A warm welcome to all of the members of our Aroma Tours newsletter in more than 30 countries around the world.
All is now well under way for next year's tour season and Robbi and I are thrilled by the wonderful early response we are enjoying for all of our 2008 offerings.
We are so very grateful and feel truly blessed to see our dreams flourishing as we continue to share our passion for our Aroma Tours with wonderful people from around the world.
We love what we do and it is always a great joy for us to receive the many lovely messages of thanks that arrive after we return from our tour season. We also enjoy browsing through the photos of our adventures remembering the many delightful moments we shared.
We thought you might enjoy a little reading and peeking yourself at: Aroma Travellers Have Their Say and Memorable Photos 2007-3
Please remember that there are also hundreds of other lovely photos that we have collected over the years in our Picture Gallery Pages for your viewing pleasure.
We are once again enjoying a fabulous start to the upcoming tour season with both our Turkish Aromatic Odyssey and Flavours of Italy Tour already fully booked as well as a healthy number of early bookings for all of our other tours.
Our booking status at present is:-
With all of this lovely enthusiasm about, it seems likely that more of our tours will be filling in the next short while, so if you are planning to join us in 2008 and would like to reserve your place, please do visit our Tour Booking Page shortly.
Please contact us at email@example.com if we can assist you with any questions you may have.
One of the main reasons that we continue to grow and flourish, is the on-going support we receive fromour past Aroma Travellers and this has certainly been the case this year with our highest ever number of returning guests. It was a great delight for us to be welcoming back so many good friends.
Robbi and I would also like to give our heart-felt thanks to all of you who continue to support us with your kind words and referrals and by spreading news of our tours and retreats amongst your friends.
Whenever possible between our busy schedule of tours, Robbi and I like to take a little time off to relax and catch up with our friends.
This year we were absolutely delighted to finally be able to stay a few days with our dear friends Jack and Sophie on their lavender farm, high in the Haute Vaucluse: arguably the largest true French lavender farm in the world.
The lavender harvest was in full swing, so everything was a bustle, with harvesters plying their way gracefully along the long rows, creating swathes of aromatic purple blooms that could be seen in various stages of drying ( over 2 or 3 days ), in preparation for their journey to the distillery.
I found myself fascinated by the patterns the machinery left in the dusty soil and the wisps of lavender scattered randomly at the end of the rows. Also, the way the landscape was gradually changing from vibrant purple, to rows of green, set between the swathes of cut blooms.
The distillery with its twin "couldrons" was the heart of operations with deliveries of fragrant lavender constantly arriving by the tonne. Ready for their metamorphosis into this most precious of essential oils: the aromatic "grassy" smell of freshly distilled lavender was everywhere.
At evening meal times it was exciting to share with our friends ( freshly back from cutting, collecting and distilling ) their news of the day's work; weather, equipment breakdowns, essential oil yield and quality...... As always the conversation quickly turned to light-hearted banter as we sat - glass of wine in hand - watching the amazing sight of the sun setting over 80 hectares of lavender fields.
During the daytime, I took to rambling amongst the fields and through the nearby forests which were absolutely bursting with wild lavender - we were after all in the natural home of this amazing plant. In one spot, I found a veritable carpet of wild lavender and nearby, dozens of hives with their nimbus of bees busily gathering lavender flavoured honey.
I can't begin to describe the beauty and incredible joy we felt during those precious few days except to say:-
"To drift off to sleep in the true darkness of night, as the gentle lavender scented breeze outside, dances across the flowering rows of purple - all is bliss, all is bliss...."
Earlier this year Robbi was a speaker at several conferences and as the finale for her presentation, "Living a Visionary Life - Rekindling Purpose and Passion", we created a Vision Statement for Aroma Tours to illustrate our journey over the years.
The combination of photos and music did a wonderful job of expressing the passion we have for our chosen adventure - Aroma Tours. We hope that you enjoy it.
The Story of Champagne continues: ( Part 1 and Part 2 can be found in our previous newsletters )
Champagne was enjoying an era of unprecedented growth and skyrocketing popularity in the late 1860's as demand for their sparkling wines continued to spread throughout the world. However, with the end of the American Civil War ( circa 1867 ) there was a great deal of political friction in Europe, which when coupled with Napoleon III's desire for power and the corruption and nepotism of his government, led to growing animosity between France and neighbouring Prussia.
The Champenois were rightly concerned about what this would mean for them; both their business fortunes and the fact that due to its' location, Champagne would inevitably become the primary battle ground for any hostilities. This concern was well founded, and in July 1870 Napoleon III declared war on Prussia.
Within two weeks, three hundred and fifty thousand Prussia troops and reservists poured into Alsace-Lorraine,
sweeping all before them. That is until they arrived in Champagne, where instead of the normal hot summer, they were
greeted with plunging temperatures and torrential rain that turned the countryside into a morass of sticky mud.
The weather had changed almost the moment that the invasion began and once again made true the ancient legend:
a bad harvest to mark the beginning of war".
