Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Culinary Travel

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.

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This is the text of an article I wrote for WhereI’veBeen.com that was published on their site today.  Enjoy!

Wine Grapes

1. France:  This country has a long history of excellent wine-making, and many newer wine-producing regions have learned from the French techniques and used them to produce their own wines. The varied regions of France produce abundant varieties of wines, sparkling wines, and champagnes. Amongst France’s best-known wine-producing regions are: the Loire Valley, Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais, and Cognac. Visitors to France will have a wonderful opportunity to explore and enjoy the products of this world-renowned wine destination.

2. Italy:  The sunny slopes of the Italian countryside are known to produce some of the best wines in the world. Whether you explore the hills of Tuscany and enjoy a glass of Chianti, or prefer Asti from the northern regions or the sweeter taste of Marsala from southern Italy, this country has something to please everyone’s wine palate. Known mostly for red wines, Italy also produces some excellent white, sparkling, and fortified wines. And of course, good Italian food enjoyed in a pristine, authentic setting will only make your wine taste better!

3. GermanyGermany’s wine regions are so numerous that they are more often referred to as “wine routes,” or areas wherein travelers or visitors can follow one particular route and expect to find several wineries, whether large or small. Germany’s proximity to the Alsace region of France has resulted in a number of French and German wines that share some common characteristics. Similar to other wine-producing regions of the world, some of the best German wines come from small-scale, “boutique” vintners and estate wineries, all of which travelers can visit if they wish, although they may need help from locals or a destination specialist in order to find the location and arrange the visit. Germany is also renowned for its beer production, something that is often of interest to wine lovers. Since fine German cuisine makes use of both good wine and beer, Germany is a destination no culinary traveler should miss!

4. Australia:  Avid wine lovers should definitely plan a visit to the land “Down Under.” This amazing destination offers you the delights of the Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills region, and the McLaren Vale region, just to name a few. The vistas in these regions are varied, all vast and beautiful, with gourmet dining and luxury accommodations to complete your ideal wine tour vacation. You can take a sunrise balloon ride over the vineyards. You can even enjoy your newly-discovered Australian wines with a bush lunch (picnic) in the Outback!

5. South Africa:  Cape Town is the gateway to some of the most breathtakingly scenic wine-producing lands in the world, many of them within an hour’s drive, and others a longer journey through spectacular landscapes. Each of the regions has its own unique character, as do the wines produced there. The well-developed Western Cape includes historic villages, charming guest houses, gourmet restaurants, and world-class golf courses. Travel along the coast, enjoying the spectacular scenery of the famous Garden Route. A wine tour of the Western Cape and Garden Route will prove to be a delightful experience for all.

Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, a full-service agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, all-inclusive resorts, and group travel. Adrienne and her family are avid world travelers, and they are especially proud of the custom work they do for clients.

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.

Dove-tailing on my previous post entitled “Culinary Travel is an Adventure!”, I thought this would be a good time to talk more about my views on touring and tour design.

Based on my personal travel experience, I have never been a fan of cookie-cutter-type tours where travelers are seemingly herded on an off a tour bus just to gain a cursory glance and snapshots of a historical site or attraction.  What that type of experience is most apt to leave travelers with is a sense of a “whirlwind” tour at best.

That’s why at Celebrations International Travel, we work with our tour operators to customize tours that let travelers do unique and different things.  In order to really experience a destination, travelers need to have the chance to explore, and to actually do something.  I mean that literally. 

Tours should be designed, for example, to give people the opportunity to get out and walk around the hallowed grounds of Stonehenge, climb the steps of the Great Wall of China (or at least get up close and marvel at it), and visit the picturesque historic towns and villages of faraway destinations.   This is not to say that travelers have to exert themselves.  I simply mean that seeing the sights through a bus window or at a distance is far from ideal, resulting in a very different experience for the traveler.

Take for example one day’s activities in our sample Northern France Culinary Tour.  After breakfast, travelers are driven to Concale, where they are taken on a guided tour of the town that concludes with a fine oyster tasting at La Ferme Marine.  Afterwards, they proceed to the nearby town of St. Malo, where they will take a walking tour of the town before enjoying some free time.   Case in point:  These are all leisurely activities that can only be enjoyed outside the confines of a bus!  Furthermore, these are various ways in which travelers get to experience their destination, giving them tangible memories of not only where they visited, but what they saw and did.

What whirwind bus tour would give travelers these one-of-a-kind travel experiences and memories?

