Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Germany

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!

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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!

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.

Enjoy!

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

Please visit our newly-updated Culinary Travel Homepage.

Our current destinations with sample itineraries posted include:

China

Germany

India

Japan

Peru

Thailand

Tuscany

Vietnam

We will be adding more destinations soon.  Please note that the links above will take you to our sample itineraries, however, they are only meant as an example and to inspire ideas in culinary travel.  Everything we do is customized to your needs and preferences, so let us create your ideal culinary vacation!  We work with your budget and time constraints in mind and design tours around what you want to see and do.

Not familiar with a destination?  No problem.  That’s where our destination experts come in.  We will suggest sightseeing, cultural activities, shopping, whatever you’d like us to include in your tour.

If you have a destination in mind that isn’t listed, email info@celebrationsinternationaltravel.com or call (480) 272-6020 and let us know.  We can have a tour designed just for you!

Here is the baekeoffe recipe that I made recently.  It is a very rich, traditional recipe, perfect for a nice Sunday dinner!  I learned about it from my various Alsatian host families.  Try this, and let me know how yours turns out!  Maybe it will inspire you to join us on a future culinary tour to Europe!

Alsatian Baekeoffe

Recipes: Baeckeoffe (meat stew)
24 hours of marinating
30 minutes of preparation
3 hours of cooking

Ingredients

500 g (1 lb) boneless beef topside, brisket or chuck – 500 g (1 lb) boneless pork shoulder or loin – 500 g (1 lb) boneless shoulder of sheep or lamb – 1 pork tail and 1 pork trotter (optional) – 250 g (½ lb) onions – 1 large carrot – 2 cloves garlic – 1.5 kg (3 lb) potatoes – 2 leek whites – ½ litre (2 cups) Riesling or Sylvaner – 1 bouquet garni of thyme, bay leaves, and sage, tied with a string – ground cloves – salt and pepper – flour

Preparation

• Make a marinade by mixing the wine, the leek whites, a few onions, the carrot sliced in rounds, the bouquet garni and the spices.
• Chop the meat and marinate it in the above mixture for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
• Preheat the oven to 210 °C (thermostat 7 – 410°F).
• Peel and slice the potatoes, cover the bottom of a terrine with them and add salt and pepper.
• Slice the remaining onions, place them on top of the first layer and add salt and pepper.
• Place the meat on top of the onions and add salt and pepper.
• Remove the herbs and vegetables from the marinade liquid.
• Pour the marinade liquid, the rest of the white wine and a little water over the three layers until the level reaches the middle of the terrine.
• Add the marinade herbs, plus salt and pepper.
• Make dough with the flour and water and use it to seal the terrine’s lid.
• Put in the oven and bake for at least 3 hours (the longer it cooks, the better the Baeckeoffe will be).

Most suitable wine

Crémant d’Alsace, Riesling or Gewurztraminer


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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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