Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘customized travel

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?

Advertisements

If you’ve ever been on a standard (non-custom)  escorted tour like I have, what do you remember?  In my case, what I remember is a bus (motorcoach) full of people, a tour director, and a driver.  (To read more about this, see my earlier post, “Escorted Tours My Way:  No Whirlwind Bus Rides!”.)

What I think is good about standard group tours (where the itinerary is pre-set, and agents book travelers into a group with pre-set travel dates) is that the tour guides are very knowledgeable and experienced, most motorcoaches are comfortable, the driving is left to someone else, you have no worries about language barriers, and you can get to know your fellow travelers.

Admittedly, some travelers may find this “standard overview” approach to touring suits their needs, and  Celebrations International Travel works with a host of tour companies to offer clients who choose this option the best possible choices for any destination they want to visit.

But here’s what I don’t like about standard group tours:

– These tours assume that “one size fits all,” which may not be true for many travelers.

– Pre-Set tours can be restrictive.  Yes, it’s nice that someone else gets to worry about all the arrangements and hassles, but what if you want to spend more time exploring a particular attraction, or if there’s something on the day’s itinerary that you’re just not thrilled about?  What if you simply would rather experience the same attraction in a different way?  What if you want to go out at night, but not by yourselves, and the pre-set tour doesn’t give you escorted options?  No matter how much flexibility or free time is built into a pre-set itinerary, you as the traveler still have to work within the choices and timeframe that the tour gives you.

– Large groups and pre-set tours can make travelers feel like they’re being herded in mass from one place to another.

– You are not in control of your own time, as the group must travel as a whole, and the amount of time spent in each locale is prescribed.

Try telling my teenage self that there was anything OK with this last point when I had a completely unobstructed view of the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, but as soon as the guards marched in and turned around, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said “It’s time to go back to the bus.”  My reaction was and is to this day:  I can’t believe I went all the way to London and didn’t even get to see the changing of the guard!

All this is why in my view, custom tours are a much better idea.  You can still experience all the benefits of standard touring:  You can have knowledgeable drivers and English-speaking tour guides, comfortable transportation, and enjoy getting to know people you meet along the way.

What custom touring gives you that standard touring doesn’t is this:

– Flexibility: Travel when, where, and how you want.  There are no pre-set travel dates or itineraries, although we can provide you with sample itineraries and other ideas to consider incorporating into your custom tour.  You see and do what interests you, and you have the flexibility to alter your itinerary on the spot if you’d rather spend more time at a particular locale or skip something else.

– Budget Considerations: With custom tours, you pay for exactly what you want.  You get to approve your custom tour before committing to it, and we work within your reasonable budget constraints.  This is helpful because it allows travelers to spend on what’s important to them, and save on other things if they choose.  Custom tours do not have to be expensive.  I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming post.

– Travel with Whomever You Want: You can bring just your spouse, or your family, friends, your bowling team or wine club, or open the tour up to your entire company if you want.  Your customized tour is just for your group, so it’s up to you!

– Theme Tours Your Way: If you have a hobby or interest you’d like to incorporate into your custom tour, let us know!  Whether your passion is food and wine, photography, art and architecture, gardening, or anything else, Celebrations International Travel’s destination experts can design a tour to focus on your interests.  Our Culinary Travel Homepage provides some sample itineraries designed with food and wine connoisseurs in mind.  These will give you an idea of what a theme tour might entail.

Contact us for more information on planning your own custom tour!

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!

Here is the text of an article I wrote that was published on WhereIveBeen’s “Your Daily Escape” yesterday.  Please note that the picture I’ve included here is different than that pictured on WhereIveBeen.com, and the links herein our for Celebrations International Travel’s site.

This tweet was WhereIveBeen’s announcement of my article:

whereivebeen International Flavor: An Introduction To Culinary #Travel http://su.pr/33u9Mi Thanks, Adrienne! (@celebrationsint) #foodies

Enjoy!

International Flavor:  An Introduction to Culinary Travel

By Adrienne Mitra
Celebrations International Travel

Culinary travel is an emerging trend amongst ardent travelers and food and wine lovers alike. What exactly does the term “culinary travel” bring to mind? As with any type of specialty travel, the variety of trips that could fall into the culinary travel category are as countless and unique as the travelers themselves: a weekend getaway visit to a special event like the Lobster Festival in Maine; a wine connoisseurs’ cruise; a tour of the Napa Valley vineyards; or hands-on cooking classes. What all of these culinary travel options have in common is this: The focus is not on simply having travelers eat their way through their destinations.

