By: Terry Dale, President and CEO, USTOA

June 6 marks 70 years since allied forces invaded Normandy, a crucial turning point in the war against Nazi Germany, and people from around the globe will come together to honor the brave soldiers who fought during World War II. At the invitation of French President François Hollande, dignitaries and world leaders including President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II will visit Normandy to commemorate the occasion, which will also be marked with firework displays along the coast at main D-Day sites, military parades, parachute drops and more.

Travelers, too, can honor the courageous veterans who fought with visits to the infamous beaches of Normandy and other influential WWII sites through tour programs and packages from USTOA active tour operator members. While many have been exposed to the beaches of Normandy through old newsreels and mainstream films, especially younger travelers, few have had the opportunity to set foot on the historic beaches and sites.

USTOA members provide limitless opportunities to delve into the history of WWII and commemorate the 70th Anniversary of this significant and solemn occasion.  Following is sampling of itineraries from members designed to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the Allied troops who fought during WWII:

  • Insight Vacations’ nine-day “Normandy, Brittany & The Loire Valley” tour includes two nights in Normandy, two evenings in Paris and two nights in the Loire Valley. Visit www.insightvacations.com for more information.
  • From Southern England and Northern France to Belgium and the Netherlands, travelers on the “WWI & WWII Battlefields” tour from Trafalgar will visit a variety of memorial sites beyond just the beaches of Normandy. More details at www.trafalgar.com.
  • Worldwide Traveler’s “Back-Roads Touring: D-Day Battle for France” itinerary visits the French cities of Lille, Dunkirk, Dieppe, Bayeux, and the Normandy beaches and is led by a specialist in historic battlefields. Visit www.worldwidetraveler.com.
  • Go-Today’s six-night “Paris & Normandy, Saint Malo, Mont St. Michel and Loire Valley Escorted Tour” combines free time and organized sightseeing. Visit www.go-today.com.
  • Travelers on “Normandy, Brittany & the Loire Valley,” a nine-day tour from Grand European Travel, will drive along the beaches of the D-Day landings, reflect at the American Military Cemetery of St. Laurent near Omaha Beach and learn more about the historic battle at the D-Day Invasion Landings’ Museum. Visit www.getours.com.
  • “Northern France,” a private journey from Cox & Kings, follows roads taken by allied forces while listening to anecdotes from a local guide and learning about the heated fighting of WWII at Omaha Beach before stopping at the American Cemetery, Caen Memorial, and other locations related to the war. More details at www.coxandkingsusa.com.
  • From a wreath-laying ceremony and moment of silence to exploration of the D-Day museum in Mulberry Harbor and Juno Beach landing site, the “Paris & Normandy” itinerary from Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection honors fallen soldiers. Visit www.uniworld.com.
  • Insight Vacations’ nine-day “Normandy, Brittany & The Loire Valley” tour includes two nights in Normandy, so guests will enjoy leisurely yet comprehensive visits to numerous WWII sites. Visit www.insightvacations.com.
  • Travelers will gain a greater understanding of D-Day and the beaches where allied forces landed on Gate 1 Travel’s 12-day “Illustrious France” tour. Visit www.gate1travel.com.
  • Explore France via bike and gain insight into Normandy’s rich history during VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacation’s eight-night “Bicycling France: Normandy & Brittany.” More details at www.VBT.com.
  • Created exclusively for the 70th Anniversary of the epic D-Day landings, Collette’s tour “Memorials of War: Normandy & Paris” takes travelers to the landmarks of D-Day. Visit www.gocollette.com.
  • Travelers get an inside look at the daily rhythms of French life on Tauck’s 10-day “Rendezvous on the Seine,” which includes a seven-day river cruise on the ms Swiss Sapphire, in addition to a guided tour of the D-Day beaches. More information at www.tauck.com.

For more information about tours and packaged vacations, visit www.ustoa.com.  And, remember that when booking with USTOA active members, you also get the assurance of knowing that they are held to the highest standards in the industry with our $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program.  Visit www.ustoa.com for complete details.

