Tuscany Wine Tour
Thank you for a most enjoyable and memorable experience at your beautiful Villa. You made us feel so welcome and at home. Your passion and commitment was warmly felt and admired by all of us. Your photo below says it all….a true love story! Pat and I actually came away feeling so much more knowledgeable and a part of the history, the land, the people, the food and of course the wine. We will be talking about our “Food and Wine Vacation” for years to come. Sam, you did an amazing job scouting out the attractions and putting the tour together. You make an awesome team. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts❤️
The wine shipment arrived on my birthday. imagine!! We made a wonderful selection that will definitely keep the memory alive🍷
Wishing you all the best, may our paths cross again one day.
Pat and Shirley
Greek Islands Fantasy
I have traveled with Food N’ Wine before and loved the style and the unique experiences that they provide. Greece did not disappoint. I am always amazed how Sam finds these local places and wonderful people. I love the attention to details and the fact that i can get help with flights. I highly recommend booking a tour with this company
Best of Sicily
My Sicilian experience was extraordinary and one I will n ever forget. Thank you for such an exciting itinerary executed to perfection. Hopefully I will be able to schedule another trip with you in the future.
Tuscany wine tour
I am so thankful I took the Tuscany wine tour adventure with you!! It was a trip of a lifetime! Priceless memories! I will always be grateful!Linda,
The Best of Sicily
Sam, i wanted to send you a note to let you know that my mom and i had a trip of a lifetime. The different activities, places, and hotels way exceeded our expectations. We could have not known about these places and experienced these activities without your local contacts. Every day was like a new adventure. Thank you so much! we are waiting for your Greece trip!
Dear sam, this was such a fun trip. The food was to die for, the wine tasting spot in Santorini is unforgettable. We loved loved cooking at katarin’s home and the food tour around Naxos. So happy that the weather was good and we were able to have dinner under the stars. Well done!
Rory & Hallie
Bordeaux & Dordogne
We loved the trip. Our hotels in Sarlat and Bordeaux were great and the town of Sarlat was the perfect place to base our travels in the Dordogne. Both Jean and Franc were great tour guides. Jean knows history and Franc certainly knows wines. You are to be commended for finding such excellent locals. And you are also to be commended for adding the Dordogne to our itinerary since that was not part of the original plans. We were amazed at the chateaux in Bordeaux that you lined up for us. I have been telling our friends about visiting so many world renowned wineries but some of my personal favorites were the less famous ones. I guess of all of the things that we did on the trip my personal favorite was the visit to Cap Ferret and the amazing lunch by the sea. The beautiful weather that day certainly helped.
Our group made 3 trips: Provence, Umbria, and Bordeaux. All have been wonderful.
Best of Provence
The tour was just wonderful and I have shared it with many of my friends. Your tour guide and the villa owner were amazing and I have a lifetime of memories.
Thank you for the wonderful experience and for sending through the recipes.
Tuscany wine tour
We are very happy with our Tuscany food and wine tour and it is because of the hosts and their staff. The villa, grounds, pool, surroundings were wonderful and welcoming. It was a pleasure to come back to the villa each day after exceptional times touring and tasting with Paolo. You chose very well. The tastings, the free times, the lunches were all very interesting and fun and we always learnt something new.
We enjoyed our room and its location, the dining and breakfast table decorations, the cooking, and especially our pleasurable dinners and wine.
Even though we had visited Chianti previously, we truly enjoyed it all,
Ken and Juliana
Taste Burgundy like a Local
Our time in Bourgogne was absolutely perfect! First of all, the house is simply lovely- so beautiful. We were lucky with near perfect weather and enjoyed the beautiful gardens and views. louis and Fabrizio were so welcoming and attentive to our every need. Jean took us on our day tours which were perfectly balanced (just like a Grand Cru!) in terms of history, education, natural beauty and, of course, tastings! It really was a “locals” experience, as we were treated to completely unique people and places off of the beaten path. The wine makers obviously have great respect for Louis and they made us feel so welcome. Beaune is an absolutely delightful town – perfect in every way: GREAT food and wine, adorable little streets with gorgeous old architecture, friendly and welcoming people and just enough to do! We simply had the best time- a wonderful, mother daughter experience!
