Greetings from Robbi and Jim

A warm welcome to all of the members of our Aroma Tours Newsletter in over 30 countries around the world.

Kind thanks to Tim Cohen ( Heart of Provence Tour 2015 ) for this photo of Robbi and I

Robbi and I are currently in Alsace after having completed three wonderful tours, beginning in Spain with our always popular Flavours of Spain Tour and Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage, followed by our delightful and delicious Flavours of France Tour.

  • Please note that there are lots of lovely photos of these three tours in our previous newsletter

Tomorrow we will be journeying to our beloved Provence to continue sharing our passion for the fabulous places and experiences that we love, with delightful people from around the world.

There are still a few places available for this year in Italy and Bali and we are thrilled to see that our 2025 tour season is continuing to receive strong early bookings with most tours already almost sold out.

Aroma Traveller Impressions

One of the great pleasures for Robbi and I is receiving messages of thanks from our Aroma Travellers.

We have compiled a few below from our recent past adventures and hope that you enjoy reading about their experiences with us.

Glorious leisurely gourmet lunch in a beautiful 2 star Michelin restaurant in Spain - joyful and delicious!

  • "Thank you so much for a very special delightful holiday in France!! It was a wonderful week….beautiful scenery, fantastic food and great company. Your attention to detail and personal interest is what makes your trips so unique and special. Sharing the week with everyone and making so many new friends adds to the pleasure of travel. As I look at my photos and reflect on the many highlights my heart is filled with happy memories."
     Connie Beggs Middletown USA
  • "I hope you really enjoy your R&R- You totally earned it for creating such a spectacular trip for us. Every detail you thought of made it special and it had a plethora of touches that will provide great memories for years to come. It should never be called a "tour" since what you deliver is a remarkable and unique experience!"
     Jodye Anzalotta New York USA
  • "Given my dreams of Provence, I must say that you exceeded all my expectations and provided an experience of Provence that I could not possibly have done on my own. So many little touches showed the great thought that was put into planning for our pleasure in seeing the real Provence. You are special and delightful people and I cannot thank you enough."
     Judy Cassel Secaucus USA
  • "Buongiorno amicas e amicos, I have returned from the most perfect trip to Italy that anyone can imagine! I joined a delightful group of Aussies and  Americans for a glorious seven days in the hilltop towns of Tuscany. We enjoyed delicious food in beautiful trattorias, tasted and consumed the best wines in Tuscany and placed ourselves in every picture or postcard we have ever seen of enchanting Tuscany. It could not have been more perfect. I highly recommend Aroma Tours. Thank you for helping me realize my dream."
     Daria Bellina Rockledge USA
  • Thank you so very much for a delightful and enchanting week of adventure and discovery. There were so many heart warming moments that have created memories to last a lifetime. Everyday brought us laughter and joy filled moments, with scents of lavender, glorious food, tastes of olive oil, wonderful wines and much more."
     Janis & Bill Fox Rensselaer USA
  • "Harold and I have been meaning to write to thank you for a most wonderful week exploring and experiencing the different facets of Provence. Your knowledge and guidance, showing us some of your favourite places, gave us a really enjoyable and unforgettable holiday. It was such a pleasure for me not to have to worry about booking hotels, or navigating, or finding good restaurants (all of which were excellent, including the expert driving)! The cooking class was great fun and I use the perfume I made daily. Our travelling companions bonded as old friends and overall this was one of our best holidays ever. We look forward to being able to join you on one of your other tours in the future."
     Lynne & Harold Seifman Dover Heights Australia
  • "Thank you for a wonderful experience in a place of great beauty. I have seen and learnt so much in such a short time. You both bought so much to create a week filled with everlasting memories."
     Katrina Newton Hong Kong

Memorable Photos From Our Past Adventures

One of the best ways to getting a sense of the experiences that await you on an Aroma Tours journey is by taking a peek at some of the 1000's of photos we have taken during our adventures over the last 30 years which are compiled in our Photo Galleries Pages.

We haven't had time to add photos from 2023 to our Photo Gallery Pages yet, so we have included a sampling below for your viewing pleasure.

Our Current Booking Status

The enthusiasm for this year's Aroma Tours has been outstanding with almost all of our tours now sold out.

