One of the most frequent questions we get on a tour is “How did you find this amazing (fill in the blank)?” Travelers are always astonished at the hidden gems we incorporate into our trips, and they are curious to know about the tour planning process. 

Research is Essential 

We start any planning by identifying which region we will focus on during the trip, and we are extremely specific. You will not go on a trip with us where you check off every box in Italy. We are not trying to squeeze in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan all in one week. We pick an area and go very in-depth into all that area offers. 

“We are working on our first tour to Greece for next fall, and we chose Crete as our destination because it’s the largest island in Greece and offers a good slice of Greek culture, island charm, urban cities, amazing food, art, agriculture and history,” said Molly. 


Then, we take a lot of time to become an expert in the place, especially when it is a new destination being offered to travelers. We take advantage of every resource we can find, from guidebooks (we especially love The Lonely Planet), library books, travel blogs, and websites to YouTube videos of people documenting their top five favorite things in any given area. We use some of the same resources you probably use when you plan your own trips!

The difference is that most people do not have the time it requires to amply research a destination, and we also know what we are looking for and how to properly sort through and vet all of the info that’s out there. We even dig into cookbooks of the region (Molly and Kat’s mom had a big library of cookbooks from her cooking school which are still used today for research) to find authentic dishes and customs. We seek out blogs from people who are local to the area, not just someone who has been to the region once. 

Amalfi Coast Boat

“We spend a lot of time becoming an expert in a new place. We look for new things to do as well as classic bucket list items. We pay attention to activities or sites that come up repeatedly and things that are off the beaten path. There are some bucket list items such as visiting the Eiffel Tower and having a glass of champagne at the top that you simply cannot miss. But we also try to find activities and places that are different so that our travelers always have unique experiences. We love it when we can put together an itinerary that others feel they could not have done on their own,” said Molly. 

The research phase of a new trip will take several weeks or months, and then it will take a few more months to put it all together with reservations, confirmations, etc. and coordinating logistics. We think of our itineraries as a big puzzle, and we need to get every piece to fit just right. This is why we do not introduce a lot of new destinations quickly and we are often telling travelers “it’s almost there!” as they wait eagerly for a new itinerary. 

The Local Connection

Another way we plan our trips is by getting information from our local guides and drivers. In Europe, a travel guide is a common career path, and they go through formal training. These guides are a wealth of information because they hear regular traveler feedback so they know what people love, plus they have their own off the beaten path connections. 

But we sometimes must finesse their suggestions to get them to work as a piece of the puzzle for an entire week tour. For example, a guide may suggest an activity too in-depth for our group, such as a two-hour tour of a church. We know what our customers like and how we want a day to flow, so we might suggest a half hour tour instead!

Mexico church

Drivers are always listening to travelers, so they are also a huge resource for us. They know the off the grid places such as a small winery up the mountain with amazing wines, noshes and views. Once we have established local connections, we stay connected with them so we are always aware of new and different things that may pop up, such as a new restaurant opening. 

Go with the Flow

In addition to compiling all the information from research and locals, Molly and Kat excel at organizing the flow of each trip. “This is our favorite part of planning a trip. If everyone could have it their way, they would see and do everything, but they would also have tons of free time. It can be a challenge to balance both in a tour to give everyone a depth of experience,” said Molly. 

Amalfi Mozzarella Making

Tours also get tweaked from year to year based on feedback and availability of venues, restaurants, markets, etc. This year, as usual, we are working around the fantastic annual San Sebastian Film Festival to plan our second tour to the Basque Country with The Chopping Blocking. Based on the days of the week the tour is scheduled to be offered, activities may get shifted around and refitting those, along with the schedules of the types of small-scale producers and restaurants we like to visit, can be a challenge!

Relying on Personal Experience 

Molly and Kat also draw upon their individual experiences when planning trips. Molly once lived in Ireland and worked at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Now, we offer tours to Ireland and have a group going to Ballymaloe in June. 

Kat lived in Prague for four years, so we have done trips there before, and we are planning one in December 2025 to see her favorite Central European Christmas Markets, and we will travel between the cities by train because that’s her favorite way to get around that region. 

Prague Beer

Molly went to Norway with her husband a few years back simply because there was a direct flight from their local airport to Norway. “What I was surprised to see when we got there was the apple orchards lining the fjords. My husband is an apple farmer and a member of the International Fruit Tree Association, so we brought a group from IFTA to Norway for an apple study tour last summer. This summer we are taking a group of Onward Travelers to Norway and in December we will take the IFTA group to South Africa!” said Molly.

A Cast of Characters

We like our travelers to be exposed to many different local people on our tours, because interacting with all of them gives more depth to the experience. There may not always be just one local guide but rather a compilation of local knowledge. “It’s important to us that our travelers interact with a variety of people. In my trip to Mexico this year, we had an interesting cast of characters from the hatmaker to the bed and breakfast manager who is also a musician to the artist and winemaker. We love to pull the people together!” said Molly.

Mexico hat ladies

Learn more about Onward Travel’s Adventures

Ever since our first trip to Tuscany, we’ve enjoyed visiting Paulo and Samuela at their small winery, Altiero. It’s a family affair and quite special as they produce the “very best” wines and olive oils as Paulo is not shy to say.

After much tasting… I’d say we agree! Drinking Altiero wines paired with Pecorino, Sam’s jams, and Tuscan hillside views are some of our best travel memories.

If you’d like to order some of their wine and/or olive oil to enjoy here in the US, read on!


Wine Price List

Olive Oil Price List

Shipping Prices



Here is the Order Form.

To order..

  • Complete “Receiving Shipping Information” and “Shipping Payment” and sign at the bottom where it says “Customer Signature”
  • On the form in the “Description of the Goods” box, write in what you want to order.
  • Send your completed form to Samuela at and she will process your order and mail your wine or olive oil.

See a sample form here. Note, on our form, we have indicated the total cost of the wine (what Altiero will charge you) and separately the cost of shipping (what the shipping company Bencienni Srl will charge you).

Cin cin!

We are delighted that as of June 21, proof of vaccination is now sufficient to enter Italy. That means no more COVID-tested flights, no tests required to enter Italy, and no quarantines. Simply present your CDC vaccination card and you’re in!

Good timing, since we have 3 wonderful tours to Italy with some availability this fall. Details at

Here’s info straight from Delta’s website:

Italy Entry Requirements

Effective June 21, 2021, the Italian Government has updated entry requirements for travel to Italy. Passengers from the United States who are vaccinated, or who can provide proof of either a negative COVID test or full recovery from COVID-19 can now enter Italy without quarantine. This welcome news means that Delta’s flights to Italy will no longer require multiple COVID tests to travel. Based on the latest update from the Italian government, you can now enter Italy quarantine-free by presenting one of the following documents for entry:

  • Certificate of vaccination – please be sure to bring your CDC-issued vaccination card or EU Green Certificate. Keep in mind you must be fully vaccinated, meaning you have had your last vaccine dose at least 14 days before your departure, or
  • A negative Antigen, PCR, or Molecular COVID-19 test result from a test taken within 48 hours of arrival in Italy from a test provider of your choice. For your convenience, please note that through June 30th we will have testing facilities available in Atlanta (ATL) and New York (JFK) airports if you need a test before departure, or
  • Certificate of Recovery from COVID dated no more than 6 months before arrival to Italy

Please note that customers are still required to pre-register and fill in a digital Passenger Locator Form prior to boarding.

Minors traveling with parents/guardians are also eligible to enter Italy without quarantine based on the following:

  • Minors aged 6 – 18: must provide proof of full vaccination (last dose at least 14 days before departure) or proof of a negative Antigen, PCR, or Molecular COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of arrival in Italy
  • Minors under the age of 6 can enter without vaccination or testing requirements

As we are mid-pandemic and travel plans have been canceled for the foreseeable future, we’ve gathered a list of lovely virtual travel experiences from friends around the globe. Have a look at what these creative folks have cooked up, and maybe you’ll find an experience that appeals to you so you can find yourself somewhere new and exciting, if only for a few hours.

Culinary Tour de France with Viktorija
You may know Viktorija as a frequent co-host on our trips to Tuscany and France. She is a globetrotting sommelier, cookbook writer, and chef who makes her home in Nice. Alongside the food writer and expert in all things tasty and French, her friend Rosa Jackson, Viktorija is offering a fun series of cooking classes over the next two months, each focused on a specific region of the country. Learn more.

Context Conversations
We love Context Travel’s cerebral, tiny group tours which offer travelers the opportunity to dive into a specific area of interest with a local expert. They’ve gone online with Context Conversations, and so far it’s been a wild success! For October there’s a range of regional, artistic and historical topics to choose from as part of a Destination Italy spotlight, you could learn about cheese in France, or the “remix” of American history in Hamilton, or the colonial legacy of Hong Kong – the diverse topics are fascinating and there’s surely something to captivate every mind. Multi-part courses are offered, too, for a deeper educational experience. Learn more.
* Get 10% off your first seminar with the discount code onward *


Italian Cooking Classes with Stefania
Stefania is a native of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, a place one could certainly argue is the gastronomic capital of the Western world! Her online cooking classes are “made to order”: you can choose two mouthwatering dishes and arrange a time, Stefania will send you recipes and a shopping list and then you’ll cook together. The cost is 35€ per family/computer and what a great idea for friends and families to book a group class for a fun way to enjoy an experience together during distant times.
List of Dishes – Learn more.

Virtual tour of Pompeii with Roberto
Our tour guide in the Amalfi Coast and Campania region, Roberto is a professionally trained archaeologist (and also a passionate advocate of slow food) who has worked on dig sites all over the Mediterranean, including at Pompeii. A visit to the legendary historical site with Roberto brings the place back to vivid life, and he’s devised a clever virtual system to bring a that unforgettable experience to travelers around the world. Learn more.

Provencal Cooking Classes with Kelly
Kelly is an American living her dream of owning and operating a cooking school in Provence, France, called La Beluge, where we have fond memories of cooking with her. Now she’s offering an opportunity to “take a virtual vacation in Provence” with a four-week cooking class series beginning on October 24th. Learn to make regional favorites like fluffy cheese souffle and real-deal French onion soup. Learn more.

To our dear community of travelers,

We want to address the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 throughout the world at the time of writing on March 11. This has created an enormous amount of personal and economic stress for folks both at home and in some of our favorite travel destinations. As we try to navigate these unprecedented circumstances, at the forefront is our great respect for the stressful nature of this situation for our travelers as well as the difficulties presented to the mostly small and family-owned businesses we work with around the world. 

To remain up to date on the latest news about the epidemic we have been following The World Health Organization (WHO), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), travel advisories from the  US State Department as well as the statistics at Worldometer.

We have also read many reports from Italy and spoken to numerous friends and colleagues there. While most people are fine and life up until the nationwide lockdown was mostly normal, especially the farther south you go, in infected regions the healthcare networks have become critically strained and those vulnerable folks in the population have become susceptible to extreme and life-threatening illnesses upon contraction of the virus. There is considerable fear that the conditions in the north may spread throughout the country. #IoRestoACasa or “I stay at home” has become a rallying cry in Italy and we admire Italy’s serious and dedicated response to this crisis.

After countless hours of discussion and research and weighing the odds and the pros and the cons, it is with a heavy heart that we announce the cancellation of our three sold out small group tours to Italy that were scheduled for May 2020. All travelers will receive a full refund.

Our hope is that this decision will prove to be overly cautious, for the sake of our colleagues and friends working in the tourism industry in Italy. We will miss seeing them this spring. However it has become abundantly clear that for our travelers the longer we wait to make this cancellation the more difficult and stressful it becomes.

All of our Spring 2020 tours in Italy – Flavors of Tuscany, Ladies Getaway in Tuscany and Amore in Italy: Lakes Region – will be rescheduled for Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021. We’re working to announce those dates very soon. Please do consider coming along with us then to show a little love to beautiful, resilient Italy.

As of now, Fall 2020 tours will proceed as scheduled. We have great hope that as a global community we can overcome this virus. Rest assured that the comfort and peace of mind of all Onward Travelers is our top priority, and think about joining us this fall as we have a handful of spots available on our tours in France, the Czech Republic and Tuscany

Stay healthy out there and try not to touch your face!

Your friends,
Kat & Molly

The holidays are upon us and that means lots of fabulous food and wine.

Kat is spending Christmas in Prague and the New Year in Austria. Molly is headed to PA with hot smoked salmon, truffle studded Pecorino, and a sparkling Riesling in tow.

A simple but decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake is a lovely recipe to make at the holidays, especially for Gluten Free or chocoholic guests. Enjoy it with crème fraîche, candied orange peel or a scoop of ice cream. We prepared this cake during our Art of Provence tour this fall. Viktorija taught a cooking class in Nice and the cake was a lovely finale.

Flourless​ ​Chocolate​ ​Cake
From Viktorija Todorovska

Makes: 1 8-inch cake
4 ounces dark chocolate (over 68%)
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line an 8-inch round pan with foil and butter the foil.
In a double-boiler, melt chocolate and butter, stirring the mixture so there are no
lumps. Add the sugar and stir well (note: mixture will be grainy).
Cool mixture slightly and then add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each egg.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until the center is soft but not runny.

Photos by Peter Newbury

An interview with Onward Travelers Jan Spadaro and Cathy Phipps Sine by Onward Travel’s summer intern, Caitlin Sweeney, Cornell SHA ’19

I had the chance to talk with two spirited and enthusiastic travelers, Jan Spadaro and Cathy Phipps Sine. When considering who to feature for the first traveler spotlight, Molly and Kat decided upon the perfect duo. From the beginning of our conversation, these two showed their sense of humor, all around enjoyment of each other, and love of travel. From cooking classes to getting lost in Rome, these two have done it all together.


How did you hear about Onward Travel?

JS: Hmm, I think I saw a post about a trip on a friend’s Facebook, someone who had been on trips with Onward Travel previously.

CPS: I was familiar with The Cooking Cottage that predated Onward Travel.

Cathy and Jan enjoying breakfast in Italy.

Which Onward adventures have you gone on?

CPS: Jan and I have been on three trips. First, in 2015, to Anna Maria Island with Kat as our guide to explore the area and enjoy a meal hosted by Peggi, Molly & Kat’s mom. The second trip was to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico to see and taste the Southwest in 2016. Our third trip was this past spring, to Italy’s Amalfi Coast with Kat and Chef Jenna as our guides.                                                

How long have you known each other?

JS: I’d say about 20 years (let’s see what she says!) but we’ve really gotten to know each other since her husband passed away in 2006 ~ 5 years after my husband passed, in 2001.

CPS: Jan & I met in 1999 when my daughter signed up to play soccer and Jan was her coach! There were 4 Emily’s on the team that year – one was mine and one was Jan’s. Our Emily’s became friends and so did Jan and me. On a side note, Jan was widowed in 2011. Her husband had my husband promise that we would always look out for Jan and their 3 children after he died. Little did we know that in 2006 my husband would also die of cancer and leave me widowed. Jan and I have a lot in common.

What has been your favorite trip so far?

JS: Wow, that’s a tough question, because each one has been different and unique. I will have to go with Amalfi. The Amalfi Coast is breathtakingly beautiful, the food was delectable, and the wine free-flowing! We had a great sized group, 16 of us, and many new friends in addition to a few with whom I had traveled previously. But I must add the same can be said for the other 3 trips I’ve been on, so maybe Amalfi is my most recent trip, freshest in my mind!

CPS: The Amalfi trip was most memorable! The coast was spectacular, from the sea, to the vineyards and lemon farms. I especially enjoyed our private boat ride out to the Isle of Capri. We sat out on the front of the boat sipping Prosecco as our Captain took the boat in and around grottos along the coast, before cruising us into Capri as if we were celebrities! We enjoyed a diverse selection of sightseeing and hands-on activities. One of the biggest benefits of Onward Travel is traveling with a much smaller group. I never felt like I was being herded along in a huge group. All of our trips had a wonderful mix of people who enjoy adventure and trying new things.

What is your favorite memory from traveling with Onward Travel?

Cathy in a lemon grove on the Amalfi Coast. Nice shirt, Cathy!


JS: So many to choose from, but I’m going to say it was the boat trip to Capri Island. Everything about that day was perfect, the weather, the scenery, the fellow travelers, and the atmosphere on the boat to make it seem we were living the life of the Rich and Famous

CPS: My all-time favorite memory was exploring the lemon farm in Amalfi. It is remarkable how one family has managed to keep it going for generations, while changing with the times but retaining the authentic values and traditions of the family. Singing the Star Spangled Banner at the request of the Italian Nonna and Papa at the farm and then hearing them sing the Italian National Anthem was a sight to behold! The Amalfi lemons and people are amazing. There’s no other way to describe them.

Jan, what is your favorite travel memory with Cathy?

JS: Cathy and I hopped on a bus to take in as much of Rome as we could see in the limited time we had one afternoon. We enjoyed the sites, and almost missed our stop to get off the bus close to our hotel. We were in a hurry, we thought, and as we hustled to get back to the hotel to meet up with the group, we got turned around and really had to use both of our memories of landmarks to finally find our way back, just in time to meet the others for dinner that night . . . only to then be told we were an hour early!  Deep breath, go get cleaned up, and enjoy (a few!) glasses of wine until the REAL meet-up time!  We got a good laugh at ourselves for that close call!

Cathy, what is your favorite travel memory with Jan?

Jan on the boat to Capri.

CPS: We like to laugh about the time we had an especially handsome, regal looking chef who was attempting to give us a cooking class. He seemed to zero in on Jan (although she denies it). Every time he turned around to check a pot or add more zest, we would edge Jan closer and offer her as his only assistant. She earned the nickname Teacher’s Pet on that trip

Why do you choose Onward Travel?

JS: That’s an easy one for me to answer!  As a single parent since my children were 7 and 8 years old, I have been solely responsible for planning the family vacations. Onward Travel takes ALL of that away from me! I can see the itinerary, decide if it’s a trip I would enjoy, and send Molly a check!  Of course, it’s also all about the great trips Kat and Molly plan; so many places to go, so little time!

CPS: I love exploring new cultures and places. History is so much more exciting when I get to stand on the very steps of some place I’ve read about. Traveling with others adds dialogue and discussions with interpretations that I may not have thought about. But above all, it’s the serendipity of possibilities that will happen along the way!


Jan and Cathy’s personalities and pure enjoyment of each other’s company really show through in their answers. You can bet their future endeavors will be filled with laughter and many glasses of wine!

A guest blog post by Onward Travel’s summer intern, Caitlin Sweeney, Cornell SHA ’19

Traveling alone can be nerve-racking, unpredictable, uncomfortable and lonely.

At first.

Once you take the plunge the unpredictability becomes spontaneity. Nerve-wracking becomes exciting. Being uncomfortable becomes a welcome challenge. The loneliness becomes courage to branch out and make lasting friendships, or the confidence to be alone. All of the downfalls of traveling solo become the greatest benefits.

It can be hard sometimes to align your interests, schedules and resources with those of your friends. This can be a barrier to traveling with friends. Onward Traveler Tim Niles wasn’t always up for traveling alone, but as the travel bug nagged him and friends’ schedules didn’t line up with his own he decided to just give it a try.

Tim (right) with fellow traveler Ryan Goebel in London

Tim’s says that his first solo trip was pretty terrible. When he asked his travel agent to send him somewhere warm and mildly all inclusive, he ended up in Cancun for a long weekend. Tim recalls it was, “not a good place to be solo, but I didn’t have any problem finding spots at the bar or tables for dinner!” Small experiences like not having anyone to watch his things while he went swimming or sitting in a hotel room with spotty wifi trying to determine his next sightseeing destination made him realize the importance of planning and preparation.

Tim enjoyed participating in our “Beer Geeks in Britain” tour with Founders Brewing in June 2017. The social group suited him well and he enjoyed solo, exploratory walks during unscheduled time, plus camaraderie and shared experiences with the group throughout the week.

Tim recommends someone looking to start solo traveling starts with a hybrid trip. Go somewhere to meet a friend, but add a couple days onto your trip to explore alone. Meet up with locals who know something about the area. Travel alone with strangers on a group excursion.

Jeannette (second from right) with travel friends in Seattle.

On the flip side, traveling alone may not suit you at all. Many find sharing the experiences with fellow travelers and not having to worry about a thing is the best part. We always have solo travelers on our tours and it’s great fun as the group mixes and mingles. Jeannette Schacht has traveled with Onward many times, and she says she “loves the individual help and attention to detail. The travelers are all warm and friendly and look out for each other.”

Whether exploring a new city by yourself or joining an Onward group and making new friends… If you’re thinking about traveling alone, what’s stopping you?

Onward, travelers!

Here at Onward Travel we love to partner with businesses and organizations that share our interests and passions. We grew up working at our family’s cooking school so we’re absolutely delighted to announce a culinary tour in partnership with The Chopping Block, a Chicago-based recreational cooking school. The Chopping Block offers lots of interesting programming at their two locations and they’re passionate about teaching folks to cook. Last year The Chopping Block’s wine educator moved to Nice and this fall she will host a food and wine tour in Provence!

Sip wonderful French wines at the source. Photos by Francois Millo.

Our fall culinary adventure in France, The Art of Living in Provence, is open to any and all travelers who would like to savor Provence. The tour is co-hosted by The Chopping Block’s Sommelier and Nice-resident Viktorija Todorovska. Viktorija wrote a beautiful book about Provence and is excited to introduce a small group of folks to her corner of the world. Spend three nights in Nice, two nights at a country retreat in the mountains, and two nights in quaint and lovely Aix-en-Provence.

This weeklong tour, September 15—22, 2017, will highlight the connection between food and wine in Provence. Learn how professionals taste and assess wines. Chat with winemakers and learn about the process of making world-renown rosé. Take your passion for food and wine a step further with this immersion in Provençal cuisine. But of course, this is vacation, and we’ll be sunning ourselves on the beach, playing a leisurely game of péntaque, admiring the fountains in charming Aix-en-Provence, and laughing into the evening with new friends.

Provence is home to well-known, healthful Mediterranean cuisine. We’ll enjoy hands-on cooking classes, market visits, and special tastings. Food is art in France, and in Provence… the beautiful ingredients are the stars. From sunny Nice, to the hills of Forcalquier, to charming Aix-in-Provence, we’ll wine and dine, cook and create, and experience picturesque Provence… View all the details here.

Harney & Sons Tea in London – an Exclusive Look at British Tea and Royal Culture
Inspired by the Historic Royal Palaces Tea Collection by Harney & Sons Tea

We are so delighted to announce our newest partnership with one of our favorite businesses: Harney & Sons Tea! Headquartered in the Hudson Valley, with a tearoom in Soho, Harney & Sons Tea is a leader in the global fine tea market. They source a mind-boggling variety of the best teas from across the globe and Harney & Sons products are on the menus of many excellent restaurants and cafes around the world. Their mail order business also has a large and loyal following, and their teas can be found on the shelves of gourmet markets. We first got to know the Harney family when Molly met John Harney, the founder of the business, at a Cornell event while she was an undergraduate. John Harney and his son Mike, his successor in running this fabulous family business, are, like Molly, proud Cornell Hotel School graduates. Onward Travel couldn’t be more thrilled to begin offering tea-centric travel experiences around the globe with Harney & Sons Tea!

Join Mike & Brigitte Harney this September for a one of a kind tea-centered tour of greater London. Harney & Sons Tea is served at some of the most iconic tea drinking destinations in the British capital, including the famous Dorchester Hotel and the Historic Royal Palaces, for whom Harney & Sons has produced a signature line of fine teas.

Speaking about Britain, George Orwell once said, “Tea is one of the mainstays of the civilization of this country!” And Orwell was right: nobody drinks tea like the Brits! They average at least three cups per day, encouraged by a wonderful tea drinking culture that has flourished there since the national beverage was made fashionable by King Charles in the 17th century. Today tea is a part of local custom, vernacular, way of life and pop culture at every level of society.

As seen in London’s trendy Shoreditch neighborhood. / photo courtesy Duncan Hull

In London with the Harneys you’ll take a day-long Tea Infusiast Masterclass at the UK Tea Academy, set out on a historic walking tour including visits to Royal residences, and enjoy the traditional British tea service everywhere from the posh Dorchester Hotel to below the copper hull of The Cutty Sark. We’ll trace the history of tea and the tea industry from China to India to the British dining room. It’s difficult to seek out tea history in the UK without taking some time to explore another quintessentially British pursuit of pleasure: the garden, so we’ll visit some delightful gardens as well. In this adventure packed week our small group will dive in to explore London and her fascinating tea history from all angles.

High Tea in the Promenade at The Dorchester / photo courtesy The Dorchester

Our home base for this adventure will be a four-star hotel in the heart of London, The Chesterfield Mayfair. It’s a boutique hotel boasting style and charm galore (think dark wood, antique furniture, original paintings), a top-hatted doorman to make sure you know you’re in London, and rooftop beehives making honey for our tea.

The drawing room at The Chesterfield Mayfair / courtesy The Chesterfield Mayfair

The conservatory at The Chesterfield Mayfair / courtesy The Chesterfield Mayfair

Day 1: Welcome to England!

Upon arrival at London Heathrow Airport your Onward Travel guide (Kat) and a professional driver will collect the group and we’re off to brunch at historic Newen’s, located in the London suburb of Richmond, where “Maids of Honour”cakes are a 300 year old tradition, reportedly named for Anne Boleyn. The Maid of Honour cake is a cheese filled puff pastry tart, and we’ll nosh on those along with a delicious and restorative hot breakfast.

