One warm and lazy afternoon, I found myself meandering about the twisted and narrow pedestrian streets of downtown Seville. As I made my way back toward the main square, I spotted a tiny nun (almost a full head shorter than myself), nearly doubled over with what looked to be an incredibly heavy picnic basket, disappear into a small doorway. Surprised–and more than a little intrigued–I followed in the nun’s laborious path to sneak a peak around the door she had left ajar.
Before heading out to lead Backroads trips in Italy, I had already gathered that Italians have an ongoing love affair with olive oil. However, I was almost completely ignorant of the pepper to this salt: balsamic vinegar. “Italian dressing” in my household was a mix of spices shaken with olive oil and white vinegar–no balsamic included–and I wouldn’t consider putting the bitter stuff on ice cream. Not even in my dreams would I suppose that some balsamic vinegars cost hundreds of dollars for just a few ounces. I had a lot to learn.
Imagine a fruit so creamy it might be considered a part of the custard family. And so key to survival that it might be grouped with the apple. And there you have my favorite fruit, the cherimoya. I’ve loved cherimoya since I first laid taste buds on it in Costa Rica in November of 2005 (yes, I remember the date-this fruit is that impactful). I drank it in batidos (delicious Costa Rican fruit smoothies), I ate it fresh from the market and I made sure that it took part in every picnic I prepared. You might say I was obsessed.
Nestled deep within lush tropical foothills sits a cluster of over a dozen tiny villages that comprise the tranquil town of Ubud–the artistic and cultural center of Bali. The jungle-covered hills and terraced rice paddies surrounding this laid-back locale are dotted with ancient temples and palaces that still play a central role in the country’s complex culture.
If you’ve ever imagined a small desert down, Moab might be the place that you’ve pictured. This tiny Utah town is nestled between glowing red rocks and natural wonders that draw visitors from all over the world. It’s a mecca for outdoor activity, where adventurers come for world-class climbing, mountain biking, rafting and off-roading. Weeks of exploring could not even graze the surface of Moab’s wonders. However, if you have just 24 hours in Moab, these activities will give you a good taste of what it has to offer, and will surely leave you thirsting for more!
The punctually repetitious ezan (Islamic call to prayer) will forever ring distinctly in my ears–that shrill wailing cry echoing from loudspeakers perched on minarets towering above nearly every town throughout Turkey. And never will I forget the hospitality that I experienced during my six weeks of cycling from the rocky eastern Black Sea coast, through the historic hills and caves of central Anatolia, and along the rugged sun-drenched Mediterranean coast before eventually turning north to Istanbul–the geopolitical gateway between Europe and Asia.
If you’re taking a Backroads trip through Tuscany or Umbria, your pick-up city will be Florence. Before you meet up with your fabulous Backroads leaders, we strongly suggest that you take a day (or 2 or 3!) to acquaint yourself with this timeless city.
Oh, Canada…such a beautiful landscape, which we get to ride our bikes through! While the land of the maple leaf is known for its incredible scenery, what you don’t often hear about is the fantastic cuisine that can be found here.
As a professional active traveler, my suitcase is filled with items that can get me from epic bicycle journey to Michelin-starred restaurant, to the opera and back to the trailhead. This said, when asked “what’s in my suitcase,” the contents certainly depend on the trip I’m about to embark on with one small, culinary-inclined exception: my trusty travel spork.
A hint of a sea breeze fills the air. The sky is a deep blue. From where I’m sitting I can see Table Mountain looming overhead. The waiter casually walks in and places my food in front of me. I look down, and I know I’m in for an exciting new culinary experience.
For me, the last few years have been nomadic to say the least, as I have lingered in no particular place longer than a month or two at a time. And the few phrases that I know in various Asian languages scarcely afford the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. So, while traveling I choose to experience a culture in a different manner. I choose to experience a place through its cuisine. And that’s exactly what I did in Vietnam.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Italy, then you undoubtedly need to experience one of Italy’s great initiatives, agriturismos. If you’re lucky enough to travel to Italy with Backroads, we’ll take you there. For lunch! Agriturismos are farms with lodging for travelers.
I could see the distant glimmer of the hot coals pulsing red under the Dutch oven, stained black from ash. Apple cobbler was bubbling through the seams of the cast iron pot and its sweet smell lingered in the air, taunting hungry bystanders. I admired the flavor of the familiar atmosphere…
If you’re planning a Backroads Thailand trip we’ll be picking you up in the old Lanna Kingdom capital, Chiang Mai. We highly recommend you spend at least 24 hours in this beloved mountain city. But be careful—you may never want to leave.