There is something exciting about seeing the light at the end of a tunnel. Is it the unknown? Is it the excitement of something new and different? Was the tunnel really that bad?
Covid 19 has certainly been a long and dark tunnel but as we see the light at the end we realize how many positive things have happened along the way.
Yes, there were moments of complete stress and anger at the situation but we kept our minds busy with projects around La Chiusa and Cook in Tuscany, cooking, playing cards and FaceTiming family & friends. The long days sometimes never seemed to end but the sun came up every morning and the conversations got deeper, the card game got crazier, the plants continued to grow and the projects came to an end. (we started new ones lol).
It all seemed so heavy and never ending but now that we look back on our days of quarantine there was were so many positive minutes, hours, days and months.
Quality time with your family is a must!
Work will be there tomorrow or the day after that
Gardening is therapeutic
Working outside is fantastic (computers have batteries no plug needed)
Playing cards can show a true competitor (cheaters get caught, George)
The kitchen really is the heart of the home!
Cooking 3 meals a day is exhausting (So grateful for dish washers)
You can’t see a smile through a mask, SAD!
We actually like hanging out with each other and most of all no one was hurt, maimed, or murdered during this long period of togetherness!
The light has come and we are both happy and sad. Will we remember all these lessons? Will we play cards until 2 am? Will we make time for gardening and being outside? We think YES!
George and Linda Meyers own and operate Cook in Tuscany, a cooking school in Tuscany, Italy.
Cook in Tuscany is a six-night all-inclusive Tuscan experience based in the village of Montefioralle that includes daily cooking lessons with local women, daily excursions, winery tours, cheese making, gourmet dinners, and tours of local and historic sites. Cook in Tuscany is a luxury culinary vacation for the traveler who wants to be a local and not a tourist.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France, England and other European countries.
Did you know the Cotswolds is considered the walking capital of England? With over 3,000 miles of trails, you can walk further than from Los Angeles to New York. The past five months have taught us to value this ancient network of footpaths even more as we looked to the great outdoors for solace in a time of uncertainty.
Walking in the quintessentially English Cotswolds countryside proved to be the perfect antidote to the uncertainty most of us have been experiencing. Sadly, many of our overseas visitors have not been able to make their way to England this year. To help you dream of your next adventure from the comfort of your armchair, we would like to take you on a virtual tour instead, and introduce our beautiful corner of the world to you, following the itinerary of the first two days of our Scenic Guided Tour.
Walking to Broadway
You arrive in Chipping Campden, one of the loveliest small towns in the Cotswolds, with its picture-perfect honey-coloured cottages bathed in the mellow September sunshine. After settling into your accommodation, you are greeted by your expert local guides, Andrew Guppy and Robert Talbot, who will give you an introduction to the Cotswolds on a short walk in this lovely market town. Andrew and Robert live and work in the Cotswolds, and play integral roles in their local communities, so they are in the perfect position to tell you about the hidden secrets of the Cotswolds and what it means to live here.
A traditional Cotswolds stone cottage
We set out along the majestic high street of Chipping Campden, adorned with the fine houses of former wool merchants whose enormous wealth created the foundations of the village we see today. We see the 15th-century wool church of St James, the 17th-century almshouses, the 400-year-old market hall and the remains of Campden House, which was destroyed in the English Civil War. You will probably notice several interesting independent stores and quirky shop fronts along the way. It is worth taking mental notes of the ones you wish to visit, as you will have plenty of time to explore them at your leisure on Day 3.
Chipping Campden’s Market Hall
Church of St James
Having enjoyed your tour of Chipping Campden, you return to the comfort of your accommodation before we get together again for our first group dinner. You will probably find that another joy of the tour is just how good English cuisine has become. We do not only mean the fine dining experience of world-class seven course tasting menus in restaurants, but also our local pubs, working with locally sourced ingredients and keen to showcase traditional delights. These convivial meals, a ploughman’s lunch or bangers and mash washed down with a pint of local ale become a highlight of the day, where we all recount what we have seen and experienced together.
A perfect end to a day of walking
After a hearty English breakfast, we set off on a walk of 6 miles to visit the iconic Broadway Tower, the idyllic village of Stanton and the magnificent Stanway House.
When you embark on your walking holiday in the Cotswolds, the first thing you will notice is the sense of freedom, of invigoration to be able to meander through wide open fields of grass and crops, ancient woodlands, and quintessential English villages abundant in colour and period charm. The legacy of our network of footpaths used to mark the necessary journey to one’s place of work, the nearest school or church when walking was the only form of transport for the poor. The right to walk on recognized footpaths is shown as green dotted lines on a map but may only manifest themselves by the footprints of fellow walkers as you cross open fields. The paths were like a spider’s web joining together the communities they served. Today, they afford the visitor a leisurely pursuit, a much-needed chance to relax and unwind.
