Celebrations International Travel Blog

Archive for August 2009

Following my last entry (and my references to Anthony Bourdain and street food), this tweet caught my eye:

The importance of Street Food in the walkable metropolis http://bit.ly/SUoE2

This article is a great example of how food and culinary trends help shape cities, cultures, and our daily lives.

Street food experiences are featured as optional excursions on a couple of our culinary tour sample itineraries, and they can be included as part of any international culinary tour, since all of our tours are custom-designed for you.


My own street food experiences include fresh-cut mangoes on the Promenade in Puerto Vallarta, coconut from a market in Florence, and ice cream and chocolate-dipped bananas during arts festival season at home.

What are some of your favorite (and maybe least favorite) street foods?  Post a comment….I’d love to hear your stories.

And stayed tuned for a future post by Agni about street foods in India!

This title tweet caught my attention this afternoon.  Read this interesting Food Network article.

I am amused by this article in a variety of different ways.  I think it would be fun to see how my fellow foodies might react to this.  Be sure to post your comments!

Here are my thoughts:

Chefs are pickier than you think: Partly true, partly not, based on my own experience in restaurant management.   Personally, I would hope any chef who cooks for me is pickier than average when it comes to food; an indication that he or she knows what they’re talking about, and knows good stuff when they see it!

The other way to look at it is that chefs are around foods all day that the average person may or may not be.   Would you find the same food you stare at all day long appealing enough to enjoy it on your day off?  I don’t know about that one.

Still, chefs hate picky eaters: Picky eaters annoy me too, and I’m not even a chef.

When eating out in other restaurants, chefs say they avoid pasta and chicken: The “over-priced” notion may be true in many cases from a chef’s perspective, but the notion that chefs in general avoid those foods, I’d beg to differ, especially if it’s an ethnic cuisine chef who doesn’t get a lot of pasta, or maybe is a sushi chef!

Chefs have expensive taste: Many chefs don’t, and I think “No Reservations” proves that Anthony Bourdain definitely doesn’t!  Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean chefs, including Bourdain, don’t enjoy and appreciate fine dining!

.…and yet they like fast food: Yes, I’ll agree with that, as long as street foods count as fast food.

Critics trump movie stars in the VIP pecking order: No arguments there; It’s the chef’s call because it’s his food and his restaurant that’s on the line.

Chefs work hard for low pay: Chefs definitely work long, hard hours, and it’s not pleasant to stand over a steaming station for hours, be it in the heat of summer or the dead of winter.  Either way, it’s intense, physically-demanding work.  Kudos to all those who aspire every day to be the best chefs they can be.

“Vegetarian” is open to interpretation: Just remember the difference between “vegan” and “vegetarian,” and the fact that not everyone practices vegetarianism in the same way.

Restaurants mark up wine by a lot more than you’d expect: I suppose that depends on the restaurant, but wine and wine packages onboard oceanliner cruise ships are often a great deal.  Even better, wine aboard many river cruise ships is included with dinner each night!

What are your thoughts?  Please post your comments….we want to hear from you!

I thought I’d expand on our earlier post entitled “Introduction to Culinary Travel” by sharing a bit about my perspectives on culinary travel.  We ventured into the culinary travel arena because of our profound love of great food, wine, and travel.

When I say  “great food,” I’m referring to any type of food that’s well prepared and tastes good.  I love idyllic ambience and service in 5-star settings, but I’m just as enthralled with the unforgettable foods so often found in favorite local restaurants and “hole-in-the-wall” places.   My agency’s culinary tours reflect this idea in that we try to incorporate a variety of dining experiences in every itinerary, from dinner at the Eiffel Tower to meals hosted by local families.   In all cases, guests are treated to great food and memorable experiences.

Great food is, of course, my pre-requisite for culinary travel of any type.  However, my idea of a culinary tour is not for our guests to literally eat their way through their destination country (although you might be tempted to!).  I view culinary travel as a way to experience your destination, instead of “just visiting.”

Customization: Celebrations’ culinary tours are always custom-designed, never the “cookie cutter” version:  You’d want your food prepared to your liking; why shouldn’t your travel be tailored to your liking as well?