Then let’s head to the world’s largest collection of living plants, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, for a guided tour. Officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these gardens were founded in 1840 and contain tens of thousands of plants as well as an Arboretum, a lake, and plant houses spanning from the Victorian era to the contemporary. It’s the perfect place to stretch legs and jump right into Britain’s outstanding garden tradition.

The world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse at Kew Gardens / photo courtesy

In the afternoon we’ll check into The Chesterfield Mayfair. Take a little time to freshen up and then we are off to an early evening Champagne High Tea at the legendary Dorchester Hotel. As we sit in the opulent setting of The Promenade in the heart of the hotel, we’ll toast to our week of adventure ahead as we enjoy the elegant spread and welcoming service that makes this one of the world’s most famous places to drink tea. A proud member of the prestigious Tea Guild, The Dorchester is an official partner of Harney & Sons Tea and we’ll enjoy some Harney tea there today.

Day 2- London Immersion

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel as you will each morning of your stay. Let’s get acquainted with London today! A friendly and knowledgeable local guide will meet us after breakfast and we’ll set out for a historic London walking tour. Our hotel is in the posh neighborhood of Mayfair, just adjacent to the royal district of Westminster which has one of the highest concentrations of famous landmarks in the world. From triumph to tragedy, splendor to squalor, the area has cradled royalty and witnessed revolt.  Laws have been made and kings have been crowned – and one even lost his head! We’ll learn all about it this morning as we follow royal footsteps along the Mall, stroll the hustle and bustle of Whitehall, pass Downing Street (home to Britain’s Prime Minister), and enjoy the relative tranquillity of Horse Guard’s Parade where two of England’s most ancient ceremonies take place.  We’ll visit Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament.

As we wrap up our tour by the shores of the River Thames, continue your exploration and walk across Westminster Bridge to take in the vibrant South Bank and bustling Borough Market, or transfer back to the hotel to relax. Either way, the rest of the afternoon and evening is yours. Onward is happy to help you arrange tickets to see a show in London’s fantastic theater district, book a tour of London Tower, or point you in the direction of the city’s best shopping. This is a great night to make reservations at one of our recommended London restaurants to enjoy some of the world’s best cuisine.

Day 3 – A Very British Sunday

This morning we will set out to visit Kensington Palace, a royal residence set in the Kensington Gardens, and one of the officially designated Historic Royal Palaces, with whom Harney & Sons Tea has an official partnership.  Members of the British Royal Family have resided here since the 17th century and today it is the official London residence of a number of royals, including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Catherine) and Prince Harry. The historic State Rooms are open to the public, and we’ll enjoy a tour of them today before we visit the gardens – formerly private for the inhabitants of the palace, but today one of the Royal Parks of London, designated Grade I and listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. After our visit to the gardens we’ll retire to a high tea lunch at The Orangery, an elegant structure set amid the gardens and long a location for royal entertaining. Sip Harney tea in a London palace as you enjoy a selection of dainty tea sandwiches, cakes and fresh scones with Cornish clotted cream.

Afternoon tea at The Orangery / photo courtesy Gary Bembridge

This afternoon you’ll have time to relax at the Chesterfield Mayfair, pop in to one of the many museums and galleries near our hotel, or cross a sightseeing destination off your list. We’ll reconvene in the late afternoon to partake in one of England’s greatest traditions together: The Sunday Roast. We’ll head to a favorite neighborhood butcher restaurant, the Blacklock, where you’ll enjoy your choice of juicy charcoal roasted meat – lamb, pork or beef – accompanied by duck fat roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, veggies and a rich gravy. It doesn’t get much better – or much more British – than that!

Day 4 – Back to School with Jane Pettigrew

Time to do a little learning! Today we will attend a private Tea Infusiast Masterclass with tea expert Jane Pettigrew at the UK Tea Academy. Ms. Pettigrew, the author of sixteen books on tea, has worked in the industry for over 30 years and she teaches tea masterclasses all over the world. In 2014 she was voted Best Tea Educator at the World Tea Awards and in January 2016 she was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Tea Production and Tea History in the UK’s New Year Honours list. We’ll spend an entire day with Jane and her team, tasting, learning and talking tea together.

After this delightful and informative day enjoy the evening in London as you like.