You made this so easy for us- all we had to do was show up, and everything that you arranged was perfectly suited to us! And when we were fearful that the train strike might affect us, you were there for us despite it being the middle of the night! Thank you, again, Food n Wine Vacations! We are ready to book our next adventure with you!
We had a wonderful time! The accommodations were superb, Francois was terrific, and our fellow tour members became instant friends. The choice of vineyards was outstanding–we experienced the spectrum from a small, family-owned, organic vineyard to a large, corporate-owned, prestigious one. The lunches, settings and food, were amazing and the one at Phelan Segur was one of the highlights of our trip.
We enjoyed Amalfi very much.
The Residenza was lovely – our room was large, the balcony overlooked the town, it was air conditioned and the breakfast was tasty and diverse.
The town was fantastic, as were all the cities. The food, the scenes, the wine, the history . . .
Your guides, Christina and Gianni were personable and knowledgable. We enjoyed our day on Capri/AnaCapri and the tour of Pompeii was so much better than trying to figure it out on our own. Great stories and interesting facts.
Sal was the icing on the cake. What a character! Il mio cugeni Nuovo. He was the perfect person to drive us through the windy switchbacks and cliffs of the coast. We got our share of Nino d’Angelo, but we are fans, now. Thoroughly enjoyed visiting the fish monger (I even gutted an aliche) with him. The day at La casa di Sal on his balcony will not soon be forgotten. Evita and he prepared a fantastic meal.
The winery was historic and quaint. were lovely hosts with excellent food and wine.
Thank you for arranging this tour.
I have to admit, I was a little worried about going on a group trip, as I am a bit of an independent person. But I was pleasantly surprised. I had an absolutely perfect trip. You made every step easy and worry-free. Even before the trip, you eased my mind by communicating well and answering my questions immediately.
I loved that all of our transportation and meals were pre-planned and pre-paid. It allowed us to just relax and enjoy the experience of being in Tuscany.
The Villa you chose for our group was wonderful. The location, our beautiful rooms, or lovely hosts, fantastic meals, I could go on and on. I felt their warm welcome, like family. Having you join us for a few days was an extra special treat. It was a pleasure getting to know you in person.
I also appreciate how you catered our schedule to allow for our specific group’s needs. Even though this was a Food and Wine Tour, you seamlessly incorporated our yoga retreat into the experience. And we were all impressed that you made sure almond milk and Stevia were available for our breakfasts!
I am still in awe of how many different things we were able to do in just a week, but without feeling overwhelmed or rushed. It was a perfect balance of food, wine, tradition, history, architecture, people, places; and still time to simply relax.
I used to travel a lot when I was in my twenties, but now that I’m almost fifty, I thought this would be my last trip abroad. But after this wonderful experience, I’m already dreaming of my next trip. That’s huge! And I have you to thank. You will definitely be hearing from me again. Until next time, take care and happy travels.
Sam, what an experience! I felt so pampered and well taken care of during my stay at the Villa. Everyone on the staff were wonderful, entertaining and so caring. The tours that were provided were so full of history and I felt like I was taken back in time. The food was amazing, the accommodations so comfortable. It truly was a vacation haven.
I loved the breathtaking views each evening during dinner. Thank you for putting together such a great tour. I even got a chance to pitch you and your tour group to a couple of Americans during a bus ride within Florence.
Thank you again, Becky
Piedmont and Lake Como
We loved the trip. We had no complaints..Our guides were terrific and so funny and helpful. Milan was good and glad that we were able to spend a few days there.
