Travel consultant focused on cultural travel in the Middle East & Mediterranean
For the Smiths Hill High School community – students, parents, teachers and friends
13 – 28 April 2013
Focused on ancient cultures, this tour will start in the grand imperial Ottoman capital of Istanbul visiting the magnificent Topkapi Palace complex, the Blue Mosque, Saint Sophia, the Hippodrome, the Grand Bazaar, and a cruise on the Bosphorus.
Heading south, we pay our respects at our own sacred sites at Gallipoli. Turkey’s wealth of Graeco-Roman culture starts to become apparent when we reach Homer’s Troy and the ancient medical centre of Pergamum. The largest Hellenistic-Roman city in Asia Minor, Ephesus well repays an extended visit.
From the Turkish resort town of Kusadasi we take a short ferry ride to the charming Greek island of Samos where we soak up the Aegean atmosphere. An hour’s flight gets us to Athens where we take in the incomparable Acropolis (including the modern museum), the ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Arch, the Stadium and the temple of Olympian Zeus.
Our first stop after Athens is Mycenae, the origin of Homer’s epics and spiritual mother of the ancient Greeks. From there we move on to the magnificent Theatre of Epidaurus, still used for operatic performances. The name Olympia needs no introduction, and the present park-like site with its modern museum fulfils the traveller’s high expectation. Our last major site, the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, is the most sacred in ancient Greece, and to my mind the most beautiful of all.
Back in Athens, our last full day is spent at the wonderful National Archaeological Museum.
Flight to the delightful Ionian island of Corfu, transfer to our historic 4* hotel for four nights bed &
breakfast – included are a half-day tour of Corfu Old town, a full-day tour of the island, and a full-day
boat cruise to Paxos and the mainland
Also included is the flight to Athens and transfer to our 4* hotel for one night before departing for home or going on to other destinations.
As a travel destination, Morocco has it all – fabulous medieval cities, a range of scenery from desert to mountains to Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, a rich cultural history, exotic bazaars packed with traditional crafts, a fine cuisine and above all, friendly and welcoming people. For all its exotic nature, it’s an easy and comfortable country to travel in.
This proposed tour of 17 days will begin in the capital city of Rabat, a calm and attractive place that offers us a colourful medina overlooking the Atlantic, an ancient kasbah (or fortified place), and an easy mixture of the old and new. From Rabat we drive to Meknes, once the imperial capital and now a charming and historic old city. Nearby Volubilis is the country’s major Roman site, and well worth a visit.
Fes is the oldest Islamic city in Morocco, and is a living treasure house of history and culture (the old city is listed in its entirety by UNESCO). It’s a major centre of art and craft, and it seems to be the Moroccans’ favourite city.
After a long drive south, covering plains, mountains, rivers and traditional villages, we reach Erfoud. This is our staging post for a visit to the Sahara Desert. We visit the orange sand dunes, a village of musicians descended from African slaves, an abandoned mining village and even a large salt lake. Optional balloon flight.
After driving through the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs (the name says it all) and the spectacular beauty of the Todra Gorge, our next stop is the charming and laid-back town of Ouarzazate. Nearby is the UNESCO-listed kasbah of Ait Benhaddou - a beautifully preserved small fortified town, where several movies were shot. Ouarzazate is known as the Hollywood of Morocco, so naturally we take a tour of one of the movie studios – a delightful experience that is sure to bring out the child in us.
Marrakech is always a highlight of any trip to Morocco. The city has an ancient medina, with a huge central square famous throughout the world, palaces and bazaars, museums and quiet medieval alleys, and perhaps surprising to the first-time visitor, an elegant New Town heavily influenced by France of the 1920′s and 1930′s. This makes for an entrancing mixture of the old and the new, the traditional and the sophisticated. Optional cooking class at a nearby farmhouse.
Next stop is Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, a quiet and beautiful old town favoured by Moroccans as a summer resort. It started life as a fortified port in the 18th century, prospered as a fishing and boat-building centre, and lately flourished as a charming resort and artistic town, attracting such people as Orson Welles, Jimi Henrix and David Bowie. Its well preserved medina is still home to most of the inhabitants, and its craft workshops and restaurants are a delight.
On our drive back to Casablanca, we stop at Safi with its medina containing a 16th century Portuguese chapel and the National Ceramic Museum; and at the fascinating Potuguese-Jewish-Arab city of El Jadida.
Because of the long flight times, we will have an optional break to our return journey with two nights in Abu Dhabi, staying in a 4* hotel and enjoying a half-day tour of the city.
Accommodation in Morocco is always attractive for small groups. As far as possible, we stay in riads - these are small hotels in converted traditional town houses in the medina, usually built on two levels around a courtyard, always beautifully done and very comfortable. Given the nature of our preferred accommodation, our group will be limited to fourteen.
A complete itinerary with costs is now available – phone 02 44641289 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This 24-day tour is designed for a group of nine travellers, all members of the same family, plus myself as tour escort.
We start in the Eternal City Rome for three nights, visiting ancient, Renaissance and modern sites, sampling the marvellous Italian cuisine, and beginning our leisurely look at Italian culture.
We then head to Tuscany spending four nights in the treasure-house of Florence followed by six nights in farm house accommodation in the Tuscan countryside. This will be our base for visiting Siena, Pienza, Lucca, San Giminignano and Arezzo. We will naturally find time to call in on vinyards and local restaurants.
Our next stop is the incomparable Venice,where we spend five nights.
Heading west, we stop for three nights by the shores of Lake Garda, the largest of the Italian lakes and our base for spending time in Verona and Vicenza.
And our final stop is Milan for three nights, seeing Italy at its most cosmopolitan and stylish.
This tour was designed in close consultation with the family, drawing on my experience of Italy and paying close attention to the tastes and preferences of individuals in the group. Naturally, I would be happy to do the same for any group of family or friends.