Unique European Food & Wine Tours in 2015

Travelrite International invites you to join them on one of their unique European Food & Wine Tours in 2015.

Hosted by Lyndey Milan

September 7 to 26, 2015

Join Australian home-cook hero, TV presenter & author Lyndey Milan on an incredible journey through the unique culinary and visual delights of the Mediterranean. From the bustling food markets of Rome to limoncello & gelato tasting in Sorrento to a private cooking demonstration in an historic Tuscan castle, this Mediterranean sojourn is a degustation feast for the senses. Dine at authentic local restaurants, sample the wine at spectacular vineyards, shop in local specialty shops and colourful delicatessens and consolidate your newly-awakened palette with cooking demonstrations at sea during your luxury Mediterranean cruise. This package includes return international economy air travel to Rome, 10-night cruise aboard Celebrity Reflection, 3 nights in Rome, 4 nights in Tuscany and sightseeing tours of Rome, Taormina, Ephesus, Santorini, Rhodes, Athens, the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany.

For more details, click HERE or call Travelrite International on 1800 630 343. 


Hosted by Gabriel Gaté
September 7 to 25, 2015

Popular French chef, author and presenter, Gabrielle Gaté, invites you to join him on a gourmet tour of France. From the street markets of Paris to the Champagne houses of Reims, Gabrielle will lead you on a unique 19-day round trip of his homeland, with unforgettable visits to Paris, Champagne, Alsace, Lyon and the French Riviera. Highlights include a cooking class in Lyon, a visit to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, Gabriel’s favourite covered market in France, lunch in a beautiful local restaurant in the Provençal countryside and the breathtaking vistas of the French Riviera. This package includes return economy flights to France, accommodation in carefully selected centrally located hotels in Paris, Reims, Colmar, Lyon and Nice, daily breakfast, four lunches, one gourmet picnic & five dinners in restaurants specially selected by Gabriel.

For more details, click HERE or call Travelrite International on 1800 630 343.


Hosted by Peter Simic

September 12 to 29, 2015

Enjoy two and a half wonderful weeks with Peter Simic, Editor & Publisher of Winestate magazine, exploring the best of the French wine regions. Visit vineyards rarely open to the public, sample special vintages and meet the people responsible for the skillful production of these beautiful wines. It will be a unique opportunity to meet the personalities behind the wines, expand your knowledge of the industry and soak in the spectacular French countryside. This package includes return international economy air travel to Paris, flight from Bordeaux to Paris, accommodation in four and five-star hotels with breakfast and visits to Champagne, Burgundy, Dijon, Lyon, the Rhone Valley, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

For more details, click HERE or call Travelrite International on 1800 630 343. 


Borneo Experience by Michelle Maher

I have just participated in a trip to Borneo with Wendy Wu Tours. Wendy Wu Tours are very well known for tours to China and Vietnam but also offer Indo China, India and Borneo as destinations. Their philosophy is to offer fully inclusive tours with the best price, best inclusions and first class personal service. Our group flights were with Singapore Airlines and it was my first experience on the A380. The economy class cabin is very spacious, light and extremely quiet. After touching down in Singapore Airport it was off to find the group waiting in Terminal 2 for our connecting flight into Kuching. Our Wendy Wu representative Jenny made the introductions for our new Borneo family whom we would be spending the next 10 days with. What a great group. Our tour included 2 nights in Kuching, the capital city of the state of Sarawak, 1 night at a Longhouse, 5 nights onboard the Pandaw Orient and 1 night back in Kuching before flying home.

I last visited Kuching in 1992 and the city has grown and changed since then. Our group hotel was the newly built Pullman Hotel in the heart of Kuching and within walking distance to many of the attractions and the waterfront. The next morning our local guide Teddy met us in the lobby for our City Tour and visit to the Kuching Museum. Such an amazing place full of different cultures and traditions. In the afternoon we headed out of town to the Sarawak Cultural Village for an insight into the different tribes and cultures of Borneo and enjoyed a cultural dance performance and seeing the different house styles of the traditional people.

From Kuching we made a stop at the Semongoh Orang Utan Rehibilation Centre were we lucky to see 4 Orang-utans at the first feeding station. Wow what a highlight. After our visit we headed to Batang Ai about a 4.5 hour drive stopping along the way at a wonderful market in the town of Serian where some of us tasted the exotic fruit called Durian. Durian is grown around the area and is known for its horrible smell with the sweet tasting fruit inside. Also enroute was a stop at a local Pepper farm to see the Pepper trees and how the pepper is harvested. We arrived at Batang Ai Reservior where a local ferry service was required to get to our next overnight stop at the Hilton Bantang Ai Longhouse Resort. The resort is set into the wilderness and is an eco friendly resort. The Longhouse is set with a huge corridor space or enclosed verandah with rooms off the corridor. What an amazing place. Our Dinner setting was outside on the Verandah overlooking the lake just in time to see the sunset.

