We have a fantastic newsletter to share with you this month. I hope you're hungry! Our feature is all about culinary travel, a wave of new offerings by tour companies due to a strong interest in farm-to-table meals, cooking classes, slow food happenings, and learning about cultures through the universal medium of a love of food. We also present our favorite hotels in Bermuda, discuss what's new in Washington, DC, and introduce you to the only tour operator the World Wildlife Fund teamed with, Natural Habitat Adventures. Don't miss our travel tip on how to stay safe abroad.
And, now for the moment you've been waiting for, the announcement of the winner of our 1st annual ActiveTravels Photo Contest! We had a great selection to choose from and we thank everyone who entered our contest. And, the winner is...
Nicole Greenberg! Here is her winning shot she took on her trip to Belize to celebrate her birthday this winter. This photo is of Nicole and her buddies on the very top of the tallest building in Belize-the Mayan Ruin Caana in Caracol. It is 141 feet high! And, Nicole and friends conquered all those steps to pose for this awesome picture. Well done, Nicole. Tell us the place and we'll design a complimentary itinerary just for you!
Wishing you all safe and happy travels!
Lisa & Steve
News from the Road:
A Small Taste Of Culinary Tours
We know firsthand from designing your itineraries that food is an essential ingredient to creating a memorable vacation for most of our clientele. In fact, we go out of our way to not only find Michelin-starred restaurants but hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop establishments that only locals would know about. So we were not surprised when we read the surveys you submitted last October that culinary travel was at the top of your wish list. We've already established a great network of food tours around the globe, but many of those are 3 to 4-hour outings. If you're looking to really dig into the food scene, where you not only visit restaurants but also meet the local cheese makers, vintners, truffle foragers, farmers, and take cooking classes, consider the following culinary vacations.
Saveur Languedoc, France
A former food writer for The New York Times and once married to the Times restaurant critic, Bryan Miller, Anne de Raval left Manhattan for this little known corner of southern France over two decades ago. She now designs culinary discovery trips for a maximum of 4 guests, where she guarantees you'll meet some remarkable personalities and spirited characters. Through hands-on cooking classes, exclusive winery tours and tastings, market visits and memorable meals, you'll get an insight into the daily life of the Languedoc people. Each cooking class offers something different; you will learn some classic seasonal recipes from bourride to brandade as well as contemporary interpretations inspired by the local produce. You will also enjoy dining out in local bistros and fine establishments and meeting winemakers in between sightseeing and shopping. The cooking classes take place in a smartly renovated winemaker's home at the center of a lively village just outside of Beziers. The comfortable house offers all the modern amenities. A pool and bikes are available for fun and relaxation. The 5-night tours are offered May through October.
Paris and Lausanne Chocolate & Gastronomy Tour
When Lisa and I visited Lausanne, Vevey, and the Lake Geneva Region of Switzerland in September 2014, we wisely used the restaurant and food suggestions of well-known Parisian food writer, David Lebovitz. This October, Lebovitz, author of "The Great Book of Chocolate" and "The Sweet Life in Paris," returns to Lausanne on a 6-night culinary tour that starts in his hometown. Taste some of the world's finest cheeses, charcuterie, pastries, wines, and best of all, chocolates. Highlights include visits to behind-the-scenes laboratories and shops of master chocolatiers and candy makers for private tastings; cheese and wine tastings, plus samplings of charcuterie, pastries, and local specialties; guided trips to outdoor markets; and lunches and dinners at authentic bistros, cafés and restaurants.
A Taste of Spain with Food Writer Paul Richardson
Teresa Parker started Spanish Journeys after living in Barcelona for 10 years. Ever since being the only woman in her cooking class in 1986, she has been obsessed with the Spanish dining scene. On her 6-night Private Journey with food writer Paul Richardson, you'll head west from Madrid to Seville, stopping to eat an amazing array of local foods-olive oil, torta cheeses, jamón Ibérico-while visiting farms, vineyards, and jamón curing houses. Paul will take you on a village-to-farm walk where he'll then serve you a country lunch at his home. Another delightful meal will be at the double Michelin-starred Atrio in Cáceres. Lodgings vary from a farmhouse to Relais & Chateux property to a traditional townhouse hotel.
Amalfi Coast with Chef Dante de Magistris
Knowing that their guests like to play hard and then relish their physical accomplishments over an exceptional meal, many active travel operators in the past decade have invited well-known chefs to join them. Ciclismo Classico, best known for their biking and hiking trips throughout Italy, has teamed up with talented Boston chef, Dante de Magistris, chef at Il Casale and Dante, to present an exceptional itinerary along the Amalfi Coast September 17-23. Hike amidst the cliffs of Positano, ferry over to Capri to walk secluded seaside towns, and then dine on private meals prepared by Chef Dante. He'll also provide picnic lunches, offer cooking lessons, and invite guests into his family's home.
Real Food Adventure, Peru
Intrepid Travel has quickly become a leader in food tours around the world and one of their finest itineraries brings you to the South American foodie haven of Peru. On their 9-day tour to the country, you'll learn to prepare ceviche in a cooking class held at a Lima fish market, sample traditional Andean delicacies in the Sacred Valley, see how the famed Pisco Sour is made at a local bodega, journey to the ancient site of Machu Picchu, and dive into a traditional pachamanca feast. You'll also have a guided tour of the food markets in Lima and visit the Chocolate Museum in Cuzco. Group size is a maximum of 12 people and trips leave from May through October.
