Category Archives: Europe

Snapshots of Spain

Choose one, or all, of these top spots for your Spanish break! Spain is a country bursting at the seams with sites and marvels to see. From magnificent buildings to historic museums we outline the attractions that should be at the top of your sightseeing list.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

A feat of architectural splendour the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is simply stunning. Built upon the tomb of Saint James, the patron saint of Spain, after the tomb was discovered in 819 AD, this iconic landmark became the last stop on the pilgrims’ journey. Known as the Way of St. James or Camino de Santiago, medieval pilgrims walked for months to arrive and lay their hands on the pillar inside the doorway, a practice still performed today. Parts of the cathedral date to 1060 and it is one of the finest Romanesque churches in Spain with its Baroque façade adding to its grandeur.

Museums of Madrid

Few cities can rival the sheer volume and quality of Madrid’s art scene, with iconic Spanish painters such as Picasso, Velázquez and Dalí, The Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia National Museum form the famous Art Triangle in Madrid and are located just a few metres from each other. Begin at the Museo del Prado, Madrid’s best-known attraction and premier art gallery home to more than 7000 paintings. For 20th-century art continue on to the Reina Sofia Museum and be amazed by the star attraction – Picasso’s “Guernica”. Conclude by exploring the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum’s eclectic collection ranging from medieval to modern.

Alhambra

Described as a ‘pearl set in emeralds’ by Moorish poets, the astounding UNESCO listed Alhambra, meaning ‘the red one’ in Arabic, is a beautiful testament to Moorish culture and design. Located strategically overlooking the whole of Granada the initial Alcazar fortress has expanded out over the centuries to be a complex of breath-taking and intricate buildings The Nasrid palaces are the jewels of the Alhambra. Built for royalty they possess incredibly ornate stucco walls, beautiful tiling and wooden ceilings engraved with Arabic inscriptions and symbolic patterns. One of the most magnificent Islamic buildings in all of Europe, a visit here is not optional.

La Sagrada Familia

If you’re after truly impressive architecture then look no further than La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. World-renowned architect Antoni Gaudi designed this extravagant church, which is still under construction after more than 100 years. Gaudi was famous for his dislike of straight lines, preferring to take influence from nature. Following his untimely death in 1926 the construction of the church was taken up by architect Francesco de Paula Villar, who seized the opportunity to express his religious and baroque characteristics. The elaborate and unique design has made La Sagrada Familia the most visited monument in all of Spain.


We have many Spain itineraries on offer, featuring these incredible sites and more. Or tailor make your itinerary to visit all of these amazing places!

Island Hopping in Croatia

Croatia is growing in popularity as a summer tourist destination with its beautiful beaches, picturesque towns and stunning inland forests. Despite the growing number of people visiting every summer, there are still a number of islands that have not been overrun by tourism and hold their rustic charm. With Tempo Cruise Croatia we offer a number of wonderful itineraries that will take you to some of the most celebrated or the little known islands of the coastline. We offer special interest cruises for island hopping in Croatia or for something extra special, enjoy a Tempo Signature Range cruise.

But what are the different islands of Croatia? Here are our favourites.

Hvar

Probably Croatia’s most popular island, Hvar has long been the poster child for the idyllic island escape on the Adriatic. With a high flying crowd coming in annually on luxury yachts, Hvar Town is all glitz and glamour, with exclusive restaurants, bars and clubs where the party never stops. For those wanting something different from hedonistic pleasures, beyond Hvar Town you will find peaceful beaches & coves, inland villages full of old world charm and a coastline that retains a secluded fishing village atmosphere.

Korcula

Settled in ancient times by the Greeks, Korcula is famous for its crisp white wine and dense dark forests inland. The island has a large population spread through quiet hamlets and fishing villages. Often dubbed ‘Little Dubrovnik’ for its medieval walls and beautiful architecture and cathedral, Korcula is a good place for a rest with lots to explore and a good balance of festive atmosphere in the summer and a laid-back vibe. Locals claim that Marco Polo was born here (Venetians dispute this) and the gallery makes fascinating sightseeing,  while a good day trip is to Proizd, an islet perfect for sunbathing. Lay your towel down on the sloping slabs of grey rock that glide into the turquoise sea to catch some rays and if you stay into the evening, you’ll see Proizd’s rock turning soft gold, as the sun slowly descends.

Pag

Pag is an island of rocky topography covered in green fields, lush valleys, olive groves and vineyards. With the longest coastline of any Croatian island, there are many beautiful bays, coves, capes and beaches to explore. Zrce Beach is the most popular on the island and for independent travellers, there are many campsites along the coast and nestled in small bays.

Vis

Vis is a foodie heaven with unspoiled natural beauty to boot. With the richest fisheries on the Adriatic it’s no surprise that the fish is delicious and fresh, while the lobster is famous. Rustic restaurants serve old school roasts and traditional stews, while every bakery has a variation of the traditional anchovy pastry, the perfect snack for those on the go. Add to this the incredible natural surrounds, the highlight of which is the Blue Cave of Bisevo and the beautiful coastline and you have a veritable holiday paradise.

Murter

For the festival lovers amongst us, Murter is the place to spend your summer. Since The Garden opened in 2012, many festivals are held annually at this location including, The Garden Festival, Love International, Electric Elephant and Soundwave. The island has still managed to maintain its laidback air despite the summer long festivities and there are plenty of quiet ports to enjoy the gorgeous nature, with olive groves inland.

Silba

For a completely opposite experience, try the slow paced Silba. With no cars or large commercial hotels, and even no bicycles mid-July to August, the island is full of country lanes and untamed beaches.

Brac

An easy ferry ride from Split, Brac is full of rolling hills, isolated bays, crystal waters, pine & fig trees and olive groves. Vidara Gora Mountain is the highest on the islands and is a wonderful hike, while kite surfing, windsurfing and diving are popular pursuits. Zlatni Rat beach is famous but there are many other less populated pebble beaches and coves to explore. Make sure to sample some of the locally produced olive oil as it is richer than on other Croatian islands and is delicious drizzled on local bread.

Cres

Home of the deepest freshwater lake in Eastern Europe, Cres is also one of the largest islands on the Adriatic Sea. Inland is hilly, while the coast is dotted with pebbly beaches and bays making the island ideal for watersports, scuba diving and hiking. The northern hills are populated by thick oak forests while majestic cliffs edge the coast and crumbling hill top towns add a sense of romance to the landscape. There is also a large population of griffon vultures on the island and with their impressive wingspan, seeing them cut a silhouette in the sky only adds to the whimsical feel of this island.

Mljet

Mljet Island off Dubrovnik is often visited as a day trip and while it makes a wonderful day, the island has a lot to offer those who stay for longer. Dominated by two large salt lakes, Mljet is verdant green with forests and there is an expansive variety of sealife off the island’s coastline. Village homestays in relaxed towns, bike riding through the forests and kayaking along the shores are highlights, while there are many nature walks to experience and wildlife to spot. The Benedictine Monastery on an island in the middle of Malo Jezero salt lake is picturesque and the lake has many family friendly swimming spots. Myth claims that Odysseus spent seven years here with the nymph Calypso – after one visit, you’ll be able to see why.

Krk

Krk is the easiest island to get to as it is connected to the mainland via a bridge (but this takes away the fun of island hopping!). Known as the Golden Island, the north is sunburned and arid while the southern coast is punctuated by gentle bays. Inland are rocky hills and fertile fields (try the local wine) while there is a large range of accommodation from camping to superior hotels given its popularity among local tourists. Enjoy scuba diving, jet skiing, water skiing and paragliding here.

Rab

Notable for its golden sand beaches rather than the usual pebbles, Rab stretches 22kms long into the Adriatic. With more than 300 freshwater springs snaking the island, it is very green and has an abundance of wildlife and wide array of botanical life. Komrcar Park is home to many of these plants and also a 100 year old agave tree. The island has a calm and rustic vibe and is very family friendly, while the more secluded uncommercialised northern shores have naturist friendly beaches. The most famous of these is Sahara bay but there are many beautiful surrounding coves for those who want to keep their kit on. Inland is mountainous and good for walking, while towns are a patchwork of terracotta roofs, church towers and friendly locals.


We hope this list has helped you narrow down your island hopping wishlist. Join us on one of our Croatia Cruises or we can even help you create your very own itinerary to incorporate your favourite islands.

Oasis in the Rhone-Alpes

With dramatic rock formations, turquoise waters and many French villas tucked into the greenery, the Ardeche Region of France is an oasis for lovers of the outdoors and all things French. It may be a step away from the sophistication of Parisian chic, but the south-west corner of the Rhone-Alpes is no less French, encompassing the je ne sais quoi of French society that exists in every pocket, from the sophisticated cities to the rural farming communities.

Ardeche Gorges and Caves

One of the main drawcards of the region is the dramatic gorges, rent through the region with turqoise rivers in their base. The gorges follow the southern border of the department and eithr driving over the top of the gorges and looking down, or paddling through the rivers in a canoe and looking up provides amazing views.

The best town to stay to easily explore the gorges is Vallon Pont d’Arc and the nearby Pont d’Arc has a beautiful river beach to enjoy in the summertime.

There are also a great number of caves to explore, some of which show evidence of ancient peoples. All close to Pont d’Arc, three caves in particular are some of the most significant in France. The Aven d’Orgna has three large ‘rooms’ open to the public; the Grotte de la Madeleine has impressive floor to ceiling rock formations; and the Chauvet caves have some of the oldest prehistoric paintings in Europe. The Chauvet caves are currently closed however to the public in order to protect these paintings.

Ardeche is also the home of many other gorgeous natural sites including the extinct volcano Mont Gerbier-de-Jonc, that provides great views from the summit. It is also where you’ll find the source of the Loire River, the longest river in France that has many a chateaux on its banks.

Ardeche Villages of Character

Not only home to sites of natural beauty, Ardeche has some of the most picturesque towns in France. The local tourist board has listed the towns of particular note in an easy ‘villages of character’ list. This designation is given to towns that have a focus on preserving their vestiges of French provincial life among beautiful settings.

Some of these towns have even been classified as among the ‘most beautiful of France’.

There are 17 ‘villages of character’: Ailhon, Alba-la-Romaine, Antraigues-sur-Volane, Balazuc, Beauchastel, Banne, Boucieu-le-Roi, Chalencon, Desaignes, Jaujac, Labeaume, Meyras, Naves (near Les Vans), Saint-Montan, Thueyts, Vinezac and Vogue.

As with much of regional France, Tempo Holidays has a huge range of ready-made itineraries or we can tailor-make an exploration of this fascinating area just for you.

Gastronomy 101: Swiss Food

When we think of Switzerland invariably we think of chocolate, cheese and the beautiful Swiss Alps. Rightfully so, Swiss Chocolate and Cheese are some of the best of its kind in the world, but there is so much more than these delicacies to enjoy in Switzerland.

Due to Switzerland’s history, there is no one dominant cuisine: rather, region’s have local dishes that have been adopted on a national level or they borrow from nearby countries’ cuisines and make it their own. Two of Switzerland’s most famous dishes, raclette and fondue, gained national popularity because of the Swiss Cheese Union’s push to boost cheese sales in relatively recent times. A similar tactic was undertaken to boost the flagging consumption of Reblochon cheese, a nutty soft cheese from the Haute Savoie on the French/Swiss border when tartiflette began to feature on menus thanks to the Union.

Many Swiss dishes therefore use rustic ingredients and are rather simple, with an emphasis on hearty, warm meals to sustain you throughout the day. Larger meals are usually consumed at lunchtime, with dinner being lighter, often with salad or cooked vegetables.

Cheese Dishes

Although there is definitely more to Swiss food than cheese, it does feature heavily in many delicious meals. Fondue – a pot of melted Gruyère and Emmental cheese with wine and garlic bubbling over a flame – is iconic, while raclette – cheese grilled slowly slice by slice then scraped onto boiled potatoes, gherkins and pickled onions – is almost as internationally known. Gruyère comes from Gruyères, a picturesque medieval town in Fribourg and also home to one of the most famous castles in Switzerland. On the famous Chocolate Train line, you can hop off in Gruyères to tour the dairy and see the castle.

