Aloha Paradise!

Meet Exan, our Hawaii trip designer extraordinaire, who is back from another few weeks in her exotic "home-away-from-home". She can't wait to share a more authentic side of the islands with Quench travellers.  Read on and you will quickly crave a trip to this tropical paradise.

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Imagine a place abundant with rainbows where the birds are singing and the scent of Plumeria is thick in the air.  Gazing out on the horizon, a symphony of waves harmonizes with the strumming of a ukulele,  and a volcano roars in the distance.  Welcome to paradise and the magic of Hawaii, where Mother Nature is in full expression in all her splendid glory.

My love for the Aloha state began more than 15 years ago in Maui when I first laid eyes on a Hawaiian sunset.  Its beauty was so remarkably breathtaking that I felt an instant connection to the land.  How can I forget the sweet fragrance of the fresh lei around my neck, a customary welcoming gift? That was the moment I knew, Hawaii would forever hold a special place in my heart. 

For the uninitiated, Hawaii is an archipelago made up of 8 spectacular islands starting with the youngest, the Big Island, which sits at the bottom of the chain.  Perched at the top are the oldest, Nihau and Kauai, while Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Maui stretch down in between.  Each island is unique in its own way, choc' full of unforgettable panoramas and hidden gems to discover.  Choosing the destination that's right for you depends on your personal taste and what you wish to experience.  Whether you are seeking high adventure, a deep connection with nature or simply just to relax, Hawaii is the place that will leave you wanting more.

Since that first trip, I’ve returned to Hawaii almost every winter and in 2013 I lived for some time on four of the major islands. On Maui, I love hiking into the otherworldly Haleakala Crater where I can sit for hours, mesmerized by the Mars like landscape and the striking pastel colours of the volcanic sand.  There’s nothing like following the glow of molten lava across Big Island’s lava fields in the dead of night, arriving just in time at sunrise to watch it flow into the ocean. Equally as spectacular is the Kalalau Trail on Kauai. Not for the faint of heart, Hawaii’s most stunning hike is rife with narrow cliffs rising more than a thousand feet above the Pacific. The 11-mile trail takes you on a dramatic climb up the mountains of the Na Pali Coast into the splendid Kalalau Valley where fruit is so abundant, I was able to live off the land and shower daily under a 20-foot waterfall. There’s also Secret Beach (Kauapea Beach), one of Kauai’s hidden gems.  Although it requires a short hike to get down to, the mile long beach with its rich vistas is well worth the effort. It’s one of the most peaceful sanctuaries I know where I’m often joined by a lone Hawaiian monk seal, nestling in for a long afternoon nap.

Home is where the heart is and for me that maxim rings true.  Although I no longer reside in Hawaii, whenever I miss my home away from home, all it takes is a strum of my ukulele and I'm instantly transplanted back to the magical land that I yearn for.

When you are ready to plan your trip, I can’t wait to share the real Hawaii with you. Please email me on exan@quenchtravel.com or tripdesign@quenchtravel.com.

Mahalo,

Exan

Q&A with Jen and Mercedeh - Epicurean Newfoundland

What made you want to design a trip around Newfoundland’s sustainable cuisine?

We love to eat, especially when we're travelling. Designing a food-focused journey through Newfoundland meant that we could finally test out the farm- and sea-to-table cuisine that we've been hearing so much about. There are some creative young chefs doing amazing things with traditional dishes and local ingredients and naturally, we thought our travellers would appreciate a trip that took them to some of the best eateries in the province.

What was one of the most interesting locally sourced ingredients or foods you tried?

Cariboo Moss, which can be found along the shores of Fogo Island.  We most enjoyed it candied as a garnish to a mouthwatering chocolate dessert, or served with a mix of local berries.  Quench trip guide Kiloran McRae, who lives in Newfoundland, was the most excited of all of us to try it:  "It was thrilling to be eating something I walk by everyday... I never imagined eating it.  I also think it's beautiful, perhaps because it has so many associations for me. Christmas in the floral business, among others.  To me it is the essence of Boreal wilderness, and even the name is evocative. It is a very slow growing lichen and therefore something to be treasured."

Foraging on Fogo Island we sampled the leaves of wild celery which became a delicious addition to our lunch salad.  This was another new flavour we will not soon foget.

Cariboo Moss

Cariboo Moss

Can you describe some of the sources of local food you saw at the places you visited?

