|Machu Picchu, the preeminent site on an enriching trip to Peru.|
It used to be that a vacation was the time to unwind, relax and—if not too taxing—pick up and read the latest New York Times’ bestseller. To quote S.E. Hinton, “That was then, this is now.” Today, travelers are looking for more than just a laidback week; they want to learn and be exposed to different cultures and experiences.
One tour outfit capitalizing on travelers’ yen to engage is La Jolla, CA-based Classic Journeys, which specializes in enrichment activities—cultural walking adventures, culinary tours, family vacations, to name just a few. President and co-founder Edward Piegza ([email protected]; 858-454-5004) tells Luxury Travel Advisor that today’s luxury travelers are interested in “sight-doing,” rather than “sightseeing.” Egged on by this observation, the company holds dear the principle that the best way to connect with a country and people is on foot.sicjourneys.com
Its roster of cultural walking adventures is expansive and covers over 25 countries. Narrowing down the best is a difficult task, but two are especially appealing. In Peru, exploring Machu Picchu is the most celebrated of experiences. But Classic Journeys takes the tour even further: Guests are given the opportunity to visit the studio of the famed ceramicist, Pablo Seminario, whose work is on permanent display at the Field Museum. Pablo and his wife give guests a rare treat: a hands-on lesson in pottery-making.
Across the Atlantic, on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, tour guests are invited into the tasting room of a privately owned vineyard in the country—the first to reopen after the fall of Communism—for a lunch and wine sampling. This is preceded by a morning walk to an ancient monastery and an on-site audience with the two remaining monks.
|In Morocco, travelers play Bedouin for a day.|
Food and wine enrichment programs, in recent years, have become more and more sought-after. In fact, they constitute a large chunk of the business for both cruise and land-based operators. When it comes to food and wine, it’s no stretch to say that Italy is the prime destination for oenophiles and foodies alike. When it comes to Italy, Italian Connection knows the country as well as any paisan. Founded by Anita Iaconangelo, the small tour operator—specializing in walking and cooking tours—hosts about 300 visitors each year. We love its Tuscany Food and Wine tour, particularly for its exclusivity (think intimate dinner in a rustic farmhouse and wine-sampling in a dark cellar beneath a 14th-century castle in Volpaia).
If foraging for food suits your speed, Italian Connection has a Piedmont Vineyards & Lake tour, which, among other activities, includes a truffle hunt with an expert trifulau (there’s such a profession?). After which, the truffles are incorporated into an earthy lunch along with some buttery tagliolini.
Classic Journeys has its own take on F&B. In Avignon, guests on Classic’s Bon Appetit, Provence tour receive a private cooking instruction at the Michelin-starred La Mirande. The kitchens of this hotel and restaurant, which are opened up to guests, prove to be the ideal place to introduce them to southern French cuisine.
|Dordogne, in France, is known for its quaint inns, caves and raft of truffles.|
However, you don’t have to embark on a culinary tour to learn the secrets of regional specialties. On Classic’s Tuscany to the Sea walking adventure, guests pay a visit to the Bocelli family (of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli fame) vineyards near Lajatico. There, Andrea’s brother and sister-in-law treat guests to tastings of their honey and olive oil. In their farmhouse kitchen, everyone pitches in to prepare Tuscan-style chicken with olives.
Families are also buying into the enrichment vacation—given the opportunity for kids to be exposed to other cultures and experiences in a way they can’t get from a textbook. At Half Moon in Rose Hall, Jamaica, children (three to 12) learn Caribbean folklore. Anancy, the mythical Spider-Man, is brought to life at the resort through the Anancy Children’s Village, which is modeled after a typical rural Jamaican settlement. Children listen to tales and exploits of Anancy and his pals Brer Rabbit, Tacuma, Brer Goat and Brer Cow. For further details, luxury travel advisors can contact Reservations Manager Jackie Gordon ([email protected]; 876-953-2211).
Don’t worry, when the learning is over and its time for fun, Half Moon delivers. The resort is situated on crescent-shaped, white-sand beaches, with 398 rooms, suites, cottages and villas. Half Moon also has an array of features and family activities: a Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed 18-hole golf course, 13 floodlit tennis courts, equestrian center, fitness center, 51 swimming pools and a Dolphin Lagoon. Fern Tree, The Spa at Half Moon, has beachfront spa suites, yoga pavilions and therapeutic/healing
|The Anancy Children’s Village at Half Moon imparts Caribbean folklore in a fun way.|