These home-based experiences can’t be found just anywhere—it takes VBT’s true insider knowledge and deep regional connections to open the door.
Home-Hosted Meals Give You the Flavor of Local Culture
Posted on Friday, September 9th, 2022
Story by: Molly Waldstein | Travel Writer
VBT Brings You Where the Heart Is
At VBT, we have friends all over the world. We’ve been to their homes, shared meals, and laughed the night away over a carafe of provincial wine. Local VBT trip leaders have chums in the most remote villages—and they often welcome us into their homes to share a meal. With them, you’ll discover unique traditions—including culinary styles, gardening practices, ancient fishing methods, regional music, folklore, and dance steps—and even environmentally-sustainable forest conservation techniques. These home-based experiences can’t be found just anywhere—it takes VBT’s true insider knowledge and deep regional connections to open the door.
Around the Kitchen Table, Around the World
Lithuania & Latvia: The Baltics Guided Tour: Cycling through the green Baltic Forest, the trees part to reveal a cheerful fishing village of brightly colored cottages. Our hostess, Laina, welcomes us into her cozy kitchen where she demonstrates the local technique for making fresh butter—using milk and cream gathered that morning from her own cow! Using the fresh-churned butter, Laina sautés plump wheat berries in a hot pan before crushing them to release their nutty flavor—then serving them with fresh fish, homemade cheese, wildflower honey, and vegetables from her garden.
Spain: Andalusia, Córdoba & Granada Guided Tour: Deep within arid groves of olive and orange trees lies the white stucco farmhouse of Balbino and Paulina—your Andalusian hosts. This warm Spanish couple welcomes you into their cortijo where you’ll enjoy a traditional Andalusian lunch in their rustic hall. Here, you may sample the famous Spanish tortilla—an iconic omelet made with thinly sliced potatoes, fried to crispy perfection. Paulina may enlist your help preparing a traditional Spanish dish of fresh almonds—quickly blanched while still in their tender shells, then peeled, lightly fried in salted olive oil and eaten hot.
Poland, Czech Republic & Slovakia: Krakow to Vienna Guided Tour: The charming home of Anezka and Karel is steeped in Slovakian tradition—including singing, dancing, and playing the accordion. In their warm, inviting kitchen they teach you the ancient technique for preparing a traditional Moravian dessert—skalicky trdelnik. The dough is rolled on a treadle to form a cylinder—then dredged in nuts and sugar and roasted over an open fire. While the pastry is cooking, this delightful couple lays out a delicious lunch of traditional Slovakian and Moravian dishes—including lokse—a savory pancake made of potato flour that’s served with cabbage and succulent roast goose.
From Olives to Apples—Enjoying the Fruits of the Land
Italy: Puglia’s Undiscovered Coast Guided Tour: Discover the secrets of a 500-year-old masseria as you explore its ancient orchards and subterranean olive oil mill with your hosts, Armando and Rosalba. Enjoy a delicious home-cooked lunch—including an organic olive oil tasting. Collectors of antiquities, your hosts will introduce you to their exhibit of Italian curios—relating stories of local customs. As you sift through their museum of beautifully-presented wooden furnishings, rustic crockery, crisp Italian petticoats, and primitive farm implements, you may gain some perspective on how things have changed—or haven’t changed—in Puglia with modern times.
France: Normandy & Brittany Guided Tour: In the brisk coastal villages of Normandy, the cider apple is cultivated with the same care and precision as the grapes of any proud French vineyard. It’s used to produce both cider and calvados—a sublime oak-aged apple brandy. In a visit to a local Norman apple orchard, you’ll meet the owners and explore the family estate as you sample its fine ciders and calvados. After the tour, enjoy a delicious picnic lunch in the peaceful courtyard of this classic Norman villa.
Ancient Fishing Traditions Bring in the Catch
Spain & Portugal: Coastal Camino de Santiago Guided Tour: On the western coast of Spanish Galicia lies a small island where ancient fishing traditions are proudly preserved in its rich waters. Join a gregarious local boat captain on his small wooden vessel as he demonstrates mussel fishing techniques—pulling up rich strings of plump shellfish, cooking them on the deck and serving them hot. Back on land, a group of local ladies demonstrates an ancient shellfishing technique traditionally dominated by Galician women. Pull on a set of waterproof boots and join the ladies as they show you how to pull fresh mollusks from the sandy shore.
Greece: Sparta, Monemvasia & the Peloponnesian Peninsula Guided Tour: The azure waters of Limin Gerakas are a rich habitat for shellfish. Many ancient fishing techniques date back to the birth of civilization itself—and are still practiced today in this quiet lagoon. Here, the owner of a local taverna teaches you the traditional fishing technique and helps you gather a hearty catch. The fresh shrimp are mixed with chopped dill and shallots and delicately fried to create a delicious lunch of traditional garidopetoules—or shrimp pancakes.
Environmental Conservation in the Knysna Forest
South Africa: Cape Town & the Garden Route Guided Tour: In the heart of South Africa’s celebrated Garden Route lies a magical retreat dedicated to environmental conservation. Here, your hosts show you around their home and deep forest nature preserve—including organic gardens, natural water filtration systems, elephant trails, and all manner of wildlife. After exploring this vibrant and enchanting homestead, enjoy an innovative vegan feast that brings the flavors of the forest to life.