List of Tours for 2024
Flavours of Spain 13 - 20 May 2024 SOLD OUT
Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage 20 - 27 May 2024 SOLD OUT
Flavours of France 3 - 10 June 2024 SOLD OUT
Heart of Provence 17 - 24 June 2024 SOLD OUT
Essential Provence 24 June - 1 July 2024 SOLD OUT
Treasures of Provence
(ladies only special event)
5 - 12 July 2024 SOLD OUT
Aromas of Tuscany 3 - 10 September 2024 SOLD OUT
Flavours of Italy 10 - 17 September 2024 2 vacancies
Bali Women's Retreat 7 - 14 September 2024 1 vacancy
Bali Women's Retreat (private event) 16 - 23 September 2024 2 vacancies

We thrilled to see that our 2025 tour season is continuing to receive strong early bookings.

List of Tours for 2025
Flavours of Spain 12 - 19 May 2025 3 vacancies
Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage 19 - 26 May 2025 3 vacancies
Flavours of France 9 - 16 June 2025 3 vacancies
Heart of Provence 23 - 30 June 2025 2 vacancies
Essential Provence 30 June - 7 July 2025 3 vacancies
Treasures of Provence
(ladies only special event)
11 - 18 July 2025
Aromas of Tuscany 9 - 16 September 2025 4 vacancies
Flavours of Italy 16 - 23 September 2025 4 vacancies

Please note

  • Our up-to-the-minute booking status is available via our calendar page

The Story of Champagne - Part 4

The Story of Champagne continues: Part 3 can be found in our previous newsletter.

In France, the declaration of war against Germany on the 3rd of August 1914, was initially met with widespread enthusiasm and despite the terrible experiences of the Franko-Prussian war [ circa 1870 ], there was a general belief that the French with their elan and bravery would prevail.

However, after only three weeks and a series of bloody engagements, one hundred and sixty thousand French soldiers lay dead and under the relentless onslaught of the German's big guns and superior fire-power, France's campaign was in tatters.

The Champenois knew that the storm would soon be upon them and in early September with the French army in full retreat, the Germans marched triumphantly into Champagne's two largest cities, Reims and Epernay.

After several days of "adjustment" - taunting by the Champenois and displays of overpowering military might by the Germans - life began to settle into a new normality. The Germans, sure of ultimate victory, viewed Champagne as a valuable new fiefdom and were keen for champagne production to resume as soon as possible. The mayor of Reims posted a public notice, pleading with his citizens: "I beg you to avoid any provocation. It is not your responsibility to try and change events; it is your responsibility not to aggravate them. We beg of you silence, dignity and prudence."

In Epernay, champagne maker Maurice Pol-Roger assumed the roll of mayor [ all of the public servants had fled ] and used his influence and personal fortune [ not to mention a great deal of bravery ] to ensure the peace: "I will stay no matter what happens, to reassure and to comfort those who wish to leave but cannot. And I will do all that is humanly possible to defend them."

The Germans now full of confidence, paused to regroup and resupply before moving towards the grand prize: Paris. What they hadn't consider however, was the resilience and ingenuity of the French troops who opposed them and as they crossed the Marne river in mid September they found themselves severely tested.

The "Battle of the Marne" as it became known, was fought within sight of Pommery and Greno's famous champagne house, where the vignerons were granted a ring-side seat as the opposing armies exchanged avalanches of deadly fire. Gradually it became clear that the French were gaining the upper hand and just as suddenly as they had begun, the occupations of Reims and Epernay were over. 

In Reims the mood was euphoric, with celebrations and joyful tears accompanied by many a glass of champagne. The Germans had been repelled, however, it was not the decisive victory that many thought it to be and far from being defeated, "The Boche" were busily digging themselves into the hills outside the city. The war was not over, rather it had only just begun and the very next day, the sounds of celebration were replaced by the roar of German artillery. The obliteration of Reims has begun!

As the shelling intensified, the Remois looked on in horror and disbelief as the German guns began targeting their magnificent cathedral, where France's Kings and Queens had been crowned and emperors created. Despite the worldwide outrage it caused, the Germans knew that by destroying the cathedral, they would be dealing a devastating blow to French morale. 

Over the next few years Champagne was transformed from a land of vineyards, fields and beautiful towns and villages, into a blood-soaked  moonscape, scared with trenches and barbed wire. Reims suffered 1,051 consecutive days of bombardment which would result in ninety-eight percent of the city being destroyed! To escape the "avalanche of iron and fire" above, the Remois were forced to flee underground to live in the crayeres [ wine caves ] and the world over, Reims became known as "the martyred city".