Fishers' Loft Inn on Trinity Bay has gardens and a greenhouse where it harvests its own vegetables and fruit. Guests have the freedom to peruse them on their own.

Not far away from Port Rexton is Newman’s Cove, which is home to Bonavista Social Club – a lunch spot that, by the way, has the only wood-fired bread oven in Newfoundland and Labrador. Its pizzas are topped with produce from the cascading kitchen garden, and the goats and chickens supply milk and fresh eggs.

The ocean supplies the cod on Fogo Island, which many say is unlike any other cod they’ve tasted. We tasted cod in many meals, but most memorable were the divine salted cod cakes with poached eggs at breakfast (a Fogo Island Inn twist on eggs benny). Fogo Island Cod is considered a delicacy and it’s served at select restaurants in Canada. This is why we decided to start our epicurean itinerary with a meal at Ruby Watchco, where Chef Lora serves it as a special menu item.

What were some of your favourite east-coast colloquialisms?

We were fascinated by the beauty of the ghost-like glaciers (which sadly will not likely be passing through in the fall).  We learned that bergy-bits are the small glacial ice chunks that float up to 4 metres above the water surface and often eventually wash ashore.  They are the melting remains of small icebergs, and are the shards that may get crushed to end up in a cocktail glass.  Growlers are slightly larger, diminishing flatter icebergs that are less than 1 metre above the surface.  They were named due to the grumbling sound they make as the iceberg melts and trapped air escapes.

Locals will often invite strangers to their shed parties. This is literally a party in someone’s shed. When we were on Fogo we met a couple who are are legendary with their generous open door policy on weekends.  Folks are invited to their garden shed, where they can bring food, drink, perhaps a musical instrument to play, and the festivities unfold. It’s always a good time, and there’s no better way to experience the local hospitality.

Tilting, Fogo Island

Tilting, Fogo Island

A Jiggs’ dinner is a traditional east-coast meal that consists of salt beef, turnip, cabbage, potato, carrot, peas pudding and usually roast turkey or pork. This is the one local dish that Fogo Island Inn owner Zita Cobb wants as a constant on the menu, so Chef Murray keeps it creative, always spinning new and delicious ways to serve it.

What did you enjoy the most about Newfoundland’s amazing outdoors?

Newfoundland’s scenery is astonishing and some of our favourite moments were during our panoramic trail walks. On our hike along the Skerwink Trail, the scent of pine trees and ocean salt stayed with us through the woods and along the dramatic coastal cliffs. At Brimstone Head on Fogo Island we perched on a precipice looking across the ocean for miles, with the waves crashing below. In each location, the glorious sight of whales in the distance and colossal icebergs drifting by left indelible memories. Plus we needed those walks to offset a few of those hearty meals!

Where was the quirkiest landmark?

Brimstone Head on Fogo Island is a towering, rocky peninsula jutting into the sea. The Flat Earth Society has declared it to be one of the four corners of the Earth, and after seeing the views, we can understand why.

Mercedeh, Jen and Kiloran near the top of Brimstone Head.

Mercedeh, Jen and Kiloran near the top of Brimstone Head.

Quench Moments: The Dooher Family

We caught up with traveller Lisa Dooher after her family’s recent Icelandic trip to celebrate her son’s 16th birthday. We learned a few new uses for Banagrams tiles, and that the Doohers’ mountaineering experience already has the family longing for more Quench-designed adventures.

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1) How would you describe your travel style or philosophy?
We never go on a trip with any preconceived notions.  We like to roll with whatever happens.We have three strict rules that we apply to our vacations.  No budgeting. No dieting. No fighting. It makes the reality of coming back home hard, but makes the time away magical.

2) What were some of your favourite 'Quench Moments’ (those extra special moments during your travels)?
It's hard to pinpoint our favourite Quench moment as we found beauty in them all. Mountaineering on the glacier was a real highlight and one that left us in wonder, and longing to be back.  

3) What packing item did you use the most or wish you had brought on your trip?
As a rule, I travel light and insist my family do the same.  We bring the essentials with understanding that as long as we have a credit card we can find what we need.  Not the case in Iceland.  My family likes to play poker so we made sure we packed a deck of cards.  We did not lug poker chips as we assumed we could pick some up along the way.  They were impossible to find in Iceland as they are not gamblers.  Our fabulous guide even scoured the city for us. Fortunately we packed our Bananagrams tiles  so they doubled as poker chips (along with peanuts, toiletries and pringles).    So we used the Banagrams the most, but wished we had packed our poker chips!  