As we make our way to Broadway Tower, you can begin to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the landscape. Some believe Broadway Tower was created as a link between the two estates of the Earl of Coventry and others a token of love for his homesick wife. The Tower offers spectacular views over the emerald green countryside dotted with honey-coloured buildings, and on a clear day, views extend into Wales.
The iconic Broadway Tower
Views over Broadway
Eager to see what might be round the next corner, we make our way across open sheep pastures to the perfectly preserved village of Stanton which appears frozen in time. The main street of the village might look familiar as it is often used in TV and film sets due to its unspoilt nature. The history of this small village can be traced back over a thousand years. With the Grade-I listed 12th century church where John Wesley is said to have preached, and the honey-coloured cottages as backdrop, your guides bring the history to life.
Our final stop of the day is Stanway House, a Jacobean manor house that has been lived in by the same family since the 16th century. Here we enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch on the lawn. We fully embrace the farm to fork ethos, and endeavour to showcase the best of locally sourced, organic produce.
Our picnic on the lawn is followed by a private guided tour of the manor house and grounds, with newly renovated and fully working watermill, magnificent gatehouse and medieval tithe barn. The magnificent fountain at Stanway House rises to over 300 feet, which makes it the tallest fountain in Britain, and the tallest gravity fountain in the world.
The fountain at Stanway House
We return to Chipping Campden and your accommodation. Before our group dinner, we are treated to a slide show by a Cotswold Warden. The organisation of the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens was established in 1968 and today it counts 300 members, including your guide Robert. The Wardens are a group of individuals with a passion for the Cotswolds and a commitment to help keep it special, including offering their skills to maintain the footpaths for us all to enjoy. After the slide show, we enjoy yet another fabulous dinner and we while away the evening with lively discussions about the Cotswolds and the important things in life.
We hope you enjoyed your virtual tour with us. There is so much to see and do that one visit is never enough. Take one taste of the Cotswolds, in every sense, and you will be hooked and hungry for more. We hope to see you again soon, perhaps on one of our “real-life” tours!
Husband and wife team Andrew and Elizabeth Guppy lead Cotswold Walks, specialising in customised self-guided and guided walking holidays in the Cotswolds. Living and working in the Cotswolds is an essential part of what makes their company special. As avid walkers, they can often be found walking the routes with their dog Indie.
Andrew and Elizabeth are passionate about what they do. They strive to take you on a tour that showcases the best of the Cotswolds, from iconic gardens and fabulous local food, to sweeping vistas over the emerald green countryside dotted with honey-coloured cottages. Through careful planning and attention to detail, the mission of Cotswold Walks is to ensure you have complete peace of mind, so you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the Cotswolds and create lasting memories.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France, England and other European countries.
Although we can’t travel internationally now, Charley and I are enjoying traveling at home through memorable meals. This is one of several ways we’re creating positive moments in this unexpected year of 2020.
In an alternate universe of pandemic-free 2020, I’d actually be at home right now, in between the spring/summer and autumn seasons of our European Experiences groups. I would have already enjoyed nine trips – in Cornwall, Provence, Tuscany, the Dordogne and the Cotswolds – and I’d be looking forward to five more groups in September and October, returning to Cornwall and Provence and welcoming two groups for our new Experience trip in Puglia.
During those first nine groups, I’d have enjoyed 66 bountiful breakfasts and almost 100 lunches and dinners with our groups at restaurants, cafes, private homes, and picnic spots, featuring local products and specialties. (Each trip usually includes three meals on your own.) Fortunately I’d also be walking several miles a day to help balance all that good eating!
Sadly, I’m not in Europe this year enjoying wonderful meals with our enthusiastic travelers, but grounded at home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Charley and I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since mid-March, and during the past five months we’ve only shared socially-distanced meals at home with a handful of friends.
Memorable meals are still part of my life, just in a very different way. I’ve watched countless hours of Food Network shows, Somebody Feed Phil, and The Great British Baking Show. I love to cook and I’m sure I’ve cooked more in the past five months than in the past 10 years. I’m having fun grocery shopping with Charley, planning menus, studying recipes, preparing interesting dishes, and savoring almost every meal. Many thanks to sweet Charley who handles the less-fun kitchen cleanup.
We especially enjoy meals that bring back memories of special places and people in Europe and enable us to have a travel experience. Every few weeks since late April we’ve planned and prepared a meal dedicated to the place we would have been with our groups. We haven’t been there in person, but through food and countless memories, we’ve traveled to Cornwall, Provence, Tuscany, the Dordogne, and the Cotswolds.
Meals featuring local cuisine and food specialties are always an important part of a European Experiences trip. Most of our trips involve a week in one place, an opportunity for an immersion in the local culture. Learning about local food and trying regional specialties is one part of that immersion. Everything about eating communicates something about culture: what people eat, how they acquire it, who prepares it, who’s at the table, the structure and timing of meals. The attitudes, practices, and rituals surrounding food offer a window into a culture.
