Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Culinary Tours

Many thanks to Joy at Gourmeted.com for her blog post yesterday profiling Celebrations International Travel as a sponsor and highlighting our Culinary Tours.

Gourmeted.com

I had the pleasure of speaking with Joy recently after a couple of months of e-mailing.  Not surprisingly, we share a common love of great food and world travel.  Joy enlightened me with the notion that there are many other “people like us” out there who take their love of food and cooking seriously, and want to travel the world to delight in this passion.

It is my hope that in collaboration with Joy, I can impart my knowledge and love of both travel and culinary excellence, helping food and wine enthusiasts enjoy custom culinary experiences around the world.

Celebrations International Travel - Custom Culinary Tours

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Gourmeted.com‘s featured Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna looks like it’s ready for the best Italian grandma’s Sunday dinner table!

Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna from Gourmeted.com

Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna from Gourmeted.com

Not only does this look delicious, but Joy from Gourmeted.com includes the recipe with instructions, including many pictures of her first attempt at lasagna-making.  What a wonderful first lasagna!

I know there are many wonderful cooks and culinary enthusiasts out there who share this passion for great food and excellence in our kitchens.  Follow your passions and indulge in a custom culinary tour to Italy, where you can take hands-on cooking classes, visit local markets with chefs, tour vineyards, taste wines, and do just about anything else you want to satisfy your culinary pleasures and curiosity.  Contact us to start planning your custom tour today!

Celebrations International Travel...Celebrating Life Through Travel

We are pleased to announce that Celebrations International Travel is a new sponsor featured on Gourmeted.com.   Working in conjuction with Gourmeted.com‘s site owner Joy Jose, we look forward to a tasty and adventuresome exchange of ideas and experiences!

Celebrations International Culinary Travel Banner

We have invited Joy to share some of her culinary knowledge and talent with us as a guest blogger in the near future.  You will also find a banner link to Joy’s beautiful blog on our Culinary Travel Homepage.

Gourmeted.com Banner on Celebrations International Travel Web Site

Whether you are an aspiring chef or simply an epicure, culinary travel promises the opportunity to truly savor your vacation. This growing trend of experiencing authentic cooking and dining around the world allows you to broaden your education and your palate at the same time. What a decadent way to travel!

The genre of culinary travel includes trips that focus on learning to create local dishes, those that emphasize tasting and wine pairing, and everything in between. As you can see, there are many options available. Let this TRO report assist in your planning, as it will provide you with the basic recipe for culinary travel. With it, you and your travel consultant are sure to cook up the perfect culinary adventure!

The most important consideration in planning your culinary vacation is whether you want to learn traditional recipes and cooking techniques, or if you’re more interested in enjoying the end result. Those wanting a strictly educational experience might enjoy cooking alongside famous chefs in renowned cooking schools. If dining inspires you, perhaps you would prefer the company of a learned chef as your guide. Or maybe you would like just a taste of culinary arts in your trip, as you explore other cultural aspects of your destination. The more consideration given to these issues before contacting a tour operator, the more efficient the planning process will be and the quicker you’ll be on your way.

If cooking is your passion, think about attending a cooking school, many of which boast award-winning chefs as instructors. If you go, you will have to consider your level of expertise to ensure pairing with courses that suit your abilities. The less experienced might learn more through hands-on instruction, while advanced students may feel confident in attending cooking demonstrations. You can even choose to learn a particular specialty such as pastry making. Wine schools are also a popular choice, offering classes on wine making, history, appreciation and pairing with foods.

For those interested in learning to cook according a country’s customs but want to spend a little less time in the kitchen, a cooking tour may be the best bet. Along with culinary classes, these tours are peppered with visits to wineries, vineyards, superior restaurants, and local markets and food producers. With some tours, you will travel to different cooking schools to take classes. Others offer the more intimate experience of attending the kitchens of various celebrated chefs.

Culinary tour guides, many of whom have backgrounds in history and/or cultural anthropology, will tell you the history of indigenous dishes, offer guidance while dining with you, and even provide cooking instruction. Your tour may be guided by an actual chef, or may enlist the services of two guides: one culinary and one cultural. Your guide should be bilingual, even if those providing the cooking demonstrations are not. And of course, if you would like to design your own culinary dream vacation, chef guides and cultural guides can be hired on an individual basis – the possibilities are endless!

Most cooking tours will accommodate travelers with every level of experience. However, general kitchen knowledge is expected. Before you go, ask your travel consultant if class participation is mandatory, or if you may merely observe. You will also want to inquire about attire. Cooking classes are generally casual, but more sophisticated dress may be necessary when dining out. You may also want to find out whether recipes will be provided after the demonstration.

Your tour operator should be able to accommodate any dietary needs regarding meals. However, the meals prepared during cooking classes, unless the class is designed and taken on an individual basis, are usually determined by the instructor and cannot be changed upon request. There are tours designed for vegetarians, which usually take place in Asian countries. Thailand, for example, boasts an annual vegetarian festival.

