Joe Thottungal, Executive Chef and Owner of the Coconut Lagoon Restaurant in Ottawa, leads for the second time, a small group of gourmands on an exciting 15-day journey to Kerala, his home state in South India. The itinerary focuses on the unique culture and cuisine of Kerala with Chef Joe explaining the intricacies of local delicacies and cooking technics. The group is encouraged to participate during live demonstrations and there are plenty of opportunities for hands on cooking along with the master chefs! This itinerary is tailored to be interactive with the local people at every stop along the way as we explore local fruit, vegetable and spice markets, walk along the beach and haggle with the fishmongers for the fresh catch of the day while they empty their nets, visit local homes-including that of Joe’s parents at Thrissur and taste his mother’s cooking.
As we travel through God’s Own Country, as Kerala is called, we will scout tigers at the world famous Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, go bargain hunting at local bazaars, relax on a deluxe houseboat while cruising overnight on the Backwaters of Kerala and taste various street foods supervised by Joe before ending the tour at the beautiful Marari beach resort, widely recognized for its Spa and Ayurvedic treatments. Our tour to Kerala with Joe will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience, where we came as visitors we will leave as honored guests and dear friends returning home with memories to last a life time along with Chef Joe’s secret recipes!
This escorted tour includes visits to bustling markets, cooking classes, meals with local families, cultural shows as well as comprehensive sightseeing.
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|Includes international air|
Day 01: March 01, 2015: Depart for Kerala, India
Our exciting journey to Kerala begins as we board our overnight flight to Doha en route to Cochin on the award winning Qatar Airlines.
Day 02: March 02, 2015: Arrive Kochi (Cochin)
After a brief transit stop in Doha we take off for Cochin arriving very early in the morning on March 3rd. Upon arrival at Cochin and after clearing customs and immigration procedures and collecting our bags we are met and warmly welcomed by Bestway Tours ground staff and transferred to our hotel for immediate check in. As we drive to our hotel European influences in the architecture of this charming town picturesquely located on a number of islands squeezed between the Arabian Sea and the Kerala backwaters are instantly apparent. Reflecting the maritime history of Kochi, the old buildings are a blend of Dutch, Portuguese and British architecture.
Overnight:The Malabar House, Kochi (3 Nights)
Day 03: March 03, 2015: Kochi
As an optional activity, The Malabar House hotel offers a complimentary early morning Yoga session which our guests may join. Enjoy a relaxed breakfast at the courtyard of Malabar house. Later in the noon, we take a short walking tour of Fort Kochi visiting St. Francis Church the oldest European church in India, the highly decorated Santa Cruz Basilica followed by visit to the harbor where we see the famous Chinese fishing nets in action. We also do a ‘market trip’ with Chef Joe to the vegetable and spice markets. In the evening, we are welcomed at the home of the local culinary icon, Mrs. Nimmy Paul, (http://www.nimmypaul.com). Nimmy is recognized for her authentic recipes promoting healthy lifestyle as well as her knowledge of medicinal properties of spices and herbs used in everyday cooking. She has been widely featured in many international Journals. Nimmy will demonstrate and talk about nuances of traditional Kerala recipes as she prepares four dishes in front of the group. Dinner that follows will be a “Sadhya”-traditional banana leaf lunch consisting of vegetarian preparations and payasam (sweets) along with favorite Kerala condiments. Chef Joe will teach and encourage you to try eating the traditional Indian way - with your fingers! (B, D)
Day 04: March 04, 2015: Kochi
