Discovering Provence: The French Riviera

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The Lavender Fields of Provence

Cézanne, Van Gogh, Chagall, and Matisse all drew inspiration from the storied beauty of Provence, and now savvy travelers can as well on a new, affordably-priced 12-day small group tour with Odysseys Unlimited: Discovering Provence with the French Riviera. From billowy lavender fields to rose-hued salt marshes, hilltop villages to medieval towns, and traditional cowboy ranches to the French Riviera, the small group tour relishes la vie Provençale with visits to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and the quintessential Provençal villages of Lourmarin, Rousillon, Les Baux ,and Saint-Rémy; along with the Camargue region, Avignon, and Nice.

Six-time honoree of Travel +Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operators award, I like Odysseys Unlimited approach with small groups, limited to 12 – 24 traveling companions, and led by top-rated tour directors with a balanced mix of guided tour and time for independent exploration. There’s nothing worse than never having a moment to relax. The company’s tour directors illuminate historic sites such as Cézanne’s atelier in Aix, the Pont du Gard and the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) in Avignon, and the UNESCO sites of Roman Arles, while also allowing ample time to stop and smell the sunflowers. Or the lavender.

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The sights of Provence

Small group highlights abound, including a private cooking class from a local Provençal chef, dinner and a wine tasting at a vineyard, a visit to a working manade (traditional ranch) in the Camargue, and a stay at a converted 17th-century convent.

Priced from $3,997 total price from Boston and New York ($3,495 air and land inclusive plus $502 airline taxes and departure fees), and slightly higher from other gateway cities, Odysseys Unlimited’s 12-day Discovering Provence with the French Riviera debuts April 6, 2020, and has 12 departures through October 12, 2020.  There is an optional three-day/two-night extension in Nice on the French Riviera, from $245.

www.odysseys-unlimited.com

For a day-by-day itinerary check it out here:

Discovering Provence with the French Riviera

Summer Culture – Rhineland, Germany

 

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Molsheim, Germany: Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Germany. From bratwurst and Beethoven’s birthplace to beer and some of the best art and music in the world, it’s time to check out Rhineland-Palatinate’s Summer of Culture, taking place every year from May 1st – October 3rd. Featuring well over 200 projects covering all kinds of different cultural aspects, the theme is revised annually to reflect new focuses for the content, and the venue for the grand opening also changes every year. A large cultural festival on the first weekend in May also offers families their first peek at the summer’s program of events held across the state covering cultural, religious, artistic and social themes.

In early 1992, the Rhineland-Palatinate state government announced the staging of the first Rhineland-Palatinate Summer of Culture, the aim of which was to increase people’s awareness of the region’s culture. What the organizers had – and continue to have – in mind was a sort of ‘citizens’ movement for culture’. The Summer of Culture is, in fact, characterized by the large number of small projects and ideas at its core that were themselves developed out of local or regional initiatives. With almost 250 events including concerts, readings, exhibitions, children’s activities, theatre and more, it’s an incredible melting pot of people and ideas.

From example, throughout August 24, 2019, the Mayen Burgfestspiele Theatre Festival is the cultural highlight of the Northern Rhineland-Palatinate. Every summer, the quiet town Mayen, located about 1 hour north of Mainz (another little colorful gem) turns into a colorful theater city.

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Mainz Market (c) The Crazy Tourist

There’s also a nearby wine festival for the parents. The Rheingau Wine Festival has around 100 winemakers offering the acclaimed Rheingau riesling wines, as well as sparkling sekt and regional fare. The ten-day wine festival includes a varied program of entertainment in Schlossplatz and Dern’schen Gelände squares in Wiesbaden too!

For more information on the festival:

www.kultursommer.de

Rheingau Wine Festival:

www.wiesbaden.de

 

Italy’s Emilia Romagna

Lambrusco Grapes

Lambrusco Grapes

The region of Emilia Romagna always reminds me of a beautiful woman nestled in the arms of her sultry Italian love. So, as a tribute to a region we hold dear, we wanted to share a few A, B, C’s to get you started dreaming about wandering through cobblestone streets, sipping Lambrusco, and dipping fresh bread into their version of black gold… also known as balsamic vinegar.

Without further ado… the first five letters of the alphabet of Emilia from the top!

