Tasty trip to Europe

Tapas bars are explored in The Complete Basque Adventure

Tapas bars are explored in The Complete Basque Adventure

 

ASK JOAN:Your travel questions answered

We’re flying into La Rochelle on June 25th to travel to Les Mathes. We can’t find any information regarding transport links from La Rochelle to Les Mathes, can you help? – ND, Westmeath

The local bus company in this area is online at carabus-transport.com. The site is in French and the online timetables appear to run up until July. However, if you are staying in a resort around Les Mathes, ring them and ask them to check the times for you, as local bus timetables can change. There is a list of taxi services on the website larochelle-aeroport.fr.

We would like a foodie type holiday in Europe, exploring and tasting local quality foods, maybe taking part in cookery demonstrations or classes and generally having a good time. – BM, Meath

There is a new company, which is an offshoot of Brendan Voyages, called Beautiful Journeys, and some of its trips are devoted to gastronomic delights.

In Italy there are three trips that will focus on different regions – Tuscany, Piedmont and Umbria. The tours will take you to wonderful Italian towns and villages, onto farms and into wineries, with guided tastings and a chance to meet producers. Each tour includes most meals and travel in luxury coaches.

The tour to Provence in France will take you from farm to table over eight days and travel from Nice to Marseille, inland and along the coast, tasting cheese, herbs, olive oil, chocolate, bouillabaisse and takes in a cookery lesson. Prices are from €1,799pps, tel: 01-775 3876.

An important gourmet region of Spain is the Basque country, specifically around San Sebastian/Donostia. The city has several Michelin-starred restaurants and every bar counter is testament to a passion for food.

The Complete Basque Adventure by San Sebastian Food is a five-day exploration of food and wine in the region. It includes the important pintxo (tapas) eating, Basque cooking, a wine tour of Rioja with five-course lunch, a trip to the markets in St Jean de Luz, and the highlight is a dinner in Arzak restaurant which has three Michelin stars.

The price is from €895pp; accommodation and travel is extra, details from sansebastianfood.com.

My husband and I would love to visit Iona this summer. Is there public transport we could use – we could travel from Belfast by ferry or air. Or better still, do you know of any organised group or pilgrimage we could join? I know a group went from Derry some years ago. Maybe that could happen again during their Year of Culture. – KM, Belfast

I haven’t heard of any plans for a pilgrimage from Derry to Iona this year. It is the 1,450th anniversary of the arrival of St Colmcille.

The easiest way to get to Iona is to take a flight with Easyjet.comfrom Belfast to Glasgow; prices are about £54 (€62.65) return in the summer.

From Glasgow you can then take a coach, from Buchanan Street station, citylink.co.uk, and the journey to Oban is two hours and 40 minutes. From Oban you can take the ferry to Mull. From Mull, you need to get to Fionnphort – which is 50kms away – by local bus and it is a 10-minute ferry hop to Iona.

If you travel in June, St Colmcille’s feast day is June 9th, a Sunday, and there will be a celebration of his life on the island.

There are two small hotels and a number of B&Bs on Iona; see the list on isle-of-iona.net. The Abbey’s Infirmary Museum will reopen this summer after major refurbishment.


Send your queries to jscales@irishtimes.com

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