In my mind, the idea most intrinsic to culinary travel is that it provides travelers with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culinary heritage and traditions of their destination. Excellent food and drink can be found anywhere in the world without necessarily having to travel. However, because food and its associated traditions are an intrinsic part of life, culinary travel is about experiencing a destination’s cuisine, culture, history, people, and way of life.

With this outlook, at my agency, Celebrations International Travel, we endeavor to create culinary travel that is unique and includes a variety of activities and experiences. We do this by combining elements of traditional sightseeing and cultural highlights with culinary-focused components to create customized tours. The culinary-focused components can be anything, depending on what the destination is best known for. For example, many culinary tours involve components that highlight the region’s renowned wines and classic cooking.

As a premier wine destination, your options in Tuscany are endless. For example, travelers can stay at a villa in the countryside with its own renowned chef. From this “home base,” travelers may choose to visit several wineries and sightsee in different parts of Tuscany. The winery experiences include not only wine tasting, but also olive oil, grappa, and cheese samplings. Guests have the opportunity to witness the wine-making, olive oil pressing, and cheese-crafting processes, take leisurely guided walks through the vineyards and olive groves, and enjoy visits with the local vintners and farmers. Germany is another great destination for wine connoisseurs, where travelers can choose to spend the night in a hotel room built in a hollowed-out wine barrel after a day of exploring the vineyards (pictured below)!  Guests may also enjoy a meal in the peaceful surroundings of a vineyard, grove, or farmhouse, with the venue’s signature wines as the centerpiece.

Wine Barrel Hotel Room in Germany

Stay in a hotel room built out of a wine barrel on our Germany culinary tour!

Speaking of meals, culinary travelers can enjoy hands-on cooking classes highlighting local specialties and ingredients. Sometimes the classes are held in culinary schools; other times they are hosted by well-known restaurants, villas, or bed-and-breakfasts. Whatever the venue, travelers will find themselves learning first-hand from culinary experts. In many instances, the “students” will assist the chef-instructor in gathering the ingredients to be used, either in an on-site garden or during a visit to a local market. The chefs introduce their guest students to the ingredients and guide them in the preparation of a gourmet meal that the entire group will enjoy at the conclusion of the lesson. These cooking classes give culinary travelers an excellent opportunity to try their hand at making pasta and other Italian favorites, learn the many uses of fresh Italian herbs, and enjoy a scrumptious meal that they helped create! Similarly, in Germany, guests may get to make an authentic Wienerschnitzel, learn various ways of incorporating fine German beers into traditional dishes, or try making Spaztle noodles. Best of all, cooking classes always end with a chance to sample the specialties made in the class!

There are many notable culinary destinations around the world. Domestic highlights include Napa and Sonoma, New England, the Louisiana Bayou, and the Hawaiian Islands. Internationally, France, Spain, Peru, Chile, China, Japan, Thailand, India, and Australia are some culinary hotspots to consider. No matter what destination you choose to explore from a culinary perspective, you are sure to find that a variety of activities and experiences await you.

An Introduction to Culinary Travel

Culinary travel is an emerging trend amongst ardent travelers and food and wine lovers alike.  What exactly does the term “culinary travel” bring to mind?  As with any type of specialty travel, the variety of trips that could fall into the culinary travel category are endless:  a weekend getaway visit to the Lobster Festival in Maine; a wine connoisseurs’ cruise; a tour of the Napa Valley vineyards; or cooking classes in Italy.  What all of these culinary travel options have in common is this:  The focus is not on simply having travelers eat their way through their destinations.

In my mind, the idea most intrinsic to culinary travel is that it provides travelers with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culinary heritage and traditions of their destination. Excellent food and drink can be found anywhere in the world without necessarily having to travel.  However, because food and its associated traditions are an intrinsic part of life, culinary travel is about experiencing a destination’s cuisine, culture, history, people, and way of life.

With this outlook, at my agency, Celebrations International Travel, we endeavor to create culinary travel that is unique and includes a variety of activities and experiences.  We do this by combining elements of traditional sightseeing and cultural highlights with culinary-focused components to create customized tours.  The culinary-focused components could be anything at all, depending on what the destination is best known for.