The German's long range artillery [ their largest gun, Big Bertha had a range of 75 miles ] inflicted serious damage on virtually every champagne house including Ruinart and Fils, Pommery and Greno, Roederer and Moet and Chandon. As a result, just like the people of Reims, champagne production was forced to flee underground into the crayeres.

In spite of gunfire, shelling, gas attacks and unexploded bombs, the Champenois [ including women, children and the elderly ] heroically continued the work of tending and harvesting what was left of their grapevines and became a symbol of French national pride and resistance in the face of overwhelming adversity. Many would loose their lives so-doing!

1917 began as an impossible year for France and the Champenois, with the war bogged down in a deadly stalemate and everything needed for champagne production [ and just about everything else ] in extremely short supply. 

Apart from export to countries like the USA and Russia, demand for champagne was understandably at rock bottom and then to make matters worse, came news of the Russian Revolution and subsequent loss of one of France's key allies. The only saving grace was that as a result of attacks on their shipping and the discovery that Germany was attempting to coax Mexico into the war [ promising them the return of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico ], the Americans had decided to join the conflict, which until then they had seen as purely European.

For the Champenois the October Revolution was a devastating blow that left bills for millions of bottles of champagne unpaid. The new communist leadership branded champagne a "degenerate capitalist habit" and declared that vodka was the patriotic drink for Russians.

For Louis Roederer in particular, it was a total disaster! Eighty percent of his sales went to Russia and his production was geared to the sweeter style of champagne preferred by Czar Alexander II. He had even produced a champagne for the Czar's exclusive consumption in elegant clear crystal bottles [ rather than the normal thick dark green ones ], which he appropriately named "Cristal". With a huge stock of champagne so sweet that nobody else wanted it, he faced utter ruin and to quote a Roederer spokesman: "The only reason our firm survived, that we still exist today, was that no one else in Champagne had any money to buy us out."

With the American "doughboys" now arriving in significant numbers, Germany was forced to mobilize and pin its hopes on taking Paris - they believed that the rest of France would soon follow. Achieving their goal however, meant pushing though - you guessed it - Champagne!

In July 1918, the second "Battle of the Marne" began in earnest and the Kaiser himself came to watch the "drive for final victory". After failing to take what was left of Reims, the Germans surged towards the Marne river where they walked straight into miles of close-laid artillery batteries. Five minutes of withering fire later, the German campaign and dream of taking Paris were effectively over. Four months later, on November 11, they signed the armistice to end the war. 

Hundreds of thousands of bottles of champagne were "liberated" in the euphoria of victory that followed but amidst the joy, was the tragic realization that a whole generation had been practically wiped out. Champagne alone had lost over half of its population with entire towns and villages wiped off the map, never to return!

The Champenois were now faced with the daunting task of resurrecting their lives and of course their vineyards, which in many cases resembled a scene from Dante's Inferno. They soon discovered that while the Great War raged, another battle had been taking place unseen. Not only was the soil shredded by bombardment and poisoned by the detritus of war but the vine destroying parasite Phylloxera had continued its inexorable spread. This meant that all of their vines would need to be uprooted, grafted onto Phylloxera resistant American root stocks and replanted.

On the positive side, with the end of the war everyone was eager to blot out the nightmare they had just lived through and champagne was the perfect tool. It was an exhilarating time, skirts got shorter, women cropped their hair and Chanel No 5 was invented. Josephine Baker and Sidney Bechet mesmerized audiences with a new kind of music: jazz. The roaring 1920 's were light, gay and sparkling, just like champagne. Not even prohibition in the USA could dampen the soaring spirits of the Champenois - they simply moved their sales underground to smugglers and gangsters, one of the most famous being Al Capone.

However, all was not well in the Western world and in October 1929 the New York Stock Exchange took a sudden dive and then tumbled out of control. The Great depression had begun.

 As a result there was now a glut of champagne[ over 150 million bottles ] and customers had simply dried up. Many champagne producers were reduced to making cheap sloppy wines and even still wines!  Many simply couldn't continue and left for the cities, where some were even reduced to begging on street corners!

The Champenois needed a saviour and as times were desperate, they weren't going to let a little thing like the truth stand in their way. The saviour they invented was Dom Perignon!