Hostilities were both short lived and savage with dreadful losses on both sides. This was largely due to the advent of the machine gun and long range artillery, which were now being used for the first time with devastating effect.
By September 1st, Napoleon III had led France to a humiliating defeat and was deposed in favour of a new Government of National Defence who, despite their weak position, steadfastly refused to acquiesce to Prussia's demand for the territory of Alsace-Lorraine. Now Paris itself was to be held to account, however, unhappily for the Champenois, Reims lay directly on the line of march and Champagne quickly found itself under military occupation by thirty thousand thirsty Prussian troops.
Knowing that "The German hates the Frenchman but loves his wines", the Champenois set to walling up their champagne stores. Over the ensuing months curfews, arbitrary taxes ( usually in bottles of champagne ) led ultimately to a guerrilla war and subsequent bloody reprisals.
By January 1871 in the midst of a particularly severe winter, the situation for Champagne was bleak. It had borne the brunt of the Prussian occupation, crops had been left to rot, champagne sales were in a slump and more than two and a half million bottles had been pillaged by the Prussian soldiers.
It was at this most inopportune moment, that Louise Pommery divined that tastes for champagne were changing and decided to "risk it all" by making the first significant attempt at producing a dry white "Brut style" champagne. This new drier style was more difficult and expensive to make, needed better quality, more fully ripened grapes and required three years, instead of one for ageing.
Champagne makers such as Louis Roederer had made a name for themselves by selling sweet champagne ( mainly to Russia ) and were very resistant to the idea of Brut style champagnes, which they feared would damage the reputation of their own product. However, it was true to say that at the time, many makers relied on added syrup and sugar to mask faults in their wine ( especially excess acidity caused by picking unripe grapes ). Louise Pommery persisted against this tide of opinion by contracting growers and agreeing to buy all of their grapes as long as she could say when they would be picked.
Because of poor growing conditions in Champagne, it took three years for her to achieve the quality she was hoping for, however, in 1874 the Pommery and Greno Brut champagne produced was so good and fetched such a high price, that it swept all before it and was heralded as the best vintage of the century! Pommery and Greno as a result was transformed from a small company into one of the largest and most important champagne houses. Louise had single-handedly changed the character of champagne forever.
Following the devastation of the Franko-Prussian war, it was expected that France would take thirty to fifty years to recover, but thanks to the industrial revolution of Napoleon III's reign, the French came roaring back.
Three World's Fairs between 1878 and 1900 drew people to Paris from all over the world. Champagne flowed like Niagara Falls and helped fuel a soaring optimism that led to the construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. Every day seemed to bring something new: horseless carriages on the Champs-Elysees, the first telephone booth, the first Metro line, Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur making great discoveries, the opening of the Moulin Rouge, Hedonism and Toulouse-Lautrec's posters of beautiful women holding glasses of champagne were all the fashion.
It was the time of the Belle �poque and the Gay 90's. Everything sparkled, the people, the conversation, the decor and especially the wine! Champagne prices were at an all-time high and as one wine grower in Champagne put it, "it's like a rain of gold".
By the end of the nineteenth century, champagne was firmly fixed as part of the French national character: "It bubbles like our spirit, it is piquant like our language, it sparkles and chatters and is constantly in motion". It became the symbol of the importance of a moment: the birth of a child, a marriage, the launching of a ship, friends getting together.
With the advent of modern advertizing, the great champagne houses battled to promote their brands, often utilizing "stunts" to gain notoriety and put their name in the headlines. Eugene Mercier arrived at the 1889 World's Fair with a team of twenty four white oxen pulling the world's largest wine barrel ( it took 16 years to build and contained the equivalent of two hundred thousand bottles of champagne ).
Moet and Chandon's agent in New York substituted a bottle of their French champagne for the German "sekt" ( also a sparkling white wine ) that was meant to be used for the christening of Kaiser Wilhelm II's new imperial yacht. Unlike his father Wilhelm I, he was adamant that only German wines would ever pass his lips and when the deception was discovered it provoked an international incident, which of course guaranteed that the name of Moet and Chandon was emblazoned in newspapers across America.
Mass advertizing was new and there was an "anything goes" attitude, which inevitably led to the phenomenon of name rustling. Unscrupulous individuals used famous names like Moet and Chandon to their advantage: Leon Chandon realized that if his name was printed just right, people would confuse the champagne he made with Moet and Chandon.
Other "faux champagnes" were made by paying people for the use of their family names in order to legally high-jack their more famous name-sakes such as Clicquot ( Victor Clicquot, brick layer ) and Roederer ( Theophile Roederer, a waiter from Strasbourg ). There was even a Pommery "champagne" ( Madame Pommery, a French cook ) made in Rheims, New York USA!
The Belle Epoque was the Golden Age of champagne but as the twentieth century dawned, the glamour and excitement that characterized the era was being replaced by a growing anxiety. As one historian remarked: "The Belle Epoque had become a dance on top of a volcano".