If you are more of a gastronome, you will want to take or design a tour that focuses on the pleasures of dining. Many culinary travelers maintain that there is no better way to learn about a culture than by sampling its traditional dishes. Such tours often include the excursions mentioned above, as well as more standard tourist attractions such as museums and art galleries. Certain tours allow more time for exploring the towns in which you stay. There are also more active tours, which incorporate such activities as hiking, painting and language instruction. These tours also provide a good option for those wanting to dine independently.

Not surprisingly, the most popular destinations for gourmet vacationing are Italy and France. Tasting tapas in Spain is also en vogue. When visiting these popular regions, the earlier you make your reservation, the better. But Europe isn’t your only option. You may enjoy a culinary cruise to the Caribbean, or take a chef-guided tour of Mexico. For the more adventurous, culinary tours are offered in such exotic locales as Morocco, India and Vietnam. For those looking for an experience closer to home, consider becoming a barbecue connoisseur in West Virginia or cook up some Creole in Louisiana.

Travelers may also take a culinary vacation by means of a food festival. The Netherlands boasts an international food-tasting festival every August, and Georgia is home to the annual Vidalia Festival. If you appreciate good beer as much as good food, Oktoberfest is certain to leave you hoppy.

The cost of a culinary vacation varies widely. The biggest factor in determining the price of your trip is whether you opt for a package tour, which generally means sharing your travel experience with other culinary enthusiasts. Most culinary tours are packaged at a fixed price that includes daily classes, meals, excursions, accommodations and ground transportation. You will be responsible for making your own travel arrangements to the school or destination, a task with which your travel consultant can greatly assist. The cost of your trip is further determined by the country visited, the extent of teaching provided, the quality of restaurants enjoyed, and the number and nature of excursions taken.

Accommodation is also a factor. Luxury and high-end hotels are a more expensive option. Staying in a countryside villa may not be as posh an experience, but the relaxation granted by fresh air and lush landscapes could prove to be priceless. Work through the options with your travel consultant. The more clearly you state your own preferences, the better your travel consultant can work with the tour operator to properly accommodate you and your traveling companions.

When pricing your stay, remember to take into consideration any Value Added Tax (VAT) levied by many countries in Europe and elsewhere. Because VAT is often as high as 20% of the cost of an accommodation or good purchased, the amount is often not insignificant! Many travelers assume that VAT is refundable. However, this is typically not the case for services such as transportation, accommodation, food, gas or any other goods or services consumed within the country itself. Ensure that the price you are quoted includes all taxes and other fees.

Sound too good to be true? It’s all for real and with a little planning a culinary vacation can be an absolutely wonderful way to garnish your next trip away from home.

Content courtesy and with the express permission of Travel Research Online.

For a sample of Celebrations International’s culinary tours please visit our Culinary tours homepage. Please note that all our tours are fully customized!

Check out this divine tiramisu made by Joy of Gourmeted.com.  Looks just as good as restaurant-quality, but it’s homemade!  Read more about Joy and her love of cooking, and follow her on Twitter @Gourmeted.

Tiramisu by Gourmeted.com

Homemade Tiramisu by Joy of http://www.Gourmeted.com

Click on the photo above to view Joy’s recipe.

If you love Italian food and want to enjoy an authentic Italian culinary experience, check out Celebrations International Travel’s Tuscany culinary tour.   The itinerary posted is only an example of the types of tours we can custom create for your family, group, or organization.  Let us help you plan an ideal tour to savor the tastes of Tuscany!

View sample itineraries for other featured culinary destinations.  In case you’re interested in a destination that’s not featured, contact us.  We can customize culinary tours throughout most of the world.

Two separate conversations I had yesterday with professionals in the world of foodie Web sites left me bewildered, and inspired me to write this entry.  I’m still not sure what to think of these interactions, and would be interested to see if readers out there have any thoughts to share on the subject.

Call #1: I was explaining my agency’s approach to culinary tours, when the person asked about Italy.  I responded by using our Tuscany sample itinerary as an example, and mentioned that we suggest guests stay at a villa outside of Florence, using it as their home base for a few days to explore the Tuscan countryside.  Mid-sentence, she cuts me off with “So you do luxury tours?”

“No,” I said, what we do are custom tours.  If a client asks for a luxury tour, we can certainly arrange that, but if someone asks us to put together a culinary tour on a budget, we can do that as well.”

Her answer:  “Oh, that one sounds expensive.”

Well, I can’t argue with whatever gold-tinged images she might have had in mind, but what this experience taught me is that people’s perceptions and other long-held notions can be difficult at best to change or even influence.  But what stood out even more was this person’s apparent unwillingness to even hear me out, or to be open to ideas in the culinary and related realms.   Baffled as to what else to say, we ended the call with formalities.

