing altogether -- allowed for lots of time for the group and Band to get to know each other very well.

We made a detour into Munich for a visit to the famous Hofbrauhaus. The well-known meeting place was bustling with tourists enjoying vast steins of ale, sauerkraut, and all things German, including a notable tuba player whose performance was amazing – both visually and her playing ability.

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
A general observation for the tour was the effect of WWII, followed very shortly by fourty years of Communism on all of the formerly Eastern-bloc countries. We were fortunate to have tour guides who told us of their lives both before and after the fall, which began in 1988.

Cesky Krumlov was our first overnight and is an amazing success story of reimergence into a beautiful and interesting town. Dating back to medieval times, the Unesco-designated city, is located in the former heart of Bohemia. The group enjoyed an extensive morning tour which focussed on it’s rich culture and history down narrow cobblestone streets, and enveloped in beautifully restored buildings. Their castle and fortress is the most priceless historical monument in the Czech Republic.



The Band was very greeted enthusiastically by an afternoon crowd in the town’s central square. It was a stand-up concert, which in the brutal heat proved too much for some band members, but the rest were able to soldier on and give a performance that would make many Canadian very proud.

 

 

 

Vienna, Austria
On Tuesday morning, suitcases and instruments were cobbled down the road to the monster bus and it was off to Vienna. This was the Band’s second visit to Austria and as with many European Community cities, the flavour has changed. Many talked of Vienna being a “romantic” and green city. That has been mostly replaced with vast developments and equally vast construction sites. Construction was everywhere. Were we challenged by the construction project in front of our hotel and well as an illness which gripped some Band members, and a orientation problem which gripped another long-time Band member. However, all’s well that ends well, by the time we left Vienna we found both our health and Fred.

The historial centre of Vienna remains untouched and an interesting walking tour was enjoyed on a hot and sunny Wednesday morning.
The Band travelled outside the city for a performance at a Spa/Relaxation Centre run by Cistercian Nuns. Again, heat was a challenge, but Band members played alternate instruments to fill in gaps left by ailing/lost/finding the lost band members.


 

 

Bratislava for the Day
Bratislava is another beautiful and ancient city in new country of Slovenska. To reach the city, the tour travelled by boat down the Danube. Again, a walking tour, and free time made for a relaxing day. The city is under heavy reconstruction, again to rectify the effects of negligence during the Communist years. The cruise back to Vienna provided time for some to relax and others to take the opportunity to finish of a quantity of schnapps and beer. Those who relaxed on the boat enjoyed an evening of Austrian folk entertainment with their dinner.

Budapest, Hungary
On Friday, the tour was on the move and as with each move, they entered another country. It is interesting to note that there are no longer border stops, the inspection buildings are desserted, passports are not required. This is a recent change, as the tour company was expecting guards at each border.

A smooth trip and expected arrival time made it possible for the group to explore some of the city on their own before leaving for an evening concert at the Millenarispark amphitheatre. The location of the park is the former Ganz plush toy factory.

Saturday was a guided bus and walking tour, again through beautiful reconstructed streets, to their palace on castle hill at the top of “Buda” and other historic sites. The palace and nearby Church was destroyed during WWII as the palace was the headquarters for the German troops. The castle district has been designated as a Unesco world heritage site and a portion of the palace has been restored as the office of the Mayor.

Saturday evening the Band and Group enjoyed an exchange with a local music school. The 20 musicians who take lessons at the Hubay Jeno school gave an enthuasiastic performance then joined the Ayr-Paris Band for Instant Concert and the Lion King. The percussion section brought the Lion King to life. Their conductor was very animated and was impressed by the number of young people in our Band.

Krakow, Poland
Roads from one country to another were a challenge. The Band had been waiting for almost 20
years to make this trip and they knew before now, these countries were not in a state to welcome tourist. Even today, they are barely in a state to welcome a “monster” bus. While the bus had two state-of-the-art GPS systems, the information provided by the these developing countries was not available. The good old Michelin quite often showed the very round-about route that we were taking, when our guide and driver expected the GPS to perform.

The weather turned cool (a real relief). This came in handy when the "monster" bus once again reared its ugly head and was almost navigated under a bridge.  A kind cab driver was trying to help our lost bus driver. A 99-point turn and many assistants got us turned around – eventually.

Krakow was a highlight for most on the tour. Krakow has endured the darkness of the 20th century and is now a UNESCO protected city. It is one of world's 12 most important cultural monuments. Most members took the 70 km. trip to Auswitz-Birkenau death camp and witnessed the horror of the WWII extermination camp. One million, three hundred thousand were murdered. All tour guides are direct descendants of Auswitz prisoners. The camp was crowded with tourists, many waving Israeli flags. Those remaining in Krakow took advantage of the time to take the "Jewish" in what had been the Jewish quarter and Ghetto. Some eerie statistics: 65,000 Jews lived in Krakow at beginning of WWII, only 100 reside in there today.

Krakow is a beautiful compact city with the old section being very walkable and containing a beautiful square, outdoor cafes; surrounded by a park, old city wall and the prerequiste castle. It was not especially crowded and provided some relaxing free time. Some took in the Pope John Paul II sites – home/school/cathedral, where he was a priest prior to becoming Pope. Others enjoyed perogies, perogies and more perogies, topped off with more ice cream.

Prague, Poland
Prague was anticipated as the longest stretch of the journey, 550 km. However, a superhighway and accurate GPS delivered the group on time! The hotel was very modern, ideally situated beside a huge shopping centre, and a 15 minute walk to the edge of the old city.
One aspect of the tour that was essential was the presence of a different tour guide in each of the countries, who could both speak the language (Czech, Hungarian, Polish, German), act as a concert MC, and guide the bus driver.

 

 

 

Prague was untouched during WWII. It was considered Hitler's "jewel". The result is breathtaking architecture. It has emerged as a tourist centre drawing in crowds of many nationalities. There was an extensive tour, both walking and on the bus from the top of the city (Prague castle), walking down to the St. Charles Bridge and then onto Wenceslas Square.

 

 

 

 

Be careful, there is a bit of a scam if you are waiting to see the "spectacular" horoscope clock. One tour couple paid $50.00 for two sandwiches and two small beer in anticipation of the big show. They found out at 12 noon that the cuckoo clocks at Rothenburg were just as spectacular as the somewhat dismal figures that sort moved around on the clock.

The final concert performances were given first at a spa town, Podebrady; then, at Namesti Miru square in front St. Ludmila church. Both concerts were very well received.

That evening was the "last night party" (even though it wasn't). After three different exits and two roundabouts the group joined an Australian party who had been enjoying complementary refreshments waiting for the bus to arrive. Czech folk music, dance, and singing was first-rate. Audience participation was right up the alley of the group and must have had the folk troup concerned that they might lose some instruments to our Director.

Rothenburg, Germany
The oval route was complete with a final night in Rothenburg, Germany, one of the finest medieval towns in Germany. It remains virtually unchanged since the sixteen century. There are towers, fortified gates, two and one-half miles of battlements and the last chance for the group to buy their dirndls, cuckoo clocks and/or schnapps. A frenzy of shopping, eating and one last evening of beer put the finishing touches of one of the most adventurous and interesting tours of the Ayr-Paris Band.

Home At Last?
Well, not quite. A final police escort to a near-by service centre had many wondering if they would indeed make it to the airport on time. Once again, papers were not in order. A flurry of handwaving resulting in fines and (probably) very colourful German had us eventually on the way.

Frankfurt airport should market its check-in technology and security devices to Air Canada the US Customs in Toronto. The check-in, with no prior special arrangements, was smooth and efficient. Flyers beware – you need a boarding pass to get through the gate. This caused some tense moments for one band member and the kind escort.

Final Thank You
The talents of Merry Schmidt cannot be surpassed. Language barriers proved no difficulty when there is a smile on the face and good music selection. The travel committee: Irene Adeney, George Schmidt and Derrick Ostner were thrilled to see three years of preparation and planning turn into the adventure of a life-time!


Ayr-Paris Band, Prague, 2010

This page was last updated June 06, 2017