As a follow-up to my last post, I’d like to expand upon the adventurous nature that culinary tours can take on.

I don’t mean that every culinary traveler would necessarily want to embark on a strenuous hike or go bungee jumping (although we can certainly work that into a culinary tour if that’s what they want).

Culinary travel in the truest sense of cultural immersion tends to evoke the adventuresome spirit in many travelers.  For example, how often do travelers on your average sightseeing tour to Japan get to witness traditional cormorant fishing by the Ukai fishermen, done by firelight?  In India, travelers have the opportunity to stay overnight in an ancient palace and fort that has been converted into a hotel.  In Vietnam, you can take a cycle or walking tour through bamboo thickets to a rural village to see the threshing and harvesting of rice and get a glimpse of what modern-day village life is like.

In northern France, culinary travelers may want to visit the Cointreau Museum in Angers and tour the salt fields of Guerande.  In Germany, you can visit a farm to explore the origins of authentic Black Forest ham, spend the night at a hotel with rooms constructed of hollowed-out wine barrels, and marvel at the beauty of medieval castles and rolling vineyards while you enjoy some of the best German beers and wines.  In Italy, culinary travelers can enjoy a visit to a working Agriturismo, where five restored farmhouses sit amongst a grove of olive trees and a vineyard.  The Agriturismo produces amazing wines, olive oils, and cheeses.

In many culinary destinations, travelers have the opportunity to visit with local families to share a meal and learn their cooking techniques.  Especially for travelers looking for something that’s unique and not touristy, I can’t think of a better way to experience a destination, its people, and its culinary traditions.

These are just a handful of examples of the adventuresome nature of culinary travel.   Contact us to learn more and start planning a culinary adventure of your own!

This entry was inspired by a conversation I had recently.  A caller tells me she wants to book a tour for a group of professional chefs.  “They don’t want to cook,” she insists.  “They just want to eat, drink, and be merry.”

Don’t get me wrong, I of all people am all for eating, drinking, and being merry, and the food and beverages are the highlight of any culinary tour.  However, these comments reminded of the need to re-state my agency’s approach to culinary travel

The idea behind a culinary tour is not simply to eat your way through your destination!  (See my previous post entitled “An Introduction to Culinary Travel”.)  The idea is to experience the destination through its food, wine, culinary traditions, history, culture, people, and way of life.  This can be achieved in any number of ways, but the point I’m trying to convey is that a culinary tour is not the same as a “restaurant tour”.  And Celebrations’ culinary tours are by no means designed to be run-of-the-mill bus tours that leave you with dizzying memories of getting on and off a bus for short stints.

When I say culinary travel is meant for travelers to experience their destination, I mean just that.  Get out of the motorcoach and experience your surroundings first-hand and up-close.  Maybe you’d like to stroll through the vineyards in Tuscany, or enjoy wine and cheese on the patio of one of the locales.  Maybe you’d like to visit a local market, where a guide could introduce you to some of the regional produce and specialty foods.  While you’re there, you might see a butcher in action, and you might want to buy a fresh, juicy cut of meat and bring it back to the villa where you’re staying so you can watch the chef prepare it for you.  These are all examples ways in which a culinary traveler might experience his or her destination. 

You might have noticed that I have not mentioned any type of hands-on cooking experience up to this point.  Why?  This is precisely how I would address a request that a custom culinary tour not include cooking.  If chefs, bakers, or other culinary professionals or enthusiasts don’t want to cook on their culinary tours, they don’t have to!  They’re on vacation, after all! 

And of course, although it is a culinary-themed tour, most travelers still want to sightsee, shop, or attend cultural events or festivals.  Our culinary tours are designed to accommodate all of that and are customized for you.  Whatever you want to see, do, and experience, we will help you make it a reality!

Regardless of what interests you, or what you’d like to enjoy on your tour, a myriad of choices will always await you.  The world is full of amazing destinations, and culinary travel provides an interesting and delicious way to explore them all!

The Culinary Arts Centers aboard Holland America Line’s ships are presented in partnership with Food and Wine Magazine.  In these state-of-the-art facilities, Holland America guests have the opportunity to participate in cooking demonstrations, seminars by top chefs, wine experts, and cookbook authors.

The Culinary Arts Center is also available for private group events for wine clubs and culinary enthusiasts.  Holland America Line even offers special “Club HAL” programs for kids in the Culinary Arts Centers!

For more information on how you and your family, group, or organization could enjoy the use of these facilities onboard Holland America’s ships, contact us.  Our culinary travel experts would be glad to assist you!


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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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