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(2019 - Fall/Winter Issue)


A decade ago on a lemon farm in Sorrento, Italy, half-a-dozen Trafalgar guests spent a relaxed evening with an Italian Travel Director and her relatives chatting over a home-cooked meal and some limoncello. With the scent of lemons infusing the air, they ate, they drank, they laughed.

And that was the night the light went on for Trafalgar, the award-winning leader in guided vacations, to pioneer a program that would change travel forever. They called it “Be My Guest”—and today it has grown to 100 unique experiences across the seven continents that the company visits. Local hosts open up their homes and businesses exclusively for Trafalgar’s guests to toast, dine, explore and learn about the destinations.

“When we launched “Be My Guest” 10 years ago, we were the first to tap into travellers’ desire to gain new perspectives on the world by involving them in the day-to-day lives of locals,” says Gavin Tollman, Trafalgar CEO. “Yet when we launched the program in 2009, people said it would never work.” He is pleased to report that they were wrong—and today every trip includes such a sensual event.

To delight the senses, activities include everything from olive oil and wine-tasting with an Italian count in his villa to exploring the French property of Poppy Salinger, widow of John F. Kennedy’s former personal advisor, and hearing her tales of those glamour days. Here is a sampling of more “Be My Guest” offerings.


The music and movement of the American deep south stole my heart decades ago—and over the years I have left pieces of it in Kentucky and Louisiana. While I’ve always wanted to follow the full historical adventure of southern soul, organizing such a complex task is so overwhelming that I’ve never gotten around to it. But Trafalgar’s Spirit of the South will fix that.

Covering hot spots like Nashville, Graceland, New Orleans and Memphis over 17 days, the trip will help me get my rhythm on—and add encounters that I’d never be able to negotiate on my own. For example, in Louisville, Kentucky—where I’ve been for the bourbon and thoroughbreds—I’ll have a chance to break bread with friends or family of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali at an exclusive “Be My Guest” dinner. This “Connect with Locals” experience includes an after-hours private visit to the Muhammad Ali Center with one of its curators.


After several trips to Hawaii—including one for my own wedding—I thought I had pretty much covered the highlights. But until I looked at Trafalgar’s expansive itineraries, I realized I was far from having “done it.” Three island-hopping guided vacation options, from 10 to 13 days, take guests from the busiest spots such as Waikiki and Pearl Harbour to the remotest corners of this lush Pacific paradise.

An integral part of the Hawaiian Trafalgar “Connect with Locals” program is a truly farm-to-fork experience in Kula, Maui. On the eight-and-a-half-acre O’o farm overlooking the stunning coastline, visitors can stroll through fruit orchards and a coffee plantation. They get an education in coffee-making from farm manager Ancil Clancy, and pick their own produce for an exclusive alfresco “Be My Guest” lunch. Owned by two surfing buddies turned successful restaurateurs, the farm supplies upscale Maui restaurants with vegetables, herbs and flowers.


Revisiting France is always a delight, and with Trafalgar I can roll in laid-back luxury through Paris, wine country and famous historical sites such as Normandy, the French Riviera, Lourdes and Giverny. In addition to the 13-day guided vacations trip, a 10-day itinerary includes Barcelona and Monaco—as well as a rare opportunity to “Connect with Locals.”

The aristocratic hostess of the “Be My Guest” dinner near Château de Villandry returned to France after a diplomatic career in the U.S. and Mexico—and is still there 40 years later. In her 17th-century manor house, Marquise Beatrice de Montferrier serves a traditional three-course Tourangelle meal paired with local wine and topped by her decadently delicious chocolate torte. Other highlights are an exploration of the garden and historical tales of the house and the farm.


Scandinavia has been beckoning me since I walked into my first IKEA store. But ever since the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, I’ve been particularly fascinated by Norway. Its allure has grown through recent films and television series highlighting the people, the place and the mythology.

Trafalgar, fortunately, has a nine-day guided vacation of Norway and a 14-day immersive experience of Scandinavia, so my only challenge is deciding which one to embark on. In any case, I’ll get the “Be My Guest” experience on a postcard-perfect 16th-century farm hosted by the fifth-generation Øvre-Eide family.

On the slate is a guided journey of their farm and livestock, including the purebred Norwegian Dølahest and Fjording horses they raise. The Bergen farm was once the seat of a king, and the dungeon is said to have imprisoned the infamous bandit Gjest Baardsen who plundered western Norway in the 18th century. Afterwards, guests dine on a spread of delicious homemade and locally sourced Norwegian dishes prepared by Arild Øvre-Eide. And they can dance to lively folk music.


The world’s most-awarded travel company, Trafalgar has been crafting innovative trips and exploring new destinations aligned to traveller trends for 74 years. Long before the world caught on to the term “experiential travel,” Trafalgar understood that travellers wanted to feel the authenticity of a destination through personal connections with its people, stories and cuisine.

With that authenticity comes a sense of responsibility to the environment. For example, “Be My Guest” experiences help to sustain local communities and traditions with the support of hosts who help combat the negative effects of tourism and work to carefully preserve the local ways of life. They can do this through JoinTrafalgar in partnership with the TreadRight Foundation.

Travel Planner

For more information about Trafalgar’s destinations, itineraries and the “Be My Guest” program, contact your travel agent or visit Trafalgar.com.

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