Memorable Experiences & Activities: Our tours are meant to provide you with travel experiences that you’ll remember and cherish–not a whirlwind bus tour.  Our goal is to give you the opportunity to experience your chosen vacation destination, with a focus on culinary elements.  Experiencing a destination means different things to different people.   For example, one group of travelers to Italy may have a passion for homemade pastas and want a lesson from a local chef, while others may prefer to spend the afternoon in the shade of the olive trees sipping wines with a knowledgeable sommelier.

That’s why our ability to customize your tour is so important and unique.   I believe in putting together a variety of dining experiences, sightseeing, and culinary and cultural activities that suit your own tastes, preferences, and needs to complete a tour that’s uniquely customized for you and your family, group, or organization.

The possibilities are endless, and we welcome the opportunity to work with enthuastic culinary travelers!

I just saw the following tweet:

msnbc_travel: Steves: Tuning in to tasty Italy http://bit.ly/T8gh3

“Tuning in to a tasty Italy”.  I couldn’t agree more with that heading.  In my opinion, tuning in to the food, wine, culinary traditions and heritage of a destination is one of the best ways to get to know a place, its people, and their culture.   When a native tells you about his or her country, you’re more apt to hear “My grandma used to make this dish.” or “My family went there every summer and every holiday,” as opposed to something that sounds like they’re reading out of a textbook.

These are the types of experiences that we as travelers collect, remember, and cherish.   To inspire more thoughts on food and travel to Italy, see our Tuscany Culinary Tour sample itinerary.

Let us know what you think, what your idea of an ideal trip to Italy is, and what your favorite Italian dishes are!

I saw this link to an article about palaces, temples, and monuments in Kyoto:  http://bit.ly/4CVBBA

Japan is indeed a beautiful destination for any traveler to Asia.  As the ancient Imperial capital, Kyoto is home to some prized elements of Japan and its history.

The wonders of Kyoto are a highlight on Celebrations’ Culinary Tour to Japan.

Have you ever visited Japan?  Or would you like to?  What destinations and/or attractions interest you?  I invite everyone to post responses to keep the discussion going.  And if you have questions for me, please ask!

This is an article I wrote that was published today by Travel Research Online, a resource for travel professionals.   I write columns for consumers as well as industry-related articles whenever possible.


A Travel Pro Dares to Dream
June 26th, 2009 . by Adrienne Mitra

As travel agents, much of our time is spent planning clients’ trips, solving logistical challenges, and researching.  I am often drawn to itineraries or locales my clients choose, resulting in a long list of “someday” trips I’d like to take.  When it comes to my “dream trip”, there is no question:  a cruise around the world, complete with a land tour component in each major city.
My goal for this trip would be to experience the countries, cultures, histories, peoples and cuisines of the world first-hand, not just to sightsee.  With that in mind, I have a strong preference for shore excursions that provide travelers with a tangible experience to treasure, rather than whirlwind bus tours that leave travelers with little more than a panorama of discombobulated images. Unfortunately, working in a full land tour in each area is next to impossible, but since I am dreaming…

I wish I could combine all the wonderful ways to explore Alaska into a single tour.  In Hawaii, I imagine an inter-island tour encompassing the sunrise over Mount Haleakala, touring the natural wonders of Molokai, an authentic Hawaiian luau, and leisure time on Poipu Beach.  Next would be visits to the pristine islands of the South Pacific.  In Australia and New Zealand, apart from seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback and the major city highlights, I would tour some of the best estate wineries, visit Kangaroo Island, and witness the ritual of the fairy penguin parade on Philip Island.

After that, my tour of exotic Asia, land of my family’s heritage, would begin.  I would immerse myself in all the unique sights, events, culinary delights, and possibilities for one-of-a-kind experiences the Asian countries have to offer.

Continuing westward, I would want to visit my husband’s native India. To avoid extensive overland travel, I would insist on flying to the most popular destinations from the port city and touring fully escorted, possibly requiring a multi-night stay in each given city.

The opulence of modern Dubai, navigating through the Suez Canal, and visiting the ancient wonders of Egypt would all present opportunities for new adventures, the conclusion of which would be our entry into the Mediterranean.  Having traveled extensively in this region, I would plan more unique, less touristy experiences.  For example, enjoying authentic paella cooked over an open fire on a beach in Spain or a walk through a lavender field in Provence.

