Greetings from Robbi and Jim

A warm welcome to the more than 6000 members of our Aroma Tours newsletter in over 35 countries around the world.

We are starting to get excited about the start of this year's tour season which begins in early May with our first Aromas of Tuscany tour.

Robbi and I are continuing to work hard and feel truly blessed to see out dreams flourishing and are greatly looking forward to sharing many delightful moments with this year's Aroma Travellers.

Aroma Travellers Our Thanks

One of the main reasons that we continue to grow and flourish, is the on-going support we receive from our past Aroma Travellers.

This year we will be enjoying the largest number of return travellers we have ever had. Currently the level is 29% and it is a great delight for us to be welcoming back so many good friends.

Robbi and I would also like to give our heart-felt thanks to all of you who continue to support us with your kind words and referrals and by spreading news of our tours and retreats amongst your friends.

Aroma Tours in the Media

In our last newsletter we mentioned that Aroma Tours has just been featured in Frommer's directory. We have also just been interviewed by Lorna Owens on her popular radio show which is broadcast across the USA and internationally.

Over the years, we have never actively courted media attention and both Frommers and Lorna Owens contacted us after quietly observing our activities over a period of time.

I got to thinking and over the years this phenomenon of media interest has resulted in articles and interviews about our Aroma Tours in some interesting places including:-

House and Garden, Travel and Leisure, LA Weekly Times, Straits Times, Melbourne Age, Herald Sun, ZIP Radio Japan, Jetstar Magazine, Coast and Country, Sniffapalooza, ABC Radio Australia, RE2 Radio Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald, Times on Sunday, Cornucopia, Harper's Bazaar - Malaysia, Spa Asia, London Daily Mail, New Woman Magazine, Pure Magazine and the list goes on...... 

Not to mention the numerous aromatherapy related articles that we have written and had published around the world in multiple languages.

Giacomo Returns

Each May as we begin our adventures in Tuscany we are welcomed by a riot of colour: Mauve wisteria, blood red poppies, egg shell blue irises, golden fields of canola, the vibrant blue of flowering rosemary and sage - also the late spring mantle of vibrant green meadows - absolutely wonderful.

As well as nourishment for the eyes, life takes on a different pace with long lunches in beautiful hilltop villages, wonderful coffee, delicious wines, truffles, parmegiano cheese, porchini mushrooms, prosciutto, fresh pasta..... ( so many wonderful tastes ), laughter and the fine Italian art of ”dolce fa niente” - sweet doing nothing!

Our journey is also about absorbing the richness and passion of Italian life and savouring its cultural heritage evident in the art, architecture, pageantry, festivals, fashion, design, craftsmanship and unique approach to living.

Jim in Italian is Giacomo, hence the title of this snippet and shortly after my return to Italy each year, the transformation from Jim to Giacomo begins. The Dolce Vita soaks into one's blood with the first taste of fresh porchinis, the sound of wine glasses gonging, the rich flavour of a fine sangiovese wine, cantucci and vin santo and the welcome faces of friends.

We are all destined to be transformed which is the magic of this place - feeling more Italian moment by moment, speaking more enthusiastically, smiling broadly and even display a bit of emphatic arm waving!

There are still places available for both of our Aromas of Tuscany tours and if you would like to join us this year as we explore Tuscany's perched villages, rolling hills, delicious food and wines, rich culture and joy of life we invite you visit our Information Request Page for more details.

Current Booking Status

We are continuing to enjoy a healthy rate of bookings, with our Flavours of Provence and Loire Valley Sojourn now joining the list of fully booked tours for 2008.

There are still places available for most of our tours and also due to one couple needing to reschedule their travel plans until next year we now have 2 vacancies available for our previously fully booked Turkish Aromatic Odyssey

Our current booking status is:-

2008 TOURS
2009 TOURS ( Early Release )
 

 
With the relatively quieter month of February behind us, we are now in one of our busiest booking periods - March/April. As a result, if you are planning on joining us this year we recommend that you follow up with us shortly.

If you would like to reserve your place, please visit our Tour Booking Page and if you have any questions, please contact us either by email at info@aroma-tours.com or by phone on +61 3 5331 3254 (afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries).

  • From the USA the international dialling prefix which replaces the '+' our phone number is 011 from most other countries it is 00.

Grasse the World Capital of Perfume

Grasse is renowned as the world capital of perfume and is situated between the soaring foothills of the Alps-Maritime and the azure waters of the French Riviera.

During the early Renaissance, Grasse was already a commercial centre and thanks to its plentiful meadows and gentle climate ( well suited to raising flocks of sheep ) it was the ideal location for a flourishing tanning industry.

Due to the "aromatic" nature of life during those times and the huge influence of the French royal court on creating fashions, the nobles of France ( influenced by Catherine de Medicis ) began wearing gloves perfumed with floral extracts and in 1614 the corporation of Perfumed Glove Makers in Grasse was officially recognised.

As time passed the creation of perfumed oils became more lucrative than the production of gloves ( which had declined in fashion ) and by the 18th century a significant industry had developed in the production of basic perfume essences.

In the beginning the principal plants grown for perfume were jasmine, rose and tuberose and as the industry grew other plants such as jonquil, violet, orange ( flower and leaf ), mimosa and lavender were added. 

By the 20th century the perfume industry had grown enormously and natural aromatic materials from all over the world were being brought to Grasse to be extracted and incorporated into perfume.

With the growth of the modern chemical industry, more and more natural products began to be replaced by synthetics due to their lower cost, ease of availability and consistency of character. Also new synthetic molecules were constantly being discovered ( and patented ) to be used in perfume creation. A case of "science and commerce overtaking art".

Most natural products used in perfumery are of plant origin, however, historically there were also four raw materials of animal origin:-

  • Ambergris - regurgitated food from the sperm whale
  • Musk - from the scent gland of the musk deer
  • Castor - from the scent gland of the beaver
  • Civet - from the scent gland of the civet cat
     

These heavier animal aromas were invariably used in perfume blends as "fixatives" to help extend their life on the skin. Animal products have also been largely replaced by synthetics but if you happen to find a nice big chunk of ambergris washed up on the beach ( a bit like a blob of tar ) a perfume house will be happy to pay you very handsomely.

Perfumery Palette

A perfumer or "nose" has at his or her disposal a potential palette of thousands of aromatic materials both natural and synthetic. The ability to create a fine fragrance is a rare gift that comes from a combination of natural ability, training and experience.

Some amateur and semi professional perfumers prefer to work exclusively with natural extracts and essential oils but of the mainstream perfume houses only a very few choose to work in this way. 

The world's most famous perfume, Chanel No 5 has at its core a combination of natural rose extract and synthetic aldehydes.

Perfume Dilutions

The various extracted natural components used in perfumery today are diluted in alcohol to make a 15-20% stock solution that is combined with synthetic aromatics to create the final perfume blend. Most perfumes in existence today are formulated in this way.

The final products of the perfumer's art are a further dilution of the perfume blend to create:-

  • True Perfume: 7-10% perfume blend in 90% alcohol
  • Eau de Toilette: 5% perfume blend in 80% alcohol
  • Eau de Cologne: 2% perfume blend in 70% alcohol
  • Soaps: 1-2% perfume blend
  • Cosmetics: approx 0.5% perfume blend
     

Perfume is a huge subject and at the end of writing this snippet I am mindful of many loose ends I have created but whether you are religious in your fervour for natural perfumery or someone who simply loves the way your favourite fragrance makes you feel, the city of Grasse is non-the-less the cradle of the perfume world.

Part of our Essential Provence Tour includes an exploration of Grasse and its aromatic heritage as well as trying our hand at creating our own perfume.

Land of a Thousand Temples

The Hindu religion has a bewildering array of thousands of gods and goddesses whose images can be found throughout Bali and are a constant reminder of the devotion that is part of Balinese life.

My personal favourite is the boy god Ganesha with the body of a boy and the head of an elephant. He is the "Remover of Obstacles"� and helps to clear the path towards our goals. Pretty handy to have on your side, and he is one of the most popular of the Gods to receive devotion from the Balinese.

Everywhere you go in Bali you will find temples and a sense of spirituality that is woven closely into all aspects of life. Bali's largest volcano, Mount Agung - "The Mother Mountain" - looks down on a people rich in art, culture and religious belief with a deep sense of ritual, communal spirit and love of beauty.

Canang Sari

One of the most important devotions for the Balinese is the "Canang Sari" which is the daily symbolic offering of leaf, flower, fruit and water, given humbly, honesty and sincerely to the creator.

These small, beautiful offerings can be found in homes, on roadsides and at special events and are so important to the spiritual wellbeing of the Balinese, that during hard times it may be that they will choose to forgo food in order to be able to offer a Canang Sari.

The base of the Canang Sari offering is woven from young coconut leaves held together with thin bamboo sticks onto which are placed three different types of leaves, tied together to represent the three powers of "God the Creator, the Keeper and the Destroyer".

Fruit is offered to represent the human will to have good Karma, deeds and action also a little cake is included as a sign of gratitude.

Next fresh aromatic flowers are added, preferably red and white in colour to represent purity of heart along with some green shredded pandanus leaves ( together the colours of the Hindu triad ). The shredded leaves are usually mixed with fragrance to "stimulate the mind on holiness and God".

The last element is a little money to "redeem all that is lacking".

The Canang Sari is then sprinkled with holy water that has been ritually blessed and offered with a silent prayer. Finally a stick of incense is added to deliver the offering and prayer to the heavens in its curling smoke. In effect "par fumum" - by smoke: hence the name perfume.

Devotion, kindness and love of beauty are key elements of Balinese culture and are an important element of the environment that makes our Bali Women's Retreat such a wonderful experience. 

Istanbul Musings

Few places I have ever visited can match Istanbul as a place of both the exotic and the spectacular.

