Kate Simon

New horizons

By Kate Simon 03/12/2012

Want more from your trip away?

Money Matters contributor Kate Simon looks at unique experiences in foreign cities...

Visiting the world’s great cities has been high on the agenda for travellers since the days of the Grand Tour in the 17th and 18th centuries. Back then, wealthy young men would travel around Europe as a rite of passage, calling in at the great urban centres in search of cultural enlightenment. Now, with the advent of mass tourism and, more recently, the rise of low-cost airlines, so many more of us have access to the great cities of Europe and the rest of the world.

Today, we want to make the most of our hard-earned time off by embracing our chosen destinations in an active way. And holiday companies and tour providers are rising to the challenge by offering an increasing variety of ways not just to see a city, but to enjoy a unique experience within it, too. Here are five great breaks to take to capture the real essence of a city…

Photograph Barcelona

For a frequent traveller, there’s no better skill to have than the ability to take a good photo. And Barcelona is surely one of the best locations to practise getting some great shots, with the Spanish city coming alive with the amazing architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Run by experts, GoLearnTo offers half-day photography lessons in the city, including one set in Parc Güell, the park Gaudí designed and filled with colourful mosaic pathways and dream-like buildings — inspiration for any photographer, amateur or professional!

GoLearnTo offers four-hour lessons at various start times daily from £102 per person. International travel and accommodation costs extra.

Belly dance in Istanbul

Istanbul’s position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia offers a compelling mix of cultures for the millions of tourists who visit this city each year. Now Unison Turkey is offering the chance to get into the rhythm of the place, too, by combining a trip to see the city’s stunning sights with tuition in the ancient art of belly dancing, led by experts from leading Turkish troupe, The Fire of Anatolia.

Unison Turkey offers two-night breaks from approximately £254 per person, including accommodation, transfers, four hours’ private tuition in belly dancing, two private half-day city tours, a Bosphorus cruise, the services of a guide, and entrance fees. International travel costs extra.

Wander through Cape Town with a local

It’s always fun to explore a city and take in the sights, but you’ll find the experience far more rewarding if you let a local show you around. Intrepid Urban Adventures, which specializes in day tours that harness local knowledge, has just launched Cape Town by Foot, a new guided walk led by residents of South Africa’s great coastal city. The five-hour tour offers a fresh perspective on the sights, including the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, at the city’s historic harbour, and the former Asian township of Bo-Kaap, with its candy-coloured houses.

Intrepid Urban Adventures offers the Cape Town by Foot tour for £45 per person. International travel and accommodation costs extra.

Learn to sing in Florence

The city where the world’s first opera was written is the setting for an extraordinary singing masterclass. And Rocco Forte Hotels’ boutique property in Florence, the Hotel Savoy, is offering the chance to take a class with a specialist in vocal technique. The two-night trip, It’s All About Opera, also includes a guided walk to the Pitti Palace (where the first opera was performed in 1600) and a session with a music academic on the history of Italian opera. Buy tickets to see the pros perform at Teatro del Maggio Musicale.

Rocco Forte Hotels offers a two-night stay including the music project from approximately £800 per person. International travel and opera tickets cost extra.

Cook up a storm in Lyon

A trip to Lyon, France’s capital of gastronomy, can be more than a feast for the eyes. Brush up your cooking skills with Flavours of France, which offers cooking and wine-tasting breaks in Lyon, led by Simon Huet from local Michelin-star restaurant, Têtedoie. During your time with the acclaimed chef, you’ll learn the complex techniques to make culinary delights like spicy tuna tartare with a sesame tuile and chestnut soufflé with Cognac (whipping up your own crème pâtissière). Cooking lessons are mixed with visits to markets and meals in bouchons, the city’s famous bistros.

Flavours of France offers four-day breaks from £865 per person, including accommodation, gourmet cooking classes, wine tasting and all meals with wine. International travel costs extra.

Inspired by French cooking? Then test your skills with this tasty dish...

Cheese Soufflés with Prawn Salad


25g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
250ml semi skimmed milk
1/4 tsp mustard powder
2 medium British free-range Woodland eggs, by Sainsbury’s, separated
25g parmesan, grated
30g mature British Cheddar by Sainsbury’s, grated
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
75g watercress
220g pack Taste the Difference peeled prawns
be good to yourself French dressing

1 Preheat the oven to 180ºC, fan 160ºC, gas 4. Grease 4 x 250ml ramekins and line the base of each with a circle of
baking parchment.
2 Melt the butter in a pan. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 min. Take off the heat and slowly stir in the milk. Return to the heat and simmer for 2 mins. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard powder, egg yolks, half the parmesan, and the Cheddar and chives.
3 Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then fold into the cheese mixture. Spoon into the prepared ramekins and place in a roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tray, so it comes halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 20-25 mins. Remove and let cool. Turn out and remove parchment.
4 Turn the oven up to 220ºC, fan 200ºC, gas 7. Place soufflés on a baking tray, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and bake for 10 mins.
5 Serve with the dressed watercress and prawns.

This post was written by Money Matters contributor Kate Simon.

This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.