After being out of the country for three weeks, I came home to a slew of travel-related e-mails and suddenly felt hungry.
No wonder: These days, a good deal of travel here and abroad centers on food and drink as much as scenery. Travelers eat gourmet meals, drink fine wine, and in some cases do the cooking themselves. Here are some examples:
Tuscan Way offers a five-night cooking and spa vacation in Bagno Vignoni, Italy, a medieval spa village clustered around thermal waters in the Val d'Orcia, 40 minutes south of Siena and an hour from Florence. The year-round package, limited to four to 12 people and costing $2,950 per person, provides accommodations in a restored 13th-century building, a day at the spa, hands-on cooking classes, all meals, wine tastings, and sightseeing excursions to Siena, Pienza, Montepulciano, and Monticchiello.
Call 800-766-2390 or visit tuscanway.com.
September and October are the months for the wine harvest throughout Portugal, complete with grape stomping and parties. Most of the wineries have special activities; for instance, at Lagarada in the Douro River region, visitors can join in the grape crushing. Many packages and programs are available. The Port Harvest Tour, Oct. 1-7, features behind-the-scenes tastings at some of the region's rising stars and famed port producers in Porto and, across the river, Vila Nova de Gaia. Participants will join harvest activities, dine on regional cuisine, and meet members of the port trade. The price is about $4,200 a person.
Visit fortheloveofport.com and click on 2007 Harvest Tour. At this writing, two spots were left.
For day-trippers, there are peaches, plums, and nectarines to pick at the Belkin Family Lookout Farm in South Natick beginning Aug. 18 and continuing through fall. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and, depending upon the date, prices range from $5-$12 for adults plus the cost of fruit.
Visit lookoutfarm.com or call 508-653-0653.
Pacific Northwest Journeys plans a culinary tour of the Seattle area, Sept. 22-29, called Cornucopia: The Bounty of the Harvest. The tour will revolve around the foods of the fall harvest as interpreted by leading area chefs, who will dine and talk with participants. The cost is $3,595 a person, including seven nights' lodging, meals, and activities, transportation, indicated in itinerary, nonalcoholic beverages at brunch and lunches, two welcome cocktails, the chef's choice of wine pairings with all dinners, and cookbooks. Taxes and tips are included, and the group is limited to 14 people.
Visit pnwjourneys.com or call 800-935-9730.
Restaurant Week Boston begins today and runs through Friday, then Aug. 12-17. Diners can choose from 154 eateries in the region and get three-course prix fixe lunches for $20.07 and three-course dinners for $33.07, excluding beverage, tax, and gratuity.
For a list of participating restaurants and to make a reservation or check hotel packages, visit bostonusa.com/restaurantweek.
There will be a dusting of flour, and perhaps snow, in Woodstock, Vt., Dec. 7-9 when King Arthur Flour presents Sarah Copeland of the Food Network for a two-part course called "The Twelve Days of Cookies," timed to coincide with the town's Wassail Weekend. Copeland will preside over a cookie-making demonstration from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 7, and a 9 a.m.-1 p.m. hands-on program Dec. 8. The demonstration costs $30 and the hands-on session $140, or $150 for both. Benchmark Inns, a group of 15 lodging spots where prices range from $125-$200, promises additional holiday ambience.
Everyone seems to be on a health kick these days. One Aldwych, a luxury hotel in London, has introduced four antioxidant cocktails. Bergamot Blue consists of fresh blueberries, Earl Grey tea, and Zubrowka bison grass vodka, balanced with lime and topped with sparkling water. Plumb Line has fresh plums mixed with Jack Daniel's, lemon, and sugar. The Pomegranate Margarita involves Gran Centenario Plata tequila mixed with fresh pomegranate juice, Pama pomegranate liqueur, and lime. And the Ginger Martini is made with Stolichnaya vodka infused with ginger and a dash of ginger syrup.
Steve Harvey of Swampscott points to O'Leary's Bar and Restaurant in Copenhagen, where "the walls are covered with Boston sports memorabilia and other Boston stuff. They even have a corner devoted to BC sports."
Anne M. Senecal of Hopkinton writes, "You can find a slice of Boston at Duggan's Reef at Teague Bay on the island of St. Croix. . . . My husband and I first came across it on our honeymoon 16 years ago and couldn't believe the amount of Boston and Massachusetts college and professional sports memorabilia decorating the place. We had a terrific lunch, too!"
Call 800-825-7040 and ask for rate code PPOT or visit hotelmarlowe.com.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at email@example.com.