The next day we traveled to the town of Sibu to board the Pandaw Orient our home for the next 5 nights. Pandaw cruises are well known for the Mekong River cruises along with cruises in Mynmar. Our cabin had all the facilities you need and we settle in for our adventure. Over the next few days we experience life on the river, market towns, long houses, villages, visit a local school to meet the children and teachers along with the local doctor, enjoy a special picnic set up on the river bank, jungle walks, onboard lectures from our local guides, fabulous meals including local dishes, western style and vegetarian options. The locals are very friendly and we receive many waves and hello’s along the way. Every evening before dinner we gather on the Sun Deck for cocktails and the briefing for the next day’s programme. The Pandaw Orient can accommodate up to 60 passengers and we have 40 passengers including our group onboard this sailing. The other passengers are from all over the world including Germany, New Zealand and Thailand but the majority are from Australia and vary in age groups. We were lucky to travel with Connie a 94 year old who has made Thailand her home.

We celebrated 3 birthdays while on our tour. The staff onboard the Pandaw were wonderful and made the girls feel very special with cakes and gifts. Something they will treasure and remember fondly I am sure.

Our time onboard the Pandaw went very quickly with always something to see and do. We arrive back in Sibu a very busy town with one of the largest markets in the country. After a short city tour we boarded our flight back to Kuching. That afternoon we enjoyed a Sunset cruise on the Sarawak River. What an amazing sunset. Dinner was at Topspot a popular local hawker style restaurant. More fantastic food!

What a fabulous tour and experience we had. We all boarded our Singapore Airlines flight back to Australia with great memories.

Michelle Maher

Travelrite International

Call me if you are interested in Borneo or Pandaw Cruising (03) 9836 2522 or sales@travelrite.com.au


Slow food makes a memorable Winestate 2010 tour of Italy


ITALY is a land of tribes, and in some ways this is what makes it so fascinating. Family is all-important and if you are lucky enough to get a ‘slow food’ invitation to a winery or a family home, grab it with both hands and wipe off the rest of the afternoon.

Winestate magazine and Travelrite International completed their third tour of Italy recently and we were overwhelmed with great acts of kindness and generosity. Our slow food adventure that evolved on this trip made it one of the best wine tours we have conducted. This time we travelled north from Rome with great anticipation for visits to some of the world’s most romantic places; the wine regions of Tuscany, Piedmont, Franciacorta and Verona quickly come to mind, along with the food experience of Emilia-Romagna.

To me the ideal tour group is one that has about 20 -30 persons on the tour, ideally with a specialist guide (I call them colour commentators) and a travel operator who handles the logistics. You then have enough people to find some you relate to, whilst avoiding those you don’t and you are secure in the knowledge that the guide can focus on giving you a good time, without the pressure of finding out why the tap in your hotel room doesn’t work.

Like a good wine, a tour should be balanced, offering a number of memorable visits, some hosted lunches or dinners and free time in old towns for lunch/ coffee/church/museum visits, whatever takes your fancy. Of course, all accommodation B&B, and bus travel must be included.

Here is a follow up report on an Italian wine tour that I conducted last year.

Our first visit took us through the wine region of Umbria, home of the quaffable soave, the step off before Tuscany and a very much underrated area. We were hosted by Lady Livia of Castello Della Regine, a winery owned by her and her famous Milanese lawyer husband, Paolo Nodari, for a marvellous gourmet lunch and an interesting tasting of their unusual red and white blends, which were combined to produce the best possible wine rather than as an afterthought. However, their 100 per cent sangiovese-based Riserva was also a great surprise and would sit well with the best from nearby Tuscany.

After settling in for a three-night stay in the delightful ancient town of Siena, the next day we ventured to the historic Fattoria Della Talosa winery, with a cellar door underneath the town of Montepulciano, gateway to a Tuscan wine experience. Here, while sipping sangiovese, we admired the ancient caves with seashells in the walls and ceilings  proclaiming a previous prehistoric period. Another ‘light’ lunch was enjoyed, with our host Allessandra proclaiming  “typical Tuscan food – salami, prosciutto, pecorino and bruschetta”, with the request for us to “feel emotion and passion(s) from our wine.” We certainly did!