Sailing north, I would like to spend a significant amount of time exploring northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Russia.  I would be tempted to debark from our oceanliner in Bergen, and take Hurtigruten’s 12-day round-trip voyage to experience the Norwegian Fjords, no matter what time of year.  And when it comes to Russia, I’m not sure the overnight in St. Petersburg would do it justice, especially during White Nights.

Owing to the fact that I would eventually have to come home, after concluding the tour of Europe, I would set sail back across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia.  Hopefully I would arrive in time for the fall foliage, which I haven’t seen in years.  Then it’s down the eastern seaboard, paying homage to my childhood origins in the south before heading to parts of South America for experiences new and different, then transiting through the Panama Canal, and finally ending my journey back in Los Angeles.

Would this be a dream trip or my ultimate challenge as a travel professional?  Both.  As there is no single supplier or cruise that can offer this type of voyage, most of this trip would have to be pieced together—if it even could be. But a girl can dream, right? And, should something like this ever come to fruition, I believe  I would be my own toughest client indeed.

Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, Inc., an independent agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, and group travel. Phone:  (480) 272-6020

Exciting News!  Celebrations’ River & Specialty Cruise Web site section has been expanded.  Information is now available about Victoria Cruises and AMA Waterways.

River and specialty cruises are a great way to experience a destination up-close, while still enjoying the convenience of unpacking only once aboard your floating hotel.

And most, if not all of your shore-side excursions and activities are included, making river and specialty cruising a great deal!

Victoria Cruises is an American-managed cruise line specializing in China and Yangtze River Cruises.Celebrations’ River & Specialty Cruise Web site section has been expanded. Information is now available about Victoria Cruises and AMA Waterways. River and specialty cruises are a great way to experience a destination up-close, while still enjoying the convenience of unpacking only once aboard your floating hotel. And most, if not all of your shore-side excursions and activities are included, making river and specialty cruising a great deal! Victoria Cruises is an American-managed cruise line specializing in China and Yangtze River Cruises.

Victoria Cruises Staff

AMA Waterways offers the ultimate in luxury to Europe, Russia and beyond.

Contact us to learn more!

Uniworld Grand River Cruises has been added to Celebrations International Travel’s main Web site.

A world leader in luxury river cruising, Uniworld offers cruises inEurope, Russia & Ukraine, China, and Egypt.

To learn more, visit our Uniworld Grand River Cruises page or contact us.

Promotional rates are currently available on 2010 China itineraries.  Contact us for more information.

Budapest, Hungary

Moscow, Russia

Guilin, China

Travcoa. Egypt

Celebrations International Travel’s Australia Culinary Tour has just been posted to our Web site!  This sample itinerary is the latest addition to our exclusive line-up of customized culinary tours.

How are they customized?  The itineraries you see posted on our Culinary Travel Homepage are only intended as examples of what our agency’s culinary tours would typically be like.  They are meant to inspire your travels, then we add in some of your own ideas to create a customized tour just for your family, friends, group, or organization.  There are no set departure dates unless your tour is centered on a time-specific event, so we will work with your time constraints and any reasonable budget that you prefer.

Here’s to Celebrating Life Through Travel in Australia!

Tonight we went out for dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon Pho.   This little restaurant isn’t exactly a “hole in the wall,” but lacks atmosphere, making up for it with some of the best food.  (Isn’t that true of many local favorites?)

Although we eat there from time to time, what made tonight’s dinner unique was a whole red snapper, pan-fried crispy and topped with a light sweet-and-sour sauce.   I must note that the Vietnamese-style sauce is nothing like the syrupy stuff you might be used to getting with generic Chinese take-out.  Instead, Vietnamese sweet-and-sour is lighter in color and flavor and mixed with sauteed onions, sweet red peppers, tomatoes, and fresh pineapple, topped with cilantro.

What a treat!  The four of us devoured the 2 1/2-pound fish in no time, and the kids were asking for more.  This was just a simple Friday night dinner, but anyone who knows me knows I am all about great food.  What a great way to end a busy week.

If this sounds good, check out our Vietnam Culinary Tour.  The sample itinerary is there to whet your appetite and inspire your travels, but as always, we will customize any tour to suit your needs, wants, and time and budget constraints.  If you’re hungry for more, visit our Culinary Travel Homepage to see all of the culinary tour destinations we have posted.  If you’re interested in a destination that’s not posted, just ask us!

About Us

This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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