4) What would you say to anyone who is considering working with a custom trip planner?
Do it - you will not regret it.  

5) What do you consider the most important benefit of working with Quench?
I really appreciated the ease of working with Quench.  I spent the time up front explaining the kinds of travellers we are and the experience we wanted for my son’s 16th birthday.  Quench designed an amazing package for us, however the day after our arrival the weather forced our agenda to be tossed into the hurricane force winds.  I have no doubt that there was much juggling and behind the scenes work done on our behalf, but it was seamless.  We never once felt any stress and our amazing Icelandic guide Kristjan ensured each day was filled with beauty and wonder.  So the benefit?  Quench made it all easy.

6) How would you sum up your Quench travel experience in one sentence?
Our experience with Quench was beyond our expectations.  We have had some pretty fabulous vacations and moments as a family, but not one of them has stuck with us like this one. 

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH CANADIAN WINEMAKER NORMAN HARDIE

For the first time ever Norman Hardie, of Prince Edward County's Norman Hardie Winery, will host an exclusive food and wine journey through his South African homeland. Epicurean South Africa with Norman Hardie is a brand new, gourmet experience curated by Quench Trip Design. For twelve days, you will explore South Africa’s dramatic scenery from Cape Town, the rugged Western Cape and Cape Winelands rolling farmlands, Chapman’s Peak and the Cape of Good Hope.

Norm will be lead you away from the tourist trail to experience his favourite South African wineries and eateries, from a winemaker’s perspective. His welcoming friends and pioneering colleagues – who happen to be the country’s best winemakers – will open their cellars to you, allowing you to explore the many layers of the wine industry, like no other.

Get to know Norm, learn about his connection to South Africa and discover what surprises are in store for travellers on this Excursively Quench trip:

1.     What are you looking forward to the most about returning to South Africa?

NH: The stunning natural beauty and vibrancy of South African culture. After the cold and dark Canadian winter, everyone on this trip will be dazzled by the incredible environment of South Africa, as well as the enthusiasm that its people exude.

2.     Can you give our travellers a sneak peek at what they can expect from the trip? Do you have any surprises up your sleeve?

NH: The quality of experiences that we've included in this trip are second to none. I was able to draw on my own time in the country and the contacts I've made to help create excursions to some of the most innovative and exciting wine and food destinations in South Africa. Guests should expect to see some of the best of the country, with a level of engagement and knowledge that would not be possible without our connections to the place. With this itinerary, we've built a great foundation within which people still have the time and opportunity to explore on their own. I look forward to helping guests plan their own adventures and discover the fantastic off the beaten track places.

3.     How does the wine in South Africa compare to the wine produced in Prince Edward County?

NH: The wines of South Africa are generally of a richer style than those of Prince Edward County.  On this trip we will be visiting the best producers in many of the wine regions; guests will have a chance to discover the great variety in style of South African wines as we explore numerous geographic areas and micro climates. Additionally, there will be much opportunity for guests to uncover exciting new wine regions and producers who are gaining attention on the world stage.

4.     This is your first time hosting a trip, can you tell our community of travellers why you decided to partner with Quench?

NH: Quench is a leader in epicurean trips and has a fantastic reputation for organizing specialized experiences for discerning travellers. I was excited with the prospect of collaborating on a magical tour of South Africa with an organization which has such a high level of commitment to quality. The itinerary that has been planned is very well balanced, giving a great insider's view of South Africa, while also allowing guests to tailor the experience to their own interests.

5.     Why is South Africa a must-visit for travelling gourmands and wine connoisseurs?

NH: South Africa should be at the top of every traveller's destinations list. As a wine region it is producing some of the most exciting new world wines. The quality continues to increase exponentially every year and garner attention from top international critics. The food culture is second to none and the proximity to year-round fresh ingredients, local meats and endless artisanal producers makes it truly a food-lover's paradise. Additionally many international chefs have made their way to South Africa, elevating the level of cuisine. It doesn't matter if you're sitting in a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Cape Winelands or a safari camp in the bush, the quality of food is exceptional. The amazing food scene is further heightened by the incredible traditional meals of South Africans. It's a cultural experience that will wow any food lover.

