With warm weather right around the corner, culinary travelers may be looking to head to Europe to check out what’s new. From tours, restaurants and new river cruises there are plenty of opportunities throughout France for travelers to check out the gastronomy scene.
In 2018, Avalon Waterways has announced it will be expanding its list of themed itineraries, particularly its culinary river cruises. Food lovers will travel through France and have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the country’s food, wine and culture while enjoying views onboard the open-air balcony on a Suite Ship. Culinary river cruise departures include “A Culinary Experience from Paris to Normandy” (August 11); “A Culinary Experience on the Grand France” (August 11) and “A Culinary Experience on the Danube Symphony” (July 17).
We spoke with Vanessa Parrish, channel marketing manager for Avalon Waterways, who shared some insight regarding the line’s culinary cruises through France, along with some tips for travelers when they’re deciding which itinerary is best for them.
“For travelers that enjoy food, a culinary cruise is an ideal vacation. There is no better way to see (and taste) your way through France than on a river cruise,” she said, adding that when choosing a culinary cruise, look for an itinerary that immerses guests in the destination and allows for exploration in the smaller towns and villages along the way.
“In addition, look for itineraries that feature other areas of interest as well. For example, history enthusiasts can choose Avalon’s Paris to Normandy Culinary Cruise, which combines both the classic culinary exploration of France, while also exploring the historic region of Normandy,” says Parrish.
Also specializing in food and wine tours is The International Kitchen, a boutique tour operator that has focused on culinary travel for the past 23 years. The company’s trips always combine food, wine and culture with specific emphasis on the “enogastronomy” that is local to the area.
Adrian Hall, travel coordinator with The International Kitchen, spoke with us about the operator’s new itineraries and what travelers can expect. “Our clients travel to a particular place, learn about the local specialties, recipes, artisanal foods and wines, and of course sightseeing of important cultural and historical points of interest as well,” said Hall. “We work in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Morocco, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and the USA.”
When it comes to millennial travelers interested in culinary travel to France, Hall suggests Aix-en-Provence due to its large concentration of university students. “It has a very lively and walkable city center with lots of cafes, bars, shops, and restaurants in close proximity,” he noted.
Also on his must-go list: a trip through the region of Languedoc…“a huge region in southern France with a similar cuisine and terroir to Provence, but more off the beaten track. It is well known for Carcassonne, but also has very authentic, non-touristy villages and larger cities like Montpellier and Toulouse.” Hall also notes that Toulouse is linked by high speed train to Barcelona, so a trip can easily be combined with a with a visit to Spain.
The International Kitchen is offering a new seven-day culinary tour through the region called “Savor the Flavors of the Languedoc.” During the experience, guests will stay in Quarante, a village situated between Beziers and Carcassone in the B&B of Maison Quarante, which was originally built in 1805. On the main floor French doors open to the terrace where guests can have breakfast and dinner, as well access to a garden, swimming pool, wine cellar and views of the historic town. The location provides easy access to local wineries and artisan producers that call the region home.
Travelers will also have the opportunity to participate in cooking classes and other culinary experiences. Classes are led by an instructor who was born in France and studied at the Institute of Culinary Education and International Wine Center in New York. She has also been a recipe tester for lifestyle publications and cookbooks, a freelance food columnist, Food Network show producer. Classes take place in the B&B's kitchen where guests will learn to create regional and seasonal dishes, such as bolles de Picolat (catalan dish of meatballs, cepes, and olives), bouride (monkfish stew) and several lamb dishes among others.
This culinary travel tour runs weekly through the fall of 2017, and requires a $2,000 deposit with a full price of $3,000.
There is also the new six-day “Best of Bordeaux” itinerary. The region is now home to a wine museum: La Cité du Vin, a permanent wine exhibit that structured around a variety of wine experiences, including tasting, and is situated right on the river. Travelers will stay at the 4-star Hotel de Seze located in Bordeaux’s historic city center and have a welcome dinner at a gastronomic restaurant located in the Opera House of Bordeaux. Visits to Bordeaux’s wine region: Saint Emilion and a two-hour private boat trip to see oyster beds, the birds’ island, the “cabanes Tchanquées”, the peninsula fishermen villages, and the Pyle Dune. Also, visits to multiple chateaus and UNESCO World Heritage Sites will be included.
This program requires a deposit of $1,000 per person and is available for any dates upon request for at least two people. Full prices are $2,400 per person for the self-drive option and $3,995 per person for the tour including transportation.
Also offering a new French culinary tour is Avanti. The “Nice (France) Cooking Experience with Market Visit” is a five hour tour to an authentic neighborhood, which avoids many of the popular tourism areas. The itinerary includes a guide, a walk through organic farmers’ market to shop for ingredients, home cooking class of the local cuisine, and a three course lunch with local cheeses and wine. Prices begin at $149 per person.
"We're always trying to find tours focused on food and cooking because they're so popular with our clients," explained Megan Ball, France and lead product manager for Avanti. "There's no better souvenir than bringing home a recipe or two that lets your client recreate their time in Europe and share it with their friends and family!"