Hotels We Love:
If you live on the East Coast, you've no doubt heard about its proximity to Bermuda, less than a two-hour flight from Boston, New York, Philly, and DC. But it's not until you actually step off the plane on this island located 600 miles due east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, that you fully understand the allure. Plant your feet into the soft pink sand on one of the renowned South Shore beaches like Horseshoe Bay and you can feel your body de-stress with every footprint. Here our picks for favorite lodgings on the island:
Bermuda's largest resort, Fairmont Southampton, has a lot to offer families, from the daily kid's program that will lead Junior on sea shell scavenger hunts to an 18-hole golf course to one of the finest spas on the island. Yet, most families are content whisking away their hours on this South Shore stretch of sand, just beyond Horseshoe Bay. The water sports facility rents snorkeling gear and sea kayaks to get a close up look at Nemo. A nice perk is their complimentary short ferry ride from their dock to the town of Hamilton to check out its restaurants and shops.
Not far from the Fairmont Southampton, The Reefs is a more intimate resort with its own magnificent stretch of sand. The over-the-top service that makes you feel like a local could very well be the reason couples book their return trip for the following summer before leaving the premises.
Grotto Bay Beach Resort
Located near the airport and a short walk from Crystal Caves, Grotto Bay is the only all-inclusive option in Bermuda. Lounge on their harbor front beach, swim in the heated pool, dine at three restaurants including the beachside lounge, and enjoy the live music at night. My favorite spot, however, are the two caves on property, one available for swimming, one used as a private treatment room for massages.
Fairmont Hamilton Princess
First opened in 1885, the Hamilton Princess has played host to royalty and a slew of celebrities, think Mark Twain to Michael Jackson. A recent $35 million facelift has provided the shine on the opulent main lobby and refurbished all the rooms. Located on Pitt's Bay in the center of Hamilton, the resort features two swimming pools and a free 25-minute boat ride over to their sister property in Southampton, where you're free to indulge in all their amenities.
Rosewood Tucker's Point
This luxury resort opened in 2009 so it's a relative newcomer to the island. It's nearby a gorgeous stretch of beach, has a celebrated golf course on its grounds, fine dining, great spa and lots of activities for its guests. There's even a croquet lawn and a weekly croquet and cocktail party.
ActiveTravels is happy to plan your trip to Bermuda! I think I'll go and drink a Dark and Stormy right now!
Tour Operators We Recommend:
Natural Habitat Adventures
Natural Habitat Adventures first made its mark with trips to see the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. That still remains one of their most popular options, but they have since branched out to all seven continents, with new trips to Iceland and Greenland this summer.
Since 2003, the Boulder-based tour operator has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund, one of the world's leading environmental organizations. Nat Hab and its clientele have given more than $10 million to WWF's global conservation efforts to protect some of the most precious yet imperiled locations on the planet.
We recently caught up with Don Martinson, Director of Nat Hab's Travel Industry Relations, over dinner in Boston to hear what's new. He is very excited about seeing the wondrous landscape in Iceland and the wildlife opportunities in Africa. His African trips carry a maximum of 7 clients, so you have the full attention of your naturalist and guide. Perhaps that's the reason why Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, and Outside Magazine consistently rate Natural Habitat as one of the top ten travel companies in the world.
If you need help choosing one of their excellent trips, please contact ActiveTravels.
Tried & True Travel Tips:
The STEP Program
In this topsy-turvy world, it's best if we still do the things we want to do (like travel) but even better if we're smart about it. The US Government has an excellent program that seeks to protect US citizens when they are traveling overseas. It's called the STEP program and like many programs in Washington, it is an acronym. STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
To enroll, just go to their website, https://step.state.gov/step/ and click on the box that reads "Traveling?" and follow through the steps of the survey notifying them of where and when you are traveling. You will then receive all the travel warnings or travel alerts that pertain to your destination in your email inbox. If there are safety issues, health warnings, civil unrest or a natural disaster, you will be notified by the local US Embassy.
Whether it's walking around the Tidal Basin beneath the cherry blossoms or catching a Washington Nationals ballgame, we always think of visiting DC in April. The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 17 and includes the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival (April 9) and nationally televised parade (April 16) followed by the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival at the Capitol Riverfront. FilmFest DC, now in its 30th year, screens new international films from April 14-24.
The National Gallery of Art has amassed an outstanding collection of American prints representing the history of American art from the early 18th century to the present. Timed to coincide with the Gallery's 75th anniversary in 2016, a comprehensive exhibition of American prints on view though July will showcase some 160 works from the Gallery's collection.
The Watergate Hotel, the complex made infamous by the 1972 burglary that led to President Nixon's resignation, has reopened after a $125 million renovation that restores the property back to its luxurious Potomac River-side perch. On April 28th, Kimpton will open Mason & Rook Hotel near 14th Street NW, with 178 guest rooms and Radiator, a restaurant with a large outdoor patio with fire pits and shuffleboard courts. Boston-based chef Michael Schlow plans to open another Alta Strada in NOMA this spring. Also check out one of the hottest new restaurants, The Dabney, where chef Jeremiah Langhorne pays homage to his Southern roots.
Give ActiveTravels a shout if you're thinking of traveling to our nation's capital!