Guide Gathering & Best Sabering Moments of 2016
At the end of each season we take a moment (well a whole weekend) to fold out the creases of what we’ve picked up from the year: reflecting on the trips we’ve led, discussing the feedback we’ve received from travellers and digging in to see how we can continue to be creative and innovative on every level. And for this we turn to the industrious people who research far flung and close-to-home places (and often lead you masterfully through them)—our bons vivants, our guides. With their ears to the ground they are often our best resource, after you, to determine how we are performing.
That’s not to say it’s all hard work, though; as our CEO Norman Howe likes to say, “we consider our gathering a sort of Ted Talks/Burning Man mash-up.”
Certainly, the overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude to be in the company—literally—of such inimitable people.
This year we stormed out to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. While the prevailing ethos of our guide base tends to qualify them as a self-described flock of nomads—and believe us they can and will get by just about anywhere—this time we relinquished them the lead and with a few tips from our Regional Directors and Trip Managers we orchestrated a desert visit to a private Berber camp, where we could stretch out in deserved comfort.
Conversation, one could argue, was liberated by the easy style of our charming abodes and the fact that we found ourselves getting down to business (and some obligatory fun) in the serene and, frankly, forgiving solitude of the mountains. It certainly didn’t hurt to have millions of stars studded illustriously above.
Check out the festivities in the gallery below, taken by our talented guides Sonia Ter Hovanessian and Sjoerd Vink.
Aside from the insightful feedback, our favourite part was hearing stories of the best sabre-on-trip experience. As a refresher, every scheduled trip that ran during 2016—our 50th anniversary year! —had a ceremonial sabre demonstration and involved one traveller walking away (unscathed, we promise, though possibly under a thin veil of bubbles) with their own personal sabre. (How they explained the gift at customs was their own business.)
As a company that values good stories, we thought you might also get a kick out of some of the top contenders honoured for memorable sabre-moments in 2016 (heck, you might even recognize yourself in them).
The Best Sabering Moments of 2016
We loved the detailed preparations by Guides Irena, Lucca and Riccardo as they lit candles and tended to the ministrations of champagne in The Tamborini Palace for a huddled reading of Dante’s Inferno (only 21 lines so it didn’t get too heavy), all the while relating the poem to the early struggles of the little fledging B&R many years ago…there was light at the end of the tunnel! A perfect place to sabre.
Alice and Marya had history on their side when they were presented with the opportunity to tackle their sabering skills in the only hotel that still exists from the original B&R line up 50 years ago—The Grand Hotel et des Iles Boromees. That their skills were not on form that night and were, gracefully, rescued by the Maitre D. only added to the drama! That two travellers followed up by successfully sabering, as well, made it, undoubtedly, a night to remember. (Editor’s note: Extensive guide sabre-training begins in 2017.)
Can you imagine the theatrics when Sakis pulled out a Navaho Warrior knife at the Grand Canyon…? How else to sabre a very fine bottle of champagne to celebrate 50 Years of B&R!! A competitor’s van, by chance close by, witnessed this thrilling decapitation to great surprise and, we can only assume, great envy.
There was something magical about Scott and Kim having a local musician—playing accordion, friends and, not least, family dogs accompany the travellers up to the top of a desolate road as they all passed from County Galway into County Mayo. Hot tea was poured. Cremant appeared. Sabering happened. And as hugs were exchanged (with plastic cups of the sweet nectar in everyone’s hands), even the puffed-out clouds cooperated to provide a stunning look at Lough Nafooe, whilst Irish folk music murmured delightfully in the background…
Chris and Kim nailed the mysteries of the Loire Valley with their evocation of a certain elixir that would reveal its mysteries and be unleashed if only a “Chosen One” could be found to sabre and release the contents for all…There was, as would be expected, a frantic search amongst all the travellers. Finally, Chris, dressed as a knights Templar, arrived to save the day.
A hearty thanks to all the guides and travellers that tried their hand successfully (and unsuccessfully) at the sabre challenge—you’ve provided us with unforgettable evidence of your hutzpah and something to reminisce over for the next 50 years!