Contact Quench today to book this incredible 12-day gourmet getaway.
Norman Hardie Winery

QUENCH EATS: ITALY

Italy for Foodies

Without a doubt, Italy is one of Europe’s most revered culinary destinations, and a place where discerning palettes can explore with sheer pleasure.  Since her first trip to Italy more than 30 years ago, Quench founder Jen Deacon has indulged in the discovery of its varied regional flavours and has sought out local, seasonal cuisine from the top of the boot to the bottom of the heel.

Last month, Jen spent three weeks in Italy: The first two were spent guiding a multigenerational family from Venice to Rome, and then she headed straight to Puglia for some R&R with friends. Tough as it was to pick favourites among a long list of exceptional meals, here are Jen’s top 5 five eats that no Quench traveller should miss:

Buon appetito!

1.     Fiori di Zucca

Savour this gorgeous vegetable in the summertime when it is at its finest. On this trip Jen ate them in a delicately divine sauce for pici pasta, but the winning dish was a decadent antipasto of lightly fried flowers stuffed with melted mozzarella, pepperoncino, basil and sage. 

2.     Fried Sage leaves

Fresh from the garden, battered with flour and Prosecco and fried in the region’s best olive oil, this crispy and salty snack is the perfect pairing for your apertivo. Simply divine.

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3.     Trapizzino

Trapizzino is a Roman street food that is similar to a mini calzone, except that the dough is baked separately and then stuffed with delicious savoury fillings. Its name is a play on words, a combo of tramezzino (a traditional triangular sandwich served in cafes) and pizza. The pocket-sized snack is great on-the-go, and in between museum hopping.

4.     Hand-made Orechiette in Puglia

During a private cooking course in Puglia, Jen prepared the typical ear-shaped pasta of the region called “Orecchiette” with a sauce of five varieties of local tomatoes and finished with fresh sage and a sprig of basil. The dish is simple, but ultra rich in seasonal flavour.

orechiette cooking course

5.     Melanzane Parmigiana with a twist

This classic Italian dish can be served with a unique Puglian twist…no tomato! The lightly battered eggplant is layered with fresh burrata and smoked provolone cheeses before baking. Just before serving, the chef drizzles it with olive oil from an ancient grove nearby.  Perfection.

What was your most memorable Italian dish? Share in the comments!

THREE REASONS WHY BOTSWANA IS THE BEST SAFARI DESTINATION

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With its pristine natural environment, wide open spaces, abundant wildlife and dazzling sunsets, Botswana has captivated travellers looking for the quintessential safari experience. Check out our list of reasons why you should consider this southern African country for your next family holiday.

1.     Botswana is uniquely remote compared to other safari destinations.

Most of the camps are only accessible by air, which gives you and your family a unique opportunity to enjoy the sheer beauty of the sprawling landscape from above. Also, the country’s conservation policy endorses low-volume tourism, meaning the crowds are few and far between.  

Quench Tip: To make the most of your precious safari time, we can organize quick transfers between camps on chartered light aircrafts for you.

2.     Botswana offers unspoiled wildlife viewing opportunities.

Botswana is located in one of the most pristine wilderness areas left on the Earth and the wildlife opportunities are incredibly abundant. The destination offers impressive and prolific game viewing, including Africa’s largest terrestrial wildlife migration. Every year, thousands of zebras travel over 500 kilometres round-trip between Namibia and Botswana. Families also have the chance to spot elephants, giraffe, hippos, lions and more.

Quench Tip: Our professional safari guides can help you and your family get closer to the amazing wildlife, while ensuring your safety and allowing plenty of opportunities to capture the perfect photo.

3.     Botswana features a diverse terrain with three complex ecosystems.

Bostwana is located in the heart of Kalahari Desert, and The Okavango Delta is the evergreen jewel of the region. It is the world’s largest inland delta and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other highlights include the Linyanti water systems and Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the largest salt pans on the planet.

Quench Tip: During your trip, do not forget to explore the ancient culture of the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen trackers of the Western Kalahari.

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Ready to go?

When to go
The dry season is from May to September, resulting in moderate temperatures. In April and May there is little to no rain and fewer clouds, however, temperatures dip at night and in the mornings, especially from June to August. Wildlife viewing is exceptional year-round, but during the dry season, herds of elephants pass through Linyanti in search of water, and many animals gather in ever-increasing numbers at various water holes.

