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What’s in Season? Foraging in February

There are wild treats to be found throughout the year but as we make our way into the Spring months the forests start to come alive. In February the snow capped slopes will start to appear green again and we can venture outdoors to get closer to nature.

So what’s in season at this time of the year. Foraging in February is fruitful if you know what to look for and where to find them.

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Hairy Bittercress

A common plant that grows year round and is the perfect replacement for cress or rocket in your salad dishes. Pick the leaves when young; February is an ideal time of year to collect these.

Nettles

This versatile stinging leaf is one of the most undervalued wild edibles around. From warming nettle soup to fresh nettle pesto there are so many ways to use this ingredient in Springtime.

Pennywort

Another underestimated small plant is pennywort. Often found crowded at the sides of forests and trees, this wild gem is said to help lower blood pressure. Eat it raw in salads or add it to dishes like you will find is some cuisine of Sri Lanka.

Wild Garlic

You will find this pungent plant growing in large patches in dense forests. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and chefs around the world will be out and about for wild garlic season. Follow your nose instead of your eyes for this wild plant as the smell will guide you to its location.

Watercress

As the name suggests this wild plant can be found near the water sides. It works well in soups and the raw leaves are packed full of nutrients and anti-oxidants.

Salad Burnet

As a member of the rose family we love this refreshing wild plant species. The leaves are small and delicate and often hard to identify. Many say that it tastes like cucumber which makes is a perfect addition to all winter salads.

Gorse

This is one of our favourite flowers. It has a mild coconut flavour and works a treat in salads and smoothies. Remember to leave some for the bees as they love these bright yellow flowers.

Be sure to wash all of your wild foraged foods carefully under luke warm water, never uproot the plant, be gentle and don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.

Now that you know whats out there you can begin your foraging in February adventures.

Enjoy learning about the wild foods around you and join us for a local forage in Ireland if you are nearby. You will find our guided day tours here.

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Inspired in Nature: Forest Walk Playlist

What music do you listen to when you are out for a walk in nature? Mostly, we tend to listen to the trees around us or the rivers running or the birds whistling but a good forest walk playlist with the right beats can put a spring in your step.

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Here are some of our favourite songs to listen to when we are out in the forest:

It was hard to narrow this list down to the above but we finally managed. Do you have your own forest walk playlist? We would love to hear your favourite tunes for outdoor listening. Send them to us below and we will add them to the list.

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6 Tasty Food & Foraging Experiences in Europe

At Orchardsnearme.com we only partner with the experts. From food filled adventures to local foraging experiences, each trip is designed to reflect the true landscape and production in a region. If you are a food and nature lover than there are some mouthwatering foraging experiences in Europe.

A Taste of Ireland: Coast to Coast

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We always start at home. As we are based in Ireland we can guarantee a fun time on this action packed food adventure. From coastal foraging along the Wild Atlantic Way to mountain walks to meeting the local historians, every activity on this excursion is unique.

WHEN TO GO: When you visit Ireland at any time of the year you can expect all four seasons in one. However, the tides do need to be considered when planning any coastal foraging adventure. We are planning expert guided tours for April and May 2020. If you want to organise a private group trip outside of these days please get in touch with us directly.

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Italian Foraging Experience

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Real foodies will be in heaven on this bespoke foraging experience. This day long tour is packed full of natures delights. You will enjoy learning about the wild produce of Italy, sample pasta making, taste the wines and meet the local experts.

WHEN TO GO: Italy can be extremely hot in the summer months so we are recommending the Spring and Autumn months for guided foraging adventures in Italy.

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Do Emporda Wine & Orchard Adventure

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The untouched beauty of Do Emporda region in Catalonia will leave you wanting more. From famous tapas to orchards bursting with fruits, this area is waiting to be discovered. Visit stunning apple orchards, taste the local wines and meet the fruit producers.

WHEN TO GO: Catalonia is blessed with the beautiful sea breeze from the Mediterranean. Even in the middle of summer if you are by the Costa Brava you should enjoy a nice summer temperature. Any month from March to September is good for this tasty adventure.

