Trafalgar Guide Comes Up Trumps

10 February 2015

The heaving river of people flowing through Istanbul’s 500 year-old spice market quikly pulls our group into its current.

With barely a fennel seed’s width between Saturday morning shoppers, shoulder to shoulder we stream through the fragrant corridor passing gold shops, huge conical piles of spices, chaotic collections of tea sets and brightly hued shoes.

Where to start? How much to pay? How to communicate? How to shop without losing your companions?

Then Yesim appears – our Trafalgar tour director – guiding us into a spice boutique she knows well. Taking charge she swaps friendly chit-chat in Turkish with the owner and before you can say ‘vacuum pack’ our bags are filled with aromatic tea blends, spice mixes and pistachio studded Turkish Delight.

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That Vital Back-Up Is Always There

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 Collections of brightly-hued shoes

The experience is a good example of the advantages of choosing a guided holiday with Trafalgar.

Whether you are touring the vineyards of Tuscany or the castles of Scotland – as a Trafalgar guided holiday guest you have 24/7 access to your local tour director who not only takes care of your practical needs when travelling but who shares inside knowledge of your destination, giving you richer memories to take home beyond standard guide book fare.

 Our hosts served olives

Across Europe, Britain, the Americas, Canada, Asia and Africa guests can relax and enjoy new sights, food and experiences with the back up of language expertise, priority access to attractions and someone in the know to answer all your questions.

Tour directors look after your luggage, book wake up calls, recommend the best ways to spend your free time and share their on-the-ground knowledge on everything from finding the best shoe shops and gelato to where the coolest bars are.

No matter which style of the seven Trafalgar holidays you choose, all include specialist ‘Insider’ and ‘Be My Guest’ experiences which would be near impossible to organise as an independent traveller.

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Go Shopping With A Chef

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For example on our Highlights of Turkey tour, a local archaeologist joined our group on a tour of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum, enriching our experience with years of expertise on the city’s famous landmark.

Regardless of your trip style, experiences exclusive to Trafalgar are available all over the world. In Florence guests can shop with a chef before learning to make pasta from scratch.

 A bewildering array of spices

In California, tour and dine at a family-run boutique winery sipping on the local drop.

In Buenos Aires, put on your dancing shoes, take a samba lesson, then enjoy a private show.

In Provence, one of France’s acclaimed pastry chefs will demonstrate how to create the perfect macaroon in the kitchen of his Michelen rated restaurant.

Centrally located accommodation in major cities and regional centres means you can use the free time on your itinerary to easily explore your destination with major attractions, restaurants and shopping on the doorstep.

Optional tours give even more flexibility.


Ever tried a real Turkish bath? A Guide to Istanbul’s Turkish Baths

Turkey had a starring role in the Bond Skyfall movie. Top Turkish Sights that Feature in Bond’s Skyfall


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Those Long Queues Are Not For You

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Free wifi on modern, comfortable coaches is standard. As are long-range high tech headsets to keep you connected to expert commentary while leaving you free to enjoy walking tours at a leisurely pace.

VIP access to the Vatican, Colosseum, Eiffel Tower and dozens more museums and historic attractions across the globe means Trafalgar guests glide past long queues synonymous with iconic sights of the world and go straight in to see renowned artistic, architectural and historical wonders.

New in 2015, the Hidden Journeys program joins the Trafalgar portfolio focusing on small groups of up to 26 staying in unique properties.

Accommodation highlights in the new Hidden Journeys collection include Ireland’s Ashford Castle in County Mayo, the magnificent country estate Albergo Dell’Agenzia in Pollenzo Italy and the country mansion Balibrook House in the English city of Bath.

Trafalgar’s Matthew Cameron-Smith says expert staff members comb the globe searching for new immersive experiences and hotels. Itineraries are updated each year, recognising that memories are made as much from experiences as sightseeing.

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Hidden Journeys Off The Beaten Track

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“We leave our guests enriched from their travels, building their knowledge and understanding of the places they visit with us,” he said.

“In 2015 we will continue to dig deeper and enhance every itinerary to give guests a richer more comprehensive experience.”

Eleven new Hidden Journeys will be available this year with itineraries in Europe, Ireland, Canada, Panama and Asia in which guests will dine and stay in places more suited to smaller groups.

“We will be showcasing unique properties in less visited destinations and boutique settings,” said Cameron Smith.

 Endless rows of tea sets

Among the experiences on offer on the Hidden Journeys holidays will be a visit to the mystical Black Madonna in the French town of Rocamadour, a tour and taste at Switzerland’s famed Kambly biscuit factory and a cruise along Turkey’s spectacular Turquoise Coast on a traditional gulet yacht.

Along with the extensive new Hidden Journeys choices, five Secrets of Italy, Ireland, France, Greece and Switzerland holidays feature in the new 2015 Europe and Britain program.

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Far From The Madding Crowds

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The Be My Guest program which is included as part of all Trafalgar’s offerings, has also evolved and been updated to recognise that travelling is not always about joining the crowds in iconic places.

New Be My Guest experiences have joined the line up as part of Real Britain holidays in 2015 with two vineyards in South Wales welcoming guests for the first time, as well as new dining experiences in Scotland, Italy and Ireland where guests will feast in the art-filled private home Broc House in the verdant Sligo countryside.

“Hidden away along the country lanes of South Wales you’ll meet the young owner of Llanerch Vineyard who will take you to his secret garden to taste the Cariad sparkling wine produced there,” said Cameron Smith.

 Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

“While at Broc House in Ireland our host, who is a specialist in Irish poet W.B Yeates, will entertain guests with tales of the great man and recite some of his poetry.”

On our Highlights of Turkey trip our Be My Guest lunch took us high into the olive-laden mountains of north-west Turkey to a tiny village where we dined in local homes.

Wearing elaborately decorated traditional dress and headscarves, our hosts served olives freshly picked from their own trees, stuffed vine leaves and an array of local specialities.

It was a day to remember always. And isn’t that what holidays are all about?

Angie Kelly

Planes, trains and cruise ships have taken Angie Kelly from sandy droplets in the Pacific to the cloud-piercing peaks of Switzerland, taking in spice bazaars, rooftop bars and roller coaster cars along the way. As a former editor of Fairfax’s Traveller on Sunday, Angie is hooked on the thrill of going places for the first time as well as finding fresh things to love and write about in favourite Aussie holiday spots.