"There God, man, nature and art have created and placed the most magnificent view the human eye can contemplate on earth."� ~ Lamartine.

For over 2,500 years the city known today as Istanbul ( formerly Byzantium then Constantinople ), situated at the meeting place of Europe and Asia, has been a place of great strategic and trade importance. Some of the world's greatest civilizations including the Persian, Byzantine, Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires have left behind them a rich legacy of culture, architecture, art, antiquities and of most interest to us, their aromatic heritage.

One of my favourite outings in Istanbul is to visit the Spice Bazaar or Misir Charsisi situated near the shores of the Golden Horn. Spices from all parts of Turkey and beyond have been traded in this amazing "L" shaped building since its' construction in 1660 as part of extensions to a nearby complex of mosques.

Stall after colourful stall containing all manner of exotic aromas from spices, herbs, gums, perfumes, incense, teas, seeds, nuts, Turkish delight ( scented with rose, lemon or pistachio ), saffron and caviar greet us. In the areas outside of the main building there are even more stalls filled to the brim with all manner of goods that are also wonderful to experience and explore.

Istanbul has an abundance of exotic flavours and fragrances to be savoured, and the story of coffee is a great example of its' aromatic influence.

Coffee is a native of Ethiopia and was first cultivated by the Ottomans in Yemen for use in Sufi religious ceremonies. The first public coffee house was opened in Constantinople in 1554 and "kaveh", as it was called, quickly became very popular.

Europeans were first introduced to coffee outside of Vienna by the Ottomans, who while retreating after their second and final, unsuccessful attempt to lay siege to the city were forced to leave behind sacks of coffee beans. When asked what the sacks of beans were for, one of the captive Ottoman soldiers explained how to roast, grind and brew this strange new beverage.

It is interesting to note that the triumphant Austrians decided to celebrate their victory by creating a pastry! They thought it a nice idea to be eating the symbol of the Ottomans, their long time suppressor - the crescent moon. Or as they called it "the croissant". I suppose they had to have something to eat with their cup of coffee!

To finish my Istanbul musings I would like to share with you an experience that occurred one year during our Turkish Aromatic Odyssey

We were relaxing after a lovely meal on the roof top terrace of our hotel in the old city area of Sultanahmet, watching the sun set over the Bosphorus and enjoying the fragrance of honeysuckle drifting on the early evening air. Behind us the crescent moon appeared hanging in the night sky directly above the Blue Mosque. As I sat there with my camera balanced precariously on a bread roll, attempting to capture the scene, it struck me how fortunate we were to be in this ancient and exotic city, at the exact right time and place to experience this magical moment.

Olive Oil Ice Cream

Last year in Provence at the end of another beautiful meal, one of our chef friends came out to chat with us, bearing a delicious icy treat he had just made and challenged us to guess the flavour. We couldn't, but agreed that it was absolutely delicious!

Ingredients ( serves 4 )

6 egg yolks.
500ml milk.
200ml fresh cream.
150g castor sugar.
90ml first cold pressed olive oil. 

Method

  • Warm the the milk and cream over a low heat until almost boiling.
  • While the milk and cream are warming, blend together the egg yolks and castor sugar until they form a frothy consistency, then add the olive oil.
  •  Once the milk mixture has reached approximately 85C add the egg yolk mixture and continue whisking over a low heat for approximately 4-5 minutes until a nice smooth thickness is achieved. Do not allow to boil.
  • Cool to room temperature then refrigerate. As it approaches freezing point use a fork to gently break up the mixture and make a nice consistency. 
     

So simple but so good! Do be sure to use a best quality, cold first pressed olive oil.

Arranging Your Travel

Once you have reserved your place via our Tour Booking Page, all your need to do is make your travel arrangements to meet us at the tour rendezvous point. You can either ask your travel agent to assist you, or for the more adventurous you can book your flights and connections yourselves. All of our rendezvous are easily achieved and naturally we provide all of the information and assistance that you will need.

Just a reminder that we have a Frequently Asked Questions Page to help answer the most common questions including how to book, travel arrangements, group sizes etc.

Previous Newsletters and Stories of Interest

Our past newsletters contain a lot of interesting stories and are well worth a read. You can find them by visiting our Newsletter Archives

You may also enjoy reading a few of the stories that we have compiled over the years on our Stories of Interest Page

Thought for the Day

"We cannot adjust the wind but we can adjust the sails." 
  ~ Anonymous

Our Invitation

Robbi and I look forward to welcoming you to one of our delightful tours or retreats in the near future and invite you to take a peek at the latest photos of our travels in our Photo Galleries

If you would like detailed information about any of our tours please visit our Information Request 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 either by email at info@aroma-tours.com or by phone on +61 3 5331 3254 ( afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries ).

Please note you need to replace the '+' in our phone number by your country's international dialling prefix: from the USA it is 011 from most other countries it is 00.

Warmest regards,

Jim and Robbi


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