I recently met with Travelsphere‘s Travel Ambassador, Penny Smith, and discovered how an escorted holiday is a fantastic way to see the world.
This post is sponsored by Travelsphere, who invited me to spend the day with them at the BBC Good Food Show.
I have to confess that when it comes to holidays, I tend to be a bit of a control freak.
Most of the planning for our family holidays or trips away with Mark tends to be my job. I book the flights, accommodation, restaurants, days out – and that’s just how I like it. Or at least, most of the time…
But lately I’ve been thinking that it would be nice to hand the planning over to someone else, and to be able to just enjoy the holiday. So when Travelsphere invited me along to the BBC Good Food Show to learn about their escorted tours, I thought it sounded like a fantastic idea.
As you may know, the BBC Good Food Show Summer is a fantastic day out for anyone who loves good food and drink. So before the Travelsphere event got underway, I took the opportunity to look around the show for a while.
It was packed full of delicious food and drink to sample, and plenty of people stocking up on goodies to take home with them.
And of course, the show also has live cookery demonstrations on its Big Kitchen stage. This year, Travelsphere are sponsoring the Big Kitchen at each of the BBC Good Food Shows, because as we all know, good food and travel go hand in hand!
After a quick scan around the show hall, I headed over to the Travelsphere stand. As you can see at the top of the page, it was pretty full!
You probably know Penny Smith either from her days as the news presenter on GMTV, or you may have seen her review the papers on BBC News 24. She also hosts the weekend breakfast show on Talk Radio.
Penny is currently Travelsphere’s Travel Ambassador, and there were plenty of people on the stand eager to say hello, and find out about Travelsphere’s range of escorted tours.
Who are Travelsphere?
Travelsphere have been providing escorted holidays to destinations around the world for over 50 years. There are over 150 holidays currently on offer, taking in over 60 countries.
A Travelsphere holiday includes flights, transfers, accommodation, excursions and access to a Travelsphere tour manager. Your tour manager will be able to give you hints on additional things to do and see on your tour.
Travelsphere use local tour managers to make sure that they have the best knowledge of the places you are visiting. Some of the excursions are guided, but you will also have free time to explore the locations on your own or with your group.
Your holiday can be as relaxing or energetic as you like, and you can even tailor your holiday with add-ons or extra days. And when you come to book your next Travelsphere holiday, which you surely will, you’ll be given a discount as a returning customer.
It’s a great way to explore a region in a relaxed way. You don’t need worry if you’ve booked all the hotels, or if you have missed out a connection somewhere.
Penny took a break from her duties on the Travelsphere stand to have lunch with us. And I’m very happy to tell you that she is just as lovely and good fun as she seems on screen!
Penny chatted with me about her recent tour of India with Travelsphere. Although the weather in May is brutally hot, she said that you soon learn to slow down and accept the heat. It’s also a great time to visit the country as you can get to see iconic sites such as the Taj Mahal without hoards of tourists.
And travelling with Travelsphere meant that she was able to relax and enjoy the trip without having to check connections and hotel bookings. She even saw tigers on her trip!
Also at the event were my fellow bloggers Heather from Heather on her Travels and Suzanne from The Travel Bunny. We’re all passionate about food and travel so as you can imagine, there was a lot for us to talk about over lunch.
Lunch with Penny Smith and Travelsphere
Lunch was a delicious three-course meal in the show’s main restaurant.
I began my meal with a delicious starter of hot smoked salmon and shrimp. They were served with griddled asparagus and a salad of soft lambs lettuce and crisp apple.
Although I think we all agreed that Penny picked the prettiest starter, with these vegetable spring rolls and sweet chilli sauce.
Over lunch we chatted about travel, and Penny kept us all entertained with stories from some of her trips. As Travelsphere’s Travel Ambassador, Penny has been on two of their escorted tours to India and to the Amalfi coast.
I’ve always been keen to visit India and it always looks fabulous. But I have been put off by some of the stories of women being harassed and even assaulted. Penny’s experiences on the Travelsphere India tour really reassured me that an escorted tour would make me feel more secure about travelling to India.
Our main courses soon arrived, and I had plumped for this melt-in-the-mouth tender lamb. I’ve been eating far less meat recently but I was really glad that I chose this. It was sweet, succulent and delicious.
Talk turned to the Amalfi coast, as Penny visited the area recently with Travelsphere.
Obviously it’s a fantastic tour for food-lovers, with delicious pasta and the best pizzas (according to Penny!). And of course, limoncello made from those amazing Amalfi lemons which are so full of flavour. Penny would be cooking two recipes using Amalfi lemons in the Big Kitchen a little later, alongside chef Marcus Bean.
The tour takes in destinations like Positano, Capri and Pompeii – somewhere else that I’ve always wanted to visit. But if you’ve ever thought that an escort tour might be too full-on to be relaxing, Penny reassured us that’s not the case on a Travelsphere tour.
If you fancy just taking a day out to relax at your hotel, that’s absolutely fine!
My pudding was a gorgeous salted caramel cheesecake. It was topped with a rich salted caramel sauce, dark chocolate shavings and flakes of sea salt.
I had thought I was too full for pudding, but this was so good that I finished the lot!
Wine Tasting with Laithwaites
Our afternoon continued with a fascinating wine-tasting workshop hosted by Laithwaites.
We tasted two glasses of wine and wrote down what flavours we could taste in them. We were then told that both glasses contained exactly the same wine. The ‘red’ wine had simply had food colouring added in.
By blocking our senses of sight and smell with a blindfold and nose clip, the workshop showed how our sense of taste is influenced by our other senses.
The Travelsphere Big Kitchen
Next we headed into the Big Kitchen, where we had seats front and centre for a cookery demonstration.
Marcus Bean owns the Brompton Cookery school, just down the road from me in Shropshire. You may also have seen him on This Morning, Iron Chef and other TV shows.
Marcus and Penny quickly rustled up two fantastic recipes using Amalfi lemons. A gorgeous creamy Langoustine Risotto and a luscious Amalfi Lemon Tart, which Penny reckons is even better than those she tried in Italy!
I’m still jealous of how easily Penny made the sweet shortcrust pastry for the lemon tart. Pastry making is a real weakness of mine, as my hands are just too hot.
You’ll be Spoilt for Choice with Travelsphere
During the demonstration, Marcus asked Penny where she would be travelling next. Japan was mentioned as a possibility, and I have to say that Travelsphere’s ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ tour looks amazing. Highlights of the tour include Matsumoto Castle, sightseeing in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, and even a sushi-making demonstration.
But then, I would find it hard to decide which of Travelsphere’s tours to take next.
Whether you want to go island hopping in the Galapagos, see sunsets on safari in Kenya, or take in the sights of the Big Apple on the New York City Break, there’s something to suit all tastes. And of course you can do as much or as little as you like during a Travelsphere escorted tour. It really does sound like the perfect holiday!
All in all, it had been a fantastic day, but our day wasn’t quite over yet. Because after Marcus and Penny’s demonstration, we had a private book signing with the Hairy Bikers, who were just as lovely as you might imagine.
I’d like to thank Travelsphere for a wonderful day at the Good Food Show. And my thanks also go to Penny Smith for being such great company over lunch!