Merry Christmas 2012
We're nearly there, so I thought I'd get in early and be the first to greet you in the festive season. And, while I'm thinking about holidays in the sun, I'm extra pleased to bring you a new tour for 2013 – a truly different and memorable tour through the dramatic French Basque Country.
French Basque Country – book now for Oct 2013!
The French Basque Country (Pays Basque) is not large, but it's very diverse.The rugged coastline produces great seafood that forms the basis of many of the meals, and the rolling green countryside produces beef cattle and sensational sheep cheeses.The Basques are an ancient race with a mysterious language of unknown origins, and a very proud history. They were fine explorers and seafarers, and today the Pays Basque is among the most progressive areas in Europe. The people are passionate about their traditions and welcome the curious outsider. Our exploration, on foot and on two and four wheels, will introduce you to this unique area. See what's planned for the 11–day Basque tour, 30 September to 10 October, $4995 twin share.
Fancy a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for Xmas lunch?
Be quick email me with your dream holiday idea and the person with the holiday I like the sound of the most will win a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Tell a friend (and please like us on Facebook!), get them to enter and mention your name, and you go into the draw again.The more friends you tell, the bigger chance you have of popping the cork!
Tip-ple: don't leave 2013 bookings too late!
For whatever reason, there is heavy demand for European accommodation already. As Greg and Fleur Piper said after their monumental trip in Italy and Paris:
"We would recommend (your services) to others readily. Having access to excellent and reasonably priced accommodation was invaluable, and not something we would have been able to organise ourselves."
The first thing to do is to fill out our travel planner, and then we can help you put together a workable structure so you don't waste time and money by being in the right place on the wrong day.
Sing & bike your way through French countryside
Our Absolutely Essential Loire Tour in early September saw a group of intrepid Queenslanders take to life in rural France like confit-ed ducks! They cycled strongly and sang even better. Our Gironde (Bordeaux) group thoroughly enjoyed the fine produce of the area. One comment from a satisfied traveller: "What more can be said – wine, sun, cycling, gourmet & hilarity!". See the 2013 tour schedule on our website for next year’s dates.
"We had such a great time – you must never stop doing these tours Gail!"
Alan & Helen Hunt, London.
Hubert the Hippo heads south... taking us with him
Post-tours, Maurice and I spent two weeks exploring in the south of France. Hubert our trusty mascot enjoyed the travel adventure, posed for many shots and kept an eye on the refreshments – a stirling job.
We conquered some of the fabled peaks of the Pyrenees (the Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque, see picture below) – okay it was by car – and re-visited our favourite Mediterranean town, Collioure.
We also stayed at a brand-new B&B in Olonzac, a town close to the Canal du Midi. Kay, formerly from Auckland, and her English husband Mark have created something very special here.
We loved our time in the Pays Basque, and are looking forward to sharing it with some of you at the beginning of October next year. We have to confess the food was sensational. We had possibly the best meal of our lives in a tiny village in the Spanish Basque country, a mere 10 courses of totally memorable flavours. Needless to say, a return visit is included in our tour schedule!
Events, flood & fast trains
Rugby World Cup, England 2015
Yes it might seem an age away, but the draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup has already been done! NZ is the top seed in Pool C, which also features Argentina and Tonga, while Pool D has the old RWC rival, France, along with Ireland. Venues have been decided and match allocations will be decided early in 2013. The dates are 18 September with the final at Twickenham on 31 October.
With the ease of transport in Europe, consider basing yourself in a house in France or in rural UK and travelling on match day. Demand will be high, so contact us now if you have even the slightest interest in being part of another great event.
Le Tour de France 2013
The route for the 100th anniversary of Le Tour has many exciting extras. Bastille Day will see Stage 15 finish on our favourite mountain, Mont Ventoux, one of the time trials is around Nice, the other ends at Mont St Michel in Brittany and the stage into Paris is going to be at night! Add in the start on the island of Corsica and a double ascent of Alpe d'Huez, and the stage is set for a mighty, hopefully drug-free, event. If you would like to include the route of any of these stages in your travel in France or to follow some of Le Tour itself, get in touch swiftly gail "at" theactivegourmet.com or 09 372 2779.
Molta aqua alta, Venezia
Venice is experiencing its highest water levels in its piazzas and streets since 1872. Even the boards that provide access to buildings during periods of high water have floated away! The huge Moses project designed to control the tides before they pass the barrier islands of the lagoon should be finished in 2015. In the meantime, thigh waders are in demand.
Fast train France to Spain
Travel to Barcelona has just got quicker with a new station being established at Figueras to allow the TGV to speed deep into Catalan territory. Hopefully, the high-speed line will be extended to Barcelona by the end of next year.
Meantime, why not spend a night in Figueras on your journey south to visit the amazing Salvador Dali Museum in his home town? And while in Spain, try some mouth-watering cuisine...
Last but not least: two wonderful wine deals
Two of the wonderful cabernet franc merlot wines from the outstanding 2009 vintage we sampled at Chateau Travers are being brought in from Bordeaux, especially for us, by Richard Ward of Wine Connections. Chateau Bellegrave Saint-Emilion 2009, $22 per bottle, $264 per 12 x 750ml carton, incl GST, and Chateau Belloy Cuvée Prestige 2009, from the up-and-coming Canon Fronsac appellation, $30 per bottle, $360 per 12x 750ml carton, plus freight outside Auckland CBD and immediate suburbs. The prices are very sharp for wines of this calibre, so don't miss out! Enquiries/orders to gail "at" theactivegourmet.com or freephone 0800 02 3663.
Wishing you a safe and relaxing festive season,
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