In Champagne, cheaper grapes had begun pouring in from the south ( especially the Loire valley ), undercutting the local growers and threatening their way of life. According to them, using wine and grapes that did not come from Champagne was wrong and the result was not "real" champagne.
The situation for the Champenois continued to deteriorate and it didn't help that champagne producers only had to source 51 percent of their grapes from Champagne for the wine to use that name: the other 49 percent was up to the maker. Some unscrupulous producers even resorted to using pear, apple and even rhubarb juice! No law existed at the time that said that wine had to be made entirely from grapes and the potential for fraud and a quick profit, was enormous.
For the growers it just kept getting worse, as the vine-eating louse phylloxera began to devastate their crops. It was however, not lost on them that sales of champagne worldwide had doubled despite the fact that nearly every harvest in Champagne between 1889 and 1907 had been deplorable. The extremely low prices that they were being paid for their grapes ( if indeed they could even sell them ) led to the saying that "phylloxera isn't the only parasite in our vineyards".
Over the years until 1913, the distrust in governments that allowed Champagne's growers to be so unfairly exploited, as well as the struggle between the regions of Marne and Aube to settle the legitimate boundaries of Champagne, led the region into insurrection that at times hovered on the verge of civil war.
In the summer of 1914 the French government was finally bowing to pressure and starting to introduce measures to combat wine fraud and ensure that growers would receive a fair price for their grapes, when news arrived that a young Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo had just assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife.
World War One had begun.....
The final part of The Story of Champagne will continue in our next newsletter.
One of the exciting things about our work is the continual discovery of wonderful new places and experiences to share with our Aroma Travellers, which this year in Tuscany included a newly discovered Etruscan burial site - complete with archaeologists, unearthing discoveries on a daily basis.
The site dates from circa 600 BC and because of continuous flooding in the area during and after Roman times, it was gradually covered by a layer of protective mud and has been lying there undiscovered until now.
The site has several different tombs for high-ranking families and is the only example yet found of an intact Etruscan temple stairway. It was fascinating to talk with the archaeologists and see how Roman tombs and artifacts, added to the site in later epochs ( after the war-like Romans had absorbed the Etruscan culture into their own ) looked simple and haphazard in comparison.
For that matter the stone arch, thought to be one of the crowning achievements of Roman ingenuity was in fact invented by the Etruscans 100's of years before and was "borrowed" by the Romans.
There are so many discoveries and delights to enjoy during our Aromas of Tuscany tour and we look forward to sharing "Slow Food" and the "Sweet Life" in the beautiful Tuscan hills and villages, with our Aroma Travellers again next year.
During our travels we are always keeping an eye out for new locations and experiences to add to our offerings and as a result we are excited to announce that next year we will be spending the first three nights of our Flavours of Provence Tour in a beautiful, newly-renovated boutique hotel that we discovered and immediately fell in love with.
We have also added a few small changes to the Flavours itinerary to make our time together even more delightful.
For details please visit our Information Request Page
I was reminded of one of my favourite Provencale dishes the other day during a visit by my parents who are now living at Portarlington by the sea.
Their offer of a box of fresh mussels straight from the boat next time they visit, set my mouth "a-water" as memories of my first taste of Moules Mariniere in Avignon many years ago came flooding back.
2kg fresh mussels
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
400ml dry white wine
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
220ml double cream
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Serve the mussels in individual bowls with the sauce poured over them and garnish with the parsley. Enjoy them with lots of fresh crusty bread. Mmmm!
Over the years the circulation of our Aroma Tours newsletter has grown to more than 5000 subscribers and in these days of filters and anti-spam software it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be sure that our email will arrive safely in your inbox.
There is of course good reason to have this filtering, however, as a consequence we recommend that you add our email address firstname.lastname@example.org to your address book or white list to help ensure that our emails will continue to be delivered to you successfully.
To join us on tour all your need to do is make your travel arrangements to meet us at our rendezvous point, either with the help of your travel agent, or for the more adventurous, by booking your flights and connections yourselves. All of our rendezvous are easily achieved and naturally we provide all of the information and assistance that you will need.
Just a reminder that we have a Frequently Asked Questions Page to help answer the most common questions including how to book, travel arrangements, group sizes etc.
Our past newsletters are well worth a browse and are available in our Newsletter Archives
You may also enjoy reading a few of the stories that we have compiled over the years on our Stories of Interest Page
"If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our
whole life would change."
Robbi and I look forward to welcoming you to one of our delightful tours or retreats in the near future and invite you to visit our Aroma Tours Website for more information and to take a peek at the latest photos of our travels in our PhotoGalleries
If you would like detailed information about any of our tours please visit our Information Request Page
As always if you have any questions or if you would like us to assist you personally with advice about your travel arrangements or with any other details please contact us either by email at email@example.com or by phone on +61 3 5331 3254 ( afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries ).
Jim and Robbi