Lake Como was lovely and our hotel was great being on the water. We had a delicious dinner there one nite and ate at the restaurant Dar which was really good. We went there on our own one nite ( recommended by our hotel in Lake Como) and then that was the one that was included in the tour so we ate there again. Then we had lunch there the day we were suppose to leave to drive to the Piedmont and our bus broke down. So we had great food and wine there. The Tiramisu was really good as was the eggplant appetizer. Great place.
Paolo was our guide in Lake Como and he was very good.
And the tour guide was so very helpful and he was funny. He tried to teach us Italian. He kept saying we needed to study LOL.
We loved our cooking class and the place we did it at..the wineries were all very good and very nice.
The hotel in the Piedmont was nice. The room itself was very nice and had a great balcony looking out on the vineyards. I know
The dinners we had there were delicious. They served us so much food..but it was really good.
The trip was great. We would love to do another one in an heartbeat.
So you have done another wonderful trip with great memories for us. Thank you. Let us know if you have any other questions.
Rosemary and Nick
The trip was fantastic. It is an incredible place to experience and thanks to you and your local partners we did. The hotel was a very nice place, extremely clean and centrally located. The staff was terrific especially Carmen. Our drivers, both Salvatore’s, were fantastic. They made us feel very welcome and as we were friends. We loved our guide for Pompeii and Capri tours.
Capri was just a fabulous day and the weather was perfect. A must for everyone going to the region. The tour guide suggested a small private boat tour and it was a super experience. You should consider adding to your program or give the option since it may not be suitable for more older folks. You should also consider doing Capri earlier in the program just in case the weather is bad so it can be done another day.
We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as evidenced by the additional pounds we gained on the trip!!
Dearest Sam, on behalf of our group I would like to tell you how much we enjoyed our day with Salvatore! From the soccer chant singing fish monger to the last limoncello, from the Andrea Bocelliand-like singing on the ride up to the tearful goodbyes (not to mention the food. Mangia, mangia!) absolutely fabulous experience!
Tuscany and Umbria
Thank you Sam for such a beautiful trip. My mom and I had the best time ever. We will remember it forever. Thanks again. By the way, what is the name of that palace we stayed at in Umbria? I want to mention it in social media but don’t know the name of it. also I attached a short video of the pictures we took. They came out great there are a couple of you in there they came out super cute too! thanks again
Best of Provence
We had a wonderful week in Provence! Mar was such a great guide. She kept us busy everyday, taking us places and telling us things we would never have experienced had we not been on the tour. I really felt more like a local and not so much like a tourist. The week was a wonderful combination of food, wine and exploration and I felt that I had certainly gotten a lot for my money. I will definitely consider another tour with Food N’ Wine Vacations and will highly recommend it to friends.
Thanks for your attention to detail – you should be really proud of your company and the services your provide.
Tuscany Tour (Review by a travel agent)
I can say on my behalf that you were a pleasure to work with. You were on top of every detail and returned all calls and emails promptly.
Your company is definitely one that I will use again and will let my colleagues at Tzell know of your exception service for a client looking for a Villa as well as a trip with Food and Wine.
Thank you again for all your assistance in making this a special vacation for my clients.
(Shelley, Tzell travel group)
My Family and I had the absolute pleasure of exploring Umbria in September. The trip was beyond amazing. Food and Wine vacations offered us an extraordinary opportunity to actually experience Umbria without being “tourists”. Everything was planned perfectly. Our accommodations were magnificent. We were blessed with such an amazing Guide. Luc’s passion and adoration for Umbria made our trip perfect. She treated us as her friends, rather than her clients. The people we met were so passionate about their land and culture and eager to share their food, wine and traditions with us. Everything was a highlight. The truffle hunt and lunch at Stefano’s restaurant was something we will never forget. We even had the amazing opportunity to spend time with his Family watching them made homemade ricotta and pecorino cheese…at their home!
Our afternoons at the organic farm and the Winery, cooking with our hosts, was just wonderful.
Driving to the hilltop town of Casteluccio was indescribable…just amazing beauty.
Our day in Orvieto was a favorite…lunch at Cantina Foresi and then gelato in the square on a outstanding sunny day…blue skies, warm sun and gelato…
The food in Umbria…delectable. We never ordered from a menu… each Chef prepared their specialties for us and everything was divine!
Everything about our trip was magnificent! Such amazing memories.
Thank you Food and Wine Vacations for EXCEEDING our expectations.
Secrets of Tuscany
if you have Tuscany on your bucket list, this has to be one of the best vacations you could chose – it was one of the best we have ever taken. It offers a great balance of sightseeing and culinary activities. One is treated as a special guest by the gracious staff and experiences the Tuscan lifestyle at a more relaxing pace and informative level offered by the small group size. Also praiseworthy are the lovely accommodations, the pleasant and leisurely travels through picturesque Tuscan countryside, excellent food and fun-filled hands on cooking sessions. Indeed it does deliver on the promise to “make you feel as if you were staying in a home of good friends” and to provide an “unforgettable experience of REAL Tuscany”.
We took the Culinary Paradise tour in Italy and it was magical. Our guide was perfectly fluent in English, warm, and knowledgeable. We visited out of the way places such as the gorgeous Sibillini Mountains and Bevagna, enjoying the feel of the small medieval towns. Going on a truffle hunt, learning to make pasta (we’ve since made it at home!), and dining outdoors on a farm were among the many wonderful experiences. The delicious food was plentiful—almost endless. (But so healthy I only gained one pound on the trip.) I think my most memorable meal was at a restaurant where there was no menu—we just ate whatever the owner’s mother felt like cooking that night, which I think ended up being eight courses. There were also plenty of vegetarian dishes with fresh produce. A truly authentic experience. Thank you!
Amy and Samuel (ilinois)
Best of Provence 2015
The week came to an end all to soon. So many good memories for us.
Smadar – In jest I think you should rename your tours “The food, wine and people” tours. For us, our best memories of travel have been of the people who have gone out of their was to make our lives richer by sharing their lives and their friendship with us. Our time in Provence was a perfect example. Each of the people involved with your team and the other guests were contributors and have left us with great memories.
The tour guide – he is in the right business. He has a great gift for dealing with people. His knowledge of Provence and food & wine were the best
The chefs who cookedthe dinners – their excellent food and service are second only to their ability to entertain and make people feel good about themselves.
The villa owner – provided a great venue for our stay with a very personal touch
The chef – his passion for teaching as well as cooking and entertaining are evident and memorable.
The other guests – it seemed as though they were hand picked by you for our pleasure and enjoyment.
thank you for all of your help arranging the tour as well as the rest of our trip.
Harry and kathy (Massachusetts)
Tuscany Trip Sep 2014
We want to thank Sam for creating such a unique and wonderful vacation experience to Tuscany for us and our two friends. We had an amazing time and it far exceeded our expectations. We stayed at the magnificent Villa in Chianti. Our hosts did everything to make us feel welcome and at home. Jada’s cooking of traditional Tuscan dishes were delicious. We spent a week experiencing the region including Florence, Chianti, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano, Montalcino, and Montepulciano with its wonderful and unique history, wineries, restaurants, and points of interest. Each day was full of different adventures and surprises. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the region and made it fun by allowing us to experience it as a local would. It would have been very difficult to create such a special itinerary on our own. We highly recommend Food & Wine Vacations. Thank you for a terrific time!
Joe and Pam (New Jersey)
I just got back from Umbria, Italy. We were a group of friends celebratin g our 50th birthdays.
The trip was very well organized with attention to details. I can definitely say it was a trip of a lifetime. We truly experience d Italy in a most authentic way.
We got to visit many places that were less touristy and off the beaten path, which was amazing, small family-own ed farms, wineries and of course fantastic restaurant s that were not full of tourists. So we really got the feel of an Italian experience .
The day tours were filled with beautiful sites, we got to experience 2 great festivals as well, one was the flower festival in Spello, which words cannot even begin to describe. The other was a medieval festival where the whole town was transforme d to that period of time.