As an example, our Tuscany sample itinerary suggests that travelers stay at a villa in the countryside with its own renowned chef.  From this “home base,” travelers visit several wineries and sightsee in different parts of Tuscany.  They also enjoy hands-on cooking classes followed by a meal in which to enjoy their culinary creations.  In Japan, our sample itinerary suggests a visit to a sake factory, a stay in a traditional Japanese “ryokan,” similar to a bed-and-breakfast, where travelers will enjoy a variety of different styles of Japanese dining.  In France, the sample itinerary includes a visit to a salt mine and a stay in a chateaux, where guests gather fresh herbs from its herb garden, and assist the chef in preparing lunch.  In some destinations, travelers have the opportunity to visit with local families, where they will learn to prepare and sample traditional dishes.

We try to make the cultural activities on our tours just as varied.  For instance, in Vietnam, travelers have the opportunity to see a traditional water puppet show.  They can also enjoy cruising the Mekong and Perfume Rivers, on the way to visit a restaurant and cooking school.  Upon arrival at the cooking school, they accompany the chef-instructor on his daily visit to the local market, where he will introduce guests to the traditional ingredients used in Vietnamese cooking.  In Australia, we suggest a Sydney Harbor cruise and a visit to the Koala & Wildlife Park.  In Germany, we suggest a visit to a Wine Museum and an overnight stay in a hotel whose rooms are constructed of wine barrels!

We strive to make our tours unique, combining culinary-themed elements with sightseeing and cultural activities.  Every effort is made to avoid the stereotypical “bus tour” image often associated with escorted touring.  With our approach to culinary tours, travelers will always have something interesting to see and do.  Best of all, Celebrations International Travel customizes every tour to suit your family or group’s specific needs and preferences.  We work with your travel dates, interests, and budget to create a culinary tour that’s uniquely yours.  There’s no better way to experience the world and all its culinary treasures!

I’ve chosen to combine these two countries in this entry because I’d like to share with you a bit about my own experience celebrating the holidays in the French/German border region.

I was hosted by a number of families while in France, and have traveled in Germany as well, so my memories are numerous and varied.  Spending Christmas with in a family’s 132-year-old ancestral home was quite an experience, complete with a live Christmas tree lit with real candles set in a room with wooden floors, no less!  On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a perfect, homemade Yule Log, or “Bouche de Noel and mulled wine with holiday spices (similar to apple cider enjoyed by many families in America), amongst other festive foods.  The authentic German glockenspeil was the only one I’d ever seen.

I also found holiday shopping to be quite a different experience, with the Christmas markets in both France and Germany.  These seasonal markets are an age-old tradition that remind me more of a street festival than simply stalls full of goods.  Most of the time, I enjoyed simply munching or sipping holiday goodies while browsing through the market in the crisp winter air.

I think anyone with a passion for the holidays and tradition would enjoy this unique experience.  Some avid travelers even make their way to Europe each year just to shop at the Christmas markets!  Whether you’d like to do that, or just love travel and good food, contact us to explore the possibilities.   Our custom culinary tours may interest you, or other types of travel that Celebrations International Travel services may inspire your own travels.

Best Wishes and Happy New Year!

Meilleux Voeux pour la Nouvelle An!

Almost all Chinese people I know (myself included) love to celebrate the holidays (make that any holiday) with an abundance of good food.  Considering my own background, I think the Chinese have some of the most discerning palates and tastes in the world.  By “discerning,” I don’t mean that all food has to be 5-star restaurant-looking, but it has to be good.  Good by the Chinese cook’s own discerning standards, that is!

While some foods are symbolic during various festivals and occasions, many dishes can be served and enjoyed throughout the year.  Here are a few traditional dishes:

Ming Tsai’s Red-Roast Duck with Baby Bok Choy

Braised Chinese Mushrooms

Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage

Try your hand at making these and other Chinese specialties on a culinary tour to China!  The sample itinerary is posted on our Web site to give you an idea of the types of things you can see and do on one of our culinary tours.  However, we encourage you to take that inspiration (and your love of Chinese cooking) and run with it!  We will customize your culinary tour to suit your interests, preferences, dates, and budget.  Don’t just eat your way through China, this is your chance to truly experience the cuisine and culture!

Celebrations International Travel…Celebrating Life Through Travel SM


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.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9 other followers

Celebrations on Twitter

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 14,419 hits
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: