Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘food and wine

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

Advertisements

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.

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.

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!

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!


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

  • 14,413 hits
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: