We all remember firsts. But before you laugh, for me, I will never forget my first trip to Europe. I had been in London for 3 months and then we drove our Kombi van for the ferry across the Channel and a whole new world was revealed; one of markets, different ingredients, new aromas, flavours and customs. I was hooked and this ultimately led to a career in food and wine.
After 30 years of talking, teaching, tasting and writing in books, magazines, on radio, TV and public demonstrations, I am now able to bring this love to a new audience as a tour host. And in a way which suits me entirely – in supreme comfort and without the hassle of constant security and passport checks, getting on and off different forms of transport, or unpacking.
You guessed it, I have discovered cruising. I hosted my first 3 week trip last year and now I’m hooked and about to do it all over again from 16 September to 4 October round trip. . This time we begin with a couple of days in Venice, then transfer by boat to our luxury ship, the Celebrity Constellation and have 10 glorious nights on board, with day trips to Taormina, Sorrento, Orvieto, Florence and Dubrovnik as well as three days at sea. We finish with four days on land again, this time beside beautiful Lake Como.
It’s incredible when you think of the diversity of places possible to visit in such a relatively short, yet relaxed time. OK, so I know Venice is one of the most touristy places on earth – but that’s because it is so beautiful and unique. We stay in a 15th century building (done up with all the mod cons), close to Piazzale Roma, the University, Chiesa dei Frari Church, Campo Santa Margherita and the Gallerie dell’Accademia. I find markets rarely disappoint and it’s a great way to feel the pulse of a city and its people. Venice’s Rialto Market is an incredible 700 years old, still selling local produce. Some detective work has revealed a couple of great, unspoilt restaurants to dine in, including the one for our Welcome lunch..
Ships have their own personalities and I find a large ship gives plenty of choices, whether you want to get away for some downtime alone, work out in the stunning gym, participate in the many activities on board, or watch one of the high quality, different shows on every night. Or just sit on the balcony of your stateroom and dream. Don’t forget the sensational sight as the ship slips her moorings and sails through the spectacular Grand Canal.
Days at sea also give me the time to give cooking demonstrations or illustrated talks about the food and wine we are going to experience. I’m in the midst of recipe testing and research right now! I can give you the heads up on many places we will visit from Taormina in Sicily, spectacularly located on a 200 metre-high rocky outcrop, with views to Mt Etna. Founded by the Greeks there remains an ancient theatre that also overlooks the mountain.
A day trip to Sorrento is an opportunity to learn how authentic limoncello and gelato are made. By contrast the medieval hill town of Orvieto has an impressive Duomo, a Gothic cathedral which houses some of Luca Signorelli’s most beautiful frescoes. Then there’s a relaxed visit to a vineyard for lunch. Another day trip to Florence through the picturesque Tuscan countryside is a chance to visit the San Lorenzo market – flea market outside but inside two floors of fabulous providores and eating opportunities.
I’m looking forward to visiting Dubrovnik in Croatia as I haven’t been there since that Kombi van trip so many years ago. I am lucky enough to have friends who live nearby for 3 months of the year and they have given me the lowdown on where to eat and the local customs. Then it’s back to Venice to disembark before a relaxing four days by Lake Como with visits to Verona, Villa Carlotta, Bellagio and Lake Maggiore.
You too can share the discoveries and memories.
Priced from $8,995 per person twin share, this fully-escorted 20-day round trip with Lyndey Milan departs on September 16, 2016 and includes return international economy air travel to Italy, a 10-night cruise aboard Celebrity Constellation, 2 nights in Venice, 4 nights in the Italian Lakes and sightseeing tours of Venice, Taormina, the Amalfi Coast, Orvieto, Tuscany, Dubrovnik and the Italian Lakes.
For full details please visit https://travelrite.com.au/gourmet_cruise16.shtml or call Travelrite International on 1800 630 343 for more details on the Gourmet East Mediterranean Cruise with Lyndey Milan.