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A Taste of Slovenia: The Mountains are Calling

Untapped and ready to be explored, Slovenia is rich in nature, making the perfect partner for our team. From those who love to combine outdoor adventure and food filled trails, the Julian Alps is the perfect spot to sip the local wines and get a true taste of outdoor life.

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WHEN TO GO: There are snow capped peaks in the North west of Slovenia from December to March each year. From May to October you will enjoy warm weather and perfect conditions for getting outdoors, visiting the local food producers and experiencing the landscapes.

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Discover the Douro Valley

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Our friends in the Douro region of Northern Portugal are looking forward to welcoming you to one of the most famous wine regions in Europe. On this unique trip you will have the opportunity to visit an olive farm and several vineyards to get a true flavour of the land.

WHEN TO GO: The Douro Valley experiences warm summers and cold winters. From May to October you will enjoy sunshine, warm winds and the ideal months for witnessing the harvest activities of the region.

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A Taste of Croatia: Gourmet Adventure Break

Now renowned as the home of Game of Thrones, Croatia is a magical country to visit. From the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic coast to lush waterfalls of the interior, we will connect you with every aspect of nature. Truffles feature heavily in all aspects of this farm-to-table adventure.

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WHEN TO GO: From November to April many of the tourist accommodation and facilities close for the winter season. Between May and October you can expect dry, warm weather weather and lots of activity around all of the major towns.

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To book your next food filled adventure or learn more about the wonderful foraging experiences in Europe talk to a member of our team anytime.

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Fruit Picking Calendar

For those of us who love spending time in nature, getting to know the local produce and getting back to the land then it is useful to know what fruits are ready to harvest and when the fruit harvests take place in Europe. See our fruit picking calendar below:

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With every season comes a new type of fruit to enjoy. In winter the orange trees are heavy with ripe pickings, in Spring the cherries start to brighten the trees, in summer apples are waiting to be plucked and in Autumn the berries are alive and woodlands are bursting with fresh fruit that you can taste and smell from near and far.

For more information on any of our fruit filled adventures please contact our travel team.

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7 reasons to visit France for Nature

The world’s most visited country is blessed with stunning countryside landscapes, farms, fairy-tale cities and the french riviera. When visiting France your senses will come alive. From smelling the sweet vineyards of Burgundy to the pear fields of Normandy. This country is a food lovers paradise.

Renowned around the world for it’s fashion and romance, Paris is a must stop place to visit on your journey to France. The romantic capital is filled with public squares, spectacular architecture and the most delicious foods. Although the Eiffel Tower continues to be one of the most talked about visitor attractions in Europe, there is a lot more to see outside of the capital and we want to get you back to the natural landscape.

If you are looking for a flavour of France then venturing to the countryside will give you a taste of the land. Join us for unique food and orchard experiences in France. From the fruit filled vineyards of Burgundy to the luxurious champagne region to the orchards of Normandy, there is something for every nature lover in France.

Boasting a number of historically famous painters, philosophers and writers, France is a land of cultural gems. Starting in the culture packed centre of Paris you can travel to some of the charming surrounding regions.

  1. Picturesque villages

You are not going to be bored in France. You can get busy and cultural in cities like Paris, Lille, Lyon, Dijon, Marseille, just to name a few big French cities. You can reach a nice countryside, take your time, enjoy local specialities, take part in harvest…vineyards are waiting for you …Beaujolais, Cote du Rhone, and other countryside experience in Provence, Alsace….just choose the part of France you want to see first and enjoy its charm and beauty! Then I bet you will fell in love and continue to explore more of this stunning country.

2. French Cuisine

Pastry heaven with croissants and bagettes dripping from bakers windows. French food is elegant and comforting all in one. From the delicate crepes to the freshly plucked escargot, there is something sophisticated about the food culture in France. Each time you get a taste of the fresh produce and classic dishes you are creating long lasting memories. Bon appétit!’

3. Endless Vineyards

At Orchardsnearme.com we are all about the vino and the wine regions in France are first class. The deep red “vin rouge” of Burgundy to the sparkling Champagne region, there is so many flavours of wine on offer in France. In certain regions of France, you can sip on wine from grapes grown on the very land you’re stood on. Head to Bordeaux for the best red wines and the Champagne region for the iconic bubbly. Join our wine filled adventure in Burgundy.

4. The weather

It never gets too cold in the South of France – but man, does it get hot. If you want to see the spectacular blue waters of the Mediterranean or stroll along the Promenades des Anglais in Nice without getting a layer of skin burnt off, now’s the time to come. It’s warm enough to sit on a chaise longue all day and read a book; yet still chilly enough at night to wear that fabulous sweater you packed. Cole Porter might have loved Paris in the springtime, but nothing beats the South of France on a sunny day.

5. Art & Heritage

From the Mona Lisa to the Eiffel Tower we all know that France is synonymous with art and culture. There’s the famous battle sites of the Somme and the D-Day landings, as well as the stunning chateaux, churches and cathedrals that decorate the landscape. Avignon, Canal du Midi and Loire Valley are just 3 of the 39 Unesco world heritage sites that make France special.

6. Cafe Culture

Everywhere you go in France you will find charming cafes dotted along the side streets where you can grab a café au lait and let the world pass you by. If you are really living the French fantasy you may have a philosophy book or a journal with your musings with you.

7. Orchards and Country life

The idealised version of rural life in France isn’t a dream for the locals who enjoy the stunning countryside everyday. France is the ideal destination if you are looking to escape city life for a break. Cycle the fruit trail of Normandy to soak up the french lifetyle, visit some of the wonderful orchards and get a glimpse into history at the imperial war museums and d-day beaches.

From historic towns to the smell of fresh bread to miles of perfectly manicured vineyards you can’t help but fall in love with the french landscape. We are interested to hear your top tips when visiting France.

C’est magnifique!

For more information about our fruit and foraging tours in France please contact one of our travel specialists.

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Wine Tasting Guide for Beginners

Contrary to belief you don’t need to be part of any elite group to enjoy a sip or two of some of Europe’s finest wines. Wine tasting has never been more accessible with so many delicious grape varieties to choose. However, there are some tips from the wine experts that will help you to develop your wine palette and understand the different flavours that the top wines product.

If you are not a professional Sommelier or wine expert then you may find it difficult when choosing the right variety of wine to pair with your food for your next dinner party. Remember that people have different tastes so you might not please everyone but you can give it a good try.

Before you decide on your wines decide what you would like to showcase the most. If you are trying to highlight your best dish, showing off all of the ingredients then you won’t want to pick a wine that over powers the meal. Where as if you selecting a wine as a pairing for a cheese board you may want to get a more full bodied wine that compliments the cheese.

TIPS FOR PAIRING WINE AND FOOD CORRECTLY
Store wine in a cool, dark place.
If you are trying a dish originating from a region see if there is a local wine to pair with it. As the saying goes, what grows together, stays together!
For wines high in acidity, avoid bitter ingrediants and focus on foods high in fat.
In general the wine should be sweeter than the food.
Pinot grigio for light fish dishes and Chardonnay for rich fish dishes with sauce.

DO PAIR
Chianti and Pasta dishes
Zinfandel or Malbec and BBQ
Sauvignon Blanc and Goats Cheese
Pinot Noir and Roast chicken dishes

DON’T PAIR
Pinot Noir and red sauced pasta dishes (bolognese, lasagne)
Spicy food with strong wines
Champagne and cake (sweet plus bubbles is generally a no no)


Ideal Serving Temperature for Wine

The best temperature for red wine is 62-68 degrees.
The best temperature for white wine is 49-55 degrees.