Call #2: This time I’m explaining our approach to culinary tours (i.e. Get out of the tour bus and actually experience the destination; per my earlier post “Escorted Tours My Way:  No Whirlwind Bus Rides”.) to Caller #1’s designee.  This time I decide to explain simply that our tours are customized to accommodate whatever the traveler is interested in seeing and doing, but that our culinary tours are designed to be more than just restaurant tours, that we give travelers the chance to do more than just sightsee, eat; sightsee, eat.

Her Response:  “Now that’s my type of tour.”

Normally, her answer wouldn’t have bothered me, except that instead of listening or wanting to learn anything about our tours, she proceeded to tell me that “For those of us who live to eat, that’s what we want,” and that our culinary tours wouldn’t work in the foodie world.

As much as I respect every individual’s right to their own opinion, I take our work and professional stance in the travel and culinary worlds very seriously.  I would not want anyone to ever think that the intent of our culinary tours is anything other than to introduce travelers to the joys of the culinary world.  By all means, the highlight of any culinary tour is for travelers to enjoy all the food, wine and other delights their destination has to offer.

The point I think both callers missed is that Celebrations International Travel’s culinary tours are 100% customized to give travelers the opportunity to experience their destination in ways that best suit the travelers’ interests and needs.

That is not to say that enjoying a host of different restaurants isn’t one way to experience a destination, but good meals can be enjoyed anywhere, without necessarily having to travel.  And good memories are created through good, enriching experiences, which exploration and travel provide.

I think there’s a commonly-held misconception that anything “custom” or “customized” must be expensive.  Well, I’m here to dispel that myth, at least where escorted tours are concerned.

In my post entitled “Escorted Tours My Way:  No Whirlwind Bus Rides!” I talked about the fact that with many traditional group tours, the travelers’ experience can typically be described as  “on the bus, off the bus,” without doing much to actually experience the destinations.  “Standard vs. Custom Tours” highlighted the benefits of custom tours.

Delving further into the subject of tours, I want to explain how and why custom tours don’t have to be expensive.

– Custom Travel Dates: Unlike standard tours, which have set departure dates, you get to choose when you want to travel, and how long you want to be away.  Many times, moving your travel dates by even a day or two could make a difference in cost of the airfare, accommodations, and other arrangements.  Plus, if you decide the cost of your dream trip is more than you’re comfortable with, you can always cut down the number of days to save.  That just isn’t possible when booking standard tours with pre-set itineraries and travel dates.

– Spend On What’s Important to You: Not all travelers are alike.  With custom tours, you tell us what you’d rather spend your money on, and what you’d rather save on.  To some travelers, it’s most important to be able to see and do everything on their wishlist, and they’d rather stay in more moderate hotels in order to stay within their budget.  By contrast, other travelers might prefer very luxurious hotel accommodations paired with a more leisurely-paced itinerary with fewer cities or locales planned.  Whatever suits you, Celebrations International Travel can help you plan your custom tour.

Travel How You Want: On standard tours, your transportation between cities and between attractions is pre-set for the group.  However, with a custom tour, in most locales, there are choices in transportation that can save you money.  For instance, if a standard tour itinerary includes a flight between cities that can also be easily reached by train, you might choose the train ride to give you a different perspective and experience, provided you have the time.  Or, you might decide to forego a privately-chauffeured transfer from the airport if you’re familiar with the city’s metro system or prefer to take a taxi.

– See & Do What You Want At Your Own Pace: Standard tours are designed to please a crowd, they tend either offer travelers more of an “overview” visit to their destination and/or include the historical sites and attractions most popularly requested.  What if some things on a standard itinerary don’t interest you, or maybe you’ve done it before?  On a standard tour, you’re stuck with it because it’s included in the price of the tour, so you end up going with the group because the group travels together.  Why not make better use of your time and money?  With a custom tour, you tell us what you want to see and do, and if you need ideas, tell us what types of things interest you, and our destination experts can offer suggestions accordingly.  Not paying for tour inclusions that you don’t want saves you money for the things you do want!  As an added bonus, you can explore at your own pace because of the flexibility that a customized private tour provides.  You’re not being “herded” in mass!

– Choose the Services & Inclusions You Need & Want: In some destinations, you might choose to have a tour guide/translator, driver, and/or other professionals to assist you.  In other cases, you might prefer to explore on your own, or you might opt for a combination of guided and free time.  You may want meals other than breakfast or certain activities or special occasion celebrations included in your tour.  Any and all of that can be customized for you.  On a custom tour, you choose when, where, and what services and inclusions you want, instead of paying for a standard set of inclusions that you might not need.

Contact us for more information on custom tours, and see our Culinary Travel Homepage for delicious and adventuresome sample itineraries to inspire your travels!


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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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