  • A for Art: The regions of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Le Marche and Umbria are celebrating the one year anniversary of their collaboration on the Terre di Piero, a unique trail following the work of 15th century painter Piero della Francesca visiting the four regions that inspired his work. The new year will bring two updates to the route. The first is a new exhibit at the San Domenico Museum Complex comparing the works of painters who came after Piero and were inspired by his work. The second will be that restorations to The Resurrection, which has been called the most beautiful painting in the world, are scheduled to be completed in August 2016. The process is currently in progress in a way that allows visitors to still view the masterpiece.
  • B for Black Gold: While balsamic vinegar is often thought of as a dressing, traditional balsamic vinegar is far too rich in flavor with a production process that is time-intensive to use it on salads. In order to receive recognition as a maker of traditional balsamic, the producer must follow a strict set of guidelines and practices. Visitors to the Modena area will find a number of tradition balsamic vinegar producers who are happy to share their knowledge and passion.
  • C for Competition: This year, Emilia Romagna’s Lambrusco Wine Competition showcased over 90 Lambrusco wine producers. Special to Emilia-Romagna, Lambrusco grapes create a semi-sweet, fresh and light wine that has been produced since the Roman period. This wine can be found in most Emilian kitchens and consistently enhancing the flavors of any traditional meal. When Lambrusco is not being used to enhance the meal it can be ideal in making a Sangria or Spritz.
  • D for Delicious: Parmigiano Reggiano cheese has been a culinary staple for ages to enhance flavor and, of course, top-off our favorite pasta dishes. The process of boiling, stirring and shaping the cow’s milk requires deep concentration to form the perfect block before aging to form the “King of Cheese.” Travelers visiting the Parma area will come across numerous Parmigiano Reggiano farms where they can see first-hand the steps that go into creating this beloved food.
  • E for Eat Up: Emilia Romagna boasts itself as the “breadbasket” of Italy. It is here that many pasta varieties we have all come to know, love and crave were created. From lasagna to tortellini, tagliatelle to ravioli, gnocci and more – Emilian’s throughout history have perfected the art of pasta-making. While visiting the region, sign up for an authentic Italian cooking class and toast these new-found skills!

For more information on places to stay, have a look at: http://www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/en/where-to-stay

Winter Vacationing… in Summer

The Park Hyatt Melbourne, Australia

Crowded beaches… Sun-burnt skin… Pre-mature aging… Let’s get real. You’re probably not 18 years old and able to bake in the sun without getting a few new lines anymore. Are you? It’s okay, we’re not either, but we say, ditch the hand-held fan and take a detour from the average getaway this summer with an unexpected vacation in another hemisphere.

Why not bundle up in the southern hemisphere and experience Australia and Argentina’s winter season? Discover the cool misty air in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains or take in the snow-capped peaks of India. At least you can come back looking refreshed and fresh. Tans are so 1990. And sun spots are so 90.

What: Park Hyatt Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Why: Park Hyatt Melbourne welcomes guests with a night of indulgence, called “Winter Warmer”. Enjoy decadent dessert treats, glasses of Moscato, a full buffet, breakfast for two in radii restaurant, and valet parking with complimentary access to the Park Club Health & Day Spa.

Itinerary: The special “winter” Chef’s table menu lets guests taste their way through six seasonal courses, with an optional wine pairing.  Rates start at $518 USD. Six course meal costs $175 USD. Include wine pairing for an additional $120 USD.

Ideal for: Globetrotters missing the coziness of chilly winter nights.

What: Park Hyatt Mendoza, Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina Wine Country

Why: With views of the snow covered Andes and a spa that pampers visitors with local wine-inspired treatments, Park Hyatt Mendoza (located in one of South America’s most famous wine regions) is the perfect place to escape the summer crowds.

Itinerary: Indulge in a “Mascara Corporal de Uvas” (Grape Body Masque) that combines mud from a local mountain chain withessential oils and fresh crumbled grapes or enjoy the “Brillo Vino de Mendoza” (Mendoza’s Wine Body Glow) is a body treatmentapplied from the neck to the toes with Thai massage techniques, providing deep hydration and infusing the skin with antioxidants through the combination of crushed grape skin and seeds. Rates start at $177 USD per night.

Ideal for: Relaxation junkies and oenophiles.

Jamaica Strawberry Hill

What: Strawberry Hill, Irish Town, Jamaica

Why: On an island known for its sandy beaches visitors will discover another side of Jamaica with a refreshing escape to Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. Guests who book four nights at the hotel, enjoy the fifth night free, with rates starting at $195 per night now through December 15.

Itinerary: The adventuresome can literally take a hike (or mountain bike excursion) on one of the many surrounding trails or tour the island’s premier coffee estate. Those seeking to refresh body and mind can take a dip in the negative- edge freshwater pool, channel their inner chakra at the yoga pavilion, or enjoy a holistic treatment at the full-service spa. And of course every guest can just take it easy on the private terrace of their own Georgian-style cottage, of which Strawberry Hill has 12.

Ideal for: Travelers looking to beat the heat but still get a taste of the tropical.

Prayer Flags at Stok Village, India

What: Shakti Village Experiences, Northern India

Why: India in the summer? Late spring through early fall is THE season for places like the Ladakh region of Jammu-Kashmir in the stunning Indian Himalayas.  Shakti Village Experiences can get you there, offering private, guided walking tours throughout villages in the India’s North – such as the Shakti Ladakh tour, which takes guests through the natural wonders of the region known as ‘Little Tibet.’

Itinerary: As guests of a Shakti walking tour, you and your private group will be accompanied by dedicated local porters and guides as you go on ‘soft adventure’-style walks between the villages during the day, and at night, stay in traditional village homes which have been gently spruced to provide proper comfort without compromising authenticity.

Ideal For: Culture worshippers seeking the road less traveled, but with a sherpa for their luggage.