Before breakfast there is an option to join the complimentary Morning Yoga session at the hotel. Next we visit the Kudumbashree - one of the largest women empowering projects – an initiative that has had good success in addressing the basic needs of the less privileged women, providing them with dignified life and a better future. Later, we wander through the old districts of Mattancherry and Fort Kochi where we see various European influences, merchant houses and old warehouses, the beautiful waterfront and narrow streets. Allow time to admire the colourful murals, including depictions of the Ramayana, in the 16th century Dutch Palace, visit the Pardesi Synagogue in Jew Town. After the tour , we return back to our hotel for lunch. Post lunch, we visit the local fish market where Joe will teach us how to recognise and buy (bargain first) the fresh catch of the day and fresh prawns. After careful selection and much haggling a variety of local fish and other seafood will be purchased for our welcome dinner which will be prepared by Chef Joe and the executive chefs of our hotel. Later in the evening we cruise on a chartered boat to enjoy the sunset and visit Bolghatty Palace and observe the fascinating Chinese fishing nets in action, a sight most coveted by photographers internationally. After enjoying the boat cruise, we attend a Kathakali show where the epic Ramayana comes to life. Classical dancers use larger than life gestures, wear outstanding and unique costumes and elaborate make up. The day ends with a memorable mouth-watering welcome dinner put together jointly by Joe and hotel chefs. (B, L, D)
Day 05: March 05, 2015: Kochi/Thrissur (110km/4h)
Thrissur is not a routine stop on the usual tourist itinerary but for our group it will undoubtedly be the most memorable, interactive and personal highlight since Joe’s parents, Joseph and Mary Thottungal have invited us to their home. Mary Thottungal has lovingly prepared lunch for the group and as we sit down to a magnificent feast, we get a rare insight into Indian family traditions, the love, respect and consideration family members share among themselves, their generosity and kindness towards their guest and their pride in all that Joe has achieved is palpable. Joe got his first cooking lessons at his mother’s knee and Mary shares with us many stories of Joe’s childhood! We will be shown around their huge garden where the family grows and processes their own spices. We will meet all the members of this large joint family and interact with them as one of them! Few visitors to India are privy to such an intimate and personal experience. After a relaxed lunch we are transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: The River Retreat, Thrissur (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 06: March 06, 2015: Thrissur/Munnar
After a relaxed breakfast at the hotel we visit the famous Guruvayur Temple dedicated to lord Vishnu. Here Vishu is worshipped in his incarnation of Lord Krishna. A leisurely walk through the town is planned so that we can browse through the typical Kerala bazaars interacting with shopkeepers and residents of Thrissur many of whom are Joe’s childhood friends. Another highlight as we visit a rubber and coconut plantation – our hosts this time are Peter and Pushpamma Jose, Chef Joe’s in-laws. They will be our guide as we walk through the plantation.. After lunch we take a scenic drive to Munnar, a hill station located 1600 meters above sea level. Once the summer resort of the erstwhile British administration in South India, it retains its colonial charm and is famous for its tea plantations once owned by the British they are now mostly privately owned. Sprawling estates, rolling hills, sparkling waterfalls, picture postcard hamlets and undulating valleys, Munnar is an ideal holiday destination. Balance of the day is at leisure, to enjoy the ambience of Munnar.
Overnight: Mountain Club Resort, Munnar (2 Nights) (B, L)
Day 07: March 07, 2015: Munnar
We start the day with a visit to the Tea Museum and take a short trip to the Eravikulam National Park (home to the endangered Nilgiri Thar mountain goat, amongst others). We enjoy a walk through the enchanting tea estates. Balance of the day is at leisure to enjoy the tranquil and serene surroundings or indulge in an Ayurvedic message (at own expense) before dinner. Evening meal is a special treat - a sumptuous Barbeque dinner. (B, D)
Day 08: March 08, 2015: Munnar/Periyar (138km/4h)
Day begins with another scenic drive - this time to Periyar (also known as Thekkady). The name Periyar comes from the Dam constructed by the British in 1895. A wild life reserve, it is an ideal place to track wild Elephants, Bison, Deer and numerous varieties of birds. The landscape here is very tropical and you will be surrounded by tea, coffee & other spices. Evening we enjoy a cooking session at Spice village followed by an informal feast at Spice Village with dishes chosen by Chef Joe and specially prepared by a team of master chefs brought in from various parts of country. . Chefs at the Spice Village specialize in popular regional cuisines and each chef expertly prepares delicacies from his region, treating us to authentic flavors and aromas of the exotic preparations.