HOW TO TASTE WINE IN 7 EASY STEPS

  • Look – It should be clear. For reds, the darker the better.
    A visual inspection of the wine under neutral lighting
  • Swirl – Release the aroma, the bouquet
  • Sniff – Give your nose a boost of flavour
  • Sip – Let the wine sit in your mouth. Don’t swallow.
  • Breathe – Take a deep breath and give the wine aromas a chance to fill your senses.
  • Swig – Now it’s time to take a bigger gulp and enjoy a full taste of the wine.
  • Savour – Develop a complete profile of a wine that can be stored in your long term memory.

TOP 3 WINE FLAVORS TO ENJOY

Fruit flavors (e.g. peach, blackberry, plum, current)
Herbal flavors (e.g. bell pepper, mint, oregano)
Flower flavors (e.g. roses, lavender, iris)

TOP EUROPEAN WINE TASTING EXPERIENCES

For more information on any of the above wine filled adventures please get in touch with one of our travel team.

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Sugar kelp: What is it and how to use it?

Giant strips of sugar kelp are often left over once a tide has receded. We picked up some delicious kelp on a coastal foraging adventure last weekend so we decided to do a little more research on this natural sweetener.

WHAT IS SUGAR KELP

This is a very impressive looking seaweed, often found washed up on the wild atlantic coastline. It is easy to identify due to it’s large size and distinctive pattern. When fresh it should look wet and slippery. Ideally you would cut this seaweed gently from its source but as it is usually hiding in the deep waters before the tide it isn’t easy to cut it from it’s nature habitat. As it dries you will see a coating of mannitol (a sugar alcohol) forms on the outside. The high levels of mannitol in sugar kelp make it a sweeter seaweed than most.

HOW TO MAKE SUGAR KELP CRISPS

Sugar kelp crisps can be made in two ways. For a super healthy crisp use the oven and for an extra crispy version deep fry in some heated vegetable oil.

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HEALTH BENEFITS OF KELP

An excellent source of Iodine which can help you to keep a health metabolism. It is also known to help detox the body and balance the level of cholesterol. Kelp also contains Vitamin k, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-12, calcium, magnesium and iron.

To see some of this amazing sugar up close you can join us on a coastal foraging experience along the Irish seashores. If you would like to learn more contact one of our travel team.

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The Grape Escape: 4 Amazing European Wine Tours

The hills come alive in the Summer and Autumn all across Europe where grapes come out to greet the sunshine and we get a taste of the land around us. From full bodied reds to crisp whites, each wine represents a place, a culture and a climate. At Orchardsnearme.com we aim to please the palette with our unique selection of European Wine Tours. Here are four of our favourites to choose from:

1. Diverse landscapes and rich cuisine. Unwind by the terraced vineyards of the Douro. This is the heart of Northern Portugal where time stands still. Learn the traditional methods of grape harvesting. Pick some juicy fruits. Famous for its food and wine heritage. Nestled between the rugged mountains and the coast of Porto, this guided vineyard experience is a special adventure for food and wine lovers from around the world.

Learn more about this Vineyard Adventure in the Douro


2. Walking amongst the Italian vines you will feel truly lost in nature. This luxury tour takes you to the heart of the Italian countryside. Discover cellar tours and long walks in an ancient setting. Enjoy a meal al fresco with pasta, pizza and plenty of seasonal wines to choose from.

Learn more about this Italian Wine Tour


3. Soak up the medieval atmosphere. Sip cocktails in the evening. From its sweeping views to its sunshine packed beaches, the Algarve has everything to offer. Admire the impressive architecture. Old fashioned, romantic Spanish streets. 

Learn more about the wines and fruits of the Algarve


4. If you are looking for a holiday with a difference than this one is truly unique. Enjoy staying in your very own wine barrel. This tour with a difference is a delight for the senses. Discover the beauty of the Portuguese landscapes while sipping on fresh Vinho Verde.

Learn more about the Portuguese countryside

For more information on the most amazing wine tours in Europe please contact one of our travel specialists.

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Coastal Foraging: Our shellfish and seaweed adventures in Ireland

This week we will take you to our stories by the seaside and do some coastal foraging. Before the rise of agriculture as we know it today, our ancestors were foraging for their daily meals. Many of the vegetables, spices, seaweeds and shellfish we find by the sea today will have been harvested by our ancestors in the past.

Historically people have always chosen to live by the sea as the shorelines offer plenty of nutrients for our diets. From the cliffs and sand dunes to the rock pools when the tides go out, there are food sources everywhere you look. Today, this tradition isn’t as popular as we have got used of the age of convenience where our local supermarket offers everything we need for our daily meals.

For those of you who haven’t tried it, please give it a go or join us for a unique experience outdoors.

There are treasures to be found in unexpected places and it is the ideal way to spend an afternoon by the beach. Our coastal foraging treks take place in Ireland with the clean Atlantic coastline and predictable tides. Let’s start with the weather. The weather in Ireland is always a good way to start a conversation. Sunshine, rain, wind and changeable weather patterns make Irish people fascinated by the weather. I should know, I’m Irish. My friends and family could spend hours just discussing the forecast for the days ahead.

You are never guaranteed to get warm weather when walking by the shore in Ireland. Raindrops comes in all shapes and sizes, tiny drops that sprinkle the ground, sideways rain that catches you off guard, warm drizzling rain that soaks you to the bone but all of these weather conditions combine to make it extra rewarding with you stumble upon some unique culinary treats.

From fresh muscles to pools of winkles, you will find everything you need for a warm cup of seafood chowder along the Irish coastline. My first coastal foraging excursion was fruitful. As a child my mother would buy us small plastic buckets and short fishing rods to scoop out the seaweed from the giant rockpools all along the Co.Clare coastlines.  Picking was part of every stage of growing up. From child to adolescent I made the transition from bucket to bag and back again when picking along the shore.

My grandfather would take the whole family to a nearby beach and we would eagerly wait until the tide had gone fully out, revealing the rockpools, seaweed and most importantly the shellfish hiding underneath. The art of picking was simple, patience was the only real skill required. Myself and my sister would spend hours scanning the shallow pools of water for the biggest winkles, crabs and mussels. Although all of the shellfish that we scoured for were easily identifiable, not all were easy to find.

Winkles were the easiest to collect. They tend to roll with the tide so it was not a matter of searching for them but more time was spent deciding on which ones to collect. I never tool the baby ones. This was my one rule for collecting winkles. Once you have avoiding the baby shells you can enjoy scooping out large handfuls of winkles alons most shorelines.

When it came to crabs I was always a little nervous to pick them up. Their claws would reach right out to stab pinch you if you were too quick. Sometimes we would just play with them for awhile before placing them carefully back in were they belonged. Laughing as they scrambled off to find their pals. Mussels were always considered the biggest treat. They clung tightly to the edges of rocks, making it more difficult to pull them off. Nothing can beat a pot of fresh mussels cooked in garlic and tomato juices. Give it a try. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.

Why not try a spot of razor clam hunting while you are by the shore. Simply bring some salt on your journey and seek out the small holes in the beach. Pour in the salt and watch in awe as the razor clams come to life.

Other favourites of mine include kelp and seaweed. These make delicious additions to salads. You can also use them to enhance the flavour of any seafood dish.

Let’s talk through how we spend an average day by the sea, foraging for some coastal treasures. We rise early to greet the sun. After choosing a meeting point we take some time to make sure we have all the utensils we need. Bucket or basket, check, pair of scissors, check, seaweed guidebook, check, hat and gloves, check. We prepare a picnic, stuffed with local ingrediants to give you a taste of the land. Fresh nettle pesto, brown soda bread, a flask full of tea and some fruit are the basics we need.


We are ready to rock in the rockpools by the wild Atlantic sea. It is always best to go with a guide who has experience identifying the goods. After meeting up with our local guide we walk towards the sea, taking time to talk to fellow foragers and enjoy the fresh air along the way. We spend some time scouring the seaside to find the ideal place to perch. This can take some time but we have timed the tides so we know that the rockpools will be visible from the edge. FYI, always check the tides to ensure the tide is out before you get ready for your trip.