The wet season (from November to March) is also called the Green Season in Botswana. Expect regular afternoon showers, but enjoy verdant emerald scenery in return. Some areas (such as Makgadikgadi Pans) fill with water, attracting flocks of flamingos and other migrating birds.  

Where to stay
Quench can arrange unbelievable stays in Botswana’s most stunning luxury safari and tent camps. A few of our favourites include stylish Jack’s camp, remote Duba Plains camp, and luxurious Selinda camp. Watch grazing animals from an open deck, dine around a campfire and appreciate a wonderful authentic atmosphere you will never forget. 

If you want to experience the true Africa, we’ve designed the perfect handpicked itinerary that combines the best of what Botswana has to offer and unforgettable #QuenchMoments. Our 11-day Soaring in Botswana Quench Express Trip is available year round, click here for more information.

Photo Credits: Lori Toledano

FIVE AWE-INSPIRING ACTIVE TRIP IDEAS

Active holidays are becoming increasingly popular with everyone from the adrenalin-rushing cycling crowd to the meditative yogis of the world looking to challenge themselves in a new and exciting environment. If you’re craving a bit of adventure or prefer taking the scenic route and exploring a new country on your own two feet, check out Quench’s top five awe-inspiring active trip ideas for your next group getaway.

1 Hike Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
A diverse terrain that stretches 2400 km across the top of Africa, the Atlas Mountains are a hiking group’s dream. With charming villages along the way that offer local, authentic food and accommodations, the Atlas Mountains provide the perfect mix of an active holiday with vibrant cultural experiences. Relax at the end of your travels as Quench sets your group up in Morocco’s most luxurious riads, a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior courtyard. Quench can also arrange a starlit dinner in the desert, an experience you will cherish for a lifetime.

2 Run through the French countryside.
Grab your running group, tie your laces extra tight and set off on a scenic trip through the back roads of France’s beautiful countryside. The days will whizz by as you and your running mates take in the colourful landscapes of burgundy-hued vineyards and aromatic lavender fields. For a tailor-made trip that is chockfull with #QuenchMoments, let Quench fill in the stops with wine tastings at local vineyards, lunch at quaint family-restaurants and comfortable stays in French chateaus.

3 Channel your inner yogi in India.
What better way to reward your studio’s yoga teachers than with a custom trip to the country where it all began? Whether your group is looking to learn from a world-renowned master at a five-star retreat or take on a stricter practice at basic dwellings that require a vow of silence, Quench takes care of all the details so all you need to do is focus on perfecting your downward dog.   

4 Cycle the Scottish Highlands.
There are few places more rugged and dramatically beautiful than the Scottish Highlands - so why not explore the region’s mountainous terrain on two wheels? With a diverse landscape that caters to both amateur and advanced cycling groups alike, travellers can enjoy quiet countryside rides or take on the challenging cliff-top paths. Quench can set you up with Scotland’s most qualified guides, who will steer you along on the best trails and make sure each day ends with a little tipple of the local whiskey.

5 Scuba dive in the Galapagos Islands.
For underwater adventurers looking to get closer to colourful marine life, there really is nowhere on earth like the Galapagos Islands. Government-protected and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galapagos is home to sea turtles, sharks, penguins, sea lions and more. Ecuador is the perfect destination for diving buddies, scuba clubs, and environmental companies looking to reward their top employees!

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Looking for more inspiration? Call or email the Quench team to build your dream active holiday!

The 7-year itch

Our new website launched today (about 7 years after our first was born) and we couldn't be more proud.  If you've found your way here to our blog, then stay for a while and peruse our other pages too. It's been a labour of love and we can't thank our friends and colleagues enough their support. Special kudos to our in-house photographer, Jen Deacon, who captures her many travels so beautifully and allows us to live vicariously. 

Jen capturing the moment in essaouira

Jen capturing the moment in essaouira

Jen's off to Italy next week

Jen is saying goodbye to the office for a couple of weeks. She's off to Italy to guide a multi-generational family of 16 on a tailor-made trip from Venice to Tuscany to Rome. One of the many highlights will be the July 2 Palio in Siena. We'll miss you Jen, but look forward to the updates and the many photos along the way. 

The Duomo in siena on a stormy day - photo credit: Jen Deacon