When we chose Umbria, most of us had never really heard of it. But it turned out to be one of the most beautiful areas I had ever visited in Italy. I would definitely recommend it.
The only negative thing I can say about this trip was that it was too short !
I will definitely be going back there.
Thank you Food N’ Wine Vacations for organizing the best trip ever !!
Food & Wine, Chateaux & Bordeaux
We had a fantastic time! Champagne was very nice – the lunch was delicious, the champagne very tasty (we both purchased a bottle to take home), the guide friendly and knowledgeable, and the group we were with quite fun.
Bordeaux was amazing the chef and the driver were so friendly and accomodating and the itinerary was much more than we even imagined. Both Laura and I had thought before the trip that we were getting to do quite a bit, but the experience itself was even better (like the walking tour of Bordeaux – we didn’t know prior to arriving that was on the schedule, but we were so pleased with the tour). All the chateaux we visited were beautiful, the wine fantastic and the food (especially the food from the cooking classes) delicious. What really pushed this holiday over the top for me though was the chef and the driver (who besides driving us, was full of information and used our camera to get pictures everywhere we went, so Laura and I could enjoy the tours without worrying about getting pictures).
I would definitely recommend this trip to friends and colleagues (and in fact already have). If this is indicative of your other tours, I can’t wait to go on more!
Tuscany wine Tour- Private group
When we signed up for the Tuscany trip we thought it would be a nice vacation experience. Boy, were we wrong. It was terrific!
The Villa provided excellent accommodations. The family members were very gracious and made us feel like part of the family. I think one of the most memorable times was when we had dinner in the grand dining room. You could just feel the history in the room. It provided a window back in time to what dining was like hundreds of years ago.
Not only was it a wine and food experience, but an historical experience too. The little villages in the mountains that were built hundreds of years ago were so picturesque. I don’t know how you found them. The wineries and restaurants we visited got better every day. The scenery of the rolling hills of Tuscany was beautiful.
We must not forget Paolo. He is a first rate guide and all around nice person. We were very impressed with his knowledge of the churches and museums we visited. He took very good care of the entire group.
All in all, the itinerary you compiled was exceptional and far exceeded our expectations. We would recommend this trip or any other excursions you put together to everyone.
It was so nice to meet you in person and enjoy the trip together. Suzanne and I want to thank you for all your hard work.
Suzanne & Tom Miller (PA)
Best of Provence
We were delighted to meet you as well – so glad your trip coincided with ours. I’m happy to share some feedback – could go on and on and on, but won’t do that to you 🙂
Our entire experience, from first contact with you helping me to decide between Provence or Tuscany, through all of the planning, and then certainly, our amazing trip to Provence, was above and beyond expectations.
Everyone in my family agrees that our trip could not have been better – the personalized itinerary, the excellent accommodations, the foods, wine and beautiful scenery, and certainly, having Claire as our private guide for the week. Time went all too quickly – it was very hard to leave Provence – we would do it all over again without hesitation.
Thank you so much for helping to create very special experiences and memories that will last a lifetime for my family. I look forward to planning a trip to Tuscany with you – we’ll be back!
Again, thank you, and please pass on our very big thank you to Claire!!
Marilyn Rudolph and family
Tuscany Wine Tour
Just a note to tell you how much we enjoyed our trip to Tuscany. The Villa was beautiful and the food was excellent. The hosts at the villa couldn’t have been nicer. We loved the wine tours and Paolo was an outstanding tour guide. Having the opportunity to be part of two cooking classes also made us feel that we were experiencing the real Tuscany. We also very much enjoyed our side trip to Cinque Terra. Thank you for all your help and for organizing the trip. It was a pleasure to meet you.
Diane and Ken
One day wine tour for a wedding group in Tuscany
We all had a wonderful time on the wine tour. Our guide was excellent and really knew her stuff. I would say that we liked the second winery much better than the first, but I think for comparisons sake it was good to see the smaller one and then the castle one. We did not get back to the villa until 6:30 that evening so I would certainly say that we all got our money’s worth. WE appreciated the walking tour of Castellina and we saw the Etruscan tombs as well. Thanks so much for arranging this for me and I would definitely use your company again. Everything went off without a “hitch”.
Many, many thanks,
Outstanding professional tours. My clients love the thorough thoughtful way every detail is handled. Thanks Sam for providing my clients exceptional Food N Wine memorable vacation experiences. Yvette – www.Bakers Best Bargain.com (A Travel agency)
Best of Provence
Food N Wine Vacations in Provence Summer 2013
My husband and I decided to take a vacation to France in the summer of 2013. After looking at several different tour options, we chose Food N Wine Vacations because the itinerary was exactly what we were looking for in a trip. I was hesitant because I could not locate any independent reviews of Food N Wine vacations (other than those found on the website) – but the itinerary was perfect and Sam seemed very nice on the phone so I decided to take a chance and book Food N Wine Vacations in Provence. I had very high expectations going into the trip. It was our first real trip away since our honeymoon several years earlier, my husband’s first trip to Europe, and my first return to France in over a decade. I am one of those people who wants the accommodations and tour to look exactly like the photographs. Nothing about this trip was a disappointment. It is rare to go into a trip with high expectations and have those expectations exceeded. This trip was exactly what I had hoped for and more than I expected. We were transported to the most magnificent local abodes and restaurants. It would taken me more than 2 years to plan such a special trip with all the unique experiences Sam is able to capture for you. We stayed in Chateauneuf-de-Pape at the best B&B. Our room was huge and was comfortable in every aspect. All of our meals were amazing. We had trouble agreeing on the best one – although we definitely enjoyed the Le Bistro de Moulin in Vielleneuve les Avignon. We shopped local markets, sipped wine, sampled goat cheese and olive oil in spectacular locations. We were fortunate to have two tour guides during our visit. The tour guides were both very knowledgeable and personable. Even though I thought the itinerary was perfect to begin with, they managed to personalize it even more for us. They were prompt to pick us up each morning and flexible enough to allow us as much time as we wanted in each town. It was a tour on our schedule. Every day. The trip was worth every penny.
Customized Tour To Tuscany
Smadar, We had the trip of a lifetime. Paolo and the family were absolutely wonderful. Each day was a new and exciting. Thank you so much for providing us such a beautiful experience. I will send you a link with photos.
Thank you again. Marla
Tuscany Wine Tour – Private Group
We had a marvelous time in Italy! Tuscany was our favorite part of the trip—the food and wine tour. We enjoyed every minute of it from staying at the villa and sharing great times with all of the other people to our daily adventures touring the wineries, having fantastic lunches, visiting the villages and learning about their history to the cooking classes. We could not have asked for more!
Thanks to you and Ben for making it a memorable trip of a lifetime!
Hope to see you again in the future!
Food and Wine Tour Tuscany
Everything was amazing! Definitely a trip of a lifetime (so far!) The villa was absolutely beautiful. We cooked and ate so much amazing food and wine. It was certainly a packed itinerary, but Dan and I really enjoyed getting to see so much in such a short amount of time. Our chef/guide was an absolute treasure. He made the experience priceless! The weather was perfect. It rained one day, but it was the day we went to the market in Pistoia and came back to the villa to make lunch and lounge all day so it really didn’t interfere with anything.
The other couple on the trip couldn’t have been better. They were a great couple from New Hampshire.
Dan and I are actually going to try to make a couple of the dishes from our trip for dinner tonight!
Wendy &David (Ohio)
Best of Provence
We are excited to put on paper how much we loved our “Food and Wine”vacation to Provence. From the moment we found your site on the internet and spoke with you, everything was handled so efficiently and professionally. You were always concerned with our particular needs and requests and you went out of your way to accommodate us.
Our week in Provence was awesome and everything went like clockwork. We loved our guide. We enjoyed all the towns and villages you chose for us to visit. The restaurants, the lunch picnics our cooking classes with chef Philippe were all amazing and the food delicious.
We look forward to another one of your trips in the near future.
Monica & Henry (NJ)
Taste Burgundy Like a local
When it came time to plan our honeymoon my fiancée gave me this big task. I knew we both wanted some kind of food and wine experience but I was unsure how to make it happen, so I turned to the internet to find an answer. This is when I came across Food N’ Wine Vacations. Like anything you find on the web we were a bit skeptical at first but after talking with Sam we knew we were dealing with a real professional. One thing that really stood out with Sam was that she was very eager to make sure we had a wonderful trip. She immediately offered her service of helping us plan the rest of our trip beyond the tour Burgundy like a local. Without charging us another dime she helped us book all of our travel including reservations at restaurants and other great travel tips.
The bed and breakfast that we stayed at in Burgundy was beautiful. This place and its setting was something out of a fairytale. It sat atop of a hill of vineyards that was just breath taking. From the moment we meet our guide when we were picked up at the train station in Beaune we knew we would be in good hands. Vincent and his Father instantly made us feel like welcome guests in their home. Being an owner of a wine bar I wanted to make sure I got a lot out of this trip, and Vincent was eager to make sure that I got to see and taste everything I wanted. It was 2 days of extensive touring, and as advertised you really do feel like a local visiting some of the exclusive vineyard sites as well as some fantastic chateaus for tastings. All in all this was just a fantastic trip and we truly are thankful we came across food N’ wine vacations, and of course Sam.
Ben and Kirsten (PA)
Our trip was fabulous and our tour guide was the very best. She was vivacious, showed her love for all things in Provence – the people, the history, and of course, the food and wine. This was no cookie cutter trip – we felt like we were the only tourists wherever we went. I would recommend this trip to all my friends.
Best of Provence
Sam of Food & Wine Vacations did a fabulous job working with me to determine which type of activities would be fun for me and my husband Warren to do in Provence, France this fall. We were interested in culinary and photographic touring activities- markets, cooking class with a French chef, restaurants, wine, olive oil, and historical sites. Everything she coordinated was custom tailored to our tastes and timeline. Her bookings for the room and the tour guide were flawless – right on schedule and she delivered exactly what was promised. She even communicated to our tour guide in Avignon that I was an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Her advice on how to book and print a TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, or high-speed train) ticket was invaluable, as we booked a trip on the TGV from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport to Avignon, Provence, and then from Avignon to Gare de Lyon-Paris. I splurged on first class, which was not that expensive because I took Sam’s advice and booked in advance. The seats were large and there was plenty of room to put our carry-on bags by our legs. Sam made me feel at ease when I inquired about taking the train from CDG to Avignon – the train station was collocated with the airport. I would gladly book with Sam again and recommend her services to anyone traveling to their favorite food and wine destinations.
The B & B in Avignon were cozy and charming. Jean-Michele was a gracious English-speaking host who made us feel at home. He served a nice freshly prepared French breakfast each morning and we were provided local chocolates and a half bottle of Cote du Rhone red wine. Each morning he presented a different whimsical teapot filled with hot water for my tea, and a coffee pot for Warren. The inn was the real deal- an old French home that was also frequented by French people which made me feel more like a “local”. Using the bath tub with hand shower was part of the experience, and we enjoyed seeing the owners’ cat roaming around the inn. The inn was walking distance to many restaurants and shops in Avignon, which was perfect for us. I highly recommend this inn for a unique, intimate and authentic French country experience.
Our first activity in Avignon on Saturday morning was a cooking class with an English-speaking French chef . Chef Julien walked around the market with us to choose the freshest high-quality local ingredients for a lunch whose menu we discussed and agreed upon when we initially met. All the purveyors knew the chef and we learned all about the food and terroir. Chef Julien helped Warren and I develop our knife skills. We ate foods we had never eaten before, such as Jerusalem artichokes. The red duck breast was a new experience for me, as it resembled beef and not dark turkey meat. We enjoyed eating goat soft (fresh) and hard (aged) goat cheese prior to the duck. We ate pears poached in white wine and cardamom, with gingerbread spiced freshly whipped cream and ginger caramel sauce. That’s one way to get me to eat my fruit! Chef Julien provided wine that was paired to our lunch courses. Many people stopped by our class in the market, including Chef Julien’s wife and baby, a wine purveyor and some others. Everyone knew each other and they were really friendly to us. The wine purveyor even offered to meet us later for some wine at a local wine bar but we never did take her up on her offer as we ended up having dinner reservations around that time. Our French was not very good, but at least we were trying and everyone was understanding. They seemed to appreciate our enthusiasm for good food and wine, as they all take it seriously as we would like to do too.
Our tour guide who met us at the market and took it from there. She was the perfect hostess. We spent about 3.5 days touring with her in her car. From the moment I met her, with her smile and voice, I felt at home. She was friendly, enthusiastic, and put me at ease that we were going to have a great time. Touring with Marlene is like visiting a friend in another place, where your friend takes you to all the great spots and makes recommendations on where to eat, visit, and shop. Sam of Food & Wine Vacations had told her that I am a photographer hobbyist, so Marlene arranged to stop at locations at the right time of day for proper lighting for the photos. I really appreciated this and had never experienced anything like this before, except in a photo workshop in California. It was great having an Avignon native as a guide who knows English. She was smart and was a walking encyclopedia on the history, food, wine, and other products from Provence such as lavender (both lavande and lavandin), and locally made linens such as table runners. I had no idea that there were different types of lavender with different scents. Lavandin is the common lavender and lavande is the “real” lavender with superior essential oil properties for relaxation. Rest assured, the products from the store you see in the mall L’Occitane en Provence are really from Provence! She tailored our tours to our needs and was very accommodating. She took us to the best photo spots at the right times of day, and she stopped when I wanted to take a picture or when Warren wanted to shoot video. I learned that the high quality linens of Provence need to be washed in hot water to preserve their bright colors, which is the opposite of what one would think! Oftentimes tour guides are more like “drivers” who are spewing the same rehearsed sentences over and over. Not Marlene. Her comments were custom tailored to our locations, questions and interests. Even though she drove us around, we did not think of her as a “tour guide”. We enjoyed her company and wanted her to eat lunch with us on our stops, rather than have her go away like a “chauffeur”. It was a very personal experience that I appreciated, and even though she was very professional, she was also very outgoing and was the type of person you wish to be friends with.
Jennifer and Warren (CA)
Best of Provence
Smadar, what a wonderful trip! You really have put together the best of Provence. I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself when I say we loved the Bastide. Our tour guide was the best. She loves her region so much, and that came accross in all that she did to show us Provence. We are all still talking about the wonderful experience of lunch at Lolo’s, lunch in Les Halles in Avignon, dinner in the butcher shop, cooking with David, etc. etc. Can you tell that we enjoyed the food? The travels to the hill towns, the Sunday market, Cassis . . . . everything was special.
I’m so glad we found you and Food N’ Wine Vacations.
Best of Provence
David and I can’t begin to tell you what a trip of a lifetimethe trip to Provence was for us. You took care of everything down to the slightest detail. All we had to do is show up and enjoy!!!! All the people that were involved were exceptional!!! The people, the wine, the food and places we visited were tops!!!!!!! We highly recommend the trip and also highly recommend you to everyone. We feel like family.
Food and wine Tour Tuscany
Our trip to tuscany was truly a vacation. Every day was a unique and fulfilling experience on none stop food, wine and site seeing. The villa and Valter, our host, chef and tour guide made it even more special. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to experience Italy.
Best of Provence
Posted on Facebook
Just got back from this group’s tour. We can say enough about the owner’s ability to get our small group to private artisanal tastings, amazing markets and local special meals and wonderful settings. Had the best time. My husband and i were wowed by the experiences, and all our packed local salts, spreads, wine, and ceramics made it home safely.