Less known outside of Switzerland but no less celebrated within the country  are the cheese dishes of Älplermagronen, Vacherin Mont D’Or or the aforementioned tartiflette.

Älplermagronen, or herdsman’s macaroni, is made from all that has been easily accessible to shepherd’s in central Switzerland for centuries: macaroni, potatoes, onions, cheese, milk or cream and applesauce on the side. Vacherin Mont D’Or is a decadent cheese that is only available from September to April – a soft, pungent cow’s milk cheese that is covered with white wine and garlic and roasted in its wooden casing to then be smothered over boiled potatoes.

Finally, tartiflette is scalloped potatoes with onions & lardons, baked covered with reblochon cheese and is popular in French border towns such as Annecy too.

Most of these cheesey delights are widely available on and off piste. After a hard day in the Alps around Zermatt or St Moritz, this gooey goodness definitely hits the spot!

Regional Food & Wine

If cheese isn’t really your thing, never fear, there are many other options in Switzerland. Every region of Switzerland seems to have its own sausage. In fact, there are other 350 variations of sausage in the country! Papet Vaudois features the saucission vaudois – a loosely stuffed, fat sausage, crimson in colour, that is served on top of a bed of leek and potatoes that has been cooked for hours.

Down in Ticino near the Italian border, polenta has been a staple for centuries. Polenta is traditionally served with delicious braised beef, cooked in large cauldrons over an open fire until it is thick and hearty, full of flavour.  Saffron grows in the canton of Valais and also forms a staple in Italian speaking Switzerland, often in a fragrant risotto. Ticino is on the Gotthard Panorama Express Line, a stop on the way to the Gotthard tunnel.

Back up towards the German border, Zürcher geschnetzeltes is a Zurich specific dish of diced veal and sweetbreads sauteed in a gravy of onions, butter, white wine, cream and mushrooms. Try this dish, as well as many other Zurich specialties on our shortbreak Taste of Zurich itinerary.

Sometimes zürcher geschnetzeltes is served with a potato rosti, grated potatoes fried into a crispy cake. Typically a breakfast for farmers in Bern, rostis are now all throughout Switzerland in various forms.

Basler mehlsuppe of Basel is a roasted flour soup that acts as a staple and fortifying dish. Made simply from flour, butter, onion, beef stock and a smattering of grated gruyère, legend claims that it was created when a chef got momentarily distracted and accidentally browned his flour. Fasnacht, the Basel carnival, is officially opened by serving of the mehlsuppe at 3am.

Sweet Delights

Switzerland is the perfect country for chocoholics. Ever since the 19th century when Swiss chocolatiers first  rose to prominence around the world for their work with cocoa, Switzerland and chocolate have gone hand in hand.

There are an abundance of chocolate shops everywhere you go, where you can choose from plain chocolate to truffles to chilli chocolate and more. Even in a regular supermarket, the quality of chocolate on offer at a small price tag far trumps what we have!

To fully immerse yourself in the ultimate Swiss Chocolate experience you can’t go past the Chocolate Train, taking you to the town of Broc where you can tour the Cailler-Nestle chocolate factory (and yes, there are tastings along the way).

There are many other sweet treats available in Switzerland too. Our favourites include lekerlis biscuits (spiced gingerbread-like biscuits made with hazelnuts), zopf (plaited sweet bread eaten on Sundays); bündner nusstorte (rich caramelised nut cake) and, towards Italy, many dishes featuring marroni (sweet chestnuts).

Are you ready for your Swiss food tour….?

For a full culinary experience while in Switzerland, try our Swiss Food Trail rail journey over seven days. Enjoy traditional farmhouse fondue overlooking views of the alps; a cruise on Lake Thun with fresh perch for lunch; the Chocolate Train; an Interlaken farmhouse three course dinner with wine – you can even assist in the preparation; and a wine tasting at the UNESCO listed Lavaux vineyards, among other experiences.

Alternatively, let us craft your very own culinary adventure through this beautiful country. Between the cheeses, the sausages, the chocolates and the wine, you might just get to do a little sightseeing too!

 

Visit Switzerland’s World Heritage Sites

Switzerland is the home of a dozen exceptional sites of cultural importance. From Neolithic stilt-houses to the modern architectural works of Le Corbusier, 12 sites around the country have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

So what are they and how can you visit them?

Bern Old City

The capital of Switzerland is also home to a wonderfully preserved medieval old city. Founded in 1191, Bern has a rich history as a significant trade town and this is evidenced in the 6km of limestone buildings, medieval arcades, Renaissance fountains and the unique towers that dominate the old town. The impressive Cathedral (Münster) is in late Gothic style architecture and was originally built in 1421 – although the 100m high spire was not completed until 1893. Nearby stand the impressive Clock Tower, Zytglogge and the Armoury-turned-Prison Tower, Käfigturm.

Experience Bern yourself during short break on our Taste of Bern itinerary, including a walking tour of the Old Town and a Bern transport card. Bern is also a stop on a number of our train tours (Deluxe Switzerland & Swiss Museum Trail), coach tours (Swiss Splendour Tour & Swiss Grand Alpine Tour) and our self drive Grand Tour of Switzerland.

Lavaux Wine Region

The terraced vineyards of Lavaux stretch for 30km along the shore of Lake Geneva and are an example of centuries of agriculture in Switzerland. Over 800ha, the steep hills provide spectacular views over the lake and surrounding country below – not to mention producing healthy vines surrounded by 11th century stone walls. After a morning of sampling the local wine, look no further than a ‘pintes’ or mini restaurant for your lunch, set amongst the quaint old villages.

Enjoy a tour of the UNESCO listed Lavaux region on our Wine Experience excursion. Learn about how the grapes go from ground into the bottles and sample three of the regions unique blends, accompanied by gourmet regional treats. For those wanting the full Swiss gastronomic experience, our Swiss Food Trail Rail Journey encompasses the Lavaux wineries and beyond.

Benedictine Monastery of St Johann

The Monastery of St Johann has Charlemagne to thank for its existence and grandeur, although its upkeep has been thanks to the tireless work of the Benedictine nuns for centuries. Even today the building is a working monastery – do not be surprised when a nun turns up as your tour guide. The Monastery is home to the largest and best preserved figurative mural from the 8th century as well as many intricately decorated apses. It is also home to the region’s oldest castle tower, built in 960, which houses an exhibition of 1,200 years of monastic and architectural history.

The Monastery is located somewhat off the beaten path in Val Müstair. Although we don’t have any ready-made itineraries to take in this site, we can tailor-make a special trip just for you.

St Gallen Abbey

The library and monastery of St Gallen are truly beautiful sights to behold. A booklover’s dream, the library or Seelenapotheke (healing place of the soul) holds 170,000 books, a 2,700 year old Egyptian mummy and 2,100 wonderfully preserved manuscripts, many of which are on display in cabinets and on the walls. Another highlight of the district are the 16th to 18th century burgher houses with splendid, brightly painted windows.

Visit St Gallen and its incredible Abbey Library on our Grand Tour of Switzerland self-drive or talk to us about creating your own tailored itinerary. This site is definitely worth the hour drive from Zurich, whether you are a book devotee or not.

Castles of Bellinzona

The three castles of Bellinzona and the old Roman fortress walls dominate Bellinzona, in the shadows of St Gotthard’s Pass. Once a strong line of Roman defence in 590, all that remains from this time is a ruined wall. The three castles, with their complex fortification systems and imposing towers, are from the Middle Ages and were put in place to control the transit of people through St Gotthard’s Pass. Castelgrande, Castello Montebello and Castello Sasso Corbaro were all built around the 13th centuries and are the best examples of medieval castles in Switzerland.

Bellinzona is the capital of Ticino, which you visit on the Grand Tour of Switzerland self-drive. At only 40 minutes by car or 30 minutes by train from Lugano, a visit to Bellinzona is an easy day trip.

Jungfrau – Aletsch Swiss Alps

At 23km. Aletsch is the longest glacier in the Alps and the whole area from Jungfrau to Aletsch is recognised by UNESCO for its staggering natural beauty. The glacier can be trekked across for the truly adventurous or try a little hiking in the Alestch forest, home of some of the oldest stone pines in Switzerland. Down below, the valleys are their very own microclimate, with lush greenery that is largely unspoilt by tourism. From June to September, you can partake in the World Heritage Experience Afternoon and in July to September there are extra guided tours of the area.

Take the precarious train ride up to the ‘Top of Europe’ on Jungfrau; look out to the Aletsch Glacier; and wander through the spectacular ice tunnel through the mountain on an excursion or our Grand Train Tour and Tops of Switzerland Tour.

Monte San Giorgio

The pyramid shaped Monte San Giorgio jutting out over Lake Lugano at just under 1,100m above sea level was once the location of a 100m deep ocean basin. Just like the pyramids of Egypt, today it provides a veritable treasure trove of history – not of an ancient culture, but of land animals and marine life living 240 million years ago. Since the 19th century, over 80 species of fish have been identified from the fossils discovered here and 30 marine and land reptiles. This include the huge deposits of marine saurians bones – some up to 6m in length!

Today, the woods of Monte San Giorgio are a great place for a little hiking as a day trip out of Lugano, where some of our tours leave from. Just keep your eyes peeled for some prehistoric history!

Rhaetian Railway Albula / Bernina

Stretching 122km from Thusis to Tirano, the Rhaetian Railway line is a true marvel of Swiss engineering. Opened in 1889, the route crosses 196 bridges, goes through 55 tunnel and 20 towns. With incredible man-made structures, viaducts, helical tunnels and hairpin turns, rail buffs will be in heaven while everyone else will be absorbed by the rugged landscapes of valleys and mountains that make this route the most picturesque mountain rail journey in the world.

Experience this unforgettable journey yourself as you crest the Bernina Pass on the Bernina Express. Or make this one journey of many incredible Swiss rail experiences on the Grand Train Tour.

La Chaux de Fonds & Le Locle

These two mountain towns are the watchmaking centres of Switzerland that have been built around this industry. Destroyed by fire, the neighbouring towns were reconstructed with a mixture of public and private funds with the goal of mono-industrial manufacturing. The resulting town plan maximised light and enabled ease of movement between towns.

Still working today, if you’d like to drop in to buy yourself a timepiece, there are twice hourly train services from Zurich. Although not home of lakes or medieval buildings, the prosperity of these two towns in the 18th to the 20th centuries created a huge amount of growth and so fans of modern architecture such as Art Nouveau  and the early modernism of Le Corbusier (more on him below) will enjoy wandering the streets.

Prehistoric Pile Dwellings

Pile dwellings, or stilt house dwellings can be found all over central Europe on the edges of lakes, rivers and wetlands. Some date as far back as 7,000 years ago and of the 111 sites listed, 56 of them can be found in Switzerland in the Alps. These dwellings have given us invaluable insight into life in the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Alpine Europe.

With 56 sites around Switzerland, many of the local councils have created small museums if you’d like to find out more (beware of the irregular opening hours).

Architectural Work of Le Corbusier

The most recent addition to the World Heritage list in Switzerland, the architectural work of Le Corbusier has been recognised by UNESCO for the influence it had on modern architecture the world over. Comprising of 17 sites, this transnational series is over seven countries, namely India, Japan, Argentina, Germany, Brussels and Switzerland. Two of these sites are in Switzerland: Villa ‘Le Lac’ in Corseux on the shore of Lake Geneva and the Clarté building in Geneva. Le Corbusier’s works are a testimonial to modern architecture and showed a clear departure from looks of the past. While he was completing his studies for these later works, Le Corbusier designed a number of buildings in La Chaux De Fonds.

Geneva is a stop on many of our itineraries. Explore these significant buildings in the architectural world on our Taste of Geneva package or let us tailor-make a trip to suit your taste.

Tectonic Arena Sardona

Another one of the natural sites listed as World Heritage, the Tectonic Arena of Sardona is home to the Glarus Overthrust – a strange phenomenon where an older rock strata, about 250 million years old, has edged its way over rock 150 million years its junior. This is a result of the European and African Continents colliding. Even for those of us who don’t have a keen interest in geology, the result is dramatically beautiful as the jagged Glarus Alps are glaciated and 3,000m above, with narrow river valleys below.

Although visible for kilometres around, Glarus Alps are not that frequented. To organise your own exploration, contact us today to tailor-make your experience.

 

 

Gastronomy 101: Spanish Food & Wine

The temperate climate of Spain lends itself perfectly to long summer evenings with a glass in hand and a platter of delicious treats at your side. Equally tempting to some, is the raucous nightlife from a bustling Michelin-starred restaurant to small local bar serving aguardiente (firewater) by the shot.

Whatever takes your fancy, Spanish hospitality will have you coming back for more. Spain is melting pot of cultures and customs – some regions are so different to each other that its almost like being in a different country. As such, the cuisine is rich in variety and has much to offer the food-lover.

As to wine, Spain produces everything from local ‘jewels’ to quaffing wine that may just burn a little on the way down. To enjoy the very best that Spain has to offer and avoid any unfortunate wine choices, your best bet is to let us do the hardwork for you and enjoy one of our many tours, packages, itineraries and day experiences all about Spanish food and wine.

Madrid – the culinary capital

Madrid is not only the culinary capital of Spain but arguably Southern Europe with a huge range of restaurants available. With a world class hospitality scene, the city is a melting pot of culinary creativity and experimentation. And the fact that Spain as a whole has more bars per capita than anywhere else in Europe means that you are guaranteed to find a bar stool in Madrid with your name written all over it.

Although Madrid serves food from all over Spain, while there you must try a few famous Madrilenian dishes. These range from the simple bocadillo de calamares – a calamari sandwich with tomato and paprika puree or garlic mayonnaise, to Callo a la Madrilena – a classic stew cooked in a claypot featuring tripe, chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage). Follow one of these up with churros con chocolate and you will be in foodie heaven. The only thing missing is a glass of Albillo white or Garnacha red!

Explore Madrid on one of our short breaks such as Taste of Madrid or Jewels of Madrid and feast your mind body and soul on all this wonderful city has to offer.

To try some of the region’s wines and explore a fascinating city, why not try our Imperial Toledo & Wine Tour day experience? After exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Toledo, you will enjoy a wonderful wine tasting at Bargas Finca Loranque before returning to Madrid.

Barcelona – the ultimate foodie experience

Bustling Barcelona is a thriving cosmopolitan city with a sensational array of foodie experiences. Barcelona has a proud Catalan food heritage and boasts many famous dishes featuring seafood, pork, tomato, garlic, eggplant, capsicum and mushroom. And of course, like a lot of Spain, Barcelona has many wonderful tapas bars where you can enjoy numerous bite-sized portions of delicious Spanish fare as you enjoy your wine. To make the most of the amazing array on offer,  book a private Walking Tapas Tour Dinner with a local taking you to lesser-known cultural delights as well as many bars, taverns and even entire neighbourhoods that specialise in tapas.

We also offer a private Taverns and Markets Tour including drinks in three of the stops and a private Ham, Cheese and Wine TastingCatalonia is the largest producer of pork in Spain and there are many great places to try jamón but the real meat epicureans out there should try our independent Spanish Ham Experience, visiting the new centre at the heart of La Rambla dedicated to ham – a museum and tasting experience all in one.

For those wanting to try their hand at cooking, why not take a Spanish Cooking Lesson where you will learn to cook paella, different tapas and a dessert, under the tutelage of a chef? Then all there is left to do is to Live like a Local with an independent tour to some local taverns to finish off the night.


For something a bit further a field, try the Torres Wine Cellars, Montserrat & Sitges day trip, exploring world famous wine cellars and then tasting local monk-brewed liqueur at the base of the Montserrat Mountains. In seaside Sitges, there is also the option to make your very own cocktail at Bacardi House.

Both the Taste of Barcelona and Jewels of Barcelona multiday packages also involve a visit to the monastery at Montserrat Mountains to try the local liqueur and you can incorporate one of these activities into these wider itineraries.

Basque – food as individual as the region

San Sebastian and Bilbao are the best places in Basque to have the five star restaurant experiences. San Sebastian in particular, now a famous retreat for the rich and famous, has many celebrity chef-run restaurants and even a Michelin-starred eatery. It also has a delicious pintxos on offer, the Basque form of tapas.

Basque food features meat and fish grilled over hot coals, paprikas, fish stews and sheep’s cheese. On both the Taste of San Sebastian and Basque Country Highlights enjoy delicious pintxos, refined restaurants and the famous cider and txakoli (sparkling wine).

Southern Spain – put some pep in your step

Southern Spain is famous for its emphasis on pepper with spicy cured meats, air-dried hams, paella almost roasted over log fires and Iberian ham. The pigs of Iberico graze on acorns through the forestland giving the jamón a distinct nutty flavour. Keeping with the nutty theme, turron is a delicious local nougat of almond and honey with its origins stretching back to Spain’s Moor occupation.

In Granada, Live like a Local on a tapas walking tour to discover local bars and taverns specialising in both traditional and new flavours and beverages. In Seville enjoy a private Wine Tasting with the assistance of an English-speaking guide. Some of the wines on tasting are more than 30 years old and are considered local jewels. Either of these sightseeing activities can be incorporated into short break itineraries in Seville or Granada.

The Douro – connecting Portugal & Spain

Hop over the border to Portugal to continue the foodie experience. The Douro is a charming stretch of countryside punctuated by terraced vineyards and picture-perfect villages nestled beneath hills. This calm and beautiful part of the world combines the very best of Spanish and Portuguese culinary heritage to create its very own flavour with delicacies such as roasted baby goat with potatoes; wild board stew; and grilled partridge on a skewer.

The Douro is also famous for its delicious desserts – despite the many walking tracks on offer, don’t expect to lose weight here! A delicately flavoured rice pudding and vermicelli with cinnamon are among the most common throughout the region. For a quick snack, traditional bread made with meat or olive oil is worth a try.

From Porto, you can enjoy a coach day tour inland for the Douro Valley Wine Tour visiting three different wine estates to taste four different types of Portuguese wines (including Port and green wine) and enjoy a traditional Portuguese lunch.

For something completely different, enjoy a river cruise over seven nights up the Douro river. Portraits of The Douro encompasses day tours, wine tastings and many delicious Portuguese meals as well as beautiful scenery and comfortable accommodation on board.

If you are interested in any of these food adventures or want to craft your very own tailor-made gastronomical tour through Spain and Portugal, contact one of our agents today.

 

Gastronomy 101: Food & Wine of the Greek Islands

There’s nothing quite like feeling the salty seabreeze on your face as you tuck into some delicious seafood. You can’t help but think, ‘Can it get any fresher than this?’ Add to that a glass of chilled crisp white wine, a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, olives & fetta and you have a match made in heaven.

The Greek Islands are idyllic not just in natural beauty – they are a veritable paradise – but in the slow-paced nature of island life. Travelling in this kind of environment encourages you to slow down and appreciate simple flavours, whether that be the aniseed kick of ouzo or the tender deliciousness of crispy fried calamari.

The best way to see the Greek Islands is by boat, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to explore what the land has to offer too. Although not known for its wine on a world stage, the Greeks have been making wine for centuries and well beyond just Retsina and Domestica. With the volcanic soil on many of the islands, the wine making techniques are unique, creating very individual wines the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

All of the day tours and activities listed below can be incorporated into a ready-made or tailor-made island hopping itinerary.

Santorini

Santorini, with beautiful Oia and incredible sunsets, is an absolute must for any first timer to the islands. Not only is it home to beautiful sights and some incredible archaeological finds, it is also home to many wineries. With the volcanic soil being so hard to grow in, many vines are actually grown out of pots! After the 1956 earthquake on the island, the industry suffered hugely and was kept afloat by forming the Santo Wine Co-Operative. Today, they process 65% of the vines on the island and so are a great place to stop in for a wine tasting. The Santorini Wine Adventure will have you trying 12 of these different volcanic wines accompanied by local cheese, salami and olives.

For something a little more, our Santorini Cooking Class and Wine Tasting is a great way to learn about local cuisine and how to match it with local wines. Although many of the grapes are now processed by machines, at some select vineyards vinsanto, the sweet wine of Santorini, is still made by the traditional method of stamping on the grapes!

As well as calamari mentioned above, common seafood you’ll find around the Cyclades includes barbounia (red mullet), astakos (lobster) and marides (whitebait). Learn six traditional Santorinian recipes with our small group Cooking Class using local organic produce while tasting local wines.

Mykonos

With sweeping beaches, old windmills, winding cobblestone alleys among white washed buildings with blue trim, Mykonos is known for its wild nightlife yet equally low-key village life in daylight hours. The rugged island is also home to some delicious culinary traditions that you can discover on the Wine & Culture walking tour. This tour guides participants to local historical spots, teaches you about the folklore of the island, takes you to a nautical museum documenting Mykonos’ long seafaring history and afterwards lets you enjoy a wine tasting accompanied by traditional mezes.

Meze is a small snack sized bite of delicious local fare and can include dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with mince and/or herby rice), melitzana (eggplant – fried or as a dip with tomato & onion), gigantes (giant butter beans in tomato sauce), saganaki, briam (eggplants, zucchinis, capsicum & tomatoes) and much more.

Naxos

The biggest of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos was once centre of island life. Upon arrival in the port town, you can’t help but notice the Apollon Gate, thrust out to sea on an island head, harking back to Naxos’ rich history. The namesake town is full of white-washed houses and Venetian mansions, with a medieval castle, Kastro, at the top of the hill acting today as an archaeological museum.

Being such a big island, Naxos is an island of agriculture and they grow many citrus trees, as well as grazing sheep and goats. On the Naxos Yesterday and Today tour, discover the foundations of Naxos, visiting a ceramics workshop, a Byzantine church and a citrus distillery, where you can taste locally crafted creations. To try some delicious local fare, enjoy our Riverwalk coach day trip, following the longest river in Naxos past an old monastery, nine watermills and finishing off with a traditional Greek meal in Engares.

Koufonisia

A little off the tourist path, Koufonisia, meaning hollow islands, are three small islands that look from afar as though they are entirely made up of caves. In reality, they are a charming stop off, often known as the Mykonos of the Small Cyclades with superb beaches and a lovely array of restaurants that maintain their low-key charm and serve traditional Greek fare.

Crete

crete_restaurant_gastronomyCrete is Greece’s largest island, with an interesting history and resulting culture. It has the best of both worlds with nature, from rugged mountains to pristine beaches and is surrounded by turquoise waters. With Minoan archaeological sites muddled in next to Venetian-style town houses and quaint villages, Crete has something for every traveller – and we haven’t even mentioned the cuisine!

Almost every village in Crete seems to have its own signature cheese. Graviera is a hard cheese that is sweet when young and then becomes nutty and flavourful as it ages. By contrast pichtogalo Chanion is a softer creamier cheese, as is myzithra, a young whey cheese with a mild taste. To drink, everywhere around Crete locals brew their own raki over open fires in copper stills. This is a type of brandy distilled from grapes and is served with mezes, olives or even neat.

Try some of the delicious foods and wines of Crete on the Garden of Crete independent tour – a full day tour of food, wine, Minoan archaeology and even the chance to try creating come pottery yourself under the tutelage of a master potter.

Tastes of Crete features instruction from a local cook in a rustic 18th century farmhouse surrounded by organic gardens. Participate in wine and cheese tastings before enjoying a delicious meal matched with Cretan wines.

A popular daytrip off Crete is to visit the tiny islet of Spinalonga. Once home to a leper colony, the islet was orginally a fortress of Venetian Crete and on The Island – Spinalonga BBQ independent tour you can enjoy a beachside BBQ as you explore the island.

For a more complete Crete itinerary, have a look at one of our Crete Self Drive packages where we can incorporate one of these day tours.

“But how do I get from one island to the next?”

Well, the easiest way to see all of these magical places and enjoy the delicious flavours of the Greek Islands is to let us organise an Island Hopping Package for you. The packages include your accommodation, some meals, return airport and port transfers, fast ferry tickets and flights (where specified). Trips that encompass some or all of the above islands include Cycladic AdventureGreek Island Explorer; Island Delightsor any other route we will tailor-make just for you.

For a full Greece itinerary, check out our Land & Island Packages encompassing classical mainland Greece as well as some of the most famous and beautiful islands. Or how about going for the full holiday experience and book yourself into one of our many Cruises to experience the islands in relaxed style? Delectable meals feature on the menu with many organised day trips to wineries, markets and local restaurants ashore to ensure you get to experience all the flavours of the Greek Islands.


Are you ready for your gastronomical tour of the Greek Islands? Contact us today about one of the itineraries outlined above or we can tailor-make your perfect foodie experience, featuring the best culinary experiences that the Islands have to offer!

Gastronomy 101: French Food

France is the country of romance, wine and cheese – and we can help you with at least two of these things! No, we’re not offering a match-making service but rather the chance to experience the very best wine, cheese and other classic French cuisine that the country of love has to offer.

Each region of France has a proud gastronomie heritage, producing locally made bread, cheese, wine, cured meats: the list goes on. And so it follows that one of the best ways to understand France is through its food.

In the south were food is cooked in light olive oil, flavours are simple and bread is light, it is said that people are more relaxed and laid-back. Whereas in the north, where food is cooked in rich butter, strong flavours dominate and the bread is thick & grainy, people are supposedly more loquacious, quick to laugh and share a tale.

Whether this proves true or not, the food and wine of France is deeply part of the culture and locals are exceptionally proud of their food heritage. On any of the below mentioned itineraries, you will see the passion and love that goes into creating such delicious food by interacting with local farmers, vignerons, sommeliers and chefs.

Your French Kitchen

Paris MarketA trip to Paris is incomplete without wandering around the beautiful markets. Awash with gleaming vegetables, the scent of spice wafting through the air, and the raucous cries of hawking stall-holders, allow yourself to be absorbed in market life on our French Market Tour and Class. After your tour of the market, you will return to the classroom kitchen, fresh produce in hand, to prepare a delicious seasonal meal, under the guidance of a professional chef.

Speaking of cooking, the notoriously difficult to create French delicacy of macarons can be conquered by you after a two or three hour French Macaron Class. The three hour intensive is ideal for those who want to perfect these elegant, colourful pastries.

Tastebud explosion

If you prefer to eat over cook, the Bellies on Foot day tour is for you. Taking you through the winding streets of old Paris, you will visit the very foundations of the French culinary scene, collecting produce along the way. Then with fresh bread, charcuterie, fromage, froie gras and sweets in hand, it’s time to sit back and relax with a glass in hand, to enjoy your treasure trove of produce.

Patisserie_Paris_Food_Wine_ToursFor all those sweet-tooths out there, it’s hard to look further than the patisseries of Paris when you think of heaven.  Handmade chocolates, intricately decorated tarts, wafer thin pastries that melt on your mouth – the Marais is is home to all of this and more. Over two hours, enjoy wandering the streets of this hip part of Paris on the Let Them Eat Cake tour and sample all the delicious treats on offer.

Incorporate one of these fantastic foodie experiences into your Paris short break, such as a Taste of Paris or Parisian Classics, to really explore the city of lights.

Beyond Paris, there is so much delicious regional food and wine to discover on many of our itineraries. On the Normandy, Brittany and The Loire Valley small group tour, see chateaux, battle-scarred landscapes of France’s northern shores, centuries old villages and hilltop monasteries as you eat and drink your way through the region. Sample Calvaldos (cider) in Normandy, wine in the Loire and cheese in Brittany, with delicious restaurant dinners along the way.

Alternatively, we also offer three different Chateaux & Wines small group day tours out of the Loire Valley, that can be incorporated into a wider itinerary.

See our in-depth Gastronomy 101: French Wines for tours, itineraries and packages focusing on le vin de la belle France.


If you are interested in any of these food adventures or want to craft your very own tailor-made gastronomical tour of France, contact one of our agents today.

Gastronomy 101: French Wine

Whether you are an accomplished wine critic or brand new to the world of le vin, France has something for every palette – from red to white to bubbles!

France is the second largest producer of wine in the world (after Italy) and is home to some of the most important and well-known wineries in the world. There is a strict appellation system when it comes to classifying wines – for example, only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region can be called champagne. And there’s a lot more to learn beside that – the effect of the terroir (land and soil), the weather, the fermentation process, to name just a few.

The best way to make the most out of French wine is therefore when you have a bit of an understanding of the production and history… and the perfect way  to do that is on one of our many tours, itineraries or packages. Here are a few below.

Wine Regions of France

Champagne

Champagne is a great region to start your French wine exploration. With manicured rolling hills, this region is famous for the bubbly white of the same name and home to some of the world’s most famous wine producers. For a full Champagne experience, try our independent Champagne Superstay itinerary over four days from Reims. Reims is a gorgeous city with art deco cafes and a beautiful cathedral, where French kings were crowned for more than 1,000 years. On this itinerary, enjoy tastings at Veuve Cliquot, Mumm, Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon and  and a visit to the Grandes Maisons de Champagne. For more solid sustenance, local specialties feature and we can happily organise a booking for you at one of Reims Michelin-starred restaurants.

We also offer three Champagne day trips that can be incorporated into a wider tour of France or the region.

Burgundy

Burgundy is a hotspot for all things food and wine – in fact, the vineyards are so culturally important, that they have been recognised with UNESCO World Heritage status. Over the centuries, the combination of continued viticulture of the area with the unique terroir has enabled local producers to truly perfect the art of wine making. On the Burgundy Superstay independent itinerary, you will stay in medieval Beaune  and enjoy a number of day trips to les grandes caves (important wine cellars) of the area, where you will meet with vignerons, sample wines and taste delicious local produce.

We also offer two Burgundy wine tour day trips in small groups, but they may also be taken privately.

Bordeaux

Famous for its rich neo-classical architecture and equally rich Medoc red wines, Bordeaux is a wonderful city for a short break or as a base to explore the wine region of the same name. Our Taste of Bordeaux independent itinerary gives you not only the chance to take in the charming old city, but to explore the surrounding wine region with tastings at five different estates throughout the region, over four days.

There are also a number of day trips offered in Bordeaux taking you to various wineries in the region and giving you the chance to sample more local food. The macarons of Saint-Emilion on the Wines of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol Tour are a personal favourite!

Provence 

There are a number of day tours in Provence taking in local food and wine experiences. These include an Olive and Wine in Les Baux de Provence tour with tastings of both in that medieval village at the foot of the Alpilles range, or the Cassis, Calanques and Bandol tour featuring a guided tour, wine tasting and delicious local lunch.

Gastronomic Cruising

For something completely different, Discover the Great Bordeaux Wines  on a river cruise over six days from Bordeaux. Alternatively, cruise your way from Champagne to Paris over a week, enjoying wine tastings along the way.

River cruising in France is a wonderful way to see the country, tracing important trade routes and stopping at many picturesque villages along the way. The vessels have outstanding facilities, daily buffet breakfasts, three course meals for lunch and dinner and comfortable air-conditioned cabins. Many of the highlighted day trips above can be incorporated when you alight in either region.

Keep an eye out for our next installment of this series on delectable French Food.


If you are interested in any of these wine adventures or want to craft your very own tailor-made gastronomical tour of France, contact one of our agents today. After all, that Chablis isn’t going to drink itself – so wine not?!

Gastronomy 101: Italian Food & Wine

When you think Italy, you think food. From pasta to tiramisu, Italian food is loved the world over for its timeless simplicity and delicious flavours. Eating in Italy is truly a social pursuit, with long hours whiling away between the many courses from the aperitivo all the way to the digestivo. And no meal is complete without an accompaniment of local wines, from the rich, fruity Chianti to the light-bodied, pale Pinot Grigio.

To ensure that you get the very best out of your Italian escape, at Tempo Holidays we have compiled a number of tours, itineraries and day activities that will delight all your senses. You will be surrounded by delectable aromas and even more delicious tastes as you create, sample and graze your way across Italy.

Italian Food Escapades

Discover how the magic happens with an Italian cooking lesson. On your trip to Rome, we offer a Cooking Lesson in the Roman Countryside where you can learn some of the classics of Roman fare. Roman food is typically seasonal and prepared in simple ways, with bold flavours taking centre stage. Common vegetables include peas, globe artichokes and fava beans, meat is traditionally lamb or goat and both Pecorino romano and ricotta cheese feature prominently.  Nestled in the Roman hills, your farmhouse school is in the quaint town of Mazzano Romano where you will prepare an appetiser, first course, second course and dessert. Then all there is left to do is to eat, perhaps with a glass of Castelli Romani!

Tuscany is also famous for its delicious food and wine. Tuscan fare tends to feature legumes, cheese, mushrooms, truffles and fresh fruit. Florence is famous for its enormous steaks, while the regional dishes are frequently made with game such as wild board, deer or pheasant often combined with pappardelle pasta. The gelato in Florence is also delicious, coming in a huge array of different flavours with many gelaterias claiming to be the absolute best in the city. While in Florence, why not book yourself in for a Pizza and Gelato Making Class? Who knows, after your lesson maybe you’ll be the one creating the BEST gelato in Florence!

Incorporate these classes into your Taste of Rome or Taste of Florence & Tuscany short break itineraries – or let us build them into your very own tailor-made holiday.

Veritable Vino Delights

grapes_wine_tourItaly is the world’s biggest producer of wine, followed closely by France so while you are there, you simply must sample the local drop. This small country’s wine output actually represents a third of the world’s wine production – so there is ample opportunity to try a huge variety of grapes. Perhaps the most famous region for wine in Italy is Tuscany, home of the delicious Chianti. But with so many different wines and methods of production, it can be hard to figure out exactly which wine is the best for your taste.

And that’s where our local experts come in, guiding you on a Tuscany Wine Trail small group tour from Florence. Discover Chianti wines with a visit to a selection of special wineries set amongst the olive trees and cypresses over a whole day. With expert sommeliers on hand, you will learn about the history, traditions and different characteristics of the wine as well as food-pairings.

For those feeling a little more active, we also offer a Tuscany Wine Tour by Bike out of Florence.

 The Whole Package

To really immerse yourself in Tuscan gastronomy, the Highlights of Chianti or Highlights of San Gimignano independent tours (each four days from Florence) combine Medieval and Etruscan towns with country escapes, cooking classes and wine tastings.  Lose yourself in the undulating hills of Tuscany, a patchwork of gold and green fields, punctuated by mountain settlements and beautiful old farmhouses set amongst the vineyards.

Alternatively, the Gastronomic Tuscany package over five days focuses solely on food and wine. Over the course of three cooking classes with a professional chef learn Tuscan secrets to making the best food out of the simplest ingredients. Also enjoy a private wine lesson and tastings accompanied by cheese samples plus a half day tour of the Chianti Classico region.

Moving further north to Bologna, the Motors and Food four day independent itinerary is foodie and petrol-head heaven. The Emilia-Romagna region is known for its soft wheat pastas and balsamic vinegar, as well as hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano. On this tour you will visit a balsamic vinegar farm, enjoy various farmhouse lunches, sample wine at a winery in the Bologna hills and visit Ferruccio Lamborghini, Casa Enzo Ferrari and the Maranello Ferrari Museum.


Is your mouth watering yet? I know mine is, just thinking about all these delectable Italian flavours! If you are interested in any of these food adventures or want to craft your very own tailor-made gastronomical tour of Italy, contact one of our agents today.