Overnight: Spice Village, Periyar (3 Nights) (B, D)
Day 09: March 09, 2015: Periyar
Early morning we take a guided Jungle walk through the Periyar Tiger Reserve/National Park. A three hour relatively easy to moderate walk is very interesting and will give us a chance to see wildlife life from a very close distance. If we are lucky we may even spot the rarely sighted leopards & tigers. Return to hotel for breakfast. Later in the afternoon we board a small boat and cruise the lake at the heart of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. From the tranquility of the lake, we enjoy the lush scenery all around us as we look out for animals that come down to the water's edge for a drink – often it is a herd of elephants or scurrying wild boars or the magnificent Sambar Deer. In the evening we attend a KALARIPAYATTU SHOW which is the oldest form of martial arts and is celebrated as the mother of all martial arts. Legend traces the 3000-year old art form to sage Parasurama-the master and guru of all martial art forms who is credited to be the re-claimer of Kerala from the Arabian Sea. Kung-Fu, popularized by the monks of the Shaolin Temple traces its ancestry to Bodhi Dharma-an Indian Buddhist monk and Kalaripayattu master. (B)
Day 10: March 10, 2015: Periyar
Morning is free and at leisure to enjoy one or many Ayurvedic treatments and body massages (at extra cost) offered by the hotel. In the afternoon we visit a native family home and spice plantation growing common as well as unusual spices and herbs, used both for culinary and medicinal purposes. This plantation is totally organic and uses only natural forms of pest control. The owner and his family are very knowledgeable about their produce, and are keen to show us the various spices and herbs, encouraging us to smell and taste various clipping. Our visit to the family owned spice plantation includes a demonstration of home cooked meal using the spices grown here and we are invited to stay for lunch with the family! (B, L)
Day 11: March 11, 2015: Periyar/Kumarakom/Alleppey House Boat (138km/4h)
Yet another highlight of our personalized itinerary is a cruise along the famous Backwaters of Kerala - a splendid area full of canals, lakes and coves on our private houseboat. The houseboats or ‘Kettuvalloms’ are luxurious boats with well-appointed bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms. One can sunbathe on the deck or observe the palm fringed landscape from our cabins. Apart from the mesmerizing surroundings it’s the life along the coast that adds a touch of exotica to this experience. The locals go about their daily business in canoes and we find vegetable sellers, fishermen and other traders bringing household goods, door to door in their wooden canoes. As we cruise along the backwaters we can ask our captain to stop at villages, paddy fields and other places, en-route. At the end of the cruise we visit a local fish market where we can buy fresh catch of the day and later ask our chef on board to cook us our selections for dinner.
Overnight: River Escapes - Deluxe A.C. Houseboat (B, L, D)
Day 12: March 12, 2015: Kumarakom/Marari
Morning at leisure till we depart for Marari & check-in at our beautiful resort hotel. Balance of the day is at leisure to enjoy the beach or try the many Ayurvedic treatment offered at extra cost by the spas (– available on optional basis).
Overnight:TMarari Beach Resort (3 Nights) (B, L, D)
Day 13: March 13, 2015: Marari
Day at leisure. An optional day excursion to Ernakulam for shopping. (B, D)
Day 14: March 14, 2015:Marari
Another day to enjoy the beach and the optional Ayurvedic treatments. Evening, we are presented with traditional Kerala outfit to be worn for the farewell dinner put together by Chef Joe along with the local chefs. (B, L, D)
Day 15: March 15, 2015: Marari/Depart Cochin
After an interesting and unforgettable culinary tour of the land of spices, we are transferred to the Cochin International Airport for our early morning flight back home on Qatar Airways. After a short transit stop at Doha, we should be arriving home the same day in the evening.
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
Departure Dates & Prices
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- Special Business class upgrade on the Montreal - Doha - Montreal available at a supplement of $1800 per person - limited space available
- Deposit of $1000 per person payable at the time of booking. Deposit for Business class upgrade add $ 500 per person
This tour operates on a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 24 participants
If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.
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