After lunch, a quick trip took us to the super-modern Poliziano winery, with great attention to technical winemaking detail and all the whizz-bang stainless steel and premium oak barrels  you would want to see. It was not surprising that we enjoyed a range of their finely crafted wines. We finished the evening with a hosted walking tour of Siena, with notes taken on likely enotecas for later visits.

The next day saw us in Montalcino, home of the Brunello di Montalcino wines. These wines are the higher-priced versions of sangiovese found in the Tuscany region and have a reputation to match. Our first visit was to Argiano, a classic, stately Tuscan villa built during the Renaissance period. Here we enjoyed a nice range of wines, with drinkability the hallmark. Not far away was the boutique winery of La Togata, everyone’s idea of a summer wine retreat, with a Roman lawyer in charge. They offered nicely crafted wines, with artisanal sensitivity.

That night we enjoyed our first Winestate-hosted Celebration Dinner at the La Bottega del 30 restaurant in a small village north of Siena. The love story of French chef Helene, who followed her Italian husband, Franco, to this town can be seen in the beautiful food that had our tour group raving. Some said it was the best meal they had ever eaten. If you dream of an Italian cooking school holiday, look no further. See their website for more details.

In the Chianti region we visited the extraordinary ancient walled town of San Gimignano where, after a cancelled late-evening winery visit, we commandeered a local enoteca, shut the doors, took over their cellar and ordered the best wines in the store. A nice consolation!

Then we travelled onwards and upwards to the Villa Sensi winery, a superb former hunting lodge of the Medici family, where the hospitality overflowed and our host Massimo delivered the ultimate Italian slow food experience. The wines kept coming and we were amazed at the great-value prices they commanded. Their wines are also available in Australia.

Nothing in Italy is predictable. With wine gifts for all, including lime green winery T-shirts (which made us look like Irish tourists), our tour group voted to stay on and enjoy the sumptuous hospitality rather than move on to our programmed next winery visit. “Cest la vita!”

Now staying in Florence, the group enjoyed a hosted morning tour of the city with free time for lunch before an afternoon visit to the Castello di Gabbiano winery, owned by Australia’s Foster’s Wine Group (now Treasury). This location offered a spectacular view over the hills from the top of the castle. After tasting a nice range of wines, we liked the 2004 IGT 100 per cent sangiovese, which we were told wasn’t labelled as riserva because they had “run out of labels”. Great value!

Now that our Tuscany wine sojourn was over I found it interesting that, compared with previous tours, many wineries were now admitting that a percentage of their sangiovese wines contained cabernet or merlot, following the lead of the “Super Tuscans” from the Bolgheri Coast. Others were proudly pushing their concentrated 100 per cent sangioveses. It did seem odd that quite lean merlot was widely used to “soften” the sangiovese fruit. Sangioveses can be quite tannic and acidic, often with a herbal bitterness on the finish, which makes them great food wines, but less so at wine competitions. Merlot, as a variety has marginally less acids and tannins (although can still be quite lean as it is part of the cabernet family) so maybe the thought is that it can reduce the impact of sangiovese toughness. However, I would have thought that a blend with well-ripened syrah (shiraz) would have been a better option, and I noted that a few houses were experimenting with this blend.

On our third wine tour of Italy, for the first time we did a detour through the “food bowl” of the country, Emilia Romagna, and we were so glad we did. After a few hours enjoying our own free-time long lunch and exploration of Bologna, the mother ship (bus) headed on to the outskirts of Parma, where we were introduced to the delights of premium lambrusco, made in a dry and semi-sweet fashion rather than the sickly-sweet, commercial style sold in bucketloads around the world.

Here at the Medici Ermete winery we experienced another ultimate Italian family experience, where the whole family, including children, served us courses of food, with varying ages of parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar. Our host, Pierluigi Medici, proudly showed us his “hobby”, cellar where row after row of miniature barrels of balsamic vinegar dating back 10, 20 and 40 years were on display. Then, to top it off, Pierluigi organised a special morning visit to the local parmesan factory. We felt very privileged.

After the optional parmesan visit, with some in the tour group venturing on to the Ferrari museum, we had a free day in Parma, followed by the evening Winestate Celebration Dinner at the two-hatted, elegant Parizzi restaurant, with a superb wine list and food to match.

Before beginning our tour of Piedmont I advised our group that we were about to encounter the “toughest” wines in Italy, with mouth-ripping tannins and acid to boot, with tea leaves and herbs a feature of these noble nebbiolos. By the time we had completed our tour I had to embarrassingly explain why we didn’t find any (maybe one). In the ever-increasing globalisation of wine, it seemed that producers were making softer, more consumer-friendly wines that could be drunk earlier and without fear. Unfortunately, the trade-off is that we are unlikely to see as many of  the great masterpieces (but also fewer sump oil wines).

To launch our Piedmont experience, we began by visiting our old favourite, Produtorri del Barbaresco, where el supremo Aldo Vacca gave us a masterclass of the region. I simply sat back and enjoyed the response from our tour group. If you get a chance it is worth a trip just to get to hear his amazing knowledge of the terroir and wines of Barbaresco and Barolo. Although his winery is a co-operative it actually chooses and picks the best fruit from its many growers to make premium wine, unlike many others. We greatly enjoyed a range tasting, followed by a hosted lunch at the local restaurant.

This was followed by an amazing vertical tasting of barberas, dolcettos and barolos at the Cantine Paolo Manzone, where the man himself took us through the complexities of the varietals and the region. Here we saw at first hand the trend towards New World, earlier-released styles of winemaking. The vista from this winery overlooking Barolo has to be one of the world’s most beautiful wine region views!

Next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we arrived at the Antinori-owned Prunotto winery, a classy establishment. There we enjoyed a mini-masterclass of eight Piedmontese wines, all reflecting the purity of the grape from this high-tech, high-expertise winery. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the lovely town of Alba, home to the white truffle.

More enjoyment was in order the next morning as we visited Azienda Agricola Marrone, another lovely family winery, halfway through creating a traditional-style Italian villa winery with all the natural elements: solid wood beams, terracotta tiles and iron. When it is completed it will truly be a delight for visits by tourists and winelovers alike.

After a relaxing tasting of Barolos with the obligatory prosciutto and soft Italian cheese from the delightful daughters, we ventured up the planks and railing to the third-floor balcony-in-waiting to enjoy the view. No dangers of occ. health and safety here. What we found hilarious was the story about their miniature dog, which we were told was like a cat and liked to the climb the building. We thought “Yeah, right,” until the next minute there he was, running over the terra cotta roof tiles, three floors up.

The coach was buzzing as we travelled on to Milan for a two-night stay, including a tour of the city the next morning and a Winestate Celebration Dinner that night. The next day was one of our most memorable, with a visit to the fabulous La Montina winery in the region of Franciacorta, This was organised by our Italian wine writer, Georgio Fragiacomo, who made sure all stops were out. Here the sparkling wines are made in the French methode champenoise style, offering great flavour at amazing value. When we arrived we were treated like royalty in a beautifully designed winery which had its own chef and culinary staff worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant. After endless toasts by our host through sumptuous courses, we all voted to cancel the next winery visit and continue on with the ultimate expression of our Italian “long lunch”.

Needless to say, the bus was very quiet as we arrived at our next destination, Riva del Garda, a small town on the northern end of Lake Garda, with the regions of Alto Adige to the north and Verona to the south. Here we appropriately booked into a spa and massage resort hotel, the Hotel du Lac et du Parc. Set among old, cool-climate rainforest and next to the lake, it’s a highly recommended destination for those wanting to chill out for a few days. We used this idyllic location as our base the next day to travel south to visit the Azienda Agricola Monte del Fra winery, where food and wine was again laid on by our charming hostess and a book on winery dogs could have been written about this location alone. After waving farewell, we were left to our own devices in the ancient town of Verona, where some of our group hunted down the enotecas while others kept abreast of happenings at Juliet’s balcony.

A truly great Michelin-starred meal was enjoyed that night as our last Winestate Celebration Dinner at Verona’s Il Desco, with chef/owner Elia Rizzo and his wife and son (and staff) putting on a superb spread in a restaurant exuding style and substance. It was a nice official ending to the tour and worthy of the great days enjoyed before. Throughout the tour we enjoyed some of Italy’s finest wines in our Celebration Dinners, including cabernets from Ornellaia, Tignanello and Sassicaia, sangioveses from Antinori, nebbiolos from Gaja and Angelo Cesare, amarone from Masi and too many others to mention; lovely aged wines that best showed off this amazing country.

As an epilogue and wind-down, the next day was organised as a leisurely tourist experience for our group, with a ferry ride from Riva del Garda to Limone for lunch, then an optional extension to Malcesine, with spectacular water and granite hill scenes abounding.

I say this at the end of each tour round-up: what makes our tours so enjoyable is the extraordinary hospitality shown to us by our winery hosts, the interesting agenda of old-town visits (and free time to mooch around), along with some superb Winestate Celebration Dinners, but also the wonderful conviviality of our tour group, where widely diverse personalities become friends – which maybe is not difficult when good wine and food is involved! Personally, my great enjoyment is seeing people enjoy themselves through these great experiences.