 

 


by Alison Cornford-Matheson, AFAR Ambassador

For me, there’s no better way to explore a country’s culture than to explore its food scene. Wherever you travel in the world, you can find passionate foodies, and Egypt is no exception. While visiting Cairo with Abercrombie & Kent tours, I had two food experiences that left me feeling as if I was local.

I love falafel. It’s one of my go to weekend foods in my current home city, Brussels. So when Fiby, my local expert from A&K, mentioned she knew where I could get the best falafel in Cairo and I could watch them being made, I jumped at the chance.

We pulled up outside Felfela restaurant, a local institution, since 1959. Stepping through the door, I knew this was my kind of place. The first thing I saw was a chef, dressed in his whites, tossing fresh made falafel in boiling oil.

Felfela Chef - Local Food Experiences in Cairo

Felfela Chef

Another chef appeared behind the first, with a huge bowl of dough. He showed me how Egyptian falafel differs from the better-known Lebanese version. Instead of chickpeas, Felfela’s falafels are made with fava beans and a variety of herbs. The dough is lighter, making for a fluffier centre. Pair that with a crunchy, crispy crust and you have falafel heaven.

There are several dining options for enjoying your Felfela falafel. Pass by the falafel chefs and enter the quirky dining room, for a sit-down falafel experience. The restaurant has a jungle theme with tables made of tree trunks and greenery everywhere. There are even a few songbirds to add to the atmosphere. Along with your falafel, you can also enjoy a variety of Egyptian specialities and grilled treats.

Felfela Restaurant - Local Food Experiences in Cairo

Felfela Restaurant

If you need a falafel on the go, just pop around the corner to Felfela’s take-away location. Here, your falafel is served inside a flatbread and topped, as you like, with plenty of tahini and fresh vegetables. It’s the perfect stop for a quick snack on the run.

I arrived at my next local foodie destination to find a cloud of smoke. Rather than make me cough, this particular smoke made my mouth water.  As I stepped through the gate of the Andrea Restaurant, I was greeted by row after row of rotisserie chickens, turning lazily in the charcoal haze.

Andrea chickens - Local Food Experiences in Cairo

Andrea chickens

A man shoveling coals in a series of clay ovens stoked the outdoor grill. Dozens of chickens were cooking in various states of doneness. It takes 24 hours of marinating in a secret blend of local herbs and spices, followed by more hours on the spit, before these birds are ready for your plate.

Andrea chickens - Local Food Experiences in Cairo

Andrea chickens

The result is well worth the wait. The chicken is meltingly tender and the herby flavour permeates all the way through. Heavenly.

But chicken isn’t the only thing the charcoal fires lend their flavours to, at Andrea Restaurant.

Just beyond the turning spits, sit a cluster of women. While they sit chatting and laughing, their hands rhythmically pat and shape dough into small, round, disks. They slap the disks on the inside of the ovens and seconds later, tiny flatbreads emerge, puffed full of hot air. The hot, smoky bread is the perfect complement to the juicy chicken.

Andrea Bread baker - Local Food Experiences in Cairo

Andrea bread baker

Inside the restaurant, the succulent chicken and toasty bread is served with a variety of Egyptian mezze: delicately spiced meatballs, stuffed grape leaves, chunky hummus and more, round out the meal. It’s Egypt on a plate.

Andrea bread - Local Food Experiences in Cairo

Andrea bread

Both of these local food experiences in Cairo revealed a side of Egypt I wasn’t expecting. The local passion for food is deeply ingrained in the culture. Discovering the food of Egypt helped me relate to the people who create it and relating to locals is what travel is all about.

Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu, a resource for expats, locals, and travellers in Belgium. She landed in Belgium in 2005 and became passionate about this quirky little country. She is an AFAR Ambassador and founding member of the PTBA. She is obsessed with travel, food, and local experiences. You can follow her on Google+, on Twitter as @Acornn, on Pintrest or check out her Facebook Page. See more highlights from Alison’s trip at AFAR.com.