Our groups share meals together in a variety of settings: fine restaurants, small cafés, tea rooms, private homes, and outdoor picnics. During our Experience weeks we learn about local products, farming, wines and beers, dining customs, and cooking. We visit farms and wineries and talk to the owners. Our meals in the homes of our local friends are always so appreciated and provide us a real window into the culture.
Our Luberon group gets acquainted at our first dinner together, a home-cooked meal by Pierre
Food Tells Us About Culture
“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825)
Food represents tradition and heritage. Before food could be refrigerated and easily transported (and before some foods and restaurant chains became internationalized), people ate what they could grow locally. Traditional cuisine continues to be passed down from one generation to the next, an expression of cultural identity. So, for example, in the north of France – where there’s plenty of feed for cows – butter and cream are important in the cuisine. In the southwest, they cook with duck or goose fat. And in Provence, a Mediterranean climate, cooking is based around olive oil. There are similar examples all over Europe.
Since we started our European Experiences small group tours in 2006 (120 groups so far), Charley and I have shared over 2,000 meals with our groups in France, Italy, England, Austria and Germany: 950+ breakfasts and 1,150+ lunches and dinners. It’s a staggering number but represents so many truly memorable meals prepared for us with care and shared around the table with others.
A very special lunch at the home of Janet and Stefano in Chianti
So this year we’ve traveled at home, re-creating meals we’ve enjoyed and remembering special people and experiences in Europe. Whenever possible, we included products and recipes from the area, using many recipes shared with us by our local friends. We featured beverages we would have enjoyed in each place, including many wines we’ve brought home over the years. I decorated our table using linens and dishes that matched the meal, often treasured purchases from our travels.
Take a culinary journey with us as we enjoy traveling from home through memorable meals:
Traveling at Home through Memorable Meals in England
In April we celebrated Cornwall with a seafood meal of grilled prawns and scallops (using my favorite Cornish Sea Salt), served with almond rice and fresh asparagus. We began with a Gin and Tonic, using Brockman’s gin imported from England. For dessert we had fresh strawberries and cream.
The main course at our Cornwall-inspired dinner
For our anniversary on May 2 (which we had planned to celebrate in London, where we had our honeymoon), we enjoyed an English cream tea with homemade scones, strawberry jam, and clotted cream.
Our anniversary cream tea with homemade scones
As a large farming area, the food in the Cotswolds is outstanding and most of it locally-sourced. Our favorite traditional British meal is Steak and Ale pie, and we love the Sticky Toffee Pudding from the Lygon Arms in Chipping Campden. But I had fixed that meal for Valentines Day and we decided to do something different for our Cotswolds meal in late July. Our Cotswolds meal was inspired by the great cooking at our much loved inn and pub, the Lygon Arms. We began with a Pimms cocktail and a starter of fried brie with cranberries. Our main course was cottage pie with honey-roasted carrots. And we finished with a traditional dessert of Eton Mess (strawberries, meringue and whipped cream).
We re-created our favorite starter from the Lygon Arms: fried brie with cranberries
A very British main course – cottage pie with honey-roasted carrots
And for our pudding – Eton Mess (fresh strawberries, meringue, and whipped cream)
Traveling at Home through Memorable Meals in France
Our first meal from the Luberon region of Provence was inspired by our good friend Pierre who has prepared more than 100 dinners for our groups at his lovely hotel in Bonnieux. Thanks to Pierre and his assistant Sophie for sharing some of his recipes. We began with my favorite aperitif of Provence, RinQuinQuin, a peach liquor. Our three-course meal was Pierre’s “Clos du Buis salade,” his filet mignon de porc (pork tenderloin) with roasted vegetables and a gratin dauphinois, and his “Mont Ventoux” cheesecake. We have quite a few bottles of wine from the Luberon in our home cellar, and we enjoyed a red from Château la Canorgue.
Pierre in his kitchen, preparing his special “Clos du Buis” salads for our groups
Our table for this Luberon-inspired meal include linens and dishes from Provence
At home we used Pierre’s recipes to prepare our main course, featuring filet mignon de porc (pork tenderloin)
We also used Pierre’s recipe to re-create his “Mont Ventoux” cheesecake with raspberry sauce
Two weeks later we enjoyed another Luberon meal, this one inspired by our close friend Janice. She’s hosted all our Luberon groups for dinner at her home. Janice shared her recipe for her wonderful “daube de bœuf,” a kind of beef stew from Provence, which we served with mashed potatoes. We began with gazpacho and I made a cherry clafoutis, a very typical dessert for that time of year. Charley selected another Château la Canorgue wine, Coin Perdu.
