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Considering Culturious? Consider This!

Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh on 9/30/2015
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Culturious, Small Group Travel, Art Travel, Austria, Europe, Florence, Italy, Local Markets, USA, Vienna, Yellowstone


ct_introWhat makes Culturious group travel a different kind of Tauck experience? I thought it might be helpful to share the perspectives of some recent Culturious travellers who are also very experienced Tauck travellers.

Heinke McDade, President of McDade Travel agency in Roanoke, Virginia, is a seasoned Tauck traveller who has experienced our river cruises, Exotics and North America trips. She recently travelled on her first Culturious trip, Tuscany & Cinque Terre. I asked her what she thought made travelling Culturious-ly unique.

tuscany_cooking_schoolSo many learning experiences! I loved mastering the ins and outs of ordering coffee like an Italian: what to drink in the morning vs. the evening – and that a latte is served with hot milk! I also loved our hands-on cooking lesson at a Tuscan cooking school, so much so that I tried the recipe out at home. While cooking with my young grandchildren, I not only rediscovered my rolling pin but was able to share the essence of what I’d learned in Tuscany. No matter that the dough didn’t do what it should have, we had a great time. And there are now two new devotees to the world of Italian cooking in the family!

cinque_terre_footpathsIn Cinque Terre, our group spent two hours walking along the footpaths that link five gorgeous villages of tall, thin pastel-hued homes and cobbled streets. Nearly our entire group happily hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza with no falls and no slips, despite a few steep passages. [Those who chose not to hike accomplished the same distance in a four-minute train ride!] The views along the paths: terraced vineyards, olive groves and deep blue seas, were spectacular, as was the boat ride along the “Gulf of Poets” from Portovenere.

In Florence’s Oltrarno District, we visited working art restoration studios where young artists represented an amazing mix of backgrounds and cultures. We were able to watch a group of 10 artists working to piece back together a wall-sized mural from a museum in Milan. The mural had shattered into a thousand pieces during a move from one gallery to another. Fascinatingly, we learned how they were able to reassemble the mural using an adhesive that allowed them to safely move the pieces again without harm.

art_restoration_studioOh, and the American art professor who shared his knowledge of Florentine art history with our group was fabulous. Had I been a student, I would have signed up then and there for a semester abroad.

Lora Schapiro, a Tauck sales representative based in North Carolina, has travelled on more than 20 different Tauck trips. In 2015 she travelled on Culturious Imperial Europe: Budapest, Vienna & Prague. Here’s what she had to say about her Culturious experience.

It was so good! Just so good. Our group of 22 guests was divided into two for many of the activities, which meant that we could go inside a private home or an intimate restaurant that simply couldn’t accommodate a larger group. But beyond the advantages of a smaller group size, the trip’s cultural experiences helped me to understand what it’s really like today to live in these historic cities.

central_market_hallFor example, at Budapest’s Central Market Hall, our group was sent out to shop for a list of items to purchase (in Hungarian). While our local guide was there to help, she challenged us to figure out what the items were and how much to buy (the quantities were given in metric measurements). We purchased zucchini, sausages, peppers and onions and then drove across the Danube to a restaurant that had been privately opened for our group. There, in an outdoor cooking area, we helped to prepare a lunch of lecsó, a ratatouille-like dish, and crepes – luscious and so much fun!

The travellers in our group ranged in age from 20-something to 90 – a wonderful mix. This made our evening in a Vienna coffee house, where we had dinner with a local resident, even richer. We were given a “menu” of suggested questions to spark conversation – the kind of in-depth conversations for which Vienna’s coffee houses were made famous. Over a classic meal of wienerschnitzel, our table of six had a delightful time conversing with a young man who had grown up living around the world and chose to settle in Vienna. Hearing his views of what it’s like to live in Vienna today, and exchanging opinions on a variety of topics, was a great way for our group to get to know one another. Not every group took the suggested questions quite so seriously; some enjoyed simply chatting with a local. But everyone loved the experience.

In Prague, our after-dinner Mysteries and Legends tour – on and around the Charles Bridge – did just what it was intended to! Led by a guide dressed in a long cloak, the ghostly stories and the surprises along the way lent a delicious chill to the evening. And the views of Prague at night, wow!

bob_landisI think Culturious is about going local and immersing through an expert’s nat_elk_refugeeyes. On Culturious Wonderland: Yellowstone in Winter, our guests spend an evening with the Emmy Award-winning wildlife cinematographer, Bob Landis. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to Landis and to read the amazing reviews of his work. He’s not only praised for the fascinating wildlife scenes that he’s captured again and again on film, but for his respectful approach to studying the behavior of wolves, elk, coyotes, bison and bear. Our guests enjoy an exceptional experience of Landis’ stories and photography, shared firsthand.

And it’s with knowledgeable local guides that our guests experience the grandeur of Yellowstone’s own Grand Canyon, the surreal landscape of Hayden Valley and the National Elk Refuge by horse-drawn sleigh. What makes these experiences beyond ordinary is not these remarkable landscapes (and wildlife) alone, but having them personally shared by individuals who care deeply about them, and who know them so well that they tell their stories simply but engagingly.
 
Averaging 20 travellers, Tauck’s six Culturious trips are designed for those who seek a small group travel experience. In Europe, Culturious explores Tuscany, Venice, Florence, Rome, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Provence and more. In the western USA, Culturious explores Yellowstone and the Tetons. As one of the newest ways to travel with Tauck, Culturious offers active immersion (hiking, bicycling, rafting and more) and broadened horizons (art lectures, insider talks, cooking lessons and more).
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