Holiday with Your Hobby – Trips for Keen Cooks and Culture Vultures
More and more themed breaks and holidays are springing up which tells us that there’s a demand for them. It seems some of us are no longer content with lying on a sun lounger for a week or two – although right now that sounds very appealing. People these days have keen interests; stuff that takes us away from the daily grind and mundane business of housework, our jobs and so on. One theory I have is the rise in popularity of food and cooking and this, in part could be down to the amount of TV shows and celebrity chefs that have joined the ranks of today’s popular culture. MasterChef and The Great British Bake Off seem to have made cooks and master bakers of us all as we strive to outdo our friends and colleagues with impressive dishes and wow factor cakes.
What better way to climb to the top of the holiday brag leader board than to head off for to sunnier climes to hone your cookery skills in a place where the produce is grown and where secret recipes have been handed down through the decades. That should give you plenty to chat about over the water cooler when you get back to work!
There are clear front runners when it comes to gastronomic destinations in my opinion. France, Italy and Spain are classic examples. Popular and mouth-watering dishes we all know and love come from these places and cookery holidays can be easily found in all three countries.
There are some cracking residential courses available from Flavours Holidays who specialise in week-long cookery breaks in exciting regions such as Tuscany, Puglia, Sicily, Amalfi and Venice.
On site, you can learn techniques and skills from expert chefs as well as expanding your knowledge of the ingredients you are cooking with.
Tuscany is renowned for its hearty, rustic dishes that you will master and be able to recreate them at home after your training. Although there may be some of you who are quite into your nosh but don’t want to spend your entire holiday slaving over a hot stove, so to that end, there’s foodie themed day trip excursions available too.
If you happen to be in Florence, or are planning a city break to the Tuscan capital, you can easily combine a spot of sight-seeing among the city’s treasures with a fun foodie experience which doesn’t actually involve any cooking. You just pitch up, stroll along with your guide and enjoy gourmet pit stops along the way.
Another good choice for a day tutorial is from Weekend in Italy, who offer a fun one day one day VIP Italian cookery experience (roughly 7 hours or so) with chef Giovanni who will teach you to prepare and cook a delicious, typical Italian meal in an authentic Tuscan kitchen. Included in this trip is your transfer from central Florence, cooking lesson, food and local produce tasting and of course, your ‘graduation’ certificate at the end… assuming you don’t burn it!
In fact, for real top class cooking adventures, the option in Aquitaine is pretty exciting as this one is held at Le Saint James, a Relais & Chateaux hotel which boasts its very own cookery school that caters for every level of ability, allowing you to create the simplest of French cuisine to very sophisticated dishes depending on your ability and what you want to get from your time here.
From Italy and France, we move on to Spain– another culinary hotspot and the perfect location for dabbling with fresh, seasonal produce to create explosions of flavour on a plate.
Active Gourmet Holidays offer wonderful gastro holidays in the heart of some of Spain’s most beautiful spots such as Andalucía, Catalonia, Rioja and the Basque region. They also offer specialist holidays to Greece, Italy, France, Portugal and Peru. Additionally, Active Gourmet Holidays give their guests the chance to combine cookery classes and tours with cycling, walking and language lessons – the perfect solution for passionate foodie holidaymakers who also love the outdoors and speaking a bit of the lingo!
If I’ve got your mouth watering at the thought of all these tasty trips you could be going on, allow me to tap into your soul a little further in the hope that I find a music lover in there too. As well as being crazy about food and wine and it plays a big part in my holiday, I am also an opera and classical music fan and I’ve discovered so many great venues and performances on my travels over the years.
My number one favourite simply has to be the divine experience that is the opera in Verona. Dominating the city skyline is the beautifully preserved Roman Amphitheatre, the centrepiece of Verona’s main thoroughfare and provides the most spectacular and dramatic background to these performances.
During the summer months, the arena hosts an impressive line-up of classic operas. I was lucky enough to catch La Traviata during my trip to Verona and the memory of which will stay with me forever. It was also the first live performance I had seen overseas. I had only ever been to local theatres previously and this experience was just magical. As soon as I play the soundtrack at home I am instantly transported to that romantic, happy night under the stars.
The 2018 season has The Barber of Seville, Turandot, Aida, Carmen and Nabucco on the programme. Watching a performance in this unique setting sent shivers down my spine and I was so engrossed in the story and the music that I didn’t even notice the short rain shower that came on. Verona is within easy reach of popular holiday resorts on Lake Garda, and trips (including transport) can usually be booked via your holiday rep or your hotel but if you’re in Verona itself on a city break, you can book your opera tickets from arena direct.
A good ‘go-to’ tour operator who specialise in cultural trips is Martin Randall Travel. They have over 300 tours in fifty different countries and offer a range of tours focusing on art, architecture and history as well as music, opera and ballet. Check out the impressive range of cultural tours.
So, whether you’re hoping to come back as the next MasterChef champion or become a serious opera aficionado, consider taking a holiday with a splash of colour to it next year and what better things to paint your rainbow with than food, wine and song?!
If it’s luxurious then I am there! A self-confessed culture vulture from London. who appreciates a good plate of food and glass of wine. I travel to learn and to enjoy other cultures – and try to get involved in the kitchen! Finding deals online for travel makes this possible.