With our cups in hand we pour a hot cuppa while our guide gives us the lowdown on the items we will collect for the day. Mussles, peri-winkles, seaweed and seabeet are a must, everything else is a welcome bonus. We spend the next few blissful hours scouring the rocks, learning about the sea, picking shellfish and enjoying the sun shining down on us to provide us with a welcome bit of Vitamin D.

Once we have found our pickings for the day it is off to our local guides house to create some tasty wild dishes where we will use our recently found treasure to whip up some well deserved dinner. A glass of guinness in hand and a bowl of seafood chowder in the other, what more could we want. This is our perfect day by the seaside.

HERE ARE A FEW COASTAL FORAGING TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE:

DON’T let the weather prevent you from your next adventure. Remember that a little rain never hurt anyone. If you happen to get a sunny day then take advantage of it, spending a few hours by the shore.

LEAVE enough for others. Everyday we hear warnings of over fishing so be mindful of this when you are foraging by the sea. Only pick enough for one days pickings, giving the shores time to replenish its goods over time.

WEAR suitable clothing. This is key to any foraging adventure. Waterproof shoes comes in handy when you playing in rockpools. Also, bring a spare pair of socks to keep your feet dry.

KNOW the tides. Most countries will offer websites that give you the times of the tidal currents. Keep a close eye on these. You don’t want to venture all the way to the beach to find that you have to wait five hours until the tide recedes.

DON’T be afraid of seaweed or crabs. The waves may look rough but the sea is gentle with many varieties of produce to try. You never know what treasures you will find.

Being near the sea, watching the tides, creatures, and plant life of the ocean can be a wonderful experience, away from screens and connecting with nature.

Enjoy every moment of your coastal foraging trip. If you need any more information on our fruit and foraging tours please contact us at Orchardsnearme.com

Until next time! Happy Adventures!

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Why you should travel with a purpose

Think of the last time you had an amazing travel experience? Most people remember the people, the place and the food. If you travel with a purpose you will create life long memories for your travel diary. Travelling with a purpose makes us appreciate the little things while also contributing to worldwide causes and industries.

Orchardsnearme partners with responsible travel experiences that will take you back to nature. The activities connect you with the stunning landscapes of Europe and allow you to get a taste of the local culture and foods.

Learn as you go

Are you curious about the land around you? Learning whilst you travel is the most uplifting experience. From the history of coffee plantations to the sun soaked vineyards in Italy, we can all benefit from meeting the local producers and getting some inside knowledge of the natural landscapes around us.

Go to grow

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed at work and underwhelmed with mass media then this form of travel is a great way to clear your mind. Start each day with a mission to grow. In every activity you enjoy your mind will be absorbed in hands-on experiences.

Lifelong learning

In college and University we associate lifelong learning with older adults. Perhaps lifelong learning isn’t just for people who have the time in later life, it is about drinking in the facts, listening to the tales and basking in the knowledge of others.

Meet the Experts

Discover the art of wine making and producing delicious fruits of Europe with the experts. When you travel with a purpose you have the opportunity to get to know the people at the heart of a region. Farmers who take care of the land, vineyard owners who proudly showcase their wines and food lovers from around the world.

How you travel and where you travel too is a reflection of your values, your feelings and your personality. Travelling with a purpose can connect you to your inner voice and child like self that has always wanted to learn something new.

6 Ways to Travel with a Purpose

Grape Picking at Harvest time

Olive picking in Greece

Truffle Hunting in Italy

Star gazing in Portugal

Foraging in Ireland

Investigate Medieval history in Spain

Perhaps the next time you travel with a purpose you will find out something new about yourself, learn a new skill or discover a unique aspect of a different culture that you want to take home with you. Whatever your reason go to grow and you will meet like minded curious travelers along the way.

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