Most years, our brochure cover features some stunning scenery and evocative images. This year, we decided to feature one of the most important elements of our self-guided walking and cycling experiences: our full time on-site reps.
That’s Tony & Ludmilla on their bikes just outside Tourtour in Provence last year, picking up some fresh local produce for dinner. The old timey truck brought to mind the days of past, when a stamp and postcard actually hit the post office for delivery (maybe after you’d already returned home)!
We often hear rave reviews about our reps, “they went above and beyond” and “..Sarah… was outstanding!”. It’s a little known, unique and highly important part of our program – contributing no doubt to the high level of repeat and referrals from our traveling guests.
Our reps are all bilingual (in the country you are visiting), and FULL time employees, meaning that they are there to help you 24/7 in the event of a problem or an emergency. If your bike breaks down, or you get sick in the middle of the night, our reps are on call to help. It’s reassuring to know that someone is on hand (that speaks English) and is familiar with the area and hoteliers.
The reps have a number of responsibilities, in addition to meeting guests at the train station and driving you to the first hotel, you’ll also conduct a briefing session to go over the route notes and maps and get comfortable with the directions. You’ll be fitted with your bike (on cycling tours) and while you are out on the route, he or she will be transporting your luggage to the next hotel to be waiting for you on your arrival. And, if you just happen stop at a winery, they’ll even go out and pick up your purchases for you!
We thank our tireless reps, whose contributions are often unseen but always appreciated!
Food is a fundamental part of Spanish culture. History has seen the country occupied by Greeks, Romans and Moors among others, and you can taste these influences throughout Spanish cuisine. Whether it’s olives from the Greeks and Romans, spices like saffron from the Moors, or tomatoes, potatoes and peppers from the New World, Spain serves up a fiesta of flavors, with each region making its own culinary statement.
In the alluring region of Andalucia you’ll find a beautiful mix of coast and countryside. There are valleys peppered with olive groves; meadows full of figs and blackberries; vineyards and orange groves. The Moors taught the Andalusians how to grow fruit and vegetables and this is evident in many of the region’s local dishes; try tasty cold soups like Gazpacho, made with tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions, garlic, water and olive oil.
A signature product here is cured ham. Iberian pigs are highly prized for their superior meat and are fed on acorns to produce the high-quality Jamón ibérico. With over 800km of coast, it’s no wonder that Andalucia also produces a lot of fish and seafood – think anchovies, sardines, tuna and chipirones (prawns calamari). Sherry is a regional favourite – try the dry, clear Fino or Amontillado, both delightful with fish.
Asturias embraces a slower, more traditional way of cooking. Broad beans are a staple here, eaten in salads, soups and the signature local dish, fabada, a delicious stew made with beans and meat or seafood. Veal and beef are typical meats of the region, along with cured pork meat like Morcilla (black pudding) and Chorizo Asturiano (smoked spicy sausage). For a true meat treat, try Cachopo, which sees beef steaks and slices of ham and cheese coated with breadcrumbs and fried.
Asturias produces a lot of cheese, made from ewe, cow or goat milk. For a smoked cheese try Queso Gamonéu, or for blue cheese try Queso Cabrales; the latter is wonderful washed down with the region’s signature drink, sidra (cider). Cider has been produced in the region since Roman times and ‘first tastings’ are traditional, where friends and family gather to taste it while it’s still fermenting in barrels, sampling ham, sausage, bread and Cabrales cheese on the side.
Catalunya has quite the reputation for its cuisine and culture of eating – and deservedly so. Authentic flavors combine with inventive recipes to create some wonderful dishes based heavily on seafood, meat, poultry and local fruit. Typical Mediterranean ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs and olive oil are also prevalent. The region is home to numerous talented chefs including the Roca brothers, whose contemporary Catalan restaurant took the coveted number one spot in 2015’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Local gastronomy reflects the region’s geography of coast and mountains with Mar y Muntanya (surf and turf) a popular choice – try dishes like Pollastre amb escamarlans (chicken and scampi). Another highlight is Escudellla, a Catalan stew made with meat, beans, potatoes, cabbage and sometimes pasta. Wash down with full-bodied reds like Priorat or sip on chilled Cava, a signature Catalan tipple.
This region is famous for its old agricultural tradition and you’ll see numerous vegetable gardens growing aubergines, artichokes, beans and peas. Fish is also common given the region’s coastal connections, especially salted fish like tuna, roe and dried cod, which are used to create such dishes as the traditional Esgarraet – red peppers and aubergine, baked with dried codfish and seasoned with olive oil.
Arab influence saw saffron and rice come to the region and these are very much part of the local gastronomy, perhaps most notably in the popular Paella. The traditional Valencian paella uses saffron and rice with both seafood and chicken; you can, however, find it with meatballs, calamari or fish. Wash down with excellent white wines like Alto Turia and Serranía, or reds such as Requena and Utiel. You should also try the local tipple, Horchata de Chufa, a tasty tiger-nut milk, spiced with cinnamon or lemon.
The Great Escape
There’s nothing better than getting away from it all – especially when it’s last minute escape …And while Autumn may be knocking on the door (actually it’s now officially here!), there’s still time to soak up the sun on a Breakaway Adventure – what better way to round off the summer?We still have availability on selected October & November tours, so why not seize the moment and treat yourself to a last-minute get away? You know you’ve earned it. Just one thing – you’ll have to be quick!
Vistas of Valencia Guided Walk
Just south of Valencia’s architectural splendour, in the spectacular mountains of the Marina Alta, this is a dramatic region of traditional white villages, dramatic peaks and gorges, tumbling waterfalls and ancient Arabic trails, all contrasting with a backdrop of majestic coastal views. Based in the hilltop village of Parcent, a warm welcome is awaiting at your exquisitely restored, traditional C17 hotel.*Special discount on this departure of $190 per person, subject to availabililty.
Highlights of Gozo Cycling
Surrounded by azure Mediterranean waters, the diminutive island of Gozo is just 3 mi from its livelier sister island of Malta. Here, the pace of life is leisurely, and the island’s size makes it perfect for exploration on two wheels. Quaint villages, Baroque churches and traditional farmhouses blend into the picturesque landscape complementing the coastline and amazing UNESCO world heritage sites. Hotels range from a hideaway resort offering traditional Gozitan cuisine, to an elegant spa hotel.
White Villages of Andalusia Guided Walk
Oct 24 & Nov 21
The Finca el Cerrillo is an absolute gem of a place to stay. There are thirteen individually styled rooms in this wonderfully restored 200 year old olive oil mill; and the food is superb. Your days combine gentle walks to the nearby white villages of Sedella, Salares and Competa with off-the-beaten track trails in the Sierra de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park. On other days we’ll explore the caves at Nerja and a spend a day in Malaga, birthplace of Picasso.
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