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 hands-on 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.
For 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 participate in 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. 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 an Outback sheep station experience complete with billy tea and damper (biscuits) prepared by the stockmen. In Germany, we suggest a visit to a Wine Museum and an overnight stay in a hotel where the rooms are constructed of actual 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 regimented, stereotypical “bus tour” image often associated with escorted touring. The idea is to ensure that travelers get to experience the destination, as opposed to just seeing it. Equally important to note is the fact that, especially in today’s tough economic times, we stress to our clients that custom tours don’t have to be expensive. With our approach to culinary tours, every itinerary is customized to suit the travelers’ specific needs and preferences. Travelers can plan to see and do the things that are most important and interesting to them, and save on the things that they don’t consider to be as essential. We work with their travel dates, interests, and budget to create a culinary tour that is uniquely theirs. What better way to travel the world and experience its culinary delights?
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, all-inclusive resorts, and group travel.
Celebrations International Travel
Phone: (702) 530-6020 Fax: (480) 272-6020
Web Site: http://www.celebrationsinternationaltravel.com/