Day 5 – History & Smuggled Tea

This morning we’ll travel to the west of Central London to visit Hampton Court Palace, built by Kings Henry VIII and William III in the 16th and 17th centuries, it is one of the most spectacular buildings in all of England and has been a favorite of generations of royalty. The Palace boasts an unusual, yet somehow cohesive, blend of Tudor and Baroque styles, with magnificently maintained interiors full of rich furnishings and a splendid art collection. The grounds and gardens may make you feel like you’re Alice and you’ve found your way to Wonderland. Other points of interest include the huge maze of hedgerows, with over 800 meters of trails, which was planted in the late 17th century for William III of Orange, the “real tennis” court (one of 43 surviving globally), and the world’s largest grapevine. We’ll tour this unusual and magical place with a fun and knowledgeable local guide before we enjoy a casual lunch in the on-site cafe, a purveyor of Harney & Sons Tea.

The Pool Garden at Hampton Court Palace / photo courtesy Stu Smith

Robert Fortune

In the afternoon, we’ll enjoy a special behind the scenes visit to Chelsea Physic House, an important location in the history of tea in the west. Robert Fortune, a botanist, plant hunter, and traveler, was curator here for a time in the mid-19th century, and under his supervision these gardens flourished. Mr. Fortune also played a gigantic role in shaping the modern tea industry. In 1848 he left Chelsea at the request of the East India Company and traveled to China where, after the Chinese government had banned the export of tea plants, he spent three years undercover. Mr. Fortune then transported 20,000 seedlings of tea from China to India, using cases like miniature greenhouses, along with a group of trained Chinese tea workers. A highlight of our visit today will be seeing one of these little greenhouses, known as a “Wardian Case,” used by Robert Fortune. You can read about his exciting exploits in this article from the Smithsonian!

Tonight, back in Mayfair, we’ll enjoy a casual dinner together at a trendy local gastropub.

Day 6 – Exploring Greenwich

This morning we’ll ride a ferry down the Thames to enjoy a lovely day in Greenwich, a London district bursting with history. The Cutty Sark tea clipper, built in 1869 and now moored there on the Thames, was one of the last and fastest tea clippers, as she was built in the era just before sailing technology gave way to steam propulsion. Retired for public display after 85 years on the high seas, the Cutty Sark is an important relic of the trading industry of the past. This morning we’ll arrive at Cutty Sark before the ship opens to the public and the Curator of Cutty Sark will provide a Curator Tour of the ship with an emphasis on its role in the Tea Trade.

The Cutty Sark docked on the Thames in Greenwich, London / Photo courtesy Karen Roe

After the tour our group will enjoy a delicious “Cream Tea” which means tea accompanied by scones with jam and clotted cream. Then we’ll walk through historic Greenwich to the National Maritime Museum, the largest Maritime Museum in the world, where we’ll be met by the curator for a private curator’s tour of the current exhibition which couldn’t be more appropriate for our group. As the curator leads us through Traders: the East India Company we’ll learn all about the East India Company’s pivotal and fascinating role in British maritime trade. Lunch today will be as a group in The Brasserie in the National Maritime Museum, overlooking beautiful Greenwich Royal Park.

Greenwich Park & Royal Observatory / Photo courtesy Francisco Antunes

After lunch we’ll walk through the park and up to the Royal Observatory, the home of The Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time, and important location in the history of navigation and astronomy. An audio tour is offered for those who’d like to learn more, and everyone will enjoy the panoramic views of London. Our last stop in Greenwich today will be the Queen’s House, an architectural masterpiece and once a Royal house of delights. Today the Queen’s House is home to the Royal Museums Greenwich art collection which includes works by European and British masters.
We’ll return to the Chesterfield Mayfair in the late afternoon. Our farewell dinner together tonight will be a quintessentially British dining experience, with a nod to the tea history we’ve been taking in throughout the week. Enjoy a seven course tasting menu, accompanied by fine wines, at a Michelin-starred fine dining Indian restaurant near the hotel. Whether Indian cuisine is new to you, or already a favorite, this meal will be an unforgettable experience and we’ll laugh and toast our wonderful week together as we enjoy a menagerie of flavors and beautiful, stylish presentation.


Day 7 – Farewell!

Our wonderful time together has come to an end. Book a private car to the airport through the concierge, or take an easy tube ride there. Head home with fantastic memories, new friends, and lots of knowledge about tea history and British culture!

To get all of the details about this trip, including pricing and registration, please click here!