Janice and her daughter Alice welcome us to their home, beginning with an aperitif in the garden
this cold gazpacho soup was a perfect entree for a hot summer day.
We love Janice’s Daube de Bœuf and were happy she shared her recipe. We served it with mashed potatoes.
For dessert, I made a cherry clafoutis, a very typical dessert in the Luberon after the local cherry harvest
For our Périgord meal in late June, I found some excellent traditional recipes online. This was a five-course meal! We began with a tourain blanchi d’ail (garlic soup), then some Périgord pork pâté (found in a specialty supermarket here). Our main course was blanquette de veau (a veal stew) with white rice. We had a cheese course of brie with cherry jam. And I made a “charlotte fraise” for dessert, a type of strawberry mousse cake. We had a Monbazillac sweet wine with the pate and enjoyed a bottle of Château Terre Vielle from the Pécharmant wine region near Bergerac.
A five-course Périgord-inspired meal. We bought our tablecloth in a market there.
Our first course – Tourain Blanchi – a traditional garlic soup
Our second course – Périgord pork paté served with Monbazillac wine
Our main course – a blanquette de veau with rice, served with a Pécharmant wine from the Dordogne
After a cheese course, we finished with a charlotte fraise, the most difficult dessert I attempted!
Traveling from Home through Memorable Meals in Italy
We really enjoyed meals highlighting the Chianti region of Tuscany, drawing on recipes from our good friends there. We used the structure of a traditional Italian meal with multiple courses.
Our first meal was inspired by the special meals hosted by our dear friends Rita and Rosita at their home Castello di Colognole. It was fun to use recipes from Rita’s cookbook. We fixed her fried artichokes, rosemary and sage for our antipasti. For the primi: tagliarelle with Rita’s roasted tomatoes. The secondi: veal with prosciutto and sage (saltimbocca) served with potatoes with herbs and garlic and sautéed spinach. For dolci: vin santo from Castello Sant’Andrea (a dessert wine) and catuccini almond biscuits (special small biscotti from this region). We drank prosecco as our aperitif and enjoyed a very special bottle of Chianti Classico riserva from Castello di Volpaia with our meal. (It was a good thing we didn’t need to drive, because we finished with limoncello!)
Rita in her kitchen at Castello di Colognole
Our table for our Rita-inspired Tuscan meal
For our antipasti course, we prepared Rita’s wonderful fried sage, artichokes and rosemary
Our pasta course was Tagliarelle with Rita’s Roasted Tomatoes
Veal with proscuitto and sage (saltimbocca) served with Rita’s roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach
For dessert – Vin Santo and Cantuccini (almond biscuits)
Our second Tuscan meal was inspired by our good friend Stefania, who leads wonderful cooking classes for our groups. We used Stefania’s cookbook and recipes, drawing on what we’ve learned observing her classes for ten years. We began with bruschetta. Our pasta was spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter and sage sauce. For our meat course I fixed Giulietta’s chicken with orange from her cookbook, served with colorful peperonata and Tuscan white beans. And for dessert – tiramisu made with vin santo. We enjoyed a bottle of Vernacia di San Gimignano from Castello Sant’Andrea (a white wine) for our first courses and then a bottle of Vallone di Cecione Chianti Classico from our friend Francesco’s winery with our meat. We visit both of these wineries with our groups.
A cooking class with Stefania in June 2019
The colorful ingredients for our Stefania-inspired meal
We began with bruschetta, served with a white wine from San Gimignano.
For our pasta course, we enjoyed spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter and sage sauce
The wonderful chicken with orange, served with peperonata and Tuscan beans
And for dessert, Stefania’s tiramisu, made with vin santo
Since we’re now at home through the fall, we’ll be traveling at home through memorable meals again soon: another Cornwall meal, a Luberon meal or two, and an Italian meal from Puglia. And anticipating 2021, we’ll also make an Alsatian meal. It’s definitely not the same as being there… and we really miss sharing meals with a group of fellow-travelers in England, France or Italy… but this has been a fun project for this unexpected year at home.
Read more blog posts about memorable meals on our European Experiences trips:
Kathy and Charley Wood lead European Experiences, week-long “slow tours” in some of the most beautiful areas of Europe, including The Luberon Experience in Provence, France. National Geographic Traveler magazine named The Luberon Experience one of their top 50 tours in the world in 2012.
Kathy and Charley host Experience weeks in the Luberon, the Chianti region of Tuscany, Puglia, Alsace, the Dordogne, and the Cotswolds. They also offer two longer tours: The European Christmas Experience (12 days) and The Cornwall Experience in southwest England (10 days).
Kathy and Charley have been traveling in Europe for almost 30 years and love sharing their special places in Europe with other travelers. They've hosted 120 Experience groups since they launched in 2006. They have a second home in their beloved village of Bonnieux in the Luberon. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.