Soon the reclusive monk from Hautevilliers was being hailed as the "father of champagne" and celebrations were announced to mark the 250th anniversary of Dom Perignon's "invention" of sparkling champagne  [ in fact, as we saw in Part 1, no-one had actually invented champagne ]. No one seemed to mind that the date was arbitrary and that the Champenois had tried unsuccessful 18 years earlier to do the same thing for the 200th anniversary! 

What was important was that it worked and champagne sales soared with the image of Dom Perignon holding a frothing bottle of champagne exclaiming, "I have tasted the stars". To this day his name is attached to Moet and Chandon's flagship cuvee.

By 1935 the worst of the Great Depression was over. Then out of the ashes of post-war Germany, came Adolph Hitler and World War II - the third war against Germany in only 75 years! With the horrors of the Great War still vivid in their memories and the knowledge that they were now basically a nation of children, old people and cripples, the French wondered: will there be a France at all?

Within a month of the German invasion, France had surrendered and in the initial chaos, over two million bottles of champagne were pilfered by exuberant German soldiers. Then, under the orders of Field Marshal Goring, the Champenois were forced to agree to provide 350,000 bottles of champagne a week, at little more than a pittance. Some went to supply the German controlled restaurants in France and the rest were destined for the Third Reich back in Germany. This amounted to little more than legalized plunder but the Champenois were relieved that their towns and villages had been spared the massive destruction of the last war and that there were no battles amongst their vines.

Over the years of World War II the Champenois resisted as best they could by hiding as much of their top marques as possible and by using bad corks, dirty bottles and adulterating their cuvees. In an indirect way they also helped the allies by sharing information about the destination of large champagne orders, which often presaged the location of German activities - for example their campaign in Egypt.

By mid 1944 with D-Day approaching, the Germans had planted explosives in order to destroy Epernay's cellars and bridges but thankfully General Patton's army caught them completely by surprise and Epernay and its buried treasure was spared.

In the spring of 1945 General Eisenhower moved his headquarters to Reims [ where so much suffering had occurred 30 years earlier ] to await Germany's unconditional surrender. The last explosion of World War II was the popping of champagne corks from bottles of the acclaimed 1934 vintage of Pommery and Greno.

Every spring in Champagne, the vines begin to weep. The French call it "les pleures" [ the time of tears ], when sap begins flowing from the wounds inflicted by pruning. Throughout the centuries, Champagne and its vines have had good reason to weep, given so many wars and other traumas. But the tears the vines shed are a symbol of hope, a sign the vines have survived another winter and that another season of growth is ahead. 

I hope you have enjoyed our journey through the history of Champagne and the iconic wines that proudly bear that name and I trust that you will reflect on the toil, ingenuity and valour of the Champenois when next you open a bottle of champagne.

Last Ever Bali Women's Retreat

After 25 years, Robbi has decided that this September will be our last ever Bali Women's Retreat.

Many women over the years have enjoyed this nurturing, nourishing week of indulgence in the lush island paradise of Bali but now it is time to say Bali Bye!

 

  • If you would like to join Robbi in beautiful Bali this September for this last ever Bali Women's Retreat there is just one last place available.

Travelling Solo in a Group

As well as couples and friends travelling together, we are regularly joined by solo travellers - mostly women, who appreciate being able to journey with liked minded people from around the world, without the need to do all the planning and take on the daunting task of touring by themselves.

Joining one of our small group tours is easy and we have already made all of the arrangements on your behalf to ensure that you have a delightful, stress-free holiday with the focus on having fun.

Having a ready-made group of friends to travel with, and us to take wonderful care of you is the way to go!

  • There is no extra charge for solo travellers who are willing to share a room with another same gender guest from our group.

We have carefully crafted off-the-beaten-path itineraries that are the perfect balance of structure, experiences, details and free time to enjoy in your own way.

Our Invitation

Robbi and I look forward to welcoming you to one of our delightful Aroma Tours in 2023 or 2024.

Glorious lavender flowers in Provence France

  • For detailed information about any of our tours please visit our tour information page and if you would like to join us please visit our make a reservation page.
  • As always if you have any questions or if you would like us to assist you personally with advice about your travel arrangements or with any other details please contact us at info@aroma-tours.com

Warmest regards,

Jim and Robbi


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