Two Invitations

Here at TTS we are in the process of planning more small group tours for our members and we invite your interest and feed-back on two ideas.  Here they are:

Israel

I hope you recall the accounts of my first trip to Israel  in 2009.  I don’t quite know what I expected, but I was fascinated by this small country and all it had to offer.  So much so that I returned late in 2010 (my new stories will be in the magazine soon) and although I covered much the same itinerary on the second trip, I discovered something new at every turn.

I met some delightful people too … amongst them a charming representative of an in-bound travel company that has been taking care of visitors since the 1960s.  She told me that it really is a good idea to customize tours of Israel since there are so many themes.

So … TTS members … would you like to go to Israel with us?  And if so, what would you like included on the itinerary?  It’s a small country and almost everything is possible.

My suggestions for a ten-day trip would be: three days in beautiful Jerusalem, where there is so much to see for everyone; an overnight at the Dead Sea (just a short drive away) for the floating experience and a trip onto Masada, two nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee staying in the lovely Scots Hotel in Tiberius and visiting the Christian sites.  (Note: these sites are all beautifully located and maintained, so even if your focus is not religious they are a pleasure to visit.)  A little boutique/art shopping at Safed should be included as you head to the west and the magnificent Crusader Castle at Acre, then south to see the spectacular Baha’i  Temple and Gardens in Haifa before arriving at the evocative ruins at Caesarea.  From there it’s just a short drive to the many pleasures of  Tel Aviv (and nearby historic Jaffa) for a final couple of days.

How does that sound?  Anything you’d like to add or miss?  We can arrange anything … for two of you or we can make up a small group tour for just TTS members.  The winter is a perfect time for touring … so think about it and please be in touch.

Fine Cuisine in Mexico

Calling all foodies (and their partners).  Let’s make a group – yes, I, Editor Ann, hope to go too – and head off when the days get chilly again for about six days in Oaxaca, Mexico’s culinary heartland (and also a UNESCO Heritage City) … days filled with food, culture and sun.  We’ll explore the region with our own tour guides: Oaxaca itself, local villages for art, outdoor markets, the Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban, a mezcal distillery, soaking in mineral pools and more.  And the ‘more’ is all about food!  We’ll eat at some of the region’s finest restaurants, watching and chatting with the chefs;  we’ll also enjoy an outdoor village lunch where three generations of women will demonstrate some ancient food preparation methods and, for those who wish, there will be a hands-on cooking class with one of Oaxaca’s Master Chefs – Pilar Cabrere Arroyo.  And plenty of free time too.

Pilar was in Ontario recently as Celebrity Chef in Residence at the Stratford Chefs School, sharing her knowledge of Mexican cooking beyond the stereotypes!  But before she set off for Stratford she spent a morning with the young aspiring chefs at Danforth Collegiate in Toronto.  A few lucky members of the media were invited to this event (and the following lunch) and I was fortunate to be among them.

Watching tiny, fireball Pilar darting around amongst the young students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, some tattooed and strangely pierced, yet all enthusiastically involved in learning to be chefs was a joy.  We watched as the class, under Pilar’s watchful eyes, created tostadas de tinga, pozole, alambre de camarones, chiles rellenos, mushroom quesadillas, salsa verde, salpicon de res, ceviche verde and, for dessert, vanilla flans and Mexican cheesecakes with Oaxacan chocolate sauce.  It was all wonderful!

Like to learn yourself?  Or merely like to enjoy some of these dishes in Oaxaca itself?  Perhaps with a mezcaltini  before dinner!  Then tell us you are interested and we’ll make a plan and take care of all the arrangements.  Accommodation will be in Casa de Las Bugambilias or Casa Vertiz, two fine B&Bs in the heart of historic Oaxaca.  Take a peek at www.lasbugambilias.com and www.hotelvertiz.com.mx and be tempted.  (By the way, the price will be very reasonable.)

Please contact us at 1-877-926-2500 x25 if you would like to join one of these trips later this year.