Peter Simic is the owner and Editor/Publisher of Winestate magazine. He has conducted 11 wine tours to France, Italy, Spain & Portugal and one on the QE2. The next tour is the Winestate Wine Tour of France , September  10 – 26 September 2011.

Details: www.travelrite.com.au/wine_tours.shtml

Carnival Spirit’s Australian Departures Now on Sale

Carnival Cruise Lines is thrilled to be dropping anchor in Australia for the first time, with the launch of year-round itineraries on Carnival Spirit in October 2012.

Carnival Spirit will offer eight to 12-day cruises to the Pacific Islands from Sydney with limited sailings to New Zealand and select cruises from Melbourne.

Offering Australians the best in cruising holidays – Carnival Spirit combines the quality, excitement and fun that makes Carnival the world’s most popular cruise line.

At first glance, you’ll notice that Carnival Spirit is as long as three footy fields and has 10 different open-deck spaces to choose from, each offering a distinctive experience.
Kids and “big kids” can splash, swim, scream and slide into action at one of the three pools, or Carnival WaterWorksTM featuring a splash park and two speedy water slides. Exclusively for the Australian market, guests can go for action adventure by testing out the steepest water slide
to feature on a cruise liner.

If social is more their thing, guests enjoy good times with good friends by indulging in the full onboard entertainment program including live band karaoke and ‘The Punchliner’ comedy club. While others test their Aussie trivia knowledge with regular quizzes on the outdoor lido area or become a master of mixology with a cocktail making contest.

When rest and relaxation is in order, Carnival can guests indulge in some quality time-out in the child-free, SerenityTM pool area or an intimate table for two in the Steakhouse.
Whatever the mood, Carnival Spirit has been enhanced specifically for Australians and our Aussie Cruise Director, Stu, will have an experience to suit everyone’s holiday – day and night.

The first ever Australian brochure from Carnival Cruise Lines features eight to 12 day cruises to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji as well as 13 day cruises to the wonders of New Zealand and two Australian coastal samplers.

Whether cruising as a couple, group of friends or family, Carnival Spirit has a wide range of spacious and well-appointed staterooms to choose from, including over 600 balcony staterooms. Families in particular will appreciate the interconnecting staterooms and the quad balcony staterooms, but book soon as these will fill up quickly.

With bookings open now we’re inviting Aussies to come aboard, join us and have the kind of holiday they’ve only imagine.  Visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au or call 1800 616 434 to book .

Source: Complete Cruise Solution

Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth

Sandra and I have just returned to the new Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, after attending the naming ceremony at Ocean Terminal in Southampton, UK. The new Queen Elizabeth was named by HRH Queen Elizabeth in an impressive ceremony late on a sunny Monday afternoon. Almost 2000 guests from all over the world cheered as the Queen released a bottle of champagne which hit the ship with a loud bang and set of fireworks and a celebratory display of streamers. During the ceremony we were entertained by the massed bands of the Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus. Lesley Garrett, Britain’s most popular soprano sang, had everybody on their feet as she sang Amazing Grace. It was a great British event!

Queen Elizabeth is sister ship to Cunard’s Queen Victoria with gross tonnage of 90,000 tons, passenger capacity of 2068 and 1005 crew. The decoration is more subdued that Queen Victoria with a concentration on mellow timber colours. The aft sun deck and pool area has been enlarged, a Midships bar has been added on Deck 3, and the popular Cafe Carinthia has been extended. The Queen’s Room remains the central focus of the ship. The Queen checked out a gold bust of herself and a specially commissioned portrait in the Queen’ Room this afternoon Queen Elizabeth sets sail tomorrow on her maiden cruise to the Canary Islands. She will in Australian ports in February 2011 during her first world cruise. She will deliver a wonderfully elegant travel experience to everybody who loves the Cunard style of cruising.

Filed by Travelrite International’s Neville Walliss from Queen Elizabeth in port at Southampton, Monday 11 October 2010.

Travelrite have a range of specials Queen Elizabeth escorted cruises sailing from Australia. Visit  www.travelrite.com.au for details

Welcome to the Travelrite Blog!

Hi and welcome to the Travelrite blog. Here we will keep you up to date with what’s happening at Travelrite and all our tours. We also have 2 other websites offering tour specials.

www.cruiseoffers.com.au – Australian and international cruise specials. Save up to 50% off on a huge range of fantastic cruises.

www.paintingworkshops.net – Workshops with the very best artists and painting locations. Australian and international destinations.