A warm welcome to all of the members of our Aroma Tours newsletter in more than 30 countries around the world.
Robbi is in Bali at present for our Bali Women's Retreat and I am gradually settling back into our country home in Provincial Victoria just as the golden wattle and fruit trees are coming into bloom.
It is strange to be staying in one place after almost four months of adventures but equally it is wonderful to have the time to reflect on the many delightful moments we shared with our Aroma Travellers during what was nothing less than an amazing tour season.
Robbi and I 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.
I have sorted through some of the 1000's of photos we took during this year's adventures and have added two new pages of memorable photos for you to enjoy at Memorable Photos 2007-1 and Memorable Photos 2007-2
Please remember that there are also hundreds of other lovely photos that we have collected over the years in our Picture Gallery Pages for you to enjoy.
Every year there are a number of events that help Robbi and I to realize that we are now "on tour", and allow the newness of the moment and our sense of adventure to overtake all of the planning and busy-ness that always take prominence just prior to our leaving.
Of course spending a day in a long thin tube ( aka. an aeroplane ) , driving on the opposite side of the road and communicating in a foreign language are a big clue, but for me it is the particular deep gonging sound that Italian wine glasses make when they knock together that is the poignant signal that I have arrived in the land of the "Dolce Vita".
This almost Pavlovian response is due to the memory of a wonderful experience that we shared during our first Aromas of Tuscany Tour several years ago as we spent the afternoon in one of Italy's finest enotecas ( wine bar and cafe ) tasting exceptional wines from across Italy - some with an annual production of only 2000 bottles.
We laughed, chatted, sampled finest olive oil ( including the oil that is exclusively used by Alain Ducas in his restaurants ) , as well as tapenades, white truffles and other yummy aromatic goodies: all the while accompanied by the unique and joyful sound of our gonging glasses.
One of the main reasons that we continue to grow and flourish, is the on-going support we receive from our 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.
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 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.
Also please don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can assist you with any questions you may have.
I mentioned in our last newsletter that I would be completing the third and final part of "The Story of Champagne" in this edition but with the many matters to be taken care of after our time away and several unexpected tasks added to the list, I have decided to postpone part three until our next newsletter.
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-opened 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 love it when a plan comes together ( this is after all, what we do ) but also it is wonderful how providence and serendipity bring in unexpected and delightful moments for us to enjoy.
Before our tours began in Italy this year I was road-testing a lovely cafe near the main square in Modena ( Pavarotti's home town ) and happened to hear a few notes of music coming from further inside. When I investigated, I found a man sitting by himself quietly playing his tenor saxophone.
Being a sax player myself, a conversation quickly ensued and we were soon talking about jazz in Italy and reeling off our favourite musicians. Stephano continued to play some short licks and then launched into an "at table" concert. His virtuosity and quiet brilliance, as well as the sense of musical fellowship that we shared are a moment in time I will long remember.
Another magical musical moment came during our Flavours of Provence Tour when I got wind that Coco Bravall - a fabulous local gypsy swing group - had decided "out-of-the-blue" to perform in a nearby town. We have several of their albums at home and to see them live while sitting in a lovely cafe under the plantain trees was spell-binding for us all. Shades of Stephen Grapelli and Django Reinhardt.
We also had more than our fair share of Provencale folk music and dance: During our Heart of Provence Tour with the Festival of St Eloi and its parade of horses and village folk in traditional dress, pipers and drummers, young girls dancing and lots of colourful pageantry. We also discovered that we were sharing our hotel in Grasse during our Essential Provence Tour with two French folkloric groups who delighted us each morning with impromptu performances in full dress as they gathered for their day's schedule of festivities.
That's not to mention the Gospel music and performance by one of Europe's most famous contemporary drumming ensembles.
One of the most uplifting moments from this year's adventures took place during our second Aromas of Tuscany Tour on our visit to Santa Maria de Angeli in Umbria.
This was the same place where in 1206, St Frances of Assisi began his spiritual journey by abandoning his life of privilege to live as a hermit in spiritual contemplation. He later founded the order of the Grey Friars and soon thousands were drawn to his message of sincerity, piety, purity and joy.
Through the generosity of some local Benedictine monks he was gifted a small, dilapidated chapel at Santa Maria de Angeli, which he rebuilt as a small church that became known as "The Porziuncula".
As his death finally approached on October 3, 1226 ( although greatly revered ) he insisted on being placed naked on the earth in his beloved Porziuncula where he draw his last breath ( two years later he was proclaimed a saint ).
Our visit to Santa Maria de Angeli is always very moving, however this time we happened to arrive at the same moment as a group of twenty or so kindergarten age children who had come to the Porziuncula to be introduced to Mary ( May is Mary's month ).
To silently witness these beautiful, innocent, young children standing in St Frances' beloved church introducing themselves to Mary, reciting the Lord's prayer, sending a kiss to Jesus and wishing peace to themselves, their family and all the children of the world was absolutely spell-binding.
In Italy there is a long tradition of drinking a bitter aperitivo to stimulate digestion before a substantial meal.
One of the most famous is Campari which is an alcoholic infusion of more than 60 natural ingredients including bitter herbs, aromatic plants, barks and fruit peels with a distinctive red colour, originally derived from ground cochineal bugs ( a common natural food colouring ).
Gaspare Campari started his career as an apprentice licoriste ( drink maker ) in 1842, aged fourteen, at the Bass Bar located in the shadow of the main cathedral of Turin. Around this time, bitter aperitivi and digestivi were all the rage in Europe and once Gaspare had learnt the art of making infusions and macerations he quickly gained a reputation for his own creations.
He continued to live and work in Turin until in 1862, after tragically loosing his wife and two children to cholera, he re-married and moved to Milan where, with his new father-in-law's help, he set up a small cafe in the Coperto dei Figini, right next to the world's largest Gothic Cathedral.
Not long afterwards the Milanese city fathers decided that the Coperto dei Figini would be demolished to allow for the construction of the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle. Gaspare siezed on this opportunity and managed to have his cafe located at the gallery entrance in return for the inconvenience he would suffer. From that point on his fortunes flourished. The rich and famous began to patronize his cafe and the aperitif he'd created, which he simply named "Campari" after himself, became the most popular drink in Milan and then throughout the region.
After Gaspare's death in 1882 the Campari tradition was continued by his son Davide who's marketing skills brought Campari to world wide renown: Davide Campari's name appears on every bottle of Campari to this day.
Campari is typically mixed with orange juice or carbonated water and is also used to create pre-dinner cocktails that stimulate the appetite. One of the most popular being the classic Negroni cocktail:
This time I though it would be nice to enjoy the simple but absolutely delicious, southern Turkish dish - Portakali Pilic.
Oranges are abundant around Mersin where this dish originates and you can make it as hot or mild as your like by adjusting the type and quantity of chilli that you use.
Heavy bottomed casserole and a mortar and pestle
1.5 tbsp olive oil
6 chicken breasts
2 red onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed with seas salt in a mortar and pestle
2 small thin skinned oranges, washed and cut into 8 segments with peel intact
1 tsp nigella seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp currants, soaked in water for 30 minutes
1 tbsp honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 long chillies, slit down the middle - if you prefer mild, remove the seeds
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh juice of 1 orange
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp freshly chopped mint
To serve, remove the cinnamon stick and chilies the stir through the garnish of yoghurt and chopped mint.
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 email@example.com to your address book or white list to help ensure that our newsletter 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
"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
~ Kahlil Gibran
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 Picture Gallery
If you would like detailed information about any of our tours please visit 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on +61 3 5331 3254 ( afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries ).
Jim and Robbi